Nnwa, What if You do not Come? #1

There can be no children, Nnwa. Not now. Not ever. We have had the tests, we have had more second and third opinions than I care for but nothing changed the diagnosis, they said. They stood there and said there was nothing they could do. Any further treatment would only open us to more hurt and more financial leakage. There was nothing they could do. We figured perhaps it was a matter of faith. Some displeased ancestors or some tied up juju buried under the roots of a tree somewhere. Anything to give us even a sliver of hope. And so there is no altar we have not knelt at, no sin we have not confessed or offering we have not given. But still. Some said that perhaps our faith is weak and cannot be rewarded any divine intervention or that there is still some confessing we need to do – something big, some sin we deliberately forget to tell the man of God. I will not even begin to tell you what that sort of response can do to an already bleeding heart. They have said perhaps we should start thinking about the possibilities of adoption. But even the thought of it feels like a betrayal, like faithlessness. Five years later nnwa, but still, no matter how hard we fight, everything seems to confirm it; your aunt cannot have children of her own.

It is for a man to hope and for the gods to decide. If this is in any way true, then I am afraid. Afraid that although I hope that you will be mine, you may not be mine to have. The bones may be shaken well before they are thrown down, but neither the man nor the ground on which they will fall knows what picture they will paint. What fate they will spell. In that split second, when we all hold our breath, and everything is in mid-air, maybe then will we be able to speak the last of what we will think will skew the move to our favor. But even then, it is not up to us. Not up to me.

I spent the better part of my day yesterday on the phone with your aunt. No, not your aunt – my sister. Another I do hope you will meet. We talked a little bit more than we cried. It was not a yellow hour Nnwa. It has been years of trying to have their own. Something about a complication they cannot find a way around. If ever there was a race for the most likely to be the best at motherhood, your aunt would beat me hands down. Which is why this hurts in a way I cannot describe to you. The thought that this is the life she will have, something we had no way of knowing or preparing for, is hard. Nnwa, I think and pray for you, I plan and think and think and plan. But what if, you are also not meant to be mine? I have never felt as broken as I did yesterday. Now all I think about when I think of you is that maybe you will never be mine either.

It is not easy having to re-dream your life Nnwa. It is not easy being the only white flower in a sea of blue. That is what your aunt fears this will be. A constant reminder that she is not ‘woman enough.’ Whether we plan on having children someday since the time we knew we could because we want to or because it is just how things are done is one of those things we can argue about forever and again. But to have always seen your life pan out a certain way only to be told it cannot – that is cruelty. That is torture. It is one’s children that sit by their hospital beds, and it is one’s children that will carry one’s name. It is how it is, how it should be. It felt like all they said was that your aunt would be the tree without branches amongst even those burdened with more that they can bear. It is not fair. It is not right. Ours is a land where a woman is known by her name only because she is yet to have her child. ‘What will be my name?’, she asks. I cry because I do not know what to say.I am inconsolable, your aunt even more so. Fate has robbed you of your best friend, Nnwa. And there is nothing I can do about it.

It is too early to go for any tests. Not because it is too soon but because I have never been one to go finding things out unless they needed finding. And if I were not to have you, if I too were to have any complications, I would rather not know of them now. I would rather blissfully talk and plan for you. In this instance, I would embrace ignorance. If it gives me the hope that you are mine, will be mine, I will take it. I have seen what hopelessness can do and Nnwa, your aunt, she is strong. I would not survive it. Talk to the Big Oga there for me if you can. I like to think that you are closer to him than we are. Speak to him about your aunt. Ask him to change the way the bones fell. Ask him for a miracle – anything that can make this right. And while you’re there, ask him to let you come to me when the time comes. To come to me, and to stay. I would not survive this life any other way.

You will Love Bear Crawls

Nnwa, as I write this, only my mouth and my fingers are able to move. No, nothing is wrong – nothing at all. In fact, I am happier and more relaxed than I have been in a while. I went to my first Taebo class the other day, and if I had thought your aunt mad for insisting on taking the stairs every day while living on the sixth floor, it is because I had not known madness. Everything ached but the fun we had! You would have loved the bear crawls. I could almost see you scurrying away as your mama pants, laughs and sweats along trying to keep up. We should go someday, and you can be my partner. I had my second spin class today, and I must admit, I was a little low on energy, but I kept at it. I did serve massive amounts of side eye to the guy in the corner because who pedals that fast with maximum resistance? Who? Ah ah! I did not know I could hold a jealous thought for that long. So now I am all over the net searching out ways to keep my energy up, how to beat the resistance and what not because I want some side eye too. See? Appeals to human vanity almost always win.

I hope to keep this up, I really do want to repair my never existing relationship with health and fitness. Yes, non-existent Nnwa because the more I think about it, the more I see that I actually have given very little thought at best to the entire business.

I was born and raised in the ‘Home of Champions’ Nnwa. Everyone and their mother was a runner. Literally. Eldoret back then had its healthy dose of rains but then the second term at school would come, and you could feel the air light up because, at the end of it, we would have our annual sports event. The only reason we came to believe some children had people was that on this one day the track field was green, and everyone’s everyone showed up because athletics was the main sport. The students prepped all term, but the main event was the parents run. Yes, Nnwa, there was a mother’s and a separate father’s race, and I will never forget the sight of these ladies and gentlemen volunteering to go for 100m sprints or full relays because that was when the party started. You did not have to call for volunteers twice. Brown leather jackets were put down, shoes cast away, skirts gathered – this was serious business. The starter would go off, and the running began. See, everyone and their mother was a runner.

I was not particularly good at it, but I made the 100m sprints for a while (until I realised it needed a bra I did not have to keep up with) but even then, only because I had to. Sports and I never had a comfortable relationship. Physical education classes were a bore because you can only run around the field unsupervised, in uncomfortable, mandatory bloomers so many times. No one really told me why – not the ‘exercise is good for you, and that’s that’ version but, really why I needed it even when I did not want it. There was no Google access back then Nnwa (not for me anyway) and the only people that told you things that you needed to learn were your teachers. But they were book teachers. I don’t even think it ever crossed their minds to actually sell the idea behind the PE classes to us or for us to ask and when it did, it was probably a rant on how that time wasted could have been channelled into an extra math class. I can’t help but wonder if it could have been different perhaps if we had discussions on what our bodies are made of and how it all comes together. Talks about different exercise routines and sporting activities – something other than running – and how they build our bodies to function better so our minds would be at their best too. At the end of it all, maybe they would have dangled a carrot – images of what fitness would look on a body ten, even fifteen years from then. And what it would not because if all else fails, appeals to human vanity may just have tilted the scales for a better-adjusted lifestyle. I don’t know if it would have helped Nnwa, but it would have started a conversation that would have been interesting to have at the back of one’s mind every time one hid in the sick bay to evade another games period. One that would have probably gotten us into a habit that would save us from a lot of catch up later.

I think it’s the same with food as a concept. Of course, I knew what food was and what was not Nnwa, but that was basically the end of it. I had a weakly emphasised understanding which went mostly along the lines of ‘don’t eat so many fries and that much of carbohydrates’ but with the offerings always leaning towards different versions of both. I really didn’t think much of it. In retrospect, I don’t think I knew I needed to. It did not help to already have a bigger frame than others Nnwa and a sweet tooth to boot. Having fast foods, snacking on sweet treats and the escape from exercise were just fun things to do. I did not think about this stuff much as I did them because I was a child. I was a kid that ate because I liked to, skipped exercise because I could and didn’t have any concepts to challenge my little self’s understanding of either.

Years later, I am working on rewiring my brain on these matters. You will be here soon, and it would not do to pass on habits that you will later need to unlearn. Not if I can do something about it. I hope we will have a better approach. I don’t think the rising numbers of children affected by childhood obesity are really mostly as a result of suburbia living, fast food culture and the fact that ‘couching’ is now a thing – a major thing. Parents could cut off as much of this and that as they want but without actually teaching the little humans the reasons behind the choices, the effect will only be felt for as long as they were small enough to only eat what you plate. We need to have it go further in the future. Apart from exercise, it is said that diet plays a significant role in the management of health issues, body weight included and I believe the fact that not many children are made to understand what food really is, what our bodies need, what portions are and so forth is really the puppet master behind what we see. What they know first creates a buffer that feeds later, feeds into the habits they form. We can do more than up the vegetables in our menu’s, we can change this story. Nnwa, I am changing mine, so I can change yours and you can change that which will follow.

It is also said that children learn best from what they see. I want us to curl up for a movie marathon and stay at home all day Saturday and I also want you to see me get up for a morning workout, go for walks, maybe even a run. I want you to come with me for some bear crawls some day. I want you to ask why I do these things and I want to know enough to tell you and show you what your body is made of, how your muscles work and what each needs to keep active and healthy. I want you to eat pizza and fried chicken and chips and know that there is so much more. I also want you to try out oats, eat vegetables, salads, lots of fruits and water because you will know what each food gives. You will know it is all about the balance. I don’t want you always reaching out for processed snacks because there is no better option in the fridge or the pantry. I want to know enough to make sure you always have the options you need to make the healthier choice. It has taken a while but when you realise you will literally shape another person’s foundation in life, you really want to be able to give them the best head start you can. That is why I am relearning this now.