Today, somebody’s baby died.
It wasn’t a planned pregnancy, or expected, or, sometimes, when she could whisper it behind her hand in some dark corner, wanted.
It wasn’t an easy pregnancy either. How could it be, to someone who seemed to have been dealt a disproportionate amount of unfair hands in her life?
But we watched her struggle through it. The two-minute noodles for lunch, the smoke breaks, the tears when a toothache became too much without the traditional meds a non-pregnant person would use, the visits to emergency rooms and the helpless shrug in her shoulders as she tried to make sense of what the doctors and nurses were saying – and not saying – to her on each check-up.
She struggled through it, and we all planned in whispers what we should get her for the imminent babyshower, because where do you start with someone who really has nothing, needs everything?
The SMS came that said her son was born. She was fine; he was fine, onwards and upwards.
The SMS came that said her son was dead. She woke up after a nap with him in her arms. Blood on her shirt, in his mouth, in his nose.
Dead, after the doctors told her that “all babies get tummy-aches”.
Dead, after a week of crying and the doctors saying “this too shall pass”.
Dead, after his incessant crying finally began to peter off and they could both fall asleep for a short nap.
Now she has to make sense of what those doctors and nurses did – and didn’t – tell her. ‘Cos they’re the people who’re supposed to know, right? The people who you go to when things get scary and your baby’s sick ‘cos they know what they’re doing, right?
Apparently not, if you’re one of the less-fortunate people in South Africa and you can’t afford private medical care and have to rely on the harassed white coats in the cesspit that’s our public healthcare system.
Somebody’s son is dead. And you could blame everything from apartheid to Zuma to Malema to corruption to Manto to poverty to lack of education to natural selection to the unfairness or life. He’ll still be dead.