Disclaimer: All persons, places and events in this story are purely coincidental. No names have been changed to protect the innocent.
On May 24th 2020, a dead body washed ashore to the banks of Bonny River. The News was published on The Vanguard Newspaper. It was the body of a decaying dead woman. Underneath the rotten seaweeds that surrounded her gown was a baby. Its weak squirming had caught the attention of people close by.
The News photo was that of the dead mother and her baby with the uncut umbilical cord, bloodied hair tuffs on the infants’ skull and a pale- yellowish fluid oozing out from her vagina. The Video of the scene recorded by onlookers was the social media trend for weeks. It was a disgusting sight to behold.
No one understood how an already decomposed body could have birthed a baby. It was practically impossible to imagine.
The police investigated for days and begged the public for someone to claim the body. But no one wanted to be involved in such a weird tale so the turn up was zero. The case was buried two weeks later. This was after a red purse was found near the banks of bonny river. Inside it was a journal belonging to one “Ebere Mark”.
You tremble as you read the old news story in present day, April 2021. You tremble not because of the gruesome image of the fly infested dark-brown flesh. Not because of the blurry video of the squirming baby, that subconsciously ran signals that made your ears ring like a shrieking banshee.
You tremble because you once knew an Ebere Mark.
You knew an eight week pregnant Ebere whom you helped escape from her home.
Ebere Mark whom you gave your mom’s old red purse.
Ebere was the friend you made when you spent your holiday in Okrika, during Bayero University session break of October 2019. Your parents had sent you off on Holiday to your Aunt’s. Ebere lived at an orphanage down the street your Aunt lived in.
The Otukpo Lovena Orphanage.
She was the carefree girl who taught you how to use Maclean to dry up your robust pimples. She even taught you how to give a deeply satisfying French kiss. You were shy that late evening in your aunt’s backyard as she pulled you closer and led you into a world of Ecstasy. A lesbian act, but you didn’t care. You had sworn to render Michael- your boyfriend, breathless, once you return to Campus.
It wasn’t until your first month as friends that she revealed dirty secrets to you. Dirty Secrets about the glorified Otukpo Lovena’s orphanage. In Late November 2019, Ebere led you to an inner chamber in the orphanage.
People say “Seeing is believing”.
You saw yet couldn’t believe. The inner chamber contained about fifty heavily pregnant young ladies. The Orphanage was an undercover baby factory.
“Ebere, you need to get out of here so this doesn’t happen to you” You blurted out the minute you both got to somewhere safe.
“I know, I know, but Fayv. I’m two months gone already”
“How? Gone where?”
“I mean I’m already two months pregnant”
The word “Pregnant” knocked your brain cells out in five different Mike Tyson’s Finishing Move.
“You think I’d be already past puberty and they’d let me be. Just like that? This is my third pregnancy. My first two babies were sold out. The second pregnancy was a tough one and the nurse advised I avoid getting pregnant for my while for womb to heal. But Favour I’m pregnant. I’m fucking pregnant again.”
Your heart banged violently against your chest walls as she spoke.
“How did you get here in the first place?” you managed to ask
“I’m not really an orphan, poverty brought me here. My mom is alive and well in Imo state. She sent me here to learn a trade when a sweet faced woman from the City came with all good tidings to the village. But the sweet faced woman was not all she seemed.”
You clenched and unclenched your fist in fury
“No! you just have to leave”
Helping her escape became your main goal. You and Ebere spent three nights mapping out plans for her escape until you decided on a seemingly suitable idea.
On the morning of her escape, she excused herself from the orphanage under the guise that she was going to the market to restock, since she was in charge of kitchen duties for that week. She had told you the previous night that she wouldn’t take any of her belongings. Didn’t want anything to remind her of life in the orphanage, her words.
That morning, you were inside the Tricycle that stopped at the junction leading to the central market, for Ebere to quickly hop in. You saw her off to a less popular park, far away from town. Before she boarded the bus to the east, you left in her hands a red purse that belonged to your mom and ten thousand naira. You gave her a big hug and told her to copy down your number.
You mumbled words of prayer as the bus drove out of the park.
That was the last time you ever saw Ebere. She never called.
You found yourself slowly sliding into depression afterwards. Was she well and safe? Was she alive and hearty? Or were you also a part of her life she wanted to forget?
So many unanswered questions.
On the Cold season of January 2020, you left for Kano.
Ebere never really gave birth to that baby in true sense. She had a coffin birth.
Now this you’d never know. Dr M.M Waziri had explained that phenomenon in your Physiology class, but you had missed that class because Michael had taken you to Coke Village that afternoon to snack on Sharwarma burger.
A “post mortem Fecal Extrusion” Dr. Wazari called it.
He said “A coffin birth can happen 48 to 72 hours after the death of a pregnant woman as gas in her abdomen builds up due to decomposition. The pressure rises up to the point that it presses on the uterus so intensely that the unborn fetus is expelled from the mother’s body. The fetus will also be deceased when it comes out since the mother is its life support. Coffin birth happens when a pregnant woman is not embalmed and cremated after death.”
It is a morbid example of death imitating life. You’d never know it is not always decomposition that causes a coffin birth, sometimes if the death is traumatic enough, a woman can give birth spontaneously at the moment of death.
You’d never know how Ebere died. How she was tracked down by her captors from the orphanage. How she tried escaping but was caught and strangled to death. You’d never know how she begged for her life nor how she was thrown into Bonny River.
The reports were wrong. The weak squirming of the baby wasn’t really a sign that it was alive. It was just the normal moaning noises corpses make as air leaves their bodies.
These days you can’t concentrate or study anymore. The moaning noise of Ebere’s baby haunts you every night. The graphic image of Ebere’s body is all you see when you study your Anatomy textbooks.
Maybe one day, just one day, you’ll find all the light in the darkest places.
Writer: Ikharo Favour
Bayero University Kano, Kano State, Nigeria.