My relatives prepared me for the physical pain, but I was not alerted to the conditions I would meet in Nigeria’s health care facilities. One of the nurses shouted at me to “Shut up!”
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By Olutosin Adebowale, Nigerian Women’s Advocate, World Pulse
When the time came for me to deliver my first daughter, my maternal grandmother took me aside and told me to sit down. “There is no pain like that of childbirth,” she said. “It is indescribable. Delivery can only be done by God. Put your faith in him. As for the doctors — forget them.” Her words made me deeply afraid for what I was to experience next, and my mother only confirmed my fears. “Has she explained everything to you?” she said. “It will be painful.”
True to their predictions, my labor was the most horrific experience of my life — but it shouldn’t have been. My relatives prepared me for the physical pain, but I was not alerted to the conditions I would meet in Nigeria’s health care facilities.
I went to the hospital to deliver my daughter on April 25, 2002. Pain gushed out of me like the flow of a river. I screamed, expecting soothing medications to reduce my pain, or at least soothing words to help me through. Instead, one of the nurses shouted at me to “Shut up!”
At the hospital, there was not a single doctor. The room was crowded with women in various stages of delivery. We were forced to labor on benches, as there was only one bed. When the baby crowned at the birth canal, women would be transferred to the only available bed.
A nurse sternly warned me not to push, despite my baby’s insistence on coming into this world. When I could not take it any further, I screamed and the nurse almost hit me. “I told you not to push! No space for you to deliver!” The pain of attempting to stop my labor made me cry out in more pain.
When my baby was finally delivered, she could not breathe. The nurse looked at me and said, “You have killed your daughter.” She handed the baby to my husband and said, “She is a still birth. Your wife killed your child.”
I began to cry as my husband wrapped a scarf around the baby to prepare her for burial. Miraculously, a doctor who arrived just in time took the baby from his arms. I don’t know how, but he was able to revive my daughter. Relieved, I fell asleep. I woke in a pool of blood — the nurses had forgotten to stitch me from the episiotomy. I recovered after eight days in intensive care.
These experiences happened in one of the largest hospitals in Lagos. I was lucky to survive. My daughter, whom we named Oluwatobiloba (we call her Tobi) was equally lucky to survive. Every day, women are sacrificed at the altars of medical negligence and lack of resources. I could quote statistics of maternal deaths in my country, but they would be useless: Official numbers do not represent the actual quantity of casualties we see daily.
It is time we all come together to reduce the number of women and infants buried in the graveyards of improper funding, administration and lack of resources.
The world I dream of in 2030 is one where women are respected and cared for in pregnancy and childbirth. It’s a world where women’s voices are heard and where we have equality between men and women.
Women worldwide are awakening from a slumber and insisting on better choices, better treatment. This fight is a witness that the battle can be won, because there are more passionate women joining the stream of our cause. The battle is not replacing patriarchy with matriarchy; it is giving equal rights, access, control and opportunity for both men and women.
I no longer weep when I am afraid; I confront my fears and walk over them. I have become strong, no longer a victim of domestic violence, and no longer silenced by cruelty. My story is the story that fuels hope, it strengthens and encourages.
Despite the great ocean that separates sisters around the world, this distance can be crossed through online connections that break every divide. When we connect with each other and tell our stories, when we wake up and help to wake each other, the dream will become real and we can truly connect with each other as mothers to mothers, sisters to sisters.
Our voices are growing louder every day. No longer will we allow mothers and babies to die in childbirth.
Olutosin Adebowale founded the Star of Hope Transformation Centre after her training as one of the Voices of our Future Correspondents with World Pulse in 2009. She is a tireless advocate, with a focus on the prevention, response and treatment of child sexual abuse, gender based violence, and empowerment skills for women and children.The Centre operates both online and offline resources for those it serves.
Olutosin believes in equality of women and men and that every adult in the community is responsible for the protection of children. She writes and speaks extensively against social injustice, corruption and trains communities on the prevention of violence.
She has a Masters in English Language (2001), and Diploma in Computer Studies from the University of Lagos, and is the mother of two daughters.
Find her on Twitter @WorldPulse.
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