Born In a Storm

It was a Wednesday night and a sub-tropical deluge had been unleashed on the bustling bushveld town of Polokwane. I found myself in unfamiliar surroundings. My pregnant wife lay on a bed in front of me with an array of monitors strapped to her swollen belly while African nurses bustled and fussed with an arsenal of intimidating medical equipment and the incessant rain drummed noisily overhead. My wife, Moira, had been feeling pain all through the previous day and night and although it did not seem as if labour had begun, our gynaecologist had insisted we make the two hour run in to civilization…just in case. This, as it happens, was most fortuitous. Moira began her first real contractions about half way through the journey. We had just driven past an immense flock of white storks feeding in a field and I had had some inane thought along the lines of… “I wonder which stork is bringing our baby?”, when my beloved leaned over, squeezed my leg until the blood stopped flowing and urged me to “STEP ON IT, I AM NOW REALLY SORE DAMMIT”. And so, we hurtled into Polokwane at something approaching the speed of sound and arrived at the Private Mediclinic where we were ushered unceremoniously into a labour ward.

 

I began the lonely and segregated vigil of the expectant father. I was there of course as things were happening, but I was still not directly involved… a mere spectator to one of the greatest mysteries and wonders of existence. The heart monitor blipped and the contraction monitor bleeped and the medical team gathered around. It was time. I had been called back from purchasing my dinner (I was starving) to join the action. A lot of pushing and groaning and …false alarm... try again later. The night seemed to blend into a puree of electronic sounds, chattering medical personnel, contractions, breathing and the rain…always the rain, seething above our heads like a pit full of angry vipers.

It was some time later that loud voices invaded my coma-like state and summoned me to the bedside. This was it. Moira pushed and I prayed and the team stood ready…and in a liquid rush he was with us. Childbirth remains the most spell-binding thing I will ever witness and in my dreamlike state I remembered a lyric from a CD we had been listening to… “I am overcome…holy water in my lungs and I am overcome” It was exactly how I felt. The nurses took my son, my boy, my gift from the Almighty to clean him and he gave voice for the first time and it was a beautiful and visceral noise and to my ears it was music. One of the nurses beamed and said in Shangaan, “Listen to the little Nkosan, he roars like a lion!” and I smiled and looked heavenward and knew in that moment that I was abundantly blessed.

A while after my gorgeous wife and my new little chap had settled in for the night, I stepped outside into the African night and saw that the turbulence of the storm had rolled by and that a trillion stars lay scattered in the ebony heavens. I spoke to Africa then and I said to her, “I give you another son tonight. Look after him and grow him strong. Teach him about beauty and bounty and love. Don’t break his heart too often. Show him your ancient wisdom and your splendid and diverse wilderness. I will stand by and watch for as long as I can to see that this is done”

I stood in a dusty clearing on our farm some months later and in my mind the storm clouds closed in. Vultures, untidy and morose took off in ragged groups to sit an age old vigil. The carcass of a Gemsbok cow lay in the centre of a fly blown and putrid arena attached still to an obscenity that I cannot understand and will never accept. A cable like snare had squeezed the antelope’s wind pipe in a vice like grip and she had fought for her life…laying waste to all the vegetation around in a gargantuan struggle for life that I found I could still admire for its sheer bravery even as a miasma of rage engulfed me. I looked heavenward wondering if I had been cursed. I wanted answers and I impressed upon our trackers to find the clues that would lead us to this vile and murderous man.

Another storm was brewing. Not one bringing rain and abundance to a parched land. A storm, rather that rages in the mind and lashes at the psyche. I realized then that in some way we were all born to face our own storms and that the clouds do eventually part and reveal something bigger than ourselves, something magical, something good and new.

Welcome Gordon Terrence Rae. May your life be free and full of wonder.

Andrew Rae
April 2009.

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