“So you want a son,” Baba Tope said, having gotten the point Baba Sewa had been trying to make. “Àbí bẹ́ẹ̀ kọ́?”
“Bẹ́ẹ̀ ni, baba,” Baba Sewa answered, nodding. “Yes sir.” He had been telling his tale to the herbalist for almost an hour now. He wasn’t one to go straight to the point when talking, and so he had started his tale from the very beginning. He needed to let the herbalist understand just how desperate he was.
Early Life of Baba Sewa
He was his mother’s only child, born in the slums of Ilorin. His father died when he was six, and so he was raised by his mother in the village with the extended family. Growing up, he did odd jobs here and there, working as a farm boy and hawking kola nuts.
When he reached manhood, he went to the city in search of a better life for him and his ageing mother. He took every job that came his way, amassing experience in trade, bargaining and marketing.
In his early thirties, he started a business selling puff-puff at Ọjà-Ọba. Eventually, it turned into a booming success. He soon made enough to take his mother out of the village for good, and he got a wife and they had a son.
As the years grew, so did his business, until he had an entire block of Ọjà-Ọba to his business. All was going well, until a tragic flood took his wife and child away one stormy evening. Baba Sewa was devastated, and he and his mother seemed like they would never recover from the loss, but God brought happiness to his life once again when he met Iya Sewa.
Baba Sewa Remarried a Few Years Later
They had been married for twenty years—making Baba Sewa fifty-three years old, potbelly and all, and Iya Sewa just shy of forty—and had eight daughters together.
And there lay the problem.
Everyone called him all sorts of names and made fun of him for his many daughters. Why eight daughters and not even one son to mix? His mother was upset as well, wanting at least one grandson.
Baba Sewa loved his children, and wasn’t with any regrets for having them, but even he was tired of the whole daughter situation. First came twins, then triplets, and then three more girls. Kílódé? Was he raising girls for sale? He wanted a son, if not for anything but to say he had one.
He had been to just about every herbalist he knew, but after constant failure and now a recommendation from a close friend, he visited Baba Tope. If he couldn’t help him, nobody could.
You Will Get a Son…
Baba Tope’s gaze met his, and then went to his wife beside him. “I will mix up concoctions for the both of you. You will take them thrice a day, once after each meal. Have no worries. You will get a son.”
“Thank you,” Iya Sewa said, bowing severally. “Ẹ ṣeun gan, sir.”
The price was a cow and two peafowls. Baba Sewa was rich, and he cared little about the price; only the results.
Months passed, and Iya Sewa grew pregnant. Ẹlẹ́dàá mi ti gbàdúrà mi! Baba Sewa shouted joyfully. God has answered my prayers!
Finally, The Man With Ten Daughters!
Come the day of delivery, he couldn’t hide the disappointment on his face. “Even more daughters,” he complained to his wife. Two of them, for God’s sake. That he bought cows and peafowls for nothing only made him more upset.
“I’m sorry, ọkọ mìí,” she begged. “Don’t be mad at me. We will have a son one day.”
But when? He was fed up. His mother didn’t let him hear the end of it either. She had been insisting on him taking another wife for years now, but he loved his wife dearly and believed they would have a son one day. Yet his hopes only grew dimmer.
Baba Sewa and His Condition – Ten Daughters
One afternoon, while discussing the issue with his friends at the sauna, Baba Lanre said, “I think it is high time you went to a proper hospital.” The trio of friends—Baba Sewa, Baba Lanre and Baba Bose, who was Baba Sewa’s closest friend and younger brother by ten years—met at the local sauna almost every day and discussed just about anything, but today’s topic had centered on Baba Sewa and his condition.
“That again,” Baba Sewa complained. Baba Lanre had been suggesting he visit a certain hospital for years now, but he never listened. Growing up, he fell sick often, and his mother would spend heaps of money on those “western medications” from the local store in the neighbourhood. Yet he wouldn’t get better.
She would end up going to the herbalists for potions and concoctions, and that always cured him. It was only later that Baba Sewa realized the local store that his mother used to buy from actually sold chalk for them as pills. He lost faith in modern medicine ever since. Roots and herbs saved me, not the twice damned pills and needles that those white-collar youngsters call medicine. “I’m not going.”
You’ve Ten Daughters…Do You Want To Be Without a Son For Life?
“You should fa,” Baba Lanre stressed. “Their prescriptions do wonders.”
“Like it did wonders for Baba Yekini àbí?” Baba Bose said, referring to how Baba Yekini—who had been a part of their circle of friends—had died after having taken medicine from those white-collar doctors. “They are not to be trusted fa.”
“I know one that I trust very much. He helped cure my son’s childlessness. If they could help with that, then surely they can help with your situation. You should take my advice, or do you want to be without a son for life?”
After days of pondering, he came to a decision. As much as he despised the modern practitioners, he despised his situation even more, and was willing to go any length to change it.
Baba Sewa Decided to Go to the Hospital
One afternoon, having returned from a busy morning at his puff-puff shops, Baba Sewa waited under the mango tree in his front yard for his brother’s arrival. It was the first market day and so Baba Bose had gone to Mandate Supermarket with Iya Sewa as usual. He had a truck that could tow the goods she bought, and since he lived nearby, he could help her bring the goods home since Baba Sewa didn’t have the time to take her to the market with his car.
Upon arrival, Baba Bose helped Iya Sewa carry the goods inside. When they were done, the brothers made for the gates, on their way to talk over a walk. “Goodbye, Baba Bose,” Iya Sewa said, waving at him, a big smile on her fair face. “Thanks for today.”
“I’m always glad to help,” Baba Bose replied with a smile.
On their walk, Baba Sewa opened up to his brother about his decision.
“Are you sure you want to go?” Baba Bose asked, “I don’t think you should go fa.”
“But what if it works?”
Baba Bose exhaled, worry in his eyes. He nodded. “All right.”
Baba Sewa noticed then that his brother smelled of a familiar perfume. “Did you buy the brand my wife uses ni?”
Baba Bose regarded him a moment then laughed. “Don’t mind her fa. She spilled her perfume on me by accident while I was driving.”
They talked for longer before they both headed to their homes. That night, Baba Sewa told her his decisions well. Like his brother, Iya Sewa was worried. “Have you lost faith in roots and herbs?”
“No. I just…” He hated having to say it… “I want to try it.”
After much convincing, he made her agree to going with him to the hospital.
The Next Morning…
The next morning, Baba Sewa went to his shops to see to it that a few things were done, before then going to the hospital. He hated everything about hospitals; the smell, the paint, everything.
He sat in the waiting room at the fertility section, waiting for his wife’s arrival. Women, he thought, never on time. She arrived soon after, hurrying in through the doors. Baba Bose had brought her since she was taking too long to finish that morning, and Baba Sewa wasn’t one to wait. “Sorry I took so long,” she said as she took her seat beside him. She adjusted her bra strap through her blouse and smoothed her wrapper down with her hands. She seemed cheerful for someone who wasn’t too keen on coming the night before. “Have you made reservations?” she asked.
“I have.” They waited until they were called upon, before then heading into the doctor’s office.
History Taking and Clinical Examination
“You said you wanted a son, is that so, sir?” The doctor asked, a pen in his hand, eager to write.
“Yes,” they both answered.
“Have you had any children before?”
“Yes,” Baba Sewa replied. “How is that important?”
The doctor looked up from whatever he was writing down in the file. “Kindly cooperate and answer the question, sir.” He turned to Iya Sewa. “How many children have you had before, ma?”
“Ten,” she said gladly.
“Wow.” The doctor was surprised. “All for him?”
She chuckled shyly. “Yes.”
The doctor smiled. “You two are quite the active couple,” he joked.
While it was true he and his wife enjoyed their alone time quite well and quite often, Baba Sewa wasn’t too glad talking freely about such matters. The doctor asked them several questions that went into uncomfortably great detail about their sex life, the positions they often used, how many children they have had before when they last had children, the genders of their children, and many other things, all while writing down their responses.
And since the couple were so “uneducated,” he also spent a great deal of time explaining how a child was made and what determined the sex and some other nonsense. He also carried out tests and determined the “genotype” of both of them.
Sperm Selection Followed by In-vitro Fertilization
By the end of it all, the doctor said, “There are quite a handful of solutions to your situation, but the most effective would be sperm selection followed by in-vitro fertilization.” He then went on to explain how he would take a sample of his sperm and select one with the genetic makeup of a male to fertilize his wife’s “egg.” It was all confusing for him and he barely understood what the doctor said half the time.
“Come back tomorrow with a sample of your semen,” the doctor told them. He also mentioned the procedure was quite costly and though it had a higher success rate, it wasn’t foolproof. Baba Sewa agreed to pay. At this point, all he cared about was getting a son.
You said you have ten daughters, am I right sir?
The next day, they were back at the doctor’s office. The doctor came in, result papers in hand, and a confused look on his face. “You said you have ten daughters, am I right sir?”
“As I said before, yes.” He didn’t like how the man repeated questions. Is he a lackwit or what?
“And your last child—children—were born only four months ago?” The doctor asked.
“Àní yes. Haba.” He looked at his wife. “Àbí this man is deaf ni?”
The doctor took the slight without rebutting. He looked at Iya Sewa. “I would like for you to bring your new twins for a test, ma. And also, do you have the genotype results of all of your children? I would like to have them as well.”
It seemed all Iya Sewa heard was the part about her twins. “My daughters kẹ̀?” She shook her head, clicking her tongue to show her disapproval. “Why do you want to see my daughters?”
Baba Sewa was Confused
Baba Sewa was confused. The doctor also shared his feelings. He wasn’t expecting such a reaction either. She had suddenly lost her formal cheerfulness and now looked cautious. “What’s the problem, ma?” the doctor asked.
“No problem o. But I want to know why. Why do you need them?”
“It’s just to perform a few tests.”
“I will not allow it.” She said firmly.
Baba Sewa couldn’t help but ask. “Why? Did he offend you?” He didn’t understand why she was against it all of a sudden.
“We came for fertility advice,” She replied, “we didn’t ask him to inspect our children.”
“Ma, we need it to determine the genotype of the children. It’s important information that can’t be left unchecked. I wouldn’t have to call for them had you gotten their genotype checked already.” Iya Sewa didn’t have that “genotype” nonsense the doctor asked for. After all, she didn’t give birth to any of her children in a hospital.
After a lot of argument, Baba Sewa eventually managed to get her to accept. A few days later, after having gone for genotype examination for their daughters, they both returned to the hospital with the results, along with the newborns Wumi and Toluwani. God knows what the doctor needed them for.
“We only need their blood sample,” the doctor said. Wumi and Toluwani were crying when he returned them to their mother. The doctor told the couple to come back the following day yet again. They came as told to, but this time, Baba Bose brought them with his truck—Baba Sewa’s car had broken down all of a sudden the night before. When he was leaving, Iya Sewa bid Baba Bose goodbye before then following her husband into the hospital.
Baba Sewa Was Sick and Tired of the Doctor Telling Him to Go and Come
At this point, Baba Sewa was sick and tired of the doctor telling him to go and come and go and come again, and that made his conversation with the doctor stiff, to say the least.
“You said you were a puff-puff trader right?” the doctor asked him.
“Yes,” He said proudly, “A very successful one at that. Been doing it for over twenty years.”
The doctor continued. “That would mean you are always in a heated environment for most of the day.”
“Do you bathe with hot water often?”
“Of course. All the time. Why would anyone bathe with cold water? I even go to my local sauna with my friends.”
“Just about every day.”
The doctor paused, nodding thoughtfully at his documents. “And how long have you been doing so?”
Aha. What is this man’s problem? he thought. “For decades now. What point is there to all of these ridiculous questions?”
The doctor gave no reply. He wrote down a few things then looked up.
The Truth Behind Baba Sewa’s Ten Daughters
He sighed. “I asked all of that because the results from your sperm count check are quite strange. You’re… azoospermic.”
“Ehn?” He was confused. “What does that mean?”
“You don’t have any viable sperm in your semen. None at all. The reasons are not too far fetched, though I might need to do a few other tests to be sure.” He went on. “You bathe with hot water, you go to saunas and you always work in a hot environment. Heat kills sperm cells. And over the course of twenty or so years that you have been running your business, I suspect you have lost all your viable sperm.
But when you said you only recently had twins, I became perplexed. How then did you have children? It didn’t make sense that you would lose all your sperm within the span of a few months when you have been birthing children—twins and triplets for that matter—before.
And I also started to wonder, how were you having all of those children when you were destroying your sperm daily for decades?
I decided to at least do a genotype test on your newborns, along with a DNA scan. I also looked through the results from all eight other daughters. And I must say, sir, your case is quite the surprise.”
Sir, None of the Ten Daughters are Yours!
He adjusted his glasses. “You are of the genotype SS, and your wife is AA, yet none of the twins are AS. In fact, none of your eight other daughters are AS.”
Baba Sewa barely understood all he said. “What does that mean?”
The doctor leaned forward, his fingers intertwined beneath his chin. “What it means, sir, is that none of those ten girls are yours.”
“What?” He shouted, getting on his feet. “That is preposterous!”
Iya Sewa echoed his annoyance. “How dare you say such a thing about our children!”
The doctor was calm. He looked at her. “I think we both know the truth, ma.”
A lot of things were going on in his head, and he wasn’t sure what made sense and what didn’t. He wanted to disbelieve with all of his heart, but an inkling of doubt remained. He looked to his wife, his head spinning and his heart pounding. “Tell me the truth, Rọ́mọkẹ́. Is this man saying the truth?”
The cat is out of the bag!
Iya Sewa looked back and forth between the doctor and her husband. Her face bittered, and she burst into tears. She pulled off her head tie and started wailing, her arms crossed over her head in despair. “Àsírí ti tú o!” she screamed, tears flowing down her eyes. The cat is out of the bag!
No. He felt saltwater run down his cheeks. No. His face turned ugly; he was on the verge of crying. No. He would not believe it. No. No. “Why are you crying?” he asked his wife, who was now seated on the floor, legs sprawled and her wrapper distorted. He had only one question in mind. “Who is their father?” he asked bitterly. Who could it be?
And then he knew.
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Writer: Ameen Ahmad Opeyemi
University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria
Ameen Ahmad Opeyemi is a 200L Medical Student from the University of Ilorin, Ilorin Kwara State. He enjoys playing games—just one, really, Clash of Clans—reading science fiction and fantasy novels and watching similar movies.