It’s a few minutes past 8pm, and neither my husband nor Ifeanyi have come home, and I am getting worried.
My husband’s phone is switched off (according to the automated machine voice). When I was going to pick Gabby up from school, I noticed that the new car wasn’t in the compound, and was told by the gateman that ‘Oga Ifeanyi and that aunty wey dey follow am carry the car comot’.
I grudgingly decide to call Ifeanyi.
“Baby, thank God you called! I know you must be worried by now…” My husband gushes into my ear.
I take the phone away from my ear and look at the screen to be sure it is Ifeanyi’s number I dialed.
“Why are you with Ifeanyi’s phone? I ask, confused.
“I am with him. His car had a bit of a problem, so, he called me to come and help,” he explains.
I stifle the caustic chuckle that rose to my lips. “Ok. Hope it isn’t something serious?” I ask, concerned more for my husband’s safety, than for the car.
“Not really. The mechanic is almost done here. We should be home in thirty minutes or less,” he replies.
“Alright then. Hurry back.”
“I will. I love you.”
“Love you too. Bye.” And I click off
“This is like the best idea ever! Why did I not think of it earlier?” Ijeoma gushes as I stand back to admire the re-arrangement I had made in her visitor’s-room-turned-nursery.
“Because you kept away from me,” I return, sticking out my tongue at her.
“Odiegwu! Na you hold my brain?” she says, rolling her eyes.
“Nope. But I always have the best ideas,” I retort with an exaggerated smugness. Then I ask, “So, where will I get the bed spreads and pillow slips?”
“Will you also make the bed now?” Ijeoma queries.
“Ehn now! For all we know, you could give birth today. You have to put everything in order.”
“Ok oh! Let me get them for you,” she says, before getting up from the chair she had been sitting on with a heave and a sigh.
She comes back a few seconds later.
“Here,” she says, stretching out her hand which was holding a brightly-coloured, flower-patterned bed spread. “Let me get something to eat, I’m so hungry.”
“Alright,” I say, watching her as she slowly shuffles away. The thought flits through my mind that her birthing may be way sooner than we think.
I turn my attention away from her and back to the chores around the room; what was left was for me to make the bed, and unpack the baby clothes and fold them into the baby plastic drawer.
I am doing the latter when I hear it.
It was a faint sound, as if it came from outside the house. I pause for a moment to ascertain if it is something serious. When I do not hear it again, I resume my unpacking and folding.
Then, I hear it again.
It is still faint. But this time, I rise from my kneeling position, wanting to make sure Ijeoma is fine.
“Ijee, where are you?” I call out as I slowly walk down the passage, listening carefully.
Her tired-sounding answer came back to me in between small gasp. “I’m…here…kitchen – Aahh!”
I run the few remaining steps into the kitchen to see my friend doubled over in pain, her forehead dewed with perspiration, her eyes clamped shut, her teeth clenched, one hand on her knee, and the other clamped over the edge of the kitchen counter.
“Are you ok?” I ask, gingerly touching her shoulder.
She stays that way for another ten seconds or so before standing upright again. “I’ve been having small abdominal pains since last night,” she says with a small smile.
“It could be labour o!” I say, mentally telling myself not to panic.
“No, it isn’t. Not cramps or contractions, just pains. It comes and goes. No biggie,” she says, grabbing the container of Pringles on the kitchen table and the glass of juice she poured herself. “Let’s go back to the room.”
I stand there, rooted to the ground and watching my friend in amazement. All the while, I’m thinking to myself, How can this pain I just witnessed you go through be ‘no biggie’? Is this woman for real?
“Babe, I think we should start going to the hospital,” I venture the suggestion tentatively.
“No o! It is not a hospital thing,” she objects. “I am sure it’s not labour yet.”
“But it is pain. Are you supposed to be feeling pain?” I ask in a perplexed tone.
“Well, you’re right. Oya, let me finish this snacks, and we’ll go,” she concedes.
I start to protest, and then, I think better of it. If she who is bearing the burden isn’t alarmed, then maybe I shouldn’t be.
“Ok,” I say, shrugging.
“Good. Let’s go back to the room,” she says, and turning her back to me, she starts the slow shuffle that has become her newest walking steps back the way I came.
Halfway to the room, she pauses and gives a short, sharp scream. “Oh my God!”
I freeze in my tracks. Then, I hear the sound of liquid pouring and splashing on the ground, about her feet.
“Your water has broken!” I scream, looking down.
Ijeoma turns to face me; on her face is etched the beginnings of anxiety and pain.
“Oh God! You’re bleeding!” I scream again “Are you supposed to bleed?”
“I don’t know!” she wails, incensed by my screams.
“Ok! Ok! Calm down!” I say, trying to gather my wits. “Can you walk?”
“I guess,” she says, taking two steps toward me and away from the bloody liquid on the floor.
“Ok. Good. Let me have those,” I say, taking the glass of juice and the Pringles from her hand and dropping them on the floor, out of the way. “Ok, hold on, let me get your bag. We’re going to hospital,” I instruct, taking charge.
“Here,” I pull out my phone from my jean pocket and hand it to her, “call your husband.” Then, I skip over the red-stained liquid and dart to the visitor’s room, where Ijeoma had brought out the hospital bag she packed to show me the contents.
Lifting the bag, I make to leave the room. Then, I spy her phone on the chair she’d been seated on while I re-arranged the room. I pick it up too and run out of the room.
Ijeoma is holding her tummy and grimacing with pain as I walk back toward her in the corridor. Hanging the strap of the bag to my shoulder, I hurry to her side.
“Ndo, nne, jisie ike, oh?” I comfort her, rubbing her lower back the way I see people do in movies.
When the pain eased some, I lead her carefully out of the house, towards my car.
“Which hospital are we going to?” I ask her as I strap on my seat belt, catching her eye through the rear-view mirror.
“I don’t know. Do you think we can get to 82 Division before this baby comes?”
“I think so,” I say, starting up the car and pulling down the windows. “Besides, I don’t understand this bleeding. Better we go to a hospital that has more sophisticated equipments.”
“Aarrgh!” Ijeoma gives a small shriek of distress.
“Sorry!” I cajole, pulling out of the compound just then, while thinking of the easiest way to get to 82 Division Hospital in the shortest possible time.
Ijeoma’s husband is standing in front of the maternity building of 82 Division Hospital as I apply the brakes close to the door.
“Aaaaaayyy!” Ijeoma screams then for the umpteenth time.
By the time I unbuckle myself to attend to her, her husband is already there, helping her out of the car. She is still bleeding, as evident in the small rivulets of blood that have streaked their way down her legs, moistened the bottom of her dress and stained the backseat she’d been sitting on during the drive.
A nurse rushes forward with a wheel chair, which we help Ijeoma onto, before she pushes her away towards the labour room.
“Thank you so much, Ada,” Ijeoma’s husband gushes, while his eyes and mind are on the moving figure of the nurse wheeling his wife along.
“Go, go, go!” I almost scream at him. “Follow them. I’m still here. Let me go and park my car at the parking lot.”
He races off after the departing duo.
I come back a few minutes later from the parking lot, to see Ijeoma’s husband pacing up and down the entrance to the maternity ward.
“What’s up?” I ask, drawing him out of his thoughtfulness.
“They asked me to sign for CS,” he says, wringing his hands.
“What happened now?” I say, alarmed.
“I don’t know what they called it – that bleeding. Placenta rupture or something…”
“Placenta abruption,” I correct.
“They say the fetal heartbeat is dropping,” he says grimly. “I’m so scared, Ada. What if something goes wrong?” he almost wails.
“God forbid!” I say. “Have you signed for the CS?”
“Yes, I have. I need to go and get some money to finish up the payment. I have paid in something. So, they’ll start immediately. I’m just waiting for them to bring out the account number.”
“That’s ok,” I say, glancing distractedly at my wrist watch. “It’s just a few minutes to two – Oh my God!” I gasp. “I totally forgot about my son! I have to go pick him up at school. I’ll call you,” I say, as I hurry away from him.
“Thank you so much,” he calls back to my retreating back.
“You’re welcome! Call me if you need my assistance for anything at all,” I throw back, briskly walking back to the car park.
Written by Adaku J.