Learning to Dance
I got married at twenty-one. Our first son was born a year later when I was in my second year at the University of Nigeria, studying radiological science. My Parents tried to make me see reasons to wait before starting a family, but the day I stopped breastfeeding my son, I became pregnant with my second son. My husband, Ben, at twenty-nine had lost his job before our first son was born and was still unemployed by the time our second son was born.
My Parents harboured us, providing emotional and financial assistance. Ben was studying for an MBA, while I combined schooling with business, selling anything to support my growing family.
One day on campus, I cried in frustration from exhaustion. I practised exclusive breast-feeding so I breastfed all night while studying. Then I slept for less than five hours and drove to the university every morning. A lecturer tried to talk me into moving to campus and leaving my boys in the care of my parents and their nannies. I declined. I told him being a mother came first. Motherhood had chosen me because every family planning method I tried had failed.
I had few friends because I was the only married girl among my peers. They left me alone to work out my new challenges. I was not socially aware. I never partied and didn’t have fashion sense. Ben and I couldn’t afford to go out like other unmarried couples. I was devoted to my family and I wanted to prove to my parents and everyone else that I knew what I was doing.
By my final year, I was looking forward to moving out of my parent’s home. My dream came true when I landed a job in Lagos using my mum’s connections. Ben and the boys joined me shortly. After a while, I fell sick. To my dismay, I found out that I was pregnant for the third time. I was twenty-six.
I was depressed. We still faced financial pressures and I resented this intrusion to my dreams. I scheduled an abortion although it was against my values. On the day of my abortion, a doctor who is also a family friend disclosed my plan to my mum and she called to discourage me. I cancelled the procedure.
After my only daughter was born, my husband found his bearing. He got a job that enabled us move to our own house in Lagos. I also started a cleaning company that became very successful in no time. While we prospered in career and business, our marriage suffered.
From the beginning, Ben only wanted one child and he had not even wanted a child so early in our marriage. He came from a large family while my family was small and I had always looked forward to having many children. Four years after our daughter was born, we had another son. This put more pressure on our strained marriage. When we moved to South Africa, Ben eventually left me and the children.
It takes a village to raise a child. I could not have navigated my motherhood journey without support from family and friends. Looking back, I see that although I have always wanted to be a mother, I did not plan to be one. Children are precious gifts from God and deserve a home with parents who have lovingly considered the ramifications of their presence. Given another chance, I would choose motherhood in a heartbeat, but would wait until I finish school before starting a family.
My children are now 22, 20, 17, and 13. There is no time for regret only gratitude to God as I watch them mature into adulthood. I tell them that there is time for everything under the sun. We need to give ourselves time to grow and allow school to pass through us instead of just passing through school before settling down.
Motherhood cannot be distilled to a formula. It is a privilege to be embraced and it requires determination and wisdom. I grew up with my children, teaching them respect, compassion, responsibility, and love. They in turn gave me lessons in patience and hope. I am learning about fashion and music from them, practicing the latest dance steps and cool moves with them. We laugh together like siblings, when I go off beat.
Ada Obi-Okafor makes her home in South Africa. She’s a licensed radiographer who enjoys soccer, movies, a good book, and a clean house.
© Timi Yeseibo, 2016
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