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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Life and Times of Louis & Amber - Childbirth

As many of you know, and the rest soon to find out, Amber has been pregnant for about the past nine months. All things considered, the pregnancy has been quite uneventful, at least relatively speaking. There have been so many other “events” in our lives in the past nine months that it takes a pretty substantial level of eventfulness to really qualify as eventful. But I digress. Amber has been quite a trooper throughout this whole process, with nary a complaint filed, except for the common emphasis upon whom the blame for her current condition lies. Of course, that would be yours truly. But I emphasize that she was more involved with our cross-continental transplant than I was, and since then she has adjusted quite nicely with a positive disposition at almost all times.

Part of that transplant and adjustment related to the medical field. Within the South African medical community there exists a dichotomy. On the one hand, there is the government funded healthcare and hospitals. On the other there is private healthcare for those who can afford it. Without getting into a discussion regarding government sponsored healthcare and the politics that go along with it, suffice it to say that the private industry is quite superior here.The private healthcare tends also to be quite reasonably priced as well. In fact, the full bill for an office visit here is often less than a normal co-pay would be with an American corporate insurance policy. Another time I will share with you the intricacies of the public healthcare system.

We then, as a couple, have gotten to know Dr. Fourie and the pre-natal division here at the local medical clinic. I highly recommend Dr. Fourie’s services, and we couldn’t be more pleased (up to this point) with the care we have received. However, there are a few differences of note between medical customs here, and medical customs on the other side of the Atlantic. One of those is the enema. What a lovely experience these are and I encourage you all to explore this option fully; quite healthy, really. The enema is standard procedure, the modus operendi – or M.O. if you will – whenever an expecting mother is admitted to the medical clinic. Our friend who had a baby here in May was able to strategically avoid this portion of the experience during her labor, as she was too far advanced when she actually arrived at the hospital. Amber was hoping to employ the same scheme in order to bypass this procedure as well.

Afrikaans is the primary language spoken in this area of South Africa. It is a derivative of Dutch, and since coming here we have learned it is almost completely identical to Flemish. As you well know, Flemish is one of the official languages of Belgium. Belgium is a small European country bordering France and they are renowned for their chocolates, diamonds, and Flem; hence the term “Flemish”. And as you would imagine for a language named after throat mucus, when spoken, the speaker often sounds as if they are clearing their throat. It comes out with kind of a “hoch”-ing noise. Anyway, neither Amber nor me speak a lick of Afrikaans (although occasionally when I clear my throat it is mistaken for a term of endearment) and when we first arrived at the hospital on the evening of delivery most of the nurses were not aware of this predicament. Thus they continued to speak Afrikaans almost exclusively.

It was not uncommon for them to carry on entire conversations of which we were left totally in the dark. I was impressed with myself when I deciphered they were talking about Amber’s water breaking. I knew this because she said “whoosh” while simultaneously thrusting her hands down and outward (just imagine how you would mime water breaking). So I didn’t exactly understand Afrikaans, just the sign language that went along with it. Later however, I did pick up a word that is universal in any language. In the midst of string of conversation that sounded roughly like this – “adhalv alieru hoch ahsldk hoch hoch hoch ahsdklf Metamucil ahlka hoch hoch ahslkdj hoch” – Take a close look at that sentence and see if you can find the one word familiar the world over. Let me give you a hint: It’s in the same family as prune juice. That’s right. The word is Metamucil. Here we experienced another dichotomy. While overjoyed by the identification of a single word, there was also the disturbing realization of what exactly that word would mean.

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