Pregnant in Mozambique

“The spluttering 1930’s John Deere tractor was quickly gaining ground. I came to the terrifying realisation that if I did not escape from the chains that held me down, me and the Bulging Belly would be chewed up faster than a stick of biltong in Mozambique. I could feel the earth trembling as the groaning engine became louder and louder and louder – it was now or never…”

I ripped the duvet off Pip and me, sat up in a mad panic and shouted, “STOP THE TRACTOR!!!!!!”

My husband then forces an eye open and grunts something to the effect that I was snoring again and to please roll onto my side. It takes me a good minute to realise that I had only been having a nightmare and that this time my REM state of mind was creative enough to incorporate the sound of my snoring into the dream.

It’s pretty damn amazing what your brain does when you’re pregnant. During the day, my brain seems to elope with the old Lianne leaving me with a memory of a goldfish. But it returns to me in the dark hours of the night, often tormenting me with some spectacular and most often, bloody terrifying dreams. There seems to be a baby boom at the moment and most of my new mother friends can’t emphasise enough the importance of getting as much sleep as possible while I’m pregnant. They call me up from all corners of the world and tell me, ‘ Lianne, you got to get all the beauty sleep you can because it’s not only your boobs that are going to start drooping, but it’s the bags under your eyes that will too.’  Well let me tell you ladies, that has been my one and only pregnant goal, yet every night seems to be a losing battle. Either I wake myself up with my newfound snoring, or I fart so loud that my heart almost goes into cardiac arrest, or I dream of a gremlin eating my baby, or my stretching pelvic muscles are in such pain that I have to change position every 10 minutes, or I get leg cramps, or my husband wakes me up with a thump as he falls onto the floor because I am hogging more than ¾ of the bed space. It really is a difficult goal to achieve.

As for day time, I’m on the brink of asking the company to install CCTV cameras in every room of our house. I’ll be the first to tell you that my actions need to be monitored on a daily basis. Just yesterday my housekeeper found our inherited silver cutlery in the kitchen rubbish bin. Apparently I had been clearing the plates of leftover food. I do the usual stuff to, like packing the fridge with tin food, leaving the car keys in the medicine cabinet and forgetting why I put the oven on in the first place and almost burn the house down when I remember 8 hours later. Something that concerns me even more is that these mother friends of mine have told me that the brain shall never return – that I’m destined to remain as a ‘cluster of non functional brain cells with a set of milk udders.’ The thought of this can bring on tears you know. But thankfully, my husband has been very supportive during my pregnancy and whenever I’m having a little hormonal downer, he presents me with my favourite veg – a bunch of spinach – packed with love and those essential vitamins.  (We don’t get flowers in Mozambique because of the heat, so I guess a bunch of spinach is the next best thing, at least my husband thinks so.)

Another joy of being pregnant is that as the bump gets bigger, so the attention grows. Even though pregnant women in this country are more common than mangos, (the average number of children a mother will have in Mozambique is about 6) the sight of a pregnant woman still manages to draw a substantial amount of unwanted attention, especially from the local kids. I try to go for a walk everyday which usually involves shuffling passed the Mafambisse primary school. I get the feeling that their recent English studies have included the word ‘baby’ and it feels like I’ve acquired some sort of celebrity status. Only my red carpet is a dusty Mafambisse road and the paparazzi are made up of 600 giggling,pointing primary school kids all chanting the words ‘babeee, babeee, babeee!’

Pregnant women also become targets to very determined vendors who are intent that my future child will only ever be happy if I buy one of their second hand teddy bears – actually thinking about it, YOUR second hand teddy bears! On exiting my local Deli, Pinto’s, I came face to face with the Teddy Bear Man. He pointed to my tummy – as they all do – and told me ‘Babeee.’ Well done chap, now move out of my way. He didn’t. Instead he came up with some outstanding, well practiced sales talk and told me ‘Babeee want teddy bear, Babeee happy.’ I tried to explain to him in the nicest way possible that it didn’t fit in with my colour scheme and that I would prefer something from the Beatrix Potter line and preferably new. He just smiled and told me ‘GIVE ME MONEY.’  Bloody hell, that blew all chances of a charity purchase.  I pushed passed him and locked myself in the car while he attempted to hold my attention by hammering my car window with the plastic nose of some freaky Disney character.  I quickly pulled out of the parking space and drove down the street to my next stop, thinking it would be the last time I would encounter Mr  Harassment-with-Disney.  How wrong could I have been? Guess who was waiting for me at my car when I walked out of the shop?  ‘Babeee, Babeee, Babeee.’  I can see what happens here. All the Mafambisse school kids go on to get jobs in Beira as vendors and continue to harass pregnant women, but for a living!

Being pregnant in Mozambique has been quite an experience. Firstly there is the constant threat of malaria, the torturous humid summer heat and the fact that my gyni is in another country. Even though there are some world class doctors in Beira, the facilities are not great here.  If I go into labour, well then husband will be stepping in or we speed at pace to the nearest decent hospital in Zimbabwe. We’ll be flying  over 3 foot pot holes, dodging drunk truck drivers and swerving for bicycles. 7 hours later we’ll reach Harare. You catch my drift!!! So it is advised that pregnant women travel to the country of where the birth is intended when they are 34 weeks pregnant. It’s a long time to be away from home especially when you go through that ‘neurotic nesting stage.’

Post Journal comment, 3 years later and IN HINDSIGHT: everything changed in the 3rd trimester. From a relatively sedated–like pregnant woman, I became a raging lunatic. I got panicky with every hormonal headache, convinced I was in the throws of malaria and had absolutely zero tolerance for anyone pushy, subsequently becoming a total bitch and impossible to live with! I’ve since had 2 kids and think it’s enough – purely because it’s such a mission to be pregnant in Mozambique! However, I have never had malaria while living here, (TOUCH WOOD) most likely because I spray enough mosquito repellant on mysef to create a mini atomic bomb! I also see how much more tolerant and patient I have become since I was pregnant with my first – I would not even bat an eye lid at the ‘annoying Disney vendor’ and I would shit on the kids in Portuguese so that they would leave me in peace to shuffle along!!!

I guess living in Mozambique does ‘chill’ you to some degree. You learn to become a defensive driver, always. You learn to accept that when you stand in the queue for the bank, 10 people will push in just as you get to the teller. You buy bad quality chinese crap for your friends birthday – because there is nothing else available. And you realise that the majority people here have next to nothing and you take the pushy/desperate vendor with a pinch of salt.