Forgotten child syndrome occurs when parents are focusing on future tasks instead of the moment. This can be an extremely dangerous mental state for a quiet or sleeping baby. This medical condition describes how a parent can walk away from the car without thinking about their child in the back seat of the car.
I had earlier received a phone call from my sister-in-law who was having trouble delivering her child. Dayo, her husband, and my half-brother, had informed me about the surgeon’s decision to carry out a Caesarean section, also known as C-section on her, because a vaginal delivery would put the mother or the unborn child at risk.
“Annie, you are here,” Dayo hugged me weakly. He was clearly worried-sick.
“How’s the mother and her unborn child?” I asked immediately, gasping for air as though I had just participated in a 4×100m race.
Dayo’s face fell, “Sarah’s unconscious. The Surgeon said they would need to operate on her ASAP. I’m scared.”
He looked as though he were going to fall if I didn’t support him; so I gathered him in my arms. “Everything will be alright, Dayo. Sarah needs you to be strong right now.” My mind raced back to our childhood days, when we spent all of our free time together. Nowadays, we saw little of each other.
“I wish she didn’t have to undergo this surgery,” Dayo sighed sadly. “What if something happens?”
“God’s in control,” I said. “Besides, Doctor Dean’s very good.”
“I wish you were the one in charge of my wife’s case delivery and surgery. I trust no other Surgeon than you.”
I chuckled sadly, “You know I wish for the same with all my heart; but we both know what happened to me, and that, well… I can’t. They won’t let me.”
“Just… because. I’m sorry for everything. You’ve been through a lot, and now…your career is in danger. It all happened after you put to bed.”
My face went white.
“What’s wrong?” Dayo shook me, but I didn’t budge.
“My baby…” Dayo instinctively headed for my car. I came out of my trance, and ran after him.
I opened the door to the back seat, and found my baby sleeping soundly; but he wasn’t breathing, and he looked pale. Fear gripped me. I couldn’t talk, neither could I scream. I just stood there motionlessly. Dayo stared in horror.
“How did this happen?”
I knew what had happened, what I had done; but my doctor-instinct took control of me immediately.
I quickly, but tenderly and carefully brought out my baby from the car, and dashed for the hospital. Within a twinkle of an eye, he was admitted. They tried everything they could to revive him, but to no avail. I felt like a murderer.
I carried my child’s lifeless body out of the hospital, refusing to let go of him. I was in tears, and I clung to him like life itself.
“Annie, you have to let him go now,” Dayo made to carry my baby, “h-he’s d-dead.” He stuttered. Even he found it hard to believe.
“My baby was healthy and very much alive this morning. It was my fault, yes, it was. I was absent minded. How could I even make such a mistake? How could I have totally forgotten about my baby? Truly, I had a lot going on with me. There were so many things that occupied my mind. My career, my sick mum, my deceased husband, my unconscious sister-in-law, and the list goes on. My baby died from heatstroke. He had suffocated in the car because in my worry, I had forgotten I had come with him. If I had known, I would have kept him in the front seat. No, that would be dangerous; but at least, I would have come with his pet. It would have helped me remember that I had come with my baby. Or maybe I should have left him with mother. If only I had come back to the car earlier…” Tears streamed down my cheeks. “Dayo, -how could this happen? How could I do such a thing? H-h-how… I killed him.” I broke down, laughing and crying uncontrollably, that I feared my heartbeat would stop.
“Annie, please stop crying. This isn’t your fault. What you are doing right now is dangerous. Calm down. If you keep laughing and crying this way, you will be out of breath, and might have a heart failure.”
“How can you say that? Whose fault is it then? Heart failure you say? I don’t care. There’s no reason to lie anymore. What am I living for?” I stared at him hardly,, and if stares could kill, I was sure my stare could have done the deed.
“Just calm down… Please, don’t talk like this.”
“Don’t touch me…!” I was screaming, and before I knew it, I felt something sharp pierce me beside my neck. Someone had sedated me. Slowly, I fell asleep.
“Doctor, will my sister be alright? And how are my wife and unborn child?” Dayo asked amidst tears. The grief he felt at that moment was enough to make a person go crazy.
“Your sister will be fine. Right now, she’s in a state of hysteria, and if she isn’t probably taken care of, it could affect her mental health.” The doctor placed a soothing hand on Dayo’s right shoulder.
“… and my wife?” Dayo’s heartbeat quickened. He held my unconscious body even as he desperately waited for the doctor’s answer.
“Well…” The doctor tried to smile, “she’s in a critical condition; the C-section was a success, but she’s still unconscious. However, your baby’s safe and healthy.”
“Calm down, Dayo…” The doctor was still saying when Dayo left my unconscious body and ran towards his wife’s ward.
The doctor ran after him, and I was left all alone, with my lifeless baby in my arms.
Ekwebelum Chizurum Melody
Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State, NIGERIA.