AUTHOR: OGECHI ALABI
Nkem came to Lagos for the child dedication of the twins three months after their birth. She saw her sister Uloma. She looked overweight and she was worried about her. Funke claimed she was overeating but Nkem felt there was something wrong. She asked her if she was hiding anything but she claimed not to. She accepted she was overeating and let it go.
One morning, Funke received a frantic call from Uloma’s phone. It was her roommate. She said Uloma was very ill and was rolling on the ground. Funke threw on her clothes and rushed to the hostel. Ebuka drove her there while they left the children with the nanny.
When they arrived at the hostel, they met Uloma wriggling in pain. They picked her up and rushed her to the emergency of LUTH as it appeared serious. The roommates couldn’t explain what happened. All they knew was that she woke up in severe pain and had remained like that.
The doctor that attended to her asked Funke and Ebuka to excuse him, he wanted to talk to her privately. He gave her a painkiller and when she calmed down, he asked her what she took. Uloma was shocked. She confessed to him she took drugs to abort a pregnancy but instead ended up with severe stomach cramps. She gave the doctor the name of the medication she consumed.
“I have to inform your relatives. You need to have a scan done to know the extent of damage you have done to the foetus and for us to know if you need an evacuation done.”
“No, please doctor. I don’t want them to know.”
“Who will take you for the tests and pay your bills? It is advisable to let them know and they will help you recover. Or would you rather have the man who got you pregnant here?”
“No. He gave me the drugs to get rid of it. When I told him how I was feeling, he blocked me. This was before it became severe. I wasn’t able to reach him again.”
“You need to have a scan down immediately. Make up your mind. I will call them in.”
Funke came in alone. She asked Uloma what the problem was. It took a lot from her to confess to being pregnant and trying to get rid of it.
“Why didn’t you confide in me? I would have sent you to a safe place to have the abortion done. You took drugs that can damage you for life instead. It is not a big deal. I will discuss with the driver and send my husband home and then take it from there.
The sonographer showed the foetus on the screen. It was a full-blown baby. The pregnancy was more than twenty-seven weeks and was still viable; the drugs didn’t do any visible harm to the baby. It was shocking to Funke. It was clear, an abortion was out of the question. She wanted to call Nkem and inform her but Uloma begged her not to expose her to her family. She said she would be pulled out of the university and her mother will be mocked.
“What are we to do? Are you ready to have the baby?” Funke asked.
“I will have the baby but I don’t want her.”
“You haven’t met her before rejecting her. We will see the doctor and take it from there.”
Read – Sisterhood episode 44 part A
Funke agreed to hold the information back from everyone but she needed Uloma to find the agency that will take the baby after she was born. Uloma said she found one that would pay her to give them the baby.
Funke discussed this with her husband. They decided Uloma will stay with them and attend lectures from their home so they could monitor her. They didn’t want her to attempt to abort the pregnancy again and lose her life.
While writing her examinations, she went into labour. Funke was called and she went to meet her at the hospital. She delivered a daughter. She was the cutest and fairest child Funke had ever seen. Funke fell in love instantly. She brought Uloma home and took care of her.
Uloma hated her daughter. She refused to feed her or take care of her. She couldn’t wait to give her up for adoption. The people who wanted to adopt the child met with Uloma, Funke and Ebuka. Ebuka was uncomfortable with them. They appeared shady and didn’t seem to be able to take care of the child. The amount they were offering was small and made no sense. Ebuka stopped the adoption process. He offered to pay twice what was offered to Uloma and keep her baby.
Funke was happy her husband made this decision because it had been on her mind. It worried her that Uloma chose this resolve instead of confessing to her family. She didn’t want anyone to know she got pregnant and had a child. She believed she would be stigmatised. Now baby Elsie will live with them. She loved her from birth and she would have been heartbroken if she sold her to those miscreants.
The father of the baby said he was willing to sign away his rights to the child. Ebuka got a lawyer to draft the agreement and it was executed and submitted to the court. He had no legal rights to the child. Uloma wanted to do the same but, Funke had a plan. Because Uloma was barely eighteen, she didn’t want her to decide alone. She didn’t want it to appear as if she took advantage of her.
Funke invited Nkem for a weekend at her house. Nkem met the beautiful Elsie and fell in love with her too. Nkem said, “She looks so much like me when I was a baby.” Uloma got home that evening and was surprised to see Nkem in the house. She panicked. Funke asked her to relax she would handle everything. Uloma burst into tears; she couldn’t relax. She knew how mad Nkem would be with her. Nkem had big plans for her and she had ruined them by having this child.
In the middle of the night, Funke had a conversation with Nkem. Funke knew Nkem was reasonable and would make a wise decision. So she started. “I invited you here so you could meet Elsie. I need your advice about her. A young lady from a good home got pregnant and tried to abort the pregnancy. She almost lost her life in the process but the pregnancy remained. She wanted to sell her baby because she believed her family will kill her and she would be stigmatised for having a child out of wedlock. We decided to ‘buy’ Elsie and protect her. But what if she changes her mind later or the family decides to come for the baby? What should we do?”
“Who is the person? What is your relationship with her? You have to let her family know. The implication of not telling them is worse. Ask a lawyer.”
“The lawyer said once she is above eighteen she can make such decisions.”
“It is not advisable. At least a member of her family should know.”
“What if they become angry and ostracise her from them?”
“No family would do that, it is a mistake. She is supposed to learn from that mistake.”
“I am glad you said so because it is Uloma.”
Nkem couldn’t believe her ears. She asked, “What?”
“Elsie is Uloma’s baby.”
Nkem stood up from the chair and paced around the room. She had mixed emotions at the same time. Her head was spinning. She cried out. “Why are you just telling me? Why allow her to have the child?”
“Calm down. She was already twenty-seven weeks pregnant when she tried to abort. The pregnancy was far gone. Luckily she didn’t show because of her flat tummy. She had the baby and wanted to sell her so she could continue to live as though she never had a child.”
“Who is responsible?”
“We spoke with him, Ebuka and I. He is a struggling young man who didn’t intend to have a child yet. He is a part-time student. Uloma can tell you better.”
“Uloma is having sex? I have kept my body all this while my sister has been having the time of her life. I warned her about the consequence of having sex, especially unsafe sex. We had this conversation. Now a child is a resultant effect. Where is she?” Nkem went into the room and dragged Uloma out. Funke stopped her from hitting her.
Uloma was taller than Nkem. She was darker too but they had similar facial features that you would know they were closely related. Uloma still respected Nkem regardless of the fact she was taller and bigger than her. Nkem was her role model and she knew she had disappointed her. Funke held Nkem and made her sit down while Uloma sobbed. Funke didn’t expect this reaction from Nkem.
“After all the sacrifices, this is how you repay us? How old are you, Uloma, that you are opening your legs for a boy? A boy who cannot take care of you, who cannot accept you with your child. Isn’t that stupid? How old am I and no man has gotten between my legs but you, you were in a hurry. I warned you. You will be the one to kill our surviving parent. She will be the laughingstock of the community. She will be the butt of every joke. What of your uncles? They will say she is making her money from prostituting her children not knowing the boy didn’t give her anything. Ah! Uloma, you have destroyed our family’s reputation. No wonder you refused to come back to the village for the holiday claiming to be helping Funke. You were hiding the pregnancy. You have brought our leg outside.”
Uloma’s sobs increased. She knew the implication of people finding out that was why she had been very careful. She always wore big jackets as a fashion statement. She was a supposed big girl on campus because of what she got from her sister and her friends who have taken her as a sister. Especially Funke. She spoilt her. She was ashamed of her actions. It was Tee (the father of her child) who said he didn’t like condoms and they would be counting. He was a part-time student while he worked. He had his place he shared with two other guys. He had a room to himself. They had been careful until this time. She didn’t even realise she was pregnant until after three months had passed with very scanty menstrual flow. She told Tee and he told her it would come. The following month, it didn’t come at all that was when she panicked and told him. He took her to see a nurse who gave her medication to help abort the pregnancy. She was lucky she survived. Now Tee doesn’t speak with her anymore. She tried to avoid him on campus but he did more of the avoiding. She heard from one of his roommates’ girlfriends that he was seeing another girl. She was hurt but then she knew this was a learning curve for her. She moved on. If only Funke had allowed her to give up the child, no one will know. Now Nkem knows, the family will know.
Funke responded, “What you are doing now is not the solution to the problem at hand. Elsie is here to stay. Ebuka and I want to adopt her. We want to do it legally. We have spoken to our lawyers and they have told us how we can do it. Uloma wanted to sell the baby and we are willing to pay twice what she was offered. Before we can do this, we need a member of her family to be aware of what is going on so it wouldn’t appear as though we took advantage of her. And also, Elsie remains in your family so to speak. You get to see her whenever you want as an aunt.”
Nkem was quiet for a while. She thought about it. Funke had twins who were barely nine months old and she was willing to take Uloma’s baby as hers. Was she doing this for her or to save Uloma’s face? She was confused and she asked Funke if it wouldn’t be too much of a burden.
“It is not, Nkem. I loved her the moment I met her. Ebuka wants her too. Uloma got pregnant and had this baby for us, Ebuka and me. It just goes to show that God has forgiven us and has given us a second chance. I want Uloma to have that second chance too. She will go back to school and be more careful with her sex life while focusing on her academics.”
“Sex life? No more sex. She should completely abstain until she is with someone ready for the consequences of raising a child,” Nkem insisted.
“It is easy to say that. Once you have started having sex it becomes a bit difficult to resist when the opportunity presents itself. It takes a strong will not give in, especially if you love the person. I do agree with you but if she falls, she should use her head by using protection. I would advise we talk to her more about it. I don’t want her hiding anything from us anymore so we tackle the issue early before it becomes a life-changing problem.”
Nkem agreed with Funke. She asked Uloma what she wanted and Uloma said she was willing to relinquish her parental rights and give them to Funke and Ebuka. Nkem also agreed to it. It was resolved. The lawyer would come the next morning for the signing of the documents. And it was also agreed, no one would ever know Uloma got pregnant and had a baby. It was their secret and it was to go with them to the grave.
Nkem appreciated the sacrifice Funke made to protect Uloma. She could also see she genuinely loved Elsie. She couldn’t have found a better home for her. She had a heart-to-heart talk with Uloma. She begged her to abstain from sex until she was mature enough. She knew her brothers were having sex because she knew the girls involved and how they sneaked them in when they thought no one was around. They were boys, she understood that. But for a girl, she is expected to be chaste. She couldn’t believe her siblings have had sex while she, the eldest, had only made out with one guy her whole life. Was she missing out on something? She didn’t think so. She was focused and it was more important.