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What kind of human are you?

Recently a woman’s three-month -old infant died while at a crèche. Her friend shared the sad news on Twitter and some folks decided that it…

Recently a woman’s three-month -old infant died while at a crèche. Her friend shared the sad news on Twitter and some folks decided that it was the moment to harangue this grieving mother (a woman they didn’t know) for having the temerity to drop off a baby at creche like many working women the world over do. According to her friend, she’d just resumed work and the crèche was only two minutes away from her home. There were many people- women included – on the grieving mother’s friend’s TL who were certain they could have done better, who blamed her for her infant’s death; some called her “stupid.”  Na wah! Folks, I beg you, if you can’t keep your self-righteous, silly judgments and comments away from a grieving mother and her friends, ask yourself what kind of human you are, and then commit to becoming a better person. The worst kind of people, as far as I’m concerned, are those who weaponise others’ ill fortunes as sticks to beat them over the head with. These people gathered on the TL with the story, questioning why this new mother worked, why she dropped off her kid at a creche, why she didn’t have her child tethered to her all day long: the kind of questions we’d never think to ask a man. Anyway, let me try to answer the questions.

Why did she work? One would have thought that the answer to this was so self-evident as to preclude the question being asked at all. Part of adulting is working to earn a living. This is a fact those asking seem to have forgotten. We work to provide for ourselves and for our families. It is on the same Naija Twitter space that the people questioning this mother’s right to work vilify Naija women (for) not working. Becoming a mother shouldn’t mean that a woman can no longer work. No mother willing/wanting to work in whatever industry should be made to choose between  a child or a career. It is the 21st century and the women who want both should be able to have both.

Why did she drop off her baby at the crèche? What should she have done? Strap the baby to herself and carry it to work? Install a baby cot in her office so her baby could be with her all day long? She put her baby where she expected the baby to be safe and provided for while she worked. What happened to the baby was an unfortunate incident. I haven’t read anything that suggests that the death was due to negligence or criminal activity. It’s a sad fact of life that sometimes, tragedies happen. Healthy babies die. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or crib/cot death is, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the leading cause of death in children under one year old, and 90 per cent of SIDS deaths occur before babies reach six months old.

The more sensible discussion to have is how to ensure that working mothers are able to effectively combine parenting with working, how to make childcare issues not be an impediment to mothers in the workforce (we know that fathers are less likely to worry about childcare because they are also likely to be the primary caregivers) and how to break the bias against working mothers.

And while that discussion is ongoing, efforts should be made to educate new parents and infant daycare  employees on SIDS and ways to mitigate its occurrence. When I had my eldest, I was asked to lie him on his side, placing him between an anti-roll pillow to stop him from rolling over on his stomach, and then changing sides every so often.   By the time I had my youngest 10 years later, science had moved to suggest that laying babies on their back was better for reducing the risk of  SIDS death. Between the first and the last, what didn’t change was the advice to ensure that the mattress of the baby cot was firm, the sheet fitted and the cot clear of toys. With cot death, one can only reduce risk factors. In cases where there are undiagnosed underlying biological defects that might rob babies of lifesaving reflexes if the infant’s airway were blocked, then no mitigation is likely to help.

I am no doctor and I can’t say what was responsible for the death of the baby whose mother’s friend posted on TL, or whether it was negligence or an unavoidable tragedy. However, we do not need to know the cause to be decent human beings. Losing a child is a terrible thing. I’ve had both an ectopic pregnancy and a miscarriage. I know how deep my grief was in both instances. My heart goes out to this woman mourning a child she had for three months. May she find comfort.

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