It was not exactly the easy or the usual way I came into this world and so I thought I’d tell you a story about how it happened. Here we go.
I am the only child of my parents; a very precious child, born thirteen years after they got married. My mother has repeated the story of my birth to me and to unbelieving friends and family who gape at her, mouth hanging open, eyebrows shooting up in amazement, bordering onto disbelief, numerous times, but I never mind. I love listening to her, savouring the pride in her voice as she tells people she gave birth to a “normal” child at the age of forty seven.
My parents were trying to have a baby for years after they got married, but nothing happened, absolutely nothing. Tests were performed, on both my parents and it turned out my mother had a cyst in one of her fallopian tubes. Doctors said it was still possible for my mother to get pregnant despite the cyst, but when nothing happened for the longest time, doctors suggested a surgery to remove the cyst. My mother underwent the surgery, which lasted hours, but still, nothing.
Being devout Catholics, my parents fasted and prayed, went to churches and chapels and even went as far as
France to a place of
pilgrimage called ,
dedicated to the Virgin Mary. There my parents made a promise to Mary, (It had
to be Mary and no one else- Mary the giver of life, Mary from whose womb Jesus
came), if they had a child, preferably a girl, they would bring her back with
them the next time. My mother also promised the Virgin that if she had a girl
she would name her Bernadette Lourdes, after the girl who sighted the Virgin
Mary numerous times in that little Lourdes . village
Eight years after the surgery, my parents who were still trying, finally gave up (it’s hard to believe them giving up, but I guess they were just tired) and decided to adopt a baby. The pair of them went to an orphanage and fell in love with a little baby girl who had a terrible rash all over her body. The baby took an immediate fancy to my father and was soon at home in his lap, dipping her hand into his shirt pocket and pulling out his glasses. It was decided, this little baby covered in rash and who had taken a fancy to my fathers reading glasses would be their daughter.
A lawyer was hired to get the adoption process going and on the day my parents were supposed to meet the lawyer my mother fell terribly ill. The appointment with the lawyer was postponed and my father suggested they go to a doctor instead. My mother being phobic of doctors decided they wait for a few days. But instead of getting better she got worse. It was Christmas time and relatives were over, pots of food were bubbling over the stove, the house was buzzing with uncles and aunts and in one corner of the house my mother was huddled over a toilet retching into it claiming she couldn't stand the smell of chicken anymore. By this point she was convinced she was terminally ill and was going to die.
But that’s when my parents’ real challenge began, no gynecologist wanted to touch my mother when they found out how old she was. Desperate to be seen by a doctor, my mother ended up at a quack who unsuccessfully tried to perform an abortion on her, my mother realised something was wrong and fled the moment she got her feet back on the ground. Each time they went to a doctor they heard the same set of words again and again and again: “deformed”, “abnormal”, and “have an abortion”. My father finally snapped at one doctor “Are you a doctor or a criminal?”
In her fourth month my mother developed a bad case of mumps, her face swelled up to twice its size and she couldn’t eat anything and that’s when I began kicking. In her last hope she went to a nursing home and met a gynecologist whose first reaction to her was “You’re forty seven, four months pregnant and have mumps?” I’ll take you on, but I can’t guarantee anything”.
It was during the last few weeks of her pregnancy that my mother had a dream, she dreamt of a lady with a blue veil covering her face and a baby in her arms, she gave the baby to my mother and said “This is your daughter, name her Mary Theresa”. My mother woke up and discussed the dream with her mother, who suggested Ann be added after the Mary since it was a family tradition of sorts and so it was decided. Sorry Bernadette Lourdes, but it’s going to have to be Maryann Theresa. She hadn't even thought of a boy’s name, that how confident my mother was. She was used to having her way, even with the Gods, it would have to be a girl and nothing else would do.
A lot of drama preceded my birth. My mother who was convinced she would have the baby any minute now, dragged my grandmother into a crowded bus, suitcase in tow, to get to the nursing home. A few minutes into the journey and after they realised they were on the wrong bus, my seventy one year old grandmother and nine months pregnant mother jumped off the bus at the next traffic signal and walked the rest of the way to the nursing home.In the meanwhile my father, who had gone searching for a taxi came home and was bewildered to find that his fully pregnant wife had disappeared, but not before having swept and mopped the entire house.
Early on a Tuesday morning on August the 7th my mother was wheeled into the operation theatre; before she went in she nervously told my father “If I have a boy and I die, name him Anthony” (Tuesday being St. Anthony’s day). But I beat Anthony to it, I was born at 7:15 am, cheeks as red and round as plums (just like the baby in my dream, my mother exclaimed) and ten fingers and ten toes in place, a “normal” little baby girl, just what my mother wanted. The doctors proclaimed me a “miracle” and my overjoyed father proceeded to distribute sweets to all the doctors and nurses. Sorry little baby girl with rash, lover of my fathers spectacles and sorry Anthony, baby boy never to be, but I guess it was always meant to be me.