Another Taboo story is on the horizon! This one is all too familiar. We tell the story of Densua, the beloved daughter of her very pious parents, who is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If you have missed a period or had to have a child out of wedlock in Ghana, you can most probably relate to this story. Happy reading!
‘Bring your prayers to an end.’
Densua kept her eyes shut even after her father said Amen after the morning devotion prayers, simply because she was afraid of the tears that were threatening to fall if she opened her eyes. Pulling at the ends of her braids towards , she tried to cover her face as much as she could as she made her way to her room. She had barely sat on her bed when her mother knocked on the door.
‘Naa, are you okay? You seem rather quiet.’
No, Maa. I am pregnant.
Of course she could not say that. Maa would have probably screamed or even worse, fainted on the spot and that alone would make the situation ten times more awkward. She always imagined what morning devotion would be like when her parents discovered that she was pregnant. Just thinking about it made her shudder.
No morning devotion session was the same. On the days that Maa and Dada were fighting, the hostility flying behind the hymn singing and the Scripture reading was enough content for the Akan drama show. If any of the children had disrespected Maa during the week, ‘Remind these children to obey their parents in the Lord, for this is right.’
‘I am fine.’
She waited until Maa had shut the door before she took off the hoodie. She stood in front of the mirror and lifted the two shirts she was wearing beneath the hoodie.
The bulge was showing ever so slightly.
As always, the feeling was a cocktail of excitement and horror.
I have a child growing in me.
And as always, the tears kept dropping.
She always took her bath at dawn, when everyone at home was asleep. She always wore clothes that were either bigger than her. She was always in her room when she was at home. She always ate when the kitchen was empty, just in case the smell of the food made her throw up. She ignored the ‘W’ay3 k3se oo’ comments from her friends. The heartburns were constant, even when she was drinking water.
It was one thing to have a child growing in her and it was another thing to keep it a secret from everyone in her life. Well, not everyone.
She had told Paul. Of course he was ‘mature’ about it but he was distant.
Like she had come to tell him that she was having the baby with someone else, and he was just playing the role of a supportive friend, who was removed from the entire situation.
‘So what have you decided to do with the baby?’
‘What have I-‘
‘Yes, I can’t decide for you. It is your body, your life that is most likely to be affected by it.’
He was right. Her life was about to turn upside down.
‘I don’t know yet.’
‘Okay. Just do what works for you.’
Just like that.
Like he wasn’t the one who unhooked her bra every single time. Like he wasn’t the one who gave her the rundown on which emergency pills worked and which ones didn’t. Like he wasn’t the one who promised to marry her and litter the world with babies- only problem is the baby came before the ring.
Just do what works for you. Coward.
Every day that went by without her staining her panties with blood made her more apprehensive. She kept kicking herself for not insisting that they use a condom. His ‘I will pull out’ assurances made her brush away her worries. After two weeks of waiting for the all-elusive period, she bought a pregnancy test and confirmed her worst nightmare.
She touched the bulge ever so gingerly.
Hi! I am sorry that I cry all the time whenever I touch you but having you is one of the saddest things ever. Not because of you. No, far from that. It is because how everyone else is going to treat me like I am such a disgrace. The girls on the Youth4Christ group chat are going to gossip about me under the guise of interceding for me. None of the guys who used to crush on me are going to bother to text back any more. I am now damaged goods.
Densua jerked back when she heard a noise outside her room. It was just her brothers goofing around.
I know that my family will be supportive but they will be so disappointed, like I have failed them. And yes, I have. Ghanaians don’t forgive you when you are a Born one. Even I give people who are Born One the side eye. Now look at me- in the very same position I have silently ridiculed people for being in. And I can’t get an abortion- no, never! That is like murder. Wait, you are too young to hear this monologue.
I can’t even make smart mothering decisions. How am I going to raise this child?
She had contemplated an abortion in the scary and lonely 36 hours after she discovered that she was pregnant. She had frantically googled how to get an abortion in Ghana and scanned through the first 6 results.
The laws of Ghana do not allow a healthy mother with a healthy pregnancy to get an abortion with the sole reason of not wanting the pregnancy. Abortions are allowed only under a few conditions such as an incest pregnancy, impregnation of a ‘female idiot’ mad female, impregnated rape victim, or when health care workers determine that the baby, if born, will not be able to have a meaningful life, or if the pregnancy threatens the health or life of the mother, should she continue with the pregnancy.
Compared with other women, women who have had an abortion in the past have twice the odds of obtaining the procedure. Women experiencing repeat abortions may be more highly motivated than other women to avoid an unwanted birth. They may also be more aware of where they can obtain an abortion and of the legal status of abortion in Ghana.
Marie Stopes International has been working with the government to provide safe abortions in Ghana since 2007. Tens of thousands of women die every year as a result of complications related to unsafe abortion. Counterfeit drugs, quack doctors, tea-leaves, knitting needles, even small bottles filled with improvised explosives inserted into the uterus.
An abortion must be performed by a registered physician with the consent of the pregnant woman. The consent of next of kin or a guardian is required if the woman is not capable of giving consent. The abortion must be performed in a government hospital or a private hospital or clinic registered under the Private Hospitals or Maternity Homes Act of 1958 (No. 9) or in a place approved for the purpose.
Her eyes skirted from one Google result to the other, with the pit in her stomach widening with every new discovery.
It was these same Google results that broke the news to Nana Esi.
Nana Esi was the person that everyone assumed was her best friend because they did everything together. She didn’t bother to correct them because it wasn’t as though she had a best friend alternative.
‘Chale let me use your phone to look for the nearest Stanbic ATM. I need to get some money to pay for the Mongolian weave. Rita’s wedding is coming up and I need to be ready.’
She grabbed the phone and opened the browser, only to find ‘how to get an abortion’ in the search tab.
‘Oh my goodness, Densua! Are you preg-‘
Densua used her hand to cover Nana Esi’s mouth.
‘Don’t say it out loud.’
‘Who is the father? Paul? Oh my goodness, does he know?’
‘Yes he does.’
‘Oh my goodness!’
‘Stop saying ‘oh my goodness’ so many times.’
‘Sorry, do your parents know? Does anyone else know?’
‘Nope and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can.’
‘Oh my poor girl. That must feel lonely. But how did you get pregnant?’
‘Seriously? How do people get pregnant? What kind of dumb question is that? We had sex, okay?’
‘But there are so many options for preventing a pregnancy.’
‘Please don’t do that Ghanaian thing’
‘What Ghanaian thing?’
‘That thing that Ghanaians do. They give you the best advice after the situation is beyond repair. You know, the oh you should have left your husband the first time he slapped you, and the but you could have used a condom or made sure you were in your safe period, and the oh this bank has better lending rates for car loans. Always when the situation is beyond repair.’
‘Oh, that was exactly what I was going to do. So what are you going to do?’
‘I don’t know yet. Right now, all I am thinking of is the fact that no matter what I do, I will always be the ‘Born One’ girl. They chastise you for getting an abortion and yet they also punish you for not getting one.’
‘You will be okay. You have a supportive family and church network. You will do just fine.’
‘Yeah, tell me about it when they are whispering behind my mother’s back that she didn’t bring up her kids the right way. You know what I hate the most, I would have been part of the gossips if this was someone else.’
If you are new to the Taboo series, it is a collection of fictional stories that depict real life happenings in Ghana; those things that we normally don’t talk about. If you also have a story to share, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. My hope is that each of these stories will cause us to pause and think. I also hope that they will start conversations. Share your thoughts with the hashtag #OurTaboo. Thanks for reading.- Keni.