A Little Gypsy is Born…

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Writings

A Little Gypsy is Born…

Today 25 years ago my sister Gypsy was born.

Seven years ago she was killed in a car accident along with my mother and step-father.

I was 9 years old when she was born. This is the story of her birth as I experienced it on that day:

Our mother went into labour on a Sunday morning in the warmth of November 1989. We were getting ready to drive to Cape Town anyway as my sister Kate and I stayed with our grandparents in Constantia during the week so that we could go to school. Since our mother was in no state to drive, our step-father, who we called Baas (it was his nickname since childhood) took the driver’s seat.

We left Droëland, our farm near Ceres, driving slowly over the rocks, so as not aggravate our mother’s labour pains. We got to the first gate at Bloubank when our mother suddenly remembered that she’d left her birthing book behind. She insisted that Baas turn the Nissan Langley around so that she could go and get it. He did it, grumbling and when we got back to our little labourer’s cottage, our mother rushed into the house. Frau Züllig, our mother’s former teacher and friend from her days at a Swiss finishing school, was visiting for three months and was busy sweeping the kitchen floor when my mother rushed in.

“I’ve come for my birthing book,” our mother panted, “I’ve forgotten how to breathe!”

Once back on the road, the drive was slow and tiring. Kate and I sat quietly on the grey back seats of the car, watching our mother sighing and breathing and moaning softly to herself, lifting herself up onto her arms when the pains became extreme.

The car felt hot and dusty.

Arriving in Cape Town after three hours was like a breath of fresh sea air. It was cool and overcast. It was lush and green after the sandy dryness of Droëland.

Everything seemed to go in slow motion. Our mother moaning softly to herself in labour. The pedestrians in shorts and T-shirts, going about their business, oblivious to the happenings in the car.

We arrived at Mowbray Maternity hospital and our mother was admitted into the labour ward. Kate and I were told to sit in the waiting room. We felt sad and cheated at being locked out of that sacred space of giving birth. Were we not, after all, not also her children? Of her womb? Why was Baas was allowed in with her?

We’ve known her longer than he has…

We did not have to wait long.  The birth was quick. Kate and I were allowed in after our sister was born. The baby was tiny and wrinkly and pink and she lay between our mother’s large brown breasts, eyes closed with a hospital towel draped over her.

Kate and I sat on either side of our mother and looked at this new member of the family.

“After the long drive to get here, you should call her Gypsy!” the doctor joked.

Kate asked the nurse what the IV drip was. I felt embarrassed at Kate asking but the nurse commented on how good it was that Kate had asked. The nurse then took the baby from our mother and inviting Kate and I along, she carried the newborn to another room. There we watched her wash and dry and weigh our vulnerable little sister. We watched the nurse examine her and check all her reflexes and then put a disposable nappy and some clothes on her.

When she was returned to our mother, we were told that Baas would take us to our grandparents.

We felt sad leaving our mother and this new creature that was our sister and we wept quietly the entire way to our grandparents.

Baas dropped us off at the top of the driveway of our grandparents’ home and we walked down the long lonesome driveway.

There was no one at home so we went around the back and dangled our feet in the swimming pool.

We didn’t talk.

We felt strange and changed.

And yet the world continued around us, unchanged.

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