Some day before I leave here, I’ll be attending a baby shower of a friend and former student of this institution. A baby shower is an event where people gather to celebrate the life of a baby that has not yet been born. Alright. Forget all that naming ceremonies we do in Nigeria eight days after the child is born. Here, the baby shower takes place before the child is born. Isn’t it amazing? The said baby by the time of the shower would have already gotten a name. All that will be left is delivery.
There are many reasons pregnant women in Nigeria and much of Africa don’t celebrate their babies before they are born, and much of them are based on superstition. The most concrete of reasons will have to do with the maternal and infant mortality. Because of lack of adequate healthcare for much of the poor pregnant women in the villages who also lack access to education, good food and good shelter, many children are lost at childbirth, or to debilitating diseases afterwards. In cities, due to lack of good state or private hospitals, this happens to middle class people in the cities as well, except they are rich enough to go abroad to have their babies. I guess in cases like that, it would be futile to celebrate life when even its beginning is in doubt. The rest is cultural. From history, and from a tradition that probably predates the migration of Yoruba people to the west of the Niger river from wherever the came from initially, children are celebrated at birth, and named on the eighth day. End of story.
Among many other differences in pregnancy attitudes in America and Nigeria is disclosure. Unlike what I am more familiar with, here, people would tell you that they are pregnant even before the protrusion shows itself. For a reason perhaps close to superstition as well, you won’t find African women doing that. And you can’t ask them why. So,as it has happened to me several time while I was growing up, I would find myself unable to discuss the existence of someone’s pregnancy – even when it stared me in the face – until they gave birth. I wonder how much of that has changed with modernization.
With access to stable electricity, much of the problems (especially in Nigeria’s healthcare) would be solved. Sometimes, it is that simple. Hospitals will be able to offer better healthcare services if there is stable power. That is one of the biggest challenges before the Acting President Goodluck Jonathan who is now in the United States on a state visit to meet with the US President. He has about a year to set in motion plans to put the nation back on the track of development. A huge but worthwile task. There is a longer article about maternal mortality here by Eyinade Adedotun.
Check out other solutions for improving maternal health or to participate in the global call to solutions, please visit Healthy Mothers, Strong World: The Next Generation of Ideas for Maternal Health. www.changemakers.com/maternalhealth