After what seems like an eternity of crying, my tears dry up and I stare into the blank darkness of my younger son’s bedroom. Having only been home a few months before, for Christmas, the room still smells like him. Rising to my feet, I lie on his bed, pulling close one of his pillows for comfort. Somehow, I feel like we are united in this betrayal…because after all, his father’s infidelity almost perfectly coincided with his birth.
I shut my eyes in disbelief, unable to get over what the last 90 minutes have unfolded. Marshall, the one person in this world I could have trusted with my knife, has meted out the worst possible betrayal I could have ever imagined possible. A secret family? For almost as long as we have been a couple? It is honestly too much for me to handle!
My mind drifts back to the early days, and I wonder if there were any signs I missed, any indicators to the fact that my picture-perfect world was nothing but a sham. But there was nothing. There was absolutely nothing. Yes, things hadn’t been perfect, but if there was one thing I’d been certain of was that Marshall and I were in it all together…
I conceived quite early. We’d been so young and excited about the prospect of being parents so soon. Maybe because I was still so young, my pregnancy had been text-book perfect; smooth and hitch-free. I didn’t have any morning sickness, I was never ill…instead, I was the picture of perfect health and fitness. Everything had been perfect!
Being my parents’ only daughter, my mother insisted on my coming over to the UK, so that she could take care of me properly. By this time, she had settled well in the system and no longer worked odd jobs. Instead, she now had a respectable job with her local council, and was doing reasonably well. My father and younger brothers had recently relocated to join her, so it seemed like the most logical thing in the world for me to go there.
“But we can’t afford it, Molly.” Marshall had protested. “I can’t afford it.”
“Don’t be silly, babes!” I’d chided him. “We’re going to pay next to nothing, thanks to Mom’s medical insurance.”
Reluctantly, he’d agreed, and I’d left for London when I was about 32 weeks pregnant. Marshall joined me there about a week before my due date, which was fortunate as I went into labour three days after he arrived. My labour was smooth, the delivery was smooth, I didn’t have a single tear…everything was perfect.
I can remember so vividly how much in awe Marshall and I had been of the little human being in our arms.
“He’s perfect!” Marshall had marveled, so in awe of the little replica of him.
Even though we’d argued vehemently over the choice of name for our boy, as I’d wanted a biblical name, he’d insisted on the name Henry, because it signified power and strength. Seeing how passionate he was about the name, I’d conceded and we’d named our bundle of joy Henry Ehiozee Ayomide Ogbebor.
But exactly 36 hours after his birth, things went south.
I remember being excited about the prospect of returning home the following morning and had even started making plans for the grand reception my parents wanted to have in our honour. But all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I’d started having seizures. Marshall and I had been mid-way through a discussion, when I’d suddenly started jerking uncontrollably. My poor husband had been frightened out of his mind and had raised a frantic alarm.
It turned out I had postpartum preeclampsia. Suddenly, moments after being the picture of perfect health, there I was on the verge of death. My blood pressure had skyrocketed dangerously high, and the doctors spent the next few days trying to stablise me. Eventually, about two weeks after I should have been, I was finally discharged from hospital. We were all shaken; Marshal and I…but my parents more so. We all knew I’d had a lucky escape, and could very well have lost my life. The grand party was cancelled, and we had a small thanksgiving in its place.
But that night, after the last set of guests had gone, my parents sat Marshall and I down for a serious discussion.
“You saw what happened to Omolara. You saw that we almost lost her.” my father had said directly to Marshall. “I don’t need to tell you that we can not have her in that position again.”
While Marshall and I were still trying to understand what the man meant, my mother interjected to add more clarity. “Thank God you have a boy. We think it is better for you both to stop child bearing now. You heard what the doctor said. She might not be lucky next time.”
I remember opening my mouth to protest, only to be stunned to hear my husband agree with my parents. “You are very correct. I have no intention of making her go through this again. Molly is my life. I can’t afford to lose her.”
And so there it was. My fate had been sealed, and I was not happy about it at all.
“Why on earth would you agree to something like that?!” I’d reprimanded him when we were alone. “This was just a fluke. There was probably some trigger that we’re not aware of! I’m fine now. My blood pressure is back to normal. Who says this will happen a second time?”
But my husband had been adamant, and even before we left for Nigeria, he’d made sure I had a contraceptive coil inserted. He wasn’t about to take any chances.
So, we’d returned to Nigeria a happy family of 3, and had been happy being just that for a while. But when Henry turned 2, I started getting very broody. A few of the friends I’d made in antenatal class were pregnant with number two, and I was overwhelmed by the sudden urge to give my son a sibling. By the time he was 3, I was determined to have at least one more child, so I secretly had my contraceptive coil removed.
I conceived 2 cycles later.
I will never forget the look on Marshall’s face when I told him I was pregnant. Somehow, I’d thought time would have erased the memory of the trauma following Henry’s birth and that he’d be excited about the prospect of another child. But instead, he’d been shell shocked…and angry.
“Molly, do you want me to lose you? Do you want me to have raise Henry alone? Why would you do this?!” he’d lamented.
I’d tried in vain to convince him that we had nothing to worry about, but he remained frantic and worried…but most of all scared about what my parents’ reaction would be.
“I made a promise to them, Molly.” he tearfully said to me, as we lay in bed one night. “What on earth am I going to say to them now?”
“Don’t worry about my parents, babes.” I’d said reassuringly. “I’ll take care of them.”
Alas, it turned out we had everything to worry about.
My parents had literally hit the roof when they heard…my father more so. He called Marshall every unprintable name imaginable, and even threatened to have him arrested for attempted murder. And even though we’d waited till I was about 16 weeks to tell them, I was shocked to hear my very Christian mother suggest an abortion! I explicitly told them this was not an option, and the phone conversation had ended with me giving my parents some choice words of my own, and clearly stating I would not be coming to the UK this time around to have my child.
But it was as if God wanted to punish me…us…for our disobedience…my disobedience.
Two short weeks after the altercation with my parents, on a routine trip to the hospital, my doctor was shocked by the reading of my blood pressure…179/110. This surprised me as well, as prior to then, I’d thought I was in the best of health, save for some intermittent headaches. I was immediately detained in the hospital, and that began a long journey for all of us.
Try as they may, they were unable to control my blood pressure. By the time I was approaching the 30-week mark, it was agreed that the baby would have to be born much earlier than planned, as both our lives were clearly in danger. Even though we’d been keeping the recent turn of events a secret from my parents, at this point, we had to let them know what was going on.
Before we knew what was happening, my mother was in Nigeria and had organized a Medevac Air Ambulance to take me to London. From the very moment she arrived, she heaped insults and curses on Marshall, threatening him with fire and brimstone if anything happened to me. My dear husband took all those insults, even though he was entirely blameless. He and Henry had flown ahead in a commercial plane, and were already waiting to receive us, when the Medevac arrived. Alas, once in London, my dear father took over from where his wife left off, and had to be restrained from attacking Marshall at the airport. It didn’t help matters that the doctors over there decided my condition was even more dire than the Nigerian doctors made out. It was discovered that I was beginning to go into kidney failure, so less than a week after I got there, our son had to be born…at only 31 weeks.
And so there we both were, struggling in intensive care. Even though they all tried to keep up appearances with me, I could tell that things were still fragile between Marshall and my parents. Which is why when, just about 3 weeks after our son, whom we named Nathan Nosaze Akintoye Ogbebor, was born, I wasn’t surprised when Marshall made up an excuse to leave for Nigeria. In all honesty, I think we’d all been relieved. The tension was getting too much, and I no longer wanted to let my dear husband take the blame for something that was entirely my fault. Months later, when Nathan and I were out of danger’s way, my parents calmed down, and by the time Marshall returned to take us back to Nigeria, all fences were mended. My parents had profusely apologized for the awful way they’d treated him, and he’d been gracious enough to accept. And we’d all be unanimous in one thing. Under no circumstance was I to attempt having another child. All it took was for me to remember how closely I’d been to knocking on death’s door, for me to permanently remove all baby desires from my system.
Upon getting back to Nigeria, I had such a renewed sense of gratitude…not just for my life, but for my dear husband and beautiful sons, that I threw myself into being the best wife and mother I could possibly be. And so we had built our perfectly perfect home.
Unless it wasn’t perfect…apparently. Not by a long shot.
A light tap on the door brings me back to earth. I am tempted to ignore it, especially if it is Marshall. I do not trust myself with what I will do if I do see him. The way I feel, I just might stab him to death!
Except it isn’t Marshall…but Odion. Reluctantly, I open the door.
“Sorry to disturb you, Ma.” she says, unable to look me in the eye. I don’t have to be a magician to see she has figured out what is going on. “But those girls have slept in the Family Parlour. Should I leave them there?”
My eyes drift to the wall clock, and I am shocked to see that it is already past midnight. With heavy legs, I make my way to the Family Living Room, and there they are, sleeping innocently on the couch. I am filled with both resentment…and pity.
There’s no point hiding from the truth. These girls are here to stay.
Catch up on Molly’s story here: