I rushed to Zulai’s bedside expecting her to be asleep. But the moment I stood at the edge and picked her hand, she opened her eyes and gave me a weak smile. Clearly she had not been sleeping, she was just resting with her eyes closed.
‘Assalamu alaikum’ I said, smiling back.
‘Amin wa alaikis salam, welcome Aunty.’ She replied in a low voice.
‘So how are you feeling now?’ I asked, sitting on the visitor’s chair by her bed.
‘I’m better, alhamdulillah. It’s just the emptiness Aunty Bint. I just feel empty and rather drained. And whenever I touch my stomach I can’t believe the bump is gone.’ She answered, wiping the tears that are beginning to flow down her cheeks.
‘I’m very sorry to hear this. In fact I couldn’t believe it too when your mother told me you had lost the baby. The last time we talked about it, she was bursting with happiness and telling me that she planned to come into town a month before your expected due date, just to be sure she stands by you all through. Then with intense sadness, she called me this morning and said you had a miscarriage. How did it happen?’ I enquired.
‘The doctor said it was a bad case of exhaustion, that I overworked myself when I should be resting.’ Zulai replied.
‘But how did he know you overworked yourself? Or was he just guessing?’ I queried.
‘Well, he asked what I did the today after I woke up from my induced sleep. The miscarriage started at home, so there was nothing they could do to stop it. After the post-miscarriage procedures at the theatre, they brought me here. I fell asleep due to the effect of the injections. But the moment I woke up, he came and asked what went wrong because he believed my pregnancy was going on well. I told him I didn’t know what happened. So he asked what I did since morning. So I told him that though my husband wasn’t home, I had a large group of visitors who spent most of the day with me. I had to cook and attend to all their needs alone because there was no one else in the house.’ She explained.
‘Really? And who were they? Even more importantly why were you alone in the house? What happened to your house help?’ I asked.
‘They were my in-laws, 11 adults and two kids. And I never had house help since I got married. Mummy wanted to find me one but I said I didn’t need anyone now because it’s just a small apartment with not much to do inside. So I assured her that I could manage until the baby comes. And though we regularly got visitors, they were often a small number. Two or at most three at a time.
But this time around, they were so many and they didn’t even consider calling me to say they were on the way.’ Zulai complained.
‘You mean this whole battalion came to you unannounced?’ I asked, in total shock.
‘Yes they did Aunt. In fact when I heard the door-bell ringing, I thought it was one of our neighbours. You know there are four other houses in the compound. But I couldn’t believe what I saw when I opened the door. Eleven adults and two kids. And the painful part for me was that his younger sister, who led the crowd, has my number. All she needed to do was call and tell me they were on the way and I would have looked for someone to help or even ordered food from some good restaurant. But without any warning they landed at my doorstep and no explanation was given for why I wasn’t informed before hand.’ She lamented.
‘Sorry to say this Zulai, but welcome to the world of the Third Force.’ I said, patting the hand I was holding on her bed.
‘What do you mean by that Aunt?’ She asked in surprise.
‘I’m talking about those elements, who are not the partners in a marriage but have the capacity to make or mar a home. They can be relatives, that is your in-laws or your relatives, and they can be friends. But they sometimes have the ability to bring such toxicity in the relationship that it can make you wish you never married.’ I explained.
‘You are very right Aunt. I actually wished I wasn’t their in-law when they grew so demanding, despite the fact that I was all alone catering to their demands. While I was attending to the kids, the adults will suddenly make a demand. Like the time I brought a child back from the bathroom, his mother immediately requested for yaji (powdered hot spices) because apparently our meal wasn’t hot enough. As soon as I brought yaji, an elderly aunt requested ice blocks because she only takes very cold water. In short by the time they left I was so exhausted I just prayed and lied down. It was an hour later, when I rose to wash the dishes that I began to feel something. I dismissed the discomfort and continued my work. But the moment I was through and I made my way towards the bedroom, I felt the cramps and something flowing down my legs. I quicky called Hassan who quickly made a call to the hospital. They sent an ambulance to pick me when he said he was out of town. By the time they arrived, I knew instinctively that I’d lost the baby. I only waited for the doctor’s confirmation.’ She disclosed.
‘How old was it?’ I enquired.
‘Just over four months. I’d already started to feel it move. And I’ve just began to get over my morning sickness. Now I can eat better and have less nausea. So I thought I was getting into the enjoyable part of pregnancy. But all my dreams came crashing in the space of a few hours.’ Zulai declared, the tears flowing freely now.
‘I’m truly sorry about this my dear. It’s unfortunate that the very first time your Third Force strikes, it had to cost you so much. The loss of a baby, even unborn, is a very painful thing. I pray for you the fortitude to bear this loss and wish you a speedy return to good health. But after your hospitalisation, make sure you sit Hassan down and discuss this whole incident. Let him know the role played by his relatives in this affair.
Tell him to let to them know they should always tell you when they are coming. And you should look for a house help as soon as you can because you can see how your prudence has cost you a baby. If there was someone to help you, maybe you wouldn’t have overworked yourself. Above all, learn from this that some people are very inconsiderate and selfish and couldn’t care less how much they inconvenience you. As far as they are concerned they have very right to be in your house because of their kinship or friendship with your husband. Learn how to deal with them without causing yourself unnecessary stress.
Remember that they are not as important as the man you are married to, so if he isn’t giving you a hard time, no third party should. Then pray that your husband sees things from your point of view. If he doesn’t and they manage to influence his thinking, well then they will keep striking regularly and be getting away with it.’ I advised.
‘I will try all you said, Aunty Bint. In sha Allah, this is the first and last time I’ll allow the Third Force to destroy my dreams.’ She replied weakly, smiling up at me.