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BECOMING GULUMIZA'S FATHER (Part 2)

The 14th of June came and went. Apparently, Shoroora was fine where he was and saw no need to change his place of abode. His mother on the other hand was tired and couldn’t wait to have him out. We had by this time narrowed down the names we wanted to two sets; one for a boy and the other for a girl. 

On the day he was due, Diana went to hospital for a check up. I stayed home with Netanya, half expecting to be called and told to get to the hospital ASAP. We had told Netanya’s nursery that we may need to drop her off suddenly on a day she didn’t normally attend and her teachers seemed almost as excited by the whole situation as we were. We had also talked to some family friends from Malawi and others from Uganda, just in case it happened at night and we needed to drop Netanya off.

Diana didn’t spend too long in hospital. The doctors said the baby seemed okay, but they could either try to induce Diana or we could wait a few more days and see what happens. We decided to wait it out a few more days. We however scheduled Saturday the 18th for induced labour, in case nothing had happened by then. Because Netanya came as an emergency c-section, they were treating this pregnancy as a high risk as well.

15th came and went. Nothing.

16th came and almost went as well.

At night, Diana said she was feeling something. At about 3am, she started experiencing cramps. We called the hospital and we were told not to come in until the water had broken. 

Diana was restless. I was restless. 

She kept pacing about every 30 minutes or so then heading back to bed. I kept sitting up every time she paced and helplessly looked on. All along, Gulumiza was uncharacteristically restless, kicking so strongly, I could see Diana’s belly move. He kept at it until about 6am.

And then, silence.

We called the hospital and their advice was still the same. Wait for the water to break and then come in.

As a man, I have found my wife being in labour to be one of the most disabling experiences. The reasons for this are legion and most unique to me. But others, I suspect, are more generally shared by men, especially those of my generation and older. The first (and perhaps most frustrating) is this; having been responsible for causing it, I of course feel a sense of duty; a need to do something. But in such moments, there’s really nothing to do but wait. You watch on as your partner writhes in pain, not sure what to do because at that point, even she isn’t sure what she needs. A massage of the back that seemed like a welcome distraction with the first round of pains is greeted with firm slam on the wrist with the second. Words of encouragement that worked with the second round are dismissed with contempt on the third round. Basically, it’s Russian roulette in slow motion, but with the drama of Nigerian exclamations playing in the background in fast forward mode. 

The other is more a result of social norms than anything else. From a very young age, men and boys are made to think of themselves as problem solvers and leaders in a relationship. You go out on a date? The man should be ready to pick up the bill. If your partner is cold, remove your jacket and offer it to her. Something is broken in the house? It’s the man’s duty to figure out a way to fix it. Some men are very hands-on and do it themselves, others can’t be bothered and would rather call someone to fix it, but either way, they get it fixed. 

Pregnancy however flips all that on its head. 

During pregnancy- and particularly during labour- the woman is the leader and the ultimate authority. The child inside her may be claimed by the man, but it’s her body experiencing everything.

And so, having been accustomed to calling the shots and leading, men often find themselves thrust aside-rightly so, I might add- and relegated to cheerleading from the background. In some cultures like ours, even that isn’t always allowed. I have heard of men being kicked out of delivery rooms by aunties and midwives like they are a plague to be avoided. 

Her body, her rules.

With Netanya, we had hoped for a vaginal birth and had done everything we were told to get ready for it. After almost 12 hours in labour, the baby’s heartbeat had dropped drastically and almost immediately, we were surrounded by a team of doctors and nurses, informed we had to have an emergency c-section and wheeled off to theatre. Her rules had been overridden by circumstances.

With Shoroora, we had been told we could try to again to have a virginal birth and once again, we’d done everything we could to ready ourselves for that. With the baby stopping to kick and the hospital’s guidance seeming ill-informed, we now had a decision to make.

And so, at about seven in the morning, after about an hour of no baby movement, Diana decided she needed to go to hospital. I did not disagree. I called the school to let them know that we were dropping Tanya off earlier than usual and then ordered two taxis. One for Diana to head to hospital, the other for Tanya and I to head to school. 

Hers came first at 7:10am.

As she left, I felt a huge sense of guilt. I knew I had no choice and had to drop Tanya at school first. We could have ridden in one vehicle and gone to the school first and then to hospital, but that would have meant delaying the medical check-up we knew Diana needed. We could not go to hospital with Netanya because she wouldn’t be allowed past the check-in desk and then I would have been even more helpless hanging around the hospital with our daughter while also unable to be beside my wife and new baby. My head had done the maths and knew this was the best possible course of action. But my heart sunk seeing my wife let herself into the back seat of a taxi and head off unaccompanied.

I went back in the house and prepped Netanya for school. When she’d freshened up and had breakfast, I ordered an Uber. 

It arrived at 8:55am.

I sat with Netanya at the back as well and we headed to her school. Perhaps sensing the tension, Tanya placed her hand on my thigh. I remember that so clearly because usually, it was me that did it to her. I placed mine on top of hers and we drove in silence, my eyes glued to the phone. Diana had called twice during that time to tell me she was being checked by the nurse and then that she’d been admitted and the doctors had been called in to review her. 

Just we approached Netanya’s school, the phone rang. 

“Babe, they are taking me in for an emergency c-section. Where are you?”

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Written by Ganzi Isharaza (1)

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