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The Christmas baby: lessons on preterm delivery

Dr. Akin-Onitolo A.

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“Madam Janet, what is this?”

There was green-tinged fluid spilled all over the polished wooden floor where she was standing. Janet had felt the sudden shower shortly before her PA, Lara, called her attention to it, as well as the attention of everyone else in the hall. The decorators were carrying in flower vases for the tables and some young men used ladders to put up huge swaths of pink cloth like the bride-to-be preferred.

“Madam, you go soon born o,” one of the young men cried out. Janet sighed in exasperation. Now they had to clean and polish the floor again.

“Lara, please find a mop or something to clean this up now,” she said. Janet walked towards the restroom to clean herself. “This baby. you have to wait,” she said with a hand on her belly, “I have a wedding tomorrow and it must be perfect. I have to be here myself. Hope you hear me.”

Nothing else happened after she had washed herself. She returned to supervising the decoration of the hall. The generator man went to get diesel with her car, and Lara fanned her as she worked and ticked completed duties off her list.

Janet was sweating, a lot more than normal. And her body felt warm. Maybe when she got home, she would take some Panadol. It had to be because of the stress of planning this wedding. A wedding on the twenty-fifth of December was something that happened once in a blue moon, an opportunity she could not pass up. The bride-to-be was a close friend who trusted her judgment more than any other person’s and would have no one else plan her wedding.

After a hectic day at the event centre, Janet retired home. Her feet were swollen to two times their natural size and her lower belly hurt.

“You are running a fever, sweet. Shouldn’t we go to hospital?” her husband, Mike said that night when she lay belly up under the living room fan, eyes closed. Her brow was steaming hot. She had taken 2 tablets of Panadol as soon as she got home, and put up her feet as her mother advised her to.

“Not tonight o. You know Ebube’s wedding is tomorrow. It’s just stress.”

Things turned for the worse at about three am. Janet had tossed listlessly all night. Usually, she managed to get at least four hours of sleep the eve of any wedding she planned. But this night, she had not even shut her eyes for a minute. Her head was pounding, sweat was pouring down her face and her body was very hot. And the pain in her belly was worse. It came every five minutes. Being her first pregnancy, Janet wondered if this was labour.

She got up and waddled to the bedroom. “I think the baby is coming,” she announced to a sleepy Mike.

“Eh? It’s just seven months na.”

“Seven and half months”

“Is it not the same thing?” he replied, rubbing his eyes. “What do we do now?”

“I don’t know.”

“How is it doing you?”

“There’s pain everywhere,” she answered, rubbing her belly.

The next spasm that gripped her made her quickly sit on the bed panting. She suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to push.

“The baby is coming o,” she managed to say as another wave of pain rushed over her. She could not explain how she knew what to do but one minute, she was sitting on the edge of the bed. The next, she was lying on her back and screaming.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Mike was saying.

The pain in her belly eased to the piercing wail of a baby. “Eh? I’ve given birth like that?” Janet asked with amazement. Mike handed their pink, tiny, squiggly baby boy to her, and she wrapped him in the duvet. “Cut the cord,” she told him. With shaky hands, he used the brand new razor she had bought the week before, following her instructions. The placenta popped out onto the bed shortly after.

Sweat coursed down Mike’s face. “Let us go to the hospital,” he said. This time, she did not argue with him.

They arrived at the hospital at four-thirty am with the mother and child wrapped in a bloodied duvet. “My wife just delivered,” Mike said over and over to every question he was asked by the matron on duty.

“This one na Christmas baby,” the doctor on duty said when he stepped out shortly after, to attend to them.

It soon came out that the fever Janet had might have triggered the early delivery. So both mother and child were admitted for professional care. Janet’s baby was quickly transferred to an incubator.

“Lara, make sure you guys don’t flop this wedding. It’s very important to me. I’ve called to tell the bride that I delivered my baby this morning. I will not be able to be there. Has the makeup artist left her house yet? I hope the caterer is prepared, I don’t want any disappointment from her especially with the iced cream…” Janet rattled on over the phone.

 

P.S.: Premature rupture of membranes (PROM) is when the membrane surrounding an unborn baby breaks before labour starts, and maybe before the baby is due. Water known as amniotic fluid gushes out, or it comes out as a slow leak. When it occurs before 37 weeks, it is called preterm PROM. It can happen spontaneously, or when it’s two or more babies, when there is infection like in Janet’s instance, or in mothers who smoke cigarettes or use dangerous drugs during the pregnancy. It is best to provide prompt care to the baby and mother and if labour is yet to happen, it is delayed as long as possible to enable the baby develop well before delivery.

 

Merry Christmas to you and yours, our dear readers! Hope you recieve beautiful gifts this season.

Cheers!

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Dr. Akin-onitolo A. is a graduate of the University of Lagos whose mission is to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) using health promotion and improved health literacy. She is an MDCN (Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria) certified doctor who had her elective at King's College London. Hugely interested in travel, meeting people and generally being creative, reading and writing fiction are a few hobbies you could find her engaged in during her spare time. Catch up with her on Twitter @Akinonitolo and Instagram @t_onitolo

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