‘Sweet Mother, I no go forget you for sparing me the agonies of blindness…’

T The Yoruba take marriage very seriously and this can be seen from the traditional wedding ceremony. It is unique and never something to be hurried. The ceremony is a colourful and prayerful display, full of fun and fanfare. Marriage in Yoruba land is between the families of the bride and groom. Hence both the groom and the bride take the backstage until towards the end of the show.

Traditionally, a man cannot approach his future in-laws to ask for the hand of their daughter in marriage. He tells the most senior member of his family who would send an intermediary to the parents of the bride. The families of the parents of the bride would also respond through their own emissary. Thus at the ceremony, the two emissaries act as the spokespersons of the two families and perform the roles of the Master of Ceremony.

Modernisation and technology have largely influenced the ceremony but, the theme has remained essentially the same. The message to the groom is clear, “We are giving our daughter through your family to you. Take good care of her.” Yoruba people love singing and dancing. Beautiful songs and scintillating dances are usually interspersed prominently during the ceremony. “Sweet Mother,” is one of today’s most popular songs at the event. Isn’t it amazing that it is in Pidgin English, not Yoruba, but all, literate and illiterate, understand the lyrics.

It is a song of appreciation and gratitude for all a mother has done from pregnancy through childbirth to adulthood. It talks about the sacrifices of a mother. “Sweet mother I no go forget you for the suffer wey you suffer for me. When I dey cry, my mother go carry me–she go say, ‘my pikin’, wetin you dey cry ye, ye.

“Stop!  Stop! M;ke you no cry again oh. When I wan sleep, my mother go pet me, she go lie me well well for bed; she cover me cloth, sing me to sleep; sleep sleep my pikin oh. When I dey hungry, my mother go run up and down, she go find me something wey I go chop oh. If I no eat, my mother nogo eat; if I no sleep my mother no go sleep; she no dey tire……” Truly it is an auspicious occasion to remember and say thank you publicly to a good and loving mother. And everyone sings along and dances without any inhibitions.

However many of those singing and dancing are oblivious to the fact that mothering starts even before pregnancy; that a would-be mother’s lifestyle or health status may determine the future health status of her child. Certain medications, over indulgence in alcohol or cigarette smoking may lead to having children with abnormalities.

If a mother is infected by the rubella virus during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, the new born child may have multiple congenital abnormalities involving the eyes, heart, ears and other organs.

Similarly, a pregnant mother who is infected with the parasite called Toxoplasma gondii from ingestion of inadequately cooked meat (such as suya) containing cysts of the parasite may give birth to a child with severe abnormalities. It may also cause an infection in the child while within the womb. Such children may be born with severe visual impairment and future recurrent infections in adulthood. There would have been more children born with congenital abnormalities but fortunately, nature has a way of limiting this. Quite often when the defect is severe, the pregnancy is terminated leading to spontaneous abortion.

It’s important to be aware that some sexually-transmitted diseases can affect the eye. Herpes can cause inflammation and scarring of the cornea, inflammation inside the eye, and glaucoma, among other problems. Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea can be passed to newborns during birth or be spread to the eyes at any age through touch. Syphilis is a systemic infection and eye involvement is rising in some areas.

HIV/AIDS and related opportunistic infections which include toxoplasmosis and CMV retinitis can be devastating to the eyes of a new-born or young adult. .

May I add another line to the lyrics, “Sweet Mother, I no go forget you for sparing me the agonies of blindness through your actions or inactions.”