To celebrate our 6th anniversary, BellaNaija embarked on a mission! Our mission was to share OUR Stories and OUR Miracles – BN at 6, Our Stories, Our Miracles. Each and every African at home and in Diaspora has a unique story. Many have been through experiences can only be described as miracles. Tragedy and strife converted through faith and perseverance.
The response we received has been overwhelmingly positive and BN Our Stories, Our Miracles is now an ongoing feature on BellaNaija. Dolapo Taiwo-Fajolu lost her baby who was born pre-term. For any mother, that can be a very harrowing experience. She tells of how she pulled through and of how her second son was born too soon. We hope that you’re truly inspired by Dolapo’s story.
I am the 4th child and last girl in a family of 5.I have three brothers and a sister. My parents moved around a bit while we were younger but by the time I was born in 1977, they had settled in the then Ondo State. I grew up in Akure and Ado Ekiti and my childhood was fun. We lived in the GRA called Ala Quarters which was the residence of middle/low managers in the Civil Service. Growing up was quite normal. Boarding school in secondary school, went to the polytechnic first, and then got my degree from the University. I work as a facilities manager in one of the banks in Nigeria.
Meeting my husband
I got married in December 2007. I met my husband during our youth service year in Lagos and we just clicked. As much as I thought that marrying someone close to my age wasn’t possible for me, he was really matured in his approach to things and is highly spiritual, and at that stage of my life, I needed someone with his spirituality and maturity.
Ready to start popping babies
I was ready for babies at the time we got married and never thought anything could stop me. My periods had always been regular. I used to joke with my friends that one could set a clock by my period. After 8 months of active unprotected sex and nothing happened I began to worry. At 31 I knew deep down that I need to know what is happening. There was absolutely no pressure from anyone but I just wanted answers because I wanted babies badly. Although, a few years prior, I had discovered milky-like discharges from my left breast. The doctor said it was probably nothing to be worried about as there were no lumps. I had no idea that that “nothing” was actually a major sign of an abnormality that would delay my attempts at conceiving.
I didn’t give it any thought again. However by the time I got married, it had become much more and both breast were secreting milk. I began to suspect the discharges from my breast were something more than nothing especially as it now leaked from both breasts. I googled it and what I discovered was frightening. It was from medical journals and researched articles that I discovered a world of prolactin levels and infertility. I went to a specialist hospital armed with the information I already had about my condition and the blood work revealed a higher than normal level of prolactin. The doctor confirmed that my periods, though regular were just my uterus shedding its walls.
I was not ovulating at all! So I began treatment to reduce my prolactin level and quite soon afterwards I conceived.
Pregnant and glowing
My pregnancy was fun. I glowed and enjoyed it. No morning sickness, no nausea. I ate anything I want and was quite strong. I didn’t stress over anything and I was my merry self until one fateful evening on January 3, 2009.
We lost the baby
It was the third day of a new year and I was at a 70th birthday bash with my hubby. He told me earlier that we would leave the party by 3pm but I told him I won’t leave until I have had a taste of the barbecue being grilled. Just some few minutes after 2pm I just felt really sick and told my husband that we had to leave. He joked about the barbecue being my cue to leaving but I couldn’t understand how I felt again. During the short drive from the party home we called my brother-in-law who is a medical doctor and I told him my symptoms. He told my hubby some drugs to buy and he dropped me off at home to go and get it. However I had to call him back as I had started bleeding. We called the hospital ahead and rushed down as fast as Lagos traffic allowed that fateful Saturday.
We lost him
By the time I got to the hospital that fateful 1st Saturday in January 2009, I was 24 weeks into my pregnancy and 4cm dilated! The doctor told us the prognosis was bad, my baby’s lungs were immature and could risk grave infections if born at that age. We had two options: evacuation or cerclage. We chose the latter. He did an emergency cerclage that night. Cervical cerclage is a rarely used type of surgery that involves sewing shut the outlet of the uterus (cervix) to prevent it from opening before a pregnancy is carried to full term.
I was placed on full bed rest and we began to pray for a miracle. The doctor opined that if I could keep my son in for four to six more weeks, he would have a high chance of survival. I must add here that the cases of premature births in Nigeria are very high and WHO through the Born Too Soon: Global action report on pre-term birth in 2012 ranked Nigeria as the 3rd country with the highest number of pre-term births after India and China. Unfortunately there are no government policies for pre-term births and most hospitals are not equipped for the care of such delicate babies. Three days into my bed rest, my water broke and I had to deliver my son prematurely. He didn’t survive the delivery and died immediately after.
My hubby was a pillar of strength during the days following that devastating loss. This was a child I sought with tears and humiliating treatments and I lost him “just like that”. My body wasn’t going to make it easy for me either as I had all the after-pains of a new mother but no child. Friends, family and colleagues at work were very nice but that nagging sense of loss was sometimes unbearable and I really cried a lot during the days after. I also discovered that a lot of people have similar experience as those who came to see me where recounting their own stories of loss. I wondered why we never hear about this.
I knew from studying that I needed to bounce back so I started trying for a child again after my doctor gave me a clean bill of health but I had other issues to contend with now. When I didn’t conceive after 6 months, I did an HSG (Hysterosalpingography is a kind of x-ray that looks at the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes and the area around them). We discovered the trauma of the birth had blocked my tubes so I had a procedure to re-open them but nothing happened. I resumed fertility treatments and in June 2010 it happened again for me
The pregnancy was unlike the previous one. I was in and out of the hospital. At 8 weeks I bled for a while and was placed on bed-rest for some days. At 12 weeks I had a cerclage placed in to prevent premature dilation of the cervix. From then I progressed and kept my fingers crossed. When I passed the 24 weeks mark I was really happy.
I was lucky, really favoured to have an understanding boss and supportive colleagues. I told my boss my story and he was fully supportive. As I neared the 30th week I began to see blood and water. The doctor ordered complete bed-rest and that was quite challenging. I was scared but hopeful at the same time.
My son’s arrival
I had been having contractions off and on for about 7 days earlier. On the 8th day my hubby couldn’t bear it anymore and took me to the hospital very early that Sunday morning of December 12 2010. I was placed on IVs and my contractions were being monitored. The next morning my water broke and I had my son Oromitope Edwardquickly without complications. He was 31weeks and weighed only 1.6kg.
The anxieties and fears of the mother of a pre-term baby
The NICU is a place of anxiety, fear and prayers. I didn’t have any prior knowledge of premature babies. I bless God for good doctors and nurses who took great care of my son. The hospital stationed one nurse in the NICU just watching over him. He had problems breathing so was on oxygen for a while and I couldn’t hold him until weeks after. By the time we started feeding him, his weight had dropped to 1.35kg. Gradually he started breathing on his own. From 20mls of breast milk every 2 hours he began to eat more and the day came when he left the isolette and roomed with me in the ward. My ‘kangaroo’ baby was gradually ready for home!
Lessons learnt from first experience
I accepted all the help I got. The hospital was marvelous – Good Tidings Hospital, Surulere. The doctors were awesome but I was on the internet looking for clues on how to care for him. There was nothing that was remotely close to my Nigerian experience. My mum had never cared for a preemie before. For the first 2 months of his life I didn’t bring him out for people to see. I also didn’t bathe for him during that period. He was cleaned night and day with olive oil and cotton wool. Every information I had online was imported so to speak. I began to wonder if we ever share knowledge and experience in this country. I resolved that I was going to share my experience with all. I use every opportunity I have to talk about my experience so those struggling with same issues will know it is not a peculiar problem and together we can draw necessary governmental and well-meaning attention to prematurity in Nigeria. I sought out groups like March of Dimes (www.marchofdimes.com) who linked me up with their Nigerian partners, LittleBigSouls (www.littlebigsouls.com) together we are working at using social media to draw attention to prematurity in the country. The first step is joining the world to celebrate World Prematurity Day come November 17.
The time at the hospital and what I felt
We were in the hospital for 1 month. Christmas day 2010 was the loneliest I had ever had. I felt real fear. I had the worst dreams in those days. I was in the hospital with him throughout. I later knew from my visits to neonatal units that some mothers go home and commute daily. What a time in my life! Some nights I rush from my room to the NICU and I get there to find him sleeping peacefully. One can almost see his heart beating under the thing layer of flesh covering his so obvious ribs.
Not quite ready to give up
I knew God was taking me through this for a purpose. My husband and I had prayed for strength to face everything that came our way and I just knew that it will be ok. Just that I didn’t know when so there was definitely anxiety.
My son will be 2 years old in December. He is such a delightful boy and full of life. People can’t imagine he was the one. When I take him to the hospitals they use him as a case study to mothers wondering how their babies will turn out. He is a shining star in our life. He smiles so beautifully and is just a happy healthy boy
Feeling drowned or overwhelmed
I always tell people that these children are fighters! They mostly survive the worst condition. I have seen babies who weighed 0.8kg at birth! And gradually they pick up. The problem is that we oftentimes give up quickly. The care of pre-term babies is not cheap either so the financial strain is also very heavy on parents. I was always looking forward to when he will fit into his clothes and I am glad to say that by the 7th month, he had meet all his timelines and could pass for his birth age then.
Have a preemie and you’re worried?
Have faith. Talk to your care givers about your anxiety. Go to a good hospital. In Lagos I strongly recommend LUTH. When my son celebrated his 1st birthday, I got some of my friends to donate gifts and I took the stuff to LUTH neonatal unit. There is comfort around you if you seek it. Trust God to do the best for you. Seek out help. With March of Dimes and LittleBigSouls creating greater awareness around the world and now in Nigeria, we can help more mothers get the information, then help they need. Knowledge is power and with it, you can know what to do and where to find help. Expectant mothers should also ask questions and never think your issues are peculiar to you. I have since gotten pregnant again naturally and given birth to another boy, who was full term after my baby.
If you have any experiences you’d like to share with the BN readers, please send an email to features(at)bellanaija(dot)com. You just might touch many lives.