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Book Review: Kaltume Akubo’s Sonnets for Motherhood is an Ode to Feminity

Sonnet for motherhood - Kaltume Akubo

Kaltume Akubo’s Sonnets for Motherhood is compilation of 51 poems tailored for women who look forward to, or have experienced the joy of childbirth. The writing is accessible and easy on the eyes, it is meant to be read out loud in quiet moments of care, and gratitude. This book sees motherhood and everything around it as sacred, elevating what would normally be considered just another human activity. 


Akubo digs into her own experiences to create these poems. They are not hearsay or conjecture, they are ‘lived through’ personal stories, perspectives from someone who finds purpose in giving life and nurturing. She opens the book with musings on her change in perspective in “I Didn’t Understand” — reflecting the universal theme of a mother’s journey. This poem captures the transformation from “not knowing” to a state of deep and personal realization. She makes “I didn’t understand” a motif in this one poem, however, the spirit of realisation is present throughout the book as well. Popping up and conveying emotions of gratefulness and appreciation.


“Tiny Feet” takes a poignant look at the tender moments between a parent and child. She describes it gleefully. It is poetry that gives freely with no thought of negotiation.


“Tiny feet
sticking under the sheet.

Poking me as I try to catch some rest.
I look under to peep at the tiny thing tickling my side. To see the beautiful feet
and sparkling eyes daring me to react.
I smile at the intrusion
and the little one speaking subtly to me” 


Akubo’s approach is playful yet endearing, personal and loving. It captures the innocence and vulnerability of a child, and the overwhelming love and joy it brings to the parent.


Dr Kaltume Akubo, who has children of her own, borrows from her life to write this book. There’s vivid imagery and appreciation of various life steps, poems like “First day of School,” “Silent Whispers,” and “A Whisper of Love” serve as gentle reminders about the bliss of motherhood. The poem successfully conveys the depth of the speaker’s love and the irreplaceable nature of the connection between mother and child.


Beyond conversations about motherhood, this book also touches upon subjects like community and various aspects of general life: culture, creativity, ethics– all of which on surface level seem to not concern motherhood itself. It would seem however that Akubo is celebrating her child and equipping them with vital skills needed to excel in life. “The role of a mother is very versatile, it demands that one needs to combine all, go above and beyond. To be able to raise a balanced child that make their mark on earth and in life, there is need to be creative, involve/actively participate in the community and value ethical standards.” Akubo reveals In conversation.


While there is a lot to say about the positive sides of motherhood and childbirth, one would wonder if it is excessively romanticized when viewed through Akubo’s perspective. Pregnancy in all its magic is especially dangerous in areas where resources are scarce. Reports show that the current infant mortality rate for Africa in 2023 is 41.586 deaths per 1000 live births.  But she addresses this in “The Memory of Healing (Birth Pangs) I” as she champions healing and gratefulness. Dr Kaltume Akubo acknowledges the scars as reminders of overcoming challenges and this adds a layer of depth to the narrative.


When talking about drawbacks of pregnancy, Postpartum depression also seems to be a recurring anomaly in the modern world, even though it is not thoroughly reported and detected early. In fact Postpartum depression rate in Africa is 18%, and it is as high as 43% in Uganda and 23% in Cameroon. Akubo speaks to this as she advises new mothers to value and pamper themselves in “A Love Letter to Self.” She does this by acknowledging a lot of the insecurity and fears new mothers face in their journey. She uses herself as a focal point.


“I love to stare at your body,

I love how slim you are,

and even when you put on some weight, I will still love whatever size you’ll be.

I love to hear you sing,

even when you miss a key or two.

I will never love you less,

even if no one else does.”


Dr Kaltume Akubo’s Sonnets for Motherhood is like a warm blanket to new mothers and mothers-to-be. It overflows with positivity and ease, and serves a manifesto for fertility and the joy it brings. It is highly recommended for family reads and quiet meditations to appreciate anew one’s life and experiences.


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Oyedele is passionate about culture and arts. Engage on instagram and twitter, @omoalokan