I hate this saying.
The suggestion that so much input is needed to direct the life of a child from infant to infinity.
Nigerians take this very seriously.
But I will cut us some slack by saying that it happens everywhere at varying degrees.
You cannot simply carry a baby from point A to point B without some ‘Well meaning’ mostly woman telling you that you are not doing something right.
The village is aggressive, entitled and rude. They will scream out their views as though it was a law set in stone.
It is a license to accost mostly young mothers… what am I saying? any mother and begin to judge her while sentencing her as a bad mother and proceed to tell stories that will scare her to obey.
I (not so) recently had a baby and I was reminded once again how nosy people can be.
In the blazing hot sun people will stop to scold me for not wearing socks or a winter hat on my baby which by the way was always besieged with heat rashes.
I mean, I would be walking with my baby in a carrier and people will begin to scream at me
“Madam, wear socks for am now.”
There was one funny incidence. I was in Abuja with my then 2 month old baby in his baby carrier. I was carrying two bags. He was well positioned in my carrier. While his head seemed askew, it was well supported.
Suddenly a coaster bus filled with mostly women paused in front of me. ALL THE WOMEN WERE SHOUTING.
Guess what they were saying?
“MADAM, HIS HEAD. HIS HEAD. HIS HEAD.”
If I could count the number of times I have heard his head…
Speaking of a carrier, on that same thing trip, I had another encounter. A not so funny one.
I had arrived straight from the airport to the office I had to be at. I was carrying my baby the most comfortable way I know how to. In a front baby carrier. The second day, I came back to the office to finish what I had come for. A big dark woman with an authoritative booming voice barked at me as I stepped into an office.
“Yes you! I have been wanting to talk to you since yesterday.”
I did not know her so I was puzzled.
“You these women of nowadays. You will put baby inside bag and be allowing the baby’s legs to be swinging up and down in the name of oyinbo life. PUT BABY ON THE BACK. We are Africans.”
I was livid.
How dare you TOTAL STRANGER speak to me so condescendingly?
Do you know I suffered through gestational high blood pressure and hypoglycaemia to finally birth this baby? Do you know he went through quite a bit before he finally came home? Do you know that with minimal help, I have cared for him 24 hours, gazing into his beautiful eyes, cleaning the milk he spits up and changing his nappies? Do you know I have held him in my arms and jogged for hours hoping he would sleep? Do you know that at 2months I was still sleep deprived?
How dare you insinuate that I would endanger my child because I want to imitate white people?
Do you know how much research I did on baby carriers? Do you know I made sure my product was not recalled for safety reasons? Do you know that I put him on my back as well? I just felt safer because I had travelled and was going to do a lot of walking up and down. Facing him would be more comforting whenever he is awake.
But I did not say all these things to the woman.
I was actually looking for a favour from the main occupant of the office.
I icily told her this was my third child and I knew what I was doing.
She was taken aback because I think she assumed I was younger and that it was my first child.
She kept quiet.
I did a lot of reading when I was pregnant with my first child. My mother called me an internet mother.
A friend came to visit when my baby was less than 2weeks old. She looked at my baby closely when he writhed like babies do.
“Na the belly button… there is what you can give him.”
She then tilted him and said
“AH AH! Shoni jaundice?”
When she left. I became worried. I had read that the writhing was gas. And jaundice would show in the whites of his eyes and skin. I told my mother and she did not think anything was wrong. I could barely sleep.
The next morning yours truly was in front of a consultant paediatrician. When the nurses were taking his vitals, I told them about the jaundice and they were so upset.
“Na her pikin go get jaundice. Devil. How you go see pikin dey call plenty plenty things on im head?”
My son was fine.
All it took for this worry was unguarded statements carelessly thrown around.
And then the comments about the baby itself!
Look at his ears. He go black.
He no resemble you or the papa.
He go short.
This one na smallie.
The list is endless.
I once snapped back at someone that said my son was smaller than my other sons.
”Are you the same size as all the people your age?”
Mothers worry about these comments. We all ideally want huge babies. But it doesn’t always pan out that way. We have immunization growth charts. We know about the progress of our babies. Keep kwayet.
Another one saw my baby and shouted in front of my two bigger sons.
“THIS ONE NA OYINBO, E FINE PASS YOUR OTHER BOYS”
People of God, of what use is this statement?
And you create complexes and competition in little kids and simply go on with your life.
I faced her squarely.
“All my kids are very beautiful. You no look well”
I don’t mind noting the various complexions of the children; that is not a crime.
The crime is in making anyone special for no reason other than their complexion which they did not create.
Back to the baby neck police.
My friend was walking with her baby strapped to her back when suddenly someone held her baby’s head and started adjusting it without saying a word. My friend simply started speaking in tongues while casting and binding. She was too shocked to see it as anything but diabolic.
Your baby would be crying and suddenly everyone will start shouting
“GIVE AM BREAST NA. SETTLE AM.”
Uhmm, he just ate. He did not soil his diaper. He is not hot or cold. He sometimes cries for no reason.
Or the breastfeeding police.
“Hope say you no dey give am bottle. Breast is better.”
Yes we agree with you. However not everyone can breastfeed for a varying number of reasons.
Or the ‘you are a working mum lazy mother’ police.
“Which kain work you dey work? You go leave baby small like dis dey go office? Dem no dey buy baby for market.”
Well first of all they do buy babies but that is beside the point. Will you pay my bills? Will you buy diapers? Will you dash me a house?
There is no mother that enjoys leaving a 3month old baby in a crèche. We make these difficult choices because we want what will ultimately be the best for our kids.
If I quit my job and beg you twice in a row, you will delete my number and change routes just to avoid me.
And there are the special people (educated ones too) that are the myth carriers. They will make you rub palm oil on your baby, make you give him agbo, almost cook him with near boiling water, squeeze stuff from his breasts, advise you to overdress him, find some leaves that magically ‘cure’ ella (Dermatitis)… if he whimpers in his dream he is dreaming that you died. If he smiles in his sleep, he is dreaming that his father died. If he spits a lot he will talk early. If you rest your nipple in his mouth he will have a huge lower lip. If he stands on your laps, he will have bow legs… I could write a separate article on these very confusing myths.
A lot hold no water. Some are very dangerous (a baby died of kidney failure because of the agbo that was given on the insistence of his grandmother).
When in doubt research and listen to your doctor (some nurses uphold a lot of myths.)
My favourite facebook page is that of Ask the Paediatricians. They discuss a lot of these myths and assist mothers and fathers through the maze of motherhood.
So dear village.
E don do with all the confusion.
The day you pay my hospital bills and school fees then maybe I will be compelled to listen to you.
Till then, leave my baby’s neck. Yes I can hear him crying in the back seat, I can do nothing till we are at a place I can soothe him. Spare me you long useless stories.
Finally, I was guilty of not minding my business with one new mother recently. I seriously debated it and knew I had some merit. She had overdressed her baby and still covered him with a blanket in a carrier in hot hot lagos. I did so as nicely as possible in the hospital lobby. The staff there educated her and she removed some of the clothing and baby was happier.
Finally finally, I know some truly think they are educating women when they bully them with their own beliefs. If you are hard pressed to point something out. Be apologetic and respectful and polite. If you can’t be then jejely waka pass…