Monday, 22 December 2008

The day I was born

Springing a prayer for offspring

Chatting to my dad yesterday as he congratulated me on my birthday with incessant prayers about my getting married and having children in his lifetime, I was on the verge of getting emotionally blackmailed.

Indeed, one is press-ganged into the henotic and obligatory amen in response to every stanza of required, desired and unwanted prayer, I would suppose the ones answered would be the ones in which we are in agreement – it would appear the exception clause I invoked sometime ago has lost its potency.

Ask daddy first

As the conservation went on, I asked, since I had only heard most of the information second-hand, what really happened on the day I was born, some 43 years ago, even though I also spoke with my mum, I was not sure asking mother would elicit any appreciable response apart from the memory of the agony of labour; only in exceptional cases should such an enquiry be made of the mother.

What transpired was an amazing review of differences and changes between then and now, my father’s memory was quite keen and I listened with rapt attention.

What really happened

Quite early on the 21st of December 1965, my mother felt some discomfort such that she arrived in hospital with my dad around 2:00 AM, nothing was expected because I wasn’t really expected; but my mother was kept in for observation whilst father returned home.

When he woke later that morning around 7:00 AM, there was a telegram under at the door announcing that he was the proud father of a baby son born at 3:20 AM; he danced for joy and went immediately to the hospital. (Telephones were not in most homes then, a telegram was the fastest way to get messages around in those days.

By the time he arrived at the hospital they were already expecting him, his consent was required to have me transferred to a teaching hospital where I could receive more care as I was born at least 10 weeks early.

He said I looked so small, not quite bigger than a hamster, when a name was desired he suggested Young Akintayo for the meantime until when a name arrived from home in Nigeria. (In the Yoruba culture, the child is not named until the 8th day and the parents usually defer to the elderly generation of relations for given names.)

Waiting around the incubator

When I was transferred he enquired about what should happen to his wife and he was told she could return home with him – hardly anyone knew she was pregnant, talk less of having a baby that was now some 30 miles away in an incubator.

She was back at work within a couple of days, though the Christmas holiday allowed for them to share my first Christmas with them as visitors but not being able to come too close.

I eventually had a room to myself with a nurse taking care of me morning, noon and night – to which a cheeky friend alluded the Genesis of my liking to be waited upon, apparently, it had always been part of my survival, if not upbringing – don’t know where people get all these silly ideas from.

Anyway, I was in an incubator for 2 long months before I could go home by which time I was much fully developed. He also noted that I was one of the very few boys born into the Nigerian community in the West Midlands then.

Good job! England

My father surmised that he was both grateful and impressed with the attention and care lavished on my fragile being to keep me through the early critical hours to the point when I was ready to leave for home.

That little hamster in a time when the father was not necessarily in the maternity ward holding hands, when telegrams were the quickest messaging system, when the mother was back to work almost immediately and you could trust the hospital to do all to preserve life is now 43 with not one iota of littleness about him.

What a story, the story about the day I was born.

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