Nnamani and his wife, Ifeoma, with the surviving quadruplets, Joseph, Benjamin, Leonard and Mary

When the journey of childlessness in a marriage ended with a multiple birth of quadruplets, a family in the midst of their joy, still had to call on kind-hearted Nigerians to come to their rescue, Peace Obi writes

The intrigues of life have remained a puzzle that even the wisest men and women are yet to solve. And neither has the ever-advancement in science and technology, nor religion with its spirituality to decipher the pattern and the direction the wind of life will always go. Characterised by such ‘bizzare’ happenings like while some are smiling, celebrating and popping champagne in acknowledgment of things working in their favour, others at the same time-frame are mourning and counting their losses.

And the simple explanation will always be that life treats people differently! The above descriptions tell the story of a couple in a way. That while they prayed and anxiously waited for an end into the journey of childlessness in their marriage, that even when it eventually ended, the result has turned out to be a heavy weight on the couple’s lean shoulders.

For Mr. Nnaemeka Simon Nnamani and Mrs. Ifeoma Nnamani, it took 15 years to have a real experience of parenthood. For the couple, the joy of cuddling and having the children they can call theirs remains an experience that they lack words to express. But right in the middle of their joy and celebration of crossing the bar of fruitless marriage to being proudly parents of four children from a multiple birth, lies the pang, pain and difficulty of fending for these four wonderful children that brought the reproach of childlessness to an end in their lives. The couple’s situation reminds one of the nursery prayer rhymes often sang when the school children want to observe their lunch break “some have food but cannot eat, some can eat but have no food…”

However, the family has on its own, a unique experience to share – the uncommon feat of exclusively breastfeeding the quadruplets with breast milk for the first six months of the infants’ lives. Presenting the family at a press conference organised by the Colostrum International, the General Secretary, Mr. Ayo Dahunsi in a brief remarks noted that the essence of the day’s event was to showcase the possibility of practicing exclusive breastfeeding even when it concerns multiple births.

According to Dahunsi, it is an issue a lot of people have argued and said that it is not possible to achieve. “But today, we are presenting this family for support and encouragement to people out there who are faced with similar circumstance. It is also to appreciate the fact that it is quite possible to practice exclusive breastfeeding even when they have multiple births circumstance”, Dahunsi assured.

The Project Co-ordinator, Colostrum International, Dr. Bunmi Ogundimu reiterating the NGO’s commitment to the propagation of exclusive breastfeeding as a fundamental tool for child survival and development, said, “We appreciate the benefit of breastfeeding first to the child, then to the mother, the family and to the nation as a whole. Because with breastfeeding, the total being is made.”

Buttressing some of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, Ogundimu said, “Breastfeeding has been proven scientifically to afford children the best growth of their brain and this is why you will see that breastfed children have very high intelligence, they are always very sharp, strong, and alert. These are the quality of people we need in this nation”, she enthused.

Speaking further, the Project Co-ordinator noted that “the efforts of the breastfeeding mothers are appreciated by Colostomy International. And so, when we heard that God blessed this family with five children at a time, we immediately saw our duty in the situation and we visited them and encourage them.

“What we are saying is that breastfeeding a single child may be easy, it may not be easy for twins, that is a bit more difficult for triplets but when we are talking about four or five babies, then it becomes a challenge. And they really need to be supported.

“This family here, actually did exclusive breastfeeding for all their children and the evidence is before all of us here. They are healthy-looking, they are strong, they are alert; their brain function is as expected as a human child, because the mother has made the sacrifice.”

Ogundimu who said the reason for pushing Ifeoma Nnamani’s story to the public on how she practicalised exclusive breastfeeding for her four surviving children is because “it is going to be an encouragement to all mothers, especially those who feel that breastfeeding is a task, that they cannot do it and that they don’t want to do it.”

Sharing her exclusive breastfeeding experience for her quadruplets, Ifeoma said that the determination and encouragement started from the doctors that coordinated the delivery of the children through caesarean operation in California, United States of America. According to her, the doctors encouraged her to procure a breast pump to make it easier for her to express enough breast milk for the children.

“It wasn’t that easy for me. When the Colostrum International heard about the story, they came to our rescue because it wasn’t easy for the family. They supported me and advised me to stick to exclusive breastfeeding for the four surviving children. And ever since then, they have been supporting the family with a monthly package, in fact they have been of tremendous help to the family.

“Though the children are 14 months now, I am still breastfeeding them. They have not been to hospital for any sickness. I am using this opportunity to advise mothers even the one that had five children recently in Ibadan to feed their children on exclusive break milk, because it makes them to be healthy.

“Many people are coming to my house to see how the children will look like. For some, they think they will be very tiny but when they come and see how healthy they are looking, they will be shouting and asking me how manage?
But given the fact that the children’s demand for food, health, education, among others increases along with their age. And more importantly, now that the exclusive breastfeeding is over, the Nnamani’s joy of being blessed with four children in a single maternity after 15 years of childlessness is seemed to be threatened by the family’s lack of financial capacity to cater for their bundle of joy.

Crying out for help to people with milk of human kindness to come to the family’s aid, Ifeoma said, “I am using this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians to kindly help me, it is not easy for the family. Parents know what it takes to take care of a single child, not to talk of the burden of taking care of four children. I am using this platform given to me by the Colostrum International to appeal to Nigerians to kindly help me.”

For Mr. and Mrs. Nnamani, June 2014 will remain indelible in their mind – when Ifeoma was confirmed to be pregnant with her babies. For them, it marked the beginning of the journey into their change of identity that was crowned on December 11, 2014. The once known and addressed as barren couple by reason of a single maternity that produced five babies became Daddy and Mummy of the four surviving children – three boys and a girl. “It wasn’t that easy for me. I waited for 15 years believing God for the fruit of the womb. June, 2014, God answered me, I conceived and was delivered of five children on December 11, 2014 but one did not make it.”

The battle for the survival of the mother and the then unborn children took the Nnamanis out of the shores of this country through the help of relations, friends and well wishers. Narrating how the family mobilised the fund with which they procured the visa and other logistics to travel to the United States for the delivery, Ifeoma said, “Due to my health condition, the doctor at Cupa Hospital, Ajao Estate where I registered for antenatal, advised me to seek medical attention outside the country. But the cost was just too much for my family to bear. I was also referred to LUTH but when I was told that we should prepare our mind for a 50:50 outcome, I resorted to a specialist hospital in Abuja – Deda Specialist Hospital, Gwarimpa. There, the specialist, Dr. Onuh after assessing the situation, reiterated the need for us to pursue the option of going abroad.”
The 43-year-old woman, who presently works with an electricity company (Ikeja Electric) in Lagos, told journalists that everything about the conception and delivery of the children remained a surprise to the family. According to her, the pregnancy did not come until they have resigned their fate to God after several attempts through fertility treatments to conceive failed them.
“With the help of the specialist in Abuja, we got the necessary links and connection that facilitated the eventual visit to the US for the delivery of the babies through a caesarean operation.

“And also through the help we got from kind-hearted people, my husband and I traveled to California for the delivery. I had them at six months through a caesarean operation. But along the line, we ran out of cash after the delivery, because the babies were kept in an incubator for a month and three weeks (56 days) at the rate of 3,200 dollars every day. But through the insurance company we registered with, some days were paid while we resorted to borrowing and contributions from some Nigerians over there. Even up till now, we are still owing some people that helped us. And the people are calling us to pay them their money.”

Corroborating the wife’s claim and appeal, Nnamani noted that going to the public to solicit for help was something if he has a way would avoid, stressing the family condition has forced him into swallowing his pride just to avoid watching God’s blessing slipped off their hands as a result of inability to meet their demands.

According to the 48-year-old Nnamani, an indigene of Akpu-Ugo in Nkanu Local Government of Enugu State who has been out of business for some time now said, “I used to sell in Idumota but when my shop along with others was razed during 2012 December 26, fire incident, I lost everything. Since then, I have been struggling. In fact, at the moment I am practically doing nothing because we spent the little we have to secure my wife’s life and the babies.”

Nnamani acknowledging the assistance the Californian doctors and the people rendered to him and the wife, said that the US government could not come to their aid because they were not American citizens, but that President Barack Obama sent them a congratulatory card.