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A VIRGIN AND HER CHILD

This had to be the most excruciating pain ever!

She closed her eyes and gripped her fiance’s hand as the pain, starting from the small of her back, took over her entire body. This was worse than the time she fell from her bicycle at age eleven and fractured her ankle. She had thought she would never forget how that felt. Until this. This just made everything else pale, so pathetically, in comparison.

The contraction passed and Mary felt her body relax. She loosened her grip on poor Joe’s hand and knew the sweat she could feel was not all her own. She did not let go completely though, because she knew her respite was only temporary – at any moment the contraction would make a comeback.

For the hundredth time, Mary wondered if she was really doing the right thing.

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“Just tell me who did this.”

Mary was tired. She could see the pain and anxiety in her mother’s eyes and she desperately wished she could tell her what she wanted to hear. Even before her mother had found out she was pregnant, Mary knew her story would not be believed.

“Angel ke? Messiah? Pregnant? What is this girl talking about?” Her mother had asked incredulously.

Mary looked for a way to convince her mother that this was a good thing – that all the years she had spent instilling discipline and the fear of God in her were not a complete waste.

“I swear, mummy I’m telling you the whole truth. God knows. If I have said anything that isn’t true may I not survive in childbirth.”

Mary watched the emotions pass over her mother’s face as she struggled to come to terms with what her daughter was saying. First rage, for a fleeting moment, then exasperation and finally fear. But this was a different kind of fear. Not the one she had seen when the doctor had confirmed that Mary was really pregnant. This was something new…..

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“Let me check how far gone you are.” The midwife said.

Mary braced herself for the onslaught of fresh pain she knew was coming. She bit back a scream as the woman’s hand disappeared into her. Why was everything just so painful.

The midwife’s gloved hand reappeared, covered in blood and slime and Mary felt a hot tear slide down her right cheek.

“You are almost fully dilated,” the woman announced. “Just tell me when you start feeling the urge to push.”

“Am I going to die?” Mary whispered, unable to help the thought from escaping her lips.

The woman smiled. “No dear, you’ll be fine. This is almost over and in a few minutes you will be holding your beautiful boy….or girl.”

“Boy.” Mary answered. She knew already that she was having a son.

“Boy, then.” The woman conceded just as a fresh wave of pain coursed through the young girl’s body.

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Dr Ibe had been their family doctor for as long as Mary could remember. He had taken care of everything from a toothache to the fractured ankle. He had always been old- a receding hairline and a few strands of black hair scattered among the grey. He was stocky and had a kind smile which always made her feel instantly better the minute she entered his office. Except for now.

He had asked Mary a lot of questions. Questions whose relevance she could not see. She had seen the concern in his eyes but she had only felt judged and alone. Now she was only half listening as he spoke – mostly to her mother, really.

She heard words like delusions and stress and psychiatrist fly over her head, but her mind had gone far away. Far away to a time when this had felt like good news….

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There was a small hill behind the estate where she lived and every morning while she got ready for school, Mary would hear the chants and cries of the people who gathered there to pray. People whose situations had grown so desperate that they had to travel all the way from their homes to entreat the help of the God of the mountain. Prayer Mountain they had jokingly called it in her house.

Mary had recently discovered that Prayer Mountain was usually deserted by the time she got back from school and remained so until the the sun began its exit from the sky. There was a lone cashew tree close to the top and that became her spot. The tree gave her shade and the solitude gave her the peace and quiet she needed to study for her upcoming finals.

It was one late afternoon in the middle of a particularly difficult math problem that she encountered him.

“Blessed are you amongst women.”

Mary jerked violently at this most unexpected intrusion. She saw him standing a few feet in front of her dressed in a blindingly white kaftan. The kindness in his face was something she had not expected to see however, and somehow she knew she had nothing to fear.

“What?”

“Mary?”

“How do you know me?”

“I bring you a message from The Lord.”

Mary eyed him suspiciously. There had been a proliferation of ‘prophets’ recently and all they ever did was exchange prophecies for money. If that was what this one wanted he would be bitterly disappointed for she did not have a dime to her name. And her family practically lived from hand to mouth anyway so there was no stash anywhere she could ‘borrow’ from.

Yet, when he said his next words, something in her heart knew they were true. She would become pregnant, even while she was still a virgin and have a son who would save the world. Who knew that when she had asked at youth camp that they pray for world peace, that God would decide to use her to answer her own prayers.

She had felt excited and a little bit anxious when the angel left. What would pregnancy feel like? She had never really been around any pregnant women. She only ever saw them from a distance pushing huge tummies in front of them. If only she had paid better attention in biology class. It wasn’t until she got home that Mary realised that she would have to tell her family and that there was really no believable way to spin this story.

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The midwife had announced that it was time to push. Finally!

Mary let go of Joe’s clammy hand and gripped her ankles like she had been instructed to. She felt a drop of sweat fall from his brow onto her bare shoulder. She looked up briefly and managed a small smile at the man who had come to her rescue.

Joe, as everyone in church called him, was a nice young man. He was a minister in the teen church and very dependable. He had not gone to University but he was very hardworking and ran a little store somewhere in town. He was definitely not the type of person Mary, or her mother, had thought she would marry.

When he had come to the house to ask about her after she had been absent from church three weeks in a row, her mother had not had the heart to send him away. Mary had stopped going to school long before then but whenever her friends had come to see her, her mother sent them off saying she was very ill and needed to rest or that she was contagious and couldn’t have people around. Eventually they’d stopped coming.

Mary hated lying to her friends but she had not been given a say in the matter. The visit to the psychiatrist Dr Ibe had recommended had not yielded much – except that she had learnt a new term: grandiose delusions. The psychiatrist had said the diagnosis was inconclusive and had recommended psychotherapy in the interim, at least until she had the baby.

It was the day before her first session with the therapist that Joe came. He had asked to speak with Mary privately and her mother had left them alone in the sitting room. Mary had thought she saw some confusion in his eyes and had wondered what that was about. The conversation of the next few minutes had left her in a daze: Joe had come to ask her to marry him. Apparently an angel had come to him too and told him everything that was going on with her. Joe’s angel sounded suspiciously like the man who had accosted her on Prayer Mountain.

The introduction ceremony had been a very low key affair, there were only a few members of the immediate families present, for Mary was already showing. They had planned that they would have a proper wedding ceremony after the child was born.

Joe had decided, immediately after the introduction that they would leave town and go to stay with his maternal grandmother away from prying eyes until well after the baby was born. He didn’t want busy bodies trying to do the arithmetic between when they became betrothed and when the baby arrived. Mary understood his concerns although at that point, she was beyond caring. She was just grateful that she would not have to raise her baby alone.

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“Oh, there’s his head!” The midwife encouraged excitedly. “Wow! So much hair.”

Mary felt another wave of contraction and pushed again with all her might. She felt as if she had been standing in the rain, so drenched was she. Why was there no fan in this dingy cubicle?

Three more pushes and she had just about given up.

“The cord is around his neck.”

What did that even mean? She heard Joe anxiously inquire if the baby was okay. Through her painful haze she saw the midwife nod. She also thought she could see her lips moving as if in silent prayer. She knew her baby would be alright though because the words of the prophet Isaiah sprang to her mind at that very moment:

 ‘ “Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” Says the Lord.’

Mary felt herself slipping into unconsciousness; her strength had all but left her . It was from that point of semi-consciousness that she heard the midwife, several moments later, say

“Just one more push, Mary. Just one more.”

And she sucked in her breath and pushed with all her strength.

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He was such a beautiful child. A full head of hair and gloriously pink cheeks. He also had a healthy pair of lungs on him- the child could scream for Africa!

Mary stretched out her previously limp arms to receive her baby from the midwife; Joe hovered over her, his arm around her shoulders. As she gazed lovingly at her squealing infant, at the one of whom it had been told would save the world; the one who would save humanity from pain, death and disease, she told herself for the hundredth and first time that she had done the right thing.

THE END!

Nina Onuorah

Nina Onuorah developed a love for writing when she was six years old. She currently works as a medical doctor with the Babcock University Teaching Hospital, Ogun State and in her spare time blogs (anonymously) on ninnisworld.wordpress.com.

She enjoys writing essays, articles and short stories and is currently working on her first novel which is basically a collection of all the short stories which are struggling to get out of her head! Nina dreams of one day being able to reignite a passion for Jesus in young people, through her writing.