The world has changed over the years and so has my village, even if not I it entirety, the transitioning maidens no longer have to expose their tender breasts, it would invite too much attention.
We had been preparing for this day for the last six days. The fire crackled and glowed brightly, shinning on our innocent faces. Soon, the ritual would be over, we would be true women, at least, its what ‘the mothers’ said.
A higher level of dignity awaited us after we emerged from the small cubicle crafted from raffia palms. High-pitched sounds emanated from the tent everytime a girl went in.
An elderly woman would come out every ten minutes to call in the next girl but none of them returned as our numbers kept diminishing.
“Keima, come in please.”
I was terrified at the beckoning of the petite woman.
She patted me on the back and opened the entrance to the small room.
‘Ah, Keima, you can sit on that stool, I will be with you shortly.’
It was mama Bama. She was cleaning a small metal tool that looked like a scissors. I noticed blood on the white cloth beside her. There was another table that held various kinds of rods, some with pointed ends, others, just like a kitchen knife.
The petite woman who had called me in stood firmly at the entrance, she was the guard: I had heard tales of girls who tried to flee on the ‘day of becoming’ but this tiny woman proved that strength is not determined by size.
‘You have to undress and lie on the mat’ mama Bama was advancing towards me. I did as she said but with a level of demur. Two older women marched into the room from an adjoining room. One of them covered my eyes with a small piece of white cloth which she tied at the back.
They pinned my limbs to the ground, it was at this point I was gripped by fear but I tried to remain calm, at least it would be over very soon.
I felt someone touch my thighs and it sent shivers down my spine. This was it.i shook violently but the restraining arms were more powerful than I had expected.
“You will only get hurt by doing this, stay put.”
Rather than allay my fears, it heightened it and I so desperately desired freedom from the hands that impaled me. The grip was firmer and I felt a sudden numbness between my thighs.
There was silence and then heat and an unimaginably excruciating pain. I needed to get away from these people but the process was far from being over.
Someone was passing a pin or something like that through my skin.
Someone was sewing up my genitalia.
I screamed but couldn’t even make a sound. Maybe she had cut my voice with her knife.
The soaked cloth over my eyes were unwrapped and I saw the smiling face of mama Bama.
“Ehnehn, now you are a woman, congratulations my daughter. Everybody will respect you now.”
It was what they had told us and I had believed them but all that changed on this night. The world is a wicked place, all these women are.
That night, I was circumcised.
I was ten.
I awoke to an intense pain in my lower abdomen, it was a dream. This was the third night this dream was repeating itself.
More than a dream, it was a flashback of events on that horrific night.
Theo’s eyes were shut, he was oblivious of my nightmares, away in his own world and I was determined not to disturb his peaceful sleep. I crept out of the bed quietly and walked to the kitchen, ‘maybe a cup of tea could relieve the pain.’
Milk had been so nauseating these past months, my good old lipton was just perfect. The contractions were at it again. The doctor had said they would come ; it was becoming annoying and increasingly painful, but this was different.
It was stronger.
It was faster.
“Theo, Theo!” I cried out.
There was no sign of human movement; I called out again, this time breaking the silence of the night that even the chirping crickets had to keep mute.
Theo came running “what is it honey?”
I kept pointing at my protruding belly, exclaiming, “its time, its time”
Let me get the baby bag he said as he grabbed the car keys from the table
“Mister Theodore Christian Agbanna, don’t let me curse you, Hospital, NOW!”
He bent over and carried me,out into the car and we drove off the hospital.
The delivery process was not an easy one, the visuals of the circumcision day passing before me in flashes.
Prior to that day, the doctor had advised I undergo surgery since I had not removed the stitches from the infibulations process. He was puzzled as to how I even enjoyed sex with my husband. “Madam, you should remove this thing” he had advised.
“We will use anesthesia, it won’t be painful”
I was adamant; the trauma of my childhood was still haunting me.
Now, I wish I had listened.
I gave consent to surgery.
That was two years ago. My daughter is two today, I have de-infibulated and Theo and I have another baby coming.