Hafsat Ibrahim and baby during the naming ceremony

First Time Mum: My Bittersweet Experience

By Hafsat Ibrahim

As a newly wedded couple, there is always a mixed feeling of anxiety and excitement immediately after the knot is tied. Months after the wedding, many married couples face the daring question “are you pregnant?” When are we coming for the naming ceremony?” “We are expecting the good news” and so on.

The nagging questions come with a psychological blow instilling unnecessary fear and anxiety which lead to people seeking solutions and answers to problems that never existed. To some it is out of good humour to just tease the newly-weds, but a few raise this question in all seriousness out of curiosity about the couples’ family plans.

In my own case, after three months of settling in, friends, relatives and well-wishers started questioning our baby plans out of curiosity and eagerness to hear something new which at some point, got me exhausted. Though personal and career development were not ruled out, I really wanted to acclimatise to my new environment.

As months passed by, the good news everyone was looking for was not forthcoming and I got worried as well because I wasn’t on contraceptives. I was left with no choice than to visit a gynecologist. On reaching the hospital, the desk officer told my husband and I that the gynecologist comes once in a year. As at the time we visited the hospital it was just the third month of the year (March), she also said that we had to book an appointment and wait till August. Fortunately for us, my husband got in touch with someone who works in the same hospital and the person called it a ‘fat lie’. We later got a lead that the gynecological session is every Thursday of the week.

We were shocked and had lot of questions with no one to answer; was it that the hospital had no gynecologist? was it only people with contacts that can be scheduled for earlier appointment? If it was to be an emergency, what could have been the fate of the patient? why should the hospital attendant lie about the gynecologist visitation and why should medical service be such a luxury even when we were ready to pay for it? We later got the necessary documentation done and that was how my gynecological session started.

One or two interactions with the gynecologist and series of tests conducted clearly indicated that my husband and I were medically fit to have a baby but it was just a matter of patience and time. Though it wasn’t easy, the doctor’s reassurance helped me reshape the psychological effect the expectation had on me. Lo and behold, after six gynecologist appointments, prayers and patience, I got pregnant.

First Trimester

The journey of motherhood encompasses the mystery of life and further validates without any doubt the existence of God. The first trimester is the most crucial time in this journey, as the baby is developing, and the mother’s body is adjusting to the new changes. It is a time of joy, anticipation and growth. It is indeed a miracle of life. As a first time mum and a young couple, the experience for us was quite peculiar.

Initially, I didn’t notice any sign of pregnancy until I fell ill thinking in my head that it was malaria. I decided to visit the hospital, conducted a test, then it was confirmed that I was already three weeks gone, afterwards I was treated accordingly. That was when I recall what my doctor always say ‘’never indulge in self-medication.”

My first trimester was overwhelming as it was marked by an invisible, yet amazing transformation like: constant headache, vomiting, spitting, fatigue, increased urination, smell sensitivity, to mention a few. During this period, I was mostly glued to my phone always inquisitive to know more about pregnancy. In as much as that period was tiring and challenging, it was still worth it for me.

Antenatal Experience

The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was established by the Nigerian Government in 1999 (implemented in 2002) as a social tool towards attaining equity in health service delivery with the aim of making life easier and protect families from financial barriers as they seek health care.

I registered for Antenatal Care (ANC) at eight weeks into my pregnancy, it was NHIS inclusive in a public hospital. The scheme is quite helpful, though it has its own pressing challenges which can be highly discouraging, exploitative and fraudulent. Most of the drugs that were NHIS covered were still sold at normal prices for patients under NHIS and in some cases, they will claim not to have those drugs in their pharmacy while they issue same drugs out to patient not under the scheme because they could afford any stipulated amount given. The nurses sometimes display hostility immediately they know you are NHIS insured.

The delivery items were sold to me at normal prices with deduction of only N500. The only things I basically did not pay for was urine test, baby scan and consultancy fee. It was during the period of cashless policy and it was mandatory I purchase my delivery item from the hospital. It was so frustrating that I was contemplating switching to a private hospital but this exposed another irregularity in the system which I believed is the crux of all the challenges. Most private hospitals refuse to accept NHIS patients because they don’t get paid by the health insurance authority, in most cases they let go of the money after several attempts and frustration. Government hospitals can’t say no, thus they invent their own ways of recouping their cash by either denying you full treatment or you pay like non-NHIS patients.

Looking further, some have argued that the major problems facing the scheme come from the Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) as they are the ones who interface between NHIS and its subscribers, ensuring service delivery without hindrance.

There are three levels of HMOs that operate in the country: those with national structure, which are allowed to operate in all states and the FCT, those that operate within the six geo political zones and those within a given state. However, I was told that the corruption in the system is not one-sided as the HMOs and NHIS allegedly work hand in hand to shortchange Nigerians. Something needs to be done to put an end to all these.

During my first visit, the mid wives emphasised the importance of antenatal appointment as it aims at identifying potential complications and risk factors, screen for health conditions that can affect the mother and child, health education among other major factors. We usually observe morning exercise during antenatal session which makes it more interesting.

Doctors also advised all pregnant women to eat healthy, take folic acid and vitamin D supplements on a daily basis, mostly stay active, monitor the baby’s movements, take care of our mental health, and get plenty of rest and sleep. My antenatal experience was absolutely fun because I met new friends, learnt from experienced mothers, and most importantly, it broadened my knowledge on health related issues about a woman’s body.

Pressure to Deliver as Wife and Employee

It was difficult to cope as a wife, employee and an expectant mum, because I was compelled to learn how to multitask in other to meet up with requirements ranging from house chores, office work, and taking care of myself.

Even though I had a supportive spouse and an understanding boss, it was incumbent upon me to take care of certain responsibilities like: serving my husband, preparing meals, antenatal checkup, office duties, among other primary necessities. It was also mandatory I had enough rest and eat healthy because of the little being growing in me.

Special Treatment in Public Gatherings

It is generally believed that the arrival of a child comes with its own blessing, most people even say that children unlock divine doors of greatness, wealth, and unity in the family.

However, there is an unexplainable joy and bond that come with motherhood even though one is yet to meet the little being or know the sex of the baby. At 16 weeks, the baby started kicking which was a different feeling on its own, yet amazing. It gave me so much joy whenever my baby is moving inside me, I typically enjoy touching my pregnant abdomen and feel amazed about the whole experience.

Afterwards, my eating habit doubled, started craving for unusual meals i.e. snacks and food I don’t eat ordinarily.The moment my pregnancy became visible, I noticed that whenever I’m in a public gathering be it bank, hospital, recreational centre or supermarket, I was treated differently and special. I no longer joined queue in banks, some people enjoyed paying my bills at the malls and markets, strangers also talked to me warmly. I received gifts and I was always pardoned whenever I was unable to meet up with a task.

Delivery Room Saga

On that fateful day, I was feeling unusual and restless, it was 10pm but I couldn’t sleep, unlike other days. I felt some strange abdominal pain and before I knew it my water broke. Immediately, I packed my hospital bag and drove off to the hospital. I met other pregnant women in labour and others who had delivered successfully. I was in pains because my contraction kept fluctuating back and forth, but I was instructed by my midwife to stay calm and obey instructions.

I laboured for 10 hours before I got to 9cm (centimeter) which was the required time for me to push and as God will have it, I delivered my baby boy successfully with little tear because the baby was big and weighed 3.8kg. Some of the items used in the delivery room include gloves, scissors, kidney tray, sanitary pads, cotton swabs etc.

The postpartum nurses provided important physical and emotional care for the baby and I. It was indeed an interesting experience as the challenging nine-month journey came to an end in minutes.


During my antenatal days, I was quite enlightened about breastfeeding but I wasn’t informed of how painful and exhausting it could be sometimes. I shed tears sometimes especially when the baby is suckling or when my breast is full of milk and the baby refuses to suckle.

However, breastfeeding is the best form of feeding for a new born as it strengthens the bond between mother and the baby, helps in fighting invisible bacteria and prevent children from certain sicknesses. Asides breastfeeding, their immunisation is very important as it has vital role to play in their health and life generally.

Sacrifices and Joy of Motherhood

There is really nothing more loving and intimate than having a little person growing inside you, not to talk of meeting and carrying the long awaited bundle of joy. During my pregnancy days, I was forced to avoid lying on my back, and bending down because it could be harmful to the unborn child.

I had to stop eating certain foods and take my drugs (folic acid) on a daily basis, I was also restricted from travelling and sleepless nights during breastfeeding made me realise the enormous sacrifices mothers make.

Although, I have heard a lot about postpartum depression but I didn’t feel I will experience it since I had lot of people with me. Insomnia, anxiety, pains, irritation, exhaustion and other feelings started setting in without me knowing how to handle them. My mother, sisters and spouse further strengthened me with advice, prayers, love and care. At that time I needed all the help and care I could get.

Gradually, I healed and was ready to be myself again. My joy knew no bounds as I held my baby for the first time, though I was still weak after the delivery but seeing him in my arms felt divine. It was like another me that God had entrusted in my care and I was ready to do a lot to honour that trust. The end was a big win, a trophy that was worth it.

Despite the aforementioned challenges, the joy is worth the sacrifice and the best feeling on earth remains the joy of motherhood.