They say a child that refuses to suck his mother’s breast is a lost sheep. How true is that?
Udoka Ayomide Uzor was only two months when he turned his back on my breast. That was thirty years ago. I remember the joy in the nurse’s voice when she broke the good-news to me. I was awed that I could produce a human being from my fragile body. My husband Chinedu, says it’s the best gift of God to mankind, the ability to procreate. On my part, I consider it a great privilege to be able to partake in God’s creation.
My mother dropped the phone on the ground in excitement when Chinedu called her with the sweet news. At first we taught something had gone wrong and were worried as we heard screams from the background but she picked up the phone five minutes later and started singing praises to God in her- our native language. I laughed with relief while Chinedu maintained his calm, but the laughter plus relief in his eyes were obvious. We later learnt from her fellow market women that she was over joyed when she heard the news and she was practically dancing and singing during that five minutes of suspense she gave us on the phone. It was her first grandchild and she named him Ayomide. After years of suffering as a widow to raise my siblings and I she finally had cause to dance, Olorun had sent her joy.
I still see the frown on my mother’s face when I complained to her that Ayo had refused breast milk only two months into his birth. We had payed her a surprise visit her at her shade in the market. Her first reaction on seeing us was to drag the child out of my arms and cuddle him close to her breast. She raised him up to the sky afterwards and interceded with heaven on his behalf. My husband thought it was funny, she did that every time. I thought it was spiritual and that she actually communicated with the heavens everytime she did that. Only Ayo understood what she did because after the ‘ritual’ he was always calm and quiet which was odd for a baby who took pride in crying and denying his parents the luxury of peace. On that occasion after the ‘ritual’ I had told mama that I was worried because Ayo had refused my breast and that I taught it was a bad sign. She laughed.
‘’File. He is only an innocent child. He doesn’t even know the meaning of rebellion so he cant be rebelling against your care. ’’ She cuddled him closer to her chest and I could see him reach for one of the fallen lumps on her chest. It filled me with both envy and pride. Pride in the breast that gave me suck. She pulled his the errant hands away from her chest and tweaked his nose playfully. Undeterred by the tweak, he returned both hands to her breast. This time she laughed louder.
“Your child is a strong-willed man.” She said as she placed him in my arms so that she could to attend to the customer who wanted some tomatoes, leaving me to my thoughts.
I wasn’t satisfied with her reply so I sought medical advice and they too reassured me it was not strange. I was advised to feed him with artificial cow milk and akam, a nurse whispered that I should include grounded crayfish in the akam, to my ears. That still did nothing to kill my fear and worry for my son. I have always worried about Ayo and even now that he is a grown man; thirty years old; I still worry about him. Funny, he still rebels against my care and worry. I remember my husband joked about it one time. He said that Ayo was the only man on earth that could resist my charm and beauty and that he envied his son for that. I had laughed till my throat ached and tapped his cheek lightly with my palm in reprimand afterwards.
It was true, Ayo has always been a man of his own, he never listens. When he decided he was going to join the army after graduation I had tried my best to dissuade him from that ‘crazy’ idea but he had resisted. I used my connections to fetch him a high paying job in a well known IT firm, still no show. At a point I thought my son was under spiritual attack. How can a first class graduate in communication engineering wake up one morning and decide to head for the Nigerian defence academy in Kano? Even with all the killings and insecurity in the northern part of the country my son insisted on taking a ride to Kano. It was strange, but Ayo had always amused me with his strange rebellion. Even when it was obvious that I meant well he still refused to be pampared by me. There was a time I thought he nursed a deep grudge against me right from birth. Had my enemies infected my son with their grudge while he was still living inside me?
Today Ayo is a successful army officer. He is happily married to Aisha. When I think of Aisha and the circumstances surrounding their marriage I smile at myself. It’s amazing how small things prepare us for big things. I had strongly objected to their marriage- Aisha was Hausa. I didn’t want my only son married to a Hausa woman. Didn’t he see any Yoruba or Igbo daughter to marry? I was a very tribal person especially when it involved tribes outside the Yoruba land. Chinedu and I had happened unplanned and we were lucky it worked for us despite our tribal differences but I wasn’t assured it will work out for my Ayo too. I wanted him to make the right choice. I wanted him to be happy always.
Of course Ayo rebelled against me as usual. He was a man of his will, he had always been a man of his will right from childhood. When he decided to quit breast feeding he quit notwithstanding my disagreement with his decision. When he said he was going to NDA he went without my approval. Even in marriage, he stood by his will. I had no option but to consent of his marriage.
Today as I sit and reminiscent the marriage that brought three different tribes together; my people from the west, Chinedu’s people from the east and our northern in-laws; my heart swells with pride. I wish..oh I wish the crisis in the nation would end in the marriage of the different tribes together. If Ayo can will it, Nigerians can will it. It begins with me, with you and with us.
Olorun- Yoruba name for God
File- Yoruba word for ‘leave him’
Akam- grounded corn
Udoka- Igbo name meaning ‘peace is greater’
Ayomide- Yoruba name meaning ‘my happiness has come’
Uzor- Igbo name meaning ‘the way’
Chinedu- Igbo name meaning ‘God leads’
NDA- National defence academy