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Baby Arreini is “christened”! Jewel pregnant again!

FeaturesBaby Arreini is “christened”! Jewel pregnant again!

Chapter 45 continues
Feeling alone in the darkness and silence of the night it had been difficult to fight the despondence brought on by these thoughts; and, before she knew it, water had begun to pour from her eyes and she, who rarely cried, had been unable to stop their flow. She had tried, unsuccessfully it had turned out, to muffle the sound in her pillow. Having no idea how long the crying fit had lasted, she had turned over and shifted her position at one point only to find herself with Jerome’s arms around her comforting and consoling her.

Hearing strange sounds in the quiet of the night, he had come upstairs to see if she and the baby were all right, and had been shocked to find her in tears. Sitting on her side of the bed he had pulled her into his arms to quiet her, eventually lying down and resting his head alongside hers on the pillow as he comforted her. In the most natural sequence, the rhythm of their bodies so close together had subtly changed from the shaking of her sobs to that of passionate lovemaking as they had released their suppressed longing for closeness so abruptly interrupted by Arreini’s birth.

Afterwards she had fallen into a deep sleep in the security and companionship of his arms, only to be awakened much later by the soft murmur of his gentle urging that the baby needed her, accompanied by the loud and impatient noise of her demanding offspring in the background.

Jumping out of bed and pulling on her duster, she had rushed barefoot to the crib, lifted the shrieking child out, and offered her dripping breast to her hungry attack. Hurriedly sucking in large gulps at first, the baby abruptly stopped and released a few more loud howls of anger and protest, then had resumed feeding and gradually settled down. When Arreini had been finally satisfied, she seemed to have become aware of Jerome’s unexpected presence at that time of night, and had turned to him with a bright smile, only to encounter a serious expression on his and the quiet admonition, as if addressed to an adult, that that kind of behaviour was not acceptable.

Seeming to understand that she was being reprimanded by her beloved father, the baby, hanging her head and pushing her face into Jewel’s bosom, had commenced such a loud weeping that he had had to relent and take her into his arms and soothe her.

To her amazement, that had been the very last time that Arreini had ever behaved in that way, Jewel had said, from then on waiting patiently to be fed; and, of course, she had always made sure since then to be punctual in doing so.

Jerome had held the baby patiently while she had showered and changed into clean clothing; removed soiled bedding and re-spread the bed and crib, then cleaned up and put the baby back to sleep, before observing in a quiet, conversational tone of voice that she should be careful not to approach the baby in such an apologetic manner, allowing herself to be intimidated by her, as infants were quick to sense and react to weakness; smilingly reminding her in Creole of the local saying that “cow know whe’ part weak fence de!” (a cow knows where there is a weak fence).

ooo0ooo

At this point Jewel had put the sleeping Arreini back into her crib and had sat in silence for some time, until I had repeated my question, before continuing with how difficult had been the months since the baby’s arrival.

Sad about her father’s condition, she had been reluctant to speak about it to Jerome, who had his hands full with the work of the hospital, the weekly up-and-down of travel, as well as the monitoring of the baby’s and her health along with that of her father. She had known that if and when there was improvement, she was sure to be the first to know, but the uncertainty had affected her spirits; and, missing the security of having both Jerome and her parents nearby, she had grown more and more depressed.

Since the baby’s birth her menstrual cycle had not returned to normal. There had been a two-day tentative appearance a month or so after the post-natal bleeding had stopped, but nothing after that. Their lovemaking had taken place the weekend after Valentine’s Day, but it was now March 3rd and her period had still not appeared. She was fearful of a pregnancy caused by the weakness on her part that had occasioned Jerome’s sympathy and relaxation of control, for which she was blaming herself.

Touched by her dilemma, I tried to convince her of how normal it would have seemed to her, as a nurse, if she had had to deal with a patient in those circumstances after a recent difficult childbirth. She could surely understand how a woman’s defences would be low at such a time?

But, when her skepticism had persisted, I took it on myself to try and dispel her feelings of guilt by relating Nigel’s and my predicament those many years ago, to illustrate how easily one’s plans could go awry; mentioning how we had hesitated to take the only foolproof method of birth control available at that time, especially as the older heads in the family had been appalled at the idea of taking such a drastic step when we had still been so young. During Mama’s childbearing days when women did not usually have careers, children were seen as a blessing from God, and the idea of prevention unnatural!

Time had crept up on us while we had hesitated, and we had indulged, hoping we wouldn’t have been caught. I had strongly asserted that we had behaved like normal human beings, as had she and Jerome in their circumstances, and that I agreed with him that it had been no one’s fault if she were indeed pregnant!

I advised that the best they could do if it turned out to be so would be to prepare and pay the same careful attention as with Arreini, and leave the result in God’s hand; paraphrasing Mama’s version of the well-known quote that it is God who appoints and Man who disappoints himself if he questions what He has appointed.

When Jewel had said nothing but remained deep in thought, I declared our deep gratitude now for Alida’s arrival, even when the difference between hers and Victor’s age was barely nine months and six weeks; admitting that it had caused a certain amount of embarrassment when they were infants and Mama, especially, had been sensitive about it being noticed that they were not even a year apart.

I had jokingly asserted that as compensation for the embarrassment when they were young, Nigel and I were now the proud parents of a child who would probably turn out to be the first female surgeon in the country! At this a smile had appeared at the corner of Jewel’s mouth, and I had pressed my advantage by asking whether having a second child so soon after Arreini might not prove a blessing in the end, with her having to share the spotlight with a younger sibling and thereby being saved from becoming self-centred due to the special treatment she was now enjoying alone?

Seeing Jewel’s smile deepen a little, I introduced a humorous note by warning that she better not repeat our story to anyone besides her husband unless she was ready to face a lawsuit, as otherwise I would have to bring her up in the Supreme Court! That joking threat seemed to have finally broken the ice and, for the first time that day, I had heard carefree laughter burst from her throat!

To prolong her good mood I had encouraged Jewel to put on her dress, (which she had shed while feeding the baby) and come downstairs to spend more time with their guests and say goodbye to the group, as it was nearing departure time. She had been very willing after I persuaded her that Arreini would be safe if she left the bedroom door open so we could hear if there was any disturbance.

ooo0ooo

I must insert here what had been going on downstairs while we had been conversing upstairs! Jerome had been persuaded by Gertrude, her aunts, and the rest of the company to play for them once again the Garifuna tapes to which he had treated us at Caye that Easter; and when some of those present had, one by one, responded spontaneously to the chanting and drumming of the Punta, they had been joined by Matron first, and he afterwards, when they had removed their shoes and joyfully participated.

Nigel, relating the details when we had reached home, had commented on how graceful and light in her movements Matron had been despite her age; and how pleased Mr. Reg had appeared at the sight of his wife and son’s performance and obvious enjoyment!

ooo0ooo

The hours flew so quickly that it had soon been time to collect our belongings and be on our way home, leaving by flights twenty minutes behind each other this time; but before going by taxi to the airstrip we had said goodbye to a noticeably more relaxed and happy couple than we had met on arrival, with Jewel joining Jerome, who had put his arm around her waist, for the farewell snapshot, a Polaroid copy of which has pride of place on the bureau of his beloved Miss Eileen.

o0o

I was told later how after we had left for the capital and the other guests for their homes, all those remaining, including Alvin, Caleb, Miss Jessie and Julia, had joined in tidying the house and taking the leftover food to the kitchen, where they had feasted, combining tea with supper.

When Arreini had woken up, Jerome persuaded Jewel to bring her downstairs and feed her there as mostly family was present; and she had agreed, doing so sitting in the rocking chair in the recreation area of the kitchen. She had joined the rest at the table when this was over, placing the baby in the carseat/cradle set on a chair between them.

o0o

In the cosy atmosphere of that gathering Julia had been able to relax to the point of making friends with Alvin who, as attested to by Lucille, combined in his personality the best qualities of her father and husband; and, as it turned out, the seeds of a happy later union had been sown on that occasion!

It had been decided that, instead of Alvin going home that night he would stay with Caleb, who had school the next day, in his temporary bedroom in the Bertram house; and, together, they had walked Miss Jessie and Julia home when the meal was over. On their return the young men had related how as they had neared their dwelling Miss Jessie had held on to Julia, whispering something to her about the dog; and when they had reached the gate the big animal had come rushing towards them barking and growling loudly! Nervous and fearful Miss Jessie had held on to Julia, who had stepped forward authoritatively and sternly ordered the animal back; and it had retired meekly, its tail between its legs.

Hearing this, Jerome had remarked what a pity it was that the young girl’s opportunity for growth and development should be stunted because of having such a tyrannical father.

Having been provided with the transcript of her high school record among the material for submission of Nurse Pauline’s proposal to the Hospital Board, he, ever on the alert for possible native trainees to staff the hospital, had formed the opinion that by reason of capacity, aptitude and personality, Julia would have been suited to a career as a surgeon, just as he had once thought about our Alida, and had mentioned this before.

Surprisingly, Miss Millicent, who hardly ever expressed an opinion, had remarked that it was an ill wind that blew no good; as perhaps Julia’s attachment to Nurse Pauline’s establishment might serve the triple purpose of her being present to provide security for her mother while, at the same time, being trained in the profession and possibly becoming equipped to take over and carry on her work in the future when she retired. She had smiled at Jerome, saying that he should not think of carrying off everybody to the capital, as they needed trained people in their town too!

o0o

While the rest of them had gone upstairs for the night, Jerome had stayed behind in the study to finish off some work; and Jewel, after putting Arreini to bed, had showered and changed, said her prayers, and relaxed on the couch reflecting on the day’s events while waiting for him.

When he had come upstairs he studied her from the doorway and, smiling as he had walked towards her, remarked how pleased he was to see her looking like herself once again and sat down next to her. She answered that because of him she had had the opportunity to discuss her problems with me and that I had been very helpful.

“How so?” he had wanted to know.

“Well, first of all, she agreed with what you said: that nobody was to blame,” she had answered.

“And you accepted that coming from her?” had been his comeback.

“No, it wasn’t that alone,” she had said, reaching out to stroke his arm, “it’s just that being a woman she could understand how it felt to be in my position; “ continuing, “and besides that, she had a similar experience herself in connection with Alida and Victor.”

“How do they come into this?” he had questioned.

“Victor is less than a year older than Alida and she confided in me how it had come about. Being her godfather I thought you knew.”

“No, I didn’t. I was studying in the U.K. then and became godfather by proxy. When I had seen Alida for the first time she was already a big girl,” he had told Jewel.

She had proceeded to fill him in on the details and when she had finished he had asked if her concern had been about people’s opinion; and when she had admitted that she had worried about how it might reflect on his image as someone senior in the government medical service, he had very soberly asked her not to confuse him with colonial officials of the past who were expected to function as models for the natives and who might be recalled if they acted like the normal human beings they were; adding that his only concern had been about her health after all she had been through.

She had confessed to wondering also how it would appear to the women in the villages to whom as a nurse she tried to give advice, when she did not seem to practice what she preached; but he had reassured her that it would be understood that the circumstances of her case had been unusual – not to mention that she had not been responsible for the decision!

Reaching to take her in his arms, he added that, in case she hadn’t noticed, he was a grown man who didn’t need her to take responsibility for the consequences of his decision to make love to his wife! She had countered that she was grown also and, so, at least jointly responsible with him for the result.

Insisting on having the last word, however, he had said: “But neither had you been in a position to stop me!”

Pulling back from him slightly at this point she directed his attention to the sound of Arreini restlessly shuffling in her sleep, asking: “You know what she is waiting for?” When he looked puzzled, she had informed him that the baby knew by instinct when it was the weekend and he was present, and would not settle down until she had received his good-night kiss!

He had taken her hand and, together, they walked over to her crib. Lowering the front railing, he had raised the mosquito net and knelt to the baby’s level. Planting a gentle kiss on his daughter’s cheek, he stood up and looked on as, without opening her eyes, she had gradually settled down into a relaxed position and fallen into a sound sleep; while, reaching for Jewel, he had whispered that she was next!

(Chapter 46 in Friday’s issue of the Amandala)

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