By Adesida Adewumi, MD
I have Mrs Taiwo’s consent (not the real name) to share with you the lessons she has learnt in life and marriage. This story happened 10 years ago.
I was the medical officer on duty that day.l was reading inside my consulting room as my call was light. Mrs Taiwo was rushed in bleeding from her pregnancy. I was called by the nurse in emergency and she briefed me about the case we had on our hands. As I came out, I was expecting to see a young pregnant woman on the couch, but the woman lying on the couch had grey hair and looked old. To confirm I was with the right patient, i asked the nurse again “is she the patient?” she said, “yes”. I was really worried why a woman at such age would still be getting pregnant. To confirm my concern as I attended to her, I asked her, “how old are you, Mrs Taiwo?”. She answered “Doctor, I am 52 years old.” I was shocked to hear that but I absorbed the shock.
I went ahead to ask her briefly all other necessary information that would help me solve the immediate problem of the bleeding. She volunteered them, but I received another shock when I asked her “This pregnancy is number what?” She answered “Doctor this is my 25th pregnancy. I have 17 children alive. This is the 8th time I am having miscarriage”. I sent her for scan to confirm my diagnosis of incomplete miscarriage. It was confirmed. I took her into evacuation room and removed the rest of the conception product. The bleeding stopped. After she had rested for a while, I invited her inside my consulting room to really explore how she came about 25 pregnancies, eight miscarriages!
She was escorted by one of her daughters. I asked her “So the baby at the back of her is your grandchild” she answered yes.
In fact, the judgemental, human part of me almost shouted “at 52 years old as a grandmother you are still getting pregnant madam, when one of your daughters is carrying your grandchild, what do you want?” However, the professional part of me checkmated me. The question my soul threw up next within me was what if she didn’t have more than one daughter?
Then I asked her “why going 25 times carrying pregnancy and still having children at 52?”
“Doctor, it is a long story”.
I told her to tell me that long story. I told her daughter to excuse us. The mother said I should leave her to stay with her.
Then she began the long story by soberly reminding me again she had 17 children. I told her to name each of them in order in which they were born and tell me what each of them was doing now. She managed through.
In order not to bore you let me just summarise the long story she told me. She married at a young age of 14 years old to a 22 years old welder. She was 52 years old when she had this 8th miscarriage while the husband was 60 years old. She began her childbearing career almost immediately she got married ar 14. None of the 17 children had any higher education and most were jobless. They all dropped out of school at various stages of life. She didn’t even know the whereabout of some of them again.
At a time in the story while she was telling me about the 17 children, she had to turn to her daughter to ask if it was Victor she gave birth to before Victoria or it was the other way round. I shook my head vigorously, nearing tears. You didn’t remember the order in which your children were born by you again? Because they were too many?. It took her daughter to help her set the record straight that it was Victoria that was elder sister of Victor.
So to my major concern in the story why would you have this number of children you couldn’t cater for? You were full-time house wife, doing nothing. Then she told me more things in her marriage that pushed her to this regrettable edge.
“Doctor, it was never my intention in life to marry too early and have too many children. I was carrying our 4th pregnancy at age of 20 when my husband started chasing women up and down. He would chase anything in skirt as far as she was a woman. Eventually he started marrying them one by one and brought them home until he married the fourth wife.
“Then serious competition began in the home with the second wife trying to hijack our husband to herself alone. In no time she was almost catching up with me in the number of children. I had to also double up too to show her that I was the most senior wife in the home. To cut the long story short, doctor, I didn’t know when I entered this birth spree competition with the other wives to get my husband’s attention and retained my position as most senior wife.
“I was distracted from looking after my children, busy competing to retain my seniority in the home. Here I am at 52, doctor carrying 25th pregnancy with 8 miscarriages and 17 children with none with good education.” she concluded shedding tears sorrowfully.
I felt her pains. I could relate very well with the problems of a polygamous marriage and home. I emphathically consoled her. I went ahead to give her all the necessary counselling and gave her drugs. Then came the most shocking part before I discharged her.
I asked her and said, “So, which of the family planning methods will you like to have so that we can prevent this kind of experience of pregnancy at 52.
“Doctor, let us leave that side for now. Let’s leave everything in God’s hands. The second wife has 13 children already.”
I was surprisingly shocked. I thought this woman was crying just now that she regretted the pattern her life followed by having too many children. In fact I didn’t know if I should cry or laugh. I had no choice than to fix another follow up appointment with her to see if I could still succeed in convincing her about the family planning.
As I discharged her home out of my consulting room, many life lessons started running through my troubled mind. Below are some of them:
Lesson number 1:
Parents, please I plead with you, even if you will give out your daughter in marriage so early in life, at least let her have a good education and a means of livelihood in case the man abandons her tomorrow.
Lesson number 2:
Please, men, generally I will like to plead with us to marry only one wife even if we have the right to marry many. This is especially so when you don’t have the means to take care and cater for more than one wife. In life, quality is far better than quantity.
Lesson number 3:
This is for women that are already in polygamous marriages/homes. Please is it possible for you to face your life, children and “husband” and leave other wives alone without entering into an unhealthy competition that will send you to your early grave? I think it will be better if you can strive for that.
Lesson number 4:
Women, please know that your body is no longer getting younger and is not that strong to still be carry pregnancies, unlike when you were still young in your twenties. The older you get, the more your number of miscarriages due to eggs anomalies.
Lesson number 5:
Please do family planning to avoid having the number of children you can’t cater for. God will never come down to do for you the simple things you can do for yourself. Thank you.
(You can equally add other lessons you have personally learnt from the story)
Share this true life story with your family and friends.
▪︎ Dr. Adewumi is a Family Medicine consultant, based in Kano. Follow him on Facebook at “FROM INSIDE MY CONSULTING ROOM “; his health page on YOUTUBE and INSTAGRAM @doctorhealtheducation; on Twitter @doctorhealthed1; and on WhatsApp at: +2348068649694. He gives daily education on health plus free daily consultation.