Tag Archives: pregnancy

When things go pear-shaped

“So I suppose it went pear-shaped,” I said. The officer laughed. We were standing in the middle of Michell’s Pass between Tulbagh and Ceres, watching an accident scene that had closed off the road. A long line of vehicles, led by a Fortuner towing a horsebox (complete with horse) had ground to a halt. We were going nowhere.

You can see the horsebox at the front of the queue

You can see the horsebox at the front of the queue

None of this was planned. Earlier that afternoon, after lunch in Tulbagh, we  had headed toward the Bainskloof Pass, a national monument. The route would take us to Ceres, and because I’d never been to the town I associate with the fruit juice, I suggested we pass the turnoff to Wolseley and continue winding along Michell’s Pass, which had also been designed by the remarkable Andrew Geddes Bain.

Heading to the town – which turned out to have none of the charm  of Tulbagh or Riebeeck Kasteel – we passed an accident scene. A truck appeared to have careered off the road onto the tracks below. Judging by the state of the cab, the driver couldn’t have survived.

Truck on Michell Pass

On the way back, we found the pass completely closed to recover the truck. Drivers, realising that this was going to take a while, turned off the ignition and clambered out to see what was going on. My husband and I chatted to a police officer on the scene. The accident had happened at 9 that morning, he explained. Broad daylight, clear skies. The container the truck was transporting was full of pears for export. Now it lay some 5 metres below on the railway tracks. You can see a part of it just beneath the photo of the truck below:

ichell Pass truck accident

I asked about the driver. Oh, said the officer, he was fine. He walked away from the accident with a hurt shoulder. Mechanical failure, they thought. (As for the pears, they’d probably have to be used for juicing – said the fruit farming lecturer we met over lunch the next day.)

At the Bainskloof Pass. It was a wonderful drive.

At the Bainskloof Pass. It was a wonderful drive. My boobs look huge.

Things go pear-shaped so quickly, don’t they? (On that note, why pear-shaped? What did pears ever do to offend anyone, besides some of the women who inhabit a figure named for them? I am an apple.)

There my husband and I were in a Storks Nest consultation room this morning, all excited about seeing the baby properly for the first time thanks to a 4D scan. She was very active, moving around a lot and smiling mysteriously every now and then. She looks like a little elf right now; I wonder what she will be like when eventually she emerges.

Eventually being the operative word, because after my husband left for a meeting, I dropped by my gynae one floor below to ask about something that was worrying me. The problem probably wasn’t serious, but I was around so it made sense to find out sooner rather than later.

I wasn’t expecting to be told that I have to be admitted to the maternity ward for blood tests and blood pressure monitoring, or to get a steroid shot to prepare the baby’s lungs for possible early delivery. 12 weeks early, which translates 3 months in NICU. She weighs 1,2kg right now, and the best place for her to be is inside the original packaging (as a creative director I work with put it) for at least another two months. Last night my husband and I broke the wishbone of a chicken cooked by my mother-in-law. I got the bigger piece and my wish, instantly, reflexively was: healthy baby.

I thought of that moment as I sat on the loo in my semi-private ward, trying to get a urine sample, thinking about how put out Discovery must be (you’re supposed to ask for permission before being admitted to the maternity ward). I sobbed. I’d been so lucky so far: no morning sickness, no indication of chromosomal abnormality, no gestational diabetes or high blood pressure.

Now this.

The good news is that my blood pressure is responding well to the medication. Tomorrow morning my doctor will check up on me again, and let me know what my options are. I’m hoping that one of them will be “go home, take your blood pressure pills and don’t overdo things”.

Hospital food

Hospital food

So here I am, in a hospital bed, marveling at the magnificently bad cheese sandwiches that arrived with my rooibos tea and wondering if I should try and squeeze in a bath before the next blood pressure measurement.  The nurses have all been lovely. My husband has brought me clean underwear and toiletries and strawberry and banana juice. I’ve cursed the foetal heart rate monitor for beeping like a car seatbelt alert (it beeps if the heartbeat fluctuates, and the elf has been very very busy; at times her heart sounds like a racehorse on a morning gallop). It’s been hours since a ridiculously early supper and now I’m writing this, in between going through mails and catching up on work.

(People keep sending me WhatsApps telling me to rest but there’s nothing worth watching on TV. Seriously.)

Today was a reminder that things can go pear-shaped so quickly. I won’t take any of this experience, which has mostly been trouble-free, for granted. All I hope is that if things go wrong, there will be rescuers to pull me up from below, that I will walk away with the baby and we will both be fine. A little shaken, but none the worse for wear.

My view right now. Nope, nothing on TV.

My view right now. Nope, nothing on TV.



Thoughts on not being in Paris

I remember the moment very clearly. A sudden, intense sense of loss that bloomed in my solar plexus and rapidly filled my chest with that sort of shapeless melancholy that is so much harder to grapple with than a sharper, more focused pain. What was I losing? Why was I so sad? Tears stung, ridiculously, in the corners of my eyes.

At the time, I was standing on the 102nd floor of Freedom Tower in New York, waiting for the mocktail my husband had ordered for me from the One World Observatory. The price, in Rands, was jaw-dropping. I tried not to think of it. Instead, I gazed through the windows at the city beyond. The Hudson River, where the jet had landed so dramatically six years before and prompted me to sign up for Twitter. Helicopters slicing through the crisp late October air, the comically small brownstone blocks of Tribeca and SoHo, the spires of Midtown beyond, a slim triangle of Central Park and, still further, the shores of Brooklyn and Long Island laced to Manhattan by a series of bridges. (New York, from this height, was so much less impressive than Hong Kong.)

Would I ever get to see this again? I wondered. And the thought that no, there was a good chance that I would not, that the exchange rate would get worse, and there would be no time, and, most of all, that having a child would put an end to all of this travel, was terrible. The fabled city faded before my grasp even as I tried to hold onto it.

I have always wanted to travel, and, for most of my life, I never really did. As a teenager, I had turned down opportunities for school tours because of the expense, and later, it was unaffordable or I had studies or or or… there was always a reason. After getting married for the first time, my then husband and I booked a Contiki tour of the US and Canada and I visited New York for the first time, when the Twin Towers were still standing. It was summer, and hot, and wonderful, and I wish I’d visited them instead of waiting until now, to view the blank, empty spaces where they once stood, more than 14 years later.

During the past two years, I have visited Vienna, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangalore, Macau and, of course, New York. My husband travels often on business, and he likes me to accompany him. My job pays well enough that I can afford the airfare and the Uber rides, and my credit limit tides me over until the next pay day. I have loved all of it, and the knowledge that I have seen these places in the world illuminates the suburban quiet moments of home, when dogs bark and house alarms screech and white BMWs speed past. This is ok, because I have done this, and I have seen that and I have, quite literally, got the T-shirt. Hard Rock Café Bengaluru, it says, though it doesn’t fit me right now, and won’t for a while.

Before Thursday August 27th last year, I could see our life together mapped out: both well-established professional types who have the luxury of jetting overseas when we feel like it, the schlep of visas permitting. In our wake, we would leave a trail of Facebook check-ins and somewhat smug selfies, Instagram posts of quirky cafes and tweets about the wifi in airline lounges.

Which brings me to Paris, where I am not. I could have been there tonight, with my husband, who is there for a conference. And yet, here I am in bed, clutching my new pregnancy pillow (52% off from Groupon) and worrying about timesheets. Oh, the decision was a combination of many things: the expense of the flight, the awful guilt of taking more leave so early in the year, the weather (I hate the cold and the wet), the exchange rate – significantly worse since late October – and the thought of long hours in economy class while very much more pregnant than I was in New York.

What happened, though, between the angst I experienced in Freedom Tower and now? Paris is my favourite city; normally, I’d grab the change to visit. And yet, when I was doing a cost-benefit analysis on this trip, measuring the happiness I stood to gain from it versus the outlay, I found myself not wanting to go. Not wanting to apply for the visa, not wanting to book the ticket, not wanting to confess to the office that I was heading off on a plane yet again. Thinking about how flights would cost more or less the same as the gynae’s fees for the birth and, adding up all the transport and museum visits, I’d be looking at forking out the money I could use to produce the child I am carrying instead, and how it didn’t make sense when I’ve visited Paris twice before, in summer, and seen almost everything I want to see.

Will I come to regret this? When that second blue line appeared on the Clicks home pregnancy test, my first thought was: fuck. No more travel. And then: fuck. No more wine. So it has come to pass. My greatest priorities in life right now are choosing curtains, finding a compactum and getting the baby’s room painted.

Scrolling through my husband’s Paris photos on Facebook, I am now experiencing FOMO, of course. The menus (Rillettes de canard)! The narrow streets! The je ne sais quoi! But not quite enough to wish I were there.

Is this how my old self is to be conquered? Not by being forced into a corner by circumstance, but happily choosing to retreat there because it’s comfortable? Nesting, my husband calls it, amused. I wonder if the wanderlust will return, and if I will ever see New York or Paris again. Right now, curled up in bed, listening to soft rain outside, I am quite content to be where I am, my passport buried in a cupboard, unstamped.