I first noticed it in 2008, when I went to Nigeria for the first time as an adult. There I observed that when a blogger is silent, it usually means something big is going on, and among the Nigerian bloggers who’ve gone (temporarily) silent over the years, it’s usually because they’re getting married or having a baby (or both!). This is when I started thinking about different attitudes concerning pregnancy in Nigeria and Canada.
In 2008, a tenant of my grandma’s loved being photographed—she was always photobombing pictures I was taking of others, or asking for her or her children to be photographed. However, two years later when she was about halfway through her pregnancy with her third child, she hurried away whenever I brought out my camera and wouldn’t discuss anything related to her pregnancy (I remember asking her how far along she was and asking if she knew the sex of her baby). Two and a half years later, she was happy to be photographed again. A cousin similarly won’t share news about being pregnant and even when she knows her mom has told us that she’s pregnant, she won’t discuss it, to the point of ignoring any references in the conversation, however slight, to the baby. She’s not rude about it and she’s a reserved person so maybe that’s why she prefers not to discuss it.
Disclaimer: these are just my observations, nothing scientific or all-encompassing about them!
I find that Nigerians tend to keep quiet about pregnancy far longer than their Canadian counterparts, but there are lots of other factors to consider in both cases, including their personality, whether it’s a first pregnancy, whether there are concerns with the pregnancy, how long the couple has been trying to conceive (and if they’ve had disappointments in the past)—these and other things affect how willing someone is to shout their good news from the rooftops.
I think people keep things like this quiet in Nigeria because aside from being somewhat more reserved when it comes to personal matters, superstitions exist and there’s a fear that someone who knows your happy news may wish you ill—the need to keep wedding details quiet came up each of the last three times I was in Nigeria: there’s the feeling that if people know your good news they will try and destroy it. So even if you know something is happening, you may not want to show too much interest or ask a lot of questions lest someone think you want to use the information against them. This is a contrast to Canada where it would be odd to interact with a woman who is clearly pregnant and not refer to her pregnancy at all, either by sharing your congratulations, asking how far along she is, or inquiring about the sex of her baby.
At the beginning, most people (regardless of nationality) are quiet or keep the info within the family or very close friends. But later on:
End of first trimester (about 3.5 months pregnant)
After the first trimester, it’s accepted that the most dangerous period is behind the woman and most people feel comfortable letting their family and close friends know (if they haven’t already). Many also make a public announcement on Facebook about the pregnancy, complete with a picture of the ultrasound. I’ve never seen a post on Facebook by a Nigerian about a pregnancy (and certainly haven’t seen any ultrasound pictures!); I only see postings after the baby is born. The exception is Nigerians who were raised outside of Nigeria—they may be influenced by how things are done by the general population where they live. I haven’t seen a Nigeria-based (or raised) woman share her pregnancy on Facebook, while I can name many non-Nigerians who made public announcements.
Once you can’t hide it, strangers on a bus will offer you their seat because of your pregnancy, and the chattier ones may ask the basic questions (due date and sex of the baby). In Nigeria it’s the elephant in the room (haha): I remember trying that small-talk move with my grandma’s tenant and she just ignored (not rudely) any reference to being pregnant. But maybe in that case she didn’t feel she knew me well enough or maybe married women don’t like to discuss things like that with unmarried women—if anyone knows, tell me! But in Canada those questions wouldn’t be seen as prying and in fact strangers will sometimes go so far as to touch a pregnant woman’s belly, even if they don’t know her..
Baby has arrived!
A lot of people I know have had babies over the last two years and if they’re on Facebook they announce the birth within a day or two of the baby’s arrival. Nigerians wait longer than that (if they announce it at all).
Naming the baby
So the huge difference between Canadians and (most?) Nigerians is that Nigerian babies don’t get their name right away—Yoruba babies get their name a week after they’re born. Not so with Canadian babies, who are often named well before their arrival.
When it comes to sharing the name of the baby before birth, most people tend to keep it quiet because they want to surprise people and some don’t want someone else to use the name they’ve spent time choosing.
Talks of baby’s sex
I don’t think finding out the sex of the baby is as big deal in Nigeria as it is here (is it?), but I could be wrong since my experience is limited. It’s so common here to ask a pregnant woman if she knows the sex of her baby and while not everyone opts to find out ahead of time, I suspect the majority does.
I think I’ll lean more toward the Canadian way of dealing with pregnancy, though I can only speak for myself at this stage and not my future husband! Watching my sister go through labour allowed me to see what a sacred and personal experience entering into motherhood is. I can see how the experience would affect what you decide to share with the world, but beforehand, anything is fair game!
Ok, if you live in Nigeria or know how things are, how accurate this is? I’m not talking about your close friends who will share details with you long before they’re ready for it to be public; think about it generally, like if a colleague you’re not close to or someone in your church was pregnant.