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Two Women and an African Baby

North American Journeywoman, Dana Bookman has travelled the world (not all of it yet) in search of spirited adventures, extravagant experiences and the perfect beach. She’s under forty. The saga continues. This is Dana's telling of her extreme and wonderful human interest adventure in Africa...

I can still picture it in my head...

I can still picture it in my head. It was amazing. It was five in the morning and I was in a jeep on my way to watch the sunrise over the grasslands in a Tanzanian game park. I remember the smell of the rain, still left over from the night before, the sound of the early morning silence, I can still feel the bumps in the road jostling me awake every now and then.

I can still see her, lying there on the side of the road. We passed her so quickly I almost didn't see her. But there she was, arms waving, skin gleaming with sweat, calling to us. I remember thinking she must have been sleeping there all night, or maybe she was sick. The driver slammed on the brakes and as we backed up I saw the most amazing, scary, awesome sight.

The girl - and she was just a girl - was having a baby right there on the side of the road. Through the driver I learned that the one hospital in the small Tanzanian community was miles away. The 18-year-old girl had instead tried to walk to the dispensary which was closed at five in the morning. She had no choice but to start to walk toward the hospital.

Her husband worked miles away in the big city and she found herself alone and scared on the side of the road at daybreak with a strange Canadian girl speaking to her in a strange combination of English and Swahili.

smiling woman worried woman

I used my Swiss Army knife...

And there I found myself. Barely older than she was, and just as scared. This was her first baby, and mine too. The driver, a man, was a certified Tanzanian tour guide, but this was obviously not part of his job description. He would not even look at us, leaving me to struggle with my less than limited Swahili vocabulary, talking the girl through the delivery.

I don't know if it was from watching the hospital television drama ER or just plain instinct that told me how to cut the umbilical cord. I used my binocular strap to tie the cord and my Swiss Army knife to cut it.

She whispered thank you...

He came screaming into the world, brown and beautiful. In stoic silence she watched as I lifted the baby into my arms. And as I wrapped him in a towel I looked down at the tininess that was him. His mother, no longer a girl, looked up, settling on him with her eyes and then stood, with the help of the driver and climbed into the Landrover.

As we drove the rest of the way to the hospital, still silent, the mother reached out for her baby and held him to her breast. Her eyes softened when she saw his face, but still stoic, still shocked and pained she still did not speak.

When we finally got to the hospital she staggered down the path, a trail of blood and me, with the baby in my arms following. As she undressed in, what I can only assume by the lone, tattered crib, was the maternity ward, she climbed into bed and whispered thank you.

She took the baby, stared into his face again and asked me the name of my father. But Canadian names don't roll off the tongue so easily in Swahili, so we decided that Kumuka should be his name. It is the Swahili word for awakening.

Seeing the boy enter the world so suddenly, purely, resolutely, awakened something in all of us I think.

I can still picture it in my head.

Women's words on parenting...

There are so many disciplines in being a parent besides the obvious ones like getting up in the night and putting up with the noise in the day. And almost the hardest of all is learning to be a well of affection and not a fountain, to show them we love them, not when we feel like it but when they do.

(Source: Nan Fairbrother, An English Year, 1954. The New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women )

More child-centered links to explore...

Shopping for kiddies in Rome
She Travels With Twins in China
Grandma's Disney Birthday Party
If you are a mom of young children

Interested in travelling to Africa? Click here for some tour ideas.




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