Zikora by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a short story that explores the multidimensional emotion around pregnancy, especially for a professional woman who decides to raise her baby alone.
Zikora is a Nigerian lawyer working in Washington, D.C. who finds out she’s pregnant by her ex-boyfriend, Kwame. They are both on a similar career track, but Kwame assumed Zikora was on birth control when they had unprotected sex. Zikora swears she told Kwame she wasn’t on birth control and his willingness to have unprotected sex meant he was ready for commitment and children. As Kwame claims he didn’t know the consequences, Zikora decides to have their child on her own. At work, she downplays her pregnancy because she’s up for partnership at her law firm and is competing against a presumably White woman who brags about her childlessness. Her motivation to keep her child stems from a situation in college, but her fear of having a baby at the wrong time with the wrong partner emerges from other people’s situations like her cousin who has six children because she forgets to take her contraceptive and now feels stuck or another cousin’s cousin who fainted to death in a fancy hospital even though it was her third pregnancy. Zikora gives birth to a son and finds herself still in conflict with her mother over circumcising her son. It reminds her how her father left her mother for a second wife because her mother kept having miscarriages. With her newborn son, Zikora still checks her phone to see if Kwame will check in.
The story goes through all the layers of pregnancy for Zikora and the women in her family. From the miscarriages, abortions, illnesses, and deaths, the story shows a woman genuinely worried about the process and the aftermath – raising her son alone. How pregnancy takes a backseat to the obsession with work ethic plays a role as Zikora is climbing the corporate ladder but so is Kwame, who decides to walk away from the situation. Zikora feels her promotion is threatened because she chose to have a baby. Everything she has worked for is now hanging on a balance due to her natural desire to start a family. How pregnancy is viewed as a negative continues with the stories that haunt Zikora from her family and friends. What others say is the happiest moment of her life is marred by stress and confusion of how she will survive pregnancy and childbirth and how she will care for her son.
Overall, the story reveals the angles of pregnancy and shows the impact on one woman who’s trying to make sense of the experience. The wrong timing, the unplanned parenthood, and the wrong partner plagues Zikora’s pregnancy as she tries to see past those concerns and enjoy her baby.