Have you ever seen God in the labour room?
For the average African woman, the hallmark of existence is in birthing new lives. Healthy screaming babies. It doesn’t matter what she had to do to attain that feat, and it doesn’t even matter how she feels about it. That’s the rule, and she has to play by it.
Another rule is the docility of the menfolk. Men are wise. Men are all-knowing, all-seeing, and thus must not be questioned. Over the years, certain limitations have been set in place. Unspoken laws. These rules are not put in frames, yet they are thickly enmeshed in the fabrics of our lives.
This list brings together some African women who have had to deal with the African perception of women and how they were able to swim to shore despite the tide being against them.
My Christmas Desire (From Hell Hath no Fury) by Chidiogo Lillian Ezejule
“Everyone says it’s irresponsible for me to marry again. I’ve been told I have children of both sexes and should focus on caring for them now.”
“And what about you; your needs?”
“You’re the first person asking me that”.
When Chinelo got widowed at 29, she faced the a-woman-lives-for-her-children-first line repeatedly. Like a dutiful mother, she made her children her priority and repressed her feelings. but how long can a woman who had enjoyed unhindered companionship for seven years suddenly cope with the vacuum she found herself in?
When Femi breezed in, her self-imposed vacuum received a strong tug, and she found herself in the dilemma many women have been in, “Your life or your kids?”
Chinelo made her choice and amazingly reassures us that we can enjoy both sides of the coin. A woman can enjoy motherhood and can as well enjoy being a man’s love subject.
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
“Have you ever seen God in a labour room giving birth to a child? Tell Me, Yejide, have you ever seen God in the labour ward? Women manufacture children, and if you can’t, you are just a man. Nobody should call you a woman.”
Moomi’s words reverberate through generations and carry the voice and concerns of a million other women who believe a woman’s primary purpose is childbearing. Once she’s unable to achieve this, she becomes a glorified failure, a signboard to exemplify to others what failure looks like, and the perfect embodiment of disappointment. It was this identification that Yejide feared, and that fear raised some doubts in her heart, but sometimes, faith is easier than doubts.
Akin protected Yejide from the anomaly of being alone. He was like the cloak that prevented the cold rainwater of the world from seeping into her skin. He was her lover, friend, and children’s father. In short, Akin Ajayi was everything to Yejide Makinde.
Unfortunately, the biggest lies are the ones we often tell ourselves.
Getting married as an inexperienced virgin made Yejide susceptible to her husband’s deceit. She believed him when he said each manhood was different, some got hard, and some never did. With the joy of a new wife who has never got intimacy elsewhere, she believed him hook, line and sinker. She never thought it weird that the doctors never discussed his results in her presence, and not once did she question his incessant travelling routine.
In the typical narrative, love and respect for your husband also connote silence and looking the other way from his flaws and obvious foolishness. Caught in the middle of grief, pain, and deceit, Yejide couldn’t find enough grit to deal with the loss of another seed.
Having discovered his betrayal, she did the one thing a woman wasn’t supposed to do – tune off from her husband. Long before she boarded the bus to Jos with Iya Bolu, her mind had disconnected from Ibadan, and Rotimi’s crisis just came as a good alibi. She refused to stay and be besieged with the never-ending dos and don’ts, choosing instead to forge a new path and come face the past when she was ready.
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
As a young girl growing up in Ho, Afi Tekple always had an eye for the life her father’s death cost her. Those lofty dreams seemed so far away until Elikem Ganyo came on board with the wedding. An abstentia wedding.
Initially, Afi didn’t know how to cope with a man who was too busy to attend his wedding. A man who couldn’t visit his new wife for months. A man who doesn’t want his wife to cook for him. A man who doesn’t want his wife’s hand itching from slicing kontomire. A man who can only be available when she allows. A sweet, complicated love affair.
The arrangement with Aunty seemed the best until Afi decided to make decisions for herself, and all hell was let loose. Aunty couldn’t fathom how a lady meant to pump the Ganyos babies suddenly developed the liver to think and make orders that were to be enforced. But against all bullying, threats, and ill-treatment, Afi stood her ground and won a victory. A minute yet significant one. One that set the pace for what was to come in the following days.
Unlike other girls, Afi wouldn’t share. It’s either she had Fo Eli to herself or let him go. Despite the brisk downturn slide the decision cost her, it reinforced that she was enough and therefore did not need the Ganyos to validate her.
Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta
Adah had always been a determined child. One who wouldn’t be bothered by what society thinks but rather a child who knows what she wants and gets it, not minding the cost even when it was Ma drinking up a full bowl of soaked garri, and she knew she would bear the brunt of the punishment later.
Getting married to Francis would have killed the enterprising spirit in any woman, but Ada wasn’t any woman. She was one determined soul. She braced herself and ensured she didn’t settle for the lower class tag. She wanted the best for herself and her kids. She deserved the best. She desired the best and strived to achieve it.
Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko
Secrets are heavy scents in African homes. Loads and loads of secrets are passed down from generation to generation, and the women often sag under the weights they’ve been made to bear.
For Morayo Ajayi and Morenike Balogun, the secrets thrust down on them by trusted persons did not hinder them from reaching inward and accessing the greatness that lies within. They let go of the shame and hurt while striving to be the best versions of themselves.