The cries of babies drowned the chatter of mothers at the prenatal ward of the Lagos hospital.
In one corner of the ward sat a mother with a glum, hopeless look in her eyes. Her babies- all three of them- were crying in unison as she busied herself with the task of preparing formula for them in a small baby bottle.
The tin of milk had only been bought the previous day and its content was already down.
Iyabo Tolase, 32, had been delivered of her triplets-all boys- a week earlier through caesarean section but with the cries of the babies came the dissipation of her joy.
Indeed, it has been an exciting time in the last two weeks at Alimosho General Hospital in Igando, Lagos, which witnessed a harvest of triplets.
But it has also been one fraught with worries by the struggling mothers. Their apprehensions have been further heightened by the current economic crisis in the country, which has markedly increased the rate of inflation.
‘I hope I won’t live in this hospital forever’
Tolase has three other children and sells food at Iyana-Iba, a busy area of Lagos. Her husband and father of the children, Sola, 36, works at Ojo Local Government Area secretariat, where he earns N16,000 monthly.
She said after getting pregnant, she thought she was having a fourth child and never thought she would be having two more.
Tolase had been living in the hospital for three months and had no idea of when she would be able to leave. She had been discharged by the doctors four days earlier but as her unpaid medical bills still ran into N137,000, she had yet to be released to return home.
With the support of family members, Tolase has spent over N200,000 already on drugs, consumable goods and payment of N80,000 out of her medical bills.
Having been diagnosed with hepatitis B, Tolase said she was required to buy an N80,000 injection for each of her babies to prevent them from being infected.
Eventually, she bought two injections, which were shared among her triplets.
For her babies naming ceremony, which was held in the hospital ward, biscuits were shared among family members present as the triplets were named: Abdulmalik, Abdulbasit and Habibullah.
“It was painful that we could not have my babies’ naming ceremony at home, but what can I do?” She said with a note of frustration.
“I have accepted everything by faith because it is how God has designed it. I have been admitted to the hospital since I was six months pregnant and knew I was carrying a set of triplets.
“The doctors said I had high blood pressure and that it was safe for me to remain here where they would be able to monitor my babies. Now, I don’t know when I will leave the hospital; I hope I won’t be here forever.”
Tolase’s elder sister, Mrs. Jaiyeola Adeogun, who has been assisting her at the hospital, blamed her sister’s abnormal blood pressure on the sudden news that she was pregnant with triplets.
“Her high BP must have been caused by the news that she was having triplets after an initial test result had suggested otherwise,” she said in one of her interjections.
Initial ultrasound result suggested that Tolase was pregnant with twins. But when her pregnancy had advanced to six months and Tolase went for another ultrasound test at a different place, the technician found the second heartbeat… and then a third.
According to her, she sobbed and sobbed after the news until the technician called her mother on phone to come for her.
“After the man told me that there were three babies, I started arguing with him,” she said.
“I thought he was lying, but he insisted that I was pregnant with triplets. My whole world seemed to turn upside down at that moment. I started crying and could not leave until the man asked for the telephone number of my relatives.
“Since my husband was not around at the time, he called my mother to come and take me home. Then later, at this hospital, it was confirmed that I was pregnant with triplets.
“I was not expecting a set of twins let alone triplets. There is no way we can afford to take care of six children with my husband’s salary and my income. For over three months, I have been in the hospital and have not even been able to work.”
Already, the development had started putting pressure on Tolase’s 13-year-old marriage as she and her husband have been bickering over money to pay hospital bills and take care of their children.
Her mother, who had been financially supportive and had taken custody of her other three children in her absence, had grown weary of the burden.
“My husband did not run away but there is no money,” she said when asked if she was ever afraid that her husband might leave her.
“He has only brought N50,000 and that was all he had, which is far from what is needed. My mother and other relatives have been supportive but she has already told me that she would withdraw her support because she was tired.
“My husband and I are still on the matter now; I have told him to look for money and he has gone to do that.”
She, however, appealed for help from the public to support her during the tough time while she nurses her triplets and makes attempts to be financially independent.
“I don’t want any more children; I didn’t think that I could ever be pregnant with triplets,” she said.
“We need help, even if it is to have some wares to sell at the house while I nurse my children. We do not have the money to take care of these children, so we will appreciate any support.
“I have already put my faith in God and people have been telling me that there is nothing that God cannot do. I still have medical bills to pay and if I don’t get it, my children and I may not leave this hospital.”
Down the hall from the hospital’s prenatal ward is its postnatal ward, where a young mother lay with painful but healing surgical wounds.
‘I couldn’t run away because I fear God and love my wife’
Like Tolase, Hafsah Adeyemo, 23, had also been delivered of a set of triplets through Caesarean Section but her initial joy of motherhood was soon dampened by the fear of the future.
And also like Tolase, Adeyemo has been discharged by doctors at the hospital but was being held back by unpaid N76,600 medical bills.
The soft-spoken mother met and fell in love with Yusuf two years ago in school- Ogun State Institute of Science and Technology, Igbesa.
The two married on May 28, 2016, and while Yusuf finished his Higher National Diploma programme in Business Administration in the school in 2015, his wife also finished her Ordinary National Diploma in the same department that same year.
Adeyemo is unemployed and plans to return to school for HND; however, Yusuf manages a fish farm with about 1,000 fish, which he said would not be able to generate enough money to take care of their three children.
After three months of Adeyemo’s pregnancy, the couple headed for the first ultrasound test, which showed that they would be parents of three children and not one.
“When we realised that she was pregnant, we believed that it would be one child and that we would be able to care for him with my income,” said Yusuf, who may soon join other graduates for the National Youth Service Corps in October.
“I also believed that my allowance from the NYSC would supplement my income from the farm to take care of my family. But we were both surprised when the scan result showed that Hafsah was pregnant with triplets.”
Yusuf said he did not choose to run away and abandon his young family because of his fear of God and love for his wife. Rather, the first thing he did was to head to the nearest mosque to pray for safe delivery and guidance.
“I was waiting outside while my wife was having the scan, but later the technician called me inside to share the news with me,” he said.
“First, he asked if my wife had told me the news. When I said no, he showed me on the screen that my wife was pregnant with three boys. I asked why that was so. He said it had nothing to do with him, and that it was God that gave them to us.”
“But I did not think of running away; instead, I went to a mosque to pray because I’m very religious and I know that everything comes from God. I didn’t expect triplets, so I prayed to God who put them there to provide for me to take care of them.
“I told God that he sees me and knows what I have. I also prayed for safe delivery for my wife.
“Hafsah was also surprised but she told me that since nothing would ever make her have an abortion, she would bear the children.”
One thing that is certain though is that the lives of the couple have been changed forever.
Yusuf has been having sleepless nights as two of his babies were jaundiced and all three had to be transferred to a better equipped public hospital in Ikeja for phototherapy (light treatment).
So Yusuf has been shuttling between one hospital and the other, tending to the needs of his wife and babies.
After returning to his wife’s bedside from one of his trips to see his babies at the Ikeja hospital, Yusuf said he had just been told that the babies had also been discharged but he had to offset a N20,000 medical bill before he could take them.
Meanwhile, his wife, who had also been discharged from Alimosho General Hospital, was already spending her third additional day at the hospital.
According to Yusuf, he had written to the hospital’s welfare office and the Sole Administrator of Ayobo-Ipaja Local Government Area, Abiodun Agbaje, for assistance but was still awaiting their responses.
“I have spent about N140,000 already on bills, drugs and other things but still have about N100,000 more to pay to the hospitals to offset all my bills,” said Yusuf as he hurried to get her wife some water.
“The economic crisis has made matters worse and also shot up the cost of goods, including baby milk. I am deeply worried about my babies and how they will get adequate care. I have been buying baby food and diapers every now and then and I don’t know how much longer I can afford them before I totally run out of cash.
“Everyone I have been calling for support has not been forthcoming and our parents have done their best. Things are really hard and I don’t know where to turn again for help.
“At the local government, I was told that I would be contacted on phone but there has been nothing yet. The hospital’s welfare office asked me to come back but it has already ordered that we should not be given any additional bills, which is good news.”
A copy of the letter Yusuf sent to the administrator of his local council, read in part, “I am writing from the bottom of my heart…. Please sir, I need you to save the lives of my wife and children.”
Coincidentally, the couple’s fathers-both welders by profession- were also at the hospital when our correspondent visited.
Both of them said they were surprised by the sight of triplets as they were not aware that their children were expecting more than one child.
“When someone told me that my daughter had given birth to a set of triplets, I thought it was a joke until I got here and saw them,” said Adeyemo’s father, Lateef Bakare.
Meanwhile, all Adeyemo could think of was to leave the hospital and see her children, who had had only a brief moment with their mother before their transfer to another hospital.
“I was still dizzy when they showed them to me after their delivery, so I did not see them well; I want to leave this hospital and see my babies,” Adeyemo said with visible frustration.
“I do not feel comfortable with my continued stay here, so I will deeply appreciate any assistance we can get from the public. My major concern is the feeding of my babies and other expenses.
“We have spent a lot already and some people have given us money but it is not enough because things are very expensive and we have spent so much money on drugs.”
In spite of the couple’s financial challenges, Adeyemo’s faith in her husband and their ability to get through the tough time remains strong.
“I know what I went through in the last nine months and would never consider giving up any of my babies,” she said confidently.
“And I never for one second had the thought that my husband would leave and abandon me and my babies because he is religious and not brash to take such a decision.”
- Account number for the Adeyemos: Adeyemo Yusuf, GT Bank, 0147795536;
Account number for the Tolases: Lawal Azeez, Sterling Bank, 0058930659.