Posts by RantsByGbemi

If Tomorrow doesn’t come…

If tomorrow doesn’t come, I want you to know that I’ve loved you from the moment I knew you existed, maybe even before. I want you to know that seeing and hearing your little heartbeat the first time gave me so much purpose. I know that everyone says this about their children, but you Folarin have made me a different person, in a good way.

If tomorrow doesn’t come, I want you to know that I’ve been eternally grateful for you, through it all. You’ve taught me gratitude – gratitude through every moment, every “spotting”, every needle prick and health scare, every phone call. I’ve learned faith – that God never leaves his children, and that God is ALWAYS good. I’ve learned that faith isn’t just the absence of fear, it’s trust that the One who holds us is strong and infinitely has plans that are better than we could ever conceive on our own.

I want you to know that I believe more and more in miracles because you’re nothing short of one yourself. You’ve shown me how so much can change in such a little time with God in your corner. You’ve taught me how God makes everything work for His glory if we just trust Him.

If tomorrow doesn’t come, I want you to know how much you’ve changed me. I’ve become a more assertive person because of you. I’ve become more resilient, choosing not to give up every time because I realise how my choices can affect you. You’ve also taught me when to step back and breathe, to live to fight another day. You’ve taught me how important it is to take care of myself because it’s so easy to forget to look out for myself now. You’ve taught me balance, how to manage all the many parts that make up the whole because, in the end, that’s what keeps me going. You’ve taught me to be ruthless with protecting my space and energy. You’ve taught me that kindness and being a doormat aren’t the same thing and that while one uplifts, one can kill you. And I’d rather stay alive for you.

You’ve taught me patience- patience through every milestone. You remind me over and over again that life isn’t a sprint but a marathon and as long as we’re on course we will reach our destination with God on our side.

 

It’s been an amazing one year (-1 day) with you, Folarin. And as much as I’m missing out on so much else, I’m grateful that I’m not missing out on being your mother. Your father and I are doing our best trying to raise you to be the best version of yourself that God planned. I want you to know that I’m super proud to be raising a fully-rounded young man, and no matter what I’ll be proud to be your mom all of our days, God willing.

 

I guess all I’m trying to say is thank God. And thank you for being my son. God knew I needed you when He sent you.

Seasons Change (Part II)

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

 

Harmattan is still my favourite season of the year. It’s the season when many great things happen – Christmas, Birthdays, Holidays. It’s also the season when one of the greatest miracles of my life so far has taken place.

 

On Meeting Baby F

 

This is not how the blogs/ Instagram posts show you your first time with your son. In those photos, you’re usually in a hospital gown in bed with your baby on your chest and your husband by your side. You look decent, everyone is smiling and beside themselves with joy.

 

I was beside myself with joy, but nothing prepared me for the apprehension and anxiety that came with having your baby seven weeks earlier than his due date. It turns out that because Baby F’s heart rate was dipping at the time, he had blue asphyxia when he was brought out. The hospital sent him right to NICU and put him on oxygen and monitor his oxygen saturation.

 

So when I did meet my son, I could barely walk from my ward to see him in the NICU. And all I saw was a lot of tubes and lines on a really tiny baby. My heart bled for a second. This wasn’t the plan. Over the next few days, I go through an emotional rollercoaster. First, there’s this bundle of joy and while I have joy, I’m also anxious and I have a million questions. Why did this happen? What caused the distress? Why is his oxygen saturation low? How long will we have to be here?

 

Our Recovery

 

After a while, I realized that I was letting the devil robbing me of the joy of having a whole ass baby. Over the next few days, my partner and I focused on praying and being intentionally deliriously thankful for our newborn. We had family and friends who were praying for us, but most importantly, we knew our God could move mountains. This helped us put things in perspective. I could focus on recovery and my partner could focus on being everything that he was supposed to be. Our doctors weren’t too optimistic at first and I remember that at some point when I was listening to them talk over me, I just broke down and started crying. But I reminded myself that that was going to be the last time I would spend crying. Over the next few days, my response to everyone was the same: “He’s fine. The doctors are just doing their due diligence. Once we are in the clear, we’ll be headed home.”

 

This saved me the stress of having to explain where we were to everyone. It also saved me the stress of having to explain details and allow them to share their apprehension or statistics with us. I also became friends with almost every medical staff but super close friends with our favourite NICU nurse, Nurse Akintoye. For me though, the hardest part was having to leave my baby in the hospital once I was discharged and the anxiety every time I got a call from the NICU. I cried so hard the day I got discharged that it took convincing from my partner to reassure me that I was not a bad mother. We had already paid out of pocket to spend an extra night at the hospital and we concluded it was unrealistic to keep spending all that money for just sleeping and waking up in a room. I had to come from home every morning. On the upside, I was getting all the ambulation the doctors recommended. 

 

Slowly (for us) but surely, Folarin got better and every day his dependence on his oxygen tubes reduced. By his eighth day when we got to the NICU, he was totally off his oxygen tubes and I think I did the clumsiest happy dance and took a ton of photos. God was and has always been especially good to my family. Afterwards, we focused on Phototherapy and then tried to teach him how to nurse or at least feed from a bottle as he had only previously used feeding tubes. A few days later, we got our big fat all clear from our doctors and we took our baby home for the first time. It was a really sweet experience.

 

Aftercare and Settling into Motherhood

 

I still cannot say that I have settled into motherhood. The first few days were filled with an intense fear of doing something wrong, especially as we found that my baby had reflux and a high risk of aspirating. I also learned to be kind to my son. He’s a healthy and mostly happy baby and because I’m confident we’re all giving him the best possible care, I never really care about milestones. If it worries me a bit, I just pray about it and go on showering him with all the love I have to give. It has paid off, and every time I look at Folarin, my heart is filled with gratitude.

 

17th November is World Premature Day (I particularly hate the term premature) so all I will say to other preterm mums is always do what is best for you and your baby. You probably had a healthy pregnancy and did everything by the books so none of this is your fault. One in ten babies born every year is born pre-term, so while this may be unpleasant and possibly dangerous at first, with the right care, your baby will do well. I had a book where I wrote instructions from our doctors and nurses and I followed it to the letter until I could make decisions based on my own discretion. I also followed-up every doctor’s appointment till we got the all-clear.

 

I also realize that I have been incredibly blessed to have been able to hang in there till 33 weeks so my baby was a moderate preterm and I don’t have all the answers for extremely and very preterm mums.

 

I feel extremely blessed that my story has a happy ending and I wish everyone a happy ending too.

 

Love and Light,

 

Gbemisola

Seasons Change (Part I)

For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles.

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017.

 

I’m standing, finally, by the window of my new temporary room. It’s been my room for three days now. I haven’t had the time to think of whether I like the room or not, there’s so much else going on in the world around me. I stare out the window to see that the harmattan haze is here. How did I miss it this time? Harmattan was one of my favourite seasons of the year. I hated the dust, the dryness, the nosebleeds and the cracked lips that came with it. But it smelled like Christmas and that was enough to look forward to.

 

But a lot has gone on in the last few days and maybe it’s only right that we should be in a new season. After all, our family has grown to three people now…

 

Thursday, December 7th

Everything is going well, seemingly. It’s one of the busiest weeks at work but I’m winging it. Maybe a little more than winging it even because I’m getting carried away and starting to think I can pull anything off, including a few late nights. Strangely, I have a conversation with my friend and I’m telling her I’m not worried about having this baby. Every day the baby grows is a plus and I’m just grateful that with each passing day, his odds of survival outside are increasing. Maybe I’ve just learned not to ask for too much from life. As it were, I think I’ve gotten more than I deserve with a husband and a baby on the way. Is life supposed to be this easy? I’m 33 weeks and 2 days gone at this time.

 

Friday, December 8th

 

You know that nonsense people do where they lie that they’re at your doorstep when they are really a mile away? A dispatch rider does it to me this morning. The worst part is I don’t come downstairs with my phone so after standing and waiting a few minutes, I have to go upstairs to get the phone. Then call him and find out he’s still far away. In the next one hour, I have to go up and down the stairs two more times. Then I get upset with someone and end up being breathless. Then I pack my bags in anger and leave work. It’s looking like a long evening at home too. My husband is preparing to head out of town for a wee bit the next morning so I ask my mum to come to stay with me for the weekend. By the time everyone is settled in and ready to crash, it’s about 11 pm. I try to rush a bath and go to sleep.

If you’ve ever watched The Boondocks, you’ll remember the episode where Tom keeps having nightmares that he’s in jail and he dropped the soap. When you’re pregnant, it’s something like that too. Everything that falls to the ground stays there, except you’re lucky enough to find someone to help out with it. Anyways, I go back into the bedroom and complain to my partner that I’ve dropped the soap again and we laugh about it. I’m about to sleep when I suddenly feel like I’m peeing myself. This isn’t exactly a big deal in pregnancy so I just go into the bathroom to change underwear. Now because actions like peeing and flushing are reflex, I don’t think much about it. But when I’m washing my hands, I look back and see a lot of blood on the toilet seat. Whose blood? When did this happen? In the next few minutes, my partner jumps out of bed while we grab our bags (I had packed since I was 27 weeks) and we call my mum and head out. At this time it’s about 11:48 pm. We get to the hospital at about midnight and when I’m really chatty all the while I’m in the consulting room and while I’m doing my Ultrasound. The only thing I recollect is being continuously asked if I suffered any trauma to my abdomen.

 

(Sidebar: About this time, my partner’s YouVersion app sends a Verse of the Day Notification: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2nd Corinthians 4: 17))

 

The next few minutes are a breeze. I get a bed and I’m told they’re keeping me for the night. There are oxygen tubes and IV lines and all of that. And then there’s the nurse with the Doppler every thirty minutes for the rest of the night. My partner and mum have to head back home now since I haven’t been assigned a private ward.

 

Saturday, December 9th. 5:45 am

 

“We think your baby may have gone into distress,” says the fresh-faced morning shift doctor. I don’t know if I’m numb but I’m certain I don’t have much of a reaction besides asking what we can do to fix it. He mumbles something about bringing the baby out but says to wait till the Gynae arrives in the next few hours. When my Gynae arrives, he just reiterates what the previous doctor has said – Baby’s heartbeat is getting weaker and baby may have gone into distress. But there’s also good news. For a 33 weeker, the baby has good weight and his chances seem better on the outside. In any case, they’ll be keeping me till Monday. My husband and I make a quick, albeit reluctant decision to bring the baby out. The next few hours are a blur of emotions and preparations – preparing for surgery, meeting with my anesthesiologist and just praying and struggling to stay calm. There was my mum calling every Pastor she knew on one hand, and me just wondering why I chose to eat noodles the previous night, seeing as I wouldn’t be able to eat real food for a while.

 

3.00pm

 

“You will feel pressure, but you won’t feel pain… Knife on skin at exactly 3:33 pm”

Prior to having my Baby F, I had only ever had a minor lumpectomy. I had local anaesthesia and wasn’t supposed to feel any pain, only pressure, but I did feel pain, a lot of it. But that was in 2010. This is 2017.

I feel a lot of pain this time too. I can’t describe the kind of pain I felt, seeing as I am supposed to be awake during the surgery, but it is enough to make me groan at any tugging. My anesthesiologist asks me to “hang in there” till they bring the baby out so they can fix the anaesthesia and make me more comfortable. Sure enough in a few minutes, baby is out. He doesn’t need announcing though, he comes out screaming his way into the world. “Your baby is so cute”, a nurse whispers as she brings him close to me to show me his face. Afterwards, all I see is a kaleidoscope of colours. It feels like tunnels and tunnels of colours. I can hear everything through it all – the baby’s weight and how they’re getting the staples in. Everything.

When Surgery is finally over and I can speak, all I can ask is “Is my baby okay?” It feels surreal, my own baby. My life is about to change forever.

 

I just have no idea how much in a short time.

On Being Away… Again

Some things never change, like me just going away for so long. Especially without a word, especially after I promised to “be back in one week”.

 

You want to know what else doesn’t change – excuses. I always have perfect excuses. I see you rolling your eyes. Calm down. I swear you’ll understand this time. I promise.

 

You know I mentioned that I was married at the time. Well, I forgot to add that I was pregnant (or maybe I intentionally skipped that part, dunno dunno, the Yoruba girl in me came thraaa). Well, you know what pregnant women do? They sleep. Most of them at least (see I said them and not us?). I’d either be asleep or be so tired that I’d be useless to myself and the rest of humanity, understandably so. I was carrying a whole empire in me, that takes a lot out of work.

 

And you know why I didn’t come up here when I just had a baby? Because a baby is a full-time job, more work than dressing up and showing up to work every day; but I do what I have to do, which is taking care of my baby. That’s that for excuses.

 

Now that I am back, there’s so much to tell you, if you bear with me.

 

Stay a little longer, will you?

Long Time No See

This is the longest I have been away from my blog, and for good reason too. I may have mentioned once or twice that as ridiculous as it is for someone who writes personal stories, I am a very private person. Someone once likened me to a “Touch-Me-Not” flower that first closes off when you try to touch it. Except that there are no guarantees about who I open up to.

A lot happened in the last year that I will share, so this might be a long read. I took time off as I always do, to internalize everything, and really just settle into my new life.

I got married, which is perhaps one of the strangest, yet happiest things I have had to say this year. The last time I posted I was single, and only, as I used to see, exploring a strong lead. But God does work in mysterious ways. I wrote about it on my other blog, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to share here.

As usual, I will try to be a bit vague, but I truly hope you can piece everything together. Prior to my husband, my last real-a-tionship ended in March 2013 (I could tell you the exact date, but it would make me seem petty). About that time, my husband somehow came to be in the same space that I was. However, my emotional space, and personality, and his as well, ensured that we would not be friends until November 2015. The first time he asked me out on a date, I gave him my usual “booked for the month” run-around. There was my cousin’s wedding, and Night of Worship (which by the way you should try to attend) and Black Friday, all in November, so there was no way I was going on a date. Also, the year 2015 had been one of the most physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally challenging years for me. I made terrible decisions, had a nervous breakdown and lost my aunt. I also had to have to chest x-rays, as I just didn’t seem to get better. And so if you finally have peace after trying to hide from the voices in your head under your living room chair, you will do everything within your power to protect your space.

In any case, the Mr. seemed quite insistent on a date, and it was a safe place – church. So one Sunday, I followed him to church. Afterwards, he asked for a proper date and I obliged. Afterwards, I thought “not bad” but being careful of beginner’s luck, I chickened out again. I played this on-and-off game with him for about a year. One because I wasn’t sure, and two because I had sold myself so short all my life I wasn’t going to make another decision that I’d regret. But finally, God was doing a whole lot of work on me and I didn’t even have a clue.

To be continued next week…

Prejudice: A Personal Experience

Disclaimer: By typing this, I am not making generalizations about any race or ethnicity. I am simply sharing my story as it happened to me. If you do not agree with my story, welp…

I live in Nigeria, the most populous black nation in the world so it’s a no-brainer that almost everyone in Lagos, my country’s commercial capital, is Black. And while Lagos has a thriving expatriate community, I would believe that their population pales in comparison to the population of Nigerians.
I live in a block of flats in Ikeja. It’s not spick and span but it’s fair enough. It’s close to work, actually a walking distance, so I get to dodge the crazy Lagos traffic. It’s also very quiet and is the perfect hide-out for a hermit like me. My neighbors are from Nigeria, India, Philippines and Vietnam, so it’s quite the mix. I rarely have people come over, enough to make anyone uncomfortable but even when I have guests, I make sure we’re not invading anyone’s privacy.

 
Last weekend, my friend, who stays with me on and off, was trying to shoot a short home-made film. It’s really a project on the scale of say, a make-up tutorial. Only difference was the fact that we wanted something with a professional touch, so we got a videographer, while my friend’s brother and another friend of mine were assistants. In all, I had about eight people over, most of whom were inside my apartment. We had a scene to shoot outside, which involved a male friend driving my car, into the premises and parking right outside my apartment. I made sure we didn’t go beyond my apartment as I didn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy.

 
About an hour into the shoot, I get a call from the estate management to ask why I have people over. The facilities’ manager goes on and on about how my expat neighbors are uncomfortable because I have guests. I explain that all we’ve done outside is drive my car into the gate and park it at my allotted spot but he’s too unrealistic to listen. Finally I tell him, in my loudest voice which my expat neighbor on the third floor can hear that all I have done is drive the car that I bought into the compound where I pay rent and service charge and park in my allotted spot. I also tell him that I believe that I am loud enough so anybody who has a problem with my friends coming and going out of my house should come downstairs and meet me. Sadly, no one came downstairs.

 
I had heard stories in the past about expats trying to make sure no locals live in the same apartment complex as I did. I always thought they were really far-fetched. However, paying attention to race relations and last Saturday’s events really made me understand something. There is a FEAR of black people that I cannot understand. If you live in Nigeria, a country of black people, why should you be scared if you see black people? You shouldn’t be here at all if you are afraid. It is probably one of those things I will never understand, but I also will never condone it. I am my mother’s daughter.

 
I did get an apology from my estate management on Monday evening, and a plea for this not to be on the internet. But I own my experiences and what I choose to do with my what has happened to me is totally up to me. To paraphrase Anne Lamott, if people want you to write kindly about them, they should treat you better.

 
How’s everyone else doing?

The Girl who walked on Water

“Come”, he said.

 

Breathe deeply. Hold your breath. Let it out. Repeat. Then step out. One foot, then the next. Forward. Repeat.

That’s all she had to do – deep breaths, one foot in front of the other, forward movement – to walk on water. It seemed easy except she never got past taking deep breaths, understandably so. Who would imagine that she would ever contemplate walking on water, she who couldn’t swim? The absurdity and sheer insanity of it was worrisome. She had always played safe – no late nights, no speeding, no unhealthy eating – and it had always worked for her.

 

But then it was He who was calling out to her. He seemed to always have a clearer picture of these things than anyone else. And He seemed trustworthy. He was out on the water too, and He seemed pretty comfortable so maybe He knew more about these things than she did. She had read in the past about how Peter walked out on the water to meet Him – somewhere on the way He took his eyes of the man, Jesus, and he started sinking. Jesus saved him, but still, she wasn’t one to take chances.

 

Her gaze could be on a million things at once, so how could she keep her eyes stayed on Him? There were bills to be paid, goals to fulfill and dreams that she had to live out in colour. Then the nightmares too. It was hard. He had always told her not to worry, but surely He must know she was a worrier and thinker.

 

But this boat didn’t feel as good anymore.

 

In a way, she’d worried herself into a hole. One that caused her boat to fill up with water. And it was filling up so rapidly it didn’t make any more sense to stay in it. And well, He was persistent and reassuring. He had never stopped calling out to her, so maybe it was time to try this out.

 

Gingerly, with her eyes on Him, and her heart on His word, she tried again.

Breathe deeply. Hold your breath. Let it out. Repeat. Then step out. One foot, then the next. Forward. Repeat.

And boy, did she walk!

And there was sinking, and floating, and walking and flying, and tears and laughter. And there was failing and starting over again.

But she was never ever afraid of raging storms again.

On Gender Equality and Lip Service: Beyond the Pay Gap

Women deserve equal pay for equal work.
You know, she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.
– President Barack Obama

In the last few years much has been said about trying to close the gap between working conditions and expectations for men and women. You know how it’s so cool for a man to take time off work once in a while to attend Open Day at his child’s school, but if a woman did as she is naturally expected to, it would be asking for too much too often?

Many women groups and mentoring programs have sprung up in the last few years to address this. These programs take on different shapes and forms – you may get assigned a professional mentor who has probably gained experience in your area of specialization and who is supposed to be able to teach you the ropes. She’s also supposed to teach you how to be a superwoman – to combine family and a successful career.
Here’s why I have questions: Many women are managers, employers of labour, decision makers, heads of human resources in their respective organizations. So why is it still so hard to help other women progress or get better working conditions for the women who work under them. It’s because as it is with many other things, there’s a lot of motion and no movement, and I dare say plenty of lip service. Its easy to step into a power suit and step on a platform and talk about wage gap and how we wish it were easier for women to grow their careers while raising their families, and then go right back to the office and be the ice queen that no woman would dare ask for half a day off because she wants to attend her daughter’s recital. It’s also easy to talk about how it’s important to have a work life balance when raising children but complain that work is suffering when someone is asking for an extra month of maternity leave, albeit unpaid, so she can bond with her baby.
I’m treading carefully here, seeing as I don’t have kids yet and I have not been in the position to actively steer a company’s HR policies as I would. I’m also not trying to rubbish the work of women who dedicate their time and effort to mentoring other women and help them on their respective career journeys. It’s a lot of work.
I’m just saying here that if we paid a little more attention and showed a little more empathy to the women around us, perhaps we would advance our own cause faster than if we spoke empty words. Start where you are. Mentor the women around you, create a warmer workplace. By doing this you create a domino effect where women naturally show empathy towards other women and are sensitive to the dynamics of work-life balance. If you’re head of human resources, maybe your next employee retention program/ strategy should include the idea of a creche for children of employees, maybe an extra two weeks paid maternity leave and more child friendly policies. Maybe we could all just show empathy, knowing how hard it is to juggle home and work life for women. Be the woman other women can talk to and trust.
Beyond Labour Day and International Women’s Day speeches, beyond “Lean In” book clubs and trying to chase superwoman, there’s real work to be done. And it won’t get done if we-men don’t roll up their sleeves and fight for what they should actually get. This is how progress is made.

Light a fire where you are.