Omugwo without my Mom
(Based on a true life story)
I had always dreamed of having my mom by my side when I gave birth to my first child. She had been there for me throughout my life, supporting me, encouraging me, and loving me unconditionally. She was the one who taught me how to be a woman, how to cook, how to pray, and how to take care of a family. She was the one who told me stories of her own omugwo, the traditional Igbo practice of postnatal care, where the mother of the new mother comes to stay with her for a month or more, helping her with the baby, the housework, and the recovery. She was the one who promised me that she would do the same for me, no matter where I was.
But fate had other plans. I had moved to the US with my husband, who had gotten a job offer there. We had applied for a visa for my mom, hoping that she would be able to join us before the baby was due. But the process was long and complicated, and we faced many delays and rejections. We tried everything we could, but nothing worked. My mom was denied a visa, and she could not come to the US.
I was heartbroken when my husband broke the news to me. I cried and cried, feeling alone and scared. How could I have my baby without my mom? How could I cope with the pain, the stress, and the responsibility? How could I learn to be a mother without my mother?
My husband tried to console me, telling me that we would manage somehow. He said that we had each other, and that God would not forsake us. He said that we could still talk to my mom on the phone or video call and that she would give us advice and guidance. He said that we could find some of the essential omugwo foods online, and that he would help me cook them. He said that we could listen to music and watch movies to distract ourselves from the sadness. He hugged me and kissed me, and told me that he loved me and our baby.
I appreciated his efforts, but I still felt a void in my heart. I missed my mom so much, and I wished she could be with me. I prayed and prayed, asking God to make a way for her to come, or to give me the strength to face this challenge.
As the days passed, we tried to prepare ourselves for the baby's arrival. We knew there were several African Markets in the US but we wanted the one with the best experience. The one where we could get all the ingredients to make foods and feel the taste of home. The one where all the ingredients would be fresh and delicious. So, the searches started: 'Where can I get Nigerian foods in the US?'; 'Which is the best African Market in the US'; 'Where can I get the best omugwo foodstuffs in the US?' and so on. For all of our searches and comparisons, My Sasun African Market topped. Oh, thank God for this store!
As soon as I visited their websites and saw all they had to offer with good prices, I just knew my omugwo might be as nightmarish without my sweet mom as I had thought. We were able to place orders for various things, like palm oil, All swallow flours (Garri, Elubo, Poundo, Fufu, Cassava etc). We even got so many types of pap we were confused on which to choose, haha, oh my world! What about Egusi and all other soup ingredients, dried and fresh fish, all Nigerian breaksfast necessities (like agege bread- yes, seriously! Titus sardines, peak milk, milo, honey, blueband butter, cerelac etc). Don't let me bore you with my excitement, hahaha. I just mean that I got every single thing I needed. The day My Sasun African Market came to do my doorstep delivery, you would think I had just arrived from Gbagi Market in Ibadan, haha- it was all as Nigerian as Nigerian can be! My kitchen came alive with the Nigerian smell. Oh gracious me!
So, we started to make some foods ahead of the baby's arrival so that coming home from the hospital after the delivery wouldn't make mummy's absence felt that much. We made some yam and catfish pepper soup, okra soup, ogbono soup, plantain porridge, stew, pepper sauce and so on. We stored all of them in the freezer. We also used music and movies to get through the times. We listened to some of our favorite songs and danced together. We also watched some of our favorite Nigerian movies, like The Wedding Party, Lionheart, and Half of a Yellow Sun. We laughed and danced and sang, trying to forget our worries and enjoy ourselves.
On the D-day, I woke up with a sharp pain in my lower abdomen. I knew it was time. I woke up my husband, and we quickly got ready to go to the hospital. We grabbed my hospital bags I also took a picture of my mom, which I had framed and kept on my bedside table. I wanted to have her with me, even if it was only in spirit. We got into the car, and my husband drove as fast as he could. The pain was getting worse, and I felt contractions every few minutes. I breathed deeply, and tried to calm myself. I held the picture of my mom, and whispered to her that I loved her and that I needed her. I also whispered to my baby, telling him that I loved him and that I was waiting for him.
We reached the hospital, and I was wheeled into the delivery room. I felt hopeless and helpless, as I faced the most difficult moment of my life without my mom. I wished she could be there, holding my hand, wiping my sweat, and telling me that everything would be okay.
But I was not alone. My husband was there, and he was amazing. He stayed by my side, holding my hand, wiping my sweat, and telling me that everything would be okay. He encouraged me, cheered me on, and prayed with me. He was my rock, my partner, and my best friend. Oh, I never knew I could find such a great support system in him- I had underestimated him.
And then, after hours of labor, I heard a cry. A beautiful, loud, and sweet cry. I looked down, and I saw a tiny face, a pair of eyes, and a tuft of hair. I saw my baby, my miracle, and my joy. The nurse handed me the baby, and I held him in my arms. I felt a surge of love, and a burst of tears. I kissed the baby, and thanked God for this gift. I looked at my husband, and he smiled and kissed me. He said, "We did it. We have a baby. We are parents." I was so happy, and so grateful. I forgot all the pain, and all the sadness. I felt only love, and peace.
The next few days were a blur of emotions and activities. We stayed in the hospital for a while, and we got discharged three days later. We named our little gift, Chukwuebuka, meaning "God is great". We called my mom, and we showed her our son. She was overjoyed, and she cried and laughed and blessed us. She said that he was beautiful, and that he looked like me. She said that she was proud of me, and that I was a great mother. She said that she wished she could be there, but that she was happy that we were doing well. She said that she loved us, and that she would see us soon.
We also got a lot of support from our church. They brought us different dishes, like jollof rice, fried plantain, chicken stew, and moi moi. They also brought us gifts, like clothes, toys, books, and diapers for the baby. They congratulated us, and they prayed for us. They also offered to help us with anything we needed. They even organized an old woman per day to come stay with me at home, bathe the child, and help with a few chores. It felt so surreal, because since it was abroad, I never expected anyone would have my time. But with God's grace, I got enough people to last me a few days.
We also kept in touch with my mom, who practically lived on video calls with us. She tried to put me through on how to do a few things, like how to massage the baby, how to clean his belly button, and how to make him burp. She also gave me advice on how to heal, how to eat, and how to rest. She also told me stories, jokes, and gossip, to keep me entertained and happy. She was not physically there, but she was emotionally there. She was still my mom, and she was still at my omugwo, haha.
After all, my fears weren't exactly what I got. I got favour all the way. And though I would love my mom to be around for my next omugwo, because a mother's love is no joke, I am thankful for how God made this first one seamless. He gave me a wonderful husband, a beautiful son, a supportive church, and a loving mom. He gave me everything I needed, and more. He gave me omugwo without my mom, but with His grace.