It had been a gradual process, a gradual conditioning of Taiwo’s mind over a long period of time; from her childhood until she left home to get married. She constantly heard her mom lamenting having kids. Her Mom had an assortment of disdaining names to call her kids, as the mood suits her.
Names like, “little blood suckers”, “nemesis” were some that she regularly called them. Taiwo’s mom grabbed every opportunity that enabled her escape the company of her kids. She often left them with neighbours to go do and her own thing and as time went on, Taiwo being the oldest was left in charge of her younger ones.
It was plain for all to see that for Taiwo’s mom, she would have preferred not to have kids or married for that matter. She just wanted to be alone and free of all encumbrances to pursue her own dream. Her disdain for her kids were so bad, that sometimes, neighbours literally put themselves between her and her children, when she goes on a discipline spree.
At a time, everyone on the street knew her behaviour towards her kids and actually concluded she was not mentally stable. As in, no normal mom would behave like that towards her own children. So, everyone kept an eye out for her children.
The children survived that childhood; they survived the eventual separation of their parents. They survived living alone with their mom, who now had the added bitterness of her man dumping her for another woman to deal with. Forget that she did not want that man in the first place.
Taiwo’s younger brother was the first to leave the house; he simply went to school and never returned to the house. For the five years, he was in school, he never stepped a foot into his mother’s house. He only came in when he had graduated and then he was off for his National youth service in the Middle belt. He served there, got an employment offer and decided to stay there.
His younger sister, Grace, saw that as a perfect escape route from the house and she grabbed it with both hands. She said she was going to visit her brother, she left and never returned. Four years later, they got calls that she had given birth but mom need not come for “Omugwu.”
They pacified her with the news that they were coming to Lagos, to perform the marital rites and visit with the new grandmother. Three months after Grace gave birth; her new family came to Lagos to perform the marriage rites and left within a week. So grandma only got to visit her new grandson for only a week and her daughter made it clear, a visit from her wasn’t welcome. That only made her more bitter.
Meanwhile, Taiwo, who had lost her twin at childbirth had only just got married, finally escaping the claws of her bitter mom. The seeds her mother had been planting in her life, from childhood, about men, about being a mother, about children had germinated and grew to the extent, she was repulsed by men and the mere thought of being a mom made her gag.
She had often said, she wasn’t cut out to be a mother, thus, she didn’t even bother with men issues. Here was a pretty young lady, educated, working, yet chasing all men away from her. However, one of the toasters refused to be chased away. She tried all her scare tactics, he would leave to give her some breathing space but Kenny always came back. He too was a twin, who had lost his brother as a baby. So perfect complement of each other was his starting selling point, but Taiwo wasn’t buying any of it. His insistence paid off. She fell in love with him hard, even though the subject matter of having kids was still a sore point.
They had been married for close to six months, when her sister, Grace came with her family for her marriage rites, bringing her nephew along.
Taiwo had been surprised at the change in her baby sister, the bond between her and her baby, how the doting dad was all protective and what-not around them. When they were alone, she had asked her sister, about the pregnancy and the child birth, which had horrified her. But her baby sister was quick to calm her and tell her, a baby was worth all the pain and twinges, showing off her son.
That was when Taiwo got to the meat of the matter for her. “Didn’t what mom did and said to us, affect you at all.”
It was a sobering moment for Grace; remembering her childhood and her mom’s treatment but she looked at her big sister and told her, “I know what mom did was wrong, that was why I ran to our brother’s place but it is not enough to make me not want to be a mommy. Even though, this pregnancy was not planned, this baby was made out of love and his coming has brought so much joy to me and my husband.”
Just take a look at mommy too, she has changed, she wants to hold that boy all the time, spoiling him. She has become softer, less bitter. What happened was in the past; don’t let it hold you back.”
Those were deep words from her sister but she soon forgot. Several years’ worth of conditioning can hardly be swept away in an afternoon. Her sister left reminding her not to allow their childhood stops her from living her life as she ought to.
Guess who reminded her? Her mother of all people! The same woman, who had referred to children as blood suckers, dream-killers at times, was now asking her, when she will start giving her grandchildren.
The first time, her mom had said it, it was in the presence of Kenny. Taiwo had looked at her mom and even touched her neck, “Mom, are you okay? Did Grace’s baby do something to you, because I don’t understand this talk?”
She had left without getting a response, except a quiet, “Sha do quick and have babies.” Taiwo and Kenny discussed her mom’s new stand on baby matters and her husband suggested they start trying. The look she gave him dried up any more arguments; he wanted to give on the matter.
Unlike her husband, Taiwo’s mom took every opportunity to tell her, she should already be pregnant or what was she waiting for? She should be trying for her second baby sef. She reminded her that Grace’s place was too far for her to go and see her grandson, otherwise she would have gone. But in the meantime, she needed Taiwo to give her at least one baby to care for now.
All these arguments were strange on the lips of the woman, she knew. Those were the words, which would have been expected of a loving mother, not the type of momma she was.
Taiwo wondered, if it was the fact that she was now a grandmother or the connection, she saw in her sister and her new baby was what changed her mind. She just wonders.
And slowly but surely, Taiwo’s maternal instinct, which hadn’t even had a chance to grow was returning. She is becoming curious about what it feels like to be pregnant, what a normal mom and children relationship is and that is where my battalion (kids) and I come in. I just hope, we won’t scare her with our boisterous ways at times.
Taiwo is an old, old acquaintance of mine, whom I’m hoping will soon give free reins to her maternal instincts, enough for her to stop her long term practice of popping pills and actively start trying for babies.
Not because her mom is pestering her, not because, her husband would like to have a baby, not because her baby sister has a baby, but for her own sake. So, down the line, she would not look back and wished she had at least attempted TTC.
Taiwo’s childhood is a lesson in what not to say and do in the presence of a child, because as they say, “a preserved childhood is better than a repaired adulthood.”
Food for thought and loads of baby dust to all TTC moms.
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