Three's A'loud

The story of your birth

Dear Linneke

Today you are 10 years old. 120 months. 3650 days. A whole decade. I am humbled and amazed at the little lady you have become in such a short time.

A decade ago you entered the world and changed our lives completely. It was one of the craziest most memorable days of my life and I have always wanted to tell you about it. I just never knew how. Today, just maybe, you are old enough to hear the truth…

2007 was a hectic year for me and your dad. We returned to South Africa after working in the UK for two years, we got married, moved to the farm, fell pregnant and moved to Pretoria all in one year. Doing all this with pregnancy cravings and swollen ankles was loads of fun. About as much fun as combing out your sister’s hair is on a Monday morning. You know what I mean. It’s my fault that you already understand sarcasm so well.

Anyway, I digress. The last few weeks before you were born were quite tough for me. It was early 2008 and financially we were not in a fantastic place. In fact we had a combined R20 in our bank accounts. (The same amount as the pocket money I am now able to give you every Friday morning.) I was huge (just about as wide as I am high) and really really tired. I just couldn’t wait to meet you and I was really focused on doing everything right and being the best possible mommy.

You were due for Monday the 4th of February but I knew you would come on Saturday the 2nd because your dad had kind of a sucky boss and could not get even one day off, even for the birth of his first child. He really tried. He couldn’t wait to become your dad and was even more prepared than I was. So you had to be born on Saturday so that he could spend the weekend with us before going back to work on Monday. I asked you really nicely to get out of there on Saturday. Not before, not after. Even then you were such an obedient child. (Wondering if I am sarcastic now, aren’t you?)

We were quietly relaxing at home on Friday evening before your big day when your father’s phone rang. It was a private job that had to be done immediately. Cash payment upfront. Just what we needed. He was a little hesitant because he didn’t want to leave us alone but I told him not to worry. We needed the extra cash and I could call him if anything happened. However, half an hour later hé was the one who called mé. He was really upset. Turns out the “job” was not a job but some old school friends of his that got hold of his number that day. They thought it would be funny to call him out for “work” and then party through the night. He didn’t think it was so funny. Neither did I, but I also thought he could do with some unwinding. So I told him to stay there for a few drinks. They were buying. I had my feet up on 3 pillows, you and I were watching my favourite corny series on the TV. After all, I had the phone close by if anything should happen.

I woke up 5 hours later with my feet still up, the lights still on and my favourite TV characters yelling at each other. But that was not what had woken me. Something crashed elsewhere in the house. I was lying very still, trying to listen.

Then something crashed into our room.

It was your dad. And it was two o’clock in the morning. And he might or might not have been slightly off balance. I sighed and moved over. He apologised about 3000 times for being so late. I told him I was happy that he is safe and to sleep well. Soon he was snoring away (you know how that is!) but now I was wide awake.

And then I felt it.

You had been making somersaults all evening and were practising those punches that you now love using on your sister. But this wasn’t you. It was me. And half an hour later it happened again. And half an hour later it happened again. I tried telling your dad that something was definitely up but he was far away in dreamland and you know how cranky he is when he gets woken up. So I left him a little bit longer and started timing the contractions. A contraction is kinda when my muscles pull together to start getting you in the right position to be born.

Sleep was out of the question so you and I were chatting all night through the contractions. They were slowly getting stronger and closer together. By 4 o’clock on Saturday morning I knew that you would definitely be in my arms today. I told you that you mustn’t be scared and that the exit might look small but we will figure out a way to get you out of there together. I tried not to let you hear how scared Í was.

Around 6 o ‘clock in the morning I woke your dad up. He wasn’t to keen to get up and pulled us closer to snuggle a bit longer. I kicked him out of bed (but not too roughly, shame, he must have been a little stressed because he said he had a headache), and I started getting dressed and getting our hospital bag from the cupboard where it was already waiting. Weeks before we had packed your first little outfit and your little socks and your little newborn nappies. We had wipes and creams and alcohol (to clean your bellybutton, not to drink.) I couldn’t wait to meet you. The contractions where getting closer and closer and I think you and I were both getting quite uncomfortable. Not unlike your dad at that particular moment.

When I stepped out of the house he was sitting at the long wooden table in the garden. While you and I had been contracting and kicking, he was quietly reading the newspaper. I smiled (that same patient smile I give you when you ask for the 4th time if you can have ice cream and I say no for the 4th time) and asked him if he would care to join us at the hospital anytime soon.

He said no.

I said “excuse me?”

He said we can’t go to the hospital because we have to go and pick up the puppies.

“The puppies?” I asked, with that same friendly smile on my face. “What puppies?”

He pointed at the newspaper in front of him like I was insane. I leaned a little bit closer. He thought it was to see better but actually I was folding double from a contraction. You gave a little kick. I am not sure if it was because you also felt the contraction or because you were excited about the puppies. Until this day you still want a puppy. Shame, and your mom has been saying “no” since before you were born.

Anyway, your dad was still talking: “These puppies!” he was pointing at a small paragraph in the classifieds. “They are pure bred and they are free. If we don’t fetch them today somebody else will, and then what?”

I just stared at him.

You kicked excitedly.

He pulled his hands through his hair in frustration. “They are beautiful puppies, Susan. And you know we don’t have money to buy them. We have to get one of these free ones. They’ll all be gone by tomorrow. Our child needs a puppy. What kind of parents are we going to be? The kind who doesn’t give our child a puppy?”

I took his hand and spoke very slowly and clearly. Almost the same way I speak to you when you tease your sister about that boy she likes. “My love.” I said. “I am going into this house to fetch my hospital bag. I will also be calling my parents and your parents to tell them we are on our way to meet our little girl. When I return, you will be ready to go.”

I turned around and went into the house. You kicked me a little harder than necessary. When we came back out 5 minutes later he was ready with the car keys and our hospital bag. He was also wearing a clean shirt. We never spoke about the puppies again.

The hospital was a blur of nurses and doctors telling me what you needed and machines beeping and contractions getting a little painful. I’ll admit I was pretty stressed during those last few hours before you were put into my arms. I wish I could be more like your dad. He had forgotten all about the puppies and the stress and was having a quiet nap stretched out on a chair in the corner of the room. I was walking up and down, hands on my hips, breathing through some delicate contractions and telling you to hurry up already when a pretty little nurse entered. She tiptoed through the room, walked right up to me, and started whispering something. I thought it was kind of nice that she tried to keep the atmosphere quiet and peaceful for your birth. Turns out she was only trying to keep the atmosphere quiet and peaceful for your dad and wanted to know if he would like some hot tea. I gave her that same kind patient smile and said a polite “no thank you”. That is definitely the way I remember it. No matter what she might allege.

When nurses were not irritating me and doctors not monitoring you, we actually had a lot of special one-on-one time that morning, my princess. We had a long hot shower and we listened to music on my CD player. We bounced on a big ball and ate about 3 slabs of chocolate. Apparently you can’t remember any of that or all the ugly ugly words I inadvertently taught you in between contractions.

Around 1 o’clock in the afternoon I woke up your dad quietly and kindly with the mother of all screams. He was by our side in a moment. For a moment he was even irritated that I didn’t wake him sooner but then he went into full support-mode. The next hour he held my hand and rubbed my back and encouraged us and got us through a few rather strong contractions. When I became a little bit crazy and asked the doctor nicely (sort of) to just open me up and take you out, he was the one reminding me that I am amazing and I can do this. When you gave your first scream he was right there to tell you how beautiful you are. He cut your umbilical chord and held you against his chest for the longest time. I will never forget that look on his face.

My darling Linneke. Ten years ago you entered our lives. Your ten little perfect fingers wrapped us around them. Your ten little perfect toes wiggled their way into our hearts. “Ugh mom, that is so corny!” You would say when you read this. So here is the truth: Your birth was hard. It was really tough and it challenged me in ways I never imagined. Just like you do every day. It was sudden and new and astounding. Just like every adventure you’ve taken me on since. I was clueless when I walked into that hospital but together you and I and your dad managed to do something amazing. That day we became a family. We were just two kids before you came along. (Some would say after that we just became three kids.)

Today our family is happily complete with five members but you were the beginning of it all. My beautiful green eyed princess. Happy birthday. I love you more than you could ever imagine.

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