Mumfession: Redundancy, a Masters Degree & a New Baby!
There were a few things I knew I wanted to have settled to a large extent before I had a baby. One was my education - up to masters level. And the other was a relatively decent position in my career. And it seemed like it had gone according to plan. But then, just before my maternity leave was set to commence, I knew I had to resign. Now this was a voluntary decision. But even at that, I felt a lot of uncertainty and nerves.
How much worse would I have felt, if I’d been made redundant and at the same time pregnant? In today’s Mumfession feature, Kemi shares how she navigated through all of that. From being made redundant, unexpected results, giving up a few dreams, leaning on the shoulders of others to the one thing that made it all worth it.
First came redundancy
I left my job at the end of October 2015. The global oil and gas downturn meant that not a lot of E & P work was going on — drilling & service contracts were not being renewed.
I was offered redundancy and glowing recommendations, but what to do? For one, I actually liked my job and wasn’t quite ready to leave the field.
A surprising result
I decided to do a masters and chose Aberdeen (really, where else? Aberdeen is the hub for all things Oil & Gas). Only Robert Gordon University offered the actual course I wanted. So, with the ‘what’ and the ‘where’ settled, it remained the how? I had invested my redundancy payoff into @supremerentals, a premium party rentals business based in Ibadan where I grew up. It was an idea birthed while planning my wedding in 2014 when I realised these things were just not available in Ibadan then, and I put my business plan into motion by mid-2015. ALL my savings had been invested; account reset to zero! I knew I needed a scholarship or this wasn't going to happen.
So I applied for the Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PTDF) scholarship, and got shortlisted for the qualifying test. My test was scheduled for 2pm. I arrived at 1pm, and in typical disorganised Nigerian fashion, the first batch of people scheduled to write at 8am had just gone in! I was in my first trimester and it felt like I had sleeping sickness; I could fall asleep literally any and everywhere. I slept in the car until we were finally called in at about 6pm. Two hours later, I was done but was pretty discouraged because I didn’t feel the exam went particularly well.
When the list of successful candidates came out, I didn’t even bother checking until five days later and even then I wasn’t even looking for my name. I was checking to see if I knew any of the people that got in. Then, scrolling through Osun state, I saw ‘Oluwakemi Agboola’ and I screamed. My husband rushed in, wondering if I was okay. I showed him the list — is this me or not? Is it possible there’s another Oluwakemi Agboola from Osun state who wants to study Drilling and Well Engineering?! Because I was astounded. For merit scholars, PTDF maintains a federal character — they select the top four candidates from each state (except Oil producing states which get six scholars) and the best female in each of the six geo-political zones. The exam hadn’t felt great for me, but apparently it must have been way worse for others as I was either one of the best four in Osun state or the best female in the SW — either way, I got in.
Hiding the bump
The PTDF registration process was another challenge in itself, as during orientation, we were informed that scholarships for pregnant or nursing women had to be deferred till the following year “to allow the mother to give birth and care for her child before embarking on rigorous academic pursuit.” So much for a woman’s choice. I didn’t want to defer as I already had a one year career gap and didn’t want to add an unnecessary one. So, throughout the registration process I had to hide my pregnancy – yes, in Nigeria, hiding pregnancy was a thing. It wasn’t just me; I knew about four other pregnant women and a couple of nursing mothers.
I was able to register without being discovered and it was time to leave. By this time, I was entering my 3rd trimester, leaving Nigeria to start my masters fully funded — tuition, living expenses, return tickets.
When I got to Aberdeen in September 2016, I stayed with my friend and his family while apartment hunting. The baby was due in three months and I had no nursery, had not bought a single baby item. It took a month to finally find the apartment that ticked all of my boxes, which in itself was super lucky as Aberdeen like the rest of the O&G economies had been affected by the downturn, including the housing market which had taken a hit. Two months to baby and I finally moved in to my apartment and started setting up for baby.
By this time, winter was approaching and it was getting cold. Getting to school each day was becoming a struggle. My major labour apprehensions were that I would either go into dramatic labour while in school — Hollywood type water-breaking drama — or she would come early and I would be all alone in that labour room. Thankfully neither of those happened and she was actually late by three days.
My labour experience was scary and honestly traumatic. (Please note: What is traumatic for one person may be a breeze for the next!). I was two days past by due date when my contractions started in the night and I wasn’t sure it was the real deal because Nollywood had poisoned my mind about labour expectations. I thought I would be tearing my hair out from the get-go. Then the contractions got more intense over the night and I knew I was in labour.
We bundled ourselves to the hospital by the afternoon of the next day when the contractions were about five minutes apart. I had written my birth plan weeks before — I wanted an epidural, thank you very much. Also, what is gas and air? I wanted the good stuff. Jesus did not die and leave all this scientific knowledge in the world for me not to use it. God must have been laughing at me because my labour was too fast to get an epidural, or morphine — nothing. Three hours after admission, a bad third-degree tear, and a whole bag of emotions later, Temilola was born.
It took a village
My first term exams were exactly one month after I gave birth. Thankfully the exams went well, but the entire 2017 was extremely stressful — juggling classes, term papers, exams, being a first time mum, understanding my baby maintaining a home and my sanity. Yet, I am grateful to have been through it, and massively thankful to my family for their support. My dad held it down for Supreme Rentals in my absence, my aunt was with me in the labour room, my late uncle was my unofficial gynae consult, all my aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins and friends rooted for me, my mother-in-law stayed and helped out with Temi while I went to school (this was the only way really. Childcare is super expensive yo!), my father-in-law who released his wife, and of course Tolu, my husband. He would come and visit every month without fail. If he could route work trips through the UK, he did, and if not, he would just come by himself.
I would be remiss if I make it sound easy. It wasn’t. There were several times I would break down and cry. I made sacrifices — my social life was pretty much non-existent and I couldn’t take advantage of my study year to do a Euro trip.
But, I have Temilola and that for me, is the greatest reward.
First off, how absolutely gorgeous is that photo?
I think Kemi’s last line sums it up nicely. Motherhood will often come with its own set of challenges and curve balls. But then, in many cases, the greatest reward will often be the smile and joy that your child(ren) bring to you.
Did you have to juggle schooling and being a mum? Do you have any checklist as to when you’d rather become a mum?