The due date for the expected new arrival was looming. I had opted to have, around that date, an induction at Nelspruit MediClinic. I was so paranoid - about going into labour in the bush and having to face a two-and-a-half hour drive to the hospital - that I needed to make use of that option.

In fact, earlier on in the pregnancy I had phoned the emergency evacuation service to which we were contracted to ask them if they could, or would, send a helicopter out in the night if need be. The poor woman on the other end of the phone immediately started asking how far apart the contractions were and all the other appropriate questions I guess would be asked during an emergency. I did have a chuckle once I could explain that I was only four months pregnant, and did not need their services just then.
The night before leaving for Nelspruit we went to ĎFirst Rockí, a stunning large, flat, granite outcrop, that held shallow puddles of water on its surface after the rains. In the evenings, just before night descended, Doublebanded Sandgrouses would fly down and bathe and drink from the puddles, their warbling calls echoing off the hard surface. That night was most special, with an almost full moon rising up over the bush.
We left for Nelspruit the next day, all ready to be booked in for the induction and birth early the following morning. We went off for dinner at an Italian restaurant, as I wanted to carbo load for the anticipated natural birth. I ordered a huge meal, took one look at it, and could eat none of it. That time the familiar nausea could be attributed to sheer nervous tension.
The following morning induction drugs were administered to me. Nothing happened. More drugs were given me and still more, and we waited and waited. Still nothing. That evening they gave me a big booster dose, and two contractions later I was screaming for a painkiller in the form of an epidural. The only snag was that the anesthetist was at a cocktail party. Out came the oxygen to tide me over until the doctor arrived: it was very difficult to get the face mask away from Jurie, who was enjoying the doses of oxygen that were meant for me. Anyhow, after I had received the epidural, we expected the baby to pop out at any moment, but still nothing happened. Around midnight my gynae came in and after doing a check up pronounced that the baby was under stress and ordered an emergency caesarian. In my birth plan I had requested Ė in case of emergency Ė a caesarian under epidural so as to experience that Ďearth-mother-holding-the-baby-after-birth-effectí but, when faced with the thought of being conscious while being cut open and having a baby pulled from my stomach, I chickened out and insisted on a general anesthetic. Just as well, as Jurie described the laser incision as having smelt like meat on a braai! Mmmm, charming! Our little girl was delivered on the 30th August 1996, but the placenta would not come off the uterine wall. Two hours later I came out of surgery.
Before little ZoŽ Alice was born I had made Jurie promise me he would not let the baby out of his sight, lest she be swapped for another baby - some weird pre-natal paranoia or something. Anyway, by the time I came round, little ZoŽ and Jurie had bonded intensely, and to date are still as close as close can be.
It was quite a relief to learn that my earlier bout with malaria had not affected ZoŽ in any way, and we were free to leave the hospital. I found I was not at all prepared for the responsibility of bringing her back home, never mind the subsequent lifetime commitment bit. After two hours of bumping along the dirt road, yes, bump after painful bump, we eventually arrived at the lodge. There was a veld fire that day, hanging a smoky orange haze overhead the place. The staff came out to greet us. Taking little ZoŽ into his arms Dixon removed all her blankets and clothes. Everyone gathered round to inspect her from top to toe. She obviously passed the test, so with loud sounds of acceptance she was dressed again and handed back over to the new mom and dad.
We were expecting a bit of jealousy from the dogs, and had sought advice before the birth date. The dogs were very much part of our lives, even sleeping in our bedroom - usually on the bed Ė so problems seemed likely. At that stage we consulted a Ďradio-vet-animal-behaviouristí called Dr Platzhund. Coincidentally he had been a guest at the lodge a year or so before. I rang him up on his radio show, and was pleased to hear he remembered both the dogs and us. Bull Terriers were not high on his favourite-dogs list, but while at the lodge he had commented that Bingo and Douglas were well socialized and not too bad for their breed. His advice was to undress the baby, put her on the bed, let the dogs on the bed to smell her, and feed the dogs plenty of biltong at the same time. The idea was to get ZoŽ into Ďthe packí at a higher level than the dogs, without the dogs feeling ousted and upset about it. I had images of a diver amongst great white sharks with chum filling the waterÖ Well, somehow it worked and the baby survived! The dogs apparently considered that this new member of the family was not too bad if it meant getting treats while she was around. Bingo preferred to keep a bit of distance between herself and the new pack member. On the other hand, Doug, with his mothering tendency, was close to besotted with ZoŽ. During the night, at the slightest peep out of the babe, Doug would have his head inside the crib before us as parents even set a foot out of bed.
Jurieís mother, Hazel, and our friend, Wally, came up from the Cape to help out after ZoŽ arrived. They provided the emotional support we needed. I quickly realized that I was not slotting into motherhood very well and that that Ďall encompassing bondí I thought would just happen, did not. Breast-feeding was a nightmare and this baby never slept for longer than an hour at a time. When she did eventually fall asleep, her breathing was so shallow that on a few occasions I was convinced she was dead. Nothing fitted into a routine any longer, and new and strange things happened. For example, in the thatch roof above the couch on the stoep was a pair of mating boomslange (highly venomous snakes in our region). No problem while they were doing their thing until one of them shat on me while feeding ZoŽ! I had planted several fever trees around the Red House as a symbol of new life and the arrival of spring. One evening Jurie had gone down to the lodge to have dinner with the guests, leaving me, the inexperienced mom, with tiny little ZoŽ. Then the inevitable happened. I heard the hard breathing of an elephant as he went about uprooting my brand-new fever trees. I grabbed ZoŽ, a spotlight, and my camera, (yes, believe it or not, I found extra hands) and raced outside shouting at the elephant. I managed to scare him off my saplings and have a couple of bad photos to prove it!
Just before Hazel went back to the Cape we needed to see the doctor in Hoedspruit to have my caesarian stitches taken out. I could not face that bumpy road again, so we got a charter flight to take us the twenty minutes to town. We landed on the civilian dirt airstrip in the center of town and, while the pilot waited, we walked over to the consulting rooms. Half an hour later back to the plane we trekked and took off for to the bush. Looking back, it was yet another experience that would have been quite different had we not embarked on our journey through our African way.


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Our African Way