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My Day in a Nollywood Act

by Hauwa Datti-GarbaFebruary 26, 2015

It’s been over two months but I still laugh every time I remember this day. I ask myself how it could possibly have happened, and to me of all people, but happen it did. Let me not bore you but get straight to the story instead. Cue December 2nd , a Tuesday. It starts and seems to end like every other day. The most notable thing is when I, your beloved narrator and Madam of the house meets the children’s nanny, Comfort still up at 11pm. I ask her to fill half a bucket of water for the bathroom from the supply in the kitchen as there was no running water, and then ask her to take the kids to school the next morning – I was exhausted. When I retire an hour later, I see a full bucket of water and shake my head. “Comfort never does things by halves”, I think to myself. I finally fall asleep at around 12:30am, looking forward to a sleep in. Cue crazy laughter. At 3am, just as I am getting into the good phase of sleep, a knock wakes me up. I ask who it is and my cook, Talatu responds. My first thought is how the heck did she get into the house. Comfort is the only help who stays in the house – in the kids’ room to be precise and we constantly harp on the importance of locking the back door before she sleeps. “What is it?” “Comfort is ill,” she says. I jump out of bed, heart in mouth, and open the door wide to hear her clearly. “What exactly is wrong with Comfort?” I ask. Talatu looks down, and took a deep breath. I tell you, that should have clued me in, and if I’d closed the door, maybe I’d have avoided all the drama that followed but let me not get ahead of myself. “She’s pregnant”, Talatu says. I actually stagger back. “What? Since when?” Talatu now launches into a story that I can not make head or tail of. Flashback to August 2014. Talatu is wondering why she has never heard Comfort ask for or use sanitary pads. She has also noticed that Comfort sleeping a bit too much during the day, when it’s not like she was bitten by a Tsetse fly. She accosts her and asks point blank if she is pregnant. Of course she says she isn’t. She backs it up with a story of how irregular and light her flow is. Yada yada yada. She then caps it by swearing on the bible and Talatu has no choice but to let it go. She watches her for a while and observes that Comfort seemed to be back to ‘normal’ after a couple of weeks. Cue December 1st , the day before – a Monday. A neighbor comes over to visit Talatu. At the end of all the neighborhood gist, as she gets up to leave, she remarks in an aside “Comfort is pregnant, and it’s not a new one. Better talk to her”. All Talatu’s old suspicions arise and she embarks on a full-fledged attack mission. Again Comfort out rightly denies it all, then finally relents and admits to being pregnant. She tells Talatu she is five months pregnant and was impregnated by a young man from her village that attends the same church as her. Talatu gets his number and calls to spread the attack to him. He admits to knowing Comfort, expressing ‘interest’ but vehemently denies ever sleeping with her. Cue dramatic music His denial does not come as a surprise, after all what else would he possibly say! Anyway, after a long discussion, Comfort pleads with Talatu not to tell me as her plan is to continue working till Christmas – just down the road when she is due to go home. She will stay back in the village till she has her baby. Talatu agrees because she is equally apprehensive about telling me. See, Comfort had come into my employ through her, even though the only contact they’d had previously been their church and community group (they hail from the same region in Kaduna). These and much more I was told at 3am. Sleep is no longer on the horizon and all prior exhaustion is set aside to tackle this. “So what’s wrong with her now?” I ask. “I don’t know Auntie, all I know is she came to the BQ at 2:30, asking me to take her to the hospital because she’s in pain and I told her I can’t leave the house at that time without telling you. I have been asking her if she took something to get rid of it but she says no”. An abortion! At this point, I’m yet to wrap my mind around the fact that I have a pregnant nanny and already, another angle is being introduced. Bafflement of the highest order set in. Can you blame me? I proceed to the BQ and find her on the floor crying. “Comfort, you are pregnant?” Stupid question I know but come on, I was in shock. She keeps quiet, and stays facing the wall. “What did you take oh, because if we go to the hospital, they will check and know (Americana magic, you know!)”. “Auntie I didn’t take anything but its paining me. Please take me to the hospital”. At this point, she starts moaning and crying. I look out. There are hardly any cars on the road. At this point, it is still far from daylight. Cue brief flash to the clock with the time displayed – 3:30am. “Comfort, you can’t expect me to go and wake Oga and tell him to drive you to the hospital, especially at this time, because you are pregnant. You have to wait till at least 5-5:30am when its safer.” She continues crying, begging to be taken to the hospital. I return to the room to brief my husband on what is happening. I need not stress his utter shock. The when and how was soon gotten out of the way. “What next?” he asks. “I will wait till 4:30am and call Jamilu (the driver) to come so he can take her to the hospital with Talatu”. “Which hospital are you considering?” “Well, the only ones nearby are expensive but I don’t know….” “Auntie, Auntie come oh, she’s bleeding!” Talatu shouts. Thus, I became the useless woman who hurriedly dressed and dragged her husband to take a pregnant house help to the hospital at 3:45am. :’( :’( On the way to the hospital, Talatu calls Comfort’s father to tell him what is happening. She put the phone to the crying Comfort’s ear so he can talk to her. Her reason? “Auntie, I don’t know these people and I don’t want anyone to say we did something to her if anything goes wrong.” Good point. We arrive at the hospital shortly after. I rush in and explain to the receptionist that I have a five-month pregnant young lady who is bleeding and in pain and needs to see the Doctor urgently. They ask me for her file number and I explain she is a new patient as this is an emergency. To their credit, they rush her into the consulting room immediately and a very sleepy Doctor fights the cloud of sleep to understand what is happening. He looks at me in disbelief when I inform him that I only knew she was pregnant at 3am that morning. As he then starts to question her, the receptionist pops her head in and asks me to come open a file for her. I step out, fill all the paperwork and do the necessary. I stop to talk to the hubby who is watching a Nollywood movie, taking a break from the one we were currently starring in. I went back into the Doctor’s office to inform him that we’re good to go on proper tests. “Madam, this girl is not five-months pregnant oh, she’s in labour.” says the Doctor. I’m glad I was seated because my legs went cold and I slid down the chair as far as I could. Talatu put her hands on her head and started shouting. “I don’t understand Doctor. Labour?” I said. “From her answers, her waters broke around 2am or so. There’s no time to waste, the bleeding means she’s in full labour and we need to take her upstairs to the labour room to be examined before its too late,” said the Doctor. I ‘mumu’ walk out of that office, stopping briefly to update my husband. His calmness helps because boy, am I lost. How could she have been pregnant for 9 months without us knowing? Or is she in premature labour? I keep turning back to look at her belly. I still can’t see her as a heavily pregnant lady. They take her into the labour/delivery room. A nurse comes out to ask me for the baby’s clothes. I tell her the story. The woman looks at me and says, “How could you not have known? Please go and bring the delivery items” with a total lack of disregard. See receptacle for my anger. The earful she got ehn, by the time I was done with her, she was a lot friendlier. Nonsense! I then join my husband in the waiting area. I couldn’t believe my ears when at 4:30 am; I heard a baby’s cry. It was done. Talatu did the prerequisite drama. Put her hands on her head and started moaning “Comfort ta haihu, ta haihu oh (Comfort has given birth, has given birth oh).” I had to shout at her to snap out of it. God is great. Brief flashbacks to my two pregnancies. And deliveries. How could it have been so easy for her? How? Back to reality. The cost. I go down to reception and ask the lady how much delivery is at the hospital. She starts a litany “If it’s a shared room, its N220,000 but if its single…”. I stop her right there. “You see that lady I brought in? She’s my children’s nanny. I didn’t know she was pregnant till 3am this morning.” “Ahh! Why did you bring her here Ma? E go cost oh. Anyway, if you want her to deliver here, she has to register for antenatal because the rule is you have to do antenatal before we can deliver your baby”. I have the slightly perverse pleasure of telling her it is too late for that. She just had a baby a few minutes ago. I almost laugh at her reaction. Almost. When she snaps out of her shock, she looks at me and asks who is going to pay? Like really. I then have the unpleasant task of telling the hubby about the hospital bill.We have no other option but to pay, of course. While processing the payment, she spends the entire time lamenting about the wickedness of the human mind. “How could she have hidden it for so long? What if she had complications? What if…what if….what if.” All that I keep thinking is “Thank God for his favours”. Hubby was supposed to travel for work the day before but it was moved. If I had been home alone, I know I wouldn’t have stepped out of the house at that time, no matter what. I would have dragged and she would have gone into labour. Me, who starts shaking at the sight of small blood sef. I laugh. A wobbly laugh but a laugh none the less. I go back upstairs to ask Talatu if she has heard anything else. I tell her the cost implications. She starts crying, calling Comfort a wicked and stupid soul. I can’t be bothered at that point, I’m still numb. The most annoying thing then happens. A nurse walks out and asks who her Madam is. I get up. “Come and talk to her, oh. She’s refusing to open her legs for us to clean her. We need to do it fast because of infection. If it goes beyond a certain time, we have to administer a special injection, which can only be done by the medical director. His fee for that alone is N250, 000 for attending. “ Hayyyyy! Patience Ozokwor would have been proud of me. The way I charge into the labour room and speak some home truths to this idiot, ehn. I am unable to put on paper what transpires. Suffice it to say, it works like a gem. I walk out, barely registering that I had stood in a room with blood, placenta and other bodily fluids staring me in the face but the fear of paying more money overrode my fear of blood. After sitting and talking with Talatu for a few minutes, I leave. I still have to go and wake the kids and get them ready for school. Life continues, whatever nonsense is going on in one aspect. We drive home, asking ourselves questions. This is my defence. Comfort started working for me in January of the present year (2014). She underwent tests so I know she wasn’t pregnant then. In March, she went home when her Grandmother passed away. I remember commenting when I saw her the first time “Hmmm this girl’s big stomach sha. She’s too young to have allowed herself to go like this.” She had very large folds, 3 to be exact. She also loved wearing tight shirts/blouses and I often had to make her change before going to church. She was smart enough to hide that pregnancy in plain sight. With hindsight, the only difference I could point out was that the flabs became firm. She also started bleaching. I spent endless minutes explaining cancer and skin diseases to discourage her. She was probably doing it to hide her blotches. I often chided her that she would be my walking mate around the estate so she could lose her stomach fat. I’m sure she used to laugh at me. All this was coming to me in waves. Never for a moment did I even suspect she was pregnant. A large number of family members are in and out of mine – no one suspected she was pregnant. God! I felt stupid sha. After taking the kids to school, Talatu calls me, apologizing and asking if I could send some tea stuff because Comfort needs to try breastfeeding. See my life oh! What option do I have but to arrange breakfast and get some clothes put together for her? Later that morning, Talatu comes home to eat and have a bath. She updates me. She called the young man supposedly responsible for the pregnancy. His phone was off but she managed to contact a community elder who arranged for the young man to be brought to the hospital to face his responsibility. He swears he isn’t responsible, repeating that he has never slept with her. Comfort refuses to talk to him, only insisting that he is responsible. He is practically being held hostage at the hospital so he can’t disappear. “Auntie, this Comfort is not even scared or sad about anything oh. She’s holding her baby, rocking and singing songs of celebration. She’s not even thinking of how she’s going to take care of this baby and what she will say to her parents. She has no worries. Kai, if she has the chance, she can kill. She’s wicked!” says Talatu. This life. I send a cousin to pick up a few items for the baby from the market. Angry as I was with her, this baby has nothing to do with what has happened. An innocent in all this. The young man is allowed to go home that evening while she is held over for observation. Cue December 3rd. I can’t believe I survived the events of the previous day. At 6am, the alleged father turns up at the hospital. He maintains his innocence and asks Comfort to look him in the eye and swear that he is responsible. You know what this girl does? She turns, faces the wall, and ignored him. Faced with that, Talatu ends up begging him to forgive her for the accusations and be on his way. Comfort seems to have tried to frame him. We arrange a car that morning. Talatu comes home, packs up all her stuff and as Comfort leaves the hospital, she is bundled straight into the car and ready for a journey to her village. Talatu calls the parents, has them speak to Comfort and the driver and passed on the journey details. Comfort and baby leave. I never went back to the hospital after the birth. I had nothing to say or see there. Nothing. Cue April 1st. It’s been a couple of months but it still seems surreal to me. Unbelievable that it happened to me. But it did. I have now decided on biannual tests for my house helps. I can’t be a grandmother abeg. By the time I started gisting friends and family, the prevailing reaction was laughter. Lots and lots of it. My Dad took to calling me Grandma Hauwa for a couple of days – not funny at all. Oh. It was a boy. To God be the Glory…True story.

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Hauwa Datti-Garba
Travel and Food enthusiast, Interior Designer, book devourer, night lover, ex migraine bearer, some say a gadget addict, forgetful Jane.
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