What Are The Odds?

That you are here, reading this today?

Michelle Okafor
4 min readDec 17, 2023
Image by author

Today is my birthday. I am 45 years old. I wrote a short post on X saying how I’m not taking it for granted. I want to elaborate more here.

It is a miracle that you are here today? It’s a miracle that I am here today. I don’t know much about you, but I’ll tell you my story.

My father grew up on a farm in rural Namibia, born on 21 July 1953, the second son of 6 siblings in total, 5 brothers and one sister. My mother, on the other hand, was born on 13 August 1953, also in a rural town in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, to a family of 6 siblings as well. She was the third daughter of 5 and she had one brother.

My father left the farm at 17, got on a truck that promised work in South Africa, and left. That work happened to be around the small town where my mother lived. I didn’t get the whole story, but everyone talked of fondness about the time my father and his friends would come into town after 2 weeks out on site, ready to spend their hard-earned cash and look for girls. You can guess the rest.

That was 45-plus years ago. Here I am, now with a family of my own, and I can just marvel at how the universe works out your course for you, without you having much of a say. You don’t have a say in where you were born, which family you are born into, whether your parents are educated or not, whether they have money or whether they are poor. You just fall into the status quo so to speak.

Image by author

They say the American passport is the most desired passport, or somewhere up there. I don’t have one. I am from the African continent, the poorest of continents. There are people starving in Africa. I am not one of them. Did I win the lucky draw?

I read an article by Dr Edmond Fomunung — First, Do No Harm about preterm births which are now the leading cause of child death in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. It has been described as a silent emergency by the United Nations.

I was a preterm baby in Sub-Saharan Africa born on 17 December 1978 in Cape Town. My mother left the small town in rural Western Cape and went to Cape Town to study to become a nurse. At this point, she already had my brother who was about 18 months older than me. She was fortunate to have commenced her training at Tygerberg Hospital, the largest hospital at the time in the Western Cape, which had just opened in 1976. What are the odds?

I don’t know the exact circumstances and my mother is deceased now. I wish I had asked her, but sometime around 36 weeks of her pregnancy with me, she went into labour. I believe she stayed in the nurses’ homes right next to the hospital or not far away. In any event, she could get to the hospital quickly and she was taken care of immediately. I was safely born, preterm.

Image by author

What were the odds for other young women in Sub-Saharan Africa giving birth at the same time to preterm babies? I shudder to think. What if my father decided to take his wife back to the farm and left his pregnant wife on the farm, thinking that he would be back in two weeks before the baby was due?

There is a photo that I cherish. It is one of me as a 6-month-old baby with my father holding me, my mother by his side and my brother standing by his knee, on the farm.

I can go on and on about how I believe a series of miracles followed me to where I am today. I am eternally grateful for my life, my family, the house we live in, the job I have, the health I have enjoyed up to now, and the easy access and convenience to basic necessities such as food, running water, and electricity.

I can go on, but I will stop here.

Are there miracles in your life?



Michelle Okafor

Writer of short, inspirational pieces. Make the most of your time here, for we pass this way only once. See the good in yourself and others.