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Nduka Onwuegbute

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Confluence: Giving Birth
By Nduka Onwuegbute
Friday, August 14, 2009

Rated "G" by the Author.

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The battle for Anashi (First Encounter)

A wicked chief, Ngozi, has just arrested her husband's lover, Uzo'ma, during childbirth. Both women struggle to have their own way.
{Culled from soon to be published "Masters of the Confluence" ISBN: 9781907093036}

People in this scenario 
Orie - a councillor in the village of Nun 
Ngozi - The tyrant of Nun 
Egurugwu - Ngozi's unwilling husband 
Uzo'ma - another councilor and and secret lover of Egurugwu 
Eso - Ngozi's mother 
Eso's companion 

Chapter: Twenty-Two 

‘It’s breeched!’ Orie exclaimed. ‘It’s coming legs first.’ 
Those were words Uzo’ma did not want to hear. ‘No! Take it out! Take it out!’ 
‘Shut up and be quiet.’ Ngozi shouted at her. ‘A child is born every day. And you are going to deliver this baby!’ 
‘You are enjoying this, aren’t you? You are so happy this is happening to me.’ Uzo’ma told Ngozi; ‘You are a callous little girl! A maggot has more sympathy on its tiniest of hairs than you will ever have in your lifetime!’ 
‘All that doesn’t matter now; just stop pushing!’ retorted Ngozi. 
‘Yes. You would like that, won’t you? Well, it’s not going to happen! I will have my baby and there is nothing you can do about it!’ 
Egurugwu, who had been sitting outside the room hearing his two lovers batter each other with such cruel words, could not take it anymore. Reluctantly, he got up and made to dash in. But he stopped as he heard Ngozi’s hash, yet reassuring words. Uzo’ma’s response did not help his indecision so he went in any way. 
‘Egurugwu, save me; save our child. Don’t let this witch from Idu ruin what we have, what we have dreamt of. Save me, Egurugwu!’ 
Egurugwu knelt beside Uzo’ma, holding her flailing hand in a soft but firm attempt to pacify her. His words were equally high pitched yet, his resonance calmed her. ‘Listen, Uzo’ma. Orie is going to help you through this. I am here. Just calm down while we figure out how to bring our child into the world.’ 
Uzo’ma, still paranoid from the news of the breech focused on her lover and gradually slowed her breathing. ‘But it hurts Egurugwu. It hurts too much.’ 
‘It’s your first.’ Orie chipped in ‘This is nothing.’ And she immediately regretted saying it. 
‘Nothing! Come have my baby then! No, you can’t have my baby!’ And to Egurugwu she said: ‘Tell them they can’t have my baby!’ 
‘No one is having your baby, except you, Uzo’ma. Trust me. You will have your baby.’ Egurugwu collected the bulbous woman into his arms in assurance, re-instilling what little faith he could. With both their chins resting on each other’s shoulder, Egurugwu gave Ngozi an eye signal to leave the room. Ngozi refused, folding her arms into a cross and staying put.
‘None of us are really helping here.’ Orie said; ‘Not even you, Uzo’ma. I have only had one breech in my years of bringing children into the world. I have done countless births like this. But you have to let me help you. You have to trust me. Luckily, your sack is still intact. I can turn the baby, but it will hurt a lot more than the pain you are getting now. Listen to your husband. Let him hold you, but please, just be calm and do as I ask of you. Bear with me, the pain to come, I will not lie, it’s severe. But you will get your joy. I will deliver you of your baby.’ 
Uzo’ma, who had been nodding in affirmation of the help was gradually feeling the pains return as another contraction knotted. Her neck swelled as the muscles on her shoulders fought the pain. Her face grimaced and her eyes glared as wide as she had ever had them. Her nostrils were flared wide enough to blow out the child, if only the foetus could imaginatively take that route. Orie sensed her body firm up fighting the contractions. 
‘The contractions are coming again?’ 
‘Yes!’ exploded Uzo’ma. 
‘I know, but trust me, don’t push yet. You are not ready to have this baby.’ 
Egurugwu tried to take his hold on Uzo’ma away but she clung on to him like a hungry leech furrowing for fresh blood. Helpless, he scowled at Ngozi. Feeling used, she stormed out of the room. She reached the palace and sat down, not on her raised throne but another chair used by her councillors, and her eyes rested on Uzo’ma’s confiscated drum. She looked behind her in the direction of the door she had just emerged from where her husband was helping his lover deliver what should rightfully be her own baby. She wanted the baby. 
“That baby is mine!” Ngozi thought. “Uzo’ma has no right having my husband’s baby. I am Ngozi, princess of the new world. I am the law, my father’s hand in Nun; and I decide the fate of this baby. Live or die, it is all down to me.” 
She knew she had such power, the three villages knew what voraciousness she could wield. It was her moment of glory. 
Half dreaming of what to do with the situation at hand, Ngozi’s angry fingers dragged a reluctant right hand to pick up Uzo’ma’s drum. She tapped on the goat’s membranes. It was a sharp and violent crash. If the drum had not been well strung or the leather not tanned properly it would surely have ripped. She brought the drums to herself, parting her legs and imprisoning it firmly between her pulsating thighs. She relaxed, shaking her high-held head, loosening the muscles around her neck, freeing the blood to travel at her will. She took a prolonged breath, sucking as mush air as she could into her lungs. When she exhaled, her mind was clear. There was only one thing to do and she knew she was the only one who could do it. 

Orie was glad that Ngozi had left the room. She had brought too much tension to an already scary situation. Uzo’ma’s contractions were returning stronger and more frequently, but she was calm with Ngozi gone from the room. 
‘You say you have done this before?’ Egurugwu wanted reassurance for himself, whispering to Orie. 
‘I was trying to calm her down. This is my first.’ Orie confessed, quietly. ‘She’s calm now, so I want you to help.’ 
‘What do you want me to do?’ 
‘I am going to try and turn the baby, but it will hurt, a lot. You need to hold her down, make sure she does not move.’ 

The slap of Ngozi’s fingers on the drum outside jolted the trio back into apprehension. The drum’s ripple had stopped but even Uzo’ma’s pain disappeared momentarily. Her concern was no longer that of bringing forth the child. Feeling guilty that she could think of self preservation under the circumstances, she couldn’t help the sweat that evaporated from her face. 
Her eyes, no longer tearful, Uzo’ma was keen and alert. She was not just going to survive Ngozi’s attack but was going to have her baby as well. She promised she was going to have Egurugwu’s child and that is exactly what was going to happen, breeched or not! 

Orie could not understand what was going on. Neither could Egurugwu. They could not understand why Ngozi would choose such a time to be playing around with drums when her husband’s wife was in a childbirth that was not going well. Uzo’ma, who didn’t appreciated the drumming either lived with her lot and hummed to herself, fighting the pain, holding back the contractions, waiting for the go ahead to push the wayward baby out. Mysteriously, the drumming was helping. She could not understand why. Maybe it was the familiar repetition of her heart beat with interruptions from by Ngozi’s own staccato renditions that reminded her she really needed to succeed. 
Egurugwu knew a drumming of some sort was going on, but could not recognise any of it. He had heard that it was in fact Ngozi playing and he would have wanted to know why but was too upset to contemplate what tune was being played. He spoke gently to Uzo’ma instead as she struggled from Orie’s pressing touch, and he pinned her ever so gently back as she reluctantly attempted to free herself from the probing that was happening to her unborn child. 

Orie did not know what it was, but noticed the baby had stopped moving. The child which had hitherto been very agile, fast to turn and sprinting from one part of Uzo’ma’s womb to another had suddenly stopped moving. Most disturbing was that the child was not curled up like it should. She could still feel the skewered position of the foetus and managed to feel there was a pulse different form that of Uzo’ma’s breathing; but the contractions had slowed down to a near stop. Her realization numbed her and Egurugwu was quick to notice her hesitation. 
‘Why are you stopping?’ He demanded; ‘What is going on? What have you done?’ 
Orie could not speak. She had never had a breeched baby. To have one for a very close friend was too distressing for her, especially with a very unhelpful Ngozi drumming in the room next door. She did not know when a tear ran its course, lopping itself out of her eyes and splashing itself in splendour on Uzo’ma’s engorged stomach. 
‘I don’t know. It stopped! It stopped moving!’ 

Ngozi was drumming hard, mesmerised by her own involuntary body movements as she became one spirit with the drum between her legs. Her mother, still lead on by the men from Utu, rushed in, Onitsha’s first wife still by her side. The two women took the scene in and surmised that the problem was not the transcended drummer. An eerie aura pervaded the entire palace and they set off to find out what it was. Unhinged by any form of apprehension, the women tore through the doors into the private rooms. 

Eso {Ngozi's Mother arriving from Nun} heard someone’s breath heaving ‘It stopped!’ and went in that direction. She opened the mat curtains to see Uzo’ma lying limp on her back with Egurugwu confused and overwhelmed at Orie’s helplessness. 
When Orie actually uttered the words ‘It stopped moving!’ it was more to Eso, a cry for help...the saving grace that would redeem all her efforts. 
Eso, who was about to deliver her second baby of the day, knelt down, leaning over the weakened expectant mother. Uzo’ma was sweating but traces of salt were beginning to show on her forehead, a sure sign that she had been in labour for a very long time. Her breathing was very slow and the rise and fall of her neck muscles were equally weak. 
‘Water.’ said Eso. Her voice was not commanding, yet Orie felt the impulse to obey. She had relinquished power to the experience hand. But before she could get up to get the water, Onitsha’s wife was handing a calabash of cool water to the usurping midwife. Off went her head-tie, straight into the water, and was momentarily it was resting under Uzo’ma’s heavy head. 
‘Space!’ This time it was a command, and Egurugwu found himself cowering to the wishes of his mother-in-law. 
‘Oil.’ Once again, the request was non-commanding and Onitsha’s wife proffered the burnt extract which Eso used to massage the ailing mother. She applied a copious amount on Uzo’ma’s disturbed stomach and felt for a position for the foetus. 
Eso’s hand went in the calabash as she washed off the oil. She re-applied some oil, this time directly onto her washed hands and spread Uzo’ma’s legs apart. She rummaged for dilation, finding joy and withdrew. Eso stood up, wondering what to do. Egurugwu looked up at his mother-in-law, alarmed at the older woman, distraught. 
‘Don’t let her push. I need to get something.’ said Eso. 
Eso turned her attention to her journey companion, who returned an equally curious look. Without turning, she asked; ‘When it rains, where does it swamp?’ 
Orie and Egurugwu looked at each other, confused. 
‘Come on, Egurugwu; where does it flood when it rains?’ insisted Eso. 
‘Ijeoma’s house was built on a swamp, if that’s what you mean; why?’ 
‘Take me there!’ Eso was out of the room. 
Egurugwu needed no further prompting in following. They walked past Ngozi, on the way out, still drumming. By the time they returned with a handful of herbs, Ngozi was still at it. 
Eso doused the twigs and herbs in a calabash made ready and waiting by the assisting midwife. She massaged the leaves until she had a crushed pulp and squeezed the juices out, mixing it with some tepid water. That done, Eso drained out the green gunk. Onitsha’s wife held up Uzo’ma’s head, forcing her mouth open. She clearly had no time to waste. 
Before Uzo’ma had a chance to complain, Eso poured the unsavoury medicine down her throat; Uzo’ma throttled, almost choking, very close to throwing it all back in Eso’s face. Eso smiled, happy that her gift to the labouring woman was received without a hitch. 
‘That will ease the pain, while I turn the baby. Unfortunately, I cannot wait for the medicine to start working. So I am starting now.’ 
But Eso was already massaging the pregnancy. 
‘You will still feel a bit of pain, but not for long. Don’t wait for the pain to go. While you can still feel the contractions, I want you to push. But wait for the signal. You will feel the baby move, just in time for you to stop feeling the pain. So bear with me.’ 
Eso washed her hands, rinsing off what little stubborn fibres were keen on clinging onto her. She waited, sensing Uzo’ma tense by sight. Once again, she re-applied the oil onto Uzo’ma’s stomach feeling for the baby’s position, observed a movement then stopped. 
She was waiting for the unborn child to make the next move. 

Meanwhile, the deranged drum was wilder, angrier. 
Uzo’ma felt her constituency change as the baby turned; and as the contractions revolted she vaguely heard Eso asking her to be patient. 
‘Don’t be embarrassed. Child birth is a messy affair. I know you are tired, my child, but if you feel like going, give it all you’ve got. That’s what will get your baby out. So when I say “Push”, push like your life depended on it.’ 
But Uzo’ma didn’t need to wait. By the time Eso had finished... 
Uzo’ma screamed; ‘Yes!’... {To be Continued}

 

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