Published on September 25th, 2012 | by Marilyn Eshikena36
Beneath The Surface
It was the second time that evening, and Patricia could not but let out a frustrated hiss as she picked her two-year-old boy off the floor and placed him across her laps. She stared at the bump between his large eyes until it began to look like a third eyeball. The frequency with which he threw himself at hard surfaces was beginning to tire her out. He would trip over his little toy cars, shoes that were well out of his way and even his own feet. She had concluded that he enjoyed falling down and so his infant mind had found alibis in these insignificant triggers. She glanced at the crystal alarm clock seated on the top of the chest of drawers beside the bed. It was a few hours to happy hour. She had to put little Folu to bed before her husband returned from work. Since her husband agreed it was time to gradually wean their son off sharing their matrimonial bed, Patricia had fanned the happy hour flame into full existence. It was what kept her mind off Folu and his little abnormality. The only time she did not have to deal with in-laws that never failed to remind her that she was still a childless wife. To them, Folu was an evil, spirit baby that they did not really exist.
Patricia dipped her thumb into the open jar of ointment beside her. She placed her thumb over the bump and began to apply increasing pressure. She looked at him intensely. Her heart hoped to get a different reaction from those she was used to receiving. Thumb firm against the bump, she made slow circular motions. His eyelids shut and open in quick successions. She applied more pressure, her eyes still fixed on his face. He scrunched his nose and furrowed his brows. Her heart began to beat faster. She had thought about how she might react on the day he finally responded but she seemed to have forgotten all the scenarios now that it seemed like he was about to. Confident that this was the day whatever spell would be broken, she rubbed harder and faster. Folu’s lips quivered and he rubbed his left eye with his hand. He opened his eyes, looked up at his expectant mother’s face and smiled gleefully.
In the third trimester of Patricia’s pregnancy, the sound of babies crying had irritated her. She had absent-mindedly wished for a quiet baby. So when, a few hours after she had gone into labour and the new being had been pulled out of her, the hospital ward was missing a new cry, she was more thankful than worried. In the first few months of her son’s life, she had welcomed remarks about her good luck for being blessed with a quiet baby. The few insinuations from family and a few friends questioning the wholeness of her baby were met with sarcasm and dismissive remarks. One evening, about five months after the birth of her son, Patricia stepped out of the bathroom with her baby in her arms. She was struggling to fit her feet into her slippers when the power went out. She had barely walked two complete steps when her foot got caught under an obstacle. She tried to hold on to her baby as she fell to the ground but he slipped out of her hands a few centimetres to the floor. She heard the sound of his head hitting the ground, and then silence joined the darkness. She waited for him to yell, to cry out, but the only thing she heard was the playful sound he made each time he played with his hands or feet. She was frantic. More so, when all the paediatricians she consulted reassured her that he was healthy. Once, while she was preparing the bath, he had picked up a sewing needle and poked his palm continuously. She was stunned when she came out of the bathroom to find him singing along to the television and clapping his bloodied palms together. Each time she perused his first birthday pictures, the words ‘evil, spirit baby’ came to mind. She could not understand how he continued to play with the lit candle on his birthday cake without wanting to retract his fingers.
The sound of a car driving into the compound jerked Patricia out of her thoughts. She looked at the clock and then at Folu’s face. She sighed. Perhaps it was time to accept his condition and count it as a blessing. She thought of the happy hour with her husband and her spirit was brightened again.
“Oya Folu, daddy is home. Bed time!” She chirped as she carried him off her laps and lay him down on the bed.
Hurrying to retrieve the diaper from her wardrobe, she joined in the nursery rhyme Folu had started to sing. She had only opened the wardrobe when she heard glass smashing. She turned swiftly to find Folu about to walk, feet bare, on the smashed crystal alarm clock. Without thinking, she reached for him, lifted him with her left hand and smacked him repeatedly.
“Mummy, did daddy buy me something?” Folu asked as his mother continued to smack him.
Patricia stopped abruptly. She looked at Folu’s indifferent expression and threw him outside her bedroom.
“This child I am tired of you!” She yelled as she slammed her bedroom door shut.
She stood, back to the door and arms akimbo, and thought about what she had done. She had never been so infuriated neither had she ever treated her baby in that manner. She closed her eyes for a long minute, took a deep breath and opened the door. Her heart stopped when she looked to the ground.
“Folu?” She called out as she tapped his shoulder.
He looked up at her and her jaw dropped.
“Mummy… sorry,” he managed to say between sobs and gushing tears.
“Folu?” She called again. This time, almost in a whisper.
She crouched beside him and engulfed him in a tight embrace. She did not realise when the tears started to flow from her eyes. She carried him into his room and laid him on the bed. After wiping his tears, she kissed him and he smiled at her. She stood and watched him close his eyes. She bent down to kiss him again when she decided pinch his skin with her sharp nails. His eyes closed, Folu smiled and Patricia turned to leave. She was satisfied. His numbness was only skin deep.
Hi, Marilyn here. Do ever wonder how mothers cope with their kids? For some, especially those who have experienced babies first hand, I’m sure the thought of wishing for a ‘quiet baby’ has crossed your mind. Let’s share our experiences and fears today. Use the comment box and express you.