I turned to see who was addressing me; it was an officious looking woman, probably in her middle age. She was nicely rounded, the way a lot of African women got after three or four babies. She had on an ill fitting grey skirt suit and a huge pair of glasses framed her pretty heart shaped face. I stood up from my place beside Halima’s bed.
“Are you Ms Tanko?” She asked again.
“Yes I am.” I replied in the affirmative “How may I help you?”
“I am Mrs. Kalif, sent here from the Department of Social Welfare. Do you mind if we step out?”
I nodded my acquiescence and followed her out of the Special Unit. So she had finally decided to show her face. I thought dourly. This was my third day at the General Hospital with Halima, each day I had practically felt my blood pressure rise with the anxiety, which waiting for her was causing and now that she had finally shown up, I was feeling very uncharitable towards her.
Out on one of the long white corridors, she turned to me and gave me a warm smile “Ms Tanko, I learnt you were the one who found the baby; your quick thinking saved it’s life. Thank you very much.”
Its’?? I thought incredibly even as I shook the hand she stretched out to me and gave an inane smile. She called my baby IT! “It was what any human being would do Mrs. Kalif.” I murmured
She arched a pair of bushy eyebrows, “I’m sorry to say that is not the case Ms Tanko; it’s mother threw it away didn’t she?”
There it was again; it. I wanted Halima, but I was not sure how long I could go on being polite to some woman who referred to her as it. Nevertheless, I had to pay attention to what she was saying.
“I also learnt you have been here since you brought the case in three days ago?” she queried.
“Case?” I could not help myself this time around. My Halima was no case, she was a person.
But the woman seemed oblivious. “Mmhmm.” She confirmed,
I reined in my temper and just nodded. I did not trust myself to speak and not insult her.
“How kind of you.” She turned and peered at me from her thick framed glasses. “Someone would be here to relieve you in a few hours. Thank you once again Ms Tanko, you are a noble citizen of this country.”
I ignored the hand she stretched out. This woman just did not get it. “You mistake the matter madam,” I began coolly, “I have no intention whatsoever, of leaving this baby here.”
She paused and then gently lowered her hands. Her expression softened “Ms Tanko, in cases such as this, it is normal for some emotional attachment to develop, after all it is a baby. But that baby is now a ward of the State, I’m afraid we cannot in all good conscience leave her in your care.”
“But Mrs. Kalif, surely the Department of Social Welfare is understaffed enough as it is, I’m sure you have somewhere else where the presence of the person sent to relieve me would be of better use.”
She frowned lightly. “Ms Tanko, we take our duties quite seriously. This baby is as important as any other.” She stated firmly.
Oh! So now you know it’s a baby. I thought. But I was not to proud to beg. “Please Mrs Kalif, just let me stay with this baby. She will not be in my care but in the hospital’s. You can instruct the doctors not to let me take the baby if that is what you are afraid of but I need to be here. You can come and check every day to be sure, just please don’t send me away.” There were tears in my eyes, I just could not be separated from that baby, I couldn’t!
She rested a fisted hand on her hip and sighed. “Ms Tanko,” she began gently “I cannot prevent you from staying if that is what you want but you need to realize that you cannot keep the baby.”
That’s what you think, I thought, but I just nodded. “Thank you Mrs Kalif.”
“Call me Hadijah.” She replied.
I just nodded again, “Thank you.”
“Well, I must be on my way. I’ll be back sometime tomorrow. Take care.” And she was gone.