Zuri started bleeding oblivious that it was almost time, though a little unexpected. For a moment she thought it was nature call when she rushed to the restroom but it was a false alarm. She went back to the bedroom and tried to nap again. She had barely closed her eyes when she rushed back to the restroom just like before. Again, nothing except that this time, she noticed her underwear was covered in blood. Confused, she called her mother who came running to check what the issue was.
A few days earlier, Zuri had been to the hospital for her checkup. At seven months pregnant nothing seemed alarming as far as she was concerned. She was sure she had two more months before the delivery of her twins, but she wished the doctor was more upfront with her after the checkup. He had just given her some drugs and asked her to take them from time to time if she felt any kind of pain. Was the doctor scared to tell her the truth? The twins were not co-joined, thank God; however, they seemed to share the umbilical cord and there was no telling what would happen. Zuri would later be miffed by this. The doctor should have just said something once he noticed this development.
Zuri’s mother opened the restroom’s door, it wasn’t locked. Zuri held her underwear and wondered what to do. “Are you in pain?” she asked Zuri as soon as she saw the undergarment. “Yes but not too much pain.” By this time, Zuri’s had dilated (for the guys not familiar with childbearing, dilation is that process when a woman’s birth canal opens up or widens to allow the passage of the baby) at about nine centimetres which meant, soon she would be ready for delivery.
Zuri’s mother asked her daughter to get a bag ready as she called for a taxi to take them to the hospital. Zuri packed a few baby clothes and some of hers just in case she would be admitted though in her mind she thought it was going to be a quick checkup then go back home. She hurriedly changed into clean clothes then followed her mother who was waiting outside the house.
She had wanted her husband to be around when she went into labour but fate had other plans. Zuri and her husband are expatriates working as hoteliers. When Zuri got pregnant, they both agreed she would come home for delivery. They felt that home would be easier and affordable for them. Hiring a nanny would be too expensive for them. Raising a family as expats in some foreign countries is an uphill task. The best you can do is come back home, deliver your baby, breastfeed up to six months and once you start weaning the baby, you go back to work and leave the baby under the care of a trusted relative. Zuri was the first to come home. Her husband would later join her shortly after delivery.
Zuri’s mother hailed the taxi once she saw the driver make his way towards them. The driver stepped out of the car as soon as he saw the pregnant woman. He approached Zuri and assisted her to get in the car as Zuri’s mother took the bag from Zuri and waited till she sat comfortably at the right side of the back seat, behind the driver. Zuri’s mother got to the opposite side and sat next to her daughter. She worried for her daughter.
Zuri had gone to her mum’s over the weekend. She was bored being alone in her house. Staying at her mum’s was her only way to kill time as she waited for her beloved to come home. She was glad she was there when this happened; but even more glad she had carried some clothes during her stay there.
“Even pre-term babies survive”, her mother whispered to her as the driver stepped on the gas headed to the hospital.
“But mama I was not due until another two months.”
“Be ready for anything but most importantly, have faith.”
The labour pains started again. Zuri almost tore her dress apart. She cringed then broke into tears as her mother held her hand and sent the heavens a prayer for her daughter. Zuri yelled at the driver to step on the gas some more. Thankfully, there was no traffic. They caught all the green lights.
They arrived at the hospital a few minutes later. Zuri was almost out of breath as her mother helped her out of the car. The driver got their bag and walked them to the entrance. “Mum, I wish you safe delivery”, he said to Zuri as he handed the bag to her mother. She took her phone from the bag and transferred the driver some money on M-pesa. He turned and left them at the entrance occasionally looking behind to see if they went in.
Zuri was panicking. She was afraid, too afraid. She was a first-time mother who was clueless about what to expect once they got inside the hospital. Her cobwebbed mind began to race. She wished her husband was there with her. She held her tears as she struggled to walk through the hallway of the labour ward. All she wanted was to get over and done with the torturous pain. Unknown to her, it was going to be a waiting game.
Two nurses saw Zuri from a distance being held in one arm by her mother. They ran towards her. One look at her and they figured it was going to be an admission. They immediately asked her mother to start the paperwork at the admission’s desk. Zuri’s mother wasted no time and ran to the small office that hosted a man and a woman sharing a big long desk at the opposite side of the hallway where few other people sat and waited.
The nurses walked Zuri to the labour room as the first nurse examined her once she had rested on the bed. She had dilated about 12 centimetres but the nurse couldn’t feel any movement from her belly. She looked at the second nurse and asked her to check if she could feel anything. Zuri read their minds and said, “I felt a movement this morning.” The nurses threw each other glances without a word. Zuri was in excruciating pain. She sobbed as she called out for God’s intervention in all languages she knew. She wished that someone, anyone, would save her from the pain. The nurses asked her to take long deep breaths if she felt any pain.
Zuri’s mother was done with the paperwork and walked to the labour room. She found Zuri lying on the floor because the bed wasn’t too comfortable for her anymore. Zuri’s mother ran to her and tried to help her back in bed. Zuri was reluctant at first but finally agreed to do as her mother said.
It was about 1 P.M. and the visitors would soon be asked to leave. She asked her daughter to hang in there as she went out to look for something they could both bite before she left the hospital later that evening. They had left the house at around 11 A.M. They were hungry.
At 1:30 P.M. Zuri’s mother was back with some snacks from the hospital’s canteen. She helped Zuri sit up and asked her to eat as she would need some energy later. They sat on the bed for another half an hour until the first nurse came back and told the visitors that their time was up. Zuri’s mother kissed her daughter on the forehead and told her she would be back in the evening. She and other visitors who were in the room left. She exited and went to the hospital’s garden square where she sat and waited for the evening visiting hours.
“Are you in any pain?” a doctor came and asked Zuri.
“On and off doc”, she said.
The doctor then asked the first nurse to do the needful. The nurse slid two fingers inside Zuri’s birth canal to check how far she had dilated. She left then shortly came back with a syringe. She injected her on the right thigh and asked her to lie on her left side.
“Don’t move. I will be back to check up on you”, the nurse told her then left the room. Zuri slept on her left side being careful not to move. The nurse sounded too serious.
At 4 P.M. she was still in bed. Her left side numb. She wanted to get up when she saw her mother walk in. She asked her if she was still in pain. They sat there as they listened to a woman in the delivery room-few metres from where they were, scream. Shortly after, the cry of a baby filled the air. Her mother leaned closer to her and told her soon she will also give birth. It was a matter of hours if not minutes.
Time seemed to fly as mother and daughter sat on that bed. Zuri’s mother encouraged her daughter that motherhood would be one of the defining moments for her life but she needed not to be afraid about the process that laid before her. It was 5 P.M. and that meant Zuri’s mother had to leave. She made a prayer for her daughter and promised to be back the following day.
Zuri slept immediately her mother left. She tried to get up when she heard a voice call out to them (Zuri and other few women in the labour ward) to sit up and have their dinner. It was about 6:30 P.M. She struggled to sit up. At 7:30 P.M. a nurse walked in, a different one. The nurse went around and checked on the women in the labour ward, about six of them. She got to Zuri and asked if she was ok. Zuri seemed uncomfortable. She helped her sit up. She had not touched the food brought to her an hour ago. She got out of bed and tried to walk along the hallway. She then went back to bed. And waited.
Later that night, Zuri started screaming. This time, the pain was more severe. She called out for the nurse. When she saw no one was coming to her aid, she slowly got out of bed and walked along the hallway as she looked for a saviour to come to her aid.
“Nurse, I am in great pain!” she yelled as soon as she saw the nurse from the far end of the hallway.
The nurse walked her back to the room and asked her to lie down and indeed she was ready for the big push. The nurse organized to have her taken to the delivery room.
At 2:59 A.M. Zuri gasped for air as she pushed hard to bring life into the world. She held on to the bed. Her breathing got heavier and heavier after every push. After 15 minutes of pushing Zuri delivered a tiny baby boy. But they couldn’t find the umbilical cord. Zuri was asked by the nurses to push some more, push harder. It was after the second baby, a girl, was delivered, that the nurses saw the babies shared one cord. Unfortunately, the second twin didn’t make it. The nurses wrapped the infant and put her in a tiny box. Zuri sensed what had happened but she was too scared to find out though she later learned about the loss of her daughter.
It was a race to keep Zuri’s son alive. The nurses rushed him to the nursery, at the adjacent block from the delivery room. He was too little. He weighed about a kilogramme so, you can imagine his chances of survival. His twin sister weighed about 900 grammes so, maybe he had better chances.
Zuri was transferred to the maternity ward. But for the next two months, she remained at the hospital and nursed her son as she waited for his lungs to develop fully. Her mother would visit her every day. Her husband who had come back joined his mother-in-law for the hospital visits.
The two months was the most difficult time for Zuri and her family. Her son developed breathing problems. There were instances he would suddenly stop breathing and the nurses resuscitated him. There were other times the baby simply forgot to breathe. Zuri would tap his bottom. Then the baby would snap and start breathing again. On two occasions, Zuri’s brother and sister donated blood for the baby as he had little blood in his body.
The days and nights seemed like an eternity. Zuri would walk from the maternity ward every two hours to the nursery to go feed her son. She occasionally met with strange-looking morgue attendants along the corridors as they transferred dead bodies to the morgue. They scared people with their cold look as if they also had no life in them. They looked like zombies on the move. She thought that was one of the strangest jobs anyone would commit themselves to do.
Feeding her son was a painful process. She expressed milk from her breasts and fed her son on tubes that were placed through his nose down to his stomach. One time, some milk had to be pumped out of her son’s lungs. If the tubes for whatever reason moved away from inside the stomach, the baby would not only be starved, but also be in pain due to the discomfort of the tubes.
The process of getting the milk out of the lungs was painful. A syringe-like straw would be inserted inside the tubes and was twisted in a way that it sucked the milk out. The baby would cry from the discomfort and pain that the process caused. Zuri would not bear see her son in pain and would break down.
Two long months that felt like a lifetime. Zuri watched her tiny baby boy fighting for his life in that nursery. She had cried till she had no more tears.
After the two months, she was cleared to go home after the doctor’s evaluation of the baby’s progress. He had added some grammes but was still very tiny. Zuri’s husband, who visited them every day, arrived early at the hospital that day to take his wife and son home.
“He is a fighter”, he said to Zuri as they exited the hospital.
“If our pre-term baby survived, then there’s got to be a God in heaven. He is our miracle. Our fighter”, Zuri told her husband as they left.
The baby is now four months old and doing well. Zuri is glad that her son survived even though his twin sister didn’t. She continues to breastfeed him every two hours as recommended by the doctor. Though he is still on medication, he sure looks healthier and stronger.