A Long Winding Journey in Single Motherhood

 

I was 18 years old when I finished secondary school, that was in 2009. At that time, I had guys toasting me but I was not in a relationship. One evening in 2010, I was going home from my mom’s shop when this guy greeted me at the bus stop and tried to have a conversation with me. A cab came along and he joined me in the cab. I alighted at my bus stop, Yemetu, and he did the same too. I asked him if that was his bus stop, he said no. He said he was going to his father’s house at Omi-Adio but that he had taken the ride along with me because he wanted interact with me. We exchanged numbers and went our separate ways.

From then on, he’d call me and we would talk. He was jovial and friendly; I was young and carried away by his charm. Gradually, we became so close. It was in conversations that I found out that he was a student at the Polytechnic Ibadan, Eruwa campus. He would come from Eruwa just to see me and every time he traveled down, we would meet and we’d talk. At that time, I was not even thinking about having a relationship – I was focused on getting admission into a tertiary institution.

He was so consistent with the attention he showered on me and, at some point, it crossed my mind that maybe he was a ‘smooth operator’ who wanted to just wanted to have fun. Within the place I grew up, relationship was linked with sex; you once you had a boyfriend, sex was almost inevitable. I had made up my mind that whomever deflowered me was the person I’d marry. Neither of us was ready to marry yet – he was in school and I was still trying to get into a tertiary school, still, when he asked me to be his girlfriend, I agreed.

I figured out that I could roll with the punches and just have my own fun too. It was for this reason that I didn’t care to know too deeply about him; all I knew was his school and that his father lived at Omi. I also knew that his father had died and, according to him, his mother lived in Saki. This relationship was growing and it was beautiful. The attention he showered on me at the time never wavered and I got deep in love, the way a 19-year-old girl would; believing that this guy would be the man whom I’d spend the rest of my life with. In the sixth month of the relationship, we had sex.

After we had had sex, he apologized to me and said he was shocked that I was a virgin. He had a friend who lived not far from my area and, according to him, it was this friend who had told him the girls from Yemetu were very loose, randy girls. He said he was taken aback that I was a virgin and that he was sorry to deflower me. The deed had been done, there was no need holding a grudge and there was no point in stopping the fun. It may have been the first time we had sex, but it wasn’t the last time we did.

I had a friend who lived in my area – we attended the same secondary school and we were pretty close. She was a street girl and she was a flirt. She knew my boyfriend, they even used to talk over the phone and all that. Whenever a guy asked me out and I told this friend, she’d tell me to not rebuff them. “Collect their moneys, let them take us out and spend on us; after all, it was them who wanted to spend money,” that was what she used to say. I, in turn, had hooked her up with one of the boys of the popular singer called Merenge. We were teenagers just living life as we knew it to be lived at the time.

At some point, my friend’s sister was going to get married, I was listed as one of the confetti girls. I had paid N4000 for the dress as confetti girl with the promise that I’d get it on the day of the wedding or the eve. At the time, N4000 was a whole lot of money and I had paid it only because of the level of closeness between myself and my friend – the bride’s sister.

On the eve of the wedding, I lost one of my elder sisters during childbirth so I couldn’t get my dress and I didn’t make it to the wedding. A month after the wedding, I asked my friend for the dress I had paid for which I hadn’t received and then she began to tell lies upon lies. I’d just lost my sister, and then the person whom I considered a confidant wanted to use our friendship to rob me. I wasn’t going to take that…”

The issue of the dress became a full-blown issue and ended with a lot of name-calling and curses from each of us. I called her a flirt and abused her publicly as being randy. In a stroke of revenge, she called my guy and told him about how guys used to ask me out and carry me to different places. She conjured up so many lies; mentioning people that I never even had any associations with, she cooked up stories and told the guy. He didn’t tell me anything.

From my SS1 I had begun to learn how to run a drug store and so by the time I finished secondary school, I had done my freedom and I had begun to make some money from selling medications to people. I knew my parents could not afford to sponsor my education at the time so the money I made from drug sales was what I had intended to pull together, along with whatever my parents gave me, to take sort myself out. It was from the money that I had pooled together that I used to procure and enroll for the 2011 GCE.

Shortly after I completed the GCE, I took ill. I had never been so ill like that before. I had used antimalarials and still the sickness wouldn’t go away. I decided to take a pregnancy test and I found out I was pregnant. I was confused, I knew I was in trouble. My folks were worried that my illness was protracting – it never crossed anyone’s mind that I may be pregnant.

While everyone else was worried, I informed my boyfriend that I was pregnant and he was just very dismissive about it. It was then that he made reference to everything that my bestie had told him and he said that I should go give the pregnancy to any of the other guys. I knew from then that he was never going to be there for me or help in any way – like we always say, I knew I was on my own. I came up with a plan – I was going to abort the pregnancy because I wasn’t even ready to raise a child all by myself at all.

Immediately, I contacted a friend who was a nurse, she knew where I could have the pregnancy removed and she took me there. I was asked to pay N6,500 and I did. The woman who was to do it was a staff in UCH, she checked out my private part and said it was too small and that she couldn’t do it that night. She told me to return the next day. My nurse friend and I went there and she told her girls who worked with her to tell me that the cost had increased to N10,000. I had no where to raise N3500 and so I tried to negotiate with the girls. While we were there, I spotted an old classmate and so I began to dodge her. I told the girls I wasn’t interested anymore and I asked for a refund.

My nurse-friend was shocked. I explained to my friend why I had asked for a refund and she just concluded that I wasn’t serious. I had a lady who used to make my hair – we were sort of close so I went to her place and explained the situation to her. She told me to be calm and that it would be sorted out. At that time, I was 4 months pregnant. She took me to this woman who had a room and parlour – it was inside her room that she set up everything and we began the process. She put whatever it was she was using inside of me and I was in inexplicable pain. She kept pushing the instrument into me and the pain was taking over me.

At the point when I began to feel like I was running out of breath, I begged her to stop and remove the apparatus inside of me. She and the lady who had brought me there tried to prevail on me to go through with the process; they explained to me that the process was in its last lap for the evacuation to take place. I insisted that I was going through with the process and they obliged me. My friend who had brought me to the woman was pissed with me and I just had to explain to her how unsettled I was in my spirit and that I couldn’t go through with it.

It was then I came up with a plan. I told her to call my mom and tell her that I was pregnant and that I was about to abort the pregnancy. I also told her to tell my mom that the person doing the abortion has said that the chances of me surviving the abortion was slim and that I was ready to die in the process. The idea was that, I had just lost a sister three months before during childbirth, my mom would take it easy with me if she finds out that I am pregnant that way. She wouldn’t want to lose a second daughter in a space of three months.

My friend did as I had directed and, as anticipated, my mom freaked out. She told her to hand over the phone to me, she chastised me for even thinking of aborting the child. She accused me of wanting to soil her image and people terming her as a witch if she lost two children 3 months apart. She told me to dead the idea of abortion and just come back home.
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I got home and, my mom and I talked. She asked if I knew who was responsible for the pregnancy and I answered in the affirmative. She asked for his phone number and called him; he promised he’d come the following Sunday. He came with his friend in our area.
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In our presence, his friend told him that he knew that I wasn’t one of the randy Yemetu girls and based on conversations he had had with my boyfriend, he was sure that I wasn’t telling a lie against him. Boxed into a corner, he said he’d tell his family members and that they’d reach out so we’d know next steps to take.
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He stepped out to leave and he asked if he could talk to me privately. He repeated all that he had said over the phone about all the people he had heard that had toasted me. He accused me of wanting to ruin his life while I could have put the pregnancy on any of my other toasters. How do you put a pregnancy claim on someone who never slept with you? He left that Sunday evening and I never heard from him. I’d call him and he wouldn’t pick his calls; I’d text and he wouldn’t reply.
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In the 7th month of the pregnancy, he called me. He told me he was at his friend’s place and he begged me to come and meet him there. It was then that he confessed to me that he had impregnated another girl before he met me and that it was his mom that was helping him take care of the other girl. He said he couldn’t go back home and tell his mom that he had impregnated another girl. He assured me that he would play a role in the raising of the child by providing financial support but that I should bear with him and give him so time to work and put together some money. When he was leaving, he gave me N500. He left and never sent a dime for baby materials. Meanwhile, my GCE result had been released and I made my papers but then I had become pregnant, expecting a child.
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 When my father heard about the pregnancy, he was devastated. I had wanted to go to Kwara Polytechnic; it was a perfect choice for me. My father lived in Ilorin and his house wasn’t far from the school at all. I’d planned to live in my father’s house while in school – that way, I’d save myself of the expense of accommodation.
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Hearing that I was pregnant, my dad told me straight away that I couldn’t not come to his place in Ilorin with a baby. I had to choose between my education and my baby. With the financial challenges we were facing at home, where would I find money to raise a child and still go to school?
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I gave birth and informed him, he told me he was in Lagos, still hustling. I told him to come home so that he could decide how to dispose off the placenta. He said he couldn’t come home and that we should do with the placenta whatever we deemed fit. His friend heard that I had given birth, he called to greet me and begged me that he couldn’t show up in person because of the messy state of things. The next day, I was discharged from the hospital and I returned home. On the 7th day, he sent a list of names to me and that was all.
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Every day, for the 8 days that followed, I’d just sit in a corner and cry. I would think about my life, how I had tried my best to be a decent girl and how still I ended up having a child with a guy like my baby-daddy. Even those who are randy end up having children and the men don’t shy from the responsibility; so why did this have to happen to me? My parents found an alfa that did the naming of the child and that was it.
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After the time he sent the list of names, I never heard from him again. I’d call and call, he’d not pick up. I’d text – no replies. Time passed and when the child was 6-month-old, he called. He said he was with his mom and that he had finally explained everything to her. I spoke with his mom, she explained that his younger sibling just had a baby too and that their family was also a struggling family. She made it clear that with all that she had to contend with, there was no way the family could play a role in my daughter’s life at that time.

My mom and my siblings rallied round me. Diapers, baby food, clothes, they tried their best to give as much as they could. I can never thank them enough for all the support they gave – they never let me lack in those early months of raising my daughter.

Despite the support I got, I then had to deal with the shame of being a mother without a marriage. I used to be a very fashionable person and everyone in the area knew that about me – with the pregnancy and eventually coming of the child, I became ashamed of stepping out and moving about in the neighbourhood. That, too, weighed me down.

I gave up my education and returned back to my drug store business. At some point, sales began to tank, business grounded and, in the end, I couldn’t keep the shop. To make money, I turned to hawking. I’d leave my baby with my mom and then I’d go round markets and hawk. Meanwhile I never heard a word from my baby-daddy again since the day I spoke with his mom over the phone.

My daughter clocked a year and we had a birthday for her; he did not show up or even send a message to wish his daughter a happy birthday. All the while I was using a regular phone, not a smartphone. It was after my daughter clocked one year old that I got a smartphone; it was when I opened my Facebook account too. I searched for him and sent a friend request to him. He accepted my requested and messaged me instantly. He was shocked that I could be on Facebook, it was absurd that he thought I’d never have a Facebook account or find him.

He began to beg me again for the silence and for leaving me to bear all of the burden alone. He asked me to send my new number to him and I did with the thought that maybe he had turned a new leaf. Like I said, I had never wanted to be that girl that would have more than one man in her life; so I had really kept hope that he would change and he’d be the only man I’d raise a family with and have kids for.

When my daughter clocked 2, he came over to our house with a friend of his and begged my mom. He explained that when he found out that I was pregnant, he put together a plan to go find work outside the country but that the agent whom he entrusted the process to failed him. My mom isn’t an uptight woman – she is the kind who forgives easily and lets bygones be bygones.

My mom always opined that she had sons too and she tried to imagine that if the roles were reversed would she not want her son to be forgiven too? My father came home one weekend and my baby-daddy came over to see him and apologize to him too. He forgave him, they exchanged numbers and they were in touch. They even encouraged him to come around and see his daughter.

Every Sunday, he would visit and spend time with us. One day, he confessed to me that he lied about his mom living in Saki. He told me his mom had a shop in Bodija and that she sold Amala. He described the shop to me. I decided to go there and true, I met the woman. She was a pretty old woman. I introduced myself to her and immediately she went on her knees and began to beg me. She narrated how rough things had been and how the other girl my baby-daddy had impregnated had to leave their house when she discovered that he had no plan for her or her child.

With all that, I still hoped that maybe the guy and I could get our lives back together. I wanted my daughter to be raised in a proper home setting: daddy, mommy, one big family. I’d take her to the woman to spend some time with her and I was really pushing that things could be mended and everything could end up as beautiful story. Every time I went there, the woman would promise to come to our place and meet my mom. It was all talk – she never came.

When it was time for our daughter to start school, he said he didn’t have any money at the time. I ran around, worked extra hard to raise all the money the little girl would need. Whenever she was on holidays, I’d take her to the woman so she could spend a week with her and get to know her dad’s people. Through all this time, the woman never made any attempt to come visit my parents.

One day, I was in the market and, very close to my mother’s shop, I spotted the guy’s mom. She had come to buy ingredients to use at her canteen. I went up to, greeted her and pointed at my mother’s shop so she decided to come along to greet my mom.

She apologized to my mom, admitted that her son had not done right and she promised that her family would do better. She promised that they would come and we’d have an introduction. In fact, she said since she then knew my mother’s shop, she would always come around and drop something for the grand-daughter. She left and nothing changed.

Whenever it was time to pay school fees and I called my baby-daddy he would come up with an excuse and not chip in a dime. At some point he said he travelled to Port Harcourt for work and years passed, no words from him.

When my baby was 4 years old, I met a guy on Facebook, we became friends and chatted regularly – he was a photographer. I told him I had a daughter and I explained all that had happened to him. I had thought that the news would make him reconsider being friends with me but it didn’t. He said he was glad I didn’t hide anything from him and that I was forthright about my status with him.

He continued chatting with me and eventually he began to visit me at home. I never allowed him inside – anything we had to say, we discussed outside. He did not like that – he always wanted to come inside but I always refused. He began to complain about it; he said he had assured me that he liked me and that he wanted me so why would I not let him in. I told him to let us continue with the friendship and that I needed time before getting into anything romantic again. I told him that if God had destined us to be together then it would happen.

The guy never stopped coming around. He met my daughter and every time it was her birthday, we would go to the studio and he would take pictures of her. The two bonded quickly to the point that my daughter had begun to see him as her dad. My mom sat me down and talked to me. She asked me why I was letting my life be ground to a halt by a guy who was definitely not committed to me or his daughter.

As far as my mom was concerned, she wanted me to focus on my business and continue living my life – move on. I called my baby-daddy (for the umpteenth time) and asked him if he wanted us to be together and what plans he really had for us. He said he still wanted us to be together but that I should just be patient because he was putting things in place. He was never specific about anything – always generic answers that gave no assurances.

When my daughter turned six, my business crashed, I wasn’t making sales anymore. Everything in my life went upside down – no business, no money and I had a daughter to take care of. I discussed with a secondary school mate of mine and told her that I needed a job. She really tried to help me get a job, we wrote applications and submitted but nothing came forth. We went everywhere – supermarkets, filling stations, anywhere we found an opening.

Another friend who worked around Oluyole Estate told me about a filling station around there and encouraged me to apply. I went there to make enquiries and I applied. I was asked if I had worked in a filling station before, I said no. He told me I should come with a guarantor and I’d get the job. I went there with my sister and that was how I got the job. I worked every day, except Sundays and my pay as an attendant was to be N12,500.

I lived at Yemetu, I worked at Oluyole Estate and I’d be paid N12,500. It was during Ramadan and I was working round the clock non-stop. My mom would give me N400 for transport and pocket money to buy food in case I got hungry I couldn’t carry on the fast. When it was time for my first salary, the Manager came up with excuses and handed N6,500 to me. I left after the first month and began to stay at home.

One day, not long after I left the filling station at Oluyole Estate, I got a call from a filling station at Oke Bola that I should come over for an interview. I went there, they asked me questions and, in the end, I got a job there.

At this new filling station things were better. At first, I elected to do half day – the pay was N12,000. When I discovered that I needed more money, I offered to do full day. The salary for full day was N22,000. As a full day staff, I’d leave the house at 6am for work and I wouldn’t return home until 11pm.

My 15 year old nephew had begun to live with us by then; he was the one who would take my daughter to school and bring her back home. The photographer guy continued to make efforts to keep us going but with the crazy work schedule, I had very little time for him.

One day, he requested that I come meet his parents and so I did, his mother liked me and it was all good. Some time passed and he began to ask that he was tired of meeting me outside and that he was ready to meet my mom officially.

At that time too, my family had begun to feel very uncomfortable with the undefined state of things between the guy and me. My mom had begun to worry that I had no one showing interest in me. I told her about the photographer and she seemed to like him. She told me to invite him over, and so one day when he came visiting, I took him inside and he met my mom. They both talked and, my mom approved of him.

When my mom asked him if he was ready to settle down, he told my mom that he had been ready since but that I was the one dragging my feet. From that point onward, there was no point to dragging my feet. We both agreed to get married and we set things in motion.

We picked a date, he came with his people, both families mutually agreed to our union and we became joined. It wasn’t a big celebration thing, no pictures on social media, just a union of two families witnessed by the members of families who needed to be there. To think my baby-daddy used to tell me that no one else could marry me except him.

Things were going well with us, then suddenly, my baby-daddy reached out from the blues. He had seen recent pictures of me on Facebook and, I guess he had seen that I had begun to look well taken care of; then he wanted us to get back together. He said he would take responsibilities for his daughter only if we moved in together and lived as man and woman.

I let him know that it was no longer possible and I blocked him on all platforms he may try to reach me on. Immediately I told my husband too. Through all these, my husband has fully stood by me and I am grateful that he’s been a rock for me.

The horrors of being single mother cannot be completely put to words – is it the days when one is disappointed in oneself or days when one would just curl up and cry as one’s life drifts away from everything one had dreamt to become? I had to drop most of the friends I had from secondary school because I was too ashamed to let them know what had become of me. Many of them had gone on to further their education while I had nowhere further to go.

Every morning when I woke up, I’d begin to worry about how to make enough money to take care of my daughter. It was a vicious cycle of a never-ending fear. If I tried to rest a little, it’d come to my mind that I have a daughter then I’d jump up and continue to hustle again.

There were days when my parents would lambast me with harsh words and, honestly, they are not wrong to do so. They’re also humans, they want to celebrate their child and see them flourish too. It hurts to be disappointed by your own child whom you’ve done your best to raise well.

I am so grateful for my mom – had it not been for my mom, maybe I’d be on the roadside. I am from a polygamous mom and my dad never really lived with us. It was only mom raising us all. And even when I had a child, she still stood by me. My husband wants my daughter to move in and live with us; I am the one dragging my feet.

My daughter is so fond of my mother; she grew up around grandma, you know. Now that my mother is older, she helps grandma around the house, with her drugs and everything. The way I see it, she is my mother’s reward for all the good deeds she’s done for me. Once we can get someone to stay with my mom, then I can bring her over to live with us.

 

 

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