When they got to the empty desk, the nurse went round and provided Enyinnaya with the necessary documents to fill, which he did; his trembling hands almost making his writing unintelligible.
The nurse eyed the finger marks on his shoulder and the blood stained vest. “Labour pains?” She said and Enyinnaya exhaled noisily. “Now to get you sterilized and dressed.” she led him away. The bespectacled attendant ran past them again, out of uniform and fully dressed in his own clothes.
Soon afterwards, Enyinnaya was by Chikamso’s side. Nothing he had imagined or heard from other fathers or seen in the numerous documentaries of childbirth he’d purchased prepared him for this. Her screams were blood curdling, literally. In his confused state, he left her side and stood in front of her open legs and wretched when he saw the baby’s crown. He returned to her side and held her hand, his tummy in knots.
“I hate you!” she yelled.
“I hate me too.” He replied breathlessly.
“See what you are putting me through.” she grunted.
“We were in it together.” He replied, his mouth felt dry.
“Breathe.” The doctor ordered.
“I’m breathing, it’s quite difficult through this mask though.” Enyinnaya said.
“Not you, you idiot.” Chikamso said.
“I was referring to her, sir.” The doctor chuckled, “Breathe madam, just like they taught you at ANC.” He said.
Chikamso huffed and puffed a few times when the doctor gave the order,
Chikamso pushed as hard as she could, the veins visible on her face and neck threatened to burst. Her eyes filled with tears. Enyinnaya felt satisfied for a second. It was evident that the child was meting out punishment for her terrorist acts against him these past few months on his behalf, he was going to get it a BMX bike once it came out.
“We’re almost there.” The doctor announced.
Enyinnaya rubbed her back and whispered in her ear to soothe her; just as the doctor ordered. Suddenly, her grip on his hand became vice-like.
“You’re crushing my hand.” He winced.
Chikamso let out another blood curdling yell.
“Breathe.” The doctor ordered again. Chikamso did as directed, Enyinnaya bested her at it as he breathed enough air for them both.
“PUSH!!!” The doctor ordered again. And Chikamso pushed with all the strength she could muster.
And then there was silence…
Chikamso exhaled and fell back in the bed with her eyes closed, pulling Enyinnaya along until he almost fell on her. The doctor lifted the child by its tiny legs so it dangled upside down in midair, it was dead silent. He lifted his hand and was about to smack its rump when it let out a shrill cry. The nurses and midwives quickly wrapped the child in a blanket and presented it to its mother.
Enyinnaya fell to his knees and almost passed out.
Chikamso looked from her baby to her husband. “I love you so much, I love you. See what you made me do.” She said.
“Yeah, I did that.” He said.
She kissed him long and deep and handed his child to him.
He collected the baby in his hands and tried to adjust it properly so it would rest comfortably on his hands when he felt something like a swelling in its lower back region, and in its middle there seemed to be a hole; it was big enough for his finger to fit in, the hole felt like it had a membranous layer covering it.
“Doctor, there seems to be something wrong with the baby.” He said.
The doctor reached for the baby and almost immediately felt the swelling and the hole for himself. “Oh God, no!” He exclaimed and rushed out of the delivery room with the baby.
Enyinnaya went after the doctor, Chikamso’s delirious questioning floated after him.
He followed the doctor through a set of swinging doors with “ICU” boldly written above them but was stopped just inside by a stern faced, middle aged nurse. His eyes followed the doctor as he went down that hall and entered a room on his left.
The middle aged nurse pointed at the swinging doors, indicating that he wait outside.
“Is there anything you can do for the child?” She asked.
“Outside.” She ordered.
Enyinnaya walked out sullen. A few minutes later, the same nurse who gave him the forms to fill ran past him with a feeding bottle filled with milk. She was a sight to behold. This was not the time for that. What was going on?
He reached in his pocket for his rosary but couldn’t find it. He said a few Hail Marys aloud and about a hundred Angeluses when the doctor came out with a grim look on his face.
“Doc, my baby, how is it?” Eniyinnaya asked, fear that the worst had happened overwhelmed him.
“Alive, he’s having his first meal.” The doctor replied.
Enyinnaya lifted his fists in the air, “Chukwu daalu. Thank you Lord. So it’s a boy.” He said, relief flooding through his system. “Chukwu gozie gi, doctor (God bless you, doctor). When can I see him?”
“He’s in NICU at the moment, we don’t allow people in there anyhow, but I’ll see what I can do.” The doctor replied.
“Thank you.” Enyinnaya said. “But doc, I wanted to ask, does NICU mean National Incoming Childen’s Unit or something? Seeing that you brought a newborn here. Plus, you really scared me with the way you barged out of the delivery room. Thank God my little Chima is doing well and eating fine.”
“Enyinna… can I call you that?” The doctor asked, Enyinnaya nodded. “First of all, your child is alive, and we should be thankful for that, but there’s a challenge at hand….” He said.
“Challenge? What challenge is that?” Enyinnaya asked, the smile on his face beginning to wane.
“The NICU is the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, we treat life and death situations of newborns in there.” The doctor said frankly.
“Wh– What are you saying? My child is dying?” The colour had drained from Enyinnaya’s face. They heard the approaching sound of a blaring siren outside.
“It’s the swelling on his back,” the doctor paused for a second,
“Enh henh?” Enyinnaya cut in, “Is it abnormal to have a boil?”
The doctor continued, “I wish it was that easy. What your son has is a condition called spina bifida, split spine.” Enyinnaya stared blankly at him. He continued. “When your baby was developing in the womb, his spine did not develop properly, that is, the region it usually is in didn’t close up properly, hence there’s a hole in his back that leads straight into the spinal canal and in essence his spinal cord is exposed to the open, except for the membrane covering the hole. This is the easiest explanation I can—”
Another nurse burst in with blood stained gloved hands from the direction where Enyinnaya and the doctor had left some minutes before, “Doctor, come quick, it’s an emergency.”
“Would you excuse me?” The doctor said to Enyinnaya and sprang to his feet, “What is it, Bose?” He called after the nurse who had dashed back out. There were shouts coming from the other side of the swinging door….
Enyinnaya’s world was set on pause.
written by I AM ONE MEN