On December 27th, at 2:30am, 26 hours and 30 minutes into the winter solstice, a star fell to earth in the vicinity of Southern Nigeria. Port Harcourt to be exact. On that day and at that time, Chibudom [God is My Peace] Tobechukwu Adaora Diepriye Azikiwe was delivered by her mother at the Port Harcourt Nursing Home, #3 Clinic Close, Trans Amadi Road, Rumobiakani Obio — Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. The facility is operated by one Chief Dr. Wokema who has been practicing medicine for forty some odd years.
Labor began the morning of December 26th, approximately 7:30 am. Mama Chibudom told Papa Chibudom that she believed signs of labor where showing. An hour later she was certain of it and preparations were made for departure to the Hospital. They quietly put the bag Mama Chibudom had packed into the car and left the compound. Upon arrival at PHNH, the matron informed Mama Chibudom that she was not in labor according to her investigation. Dr. Eze, the attending physician, agreed with the matron and suggested that the parents of the future WNBA star look in on the only resident of the nursing home, a mother who had delivered on the 25th via Cesarean section.
Her newborn son was delivered one month early as a precaution due to the fact that the mother had lost another male child seven months earlier in January of 2002.
While Ma and Pa Chibudom were discussing the particulars of the birth, Ma Chibudom began to feel that the signs of labor were increasing. Upon closer inspection, the matron confirmed that she indeed had begun to dilate. With that they assigned her a bed and began to monitor her progress.
Pa Chibudom waited in the lobby initially and eventually went to the bedside of Mama Chibudom. As the process of delivery was a slow one, Papa Chibudom went and lie down on one of the two beds in the room for a short nap. Sometime later the matron arrived to check on Ma Chibudom, taking her Blood Pressure and monitoring the fetal heartbeat. She noticed that Pa Chibudom was there and suggested that he go home and get something to eat. With that he left at approximately 12pm only to return about 4pm.
He was met at the hospital by Jaekwu, Ma Chibudom’s cousin, accompanied by his wife Ifeoma and their children. Their son was about two months and their daughter about 4 years old. Upon his arrival the nurses on duty directed Papa Chibudom to another room which would later be revealed to be adjoining the operating theatre where the delivery itself would take place.
Ma Chibudom was being comforted and given guidance by Ifeoma, Jaekwu’s wife. She assisted Ma Chibudom in walking around the hospital to help increase the contractions. When Ma Chibudom had been somewhat drained by the walking, Ifeoma, Jaekwu’s wife massaged her back to ease the pain. At the time Ma Chibudom was in increasing pain. Her back was aching and she was experiencing contractions that were happening at a rate that was too short of duration and too strong for the phase of labor (dilation) that she was in. Dr. Eze prescribed a drug that would relax her and cause the contraction duration to increase while reducing the number of contractions altogether. About 10pm the matron again suggested that Pa Chibudom take a break and return home.
When he reached home he was met by Ma Chibudom’s cousin, Ekene Dili Chukwu [Thanks be to God]. He had just left on the 23rd of December to go back to Nkerehi, his town in the village of Owerre-Ezukala. Chidi is from the town of Ihe, a neighbor to Nkerehi. Ekene went back to Nkerehi to visit his mother over the Christmas Holidays and to participate in a family ritual called “removal of the burial cloth.” The reason being that his father passed away the prior year and during the mourning period the family wears a cloth of the same fabric in whatever design they want. He was intending to return to his village to participate in the removal of the cloth which ends in the burning of the cloth. However, he arrived too late to take part and his mother along with Mama Chibudom’s mother, who is also from Nkerehi, directed him to return to Port Harcourt ASAP.
Ekenne had been staying with Chidi in Port Harcourt all the while Pa Chibudom was in the USA. During that time Ma Chibudom had endured a period of various illnesses including malaria. Before Ekenne left to return to Nkerehi, Ma Chibudom had requested that he stay a little longer until the baby was delivered. She was able to impress upon him for a period of time to stay, but eventually he left.
The day Ekenne left was a surprise to both Mama Chibudom and Papa Chibudom. Ekenne had told two of their neighbor’s that he was leaving the night before, but neglected to mention it to his hosts until after they returned from a stroll the morning of his intended departure. This was not well received by Ma Chibudom although Pa Chibudom knew that Ekenne was no longer needed.
His return was an unwelcome surprise. Chibudom’s parents thought that he would never return. When he greeted Pa Chibudom at their residence, Pa Chibudom ate the meal Ma Chibudom’s friend, who is also named Ifeoma, had prepared and agreed to take Ekenne with him to the hospital. When they entered Ma Chibudom’s room at the hospital, the nurses were working feverishly to comfort Ma Chibudom as much as possible. When Ma Chibudom realized that Ekenne had returned she did not want to speak with him or discuss his unexpected arrival. He calmly eased into the room and knelt at her bedside, begging her to forgive him for leaving in her time of need.
Ma Chibudom simply informed the nurses that he should leave the room for she had much more important matters to address. About 12 midnight, Pa Chibudom, exhausted and gradually easing into a state of shock laid down on one of the benches in the lobby and eventually went to sleep. At 2AM one of the nurses awakened him to inform him his wife wanted him in the delivery room. As Pa Chibudom entered the room the shock that he was in deepened.
Never before had he been in such an environment. At that moment he expected to have missed the delivery and to only be coming to be with his wife and welcome their newborn child. To his amazement, the delivery still had not yet taken place.
The sight that Pa Chibudom witnessed simply served to further enhance the sensation of disembodiment he was experiencing. Instead of seeing his wife and child waiting for him, Dr. Eze and the nurses were struggling to get the baby’s head to ‘crown’, or push its forehead out. What the Dr. kept referring to as the baby’s head didn’t appear to be so. Instead it looked somewhat misshaped. Later it became clear that the compression of the baby’s skull is all part of the Creator’s Master Plan. The skull of the baby was exactly the way it needed to be for delivery.
After nearly 30 minutes of inspiration, pushing, and cajoling, the baby still had not appeared. Dr. Eze was trying to increase Ma Chibudom’s efforts by threatening to use forceps to extract the baby. As he instructed one of the nurses to place the forceps into the autoclave for sterilization, he was instructing Ma Chibudom in the manner to push more forcefully. He had been checking the fetal heart rate. It was becoming critical that he extract the baby by any means necessary. The rate was beginning to dwindle. The nurse returned and the Dr. placed a pair of scissors on the table just between Ma Chibudom’s legs. Pa Chibudom became somewhat relaxed as this appeared to be a signal that progress was being made and he was preparing to cut the umbilical cord.
Unfortunately, this was not the case as he later cautioned Ma Chibudom that he was preparing to make an episiotomy to make room for the baby to easily push out. To Pa Chibudom’s regret and amazement the first cut not only deepened his state of disorientation, but it also added a totally new feeling. At that moment he realized that the love he has for his wife is not only genuine, but to the soul, for although Dr. Eze cut her with those scissors Pa Chibudom felt every bit of the effect in his own body. How could a person cut another like that in a hospital without anesthetic, he thought?
After much pushing, cajoling, and inspiring Dr. Eze decided to make a second cut on the other side. Subsequently, he widened the two cuts and eventually the head ‘crowned’ as expected. But was it too late? As the head came further and further out as desired, Dr. Eze, to the surprise of all present shouted “STOP!”. At this point to say that Pa Chibudom was astonished would be the understatement of the Ngozi (blessed) Generation. The next word to spill out of Dr. Eze’s mouth was ‘CORD’! Which was repeated by one of the nurses. At this the Dr. directed the nurse to provide him with a pair of clamps. Immediately he clamped off the cord and cut it with the same scissors that he used to create an episiotomy in Chibudom’s mother. Having completed that procedure he instructed Ma Chibudom to push and with the force spewed forth a newly arrived bundle of joy.
The future Milk Tapper had appeared to be blue in the face. When she laid on the table after her arrival she seemed to be lifeless. Dr. Eze began shouting instructions to Nurse Joy with such a frenetic manner that it was almost incomprehensible to Pa Chibudom. With lightning speed and abundant energy, Chibudom had fluid extracted from her lungs and mouth. As Pa Chibudom looked on Dr. Eze began to administer CPR to the newborn infant. Looking into the face of his heroic wife and mother of his first born child, Pa Chibudom began to wonder if he would be the only one of the trinity to make it through this experience alive. What a tragedy it would be, he thought to loose everything that meant anything to him in a manner of minutes. By the time Chibudom’s father looked back at the efforts of Dr. Eze and Nurse Joy, it appeared that the danger had passed. Dr. Eze had been attempting to get Chibudom to cry. She had made a slight whimper. Apparently, Ma Chibudom had become delirious from the whole experience of the past 18 hours and asked if her baby was alive.
At this Pa Chibudom became alarmed. He thought he had just heard what could have passed for a cry come from the infant. Now his wife was wondering if the child was alive. Pa Chibudom scanned the faces of the nurses and Dr. Eze as the Doctor and Nurse Joy carried the newborn into an adjoining room. As Papa Chibudom looked on from the doorway between the two rooms and held the curtain back so that Mama Chibudom could observe the proceedings in the other room. But as soon as they got Chibudom prepared to use the resuscitator on her she was determined to be fine. With that she was taken in to see her mother briefly before being bathed for the very first time.
Pa Chibudom and Ekenne then watched Nurse Joy bathe Chibudom. After a few minutes the other nurse called Papa Chibudom into the delivery room again. Dr. Eze wanted to show Pa Chibudom the placenta. After that he returned to Mama Chibudom’s room to wait for her to come out of the delivery room. As he waited he began to hear his wife shouting. Gradually he came to realize that she was reacting to the stitches Dr. Eze was giving her where he put the episiotomy. At that Pa Chibudom realized that he needed a break and retired to the lobby once again to regain some sense of composure.
After about ten minutes he looked up to see another miracle on this night of miracles. His wife, who had just delivered a child after over 10 hours of labor, and just received a number of stitches to close the cuts she had gotten without anesthetic, walked into the lobby unassisted. After rushing to her side and taking her back into her room, Pa Chibudom asked why she did that. To which she replied “to see if my husband was alright”.
Since it was now nearly five in the morning and there were several things that Mama Chibudom had requested Papa Chibudom retrieve from home, Pa Chibudom departed with Ekenne for home. On the way they stopped to visit one of Chidi’s friends, named Felicia, to inform her of the good news. As they pulled to a stop in front of the building where Felicia lived to their wonderment an event that was to have continuing repercussions took place; Felicia was standing in the doorway to her building.
Over and over again this little scenario will play out again and again. Each time Pa Chibudom arrives at the home of someone to tell them the news they either are standing at the doorway waiting, returning just as Papa Chibudom has begun to leave, or are about to leave just as Pa Chibudom arrives.
Once they agreed to meet back at Felicia’s at 9 AM they departed for the house. Upon arrival several of their neighbors were leaving for work. Pa Chibudom informed them of the good news and gave them the details. After eating the breakfast that Ifeoma prepared, showering and donning a change of clothes Pa Chibudom decided to lie down for a brief nap. Unfortunately, it delayed his return to Felicia’s. Along with a number of other unexpected occurrences he returned to the hospital after 10am. He was surprised to see that Felicia had already arrived and was also in the company of Chidi’s cousin Jaekwu and his family. They had brought plenty of breakfast for Chidi and were helping with anything else she might need.
28th Saturday — departed hospital for home…
29th Sunday — met Uche and Anneke as they were just about to depart for their village…took Chidi to the Etu-efetors …dropped Uche and Anneke at Okigwe on the way…bought honey…went to Owerre-Ezukala to tell Chidi’s parents the good news…met Louis and Augoo (Augustina) Nweke returning as we were leaving their house after accepting the fact that they were not home…got to Chidi’s parent’s house…met papa and mama gave them the good news…everybody celebrated…met Chinyere and Ndidi as we were departing to take Louis back home…
30th Monday — went to Eze Labo’s house to inform him that I was about going to retrieve the nkwocha (palm wine)…broke kola with Eze Labo and his sons…drank a shot of schnapps with them…did the same with papa…showered and left with Chinyere and Ndidi to tell Madam Black the good news…went to Louis’ house to get the nkwocha…saw Louis’s friend Clement who introduced me to his father…broke kola with them and drank malt…drove to inform Chidi’s cousin Okey who is the current chairman of the Orumba South Local Government Area…met Madam Black after going in a circle from her house to a school nearby…a church near there…Chidi’s great aunt’s house after that…and eventually back to Madam Black’s house…it looked like no one was home…the windows were closed the door shut…after knocking she answered…her husband Okeke arrived after a few minutes and when he heard of Chibudom’s birth he brought out more schnapps and kola…along with my favorite, alligator pepper….trying to find her and in the time that it took to complete the circle she returned to her house…intended to return to PH in the am but stayed over…called Chidi on the phone and she insisted that Ekenne stay behind… Visited Nkem and Chigbo in Ajalli with Chinyere, Ndidi, Madam Black and Mama… spoke w/ Eze Labo out under the brilliant stars about the ritual of notifying Chidi’s parents of the birth, the Omugwo (child visit or Mother’s visit), life in the village, buying land there, initiation into the masquerades and papa giving a palm tree to Chibudom…
31st Tuesday (new years eve) — got up early for departure…went to collect ogbo (sponges) and met Ifesinachi and his daughter Cordelia along the way…sat with Ifesi and had kola…the first of the day. He brought out a small wooden turtle within which was groundnut sauce. He shared schnapps and alligator pepper as well. Drove Ekenne and his mother to phone Chidi…they were insistent that she allow Ekenne to rejoin us in PHC saw Chidi Nkpazu on the way to Onitsha…went to Onitsha to see Sistah Pat…Onitsha was a ghost town…reminded me of the dream/spiritual experience I had there the night I stayed at Madam Black’s…three of the gods of Onitsha took me on a tour of the city and introduced me to all the gods…they told me not to be angry about the “new weak white god”…the strong black gods are here to help but no one is taking care of them…couldn’t determine which building was Sistah Pat’s because they all looked the same when the shops were closed…saw Pat’s daughter Adaeze walking as I drove by…she recognized me as I turned around to greet her….
After leaving their house experienced new years eve in Nigeria in a totally different way lost my way at least twice…had a flat…the alternator belt had been slipping because of the dust on the road…the car was operating off of the battery I learned later…battery died on the way to PH right in front of the PH International Airport Hotel…called Chidi at two am from the hotel…she was crying and angry…explained my situation to Iheoma at the desk…he agreed to let me sleep in the lobby in an out of the way place until Chidi could come get me at 7am…after awakening at 6 was queried by Jacob the security man about my suspiciousness in the lobby…explained the situation to him and several others in the lobby including the manager…by 7 I had about 8 new friends including Raymond in the restaurant…Raymond is from Akwa-Ibom…the same place as E.U. Essien-Udom…Ugo and KC came and met me at the Hotel…