As told to Boluwatife

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I choose to remember the nine months and two days I was pregnant with my baby girl, Moyo*, as the best time of my life. 

It’s ironic because it was an unplanned pregnancy, and it came at the worst possible time. But it’s what gave me Moyo. If I had the opportunity to do it all again, I’d choose to have her here today.

I discovered I was pregnant in the middle of my final year at the university in 2021. I’d been sick for about two weeks, but I assumed it was malaria and the stress of pursuing my project supervisor all over the school. It was my mum who insisted I take a pregnancy test, and well, you know how that turned out.

I’d only dated my baby daddy and coursemate for about seven months when I got pregnant, so expectedly, he wasn’t thrilled about it. My parents insisted on meeting with his family so they could take responsibility, but he kept posting the meeting and giving excuses till we signed out from school. He never came with his family, and he’s only sent money twice since then: ₦60k to buy baby clothes while I was still pregnant and ₦50k to support hospital fees.

My parents weren’t happy and didn’t hide it. We live in a self-contained apartment with my younger sister; our financial situation isn’t great. So there were snide remarks about me bringing an extra mouth to feed and why I decided to reward their sending me to school with a baby born out of wedlock. 

Despite the tension around me, I was determined to find peace within myself and eagerly wait for my baby. I wouldn’t be the first or the last to have a baby outside wedlock, so I knew I’d be fine. Even though those months should’ve felt like the “bad times” people talk about, I decided only to remember it as good. I was quite optimistic. 

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But bad times last sometimes. 

My birthing arrangement was to deliver with the help of a local midwife. It was far cheaper, and this midwife had birthed many kids in the neighbourhood, so I felt I was in good hands.

My delivery was long and traumatic. My baby was breech, and the midwife had to rotate her. I laboured for two days before I eventually had Moyo. I thought that was the end of it, but when she was six weeks old, I noticed something was wrong. She never lifted her right arm and wouldn’t grab my finger with that hand when I put it in her palm, unlike when I did the same with her left hand.

I told my mum, and we took Moyo to the midwife, who prescribed some herbs and told us to always rub a menthol-based ointment on the arm. She also encouraged us to keep the left arm wrapped so she’d be forced to try to use her right hand. We did that for about a month, but nothing changed.

At this point, I was extremely worried. I convinced my mum to allow me to take Moyo to the hospital. I’d wanted us to go the hospital route right from the beginning, but my mum was paying, so I had to play to her tune. She eventually had no choice but to agree when she saw there was no improvement.

We were given a diagnosis at the hospital: Erb’s palsy. Apparently, the delivery was too traumatic, and the midwife hadn’t handled it properly. When asked why I hadn’t brought her to the hospital immediately I noticed it, I said, “I didn’t know it was that serious.” I can’t forget the judgemental look I got from the doctor after I uttered those words. 

What kind of mother takes potential paralysis with such levity? He later said I’m a first-time mum, but my mother should’ve known better. But I honestly thought it was my fault. If I had my own money, professionals would have birthed my daughter, or we would’ve sought treatment earlier. 

After the diagnosis came five months of physical therapy for Moyo. Each session cost around ₦7k, including transportation, and we had at least one session per week. When my mum started murmuring about how much we spent going to the hospital weekly, I borrowed ₦20k from a friend and started an online thrift business. I didn’t make that much profit immediately, but I could at least cover transportation costs so my mum could see I wasn’t just expecting her to take on everything. I didn’t want to make the mistake of cutting costs again and potentially paralysing my child for life.  

Moyo is one year old now, and she has vastly improved. She favours her left arm, which looks slightly bigger, but she has full use of the right arm. I still think about how close I was to ruining her life and wonder if I’m really qualified to be a good mother. 

I long to be in another relationship, but also feel guilty about it because didn’t a man show me shege just a few years ago? I have to remind myself that I’m human, and not only have I made some mistakes, but I’ve also made good decisions. I started a business, and it’s thriving. I sought medical care for Moyo before it was too late. 

I may not be the world’s best mother, but taking care of Moyo is my priority, and I’m doing well enough in that aspect, considering the circumstances. I still have a long way to go to give her the best care possible, but it’s one step at a time. We’ll be fine… I hope.

*Names were changed for anonymity.

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