FabAfriq Magazine

Confessions Of A Modern Mother

It had been 10 years since I had seen her. My daughter had finally been issued a visa to join me in the UK. I was over the moon, so happy. I had fought long an hard with the immigration department and my application had finally been approved. What to do next? How do I plan for her arrival? I began to think of all the possible receptions I could give her. I wondered what would make the best surprise for her; give her a taste of real Britain. I picked up the phone and called my best friend. She screamed for joy when i tolde her about the visa, then promptly hung up and drove over. We made plans. Several calls to local suppliers later, we were all set for a party.

My daughter was only 13 years old. she was my baby and my most cherished treasure. I gave birth to her when I was only 17 and that experience is different story altogether. 

My little girl deserved the best so I booked a first class ticket with SN Brussels. I had worked tirelessly and she would enjoy the fruit of my labour. I phoned her and shared my plans. She was extremely excited and asked a million questions. I answered the best I could. I thought she sounded so grown up!

On the morning of her arrival, I awoke 6 hours early. I asked my friend to accompany me to the airport (I did not trust myself to drive; I was far too excited). She laughed and asked me to calm down when I admitted my daughter wasn't due to arrive for another 6 hours. We left for the airport 3 hours early; I needed to make sure I was there on time. No excuses! I had bought some fresh lilies and balloons and dressed in a T-shirt with her name spelt out in BOLD. I was shaking with excitement by the time her flight landed. I waited in anticipation. It was the heart of winter but I was sweating like a pig. Thirty minutes later she had cleared security. When I saw her, my heart skipped a beat. Was that my daughter? Balloons in one hand and flowers in the other, I wondered which to drop.  I had never seen such a lovely, mature, 13 years old in my entire life. She was drop dead gorgeous; slender with a dark chocolate complexion and poised like a 17 year old. I dropped both balloons and flowers and rushed to my little baby. I cried as I hugged her and told her how much I loved her. Soon, we were all set to go. We jumped into the car and didn't stop talking on the drive home. I laughed, cried, stammered, and gushed out words I did not recognise all the way there.

The party was great. Excited friends, some good presents for her and then it was just the two of us. She was due to start school in a week so we got busy buying her school gear.

Beneath all the joy, one question kept creeping up in my mind. How had my daughter, at thirteen, grown into a full bodied woman with ripe breasts? BOOBS? How did this happen? Why did no one tell me about this? How do I live with this? What should I do? Back at home, if a female child developed breasts, she was deemed ready for marriage. I had only just met my daughter after 10 years, what would I do if someone took her away as their wife?

One morning, before she was due to start school, I sat her down and told her all about men in the UK and how perverted they were. I told her to pay no attention to any men or the boys at her school. I warned her to tell me if anyone did as much as glance in her direction. The first month was good; she made some friends and picked up some English (We are French speaking). Three months later, I could barely recognise her.

Then she made the mistake of telling me about a boy called Michael at school. Who was Michael? How old was he? Where did he live? Did she see him every day? I wanted to know everything, yet she told me nothing. She said he was just a boy in her class who thought her accent was cool. This didn't go down well with me but I played along. That weekend, at the super market, all I could see were the pairs of eyes ogling my daughter. They all stared shamelessly at her breasts. I looked at her. They looked attractive and inviting in her little T-shirt. I felt I had to do something about the situation. I called my mom and told her about my fears. She asked me not to worry; she would send me a stone to massage them. I asked how and was reminded with a lecture on breast ironing.

Breast ironing is a traditional ritual during which flat, heated objects are used to "iron" (massage) a girl's growing breasts in order to suppress and reverse their development. A girl's mother or aunt usually performs this ritual. The most commonly used utensils are wooden pestles or stones. Other utensils include coconut shells, grinding stones, ladles, spatulas and hammers, all heated over burning coal. My mother further explained to me that early breast development could lead to early sexual encounters, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, possible rapes and the transmission of sexual diseases. She believed ironing my daughter's growing bust was the only solution.

My heart began to pound in my chest. I could hear it, it was so loud. Did I really want to do this? Did I want to hurt my daughter? I waited impatiently for the stone she had promised to send. We didn't have many friends who travelled but rather than employ any of the alternatives available, I would wait for my stone.

I grew more impatient, when 3 days later, I saw my daughter chatting with a 40something year old man around my block. Two days after that, she told me Michael had invited her to the movies. I held my breath as I asked for details. I explained she was not allowed to go our on dates at 13 and she asked why. All of her school friends went to the movies and she promised to be home early for dinner. The theatre was only a 10 minute walk from home, she argued.

I had had enough. I would not live to see my daughter a victim of rape. I decided I would buy a spatula that day. Moments later, my phone rang and I heard my mum's voice say my stone was on the way...YES!!


Soon, it was time to perform the ritual. My hands were trembling, I could not believe I was going to do it. I lied to my daughter and told her it would not hurt. The UK was a dangerous place where older men preyed on 13 years old with big breasts and did very bad things to them, I explained. She looked scared but I ignored the plea in her eyes. I warmed the stone on my hub and began massaging her breast with it. The pain was excruciating and she let out an earth shattering wail. I blocked the sound from my mind, focusing my thoughts on the men I thought I was protecting her from. They would destroy my daughter before she was even 15. I begged and prayed. I ironed her breast for the next 15 minutes, then I held and rocked her to comforting her. I gave her some hot chocolate to sooth her and asked her to tell no one as she would become an object of ridicule.

The next evening,  I repeated the ritual. This time, I must have gone too far. I ironed them for 40 minutes. My daughter did not sleep that night. I stayed with her all night as she cried and rubbed her chest. The following morning, she looked unhappy as I dropped her off at school but I reassured myself I was doing the right thing. I promised myself I'd massage her breasts a little harder that night because I could not see a big enough result. I went off to work.

At 12:24pm, my phone rang. I did not recognise the number and although it wasn't something I would normally do at work, I picked up.

"Ms J.K", the voice asked. "Yes, who is this?", I answered.

"This is the ambulance service. We have got your daughter and you have to come to the hospital immediately."

"Which hos..pi..tal?”, I stammered. "Is she alright? What happened? Hello? Hello?”

"Yes. I am here ma’am, I am afraid I can’t release any more information over the phone.” The line went dead and I starred at my phone. I had missed a call; my daughter’s school had been trying to contact me. My heart pounding, I rushed out and cried all the way to the hospital.

The police were waiting for me when I arrived. The social workers were there too. I glared at them, cursing and calling them names.

'Vultures, I know you are waiting to devour my daughter. You will never have her. I am her mum', I kept thinking to myself. ‘I am her mum. Was she OK?' I wondered.

A police woman and two social workers asked me to follow them into an interview room. I was ready to defend myself.

"Breast ironing is against the law in Britain and you are now charged with a criminal offence” she said.

Wha..at?” I stammered. She is my daughter. I was just protecting her. That is our culture and it is legal in my country. I struggled to justify myself to no avail. The case was sent to the National Criminal Bureau. I was lucky to escape a custodial sentence.

A few days later, my daughter came home. When she looked at me, I could see the hatred in her eyes. I felt a pain in my chest. I had betrayed her. Would she ever understand?

My relationship with my daughter has never been the same. I am screwed up and now have a record. I lost my job and have been in and out of work since. I now earn a living braiding hair. Problem is, I still don't know what to think.

Was what I did so wrong? Do I deserve better? Or do I deserve worse?


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