Behind Mud Walls S01 E05: “You Must Break The Silence!”
Ibironke dreamt of the black hen again, this time it squealed even louder and stood on one spot, looking into her eyes and begging her to help. Early the next morning, Ibironke was at her daughter’s house.
“Good morning! Is anyone home?” she called desperately.
Mowunmi heard her mother calling and dragged herself to the door. When Ibironke saw her approaching, concern and alarm clouded her face.
“Mowunmi! Open the door quickly!” she struggled to open the wooden gate with her daughter and let herself in. “What happened?” she asked, holding her daughter in her arms and leading her inside the house where she had been lying down.
“What happened?” She asked again as soon as her daughter had lain down.
“Ehn what happened?”
“Hmm…” Mowunmi moaned pitifully.
“Mowunmi! Talk to me! How exactly do you feel? What did you eat?”
“It’s as if someone is squeezing my insides.”
Suddenly she dashed outside to the back of the house and threw up. Just as her mother was going to get some water to wipe her mouth and face, she dashed to the pit latrine some yards away and released her bowels.
When she returned, Ibironke poured out some of the water into her hands. As she washed her hands, her mother sprinkled some water on her face.
Mowunmi nodded and headed towards the kitchen hut.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to get a broom to sweep the…”
“Don’t worry, I’ve cleaned it up for you. Come inside and lie down.”
As soon as Mowunmi lay down, her mother asked again.
“What did you eat?”
“I didn’t eat anything. This sickness began after I started taking the medicine my mother-in-law gave me to use…”
“What medicine? For what sickness?” Ibironke sat up alarmed.
“She said it would help me to conceive.”
“Where is it?”
“In that small calabash.” Mowunmi pointed.
“What is this?!” Ibironke yelled staring at the gourd and sniffing it. Grumbling, she went out of the house and threw the gourd into the bush.
“Maami what did you do?” Mowunmi asked when she returned.
“I threw it away. Don’t ever consume anything edible she gives you again. Do you hear me?”
Mowunmi shook her head. “I had no choice maami. She told me to drink it right in front of her and I drank it only once.”
“Is this why you didn’t come out on the market day?”
“Yes maami.” She replied weakly.
Ibironke shook her head. “No wonder I dreamt of you yesterday night. You were calling out to me. Let me get you some water to drink.”
She gave her a small calabash half-filled with cool water to drink, and she took it gratefully. “I’ll send your brother over to you with another gourd, in case your mother-in-law asks about the medicine.” Ibironke watched her daughter drink some more water and decided that she would ask her about her childlessness once and for all.
“Mowunmi, we need to talk about your childlessness. I am not a bad mother, I must ask you what is going on. What exactly is going on? Are you losing your pregnancies?”
“No maami. I have never been pregnant.”
“Ah ah! There has never been a barren woman in our lineage. We are very fruitful women. What’s going on?”
Mowunmi shrugged and bowed her head, she was afraid of looking at her mother in the eyes. The woman would see everything.
“Your friend said you’re hiding something but I am your mother you must tell me whatever is going on. Let me help you.”
“Maami, nothing is going on…”
“Mowunmi! I have not come here to play games. Tell me what is happening!”
“Maami, there’s nothing going on, we are just waiting on God for the fruit of the womb…”
Ibironke held her daughter’s hands in hers and looked at her piercingly. “I am your mother and I only want the best for you. You remember that I warned you about this marriage, I’m only looking out for you. I’ve been having this recurring dream about you. You’re a bird in my dream, and you’re walking around in a circle and squeaking.” She sighed. “Even if Ireti didn’t tell me anything, I know something is going on. Talk to me, let us find a solution to this problem.”
“I know that I have always taught you that silence is like a very precious clay pot that you must always keep, but there are times when you must speak up. When silence will kill you, you must break it.”
Mowunmi looked into her mother’s eyes and saw nothing but pure motherly concern in them. She was going to tell her mother the secret she had been hiding for a year, he mother could be trusted, and her mother loved her.
“Maami, there is a problem…!”
“I know, tell me what it is. We will find a solution to it, I am your mother, and I want the best for you.”
“What is happening is …”
“Our mother!” Adegbola greeted suddenly, startling the women. “Sorry, I didn’t know that you didn’t hear me coming in.”
“Ah Adegbola, welcome!” ibirokne greeted non-enthusiastically. “Hope you were able to get something done at the farm today?”
“Yes our mother. We give thanks to God. You’re not eating anything?”
“No… I’m the one who should even be cooking for you. Why didn’t you tell me that my daughter was not feeling well? I would have come here to take care of her.”
“It’s not that serious our mother, she was just experiencing some cramps…”
“Not at all! What I’ve seen here is more than cramps, she’s vomiting and stooling as if she ate something that’s upsetting her…”
“Still, we didn’t want to bother you.”
“You can never bother me when it comes to my children, I will give my life for all of my children! Please let it not repeat itself again.”
“Alright our mother.”
Ibironke was angry, she knew that she had lost a very precious moment that she doubted she could regain. Reluctantly, she got up and bid her daughter and her husband farewell.
“We should be worried Baba Adegbola, we should be worried! They’ve been married for a year now, are we getting younger? Let’s find a solution to the problem quickly.” Adebisi said to her husband as they settled in for the night.
Adegoke laughed, he knew what his wife wanted. Another marriage arranged for their son, because she had never been in support of the marriage with the farmer’s daughter. He wasn’t entirely in support of it either, and if not for the fact that he needed Agbeniyi’s land, he would never have agreed to the marriage.
Mowunmi’s childlessness was upsetting his plans. How could he ask Agbeniyi to sell his land when there was no grandchild to cement their relationship? He needed to exercise some patience, and that meant supporting Mowunmi for the time being. Hurting her position in her husband’s home would not help his situation.
“Just calm down and give them some time. Stop being unnecessarily anxious.”
“I should stop being anxious, after one year of marriage and no sign of pregnancy?”
“Yes. Now I want to sleep. Keep quiet.”
Adebisi looked scornfully at him and wondered why her husband was being supportive of her son’s wife.
“If he said you should be patient there’s nothing you can do. Or can you go and marry a new wife for your son without your husband?”
Lalonpe stared at her friend who was seething with rage. They were seated in front of the former’s house on a breezy evening.
“I just don’t understand why he’s so much in support of her. Doesn’t he want us to be grandparents?”
Lalonpe laughed. “You know men are not bothered by such things…”
“But this is our first son, the one who’s supposed to carry on after we’re gone. We can’t just sit down and do nothing! I won’t sit still and do nothing!”
“Debisi! Your husband has told you to do nothing. Don’t go and bite more than you can chew!”
Adebisi hissed in frustration, wondering how she had become so helpless. She wanted the best for her son, she wanted him to know what it felt like to hold one’s own children.
“Adebisi, I know you’re angry but there is nothing you can do. You know how angry your husband can get.”
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“I’ve had the dream again. But this time the bird wasn’t moving around in circles, it stood still and was staring at me.”
The elderly man shook his head, thinking that Adebisi should have insisted on not allowing the marriage to take place but he understood that there was little she could have done as a woman.
“You need to talk to daughter and get her to tell you what’s going on. That’s the only way this problem can be solved without it escalating to something really unpleasant.”
“I’ve tried Baba, she won’t confess…”
“Then you must do what i told you to do when you came here one year ago. If she won’t talk then all you can do is plead with the creator for mercy on her behalf.”
Ibironke shook her head.
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As Agbeniyi listened to his wife, he admitted that he should have listened to her in the first place about not marrying Adegbola. Their daughter was being labeled a barren woman and was slowly becoming a laughing stock. As he passed by Iya Bolupe’s palm wine shed, he had overheard some men discussing about Adegoke’s loss; taking a poor girl for his son and not getting a child in return. Sheer self-control had prevented him from going to make a fool of himself at the place.
“You say she won’t tell you what’s going on?”
“No, and I know something is going on in that house.”
”Well, there’s little we can do if she doesn’t tell us what it is.”
“So are we just going to watch things deteriorate?”
“She’s no longer solely ours, you know we can’t just insist that she tells us what is going on. We can’t be seen as meddlers.”
Ibironke was displeased with this answer.
“I know you’re not happy about this but you know our tradition. We will do what Baba has said, i believe that something will happen to give us a way out of this. Don’t worry.”
Ibironke sighed and thought of the moment she had lost with her daughter again.