The news about the Duchess of Cambridge took me back 36 years, when we were living in a remote village just off the Jos plateau in Nigeria. I was expecting our second child. We had had 5 months studying the Hausa language, and we’d been sent to this spot because almost nobody spoke English, and it would force us to speak Hausa. We had a two year old, but no electricity and no running water.
Some weeks before, the President of the country had been assassinated, and there was a manhunt on for his possible killer. As our local village was the birth place of his clan, it was only a matter of time before the army arrived. The first I knew, I was carrying the supper out on to the verandah, when I saw a line of armed soldiers walking steadily up the hill towards the house. They jumped over the low fence and walked straight into the house without speaking to me, which they proceeded to search.
The compound had numerous other buildings – a disused garage, a small guest house, a radio hut, chicken huts … they demanded that we unlocked every one so that they could search. In the end, they left.
This happened another three times the same evening. The last group, of soldiers and police, ordered us outside at gunpoint. I stood there, nine months pregnant, clutching our little daughter, and praying like mad.
They talked angrily at two of the local staff, who were terrified, and then, thankfully, left us alone. But our doughty ‘senior mish’, who had been in the country all her working life, came over to our house and asked if she could sleep there. We were all rather shaken up.
A week later, it was my turn to do the radio. This was a daily task at 7am, and was the only means of communication with headquarters. Each station was called in turn. On that particular morning I was already having some contractions. I took our daughter with me where she sat on my lap and did some drawings, and hoped I wouldn’t have a contraction when my call came through …
A couple of hours later, as the contractions were coming more regularly, we decided to go to the hospital, which was 90 miles away. As we were about to set off, one of the student wives arrived. She was an English woman who had married a Nigerian student. She looked awful – barely able to stand, and almost yellow in colour. She confessed she was pregnant, but was so ill with morning sickness that she could hardly lift her head from her pillow. Could she come to the hospital too?
So we were a motley crew: me in the front with contractions, Kay in the back trying to survive without throwing up too much, our little daughter in the back with her, Hub driving like mad, and all of us praying.
Especially when we got to the road blocks. These were always set up at times of political upheaval, and there were 11 to be negotiated en route to the hospital. Normally the soldiers would ask for papers and look in the car; sometimes, it could get unpleasant. At one stage one of them got nasty … so I did a bit of extra-loud and dramatic groaning, and Hub pointed out that we were going to the hospital … and it worked. An answer to one of our many prayers.
I did make it on time. Our daughter was born safely in hospital that evening. The next day, with the hospital wards filling up, Kay was brought into my room and we spent the next week together – me recovering from a forceps delivery, and Kay on strong medication for her sickness.
Strange fellowship! And one that makes me empathise with what Kate is going through. Although I suspect her hospital is a little more luxurious than ours
(image of Wase Rock from http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1214069 ) – near to where we were living.
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