There is no rule book for marriage but if there was one, one of the first laws would be;
Thou must not marry a musician if thou art a programmer.
But just in case you are stupid enough to fall in love with one, then you must obey this other rule;
Thou must not buy her a piano for house use.
I didn’t find this book so I broke those rules.
It was 8:30am, I stared at the laptop in front of me and sighed. I had missed the deadlines for two milestones I had set for this project and it wasn’t my fault. My Florence Nightingale would not stop singing and playing on her piano. It was fun at first, because it was once in a while. But then she got pregnant and all she did was play the piano and sing all day. I was starting to consider doing my work at the office, it was that bad.
I couldn’t complain; I couldn’t even wear a long face or else I would receive a very lengthy lecture from my grandmother. If I knew this was what I getting into, I wouldn’t have listened to Pam’s request for Grandma to live with us.
“Samuel.” My grandmother’s voice rang though the house.
I did not answer. She knew where I was, she would find me. And find me she did.
“What are you doing?” She asked, standing at the door of my library.
“Staring at my computer, wishing I could get some work done.” I said.
“Good luck with that.” She said.
“Thank you.” I said with the fakest smile I could muster.
“When was the last time you checked on your wife?”
“Checked on her? She right there in the living room, I can hear her voice as clearly as I can hear yours right now.”
“That’s not the answer to my question.”
“What do you want from me Grandma? I can’t work because she’s always singing, I can’t sleep because she always wants to talk and I can’t even be angry because she’ll just start crying.”
“You are frustrated, right?”
“That’s the word; frustrated. You can’t understand how I feel right now.”
“Do you understand how she feels?”
“Well, if the song she’s singing is anything to go by, she is very happy.”
“Do you know what it’s like to carry a baby for nine months? That’s how long she’s carried your baby; nine long months.”
I knew that. But that was no excuse to take away my peace.
“Do you realise your wedding anniversary is in a week?” She paused and coughed. “Two years of marriage and you don’t understand it yet?”
“I understand. But still, I…”
“Stop arguing with me Samuel. The key to…” She stopped and coughed again.
“Are you okay? Do you need some water?”
“I’m fine.” She said. “Just go and take care of your wife.”
My wife turned non-stop music machine. She never… wait a minute, she was no longer singing. Why wasn’t she singing?
“She stopped singing?” I said, more to myself than to my grandmother.
I looked up at her, she looked pale.
“Are you okay?” I asked again.
She nodded. Seriously though, why did Pam stop singing? I stood from my chair and walked past my grandmother, though a corridor and into the living room. Pam wasn’t sitting by her piano. I looked across the room and there she was sitting on a chair, groaning and holding her stomach.
I rushed to her side.
“Babe, are you okay?”
“I don’t know.” She said.
“How are you feeling?” I asked.
“She’s in labour.” My grandmother shouted from behind me.
“What? Labour? Are you sure? Her due date is two weeks from now.”
My grandmother joined me beside her.
“Her water has not broken.”
“So she’s not in labour then.” I said.
She couldn’t be in labour, not now, not yet, I was not ready.
“Where is your phone? Call your doctor, he will tell you what to do.” My grandmother said.
I jumped to my feet and ran to the bedroom. I entered and looked around. My wife was in labour? Was about to become a father? Me, a father? What was I looking for? My phone! It wasn’t here. I ran back to the living room and to Pam.
“Are you okay dear?”
“Yes, I’m fine.” She said. “Are you okay?”
“Of course I am. But it’s not about me right now, okay? Anything you want, just ask.” I said.
“How about you call the doctor?”
“My goodness, I forgot.”
I ran to my library and there it was, the phone was on the table. As I reached for it, it rang. It was Phemie.
I answered. “Hey bro, Pam is in labour.”
“She’s in labour man, get here as soon as you can.”
“I’m on my way.” He said and ended the call.
I dropped the phone on the table and ran back to the living room.
“Phemie will be here in a few minutes.” I said. “I think we should pack some things and head to the hospital. Phemie can bring anything we forget.”
“Have you called the doctor?” Grandma asked.
“What’s wrong with me?”
I started to run back to the library but Pam called me.
“Come back Sam.”
I picked up her hands squeezed them gently. “What do you need babe?”
“I need you to calm down.” She said.
“What? Me? I’m calm. I just need to…”
“Sam? Listen to me, okay?”
“Yeah sure, anything for you my dear.”
Grandma smiled and walked out the living room.
“There is a bag in my room, a green bag, it has some things I need for the hospital. Bring the bag and we’ll go the hospital.”
“Okay dear.” I said.
“Is there anything you need to take?” She asked.
“No, nothing. I’ll be right back.”
I kissed her on the cheek and ran towards the bedroom.
“Stop running.” She shouted after me.
I entered the room and met my grandmother in the room. She was sitting on the bed.
“Hey Grandma, what are you doing here?”
“I was going to pick the bag for you, you looked so confused.” She said.
“The bag is here.” I said, pointing to the bag in the corner. “Why are you on the bed?”
“I just got a little tired, that’s all.”
I arched an eyebrow. “Tired? Are you okay?”
“Of course I am.” She said with a huge smile. “I’m about to become a great-grandmother. Pick the bag, stop talking with me.”
I walked to the corner and picked the bag.
“As soon as I can leave the hospital, I’ll come back to pick you.” I said.
“Alright dear.” She said. “Please be careful how you drive, you don’t appear to be very stable at the moment.”
“I am as stable as I will ever be.” I said with a smile and headed for the door.
“The doctors will appreciate if you wear some trousers.”
I looked down at my legs, I had only my boxer shorts on.
I paced in the hospital room while the doctor examined Pam. Why wasn’t she freaking out? I had seen videos of women giving birth, it was not funny. What was I supposed to do when the real, loud, screaming, heart-wrenching part of the labour began?
“Mr Aderemi?” The doctor called.
I looked at him.
“Your wife will be here for a while. Her contractions are still far apart and her water has not even broken yet.”
“So, what are you saying? We are not having this baby today?” I asked.
“I can’t rule it out.” The doctor said. “But it is not likely.”
“Thank you doctor.”
The doctor nodded and walked out of the room. I walked to Pam’s bed side and sat on the edge of her bed.
“I feel fine actually.” She said. “Maybe this isn’t as hard as you think it is.”
“I’ve seen the videos Pam.” I said and shuddered at the memories. “I can’t believe you are actually going to go through all of that for me.”
“It’s not just for you Sam, I’m having this baby for me too.”
I nodded. “If I could transfer the pain to myself so you won’t have to go through this, I would.”
Pam chuckled. “No, you wouldn’t.”
I paused and thought about it. “I’m sorry, you are right, I wouldn’t.”
My phone rang and I removed it from my pocket. It was Phemie. I clicked the answer button.
“Hey bro.” I said.
“Where are you Sam?”
“At the hospital.” I said. “I told you I was…”
“It’s your grandmother.”
“My grandmother, what’s up with my grandmother?”
“I don’t know man, I got here and she there on the floor in the living room gasping for breath.”
My head went light and I reached for a wall.
“Where is she Phemie? Where is my grandmother?”
“She’s in the car with me now.” He said. “We are on our way to the hospital.”
“Is she…?” I stopped and swallowed. “Is she okay?”
“She is stable for now, I think. I had Favour with me, she knew what to do. See why one of us had to marry a nurse?”
“Please get her here safe.” I said.
“Phemie please, that woman is…”
“I know Sam. We’ll be there in ten minutes.”
I looked at Pam and at my phone and I wasn’t sure what to feel.
“She is stable now but we are not out of the woods yet.” The doctor said. “Your friend here saved her life really. A few more minutes alone in that house and we would have had a different story.”
“Thank you Doctor.”
“We have to wait for her to regain consciousness. There’s no telling when that will be.”
I nodded and the doctor left, Favour going out with him.
“I’m sorry bro.” Phemie said.
I looked at him and nodded. I was not finding talking easy at the moment. I looked at my grandmother’s frail figure on the bed. I didn’t realise she had gotten so old.
“Phemie, could you please give me a minute alone with her.”
I waited for him to leave the room then I drew a chair close to the bed and sat. I looked at her face, she looked so peaceful, almost as if she was dead. I shook my head, almost as if that would shake the thought off my mind.
“You are so beautiful.” I said. If Pam could be as beautiful as my grandmother was at seventy two, I would be a very happy seventy six year old man.
I pushed the chair back and sat on the edge of the bed. I picked up one of Grandma’s limp hands and held it between mine. If she could feel how sweaty my palms were, she would berate me so much I would hate myself. I smiled, why did she hate sweaty palms that much?
Pam was on another floor of the hospital and she needed me but so did my grandmother. What was I supposed to do? Which one of them was I supposed to leave? This was the kind of time I needed my grandmother’s advice.
The door of the room opened and I turned to see Phemie standing at the door.
“You need to come Sam.” He said.
“Pam… well, she needs you.”
I looked at my grandmother’s face again, I didn’t want to leave her. Not now, not ever.
“Sam?” Phemie called.
I kissed my grandmother’s hands and placed it carefully on the bed. I would be back for her.
I was several metres away when I heard her scream.
“Is that Pam?” I asked Phemie.
I didn’t wait for his reply, I ran to the door of her room and barged in.
“You are not allowed…”A nurse started to say.
“He is my husband.” Pam shouted.
Two nurses and a man – I couldn’t tell if he was a nurse or a doctor and frankly I didn’t care, were with Pam in the room. I ran to the side of the bed and Pam grabbed my hand with such force I couldn’t imagine she possessed.
“I thought you weren’t supposed to go into labour yet.” I said.
“Do you want me to close my legs? Maybe keep the baby in for a while?” Pam asked.
“Just shut up and say nice things to me.” She shouted into my ear.
“How can I say nice things if I’m shutting up?” She gave me a look and I immediately learnt how to shut up and talk at the same time. “You are doing great baby, you are doing amazing.”
She screamed and cried and squeezed my hand and it scared me. Her labour escalated very quickly, far more quickly than what my internet searches had told me. She was screaming a lot; that was good but it didn’t look like she was making much progress.
Lord, help me please. Help us.
One hour later…
My hand was numb, I could feel nothing from my wrist up. I wasn’t sure but it looked like Pam had squeezed every drop of blood out of the hand. I looked at her face, I didn’t like what I saw. She was crying, not tears of pain but of frustration. I was not helping because fear wasn’t very much better than frustration. Pam needed me now more than any other time, I knew that.
If only I knew what to say or do.
Maybe I should sing. Of course not, idiot. I was hopeless.
“Pam? How are you feeling?”
“I feel like I just came back from a date with Leonardo DiCaprio.”
“How does it look like I feel?” She shouted.
Okay, talking wasn’t helping. Maybe singing wouldn’t hurt. I cleared my throat.
“Hello, is it me you are looking for?” I started singing. “I can see it in your eyes, I see it in your smile…”
“What are you doing? You think I want my child to come into the world hearing that?”
I removed my hand from her grip and backed away from her. What did she want from me? I could not keep quiet, I could not talk, I could not sing, what on earth was I supposed to do?
“Maybe you should step out for a while.” The ‘nurse-man’ said.
“Yes, maybe you should.” Pam shouted.
“Maybe I will.” I said to myself and walked out of the room.
Whew! This was harder than I expected. I needed my grandmother and I needed her now. I started to jog towards the staircase leading to her room. Why did this have to happen to her today of all days? I jogged up the stairs, two steps at a time. I slowed to a walk as I approached her room. I was almost at the door when it swung open and Phemie stepped out.
“I was coming for you.” He said. “We are losing her Sam.”
No, we were not. I pushed past him and entered the room. She was surrounded by people; doctors and nurses, I assumed. They were talking and moving around and I could not tell what they were saying or doing.
I walked out of the room and leaned against the wall beside the door. So what now, God? You’ll give me a child and take my grandmother on the same day? I punched the wall and winced at the pain.
“God please, let me have both my grandmother and my child alive. My wife too. I can take care of all three of them. I think I can. Please God. Forgive me for all the times I complained about my wife or my grandmother. Have mercy on me and spare them.”
I heard my name and I opened my eyes. I fell asleep at my grandma’s door? I looked up and a doctor stood by my side. She wasn’t smiling. I jumped to my feet.
“How is she?” I asked.
“We don’t know.” She said. “Frankly I think it’s up to her now. We have done all we can, we’ll see what happens.”
“But can’t you…” I started to say.
“Sam.” I heard my name from across the corridor. It was Phemie. “Pam has delivered the baby. Come, come.”
I ran as fast as my legs could carry me to the staircase. I ran past Phemie down the stairs and across the corridor to her room. I burst through the door and stopped. Pam lay on the bed, her head on the pillow. One of the nurses held the bawling baby in her hands. Tears filled my eyes and I let them flow freely. I had a baby. I was a father.
“We need you to cut the umbilical cord please.” One of the nurses said and then added. “Your wife insisted we wait for you.”
I stumbled forward, collected the scissors and cut the cord. The nurse handed the baby to me and I looked, we had a girl. I carried the baby to Pam and handed the baby to her.
“She’s beautiful.” Pam said.
“Just like you.”
“Just like me.” Pam said and chuckled.
“What do we call her?” I asked.
“Oreoluwa.” Pam said.
“After my grandmother?” I smiled.
Pam nodded. I stood back and looked at them; my wife and my cute little angel, I could not believe they both belonged to me.
Maybe they didn’t, maybe I belonged to them.
I sat on the edge of Grandma’s bed, one of her hands in both of mine.
“We named the baby after you Grandma.” I said. “One day she’s going to be grown and ask why we named her Oreoluwa, don’t you want to be there to give her the answer?”
She did not answer. Of course she did not, she was unconscious. I could not let her go, I needed her more than ever before. There was no way I could raise the baby to be a great Aderemi when I was barely one myself.
“I still need you Grandma. What do I do to bring you back? Please Grandma, anything.”
Her hand moved in my hand.
She opened her eyes and looked at me. “Get your sweaty palms off my hand.”