This story begins at 1 am on a Saturday because why the hell not?
And because that's how these stories begin, the prelude is also cliché: boy meets girl (Ade and Sade), they fall in love and decide to lie together the same way Abraham did with Sarah (with consent expressly granted, as God intended) and they take in (I say they because pregnancy is a job for two people, kids).
For this couple, they are the typical Nigerian family that baffles economists - little in income, littler saved up and yet, they continue to survive against all odds. A combination of poverty and low literacy ensured that antenatal care did not occur. What they got was "blessed water" and kola nuts from Mama Bisi, a traditional birth attendant who despite her recent brushes with modern medicine refuses to let go of the past. “We shall do it the way our mothers did it”, is Mama Bisi’s favourite mantra. Sade religiously attended all her sessions with Mama Bisi, even the really long evening sessions that lasted late into the night. Seven months and 12 gallons of herbs later, Mama Bisi bid her a safe pregnancy and booked her for delivery in two months, by God’s grace.
Earlier today before this story began, Sade felt like the baby was kicking more frequently than ever. Already named Babatunde (which literally means “father has returned”) in memory of Ade's father, Tafa who died from a foot injury a few months ago. Tafa, a strong-willed character with bold ideas and a knack for getting his views across, had publicly quarrelled with the Baálé over land matters. The young doctor at the community outpost that comes on Wednesdays says it was diabetes that got Tafa but you know how naive young doctors are. Anyway, Babatunde was unusually chatty today and Sade let out yet another groan as her lower abdomen began to hurt even more. Ade was due home anytime from now. She said a little prayer and looked to the heavens.
Sade had been at church for 11 hours with little to eat. She joined a group of would-be mothers praying with Alàgbà for safe delivery. I'm seeing her now, 15 hours from when she heard a pop and felt a rush of fluids down her legs. Like a country at war, peace was far-flung from her at this point. Sade was in her 16th hour of labour and Ade was on his 8th fingernail. At this rate, he may chew his toenails off.
It's 1:05 am, but I am fully awake. While it is certainly a case requiring a caesarean section, we need Mr Kalu, last seen slinking into his room with that light-skinned orange seller, to switch on the generator for a few minutes, so we can get through the difficult parts of the surgery. The rest you ask? Our rechargeable lamps will help us power through, by God's grace.
I have been up for 16 hours and may have been standing for a little over half of that duration. Although this was the job I had signed up for (effectively turned down a chance to change my fortunes), a little help would be great. The little slimy baby let out a weak cry, jolting me back to reality as my mind wanders off yet again. I wonder what life may have been like for me, on a different continent.
It's been six months since Sade put to bed. Today, she's sat by her little boy outside the big hospital in their town, two hours before the gates are flung open. The day before, she turned down Mama Alli’s offer for extra wares, so she could return home earlier than usual. Ade was still in the big city, working on a housing project with 30 other men. She set out for the hospital before the crack of dawn after considering the distance and the possibility of traffic, just so they can be attended to. Being the only hospital within reach that offered vaccination and other services to newborns and infants, the waiting room was often packed to the rafters on vaccination days. Today, Sade is one of 30 women who have come early enough to avoid the usual jostling. The last time she was here, she got floored when the nurse instructed all “latecomers” to troop into the smaller office room. She had arrived five minutes before the official appointment time and yet, she only had scars to show for it. Today will be different.