Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
Eighteen years after marriage, Mr and Mrs James Nwabueze Okeigbo had tried all they could to get a child that would help to cement the love for their marital union. But every effort in that direction ended up in frustration and failure.
But today, the couple can look back and smile at their frustrations and failure over the years as they are now proud parents of quintuplets although they later lost one of the babies.
The news of the birth of the babies which made headlines across Nigeria’s major print and online newspapers, attracted the attention of Mrs Rashidat Bello, wife of Kogi State governor, who, on discovering that the couple who hail from Abia State but reside and earn their living in Kogi, cannot afford what it takes to take care of the four bundles of joy, paid for a three-bedroom bungalow for them and their joyful parents.
That’s where the husband, 55, a commercial driver and transport agent, and his wife, a petty trader, and their beautiful babies currently reside.
Meeting the babies
Located behind the state secretariat, on the same road with Omonogun Grammar School, Lokoja, the moment this correspondent stepped into the living room, following some enquiries and prior arrangements, he was welcomed by three women who identified themselves as relations of the couple. James, the father of the quintuplets, now quadruplets, later ushered him into the inner room where the four babies were lying side by side in multi-coloured flowery dresses on a wide bed.
But as the 42-year-old Uchenna, the mother of the babies was trying to respond to greetings from the reporter, one of the babies screamed out as if in objection.
But it turned out that he was protesting his being jolted out of sleep, and before anyone could say “sorry o” the other three, obviously also rudely woken up from sleep, joined and started screaming and crying. And, for about 20 minutes the whole room was filled with noise of their cries.
At this juncture, their mother joyfully scooped one of them into her left hand and the other into her right and started singing lullabies to them while walking and running round, to calm them down while her husband carried the other two. Later, as she sat down to breastfeed them simultaneously, one on each breast, the other two waited patiently for their turns. The reporter later took over the babysitting from James while one of their women relatives helped to calm the fourth baby down. It was, indeed, a wonderful moments of banters and joy for everybody.
Celebrating their arrival at the hospital
It started on April 17, when residents of Lokoja trooped out en masse, to the Federal Medical Centre to see Mrs Okeigbo, who the news on the state radio said was delivered of five babies comprising three male and two female babies. A day earlier, Okeigbo, an indigene of Amangwo Obokoro Community, Umuahia South Local Government Area of Abia State, had given birth to the quintuplets through a caesarean section.
It was learnt that they weighed 1.3kg, 1.6kg, 1.7kg, 1.8kg and 1.9kg, respectively. The names of the babies were given as: Chiemerie (God has won the victory), Chikamso (God is the one I am following), Chinazaekpere (God answers prayer), and Chisom (God is with me). However, the last baby, who weighed 1.3kg and was put in an incubator for six days could not survive due to low weight. He was the third boy.
The birth of the quintuplets was the first to be recorded at the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja, since its establishment. And the news attracted top government functionaries and members of the public to the hospital, some of who came with gifts and cash. Among those who visited were the three wives of governor Yahaya Bello, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mathew Kolawole, Commissioner of Women Affairs, Mrs Bolanle Amupitan, the Chief of Staff to the governor, David Onoja and his wife, among others.
A father’s tale
Having been greeted by the new babies in their own special way, their parents and relatives, you sat down to listen to the story of how this miracle came about.
Hear him: “My name is James Nwabueze Okeigbo, a native of Amangwo Obokoro Community in Umuahia South LGA of Abia State. I am 55 years old. I am a transport agent under a company known as St Gabriel Okey Nig Ltd. My job essentially is to look for trucks for those who want to load cement at the Obajana Cement Company.
“We got married on November 17, 2001 at St Michael’s Catholic Church, Obajana and as young couple we were looking for a day we will have naming ceremony of at least a baby, but the day never came. It was harrowing and devastating to wait for those long years without a child.
“We were moving from one hospital to the other conducting medical tests to know what was wrong, but the medical tests didn’t show that there was any problem with me or my wife. So, we decided to put our trust in God by visiting prayer mountains and men of God in different churches, attending programmes and special deliverance services meant for fruit of the womb.”
You asked whether there were any pressures from their families during those harrowing years. “Yes, there were pressures, there were many temptations, but God helped us to overcome. There were many suggestions from friends and family members to visit herbalists and marabouts’ homes, but we resisted,” he admitted.
“My wife and I resolved to close our eyes to those pressures and just look on to God. And our Rev. Fr and Parish Priest, Rev Fr Emmanuel Ogunleye, was very helpful. He was a pillar of encouragement who told us never to visit any herbalist’s home. He prayed severally for us and said he was sure we would one day overcome the long wait of barrenness. And we fasted several times during this period.
“Today, my brother I am the happiest man in the world. I thank my wife for retaining her respect for me and not losing hope. I also thank her family members for their understanding.
I felt so happy when we went to a clinic in Obajana and they confirmed my wife was pregnant. We also visited two more hospitals in Lokoja for same confirmation and scan later confirmed that she was carrying more than three babies.
“My wife was getting weaker and weaker as the pregnancy reached six months and she had to stay in-door through the nine months conception. I took her to the hospital on 15 April and she gave birth two days later through operation. We were discharged from the hospital on 10th May having spent 25 days in the hospital. I thank everyone that has come to our aid so far. However, I am still appealing to other public-spirited Nigerians and, especially, the Abia State government to assist us. I need a car to carry the babies to the hospital every two days for medical check-up.”
Their mother shares her torturous journey to motherhood
“In those 18 long years of barrenness, I was a symbol of shame and ridicule in the society. My virtue as a woman was deeply affected. It was so sad to mention what I passed through, but I thank God for showing mercy on me. He has turned my shame to fame and my sorrow to joy. I felt bad to seeing couples with whom we married at the same period carrying two to three babies and I could not even carry one. Some of them had even stopped bearing children and some of the children are now in tertiary institutions. This broke my spirit often and I used to cry for many days asking God: ‘when will my own come?’” Uchenna said.
Asked what the medical problem was, she said: “We were first told that it was some infections that didn’t allow me to get pregnant. We treated that and then it was diagnosed that I had fibroid, which had to be removed, and the operation was done in 2007, yet, no pregnancy. This gave me sleepless nights and I had to be running to different prayer houses, mountains and churches including visiting crusades grounds. There were several anointing services for my own miracle. I also used different kinds of concoctions and herbal medicine, but nothing happened. I resorted to serious prayers and fasting and one night I had a dream where I carried a baby in my hands and the baby was crying, I woke up and told my husband and he was very happy and praised God for it. This dream gave me a kind of hope and I always felt I was carrying a baby each time I was alone.”
When it eventually became clear that she was pregnant, how did she feel, you asked: “I was extremely happy such that it developed to internal peace of mind. I no longer complain, but began to thank God and I would touch my tummy several times to make sure the pregnancy was still there. It was a baited joy in that I was not sure of what could happen. But I thank God that He did His best for me for giving the grace to carry these five babies for nine months. I was on the top of the world when I gave birth to the children. I was extremely overwhelmed when many people started trooping to greet me and to have glimpse of the babies. I was specifically excited seeing top government functionaries and big politicians coming to visit us. Indeed the children are bundles of blessings. They have turned us and these babies into a kind of celebrities.”
Grandma shares in the joy
And, she is not the only one savouring the very glow. Her mother shares in the joy and glory too. “I am Florence Onwuneme, from Okwu community in Umuahia, Abia State. I am 67 years old and the grandmother of the four babies,” she said, adding that “I thank God that I am alive to see the joy of today. Uchenna is my fourth child. All her brothers and sisters who got married are with children, but I was surprised why hers had to experience such delay because in our family we have no record of barrenness. But I thank God who answers prayers.”
“Did I visit anywhere in an attempt to see my daughter get pregnant? Yes as good mother, no one will leave her daughter like that without consulting some people, but God has a way of doing His miracles and we give him all the glory.”
The medical angle to the miracle
Dr. Grace Ogoke, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at FMC, Lokoja, who handled the delivery of the quintuplets, said that she was very happy and gives glory to God for the feat.
She disclosed that Uchenna delivered the babies on Wednesday April 17, through a caesarean section (CS) at about, 11:45 p.m. Coincidentally, that day turned out to be her own wedding anniversary. She, therefore, said that the delivery of the babies was like an anniversary gift.
According to her, the couple approached the FMC when they were seeking for the fruit of the womb. They underwent a lot of tests and investigations. ‘’After going through all their investigations, I saw that they would need to be assisted, that spontaneous pregnancy, medically speaking, might not be achievable, and I advised them to be assisted,” she said.
The procedure for the assisted reproductive technology through In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) was successful, and the doctor referred them back to her for the management of the pregnancy. ‘’I feel very happy and I give glory to God for seeing us through because it was like all of us were pregnant during the pregnancy,” she enthused, adding that ‘’this is my first time of taking delivery of quintuplets – the highest I had taken before now was three. It is a relief and achievement for all of us and I thank God for that.’’
The Chief Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja, Dr Olatunde Alabi, said that experienced gynaecologists and pediatricians were deployed to manage the woman from pregnancy to delivery. He, however, pleaded for more support for the centre from the government and corporate organisations, especially in the areas of equipment and funding.