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City of Banjul
Tuesday, April 23, 2024

A letter to my son

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With Rohey Samba

Dear Mawdo,
Enclosed are the armlets the “charlatan” has given me to send to you for ‘protection’ against the vices of the tongue and from the evil of the pretender who feigns to be your closest ally.
I should stop at that, but I am impelled by the yearning of my heart strings, that has bound me to you forever, on the day I gave birth to you on that fateful day of Eid-al Fitr, when my world was given a new lease in the eyes of my new born son. When the umbilical cord was trussed by the attending midwife, I felt neither the pain nor the awful heat that had engulfed the 2 m x 4 m maternity ward since I entered it. Your perfect face, perfect little nose, cross eyed regard, cute little mouth and complete limbs were the breeze that cooled the inner recesses of my being and finally, for the first time in my life, I knew I was born to give you life.

Yours was a difficult birth. Rightly so, as all first time mums are shocked by the intense, unexpected rigors of childbirth. I remember three hours beforehand, feeling the stirrings of labour yet not fully perceptive about what was happening to me. I recall trying to get my mum on her cell phone to enquire about my unrelenting need to excrete. Possessed by the same genetic flaw I inherited, my mother’s mobile phone rang off on voicemail continuously without being picked up from the other end. After succumbing to that pushy feeling for a while, naggings of discomfort began to consume my whole body and then came the excruciating back pain. Then I began to panic. There was no need for confirmation from anyone, I was in labour and I was unprepared. The whole process was intimidating and overwhelming for you were two weeks in advance.

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The ritualized uprooting of my predicament was tough to reconcile. I had earlier on during the day gone shopping for baby clothes on impulse for my due date was predicted for the following weeks. I had sashayed the length and breadth of Banjul, Liberation Avenue, after work hours on Friday, but had failed to buy essential baby stuff such as baby lotion, mild soap, towels and even a maternity gown for myself. Not to mention, I did not have enough cash on me as your dad had travelled to Senegal to attend to pressing business concerns.
In spite of my pain, I summoned the courage to walk over to the nearby Mini Market at the adjoining street some 150m away, in hopes of finding some of the items I had just mentioned. To my distress, the Mini Market was not selling any baby things. I was dismayed, in pain and barely able to walk. I tried to make it back to the house because unbeknownst to me, my constrictions were nearing their peak.

The walk back to the house which normally would take me less than five minutes took me several minutes that day. It was the enduring walk of my life; a gentle reminder of the flaw of our existence which God single-handedly stamps on all of His subjects, that of our own imminent mortality. The painful hand expressed the raw gripe that death hands on the mortal being, taking him from the highest station in life to the lowest as feeder for earthly maggots and finally to dust. In somber reflection, the pain not too long after rendered labor a most frightful object, portending more fear than hope could ever carry.

It brought back the conversation I had with Mariama, your paternal aunty, earlier on in my pregnancy, when she casually asked how I hoped to experience labor. It was a moment of gallows humor, when she revealed to me that even after having four children, she always cried during the process of giving birth. It was her way of conveying the painful reality of my predicament and what I was to expect.

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I had been all but knowledgeable when I replied with zest that I’d deliver my child with resolve and fortitude rather than cry out loud to the hearing of anyone around. I recall that there is no resolve and/or fortitude in the face of such agonizing pain exclusive to the one that endures it as child birth triggers. Without faulting the pregnancy and childbirth guide books and pamphlets I had read beforehand, I accentuate that, there is no text book able to explicate the pain and rigors experienced firsthand during child birth.

Yet pain is nothing to rue for your life is worthy above all else. Once you were born I forgot all those mortifying thoughts. As the midwife cut off the umbilical cord and lifted you up and you cried for the first time, all the world came closing in on me. It was as if the floodgates of love were opened to me for the first time in my life. You, my son, are the harvest of my pain.

However, due to my lack of preparedness, you were bathed with ordinary washing soap that was available at the maternity clinic at the time of your birth and wrapped up with my worn lapper to keep you warm. It was a most humbling moment for me and a kind reminder to you that your entrance into the world was no less grand than the birth of the other person as we all came with naught. You were my beautiful prince costumed as a pauper in my makeshift lapper turned wrapper.

Yet by the grace of the Beneficent Allah, you have persevered and today, at this moment of stasis, I beg of you to be meek, whatever your status or circumstance in life. You will not hear another rendition of the time when you were a little boy and/or the trouble you gave when you reached your teen ages. For it shall be repetition and ramblings of an old woman, reminiscences of memories that are already ingrained in your mind by my constant reminders over the years. Thus I avoid the thread of melancholy imbedded in those memories.

I will allow myself to remind you nonetheless to let humility walk you to doors of wisdom and lead you to sight of the Most High God. I know as a man, your ego is bound to escort you sometimes. It is okay to falter sometimes, but not at all times. I have myself made many mistakes over the years, but as the ridges on my face reveal, I have come to realize that all the missteps were in fact guiding steps to make me a better person through my faults, for not once would I sleep tight after faulting my fellow man. The constant reminder to be a better person the next time around, indeed, made me attain the level of self-love I had always aspired to achieve.So, my son, allow yourself some few mistakes and be quick to apologize when you are at fault. Love comes to people who are humble and never fail to say,’ I’m sorry I wronged you’. Inconsequential is the outcome when the other person refuses to yield to your apology because the person who refuses to accept the other’s apology is closer to Satan than he ever will be to God. The heart darkened by grudge and bitter feelings is the devil’s advocate, so in turn be quick to forgive those who hurt you. It shall not make you any less of a man. It would guide you instead to the ultimate love of all, which is self-love…

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