Written by Dr Weyinmi Erikowa
I am a very lazy person in terms of hard work, my mother can testify to that. However, what baffles her is my ability to act like a fierce force when emergencies happen. It was a cool evening and I was just listening to the radio, I don’t like the television for no justifiable reason. The radio presenter was discussing the dangers of teenage pregnancy in our region. I loved the topic, as I get to see young unmarried girls with ‘big belle’ every day.
As I was shaking my leg to the rhythm of the music as the show went on break, I was interrupted by one of my neighbours, she was approaching me and shouting, “Oga please help us oh. My daughter has gone into labour oh. Please, we beg you, help us get to the hospital”. Thankfully, I was dressed up in my khaki shorts and white shirt, I quickly wore my sandals, grabbed my wallet and car keys.
I arrived at the house of my neighbour and saw her 16 years old daughter sitting on the fall, holding her waist and crying out in pains. I have seen pregnant women and I still cannot comprehend their labour pains. So we helped her into the car and zoomed off to the hospital. While I drove, I kept my mind on how she is quite young to give birth to a child and the health impacts. Yes, I forgot to tell you, I am good at analysing situations; it creates solutions to the problems.
So in my curious state of mind, as we approached the hospital, I asked the mother of the pregnant girl, “Mama, your pikin attend antenatal?” She gave a negative response with the reason that her daughter was embarrassed about the whole thing and felt ashamed after attending a session once. “Ok! Ok! Mama, I see!” In my head, I was swearing and cursing but I don’t know who to blame- the mother, the girl or the society.
So we arrived at the hospital, we told the nurse on duty a young girl is in labour. She appeared shocked as she saw the young girl brought in. She quickly asked for antenatal records and any other relevant documents relating to the expectant mother. I quickly explained to her that, there was none. She just changed from a sweet nurse to angry mother; she was furious, she sighed and blamed us and made comments towards the young girl. It is common for us in our area to be judgemental so I didn’t bother confronting her.
No antenatal records meant we had to wait longer for us to be attended to. We have to follow ‘due process.’ I made sure we followed the process in patience and hoped as the hospital is a crazy place to be in and you have to be in good terms with the staff, else… So after an hour of registration and numerous forms signing and what I took to be a brief antenatal or pre-delivery check-up. The midwife walked up to us and asked who’s taking responsibility for the girl. I responded that I was here to support the elderly woman. We asked if there’s anything we needed to do regarding the safe delivery of the girl and her baby. The midwife told us to start praying as her pelvis is still immature to deliver a baby. “Blood of Jesus!” exclaimed the mother of the pregnant girl! ”Mama! Mama! Please calm down! We need to get more explanation on the matter” I pacified her. The old woman just kept crying in the usual Nigerian way.
So while the wailing about the situation continued, I quickly called a few of my friends. Yes, I have a speed dial for emergencies. While I waited for my calls to yield some ‘fruits’, I went to meet the doctor quietly so the old woman won’t continue crying. “Madam Docki! Good evening Ma! I am sorry to bother you oh. Please, I just want to have a few clarification about the situation of the young girl who is said to have an immature pelvis. Please, Ma, try to break it down in simpler terms, so my Mama can understand”. She looked at me and said “oya sit down let us talk. First of all, I am not too happy with the current situation. She is too young to give birth, her pelvis is too small as she hasn’t developed fully as a woman and lastly, we are to perform a Caesarean Section. How did she end up pregnant sef? Didn’t she receive home training? (She muttered to herself). Is that clear enough?” “Yes, Doctor! Thank you very much! Oh, Dr, how much are we talking about here? You know for the C-Section?” I questioned “Oh that’s not a lot of money, it’s just 300,000 Naira”, replied the Doctor.
“300K for wetin na?” I lamented. All the same, I thanked her and headed out. I smiled as I already sourced for funds with the calls I made. My friends had arrived and all I did was explain the situation and collected the money. And I tried to bind and cast the judgemental spirit that was forcing itself upon them to make awful comments. I thanked them because we don’t get such Father Christmas gifts as quickly as this.
So I went to meet the nurse on duty and told her we are ready for the procedure as we have the money. She was just grumbling about how this money wants to be wasted on a silly girl who didn’t know her left from her right. Oh well, I don’t blame anyone for making the angry comments towards the teenage girl. I believe everyone is accountable for his or her actions; my only exception will be a rape case in this situation. So I pleaded with the nurse, that we get things done as quickly as possible, in my mind, I was preparing the questions I had for the girl and her mother after this whole wahala subsides. Come to think of it! We had spent 6 hours at the hospital already. Oh yes! You are curious about how I have that kind of time for people? Well…..I am a Nigerian with a twist. My life revolves around people and finding solutions to problems.
After two hours of waiting, the young girl was wheeled into the theatre, while I listened to the numerous prayer requests family and friends were releasing into the atmosphere. Gosh! I can be very sarcastic especially when I am on my worst behaviour. When the sex was sweet and things were rosy, they weren’t thinking of the future prayers of today. I reclined on the long chair at the edge of a window and gave in to my thoughts. Where is the young man that is responsible for this pregnancy? How could they have sex without protection? Who will be responsible for the newborn? What happens to the girl’s education? Are we giving enough sex education to our young ones? How did we get to this situation, were our eyes blindfolded?
I felt a hand touch me, I quickly realised I was still at the hospital. The doctor was still dressed in her green scrubs but without her gloves or mask. “Please, we need your help if you can. It is a matter of life and death. The young girl is bleeding severely and we are trying our best to stop further bleeding. She has lost a lot of blood and would need a blood transfusion as quickly as possible” she said. “Ok doctor”, I replied. “Doctor, please what about the baby?” “Oh! She had a baby girl but she’s under supervision for now, as we are trying to keep the mother alive” the doctor answered hurriedly.
I sighed! “Lord let this not be a bad day for us, I pray”. I quickly went to the nursing station and asked for the location of the Blood Bank. One of the nurses gave me the direction to the Bank, however as I moved away from their station, they called me back. ‘’Oga, you sure say you want make that girl survive?’’ They asked me. I looked at them like strange beings, wondering why they asked such question. As if they read my thoughts, they told me to go and try my ‘’luck’’. I was furious about their attitude towards critical issues, but I don’t blame them.
So I found the Blood Bank, I asked for blood as the young girl has type O, the attendant told me, there was no blood available. “Oga sir, no vex oh! Blood no dey. I fit direct you go one place inside town” the attendant replied. I played cool for the few minutes and asked if I could donate blood for the girl as I was a type O. “Oga, me I no fit do all that procedure for now. My chief no dey duty now, you know say night duty get as e be” he replied me. In my mind, I felt like using koboko to flog the young man. Arrant nonsense!
“Okay, no vex as you no sabi anything now. Where I fit buy blood now now?” I asked him. He gave me an address, which was not too far from the hospital. I drove down there and asked for blood. It took an hour to get type O blood after so many explanations and protocols. I headed to the hospital, gave one of the nurses the blood and she replied,” hope this blood no get kwanta oh?” The atmosphere was tensed, the old woman was sobbing quietly and it felt like death hovered around us. We kept our prayers to ourselves as we lacked the strength to pray openly, God saw our hearts, and I guess the angels wept with us as well.
The dangers that lie with teenage pregnancy was all I thought about as we waited for news. Who sent this girl to have sex at a tender age? After all, this suffer, she will enter the streets again to continue her bad behaviour? What will be the fate of the baby girl? Another life without supervision or a lesson will be learnt?
I heard the Mama call my name, “Doctor said we should come inside”. I followed her down the hall and got to the ward the young girl was admitted in. She was awake but too weak to say anything. Mama beamed with joy. I was welcomed back to reality with a fantastic Itsekiri song….trust me, the old lady was dancing like there’s no tomorrow. I guess she forgot all her worries for the time being. I beamed with joy but my mind was filled with questions, no one seems to know the answers.
As I stared at the little baby, I asked within me, “will your mother learn her lessons and care to share her experience?” Teenage pregnancy doesn’t pay. The pathway to motherhood is not for the unprepared.
* * * * * *
‘Palava you dey find’ sang Fela!
I enjoy listening to Fela’s songs because they are meaningful. While I was seriously nodding to the tunes from my phone, someone called my name. I turned to see who that amazing person could be. Jisos e! It was the child and her baby, the teenage girl who gave birth a few months ago. “Doh oh” I greeted her while I looked at her carefully. She had tired eyes, a crying baby and dirty clothes on her.
How are you doing? I asked her. She adjusted her wrapper and said she was fine but not too well. “I am just managing myself”, she replied. “I haven’t eaten well in the last three days. Since I cannot go to school, and everyone in my house is always busy; I am helping my mother sell at the market. It is not easy at all. The baby is always crying and I have to breastfeed her all the time. My mother keeps yelling at me. I get frustrated with the whole thing; sometimes I just sit down and start crying. Please, I am begging you; can you help me with some food or money to buy some food for myself?” She asked. “Eyah! Kpele! Doh!” I sympathised with her. “You see my young friend, what is happening to you now is called life. You hear me so? Life happens when you don’t prepare for it. I have some food to give you, but it is not only the food to eat I have got. You need to eat the food of knowledge and understanding, so you can have value for yourself and what pertains to your life.”
I beckoned her to come sit with me as the baby had stopped crying. I went inside the house and brought a bowl of rice, stew and fried plantain; I served her and she ate voraciously like a very hungry lioness. I shook my head in sorrow, “poor child, how did you get yourself into this mess?” I thought to myself. After she ate, I served her a chilled Zobo Drink. As she drank with great delight, I started with the food of questions and answers. Yes na! Nothing is for free, even animals know that. “Where is the father of this child?” She almost fell off her chair. “Why are you scared? Where is the father of the child?” I probed. She bowed her head as she cuddled her baby. “He is at home inside this our village. He is the son of well-known petty trader”. She replied. “Eh-en! You mean he is as young as you are and you decided to play love play?” (My sarcastic behaviour was playing out) I was already getting somewhat angry. “Hmm! He said he loved me and that nothing would happen to me” she quickly added as she saw the look on my face. “My friends were doing it with their boyfriends; I didn’t want to be left out; so I did it out of love and to avoid my friends from laughing at me”. “Chai! You say?” I exclaimed in a soft voice so I don’t scare her. “My dear, who is laughing at you now? Where is the love now? Why would you think your boyfriend loved you so much? And why did you trust your friends? Did you have a class on sex education? Or at least your mother telling you about the dangers of early sex and pregnancy or STDs if you are not married?”
She started crying softly. “Sex was taught during our Biology class, we joked about it. We really didn’t know about the consequences of pre-marital sex. My parents are more concerned about their own activities and they felt I was just a ‘small girl’. I didn’t let anyone at home know I had a boyfriend. He gave me gifts and I hid them or used them only when I was in school. Besides he said, nothing will happen even if he didn’t wear a condom.” “You are so naïve. So how did you know you were pregnant?” I asked her. She gave out a soft laugh, “I didn’t. It was my mother who detected I was pregnant. I wasn’t conscious about my menstrual cycle, so didn’t care too much when I missed my period” “Interesting! What about the Biology class on Menstruation?” I queried. “Oh! That was one difficult class I didn’t understand and there was no one to explain to me properly. So my mother was just shouting ‘you are pregnant, you this girl! You have killed me!’I ran to my friends, but they kept laughing and advised I do an abortion. I was too scared, so I went to meet my boyfriend. He yelled at me and almost had me beaten up. He said he wasn’t responsible for the pregnancy and I should never visit his house again. I felt like dying but I had to summon the courage to live with my actions.” “How does it feel to be a teenage mother?” I asked her “It is not a thing to take pride in. It is very difficult to start life again except you have people to encourage you and it is not advisable to have a baby as a teenage girl. Now I have learnt my lesson, I wish others will learn from me.” She answered soberly. “Now you have eaten the food of the elders,” I said smiling at her.
In Nigeria, teenage pregnancy was being predicted to soar over 60 million by 2015 according to National Population Commission (NPC). One out of ten teenage girls in the south is likely to get pregnant. Related to this are pregnancy complications, unsafe abortion, poor antenatal care and curtailment of education attainment. We all have roles to play, every sister, brother, mother, aunty, uncle, father, mother can educate a child. Do your part, begin by sharing this story.
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