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The travails of a young single mother in Nigeria

my sister Ugochi and her baby Kachi

As a ten year old I already had an idea of what I wanted my life to look like by the time I was 25yrs old……finished secondary school at 16, enter university same year, finish university at 20, get a job at 22, work for a year, adopt a child at 23 and get married at 24. It was all planned out, of course I didn’t understand the intricacies of Nigerian culture that saw it as a taboo for an unmarried Nigerian girl to have a child outside of wedlock, choice is not important, the desires of the heart is second place, the dictates of society that makes a person marriageable and acceptable is upheld. The journey of a single mother begins when she discovers she has missed her period, one week, maybe it’s just nature, second week tension starts to kick in and by the third week its full on panic mode, the fourth week she buys a local pregnancy kit which only confirms what she already knows, if she is strong willed, abortion is off the table of options and by the second month, the visits to the doctor begins to confirm that she is actually pregnant. Telling the siblings and friends is the easy part, because young people even though judgmental always come around, telling the parents….now that’s the hardest part. Its’ emotionally gut wrenching especially when she is doing it right in front of them. The first thing that shows on their face is shock, how could their daughter go so wayward!!! They wonder…… the second is disappointment at all of the dreams they feel she will never achieve and all the bridges she will never cross. The third is that crestfallen look of them giving up on you, and the final part is the anger which usually leads to an outburst of negative energy that they express with such venom filled loathing, she never wants to remember that day again. If her parents are accepting, they let her stay at home but give her the silent treatment for a couple of weeks after which they come around, and her life is golden from then on, if they are not accepting, they throw her out, cut her off and leave her to fend for herself in a harsh, cold environment. The next place she turns to for support is her friends and the church. If she is a catholic then she’ll be lucky to get any support, because the catholic church is filled with a lot of self righteous, standoff-fish people who even though belong to a community called a church do not socialize enough with each other to know most members not to talk of recognizing or associating with the problems of those in need, with the exception of Lagos that breaks the church further down into Basic Christian Communities, back to the topic. If she is a protestant, especially the new generation churches she has a greater chance of being accepted because these churches especially the ones that have Christ as a foundation recognize the mistake, but show love and support to her. It is at time like this that she comes to know how solid and secured her network of friends and family are, these are the people who will show her financial, spiritual, moral, emotional support in this slow journey to an unplanned motherhood. At six months when the evidence of the baby bump starts to show, the level of her mental strength exude itself in how she is able to cope with the stares that people give her as she passes by, in the market place, in stores, in the church and in school. The fake friends start to gossip about how much better than her they are and how they will never make the same mistake, the bigots gloat about how much of a prostitute they always knew she was and the retired landlord sitting on his porch dwells on the shame she is bringing to her family by bringing a “bastard” child to the world; but she pays them no heed, she ignores the snide remarks, turns her back on the fake friends because at the end of each day she knows she is doing the right thing when she feels the baby kick in her womb and a feeling of completion takes over her soul. Ante-natal clinic is another headache of its own, the women who are supposed to support her for having the courage to keep the child, show judgment on her for carrying the child in the first place, the pre-natal nutrients don’t come cheap either and the nurses are giving her a humongous list of things she has to buy for the baby. She can’t get a job because the doctor is telling her to get all the rest she can, and there are few jobs for heavily pregnant women. She scrapes by, taking each day; a struggle as it comes until the baby is born. Finally!!!! All of her discomforts are buried in the back of her mind as she holds the baby for the first time, and the tears streaming down her face is confirmation that it has all been worth it. The first time she breast feeds her little bundle of joy is the seal of bond between mother and child. Four months after and she realizes she has to get a job to supplement what people have been supporting her with because she is realistic enough to know that she can’t survive on handouts alone. Baby food isn’t cheap, clothing is of utmost importance and the baby vitamins aren’t free. She has to find a job, that will pay enough to take care of she and her child, put a roof over their head and supplement the cost of a daycare, her options are limited because she doesn’t have her university degree; but she has to make it work, after searching for two months, she finds a job that is suitable, she has to work from 7am to 5pm from Monday to Saturday but she doesn’t mind because she is doing it for her baby. Overtime her family comes around, baby starts going to school and she has to work extra hours on weekend just to make it work. Her parents turned her away when she needed them the most because they couldn’t get over their pride, they didn’t think of how she would survive alone, they only thought of how they would face their friends and what people would say about them. They were selfish and angry. The words they spoke in anger will stick forever, the friends she lost are like water under bridge, but the family she gained has become her solid rock of support. I was naive to think that it’s okay to adopt and be a single mother, such things are only considered chic if your name is Genevieve Nnaji or Angelina Jolie, if not you’re in for a life time of hard knocks and lessons. The next time you’re walking by and you see a single mother, or a young unwed pregnant woman, don’t stare at her like she is the scum of the earth, because you aren’t better than her, look upon her with a smile and recognize that we are humans, thus we err but what makes us greater are the decisions we take to cope with our mistakes…… This one is dedicated to my sister Ugochi the epitome of a strong willed struggling single mother and to my little nephew Kachi who is the result of the complexities of Gods’ ways

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