Following are a series of photos I have taken of Smith, my homonyme baby. He is getting bigger and bigger by the day, eating and sleeping and eating! The only one with his eyes open I look bad in, haha. He doesn’t like the flash. There is a picture of me and my hands in holding a snot-like sauce; that is ncuit, a dish that is made most often for women that just gave birth. It apparently has 14 different condiments and work well to clean the stomach. This is my victory photo, after finally really learning how to cut it and eat! If you aren’t careful, you can end up pouring it all out, or swallowing it all at once!
It was just 8 months ago that Ernest and I shared a beer over the news that his wife, Unity, was pregnant, with who he had decided would be my namesake. “A child is the biggest gift I can give you.” he honored me as his best friend. Then he explained, “When you give a child the name of someone, it is with the hope that the child will have some of the characteristics of that person. You don’t just name a child after anyone.” Since that day, I have taken my namesake very seriously. I decided that I wanted to be involved in every step of the way. After learning so much about togetherness and family, I figured that I should also learn all about how to make a family too. I went to Unity’s doctor appointments with her so often that the doctor would give me updates and let me listen to the heart beat. We looked at the ultrasound together, showing us that he would be a boy. From then on, he was known as SMITH FONDJA TERRELL. I became obsessed with touching her belly and feeling the numerous kicks (like me, he likes to dance).
The day she started having contractions, she swore that Smith was kicking at the bottom of her uterus and way just wasn’t being made for him. It had been 9 months and three days of the world awaiting him, so I was anxious and more than willing to take her to the hospital to check it out. The doctor forbid her to go home, as she was 3 cm dialated. I panicked a little inside. I thought it might go faster, like in the films, so I did not know that there would be another TEN hours of pain and suffereing before Smith made his entrance! I called my mom and texted friends. I walked around the hospital with Unity during her contractions, squatting down with her as they came (Mom told me that would help advance the labor). I learned that sugar was supposed to help the process along too, and as long as Unity was crying “I want to be free”, it was my priority. I forced her to eat cookies and down a cup of sugar water. As her last meal, what she really wanted was pork meat, like her usual craving was… that would be in a bed pan just a few hours later.
When her contractions became worse, her sister, having already had 7 births and unimpressed, was sleeping. But all I could do was watch or pray for the birth to be done and over with. She grabbed on to walls and, prayed herself and made some of the most painful sounds I had ever heard. There were times it was as if she was possessed, eyes rolling into the back of her head, inconscient of the curtains she was pulling at or the her imbalance. She moved her body in whatever way possible to make the contraction easier. Two things kept coming to mind: “It is amazing the way she is creating life” and “if the Bible is accurate, then man! Why did Eve bite into that apple?!!” because there is so much suffering involved! Ernest had left but returned at midnight. As she grabbed on to various things, he prayed or sang religious songs. She would say that she was going to die, and then Ernest would snap back in pidgin, “you se wetti!! You no die!” It was quite funny in retrospect. He turned to me a couple of times and said, “Franck may be right”. A few nights ago, Franck had dreamt that Smith would be born at 1h45 AM. It was now after midnight and Unity was getting so tired that she started to doze off in between contractions. Then finally she called the doctor.
The two of us walked into the labor room and closed the door. “You want to have the baby?” the doctor asked very calmly in French..”Okay, get on the table.” Unity changed her mind and refused a couple of times before I obliged her. As sweet and calm as Unity is, that night she was the most stubborn woman I had ever seen. I was curious and nervous, but mostly all I felt was the fear and pain radiating from Unity. The doctor confirmed that she was definitely dialated enough, and told me to stand where I could see her break Unity’s water. Then she asked for Unity’s baby bag which I ran to the other room to get. While the doctor prepped the room, Unity screamed that the baby would come without her. But finally, as I held her arm and she almost ripped my shirt off, she let out a frightful and wrenching yell as she pushed. I reminded myself to stay calm as a dark blue thing started to come out. He wasn’t moving at the ambilical chord was wrapped around his neck. Without telling Unity, I looked up at the clock and prayed. It read exactly 1h45. The doctor gently unwrapped the chord and the rest of the baby came out, blue and white and crying. She layed Smith on Unity’s stomach as she cut the chord, and I tried to grab his head that was hanging off the side of her tummy, but she told me not to, that he would not fall. “You’re free, Unity!! Smith is here!!” I told her. With a look, she told me, “Never again.” Smith weighed over 4 kilos- he is so big, they say because he eats a lot like me! After bundling him up, he handed him to me. He was still blue, and I noticed his big lips. I could already tell that his eyes were like Unity’s. I had asked what would happen with the chord, and when the time came, she pressed down on Unity’s stomach and the placenta came out. I won’t describe the details but I will say that it weighed a good kilo. That was Smith’s house for the past 9 months and 4 days, I thought. Every vitamin, every touch, every voice, was transmitted through this bubble he was in. But now Smith had come into the world, and I was happy and relieved to finally be so close to him. I introduced him to his father outside the room as they walked Unity to another bed, and as we walked down the hall way, I told him in French, “You’re the one we’ve been waiting so long for!”
I couldn’t sleep that night, I think partly because of the adrenaline that was within me and partly because I was traumatized by the event. After talking to Angel, who had happened to call just as we were in the delivery room, and my mom, all I wanted to do was watch Smith.. He cried most of the night because he was already hungry.
Amazing, weird, gross… there are so many words I could use to describe it. “Would you do it?” a few people have asked me since; my answer is “Absolutely”. When the man of my life is there beside me, willing to hold me and be there undoubtedly for us, I will experience the creation of life. They say that you forget once you’ve got the baby in your arms. Well, there is no way I can forget that night, but I know that it does something to me when I hold him, and if it feels anything like this, I will deem my going through it all worth it. Yeah, I still want one!
He was born at 1h45 in the morning, just like Franck had dreamt a few days before! Here are some photos of Smith with the proud family the morning of his birth at the hospital. These include me, Franck, Tim (volunteer in Nkongsamba), Ernest (proud father and my best friend), and Unity (proud mother).