My name is Chidinma Okoro but I am fondly called ’dinma.
It’s Christmas period, my favourite time of the year. I had dragged Andrea to a top notch photography studio on Toyin Street for a photo session, all dolled up. As Andrea and I snuggled closer for another set of pictures, the photographer beamed, “Madam Dinma, you and this your sister have such a magical bond and she is such a spit image of you”.
Andrea and I exchange a knowing smile and continued posing for our pictures. I sneaked a glance at Andrea and truly realised, not only was she truly a spit image of me but she had hit puberty real quick, just as I had.
Rewind to 2001, I was in SS1 and had become smitten with Femi. We had been in a relationship for almost a year before I finally caved in to his incessant demand for sex; after all, just like Femi had constantly argued, everyone was doing it. Everyone WAS doing it and so we joined the throng. The only problem was we didn’t learn the ropes as we should because we were hell bent on keeping it a secret.
After three months of endless hot sex, naïve lil Dinma missed her period. At first I waved it off as my period being late but after an entire week of no red, I became frantic. Though I was a good Christian girl, there was no room to contemplate keeping the baby and so I began seeking means of terminating the pregnancy. I reached out to my more experienced friends for help and soon enough, I began making arrangements with Josephine on how I would skip school to see the doctor.
I went to get the door the next Saturday morning and found Francine, one of Josephine’s close friends, with her mother on our door steps. I froze, knowing I was busted for sure. Francine’s mum, the choir leader at our church, pushed past me and walked into our living room, leaving me and Francine staring at each other. I finally moved to the sitting room where my parents were watching movies.
Francine’s mum was still exchanging pleasantries with them when I got there. I stared at my parents’ smiling faces with a heavy heart, I knew I was about to break their heart (technically, Francine’s mother was). I sat quietly still and waited painfully till the grief, disappointment and tears finally came to the faces of those who bore me.
I had been scared and anxious before. That day, I felt immense shame. I had brought shame upon my parents, upon my family. I thought of all the whispers… How will they face fellow brethren or neighbours or colleagues? Francine’s mum had been gracious enough to leave out the part about my shopping for a doctor to abort the baby and I thanked her with my teary eyes.
After Francine and her mother left, my parents retired to their room without a word. Oh trust me, they weren’t pampering me or rewarding me. They were too overcome with grief to react. I was a star pupil right from Primary school and just when I should be preparing for University, I had gone and ruined everything, ruined my life no less. At least that was how it seemed at the time.
The next Saturday was time to meet Timi’s family, Timi had been so cooperative that he had gone ahead to confess to his parents same night of the day Francine and her mother had visited mine. It had given his family enough time to acknowledge the facts though it was obvious they were having a hard time coming to terms with it. At the end of the meeting, the family agreed to pay a stipend monthly for the care and upkeep of the baby and me, starting the following month.
I was not sent off to some aunty’s house to live out the nine months as in most teen pregnancy stories, no. My parents wasted no time in withdrawing me from school either, though Timi was not withdrawn. Thankfully, they arranged home schooling for me and so my education continued towards my senior secondary certification exams. I was not spared from house chores, errands or church services. I was taken for ante-natal when necessary and being a nurse, my mum ensured I did all that was right for the baby and me.
It was the toughest time of my life; people stared, snared and sniggered at me. Society was merciless! Labour came and it was excruciating, I thought I’d die from the intensity of the pain. Both families were there to welcome the new born baby, Timi too. Soon I left for the house and my baby was named Andrea in the most unceremonious naming ceremony ever. As soon as was possible, I resumed home schooling, took my UME exams on time and finally enrolled in a school to sit for my SSCE and NECO.
I passed all exams excellently and gained admission to UNILAG to read Law. Everything seemed to be going well for me now and I was excited for the first time in a long time. I was excited till my parents explained to me that I could not resume school yet since my baby was still breastfeeding; my admission will have to be deferred till the following year. I was distraught again but really, it went without sating. My parents have been tough yet supportive, true but the baby is mine, not theirs and I had to be responsible for her now. Not only did I defer my admission, I also had to look for a job too and got one as a Admin Assistant at a law firm.
Eventually, a new session started and I resumed at school. I studied hard and spent my spare time doing profitable trade or working events as an usher. This enabled me send money home from time to time for the care of Andrea. I visited often and about once a semester, my parents brought Andrea over for visits.
Everyone at school was of the impression that Andrea was my parents’ last child and I was just being supportive by sending money home. It was a convenient impression, one I never bothered to correct. I got full custody of Andrea on my 26th birthday when I moved to my own place in Yaba and we have been together ever since. Of course she visits with both families and has a healthy relationship with Timi.
Having a child out of wedlock affected my relationships and “drove” away many suitors. Fortunately, now at 29, I am engaged, plans for my wedding are underway and I couldn’t be more thankful for having Andrea.