In October of 1973, I flew south for a week to attend the birth of my first child. I knew it would be a boy.
Greet, with her big tummy, was staying with my parents on the farm near Warmbaths, Transvaal. It was wonderful to see her again after more than two months and the upcoming event was, of course, shatteringly exciting.
Greet’s contractions started at night after we had gone to bed; rhythms of pain with a slowly quickening beat. We dressed. I walked her away from the house, up the road and back again, until the contraction frequency suggested that I needed to take her to St Vincent’s Hospital. Dr G.G. de Villiers attended.
Anxiety, ignorance and, consequently, fear, on my part. Pain and fear on Greet’s part. At least we were together. Greet screamed and tried to throttle me. I watched in horror as de Villiers descended on my baby’s emerging head with a syringe and what appeared to be a humongous needle – the head’s too big, he’s got to save the mother, sacrifice the baby? – preparing to do an episiotomy. He should have explained, it would have saved me a terrifying, but in my ignorance, unnecessary thought. Too much imagination, too little information.
The little bundle finally arrived, wrinkled monkey, smeared with blobs of what looked like butter. Then I saw it.
Where the carrot should have been was just the garden from whence it seemed to have been wrenched! In a disappointed daze, I went to phone the expectant grandparents, Trixie and Ernst Burhoven-Jaspers, in Swakopmund.
I’m ashamed to say I went around muttering and kicking things for three days. A daughter!
Elizabeth Nicola Earle.
Nicci. A daughter, who turned into a delightful character. One who deserved a better father. She turns forty next week. This year she guided her twin boys into this world. And her grandmother, Trixie, passed away, aged 91, on 23rd September. R.I.P. Trix.
Truth and reconciliation. I do believe that the scalpel of truth can lance the boil of shame. Or should sleeping shames be left to lie?