The hairdresser was plaiting the back of her head causing her to bend, her hair falling on her forehead pouring down, blinding her. She was therefore able to wipe a tear from her eyes.
Jacky was shocked and saddened by the gossip in the salon. It was a heated discussion on infertility.
“Infertility has a cause. I know so. There is no way you can just lack children!” One hairdresser washing some towels at the sink in the corner shouted.
“So true, those infertile women should tell us the truth, God is paying them for aborting!”
Jacky wanted to shut her ears. It was too much. She heard them whisper then they suddenly changed their language to their mother tongue. Unbeknownst to the two hairdressers, Jacky was well conversant with their mother tongue.
“I think she is barren.”
“What? So all this holier-than-thou attitude she carries around is to hide her former sins!”
Jacky knew she was the topic of discussion. She heard them break into a guffaw.
She wanted to tell the hairdresser to leave her alone. She was better off out of that place. Another tear dropped on her skirt. She did not want to cry anymore. She had cried enough.
“There you go madam, you are very smart.” Her hairdresser said as she did the final touches on her hair. Jacky looked at the mirror and saw the woman who had just gossiped her give her a wide grin. One would have thought it was genuine.
“By the way madam, don’t you have girls? Why don’t you bring them over so we plait them? Or are you the kind of mum who shaves your girls from January to December?” Her hairdresser asked teasingly. The other stopped what she was doing and also smiled sweetly keen to see Jacky’s reaction.
Jacky felt a stab in her heart. She knew what they were probing. “Don’t break down Jacky, please.” She told herself.
“I don’t have girls.” She answered.
“Ooh, so you are a boys mama! How many?” Jacky heard the inquiry continue as she picked some money from her handbag. She shut her eyes briefly and smiled.
“I don’t have boys either.” She said as she handed the money to the nosy hairdresser.
There was silence for a moment.
“Waah,at your age and no children. Anyway…life is what you make it.” The other salonist said as she left the room to an inner one.
Jacky bit her lip and demanded for her change. She made quick steps out of the salon as she tried to hold back her tears.
She wondered why the world was so cruel. People were always so quick to judge and conclude wrongly. She could swear that all her life she had never aborted. Her husband, Alex had been her first man. It was he that broke her virginity. She had always strived to be good in her life. God knows that she hated to do wrong.
Jacky had been persuaded several times to blame her infertility on God. It was God’s wish, a close friend had consoled her. Jacky did not want to believe so. For how could God, to whom she had always been so faithful be so unfair not to giver her a fruit of the womb. No, there was no way her God would be so unloving to deprive her of children, even one.
She realized the matatu driver seated next to her was watching her at the corner of his eye. Then their eyes met. She saw concern in his blood shot eyes.
“Madam, what is wrong? Are you bereaved?” He asked.
Jacky shook her head wishing the ten kilometres to her drop-off point would reach quickly.
“Have you lost your husband? Or is it your children?” He persisted. The mention of children made her tears pour in torrents. She took out a handkerchief as she whimpered into it.
“Let her mourn!” A female elderly passenger behind her said. “I remember travelling from Nairobi Hospital to Bungoma, crying all the way unable to come to terms that my son was dead. But the crying helped a lot. I was able to break the news to my family.”
Then the matatu passengers, women especially, started to narrate how they too had gone through tough times that had made them break down while travelling.
“While my father chased me away for choosing a man he did not approve of, let me tell you, I cried a whole 150 kms. I did not believe my own father could be so selfish.” Another woman chipped in as Jacky wiped the last, or so she hoped, tears from her eyes.
She could see the junction to her house a few metres away and she signalled the driver to stop there.
“Bye, all will be well.” The female passenger that had started the ‘cry’ conversation told her. She jumped out of the matatu and felt the eyes of sympathy from the passengers pitying her. They probably thought she was bereaved. Would they still pity her if they knew she was crying for her empty womb or would they jump to conclude that she was suffering for her sins like the hairdressers had? Jacky wondered.
Alex was not in a good mood either. She knew it because he had already taken his supper, unlike other days when they ate together. He was watching TV, with the lights off. She greeted him and he nodded reluctantly. Jacky did not want to confront him. She neither did not have the appetite to eat. She went to the bathroom and took a quick shower.
These happened often. The silent treatment towards each other. The two were staunch Christians , moreso church leaders but there were times it was too hard to be nice to each other with the dark reality of childlessness hovering over them.
But Jacky loved Alex. He had never insulted her for lacking a child. He had never pushed her to unrealistic demands. There was a rumour that he had fathered a child with a lady from the church choir but he had refuted the claims vehemently. So angry had he been that he had called both the girl and her fiancè to confirm in front of his wife that he had nothing to do with the pregnancy.
Apart from swinging moods now and then , Alex had stood by her.
Earlier on, about two years into the marriage, she had insisted that he go for check ups. He had brushed off such ideas but she had kept on insisting that maybe he was the problem. He had finally acceded and the results had come out. He was in good shape. No problem at all. A second, third and fourth doctor’s opinion had been no different.
“If the doctors say we are both ok, then let’s wait. We will be parents one day.” Alex had consoled her, giving her hope. And they had made love that night, passionate love filled with hope, both, having a feeling that that night would be the night a child was made.
Two weeks later, her periods had come, punctually and faithfully. Jacky and Alex were still hopeful. They figured they had not done enough that needed to be done. They changed diet and ate only what was right. No more chocolate or ice cream. They threw away any tight innerwear and started to exercise thrice a week.
For a whole month, they made whoopie every day. Even when the sexual appetite was low, they did it, not for fun but for procreation. While in the mood they were at it thrice or four times a night. But still, nothing. And the hope dwindled slowly and silently.
Now she was 55, Alex was 58. They had come to terms that they were never going to have a baby of their own. Sometimes they talked about adopting but the adoption process was too long and tedious. They would always shelve the idea for a more appropriate time.
Now, she heard Alex crawl to bed next to her. He had stayed at the living room for three hours. She remained still, pretending to be asleep as he tossed and turned. She wondered what was agitating him. He woke up and went to the washrooms. She heard him muttering. Was he praying?
Jacky rarely saw him like this. She got from bed and knelt beside her bed and started to pray. She did not know what to say to God. She just knelt.
“Will it help?” Alex said from behind her.
“What?” She said as she turned quickly towards him.
“How many years have we prayed? Huh? 30 years is it? 30 years every day! 365 days! Each day and He hasn’t heard us!” His voice was loud, almost angry. Jacky wondered who he was angry at, her or God.
He walked towards the bed and sat on it, bent his head as if in deep thought, then with a croaky voice he said.
“You remember Ryan and Olivia? We hosted them here some time ago. The doctors had told them they might never have kids.” Alex said.
Jacky remembered the young couple Alex was talking about. They had come for advice on how to cope with childlessness.
“So Ryan came to my office today to tell me the good news.” Jacky felt a pang of jealousy at what her husband was about to tell her. “He was so elated as he told me they were expecting.”
Jacky felt the hot tears too drip down her eyes. She wondered what it was that Ryan and Olivia had done to be blessed that quickly.
“They waited four years only!” Alex said, sobbing effortlessly. “Ryan told me that the miracle is a result of prayer. Prayer? Haven’t we prayed?” Jacky held her husband as they sobbed in each other’s arms.
A few minutes later, Alex was fondling his wife, seconds later , they were ravaging each other like their lives depended on it. It was the first time in many months they had been that wild.
They were close again. They decided not to talk about Ryan and Olivia again. Although they were happy for them, they still felt twinges of envy and agony inside.
Jacky waved at her husband as he went to work on a Monday morning. This was three weeks after the great night. She hadn’t been feeling well. She did not want to worry Alex so she decided to see a doctor without notifying her husband.
The doctor listened patiently at her symptoms. She expected a prescription note but instead he requested that she take a few tests. She agreed and waited.
“Jacky, I have some news for you.” He said. Her heart pounded. Did she have some fatal disease and only had a few months to live? Did she need some major surgery? She was confused because the doctor was smiling.
“You are pregnant.” Jacky heard the words echo in her mind as she lay still staring at the doctor like a zombie. Then she got angry.
“I hate such jokes.” She said.
“And I, do not joke like that. Jacky, you are pregnant.” He said.
Jacky screamt, prayed, screamt and prayed again.
She went home and called sick at work. It was almost lunch time so she made a special meal for Alex. Then she called him and asked him to come over for lunch. He was a bit busy, he said but she insisted.
He took his meal with a questioning look on his face , amazed at her unusual glee begging to be told what it was that made her so happy.
She came to him and held his hand, then directed it to her stomach. He looked up at her with his eyes wide open. She nodded. He held her by the waist and kissed her tummy over her dress as tears ran down his cheeks.
“I cant go back to work after such great news.” He announced as he called the secretary to call off all his appointments that afternoon. They went to bed to celebrate. Even though the embryo was just still too tiny, Alex was slow and careful, afraid to harm the baby he had waited so long for.
“Waah!” Jacky exclaimed, “I will be damned if we haven’t added another one after such a hot session!” They both laughed as they took heavy breaths of air.
The journey of pregnancy was bliss to Alex and Jacky. They did not mind the jibes cast at them by people who thought they were too old to be new parents. They enjoyed the pregnancy in perfect delight.
They had the first ultrasound at five months. Jacky almost fainted while Alex like the Biblical Zechariah lost his voice but only for a few minutes. The sonographer had given them shocking news. He had noted four heartbeats in Jacky’s womb. They would have quadruplets.
The four angels came calling at 33 weeks. The doctor had thought she would have a C-section because of her age and having multiples, but Jacky, had no complications. She pushed them all, one by one. Two boys came out first then two girls.
The good news spread like bushfire and then support came from all corners. Local politicians too pledged financial aid. Close relatives came in to help. Friends offered emotional support. Everything fell into place.
The family of 2 changed overnight to be 6. The challenges of parenting were handled with optimistic enthusiasm. The joys of fatherhood and motherhood were experienced to the full. Every night the happy couple knelt beside their sleeping babies and thanked God for them.
Tiptoeing and whispering was the norm of the day because any tiny bit of noise would wake one child who would wake all the rest. Alex and Jacky would try to have some private time together but most of the time they were interrupted by either one or all children wanting their attention.
“They have been sleeping all through the night since they started weaning.” Jacky said to her husband. The kids were six and a half months then.
She noticed the look on Alex’s face. The look of need and want. She read naughty on his face from the way he was licking his upper inner gum as he ogled at her.
“What?” She asked, amused and turned on by his mischief.
“Can we then…you know!..” He asked as he added a wink to his naughty facial expressions .
Jacky laughed hard then said. “As long as we don’t make more quadruplets!”
“We’ll see about that!”