My mother is a witch
That is what everybody says.
I and mama lived in a tiny hut with thatch that needs repair. But papa was not around to do it. He never will be. He had ascended into Eluigwe to join Mpankeukwu. I know he died of heart break. He just woke up one day and could not move one half of his body. Dibianta said he was spelled. Papa died shortly afterwards.
My mother is a witch.
People kept whispering it.She eats her young and drinks their blood. Some even brave enough to say it to her face.
My mother is a witch; she had killed her husband. The rumour mongers kept peddling their gossip. They know nothing.
Papa who protected us, shielded us. Papa whom mama loved so much. Papa who refused to take another wife even when Uncle Uzo and Aunty Adaku kept telling him to. Papa who walked away from his mother when she was telling him that she wanted a grandson. Papa who loved his little Adanna. Mama would call me obidiya jokingly. Papa that beat up the flutist that followed the Okpuoku masquerade when he used mama's name in a song of ridicule. Papa who had buried five children of his, most stillborn. Papa who had slapped his elder brother when he insulted my mama.
Cursed, spelled, enchanted, bewitched; Uncle Uzo kept saying that day.
After he died, the hostility gained a fiery temper. It took on many forms. I became Adanna, the witchspawn.
It was I and mama now. We kept track of years with the harvest of corns. Mama said since my birth, there had been eleven harvests.
Two harvests ago, an unfortunate incident happened, one of the many that had occurred.
Mama was pregnant That was the fourth pregnancy since my birth. The one before me didn't make it either. I and papa had gone to the farm to harvest the tubers of yam and collect uziza leaves that had long since matured to prepare my mama's favourite. A boy had come to our farm to inform papa that mama was about to give birth. We left everything and ran all the way home.
We ran with heavy hearts and prayers on our lips.
I prayed to Chukuokike, just as mama taught me.
Let it be alive, please Chukwu.
I had a name for each baby that my mother had born dead. Cheta, Odera, Odinaka and Chima, even though I was still very little when the first two were born. I still gave them names.
Odinaka was wrapped in banana leaves when he was born dead. Chima was wrapped up in big cocoyam leaves and buried. I had mourned them for days. I badly wanted a sibling.
Ekekereuwa, hear my cries.
Let it be alive.
We got to the house and saw some women gathered in the Obi. I stayed by the entrance of the hut while papa entered. Almost immediately, the village midwife, Nwanyimma, came out.
From the way her shoulders sagged and her eyes teary, I knew something was wrong. Then she started shaking her head so vigorously that I feared all her braids would come undone. I entered the hut. Papa was rolled up on one side grabbing his knees. He looked at me and tears threatened to blind him. He looked away but I heard his sobs.
Ekwensu had dealt him another blow.
I looked at mama, sitting up and cradling something in her arms. I came close and saw the baby's face. It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. Why then was everyone crying?
I came close to touch the baby but what I saw left me transfixed. The baby's body glistened and shone like a boil. It was mottled with purplish swellings all over. Mama put down the baby and cried uncontrollably i looked at the baby; a boy. Just like the others, Jachi was also dead.
Two harvests ago, but the pain was still fresh. Just as salt exacerbates a fresh wound, so also do the taunts and rumours by the villagers keep us in constant pain.
I know I had to be strong. Papa was no longer here. Mama can only do so much. She was pregnant.
I was outside sweeping the Ama and the Obi when I heard someone wailing. I left the palm frond that served as a broom and ran to our hut. Mama's voice was unmistakable.
Mama was sitting with one hand on her waist and the other on her big belly.
"Ada, go and call Nwanyimma!"she screamed, "Hei! Chimooo!"
I ran out, as fast as my tiny legs could carry me towards Nwanyimma's home.
I passed a group of girls playing " Tempe tempe". I spotted Nkechi, my friend but I ignored them all and ran past. I saw Dinta coming from the forest burdened with a deer on his shoulders. I'd never seen that kind before. I would have stopped to admire it but I had more pressing matters.
I met Nwanyimma already on her way. News spread like wildfire in Omuma. I helped her carry her goat skin bag and we moved homewards. I willed Nwanyimma to run. Mama was in a bad way. But a woman so aged can only walk so fast.
We got to the hut and Nwayimma asked me to bring water in a calabash and some clean pieces of cloth.
I was bringing the water when Nwayimma screamed. I was so startled that I dropped the calabash.
It smashed mercilessly into infinitesimal pieces. Like a springbuck, I dashed into the hut just as Nwanyimma ran out, screaming as she went.
Mama was sprawled on the ground. And on her sides lay babies.
The scene of what happened to mama Nkechi's babies flashed through my mind.
The gods had truly cursed us!
"Adanna," mama called out weakly, "pick up your baby brother,"
I came over and carried the baby wrapped up in the clothes I'd brought. Mama ignored the one to her left.
When I looked at it, I did too.
I knew what that meant. I looked at the baby in my arms.
So beautiful. It opened it's tiny mouth and wrapped its fingers around my thumb.
When I looked at mama again, she was on her feet packing what she could into papa's big leopard skin bag.
I looked on.
She looked at me, tears in her eyes and she shook her head.
I knew. Anytime now. The Odejimjim would come with their black machetes and calabashes of incense. Only, when they do, they'd see only one thing in the hut, on the floor.
*Hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN) used to be a major cause of fetal loss and death among newborn babies.
During pregnancy, some of the mother's antibodies are transported across the placenta and enter the fetal circulation.
This is necessary because by the time of birth, newborns have only a primitive immune system, and the continuing presence of maternal antibodies helps ensure that they survive while their immune system matures.
A downside to this protection is that by targeting fetal RBCs (red blood cells), maternal antibodies can also cause HDN.
A major cause of HDN is an incompatibility of the Rhesus blood group between the mother and fetus.Pregnancies at risk of HND are those in which an Rh D-negative mother becomes pregnant with an RhD-positive child (the child having inherited the D antigen from the father). The mother's immune response to the fetal D antigen is to form antibodies against it (anti-D).
These antibodies are usually of the IgG (immunoglobulin G) type, the type that is transported across the placenta and hence delivered to the fetal circulation.Thus the baby's red-blood cells are destroyed resulting in neonatal anaemia and stillbirth.
However, suppressants have been developed to keep an Rh negative mother's immune system from developing antibodies for her Rh positive baby.