Relebogile Mabotja Reveals all in Journey to Motherhood
During the peak of the global pandemic in 2020, tensions and fears about a deadly disease rose, irrevocably altering the way we live and work. People the world over lost their jobs and loved ones and were forced to discover new selves and dream up different futures, while simultaneously hoping to go back and embody their old selves in a world already gone. In the midst of a world experiencing seismic shifts in culture, religion, spirituality and socio-economic affairs, the uber conscientious, super diligent and indefatigable A-type personality, Relebogile Mabotja, was rocked by severe medical complications that left her bleeding all over a hospital bed in pain, with the presence of a new, unexpected, yet very precarious life.
To her fans, Relebogile is the bubbly and vibrant TV and radio star whose talents are noted in acting, talk show hosting, music and business. She’s undoubtedly a powerhouse career woman who is actively breaking glass-ceilings in her field with an unmistakable and unashamed badass feminist attitude that is inspiring to watch.
And while we also know her to be open and honest, we know that she’s kept a lot of her personal life to herself. In 2016, the media reported Relebogile’s stay in hospital after an operation. She shared an Instagram post of herself on a hospital bed with her close friend and actress Terry Pheto posing beside her, but little was said about what the operation was for. Similarly, she keeps her romantic relationships under wraps. After several, thorough online searches about her romantic past, I found that in terms of keeping her private life private, Relebogile could definitely give Beyoncé a run for her money. Not a peep about her love life can be found on Twitter’s streets or on Google’s receipts.
“That operation in 2016 was a lot for me. I was consulting different doctors and I eventually reached a point where I was in so much pain that I needed an operation to remove my fibroids. After a long recovery battle, I came back and decided not to speak about it because I hadn’t really dealt with it emotionally. I was in the hospital for almost three months and I was living there and it was quite a traumatic experience for me”, says Relebogile.
Because life doesn’t always go the way we plan, Relebogile’s fibroids returned, as if with a vengeance, at a time when she was thinking a lot about having children. After her doctor let her know about her returned fibroids, he noted that they were also growing and felt there was a medical need to operate. However, with Relebogile being asthmatic and having other pre-existing conditions, the operation was put on hold until they could revisit it in January/February, depending on the state of the pandemic and lockdown regulations.
Pregnant women with fibroids can face a lot of challenges while carrying, including severe pain, bleeding, miscarriage and placenta abruption. As a result, Relebogile’s doctor strongly advised against her getting pregnant until her fibroids had been taken out. She was therefore in a state of shock and panic when she found out that she was pregnant, despite taking the necessary precautionary measures. She thought about being forced to terminate the pregnancy, but her doctor was determined to help.
“No,” the doctor said, according to Relebogile, “when you’re on the radio, do I tell you what songs to play? No? So let me do my job. Let me do my job and worry. It will be tricky, but let me do the worrying. We’re having a baby!”
“At about 8 ½ weeks, my fibroids were bigger than the baby and at this point, we’re having scary complications where I’m having to go to the emergency room for the excessive bleeding,” she says. What Relebogile describes next is a vivid description of a frightening experience as she lay on the hospital bed, waiting to be transferred to a hospital with gynaecological facilities because, as she had learnt at that moment, not all hospitals have that equipment at their disposal.
“I specifically remember getting off of the emergency room bed after an examination where the doctor couldn’t confirm a heartbeat and seeing how much blood there was there. I was like, “there’s no way this child survived in there”. I was just crying.” While Relebogile’s doctor was against informing friends and families about the pregnancy at such an early stage because of the high-risks involved in her pregnancy, her mother had to find out on that very night.
Miraculously after a transfer, the gynae did find the baby’s heart beating as strong and as resilient as mommy. They both survived that ordeal and Relebogile, only then, began to internalise the idea that there was a person inside of her that she was about to fall in love with. Ironically, she explains, the same fibroids that are deemed a threat to her and her baby’s well-being, are positioned in such a way that they are around her uterus, thus not hurting the baby.
In past interviews, Relebogile, a recent honoree on Avance Media’s 100 Most Influential Young South Africans list, has admitted to sacrificing personal relationships, family time and her childhood to become successful. She’s often also mentioned that she only required three to four hours of sleep to work and function. But things have changed ever since the baby entered the picture.
“This pregnancy is teaching me about patience and surrender. Because I’m an A-type personality who likes to be in control of everything and because I like to plan everything, for the first time in my life I’m forced to surrender. And that includes things like having to surrender to the fact that today I might have to get nine hours sleep, surrender to the fact that I’m too tired to continue this task, surrender to the fact that I can’t stay up as long as I used to, or that I can’t wake up as early as I used to. In terms of the transition, most of it is psychological in the sense that you’re so used to your body being able to do certain things, but I’m learning to just listen to what my body and baby just want and need,” says Relebogile.
In embracing these important principles of self-care, she’s also realised the significance of having a strong female community to help her come into mommy-hood and learn about the lows and highs of the pregnancy journey.
“Through this journey, I’ve come to realise that there are so many women who suffer from many complications like fibroids, miscarriages, difficulties with falling pregnant…and it’s not often we hear the painful side of pregnancy. We often hear the wonderful side and mine has been very difficult…Having a sense of community has been as important as having a partner’s support. It’s so important that we share information so we can continue learning from each other,” she says.
She holds Dima Mabotja, her sister-in-law who just recently had a baby, very close to her heart and as part of her community of women. Dima, who exists alongside others like her mother, her sister and her aunt as part of this community, is someone she is constantly exchanging pregnancy experiences with to learn, grow and become stronger in this oftentimes lonely journey.
As a person who is exposed to the public eye, one would expect her to be concerned about things like weight gain, changing physical features and the like. Now and then she’s insecure about going outside, but she bluntly lets me know that she has “fewer (bleeps) to give about beauty. There was a (bleeps) redistribution that had to happen with that. We celebrate women who look beautiful during pregnancy but that’s something you can’t decide for yourself. There are other sides of pregnancy besides beauty and why can’t we celebrate that too?” Still, one can’t help but notice the glimmer and glow of her flawless makeup-free skin as she throws all her (bleeps) into the air.
When I ask her to spill the tea on who her baby’s father is, she laughs that full hearty, wholesome laugh, so characteristic of her, that seems to emerge from her belly and jokes that the holy spirit got her pregnant. Considering the miraculous details of her experience, it’s hard to think otherwise.