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‘My experience in the incubator’



I am baby N, still un-named for reasons that I will explain later and born about 3 weeks ago. I am the third born to my parents. My mother told me the pregnancy was un-eventful except that she was almost bed-ridden for vomiting during the pregnancy leading to weakness for which she was admitted for re-hydration twice.

However, when I had just enjoyed the comfort of my mother’s womb for about 32 weeks, my mother told me she noticed the draining the fluid (Saturday to Sunday 4-5th September, 2021) in which I was swimming, growing and waiting for the time to come out to join my sibling, mother, father, grandparents, the all-waiting extended family members. For the problem of draining of the fluid, my mother was admitted to hospital for 2 days (5th to 8th September 2021). Drugs given included Oral Flagyl and Erythromycin to prevent infection, and Corticosteroids (Betamethasone) course to enhance lung maturity. She said that was the requirement, to be admitted for investigation and treatment. The drainage was not much, appeared to abate, with no further issues, and she was discharged, 8th September. All this while, I was apparently alright except that my swimming pool had reduced a bit. I continued swimming around and enjoying myself.

The drive home was bumpy considering the Nigerian roads and we barely got home. Over the night, I noticed that my swimming pool was reducing and my range for swimming around was greatly hampered. In addition, I felt an abnormal smell of something like blood in the vicinity. My parents barely waited for the morning to break, and we were back to the hospital again on admission on 9th September 2021.

I was in the meantime becoming very uncomfortable and irritated by all events around me.

During the day, I felt increasing discomfort as my ‘space’ had been dangerously reduced and my swimming pool had virtually vanished.

Later on in the day, at 16:00 Hours, I all of a sudden noticed that I was now in a ‘foreign environment’, that was too bright for me to comprehend. However, I could not see clearly who and who were around me. Don’t ask me to describe the people I saw. My mother later told me she had caesarean section to have me delivered.

From the stage of my being introduced to this light, and my seeing figures and movements, I found myself in a place that I was later to be told was the ‘Incubator’. Infant incubators they say are used to provide a warm environment for babies born prematurely like me, or for other infants who are unable to maintain a normal body temperature. They prevent dangerous drops in body temperature (hypothermia), with dire consequences. This place was, warm, humid, and moderately lighted; a bit comfortable, but definitely not as comfortable as the place where I had a swimming pool to myself. I found out they put some things (clothes) round my waist. Some fine tubes were passed into my nostrils from which I could feel some flow of air passing through them. The rubber tubings were so uncomfortable and I felt like pulling them out, but I was unable to do so. My hands appeared unable to obey my command to remove the tubes. I had no option but to leave them as they were. I was later told they supplied oxygen to me as I was unable to take in enough oxygen by myself to meet the needs of my body and placed on oxygen from 9th-15th September 2021 (7 days). I was told I weighed about 2,000g at birth.

It is surprising that I was denied food to eat or water to drink. I could not see or smell my mother, father of any close relative for that matter. Something had apparently been painfully forced into my left hand (drip) for which some clear fluid was being passed into my body. I resisted all effort to get this done but I was overpowered by the giants around me. These giants, I was later told by my mother were said to be neonatologists, nurses and midwives. I was literally abandoned by these people in this place, with people only pipping in from time to time to see how I was doing. I cried often but briefly as I had no strength to do so. No one pitied me as they did not know how I was feeling. Here, there was more of hearing than seeing. I therefore heard a lot but saw very little.  I was turned a bit from side to side, as I was unable to do so by myself. I felt like sitting up, walking around and even talking to the people around me but all my ambitions appeared restricted by some supreme force. I had to just manage on. I made the limited movements I could do (hands and legs), and that attracted the happiness and joy of the people in the vicinity. I urinated on the bed and defecated minimally and rarely. Someone cleaned me up at regular intervals. Most of what happened were unknown to me as I spent most of my time sleeping and dreaming! Don’t again ask me what I was dreaming about!!!

I was frustrated by the fact that my mother and father were nowhere to be seen or heard. All people around me appeared to be foreigners. It appeared all my relations were banned from getting into this ‘strong room’. This room, I was later told was the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU). At certain time intervals that I am not very sure of, my nose tubes were removed for some time and replaced after assessing me by the people around me. I was cleaned inside this my new-found bedroom. The bedroom had well-padded door and windows through which ‘giant hands’, instruments, tubes and equipment were passed to provide essential things to me. Not many people were allowed access to me. I was all by myself. I felt abandoned though I was also alone while I was in the confined personal swimming pool. Here, the swimming pool was no more there, but the room temperature, humidity and lighting appeared constant.

As a joke, hours became days, and days rolled into a week. I enjoyed the comfort of the incubator for 11 days but weaned of oxygen on the 16th of September; and found fit for discharge 5 days later. While out of the incubator (one day), I was observed and monitored for body temperature control and blood oxygen concentration. At the same time, my ability to take and retain oral fluids and breastmilk was evaluated. This was normal and I was then discharged to my mother (20th September) to her surprise. She never expected I would be discharged so soon.

As of today, I am outside the incubator. I am home with my parents. I am still being handled with care and jealously guarded and kept under thick clothing to keep warm. Not many hands are allowed to touch me. I am not bathed daily. My grandfather whispered into my ears that it is not necessary to bath daily as he bathed only twice in two weeks when he was away to the United Kingdom some years ago during winter! I am comfortable and not complaining. When I grow up, I may decide to bath twice or more daily as compensation. Remember, I am a girl and am fully covered when I do that. As of September 29th, 2021, I had been discharged for 10 days and 21 days (3 weeks) old.

As I sign out, I will not forget to appreciate my mother, father, sibling, parents in law, aunties, nieces, uncles, and all who prayed for me in this journey from my mother’s womb through the almighty incubator to the home!!!

Josiah Mutihir is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.











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