African StoriesLife and General Fiction StoriesNaija Stories

There’s a River

The saying goes: take a horse to the river but you never get to force it a drink. In Adaoma’s case, she was not only taken to the river, water was forced through her throat, leaving her to gargle for breath while constrained in tight grips.

For the people in my village, childbirth is both a time of glory and gory. Gory for babies that are paranormal, the babies that outwin in the normal delivery process. Such was the case for Adaoma’s delivery. Her baby’s legs were seen sticking out first. Nneka the midwife was sure of herself, she was experienced with delivering women of their children, she could never say things out of presumptions.

There in the mud house with thatch roof like a pointed hat, lay Adaoma in her own fluids. The baby was taken away from the hut while the rest of us stared in pity for the baby and its mother. The older women came out from the hut and usher us inside to clean the woman of her blood. I meekly followed, searching with my squinting eyes in observation. I looked up and saw lizards couching in the dark corners with their tails wagging in sorrow as well. They must have all come to witness the calamity.
The seven of us, young and undefiled, all were uninformed except me. I was recently enrolled in a school in a city, a nursing school which the government had recently set up.

I was lucky to have secured a free slot to train as a midwife in the western people’s style. These girls were not opportuned to get slots too. They did not have anywhere to learn, they just learnt by watching other women have their babies but never asked questions about paranormals as this. In my school in the city, we ask questions and get answers. I remember a woman that first taught us, she had told us to debunk several beliefs she termed myths. Several of which include indifference to a baby coming out with its legs, a baby having the cord around its neck and twin babies joining and sharing organs. These presentations are termed paranormals in my village and never treated lightly.

“Be fast with the cleaning,” one of the older women peeped in and announced. We came harder now with scrubbing blood off the hard floor. Two girls were washing Adaoma’s body, cleaning her swollen nipples and rubbing some ground herbs around them. The rest of us were cleaning the thin transparent fluids around the basement she lay on and packing the remnants of delivery into a sack bag. Soon, we were done with it. All the while during the cleaning, I was thinking about telling Ma Nneka that a baby could equally be born with the legs, the woman in school said it could happen to anyone and isn’t very bad to happen. But, no one paid heed to western teachings that contradicted beliefs in my village.

Now, the older women were in the hut and have come come to lead Adaoma out of the hut. I stood in watch, clenching the sack bag to my side while I watched the young mother being led away to the river of Anaoma. The same way they led Ijeoma my cousin, Chisomaga my childhood friend and the many unfortunate women before I was of age to learn of our beliefs. They led Adaoma to the same river now, to make her watch as life leaves one. To toss her baby in the air and to watch the river swallow its softness. I watched her go.

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