The woman squatted over the basket for a prolonged hypnotized moment, with her shadow washing over the small face of the crying baby. “I am a terrible mother, I know,” she muttered, staring back into the unstable eyes of the baby in the basket. The tiny legs of the baby in the wooden waterproof basket-like craft kicked in protest as small balls of tears rolled out of her eyes. The sound of rushing water, calm and serene couldn’t begin to sooth the woman’s troubled soul. She had to be brave! Brave for this little soul. The baby’s shrill cry rang out, echoing against the water in a battle of wits.
A tear drop rolled out of the woman’s eye, falling on the baby’s head. She wiped at her eyes. “But you know this is the best thing for you, right? It’s the only thing I can do” the child wailed in response. She swallowed hard, feeling her throat burn from the force to hold back unshed tears. She desired to hold her child one last time. To hold the precious bundle that had been her source of excruciating pain and also undiluted happiness. She longed to hold the trophy that life had bestowed on her after months of continuous hardship; but she feared… she feared if she held her little Atinuke once again, she might not be able to let her go. She might not be able to do the one thing that she had to do for Atinuke’s sake.
One last time! she told herself as her hands moved involuntarily to the crying baby. Swallowing hard, the woman lifted the crying child from the little craft. Atinuke groped desperately for her mother’s b0s0m, trying to renew the cord of connection that bound a mother to her child. The woman held Atinuke to her chest, making a seat for herself on the dirty riverbank floor, rocking her back and forth as she sang her favorite lullaby – the one that always put her to sleep. Atinuke’s tiny hands clutched her mother, bringing tears to the woman’s eyes as she sang. How was she to let go of her only source of happiness? Her lips quivered as she sang, tears streaming down her face. Atinuke’s eyes slowly drifted close and her mother held her until she was sound asleep, not wanting to let go but knowing she must. She put Atinuke back into the craft, carefully unplugging the tiny hands clutching her cloth even in sleep. There was no stopping her tears. “I love you, Tinu” she sobbed, “mummy loves you” she bent over and gave the sleeping child a lingering kiss on the forehead.
Unable to waste any more time, she lifted the basket and placed it on the river, her heart thudding in her chest. After a long lingering look at the innocent face of her daughter, she let go of the basket, stepping back as her tears came on river torrents. She watched her baby sail away from her, moving with the gentle flowing river. Her b0s0m ached and she crouched from the pain paralysing her heart. “If you never do another thing for me, God, please protect my baby girl… please…” she prayed, staring at the slowly disappearing craft. She extracted a water bottle and dipped it in the river, filling it with water. She rose and looked at the tiny craft almost vanishing from sight. “May the same spirit that protected Moses be with you, Tinu, till we meet again.” with that, she turned and walked away without a backwards glance.
Written By *Nissi Adeola*.