As I watched the rejection my cousin endured from close family members, the phrase,’ it’s only when you’re in need that you get to know who your close friends are’, made perfect sense. My sisters and I were always treated like outcasts, but now that she was pregnant, she was ostracized from the rest of the family.
While staying with us, she was warm; a side she rarely showed us; but we weren’t fooled by it; we knew it would last only as long as everyone else was against her. We knew she was using us, but we didn’t mind it; we wanted to be there for her. Apparently some relatives found out she was staying at our place, so they would try to get first-hand information from us; nonetheless, we guarded her little ‘secret’. Whoever wanted to know anything about her would have to get it straight from the horse’s mouth; from her.
Mom finally managed to convince her mom it was okay for her to keep her baby; so she went back home. Normally we hardly visit each other, but at that time we broke that unwritten rule. If we didn’t go to her she would come to us. The palpable forlorn look she had been wearing that entire time was replaced by a cheerful one. Her mom hadn’t reconciled herself with the fact that she was going to be a grandma; nevertheless, she was slowly starting to get used to the painful idea.
Eventually, my cousin gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. At three days old, she was the first new born I had ever laid my eyes on. I didn’t know how to hold her, because I was afraid her fragile neck would snap; but I got the hang of it. When some of our cousins made snide remarks in her presence, we stood up for her. Just like us, she had no prior knowledge on how to handle babies, so we imagined the frustration and pain she must have been feeling.
The first few days after my niece’s birth, my cousin seemed distressed; her eyes were ever red and swollen; we imagined she had been overwhelmed by the whole issue; she had to wake up in the middle of the night when the baby started crying… It was hard for her.
Every last Friday of the month, I accompanied her to the clinic for her post-natal check-up. I watched as the little baby girl grew from kg to kg. It was an honour for me. The feeling was amplified by the fact that she would cry when other people held her, but when I took her in my arms she would stop. Her grandma was shocked when one time she started crying, but when I took her, she stopped and started smiling instead, staring at me with her big beautiful eyes.
Slowly, we started drifting apart. Our routine visits stopped completely. But that was after the other family members saw the baby and fell in love with her. No one scorned my cousin again; apparently they all loved the baby.
During my niece’s first birthday, everyone was invited to the party, except my sisters and me of course. My cousin had gone back to her old snobbish ways; but honestly we didn’t mind it. We had known that would happen sooner or later. Her mom called my big sister to ask if we were going, but she told her our cousin hadn’t invited us.
My aunt asked my cousin about it but she told her she’d only invited the people close to her; the same people who shunned her when she needed them. We just laughed it off, genuinely unoffended. That’s the treatment we’ve always been given since forever by her and the rest of our snobbish cousins; we gradually grew indifferent to it.
This past Easter, my niece turned four. She’s a spitting image of her mom, although when I looked at her a few months ago I thought she had a striking resemblance to her uncle-my cousin’s brother. My cousin is the only one with a baby so far; our other cousins, my sisters and I are yet to walk down that road. So now that my niece is the only baby in the family, everyone dotes on her. Recently, during a get-together which my sisters and I skipped, the ‘senior’ family members were asking the rest of our cousins to follow my cousin’s example and get their own children.
Honestly I found it ironic; when she got pregnant, the same people thought she had made the gravest of mistakes, now they hold her on a pedestal, for everyone to emulate.
My niece is clearly adored by everyone, and I wonder how she would feel if later she finds out-God forbid-that many wanted her aborted. It was easy for people to write her off when she was only taking form in her mother’s womb, but now she’s here with us, the same people shower her with affection unreservedly. Her grandmother for instance, she was on the forefront, championing for her to be aborted, but now when they’re together, I get the feeling she loves her more than everyone else; a complete change of heart.
“Auntie,” my niece called me when I was seeing her and my aunt off one Saturday evening a few weeks ago; they had visited “I want those.”
“What?” I asked her.
“Those,” she hinted at the jeweled gladiator sandals I was in with her eyes.
I smiled. “But they’re too big.”
“I want them in my size.” She replied confidently. I hadn’t seen that coming. Her innocent request had me laughing loudly, impressed by her witty reply. So now I owe her a pair of shoes. It’s impossible to not love her; it’s hard to imagine she was almost aborted. Nonetheless, given the strained relationship we have with her family, I doubt we will be seeing much of her in the future, God willing.