The Joy of Fatherhood

Life is not only a mystery but is full of mysteries. Thrice I have entered the labour ward to see my wife give birth and on those three occasions, I wept. Several times also, I have had course to enter the cancer wards of the King’s College Hospital, London, and on each of those occasions, I’d always come out with tears channelled to my heart. Once I’d told a work colleague, whenever he complains of stress – a major complaint the English working class is noted for – to visit cancer units of any of the UK hospitals and that if his stress does not disappear within seconds of getting into that ward, then there must be more to his stress. What is stress compared to a multitude that is being ravaged by various forms of terminal cancers?

If you are a healthy being please praise your God. Cancer is to the UK what malaria is to the West Africa sub region: a mass killer. Nobody is immune to it. Both the young and old are being killed in their droves virtually on a daily basis by name it: prostrate, colon, pancreas, breast, bowel, lungs, skin, brain, blood, ovarian, liver, cervix, ear, nose, eye and kidney cancer. In fact, all our body is cancer! The disease is not a respecter of age. Popular Jade Goody’s cancer was dictated in August 2008 whilst she was in India. She was about to participate in that country’s version of Britain’s BIG BROTHER when she was recalled by her doctor and asked to immediately take the next available flight back to the UK. She came back, and by February 2009 {six months later}, her cervical cancer has spread to her liver, groin and womb.

On the 22nd of March 2009 at the age of 27 years, she was dead. Just six months before her death, she was well fleshed, looking sexy and robust. At death, she was almost a skeleton destroyed by operations and chemotherapy. It is estimated that cancer kills more than 200,000 people annually in the UK. This is why a healthy person should always thank God. This is again why most of us are flabbergasted by the attitude of an average Nigerian politician in power. What is life really? What is all this ‘ka-kiri-ka-kiri’, Nzogbu-Nzogbu Eyimba Eyi, and Gwodo-Gwodo Nigerian politics? If the death of Abiola and Abacha were not enough to teach our Nigerian politicians that life is indeed vanity, will the death of Gani Fawehinmi and the knowledge of the global spread of cancer make them reflect on the way they govern that country? I don’t know why our political leaders are allergic to very simple amenable changes which are in the interest of our body polity and corporate national existence.

It is against this much hackneyed philosophical background that I will like to discuss the pain of labour and, the concept of fatherhood. Labour pain is just another physical dimension in man’s journey through life. It is every woman’s nightmare. The screams, curses, prayers and mumblings from women in that physical state are enough to make a man go crazy. And this is why the British NHS takes pains to recruit very patient, smiling, approachable, courteous midwives and doctors who are diligent and capable of taking care of such hospital units. The ability of those of them, especially in the King’s College Hospital, London, to reassure pregnant women who are going through such pain is exemplary and commendable. The hospital epitomises excellence in customer service delivery.

I was driving home during one of the nights of “suspended wait” but ‘discovered’ I was absent minded: carried away by both spiritual and worldly thoughts. I simply parked at a safe corner to reflect specifically on labour pain. I’d asked: does it mean science has not yet found solution to this recurring problem; a situation that women dread and which most men hate to witness? Epidural method, which tends to numb that pain, has been found to be good enough but is often not recommended because it could damage a woman’s spinal cord if not carefully applied. Most medical personnel – nurses and doctors – seemed to be reluctant to use it. Does one blame them? UK is a litigation society where every citizen is a stalking potential litigant just waiting in the wings for which agency to sue and claim good money.

I have always known my wife to be a strong and a determined woman. Some times, I called her the “Amazon” or “Iron Lady” but each time in the labour ward, the iron in her has always melted. I could not believe it. So the pain could be that dreadfully bad? I hope science discovers something soonest that would help reduce it. The deafening sound of “push, pu-ushooo, push, pu-ushooo” is scary and the process itself, stressful. Even though the labour ward was reasonably cold and the atmosphere calm, there were beads of perspiration all over my face. It was as if I was the one carrying the pregnancy and going through that very obvious tortuous pain. I give kudos to women. It is not easy at all.

This is where I give praise to God. Though I pray to HIM daily, HE is just a wonderful GOD. Our formation – into intricate and very delicate interwoven cells, veins, arteries, arterioles, muscles, flesh and bones – is all but a profound miracle. Any man who is worthy of the name man has no right to kill a child or even any human being. Left to some of us, infanticide should be visited with instant death penalty. For a woman to carry a child for nine months and then turn around to kill that baby is unbelievable, yet it does happens. Most medics see such women as suffering from “Post Natal Depression.” More dreadful, as is the in-thing in Akwa Ibom state, is to brand a child a witch.

In Nigeria, if there is no term or nobody to explain the term “post natal depression”, the people conclude that the woman is also a witch. However, even though post natal depression is more prevalent in the advanced countries where there is complete lack of community spirit and sincere social interaction, the fact is that our “extended family” principles and practice has effectively nipped in the bud the early manifestation of such dangerous state of mind. In Africa, post natal depression are easily taken care of by the abundant presence of a couple’s extended family members. Their daily presence is a succour and a curative measure for the onset of its symptoms. In Europe, everything {including social relationships}, is a commodity with an affixed price tag.

However, for any human to turn around to kill an innocent child for whatever reason is utterly condemnable. Some may ask: what if that woman was raped? A difficult scenario really but my answer is: the child should not be killed. Genetically, the child is half the woman and half the rapist. It has a right to life. If you don’t want the baby, give it up for adoption, close that unfortunate chapter in your life and move on, but don’t kill that child please. Easier said than done, you may add or is this a pro-life argumentum? Well, that is my take anyway. I value life more than money just as I value any genuine, sincere social relationship more than money too. I once told a friend, philosophically, that I hate money. Why? Well, that is a topic for another day.

In African tradition, a child is God’s gift to a family and must be accepted whether it was born out of wed luck or in it. I find it strange to use very funny but derogatory sounding terminologies like “bastard” or ‘illegitimate child’. To me, their coinage and usage ought to be limited to the English culture where authoritative assertiveness, bequeathed on all British citizens, is the order of the day. Every child has bona fide father and mother. Though, in the way we’d lived, and even in modern times too, it is traditionally wrong for a lady to have children when her “br

ide wealth” has not been paid for by a man; but, that does not mean if the woman per chance becomes pregnant and gives birth, the child should not be absorbed into a family. The child has a home. She is either absorbed into its maternal home or into its paternal home. We do not have bastards. A child born of any woman must have been impregnated by a man and as such, is a child with literally clear cut and established parentage. The child has a father and a mother, period. I do see any illegitimacy in it neither is the child a bastard, meaning: “abnormal, inferior, or of questionable or mixed origin”. The act of conceiving a child by unmarried couples could be termed “illegitimate” but the product of that union ought not to be termed “illegitimate child”. Did the child begged to be born and brought into the world? Why should such terms gain currency in this modern world? A human being is a human being and we should all be seen as such.

Again, it is not every man that has paternal instinct just as it is not every woman that has maternal instinct. Some people just want to give birth but run away from responsibility. I call them simplicity-seekers. A man who flees because his wife or partner has given birth to a baby cannot claim to have paternal instinct. This is notwithstanding the man’s social economic status or material condition. He has got to support his wife, his partner, and most important of all, his child. Financial support is not the all in social relationships. Moral support and the fact that one is always there from cradle to adulthood is equally of beneficial importance.

Flowing from this and in the African tradition, the fact that you are a “biological father” does not automatically confer on you the status of “a social father”. If your demeanour and character as a “biological father” has a question mark, the “other others” and “significant others” will take control immediately. In other words, by the principle of the unity of the extended family practice, a neonate is never left in the cold. The child must be taken care of by either the mother’s or father’s siblings or by any member of that extended family unit. Part of the work of the UK “SOCIAL SERVICES DEPARTMENT” has been effectively shortened and taken care of by the intricate working of our extended family system. Though modernization has impeded and somehow truncated its peaceful but gradual process of evolution, most of its practices are still intact in our countryside and villages.

Notwithstanding the aforesaid, the joy of motherhood, is therefore the joy of fatherhood. Women, especially African women, have this erroneous believe that the inability of children to start coming in a marriage is more of their headache. This is very, very wrong. 101% of men who sincerely go into marriage, especially African marriages, go into it not only for the sake of love and companionship but for the sake of procreation.

Every man will like to reproduce himself for his sake and for the continual evolution and existence of society. Women should always have it at the back of their mind that for a man to genuinely and sincerely choose you out of a whole lot, kneel before you to propose and then later vowed to live the rest of his life with you, is a surmounting obligation which goes with enormous responsibility. That is why I’d always advised men not to easily open their mouth and propose to a woman. Men have got to be psychologically ready and mature to utter such words.

No lady, even though she may decline a particular proposal, takes such utterances lightly. Watch and look directly into a lady’s eyes when a proposal is being made and you will understand what I mean. They do not take it lightly. And when a man later goes back on his words, the woman, who had earlier accepted the proposal is deeply hurt. It becomes even worse when the man has traditionally “knocked” { iku Aka, in Igbo usage} at the homestead of the girl’s family as a prelude towards the eventual consummation of the marriage. By that act, the man may have placed an obstacle on the way of other men who may wish for her hand in marriage. Any man that later comes for her hand may like to inquire why the former traditional “iku Aka” went amiss. Most of us have seen this happened and is still happening. Anyway, this is just an aside.

TO BE CONTINUED.

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