Yaw rushed to call the traditional birth attendants who quickly moved me into our bedroom and laid me on a mat with a big basin of water and cloth beside me. They put the towel on my forehead to cool me down as I was sweating bucket loads of perspiration.
In Fante traditional custom, a woman must not wail while bringing forth a child. I followed this rule dutifully during the birth of my two children & bore my pain in silence. However, for this child, I just could not keep quiet. I cursed Yaw for being an unfaithful harlot of a a man & cursed whichever stupid woman had fallen for Yaw’s sweet words. ‘Shh’, the traditional birth attendants told me, ‘It’s ok. If you scream out like this, you won’t have any energy to push the baby out and the baby will be too scared to come out’.
They bundled my baby and brought her to me and I should have been happy but I felt dead inside. Somehow, deep within me, I knew that it was over between me and Yaw. A solitary tear run down my face as I thought about Yaw smiling with another woman, eating her food, lying on top of her, whispering pleasant things in her ears.
After the pregnancy, I moved in to live with Aya and my aunties since it was customary for new mothers in those days to spend time with their female relatives. I was so weak that I spent most of my days just sleeping. Yaw was living in his house and he would sometimes come by Aya’s house to bring me toiletries for the baby including sweet smelling soaps, scented powder and baby oils as well as tins of biscuits, sardines and corned beef. I never conversed with Yaw when he came to Aya’s home. I had not had a solid conversation with him since my discovery of his affair caused me to go into labor. He would come into my bedroom & try to make conversation, starting with ‘How are you’ and moving to random, small talk but each time, I’d turn so that my back would face him and then proceed to give him one-liners till he got the message and left.
It was in Aya’s house that I started hearing snippets of information about Yaw’s paramour. I would pretend to be asleep while my aunties were in the room and they would gossip. “Yes” I heard one of them say ‘They say the woman is from a neighboring village and that all this while he claimed to be travelling to Cape Coast, he was actually going to stay in her house. That woman is trouble o! They say her own husband left her because she is so quarrelsome!”. Another time: “Yes, they say she’s also given birth o! She gave birth a couple of weeks ago but Yaw pleaded with her to wait till his other child is born & then he would name their child. Yaw said that the shock of her pregnancy could affect his wife. She became furious & after wailing that Yaw hates her, she demanded to stay in Yaw’s mother’s house till she delivered. She is a cunning snake. She must have known that if she stayed in her village, Yaw could easily sweep her & this whole incident under a rug but living in his mom’s home changes everything!” With every succeeding gossip, my heart sank even further & I became increasingly depressed while I felt so helpless. Then one day, I overheard this:”Yes, can you imagine that Yaw is planning to name that woman’s child one day before he names Araba’s daughter? The woman insisted that her son should be named first because after all, he arrived first and he is also a boy!’. My mind was made up.
The day before my naming ceremony, I woke up very early. At the crack of dawn, I got out of bed, washed my face, pulled on my cloth blouse and secured a cloth firmly around my waist. My baby was in Aya’s room since Aya insisted on babysitting because she had more child-rearing experience than I. Before stepping out, I picked up a huge tin of corned beef that Yaw had brought to me on one of his visits but I had never opened and put it in a small jute bag.
I was stepping out of the house with the jute bag when Aya called me softly ‘Araba, where are you going?’. ‘I need some fresh air Aya’. I said softly, almost pleading. I didn’t want her to ruin my plans. ‘Ebei Araba, but at this time? My child, both your baby & you yourself are both going to be ‘outdoored tomorrow’. It’s not proper that you step outside’. I pleaded with her incessantly that staying at home was making me sick and I just needed to take a short walk to clear my head. She reluctantly agreed.
I lied to Aya; I wasn’t taking a short walk. I walked all the way across the village to Yaw’s mother’s house. ‘Agoo’ I knocked on Yaw’s mother’s house & she came to the door. I had never met a woman who reminded me of a mouse more than Yaw’s mother. Yaw’s dad was a huge man who who frequently battered Yaw’s mom and perhaps, as a result of that, Yaw’s mother had turned into someone afraid of her own shadow.
She asked me in her high-pitched voice how I was doing and why was I out of the house in my current condition? I replied, “Oh, my-in-law, I’m so sorry, Yaw actually asked me to bring imported corned beef to my rival because he said that he wanted her to make sure that she uses it to make stew for his guests who will come to the naming ceremony this morning. He doesn’t want her to use any other meat or fish.” I added, “He said that he forgot to bring it to you and this morning and he had to rush to the store so since I had my own tin, I told him not to worry but I’ll bring it to you for the event.” Yaw’s mother smiled and relaxed visibly. ‘Oh, as for my son & his abrofosem- his white ways! So it’s only corned beef he wants in the stew? Ok my child let me take it to your rival.”
“Oh Maame”, I replied, but why are you making me a bad person erh? How can I, your in-law, send you to give something to my rival? No let me take it to her then you can introduce me. I’ve not even met my rival o!” “Oh is that so” she said looking shocked,, “my son has not been fair to you, I thought he had introduced you two. Don’t worry let me take you to Senyiwa”. My heart skipped a beat. So that was the name of that home wrecker? Senyiwa. She thought that she could use 1 year to come and snatch what I had used 9 years to build? I smiled bitterly.
Yaw’s mom ushered me into a room in her house. A woman was lying on a mat facing the wall. A baby started crying in another room “Senyiwa, this is Araba, your rival. Why don’t I leave the two of you together and check on baby erh?” As Yaw’s mom left, the woman rose from the mat and stood up to face me. I glanced at her, from her head to her feet because I wanted to figure out what she had that I lacked which had made her ‘ensnare’ Yaw.
And as I stared at her, I started cursing Yaw silently in my mind. Senyiwa’s features were direct opposites of my own. Where I was short, she was tall. Where I was light complexioned, she was ebony skinned. Even our eyes were different, hers small, mine large; her fingers were long & graceful while mine were petite. I cursed Yaw for ever telling me that I was just the ideal woman he wanted. So was he lying to me when he told me how he loved the fact that I was petite, how he loved my big eyes and wouldn’t want to look into any beady eyes? That was the day that I learnt to take it with a pinch of salt whenever a man tells me I’m just the woman he wants. I always tell myself, ‘the fact that he claims you’re his ideal woman doesn’t mean that he doesn’t find other women ( who look so different from you) attractive!
She stood up and I realized that she was topless and was only wearing a cloth wrapped around her waist. Which kind of woman did that- went to meet her mother-in-law and rival topless? This was what Yaw wanted? “So you are Araba” she said calmly, a taunting twinkle in her eyes…
TO BE CONTINUED