Posted in Poetry

Mother and child

At term, he took Ugonma in,

the taxi had rattled, creaked, bounced

and chugged on the dirt road, all the way

to the maternity


A midwife, looking fazed in her faded uniform

walked Ugonma

feet and lips swollen,

screaming in pain, water breaking,

into the labour room

every dragging step slow,

laboured  and painful


A wait long and weighty like eternity,

and then a delivery attendant,

her face the picture of nonchalance,

eventually shuffled out of the labour room

to thrust roughly  into his trembling hands

a list of  items required

for the delivery.



The Okada rider, his machine idling,

spotted Obi as he hurried out from the maternity

signing and screaming

“chemist shop”, yes, “chemist”

the rider on sensing his desperation

doubled his fare, cursing the country,

swerving and swearing as he rode.


Places and people flew by and past on that mad rush

to the chemist shop, an airless suffocating place

running over in dirt and disorder

where a a dishevelled male plied a messy trade.


Items purchased,

Obi rushed back to the maternity,

straining his ears, lips moving in silent prayers

his hands trembling,

items handed over with haste

the attendant checking with  indifference and

troubling sluggishness, and then shuffling back

into the delivery room with the items.

Obi waited outside, counting the minutes,

the seconds as long as hours and twice as slow ,

his heart pounding,

fatherhood within reach at last ,

after seven heavy years of wearying waiting


Totally immersed in imagining what must be going on inside,

waiting for the beautiful moment, oblivious to everything else

vaguely aware of when his mother and Ugonma’s mum arrived

and how they both laughed at his fretting and fidgeting

assuring him that all will be well

saying that “God never sleeps”



He saw the midwife as she came out,

her apron all blood and stains

saw her signal the two women to follow her

and now alone, he dreaded his loneliness

soon he thought he heard a wail

that came from the soul, the wail of one broken

They brought the baby to show him,

looking so small,  fragile and delicate

and when he asked after Ugonma

Her mum,  her voice brave, but broken by pain

yet tinged with pride said

“Ugonma has left this world, “uwa nsi”, she spat out

“a woman at last,

to the shame of those gossiping tongues

who had chattered that she was a “male””

God gives and God takes, she said

and when Obi said “why, Ogom nwanyi, why”, she replied

“a man can never wrestle with his god, his personal chi

nor challenge the decision of God”

His groan was deep and heart rending

his voice saying slowly, chilled  numb

“This death cannot be a decision of God,

we wrong God when we blame Him for our failures

as humans”


“Chim, sudden total darkness has fallen on my life at high noon,

a driving torrential downpour has caught me in the middle of nowhere,

blinding me, my path has now become a thicket of dense inpenetrable prickly shrubs”


he cried and sang, inconsolable, lost and broken

His mum laid her hands on him and said slowly

“a woman who can do this,

who can abandon a new born at the moment of birth

must be an “Ogbanje””

and his look of pain, rage and disgust froze her.


He called the baby Chiwetalu (Brought by God)

and at night when Chiwetalu screamed from hunger

when Chiwetalu cried,

troubled by gripe and colic from formula milk

his heart bled, he cried and held her

and rememered Ugonma and still asked her why

even though his age mates had warned him not to,

had advised him to reject any advances from her

if she walked into his dreams from the land of dead

They had advised him to wear two tight underwears to bed

as she may return to seduce him

and then tear off his manhood

since they all knew how much she loved him in life.


In Obi’s mother’s village,

an unmarried teenage girl had lost her  baby

to fever and diarrhoea

one month after delivery,


a girl lost,  Nwadiuto

who had now lost virtually everything

– her baby

– her innocence in a moment of madness,

– her schooling as she was expelled from school

once her pregnancy was noticed

– and the support of parents

who had thrown her out for disgracing them.


Her mother’s village proved to be her sanctuary

there they welcomed her, kind aunts helped her

manage her shame and the pains of pregnancy


Her mother frequently visited her there

whenever she thought her dad was not looking

(her tough and puritan dad saw all,

looked the other way, said nothing,

but silently thanked God that she did)


Now her chest full of grief and still sore from her loss

her breasts full, swollen and tender,

her life emptied of meaning and attachment

she agreed to nurse and breast feed Chiwetalu,

this life so fragile, so trusting


The hungry ruby lips needed some coaching and guiding

flesh and rubber feel and smell differently

but soon the hungry lips tugged and sucked at nipples

engorged, tender, touching her,

awakening her and flooding

her with images of her own child

who now sleeps forever


and Nwadiuto cries for him,

for a father he never knew and would never know

a man whose heat she had felt

but not his love nor his affection

regretting their brief interaction,

rushed and unfulfilling for her


She laments this and her loss

laments her parents

who further lost her

when they threw her out

when she felt most lost and needed them most

and occasionally when Chiwetalu cried from hunger

she would also think of his mother

that the hungry earth had claimed and swallowed



And from a distance,

heart still broken, but filled with gratitude to Nwadiuto,

Obi watches these two lives and surveys his

united by loss, by losses that could have been avoided


And he ponders how one life had in coming

taken another life,

how another young life had flown

emptied the life of a teenage mum

but leaving her full sorrow and milk

how that milk now bonded

two lives and a third

and His tears never cease to flow

from a mixture of missing, thanking and wishing.


*****First raw and rough cut of a song  that invaded me in its inchoate form, begging to trapped on paper. MMR and IMR are my targets here – and I now agree that overt didactism ruins creative writing. This shambolic song is one good example. OK, I pack it here for now and will come back to retouch it later, hopefully. Noel


Development and policy analyst with a strong interest in the arts and inclusive social change. Dabbles occasionally into poetry and literary criticism!

35 thoughts on “Mother and child

    1. This is a great poem. so true. so graphic. so poetic. it calls for a lot of soul searching. it almost made me shed tears for many of our families in Africa who have gone through this. But it shouldn’t be. thanks to midwives who are doing a great job. thanks to men who are participating in child care. thanks to family members who are there for mother and child. and my heart to our mothers, especially.

      Sure Noel is a great advocate for mums and kids and he deserves some commendation. Even if no aid agency recognizes you for now, we ‘the people’ do. On their behalf “i salute you oga noel”.


      1. B for Bayo, thanks for the very generous comments. Share the link with your colleagues as the theme resonates with an issue that is central to your agency’s mandate!


    2. The poem is replete with negative cultural practices against girls and women. However the power of women to nurture life in the lines is second-to-none. Life stands on the shoulders of women!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Nothing to retouch. ..”the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling” will be lost “in the shadows of rightness,goodness and acceptance…” You left me in the mood you wished to create, and I now stare “unseeing, as the yam mounds mimic the graveyard…” Iwuu nkpuru.


  2. Ochi nnem, songs and poetry still dwell in and with you – your last sentence is simply pure poetry in motion! Wey your blog dey sef make I go read am? Imela, ezigbo nwannam.


  3. Catharsis!! Captured in its raw form which makes it is difficult not to be touched except one was stone but even a stone cannot resist the sheer force of emotional avalanche which this poem unleashed.
    Boys are brought up not to cry but now I wonder.


  4. Noel, Great poem and story and unfortunately so true all over our world. When I started to read the IMR part, i thought you should keep the themes separate, and then I saw the poetic connection – death giving birth to life and death giving the chance to live. I look forward to a collection of your writings in a book. Awudu


    1. Awudu, sanu, yar uwar na. Na geshia ka sosei!
      I am happy the themes resonate with you, particularly given your strong professional and leadership role in reducing IMR and MMR in Africa and beyond. A geida yara. Read “the long mile” and “a song for the boy who waits” in my blog too.


  5. Chief, who knew you were such a good poet!? Well I guess most people know already and I’m just a little late to find out. Very sad but beautiful piece. Looking forward to reading the rest.


  6. wow…powerful stuff and so well written…a sad reality in our world…this would def have fit the beautiful sadness prompt over the weekend too…but glad we got it for openlinknight


    1. Thanks, Mohana. You are so kind. Please share the poem with your colleagues and friends. We need to keep calling attention to the unnecessary human wastages and pains that MMR and CMR signify.


  7. Dee Noel,i hope i can call u that.this is so touching.very revealing n i read the poem over n over i began to see de faces of de characters n visualise each was like watchin a motion picture.May God bless u sir as u continue to share.


    1. Imela, Ify, ezigbo nwanne nkem. It is a moving poem. I visit Health centres in LGAs and I am shocked at the quality of services there. why will women not die in such situations? why would something which should bring joy bring so much sadness. Thanks for dropping by my blog. Please also read the “the long mile” in the same blog – Dede gi Noel


  8. And again – and again – I feel the faint flutterings of tears behind my eyes. Shall I let them fall or shall they spur me to action. MMR, IMR – colossal waste, so unnecessary, so reversible. Obi, Ugonma and Chiwetalu will force my resolve to stay away from corruption. Now I know what to do – I’m going home. Thanks Noel for another explosive piece!


    1. Bella, It is sad and such a colossal waste. The death of Marilyn, a young girl, my young nephew’s wife, at childbirth breaks my heart and once again reinforces the poignant message of the poem. we need to act. Bringing a life into the world should never mean another life should go prematurely. Greet Zoe!


    1. Thanks, Auntie Vera!It will appear along with other poems in Volume 2 of my collection of poems titled Songs in the seasons of life. I am so glad that a keen and sensitive mind like yours finds the poem mind blowing! Can you get Labake to publish it on Thursday as Merilyn is being laid to rest? Just thots!


  9. Dr. Noel this poem kept me spell bound particularly your brilliant use of words in explaining the deficiencies of our health care system including the aftermath which oftentimes leaves lasting bitter memories in minds of people who lost their loved ones as a result of the unruly attitude of some of our Nurses in attending to patients and inadequately equipped hospitals and health care centres. Great job Sir.


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