Carol Catches Twins

Posted by on Jan 11, 2015 in Writings

Carol Catches Twins
My mother, Carol, was a ‘lay’ midwife (ie she never received any formal training as a midwife) but accidentally ‘fell’ into the catching of the babies on our farm Droëland.  This is the story of the birth of the first set of twins she attended. They were undiagnosed twins (i.e unexpected):

 
Willie and Sannie had been on Droëland for about a month when Sannie went into labour.

They arrived one Sunday morning on foot with their two children, a boy and a girl, and settled into the labourer’s cottage next door to Dappie and Marie up at the Barracks (this was what the labourer’s cottages were unofficially called).

 
Sannie was heavily pregnant at the time and my mother joked that Sannie was carrying a rugbyspan (a rugby team).

Two weeks after Sannie and Willie’s arrival, the farm labourers were being driven into Ceres for their bi-weekly shopping trip on nat naweek.

(Literal translation of ‘nat naweek’: ‘wet weekend.’ This refers to the weekends when the farm labourers were paid. They were paid every other Saturday. Unpaid weekends were referred to as ‘droë naweek’, ie. ‘dry weekend.’ ‘Nat naweek’ also refers to the fact that most of the farm labourer’s wages were spent on wine.)

Two vehicles, the truck and the bakkie (pick up truck), drove the 60km dirt road in convoy into town.

It was about eight in the morning on a beautiful spring day in October.

At the turn at Witklippies (one of the neighbouring farms), the truck overtook the bakkie. Willie was sitting in the back of the bakkie and eager to get to the bottle store before anyone else, decided to jump from the bakkie on to the back of the truck.

He missed and landed on his head.

He was never quite the same again after that.

 

The jasmine flowers blooming in my mother’s garden at Droëland


 

Smell the freshness of the air.

The farm only smells like this in spring.

Fresh and warm.

My mother was in the kitchen with my younger sister Gypsy.

“Mami! Mami!” Jasmin (my younger sister)’s voice called from outside.

Jasmin had been up at the Barracks and had heard Sannie screaming from the labourer’s cottage. Jasmin had nervously poked her head around the corner of Sannie’s bedroom and seen Sannie crouched on a thin sponge mattress on the cold cement floor in strong labour; the usually shy and quiet woman behaving like an enraged wild animal.

Births on the farm had by now become routine for our mother. She now had a well stocked birthing kit.

Our mother took her time in getting ready (much to the irritation of my two youngest sisters). She chopped some wood and washed the dishes and put some food on to cook on the wood burning cast iron Defy Dover stove, before heading up to the young woman in labour.

Our mother walked up to the Barracks with Gypsy and Jasmin, who rushed ahead burning with curiosity. My sisters ran up and down, rushing our mother along but our mother refused to be rushed and ambled slowly up to the Barracks. Our mother was ushered into the bedroom by An’ Ragel and An’ Christine. Gypsy and Jasmin joined the other curious bystanders in the kitchen (mostly children). Jasmin had been instructed to boil a pot of water with some cotton yarn (to tie off the umbilical cord) and a pair of little scissors. Jasmin did this, feeling useful and proud at having been given this job.

The labour went quickly and smoothly and soon a little boy slid out of his mother. Our mother wrapped him in a towel she had brought with her (there was absolutely nothing in the house for a baby). The new mother pressed her breast to the baby’s little face and he began to eagerly suckle it.

Our mother sat and waited for the placenta to emerge. The new mother moaned as a contraction brought on by the baby’s suckling hit her.

Out slid another little baby boy.

Two babies and no clothes!

This was completely unexpected.

Two babies with thick black curly hair; on their heads and all over their bodies.

And with teeth!

The babies were premature and their gums were underdeveloped and the jawbone protruded.

(The young mothers of the farm were asked to donate a few items of clothing to the newborn twins. The mothers begrudgingly and reluctantly complied).

The next day, Willie, crazy, wild hair standing on end, eyes popping with madness, came down to the main farm house and shouted at Baas (my step father),

Daai kinders gaan my nog bankrot eet. Hulle’t tanne. Hulle eet nou al vleis!

(“Those children are going to eat me into bankrupcy! They have teeth! They are already eating meat!”)

“Daai kinders is al reeds groot manne. Hulle het al baarde!”

(“Those  children are already grown men. They already have beards!”)

The main farmhouse at Droëland


 

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  1. Interview with Ruth Ehrhardt : WOMBS - […] outside Ceres (but attended school in Cape Town) where my mother became the local midwife to the farm labourers.…

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