Women like me have no choice but to perform our pregnancies. We don’t have loads of cash stashed away, neither do we have husbands who earn and invest – as opposed to those who earn and ask the 15th day of the month where it took their hard-earned money. We have to assault humanity with our bellies, whether we are career women or breaking our backs at tea farms, just so we can get money for maternity care, consultation fees, a normal delivery, baby’s things, mummy’s things, healthy food and an emergency kitty; which sometimes won’t be enough if the hospital says you must pay for an emergency caesarean, nurses’ aprons and caps, elastoplasts you did not use, and imaginary physiotherapy.
So, this is my performance accountability report based on the KPIs set by god knows who somewhere in a cosy first world country with benefits. You people had better score me highly…out of 100!
I went to work until a week before I gave birth. I would have stayed to the last day were it not for my swollen dinosaur feet. I guess by pregnancy performance standards, I performed for my workmates more than anyone else in the world because they saw me every day. They saw it grow and grow and groooowwww. They saw me eat all that spinach with mandazi. They saw me work as hard as they did without any excuses or need for special treatment. They saw me laugh at good and bad pregnancy jokes, and they also saw me go HAM at this one guy who decided to make speculations about the source of my bump.
I went to Nigeria. I went to Port Harcourt right after an Ebola death was reported, and everyone in my audience (Re: The Perfomance) thought I was nuts. But I went anyways (minus a yellow fever vaccination) and carried my own luggage most of the time. I did not bother anyone because of my ‘state’. I just bounced along, appeared where I was supposed to appear on time, sanitized, scavenged for wi-fi, and sat in hours upon hours of UNBELIEVABLE traffic, while some girl who had never been pregnant yapped about how difficult pregnancy is for a woman and sijui society’s expectations and sijui what else. Yah. Me, I was having quite a blast being pregnant. Oh and I couldn’t buy shit because I went there with Kshs, which are not looked at kindly by our friends yonder.
I walked everywhere I went. Even to Sarit at 7pm just to cure a craving for cold fresh passion juice. I walked because it made it easier to carry all that weight. I felt lighter on my feet. Sitting and sleeping exhausted me. I also walked to show off my bump because …duh…well…I had chosen the pregnancy perfomance route. I did it to invite comments from women strangers about the possibility of mine being a teenage pregnancy as I am the size of an ant. Women looking at my belly and my ring finger, and me flipping my middle finger at them to really show them how my stomach got pumped with air. I performed for the guy who sells coconuts in a mkokoteni near my house. He smiled at me and told me that I was truly carrying a king. So did the rowdy pack of touts at Odeon. Semi-toothless, dirty, beautiful smiles telling me ‘Madam, umebeba mkubwa!” And the acquaintances who I bumped into only to get, “Haiya! Kumbe uko na mimba!” Seriously? What happened to seeing is believing?
Ah, I also performed for the people who made things easier for me by helping me get on a bus. Those who offered me the most comfortable seats. The waitresses who gave me an extra pillow for my back. The baby shop attendants who gave me a chair to sit on, and brought all manner of tiny clothes I asked for, despite the number of times I changed my mind about colour, thickness and thread. I performed for the vendors at the Kadogo Market in Gikomba who allowed me to sit and chat with them as they picked out newborn size rompers and sweaters for me, despite my throwing some aside like they were trash. Let’s not forget the woman who gave me an eye, as we politely fought over second-hand designer baby clothes, because my 7-month old bump was bigger than her 7-month old bump. I performed for the cab guys who gave me discounted fares and carried my shopping to my door.
I had to publish a book, so I ran around factories and Kirinyaga Road, alone, looking for reasonably priced printers. And dare I tell you the printing guys do not care about the size of your belly or what it represents. What matters is your pocket. No negotiation. Fixed price. Go back where you came from if you can’t pay. These guys were dulled by my pregnancy performance to be honest. And I remember having to meet an annoying friend right after printer-hunting. I drank a lot of banana milkshake (I can’t believe I enjoyed such yuckiness) and watched her mouth move and move. She talked about things I cared about when I was 20…and I was 20 many years ago. I did not perform my pregnancy for her. I was not in the mood. Plus she had no way of seeing that there was a pregnant and tired woman really trying her best to be a good friend and the least she could have done was ask, “How was your day?” Just that.
I performed my pregnancy. Yes sir. I am proud of my performance. I am glad I came out of it alive. What I refuse to perform is motherhood. Because what is the point of hiding a grand pregnancy and then coming out later to tell the world that you have a kid? And then do that in such a Hollywood way with the press at attention and tongues out (literally). You can’t just come out of hiding and call a stainless steel spoon a fork, when you yourself are the silver spoon that became a bigger, more fancy fork.
For me, the pregnancy belonged to me and everybody else who had to be accosted by it because we all did not have a choice about the matter. But my child is mine. I will shut down the arena until he decides he wants to make himself a performance.
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