Nigerian Lives: 4 Single Mothers on Motherhood and Childbirth

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Research finds that at least 46% of mothers are single and have had to go through the process alone or with some help. A recurring theme among single mothers is the feeling of loneliness, anger, and pain that often comes with birthing a child without their baby daddy by their side. Culture Custodian reached out to four single mothers who take us through the pregnancy and birth process:

Tobi, 26

My baby daddy and I went to university together. He was about six years ahead of me. We met through a mutual friend. Before I had the baby or even took my baby daddy seriously, I was in a serious relationship. Engaged to be married type serious. When the engagement was called off, I was extremely devastated. It was my first major heartbreak, so I was looking for every possible means to numb the pain. Before that relationship though, my son’s father and I used to text but there was nothing serious between us. We didn’t even know each other much. We just knew we went to school together and we shared the same values.

After the breakup, we met. He was supposed to be a rebound. There wasn’t any relationship before our meeting. We had sex the first time we met up which wasn’t really planned. It was that sex that brought about the pregnancy. I wasn’t happy about the pregnancy because that was a crucial moment in my life. I had not finished school as I had an extra year. I was supposed to go back in September but I got pregnant in August 2015. I was 20 years old at that time. I tried to look for ways to get rid of the pregnancy but I was naive. I didn’t have a lot of friends at that time. I was well behaved and very reclusive. I was my parents’ favourite. I had prospects before the pregnancy came disrupted things. My mum took it well, unlike my dad. She was the major source of support. My dad was angry but after I had the baby, my mum told me all the money she was giving me when I was pregnant was from my father even though, he wasn’t speaking to me. When I first told my mom, she didn’t condemn me. She took time to think about it and then told me “you are keeping this pregnancy whether the baby has a father or not.”

Her show of support wasn’t enough because I just knew it was going to disrupt my life. I know my aunties only supported me to keep the baby because of who the father was. He was an influential person, so they were concerned about the comfort I was going to get from him. They didn’t exactly care about how I was feeling. I had people showing me love and support but that didn’t halt my depression. There was a time when I was hoping someone would hit me and the pregnancy would fall off. After I had the baby, I would randomly burst into tears. Everyone had a lot of tips to give me pertaining to childbirth but it didn’t even matter when I wanted to have my baby because it was a whole new experience for me. Before I had my baby, I had a lot of mothers tell me that all their sorrows and trouble went away after they had their child. I didn’t feel any form of joy or happiness, I was just glad that phase was over. All I felt was anger. I also went through a Caesarian section to have the baby. I was angry that I was going to be shapeless. I was angry that I was doing this as a single mother. I thought about how if the baby came through my vagina, it won’t be tight anymore. I wasn’t thinking about the safety of my child.

When I did my surgery and I woke up, people were happy the baby was here but I wasn’t happy. When I think about it now, I feel guilty. I was angry about everything. I was angry at the world. I was angry at my son’s father for putting me in that position. I was angry that I wasn’t in school. I was angry that I wasn’t going to be the same again. When the matron brought my baby because he was crying and she wanted me to breastfeed him, I was still contemplating. When the nurse came to me and started pressing my breast to put in my baby’s mouth, I just let it happen.

My mental health was in shambles after having my baby. I felt so lonely and sad. A lot of people around me had the mentality that I had to be strong, but I didn’t want to be strong. I wanted to yell! There was a particular day that I passed out while breastfeeding because I hadn’t been eating well. That didn’t stop me from breastfeeding afterwards because that’s the thing about motherhood. There are no breaks. Honestly, pregnancy and childbirth were no good to me. I’m happy that my child will be 5 years old in April. I’d love to do it again. I want more kids, but this time with a partner. I don’t want to do it alone next time.

Ada, 23

The pregnancy wasn’t planned. It was like a miracle because it wasn’t expected. I had a health condition that lowered my chances of keeping a pregnancy. When I got the diagnosis, I decided that whenever I wanted to have children, I was going to adopt them since my chances were low. The first time I was supposed to start treatment for my condition was when they found out that I was pregnant. I was advised not to have an abortion because it was going to lower my chances of conceiving again.

I wasn’t excited because I was in my final year at university. My parents were very supportive. My baby daddy wasn’t supportive because he said the child wasn’t his. His mother was behind him. Throughout the nine months of pregnancy, I did not hear from him. All I had was my family who bought me supplements and food. They took care of me. I didn’t feel his absence so much although he was supposed to be with me at that time. I had to learn to live without him.

After having the baby, his family requested a DNA test. We did it and it was confirmed that the baby was his. His family tried to take the baby away but my family stood firm and didn’t let that happen. At the end of the day, all the pain and labour of pregnancy and childbirth was worth it. I felt fulfilled, accomplished, and happy. I’m doing okay now with the help of God and my family.

Ranti, 23 

I found out that I was pregnant in my final year at university while I was waiting for my final results. My family members do not live in the country. I lived with an aunt, at the time. I called my baby daddy who was in London and his response was nowhere near what I expected because I felt he loved me and would offer some form of assurance. He was silent for over two weeks, so I had to find a way to tell my family. They didn’t take it lightly. My aunty made me move to the staff quarters for a week because she was angry and didn’t want to see me. She felt she had failed my parents. It was dark. There were times I felt like killing myself because everyone treated me like I was carrying a disease. I remember crying to God to end my life.

It was early on Saturday morning when my Aunt entered the staff quarters to tell me there was a family meeting. I got washed up and followed her into the main house. I met my baby daddy who was there with his family to request to marry me. I didn’t want to get married. I didn’t think that was the necessary thing to do. I didn’t think it was time to get married. Following those incidents, my parents requested that I moved to London to have the baby and prepare for the wedding. I kept telling myself that I didn’t want it. The whole process of being pregnant was hard because I always thought I was going to be doing it with a partner. My mom was particularly excited because she hadn’t had the time to take care of me while growing up and she thought that was a chance to do right by me. To an extent, I think she blames herself for my pregnancy and all that I had to put through. The pregnancy was so hard that at some point I bled all through the night thinking I was going to lose the baby. I got to the hospital and it was fine. The whole experience is not something I want to go through again with or without a husband.

Ugochi, 28

After I found out I was pregnant, things were okay. I didn’t have any side effects or anything, except for some extreme waist pain. Walking was very hard for me because it was always painful. Sitting was painful. I was always tired and dizzy every time. Fast forward to my third trimester, I woke up one day to a huge tummy, swollen nose, and swollen feet. I started experiencing annoying symptoms. I started throwing up. I stopped sleeping and I was always having weird headaches. Paracetamol couldn’t help. I would always complain to my doctors and they would say they couldn’t give strong medications because what I’m going through are normal symptoms of pregnancy. It was such a terrible experience for me. I was in hell. I would always cry myself to sleep as I couldn’t sleep normally. It got to a point where I couldn’t read for more than 10mins which was irritating.

Two weeks before I gave birth I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. I was placed on hypertensive drugs for a week but my blood pressure kept rising. At 38 weeks, I had an emergency caesarean section. After the surgery, I was in bed for a full day without eating or drinking anything. The next day I was asked to practice walking, I could feel my intestines move as I moved. I told the doctor what was happening and he said it was normal. Breastfeeding made the pain around my tummy triple.

When I got home, I tried to poop and the pain tripled again until I was done pooping. After healing, I knew I wasn’t myself. I couldn’t walk fast. I was very slow. I had postpartum depression and it went on for months. My baby is 1 year and 5 months old, and I’m about to start getting therapy. Handling child care alone added to my depression but it has gotten better because I have come to terms with it. I have started working out recently to get fit and take my mind off a lot of things.

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