“Congratulations miss, you are three weeks pregnant.”
I can still hear the echo of that doctor’s voice ringing in my head after all these years. I remember the small talks I had with strangers in the doctor’s waiting room, while in queue after weeks of non-stop headaches and nosebleeds.
Those words were the last thing I expected that day, and I think I blacked out after that moment because everything else after that, sounded like people whispering in the next room. It was a cool Saturday afternoon in the winter of 1999.
The next day I prepared for Monday’s job interview, finished my assignments and took a bath around five in the early evening, a typical Sunday afternoon. But all that changed when I caught my reflection on the fridge door after pouring myself a glass of wine to go sit in the garden with a book.
“I am going to be a mom.”
From that moment on I knew my life had changed. My life plans and dreams were no longer about me, but about us and you as number one.
I wanted only the best of everything for you, including the very best of me.
I thought the world was watching me with sharp-edged knife eyes before but boy, that was nothing compared to when you started introducing yourself to the world towards my final year exams. At work I had to work even more harder to proof myself to the world that I was just as capable as everyone else, or even better.
I felt like a naught school child each time I went in just to be called into my boss’ office to check-in and my work assessed. That was nothing compared to the reactions I got when I finally went home that December. That was the longest weekend of my life.
“What did you do my child? This is not what I sent you to school for. Why do you hate us so much? How can you do this to us?”
That was my parents for you.
“Ya, who did this to you? Whose child is this? Are they going to marry you now? Did you even finish your studies? At least that way we can charge them even more that way.”
That was my uncle, brothers and aunt.
“Ijo, typical, they think they are better than us all when they sent them to varsity, but they still come back just like the rest of us and having wasted all that money with only a big belly to show and nothing better.”
The neighbourhood and society in general.
I was even told at one point that I could not work in my ‘condition’. But you know me, I went back to work on Monday and everyday until March. It was the Easter weekend that weekend and we were going to go home earlier on Thursday, so I that Monday I had asked my boss for a day off on Thursday, as my nosebleeds and headaches had returned for a couple of weeks by then.
Thursday 30 March 2000, 06:30am, that’s when we laid eyes on each other, after 20 hours of back and forth. I could hear in the background all the congratulations and clapping after I told your father that he has a son. It was as though he had won the lotto.
Wednesday 5 April I was back at work with you in the packing lot with my cousin in your father’s car. We fought that morning and I took off with you and his car because I told him I was going to work.
By end of April you were still my partner in breastfeeding in the parking lot. Your father bought another car, moved to a new place and only came on weekends to see you.
On the anniversary of me finding out about you, I found myself infront of my boss with you on my breast, negotiating my full-time employment contract, after I finally collected proof of my qualifications. His answer pushed me to want more for you, I registered to further my qualifications.
By now I was used to people giving me crazy disgusted looks each time they saw us ‘eating’ in the parking lot. That went on until the end of the year, and the following I placed you in a nearby crèche and forced my cousin to go to varsity.
Here we are today, 17 years later as I stand here on this podium infront of teenagers and I can tell you, I have done things, taken on tough assignments, but I have never been as terrified as I am right now. Nothing could have ever prepared me for this, not my Phd nor MBA helped calm the nerves of facing a group of 200 17 and 18 year olds.
When your father passed away 5 years ago, I thought I was going to drawn in raising a teenage boy all by myself, but today I can stand here proud and give myself a pat on the back and say a job well done.
If I may read from your own book that came out last week, “My mom made me who I am today and from here on I take over and determine what I will become.”
With that I want to tell you that, you might think that you stopped breastfeeding your child ages ago, but I have learned that our kids don’t stop suckling from us. We as women are asked things like, who is the father, why didn’t you change your surname when you got married, told we should get married and give our husbands and in-laws children, our children will not prosper if we didn’t give them their fathers’ surnames.
I say NO to that and women, we are stronger and important to just be chucked aside as if we are just baby producers. I ask you today to look inside you and ask you this, ‘ Why am I letting a nickname of my father’s bloodline determine who and what I become?’ Yes that’s how surnames came about in part.
If we are able to carry a human being inside of us for 10 months, push then out of our vaginas, hold a job while studying and raising other humans, (that includes our partners as they develop and grow in life and career), why do we then let others to reduce us to dust beneath their shoe?
As you are about to take to the dance floor, to my son’s date I day, those arms are strong and comforting, he has made his choice and that is why he now has two surnames on his ID. After 12 years of hard work in basic schooling are you now going to settle for comfort in those arms and other arms, let someone else determine your destination or are you going to take over and determine what and who you will be?
So go out into the world after this dance and carve your own identity, hell even fight to have your husbands take on your surname, or just turn my fight of keeping my maiden surname into law. Above all, make sure the stories about you told down generations in your bloodline, are what you chose to be. Take a page from my son’s book and see how he got to this point of having two surnames on his ID, and GO ROCK THE WORLD!