GEMMY SCREAMED OUT in pain. She stopped after a minute, waited for a beat and screamed again. Sweat popped out of her skin pores like tiny diamonds as she screamed so loud that the veins on her forehead, temples and neck stood out in stark relief. Yofi held her hand trying to calm her down. He haunched before her telling himself not to cry as she stopped and within a second screamed again.
His sister, Reina wrung her hands as she paced up and down the room. She was autistic and couldn’t stand loud noises. That she was tolerating the loud screams when her instincts told her to run showed how much she loved her brother’s sister.
Agyeiwaa walked briskly into the room from her ransacking of the drawers in the kitchen. The baby would pop out very soon and she’d needed a knife, lots of cloths, antiseptic and wipes. A lot of wipes. She looked at her daughter in law seated at the edge of the bed with her distended stomach pointing downward and smiled grimly.
“We have to take her to the hospital.”
“No! No mom. No.” Yofi refused, vehemently shaking his head.
“If we don’t take her there-,“ she begun.
“I said no mom,” he cut her off.
Agyeiwaa exhaled whiles shaking her head. They were all worried because of the partial lockdown and how some cases weren’t being allowed in the hospitals though she knew with childbirth, they could go to any of the clinics around. It was her son’s fear of the hospital that had kept them at home for the 3 days Gemmy had been in labor.
She had lost 3 people at the hospital. Yofi’s twin sister when he was 6, his father when he was 18 and just recently his grandfather, her husband. The pain of losing the love of her life still made her breath catch sometimes but she’d promised him to be strong for their kids and that was a promise she would never break.
She knew that entering into the confines of a hospital made her son’s skin crawl. He could feel claustrophobic to the point of hyperventilating so much that he couldn’t breathe. Years of therapy hadn’t helped. She’d even suggested to him to take the anxiety pills he was given months ago by his therapist when he’d been worried about not being able to be at his wife’s bedside should she go into labor. He’d still said no.
They’d all agreed that when Gemmy was due, Yofi would drive them to the hospital and wait outside the gate till the baby was born. Yet, when it came to crunch time, he refused to play ball. That Gemmy went along with him annoyed her but she was powerless. She exhaled loudly and went to sit by her, just as the girl’s eyes rolled into the back of her eye sockets and fell onto the bed in a dead faint.
“DOCTOR, DOCTOR, PLEASE help me. My wife,” Yofi cried as he entered the ER with Gemmy in his arms. She hadn’t woken up but was making a wheezing sound under her breath. Agyeiwaa ran as fast as she could to keep up with her son’s longer legs. She watched in grateful silence as a doctor wearing a hazmat suit ran to meet them. Within a few short minutes, a gurney had been brought to wheel her into a room.
Yofi bent down with his hands on his kneecaps, inhaling large gulps of air. He tried to make sense of what was going on, remembered where he was and beat a hasty retreat outside. His mother watched his fast receding back and sighing, went to look for a place to sit. There was a 3 seater bench with a man wearing a nose mask already seated on it. Agyeiwaa went to sit at the other end and grabbing her nose mask from her bag, put it on and dabbed some hand sanitizer into her palms. She said a quick prayer for her daughter in law, praying that everything will be ok.
FIVE HOURS LATER, Yofi stood at the entrance of the hospital battling with a security guard. He didn’t want to enter the reception area but didn’t want to sit in his car too. The guard had wanted him to at least sit on one of the visitor’s benches outside but he’d still refused to do that too stating categorically that the only time he would move from there was when a doctor came to tell him how his wife was faring.
Agyeiwaa had left 3 hours earlier to take care of Reina, leaving him alone at the only place he wished he would never come to. He didn’t know what was going on. He was running a gamut of emotions. He feared that something might have happened to his wife, feared that fearing something might have happened to her would make whatever happen to her and fearing that he might not see her again. He was so scared that within these few hours, he’d shed weight. His once loosely fitting T-shirt hung around his frame now. He’d dropped 5lbs and at this rate, his mother would find a skeleton by the time she got there but that was not in his thoughts as he tried not to imagine all the negative scenarios that tried to run through his head.
He was trying not to shove the head of the pest of a security guard still ordering him about when he saw the hazmat-suited doctor approaching the entrance. Yofi without a thought moved forward. He tried to make out the expression on the doctor’s face but the helmet made it a bit difficult to see it clearly. Then he realized the doctor was smiling.
He felt the words more than heard them when the doctor said, “congratulations, you have a baby boy. Your son and wife are doing well. They’re lucky you brought them just in time.”
“Can I see them please doctor? Please?”
YOFI ENTERED THE labor ward unsure of himself. He followed a nurse to the end of the long room where his wife was propped up on a pillow gazing at the cloth-wrapped bundle of joy lying in her arms. Gemmy gave him a happy smile when she set her eyes on him. She didn’t have to say anything. The wonder in his eyes said it all. He leaned down to give her a long kiss and turned his gaze to stare at his baby boy for the first time. He was beautiful and Yofi fell in love with him instantaneously.
For 30 short minutes, Yofi forgot his surroundings, the antiseptic smell, the beeps of nearby machines and his fear of hospitals as he sat on the bed, gazing into his son’s sleeping face. Gemmy smiled at him and lay down, glad to finally close her eyes. As she took her last breath, she smiled at the look of love on his face. She was happy he was happy.