Thursday, 30 June 2011

Our new pad

About a week after we got back to F'town with our new little man we moved house. We were happy enough at the other place, but Mr B's work was lucky to secure a unit in probably the best complex in town. So they grabbed it, and we were the ones that benefited.

Carlos Complex is beautiful. There's no two words about it. For Bots, the houses are modern, spacious and comfortable - 3 large bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 3 toilets, huge living area/dining, fantastic kitchen with large walk-in pantry. Plus a guest room outside with another bathroom, large garage and laundry. Yikes this place is good. And don't forget the bidet in the ensuite. A BIDET!!! Have you ever used one of those?? Crazy! And no I haven't used it. But it was a running joke there with some friends for a while. And now, well LL likes to stick things in it.

But I digress ....

On top of all that, the grounds are wonderful. As my Dad said, it's like living at a resort - pool, tennis court, and lots and lots of grass, trees, plants and flowers. Beautiful!

And the best bit .... there's plenty of room for visitors!


A favourite photo :)

Flash Forward

Us then:

Us now:

A lot has happened. A lot has changed.
21 months of ups and downs, happiness and tears.
Despite all the tough times, the hard times, the crying my eyes out times,
I would choose to do it all over again because these two boys mean the world to me.
They're my family.
They're my Mr B and LL xx

Our Botswana Baby

After waiting for 3 days for labour to start, Mr B and I headed back in to Dr E's rooms to see what, if anything, we should do. Dr E first did another ultrasound and reassured us that the baby was fine, there was still lots of amniotic fluid around the baby, but there was obviously a slow leak which was now posing a risk of infection to me. Dr E advised that I have a c-section first thing the next morning. I was shocked. I had felt sure he would either recommend we continue to wait or that I should be induced immediately. Caesarean? Really?

But as Dr E explained, an induction in my situation would more than likely result in an emergency c-section anyway. He said my body was not favourable for an induction, the baby's head was wedged at a strange angle in my pelvis and was also posterior (facing the wrong way), and to top it all off the baby was going to be BIG (4kg he was predicting - Mr B and I looked at each other and thought where the heck is the baby hiding as I really didn't look that big). Dr E suggested all of these factors, combined with my size (ie I'm not a very big person) would result in a long and painful labour that would more than likely end in a c-section. He said I could be induced if I really wanted to, but he actually advised against it.

Mr B and I had talked over our options before we went to see Dr E and had agreed if this is what he recommended then that is what we'd do. So after a quick look at Mr B, we decided to go with the c-section. We were to be admitted by 6am the next day. I was very disappointed at the way things had worked out. I felt like my body was letting me down. My pregnancy had been so easy with no complications at all. I felt fit, I felt healthy and yet my body did not want to play the game. At the same time I felt this sense of relief that all the waiting would soon be over and early the next day we were finally going to meet our little baby. I tried to hold on to that and not dwell too much in the disappointment I felt over not having a natural delivery.

So after an early night and not much rest, as I lay awake wondering how it was all going to play out, we headed into the hospital bright and early. It was Thursday the 24th September 2009. Baby splodge was to be born one day before its due date.

When we got to the hospital we had to first go to the Emergency Room to "sign in" and pay more money. At 6am the Admin Dept is obviously not open. Thankfully the ER was not busy (I think there may have been one patient) but naturally in true Bots form, it still took almost an hour to type my details into the system, work out whether or not there was a private room available for me, work out how much to charge me since I didn't have medical aid, and then to call someone to come and show me to my room. Luckily for me I wasn't actually in labour.

After being shown to my room (which was probably the worst room in the maternity ward - the tv didn't work, the nurses' bell didn't work, and later on the bed ended up breaking) people started filing in to do their thing - blood pressures and other checks, catheter put in, changed into my gown and funny hat, making sure all paperwork was in order, and I was who I said I was. I was then wheeled off to theatre. Mr B was shown where to get changed into scrubs and where to wait to be collected. As soon as Mr B left and I was told to get up on the operating table I immediately got the shakes and couldn't stop - anxiety, nervousness, and basically being $hit scared - the adrenalin had kicked in big time. The nurses and the anesthetist told me to try and relax and take deep breaths but it didn't help. I then had to bend over so the anesthetist could administer the spinal block. Yikes it's not easy to bend forward when you've got a stomach bigger than a basketball.

I found the c-section to be a fairly unpleasant experience, but I guess no surgery is overly pleasant. It was a pretty scary and awful feeling especially after they gave me the spinal block - not feeling my legs freaked me out plus feeling the doctor pushing and pulling at me was awful. I was gripping Mr B's fingers so tight I'm sure they went purple. Thankfully he didn't complain and kept talking to me the entire time. I was surprised Mr B actually took a peek! I thought for sure if he did that he'd pass out on the floor.

And then before I knew it Dr E was telling us the baby was coming and then ...... he was out and we had a BIG healthy screaming baby BOY!!! It was funny right up until the moment the doctor held him in the air I thought I was having a girl!! I was kind of shocked when he said it was a boy!!

They whizzed him off to the side so the pediatrician could look him over - 9 and 10 on his APGAR scores. And then he was given to Mr B so I could have a quick look. He was covered in gunk and was sooooo chubby but he was beautiful. I couldn't believe how beautiful he was. And that he was ours. All ours.

Mr B then went with the baby to the nursery while I was stitched up and wheeled into recovery. I reacted pretty badly to the drugs and had the shakes for an hour or two after. It was probably a combination of the drugs and anxiety. I felt terrible - frightened and alone. After doing time in recovery, I was wheeled back to my room where Mr B was waiting for me. What a relief to see him. He held my hand for an hour or more until the shaking started to ease and I drifted in and out of sleep.

Because I felt so shakey I didn't see the baby until my parents came to visit in the afternoon - he stayed in the nursery and I didn't get to hold him properly till the next day.

That first hold was awkward and stiff. I was still laying flat on my back and I didn't know what the hell I was doing. It seemed like I would break him. But I couldn't stop looking at him and thinking he was now mine. My responsibility. Mine to look after and take care of. Eeeeekkkkk what had we done???

Our entre stay in hospital is somewhat of a blur. To say I disliked being in there is an understatement. I got no support from any of the nursing staff. Was not once shown what to do with the baby - change nappies, feed, settle, wash. Nothing. Mr B couldn't stay and left most nights around 9:30/10pm. By 6/7am I would be on the phone begging him to come in and help me. I didn't know what to do. I was totally 100% clueless of how to care for this little baby. Thankfully I worked out the nappy thing pretty easily - simple as I'd seen it  done before. Settling wasn't too bad as the little man was pretty sleepy and happy to either be held or be put in his crib. But feeding, well let's just say I didn't feed him the entire time I was in hospital - 3 whole days of no boob. My anxiety and guilt over this continued to escalate but nobody, not once, showed me how to do it. And I had no clue. So the little guy got formula out of a cup. Because the hospital is a pro-breastfeeding hospital they are only allowed to give formula via a cup. To see this tiny newborn having milk poured down his throat via a cup was one of the most ridiculous sights I'd ever seen. But at the same time it gave me comfort to know he was being fed.

Arrgghhh the emotions that raged through me during that stay in hospital, I was on a rollercoaster of hormones and I didn't know how to control it. The 3 day blues kicked in pretty badly exactly 3 days after he was born. I started crying first thing in the morning and I couldn't stop, effectively all day. The funny thing is Dr E came in while I was sobbing and asked me what was wrong? Seriously had he not seen a hormonal first time mother before? He's an OB right? Wasn't what I was doing completely normal? I told him I didn't know what was wrong, just that I couldn't stop crying. He patted me on the arm and said I'd be fine and that I should try to relax. Thanks mate, great bed-side manner you've got there!!!

Thankfully I asked to be discharged a day early and was allowed due to my wound healing well. I demanded that someone show me how to bath the baby before I left. He had obviously been bathed after he was born but neither Mr B or I were included in that, nor were we told that it had been done. I joined 3 other new mothers in the nursery as the nurse bathed each of our babies, showing us what to do. That was the first time I realised that my boy was the only white baby in the entire nursery. He was virtually bald too in comparison to the amount of hair on the other babes. No mistaking he was mine and there was no way there was going to be a mix up.

As soon as we got in the car and started driving back to the hotel I felt immediately better. I had Mr B, Mum, my MIL Janet and the 2 granddads to help me. I knew I'd get more help from all of them, compared to what I'd received in the hospital. And I was right.

Two days later I was fully breastfeeding the little man and the formula tin and bottles had been put aside, to be used later if needed. I felt a bit more relaxed and a lot happier. I still had this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach most of the time but I knew it was just anxiety and I was hoping it would go away.

Make-shift bed on the hotel couch
A couple more days in the hotel, then a quick trip to the hospital to have my staples removed and we were on our way back to F'town and our home. But this time we had a new little person to take with us. And boy were Mr B and I pleased about that!

This is the email we sent out to all our friends and family once our Botswana Baby was born:


Sheridan and Brent are excited and happy to announce the safe arrival of their baby boy

Lachlan Josh Laws

on Thursday 24th September at 8:30am in Gaborone Private Hospital, Botswana. 
He was delivered via caesarean weighing 4kg and measuring 51cm long.

Mum and Baby are both going well and out of hospital. Dad is wrapped in his little man!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Playing the waiting game

Two weeks before baby splodge was due Mr B and I headed off to Gabs to play the waiting game.

About an hour out of Gabs I started to have really strong pains across my belly. They were so strong, they were taking my breath away. Is this it, I thought? Am I really going to go into labour on the journey down to Gabs? Wow that would be perfect timing and very efficient of me. Alas no, I didn't. But man, whatever those pains were, they sure were painful! It was enough to freak Mr B out, that's for sure!!

We had an appointment with the OB first thing the next morning and it went really, really well and I started feeling so much better about it all. We talked pain relief, and what to expect for the start of labour, and what we should do when it starts. We talked inductions because of our situation, but Dr E was not really inclined to go that way and suggested he would only consider it at 41 weeks and if my body was favourable. Dr E was a lot more forthcoming with information at this appointment than the previous one so Mr B and I came away feeling a lot more at ease about it all.

Dr E advised us to go and check out the labour ward before we left the hospital, which we did. We met 2 nice midwives/nurses, and were even asked to sign up for a tour of the labour and maternity wards a few days later. Perfect, I thought. Everything I was stressing about was being resolved. All of a sudden I was feeling so much more relaxed about it all. Everything was coming together finally.

The next few days we were busy doing not much. I had taken a heap of books down with me and a stack of dvds, which I was greatful for as it was really warm and I didn't feel like going outside much. As soon as I did my feet would swell and become painful and I just felt like a huge whale waddling around.

Mr B was busy with work so it was a good combination to get plenty of rest.

One bonus of having so much time on our hands was that we really got to experience and check out Gabs. We ate at a lot of different eating places - places we'd never been before. And I got Mr B to take me for a drive most afternoons just to get out and see things. So we got to know where things are.

We also made the most of our time and went to the movies twice - Up and The Proposal. Who knew when we would be able to go again.

A couple of days later we had our hospital visit which was informative and somewhat eased our anxieties. A woman from hospital administration came and went through the costings for those with and without medical aid. As expats we were not members of a Botswana medical aid scheme and so we had to pay BWP8000 up front for natural birth. At the time this was approx $A1300. If I were to have a c-section it would be another BWP8000. Plus on top of that there would be various expenses for the maternity ward and the doctor and pedeatrician. Thankfully Mr B's company has medical insurance for its expat employees and we would be reimbursed for all expenses. Wow having babies is a costly exercise though!!!

The midwives also gave us a talk and handed out some information on what we would need to bring to hospital when we come for the delivery, where to go if it's at night or during the day, and pain relief options. We then went and had a look at the labour ward. They have 5 rooms but only tend to use 3 of them (typical of things in Bots, one was being used for storage, the other the toilet didn't work). All looked very basic and very sterile - there were no comfy couches, no double beds, no pictures on the walls or stereos playing calming tranquil music, no shower to use, none of those creature comforts that are now becoming the norm in some Australian private hospitals.

The midwives told us that we were to have only one support person as they just don't have the room to accommodate more people, and to only bring one small bag as there is also no room for more stuff in the rooms. This was pretty evident; you could see the room would get very over crowded quickly. There goes my fitball, I was thinking. There was a small loungeroom, though, for the husband/support person to take a break if they needed with a tv and some comfy chairs. I thought I would send Mr B there if he looked ill or was about to pass out.

All the midwives seemed really nice and very competent and I felt good about things. A lovely moment happened while we were having a look in the labour ward, all of a sudden we heard a baby crying (go figure - a baby crying in the labour ward??!!), so I think someone had just had a baby. Mr B and I looked at each and both said that was going to be us soon!! Eeeekkkkkkk!!!

We had a look at the maternity ward briefly. It was pretty full but they had one vacant private room that we looked in - all fine - own shower, toilet, bed, tv etc. They have single rooms, an executive suite (which Mr B thought we should aim for!!!) and shared rooms with either 3 or 5 people in. It's a first come, first serve basis but if you want a private room you can have one, once it becomes available.

From what we were told if you have a natural birth they keep you in for 2 days, if you have a caesarean it's 4. But from the sound of it you could stay a bit longer if you wanted or needed to. We were also told that the baby would be in the room with me the whole time and that the nurses would show us how to bath the baby, change nappies, help with breastfeeding etc etc. The hospital was a pro-beastfeeding hospital which I saw as a positive as I was determined to give it a go.

The only thing that I wasn't so happy about was that they seemed quite rigid on visiting times - there were only 3 times for an hour each during the day for visitors. Plus when I asked if husbands were allowed to stay longer the nurse said no. Mr B reckons she had to say that and as long as we were quiet then they wouldn't probably care. Fingers crossed. I was desperate for Mr B to stay with me. I knew I'd be unsure of myself and very anxious on my own. Plus I saw it as our bonding opportunity - the 3 of us, the new family, getting to know each other.

We were anxious now to get this show on the road. My hospital bag was all packed, the baby's bag was ready to go, and we were hoping within the next week things would happen. We were walking, walking and walking some more. We went for curry. We tried the horizontal mambo. All to encourage the baby to make an entrance!!

And then a week after we'd got down to Gabs my waters broke. Mr B and I had been chilling out watching Underbelly dvds (sidenote - how good was that series?? Some of the best Aussie tv that has been shown for quite some time I think. I still can't quite get my head around all that went on. It's hard to fathom living that lifestyle.) when I went to the loo and BINGO ... TMI (too much information). I told Mr B I was pretty sure my waters had broken and the look on his face was priceless. I won't ever forget it - sheer terror mixed with confoundment mixed with excitement. What do we do, he asked me. I don't know, I replied. Go to bed and wait and see if anything happens I guess, I ventured, as I got back into bed. Mr B was wide awake now though. He jumped online to ease his curiousity and googled waters breaking. He was reassured that we had time to wait and see what happened. So we watched another movie and we ended up sleeping, and woke in the morning to nothing, nudda, not a single contraction to speak of. I was still leaking fluid though so we decided to head into the labour ward to see what the midwives thought. The midwife had a feel around (sorry I know again with the TMI) and hooked me up to a CTG machine that monitors the baby's heart beat and is able to tell if you are having contractions. I wasn't and as far as the midwife was concerned I wouldn't be going into labour anytime soon either. I was not even 1cm dilated.

The midwife rang Dr E who suggested I come down to his rooms (we had a scheduled appointment that day anyway) so he could look me over. He gave me an ultrasound and there was still plenty of amniotic fluid around the baby so Dr E thought it best to wait and see if labour started by itself.
Two days later my parents had arrived from Australia and we were still waiting for labour to start. So we headed back in to see Dr E again, to see if an induction would be put on the table, so to speak. My guess was I'd be told to keep waiting it out. Would baby splodge ever make an appearance???

It sure was a waiting game ...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Celebrity Status

It seems moving to Bots was a big deal. So much so that it lead to Mr B becoming somewhat of a celebrity!!

Well not really but he did manage to feature in several magazine and newspaper articles, which is always exciting.

Yes, yes, I can already hear all you Aussies out there who don't like a tall poppy start to roll your eyes and scoff at the smalltime-ness of this celebrity but just shhh for a moment while a very proud wife does some unashamed boasting. Surely it's my wifely right after all??? (And this is my blog!)

First Mr B had a glossy pic of himself in the best mining magazine around - Modern Mining June 2009 - for his attendance at the Botswana Resource Conference.

Then he featured in the August 2009 edition of UniSA news:

Out of Australia into Africa

by Katrina Kalleske

Brent during an African safari at Shinde Camp in the Okavango Delta.Working in the jungles of Laos alongside the Ho Chi Minh Trail is a major highlight of Brent Laws’ career as a geologist since graduating from UniSA in 2003.
The Honours graduate in Applied Science (Geology) has already worked in three countries during his six-year career.
Right now he’s in Botswana, Africa working as a senior geologist on an expanding uranium resource. Laws has been working for Australian company, A-Cap Resources, since November last year after spending a few years in Western Australia.
"I love the variety involved in project management," he says. "One day you can be in the field working in the dust, soaking up the sun or sweating it out in the jungle, the next you’re working on geological or resource models in the office.
"While the challenges of working with other cultures can be frustrating, it is ultimately rewarding.
"As part of an Australian exploration company, we work hard to bring Australian standards of operation to our overseas projects.
Brent Laws (front left) examining core samples with his colleagues at A-Cap Resources in Botswana."Logistics is often more challenging overseas than in Australia because distances from suppliers are not only further, but the language differences sometimes need to be overcome to make sure we get what we order."
For Laws, who grew up on a farm near Riverton north of Adelaide, the cultural experience of working in the mining industry overseas is not new. The 29-year-old previously spent nine months working on a mine site in Laos on a fly-in/out roster from Perth.
His time in Laos involved passing his geological knowledge on to the locals. But it also involved experiences a far cry from anything he had in Australia, including working alongside the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, always mindful of the hazards of unexploded munitions.
Law says passing his knowledge and skills on to enthusiastic employees is a great highlight of his work.
He also remembers it was those real-life experiences, relayed by his UniSA lecturers, that made a difference to his own learning at university.
"The quality of the lecturers and the real experiences they could bring to their teaching were very important and it is something I have become increasingly aware of the longer I have been working myself," Laws says.
"The lessons learnt from real examples and practical projects at uni may not be used straight away after graduating, but it is uncanny how many times the lessons come to the fore in different circumstances once a geologist starts plying their trade.
"Given that geology is such a diverse field, the applied science aspect of the degree has certainly been beneficial in making an easier transition from the academic world to the professional working world."
He also believes that the learning certainly doesn’t stop once your formal studies do.
"University provides the skills to learn and research but once you’ve left and landed your first job, it is essential to remember you don’t know everything and you are still learning."
Laws’ move to Botswana was strongly influenced by the chance to learn something new.
"I had a predominantly geological background in base metals (copper, zinc) and gold and could see the need to broaden my skills by gaining experience in the energy sector through working with uranium," he says.
"I had enjoyed and learnt a great deal from my previous overseas work in Laos and was keen to try another country.
"This position also offered residential employment, which meant my wife could move with me instead of staying home while I was on a fly-in/out roster.
"I’m really enjoying the challenge of working in Africa and the opportunity to work with a skilled team that has a passion for developing uranium resources and exploring for more."
And of course there are also the enormous benefits of experiencing life in a different country.
As well as being in the ideal timezone to watch the Ashes series live on television, Laws highly rates experiences such as walking through the African bush and seeing fresh leopard prints in the sand, or a family of monkeys in the backyard fighting over paw paws, or having a group of rogue elephants roaming through the outskirts of town.
"It is all still new and amazing," he says.
And while he does miss live AFL games, meat pies and swimming at the beach, it’s the African experiences that are likely to keep him and his wife in Botswana beyond their initial two-year contract.

And then Mr B was in the My Job column for The Advertiser's Education Now supplement:

My Job: The path from a degree to a career
Brent Laws
Senior Geologist, A-Cap Resources
NAME:  Brent Laws
AGE:  29
DEGREE:  Bachelor of Science (majoring in Geoscience)
LOCATION:  UniSA, Mawson Lakes Campus
COURSE:  3 years (Brent did honours which is 4 years)
STUDY:  The Bachelor of Science provides a broad science education through a combination of majors and minors from the science disciplines of applied physics, biology, chemistry, computer and information science, environmental systems, geospatial information systems, geoscience, mathematics and more. The course aims to produce graduates who have a good understanding of the sciences they elect to study, while the emphasis on laboratory and field work is designed to give graduates the necessary skills to apply their knowledge in their chosen careers.
CONTACT:  Future student enquiries – 1300 UNI NOW
I graduated from UniSA in 2003 and have worked in three different countries in the past six years. Currently I am employed as a Senior Geologist for A-Cap Resources in Botswana, Africa, and have also worked in Laos and of course Australia.
Given that geology is such a diverse field, my degree has certainly been beneficial in making an easier transition from being a student to the professional working world.
The quality of the UniSA lecturers and the real experiences they could bring to their teaching were very important to me in completing my degree. The lessons learnt from real examples and practical projects at uni may not be used straight away after graduating, but it is uncanny how many times the lessons come to the fore in different circumstances once a geologist starts plying their trade.
I am really enjoying the challenge of working in Africa and the opportunity to work with a skilled team that has a passion for the project of developing and exploring for uranium resources.
And of course there are also the benefits of experiencing life in a different country.
I previously worked in Laos, on a fly-in / out roster from Perth, working alongside the infamous Ho Chi Min Trail.
I really enjoy the variety of my work - one day you can be in the field working in the dust, soaking up the sun or sweating it out in the jungle, the next you’re working on geological or resource models in the office.

Ok so it may not be much, but it's Mr B's claim to fame for now.

That is until the newest Laws arrives in Botswana :)

The friends we've made :)

During our first year in Bots we were very lucky to make a wonderful group of friends. It certainly helped to make the transition into town a lot easier. Most weekends were taken up doing different things with this group - picnics, tennis, swimming, games nights, dinners, bike riding, gyming, walking, breakfasts, beer brewing, morning teas, afternoon drinks and more. Our first year in Bots would certainly have been very boring without this group.

This is my way of saying thank you to them! xx

First Christmas

New Years cuties

Lovely ladies at New Years

Celebrating Australia Day with a bbq picnic

Aussies and some surrogate Aussies on Aussie Day
Birthday Parties on a Kopje

Bike races

Fancy dress parties

A few weeks before we headed off to Gabs to wait for baby splodge's arrival we had to make the first of our goodbye's for this expat life. Our friends the Wrights had come to the end of their time here in Bots and were headed back to Australia to get started on the next chapter. I've never been good at goodbyes. I usually just say "seeya later" and try to convey that we will in fact be seeing each other again very soon.

This was a tough goodbye. Sure we'd only known these guys for 10 months or so, but in this town, in this community, your friends become your family. And after all the good times we'd had together, I knew things were not going to be the same once they had gone.

And sadly they weren't. Things change, friendships change, people change. And time moves on.

Some of the gang :)
But while it lasted ..... it was GREAT FUN!!!

So to our wonderful friends - the Larges', the Wrights', the Groves', the Peacey's, the Van Der Linde's, the Thompson's, the Smith's, and the McGaffin's .... Thanks for the fun times, thanks for the wonderful memories ..... THANKS MATE!!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Preparing for Baby

As pregnancies go, mine was fairly straightforward. I was young, fit and healthy with no complications. Except for one small tiny factor - I was an Aussie living in Botswana about to have my first child. Eeeekkkk what was I thinking???

I was roughly 26 weeks once Mum, Dad and Uncle Allan went back to Australia after their visit. Until then I'd been so busy planning trips and entertaining them I really hadn't been 100% focused on what was about to happen. The baby of course had started moving around heaps and I was naturally getting bigger and bigger. Now that they'd left the reality of the situation started to set in and every now and then I was having little freak out moments. Was I doing the right thing having the baby in Bots? Should I go back to Australia and have it there? What if something goes wrong? What if I don't know what to do? Who will I get to help? Will we be able to handle having all the grandparents here at the same time? (That's right folks - all 4 grandparents were coming for the birth!) Thankfully Mr B was able to calm me down and mop up the nervous, anxious tears. And most of the time I felt fine about the whole scenario. I mean women have babies all the time right?

After our visitors left I spent a lot of my time online madly researching baby products and places to go in Jo'burg to buy things. We planned to make a trip down to the big smoke at the beginning of August to buy all the essentials - cot, change table, pram, car seat and the other odds and ends that would be needed. I also bought a few things over the internet from Australia that Mum and Dad were going to bring over with them.

I was quickly realising how easy it is to get carried away with all the baby stuff - different people kept telling me different products to try that they loved and then others would give opposite opinions. As a result I was very restrained and hardly bought anything. I think I bought maybe 3 or 4 newborn outfits and only because Mum insisted that I get them. And a receiving blanket to take to the hospital to wrap baby up in. It was too cute with African animals on it. Fitting for an Aussie baby born in Bots.

While my Mum was here some friends in town threw me a baby shower so Mum could enjoy it too. I was very spoilt and it was a complete surprise. I thought we were going to my friend Penny's house for a relaxed morning tea and it turned into a surprise baby shower with all these women and gifts waiting for me. Yikes I was embarassed and naturally started crying. Stupid pregnancy hormones!! It was a lovely morning and we got lots of cute gifts - towels, blankets, baby wipes, onesies, dummies, lotions etc. My good friend Theunette sadly missed the party and spoilt me some more later with Winnie the Pooh cot bedding, and a padded change mat (something we hadn't even thought of!). Our spare room, that was to be the baby's room eventually, was slowly becoming full of wonderful baby things. Considering in the reality of things I was still relatively new to town, people were so kind and generous with their presents. I felt completely overwhelmed by people's generosity and would often tear up whenever I thought about it.

For the whole pregnancy I was happy seeing the local GP for check ups. My blood pressure was great, actually better than it normally is when I'm not pregnant, the baby was head down, and the heartbeat was always strong and thumping away. For a pregnant woman, the sound of the baby's heartbeat is always such a comfort. I tended to hold my breath a little whenever the doctor proceeded to find it. And then .... thump, thump, thump, Phew!

We didn't meet our planned obstetrician until I was 28 weeks. As I said in this post we were planning to have the baby at the private hospital in Gaborone. We thought we'd go down 2 weeks before the due date and wait it out until the baby came. Of course there was the possibility that the baby would come early and I would end up having it in Francistown but that was something I was trying not to think about and hoping to avoid. Mr B and I joked that if I went into labour early we'd jump in the car and drive the whole way to Gabs (4 hours) just to avoid having it here in the local hospital. Yes, yes we are naive like that!!

So at 28 weeks we headed off to Gabs for a few days to shop and see the OB. I'm always nervous meeting a doctor for the first time. You just never know what they are going to say to you and how friendly they'll be. I've only really had 3 or 4 doctors that I've liked in my time - every time we've moved I've had to find a new one and it's always kind of daunting. Plus this doctor, well he was going to deliver our first baby. I had this idea in my mind that he needed to be lovely and friendly and special. Dr E sadly really wasn't this. Well not at our first meeting anyway. I mean he was ok as doctors go but he put me off straight away when he told me having a baby and giving birth was not a big deal, it's easy and straightforward. Had he given birth to a baby lately??? He did nothing to set my anxiety at ease. He also told me taking pre-natal vitamins was a complete waste of time for someone of my socio-economic means and that I'd be better off giving all my tablets to a poor Motswana lady who can't afford them. I felt like he was making me out to be a stupid, neurotic, wealthy white woman, rather than an expectant first time mother with natural anxieties that needed to be acknowledged.

After the visit Mr B and I were very unsure as to what to do. We talked a lot about Dr E and the Gabs hospital over the next few days and decided it might be better to consider other options. The more I thought about the meeting with the OB, the more I didn't like the idea of having him deliver the baby or having the baby in Gabs at that hospital.

It was hard to know what was the best thing for us. Based on the pregnancy so far I could have had a straight forward labour with no complications and the baby be completely fine with nothing to worry about. If that was the case I could probably go ahead and have the baby in Gabs. But I just didn't think it was worth going with the flow when I could organise something that might be a better experience. It's hard enough having a baby in a foreign country let alone having to see a doctor who you don't really have a good feeling about, at a hospital that makes you fill out all this stupid paperwork just to buy some medicine from the pharmacy that the doctor has told you to go and buy. I could just imagine Mr B and I rocking up there when I'm in labour and we have to wait 2 hours or more for them to admit me while they type my details into the computer system!!!

A few weeks later I began to realise the logistical difficulty of changing our plans. I was over 30 weeks and would still need to get an appointment with an OB, book a hospital, find accommodation and get my head around the idea of a completely different plan to the one we originally thought we'd be doing for the past 6/7 months. I also spoke with a work collegue of Mr B's who was actually a long acquaintance of Dr E's. She conveyed to me that he was actually the best gynaecologist in Bots, and that he had delivered all her children (4!) without complications. She had nothing but positives to say about him.

So after more discussions with Mr B we decided to stick with the original plan. The hospital really was fine I guess. Obviously not as nice as private hospitals in Australia but I figured we'd cope.

I think one of the major causes of all my anxieties was that we weren't able to attend any ante-natal classes (they just aren't done here in Bots), hadn't met any midwives, and hadn't yet visited to the maternity ward of the hospital. We had no idea what to expect.

Instead all I could do was read and read and read some more. I read a couple of pregnancy books, those that I could get my hands on here in Bots. A friend leant me Up the Duff by Kaz Cooke and I bought Conception, Pregnancy and Birth by Dr Miriam Stoppard. I also joined an online baby forum on BabyCenter Australia. This forum was probably my saviour in many ways. Just when something would change in the pregnancy or a thought would pop up in my mind there would be a post or a question from another member, that would always help to alleviate any of my concerns or answer my questions. I didn't post often but got a huge amount out of the group just from reading other posts. And of course I emailed my mummy girlfriends back in Australia with endless questions on products, pregnancy and having a baby. My lovely friends also helped to make me feel more prepared. Or as prepared as you can be when you don't know what's going to happen.

One of the things that struck me throughout my pregnancy was that nesting feeling everyone talks about never really kicked in for me. I think it was initially because we were going to have all the grandparents staying with us in our only 2 spare bedrooms so I wouldn't be able to set up the baby's room until after they left. Plus we had a part-time maid who always made sure the house was clean top to bottom.

I did make Mr B put the cot together though, just so I could see it set up. Much to his dismay he then couldn't get it out of the room and into ours so it had to be taken apart again. Oops!

Towards the end of my pregnancy Mr B and I tried to spend as much time together as we could. We knew that when the baby finally arrived, time for each other would be limited. We have always been like "peas and carrots" ever since we got together so I was a bit concerned that he or I would struggle with the changes once the baby came. I knew Mr B was going to be a fantastic Dad and would be great with the baby right from the start.

Me, well I'd handled the pregnancy thing pretty well. A few days here or there of bitchy or weepy hormonal messes, and of course the endless peeing, puffy feet, and generally uncomfortableness that comes with the 36 week onwards territory. I'd taken it all in my stride. So I was hoping I would do exactly the same with the delivery and the mothering of the baby. I was very excited to meet baby splodge, to see if it was a boy or girl, to have baby cuddles, and to soak the little bundle up. The rest I was hoping I would work out as I went. I was clueless really ?!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Namibia - A Land of Sand!

I'm a planner. Not really one to leave things to chance. I'm all for spontaneity too (which may seem like a contradiction) but for the most part I like to know what is going to happen when.
So when Mum, Dad, Uncle Allan and I decided to take off to Namibia for a 2 week trek I spent a few weeks beforehand planning the whole adventure. Sure Dad gave me the heads up on where he thought we should go and roughly how long we should stay in places. But I then had to find the accommodation and make the bookings. And like my Dad, I LOVE doing that kind of thing. Although when you're planning a trip for others there's always this kind of pressure to get it right - you don't want to stay somewhere too cheap and nasty and at the same time you don't want to be too posh and stay somewhere too expensive for everyone. So I googled and googled and googled until I had our itinerary finalised. And on paper it looked like a good one.
I will just add that I have this rule when booking accommodation somewhere - which I will admit doesn't always work, especially in Africa - if they don't have a website, I'm not really interested. I'm not a big phone talker - don't ask me why, I'm just not. If I can get away with not making phone calls I will. So I prefer to book everything online. I find it's easier, and particularly here in Africa where language can often be a problem, I find it leaves less room for error.
So a week after our visit to Kasane, Chobe and Vic Falls we said goodbye to Mr B and hit the open road. Sadly Mr B couldn't join us due to work and needing to save his annual leave for baby splodge's impending arrival. As much as my hormonal self didn't really want to leave Mr B, I wasn't 100% comfortable with my parents trekking through Africa without me either. I knew I'd worry about them the whole time they were gone, so Mr B and I decided rather than have me just sitting around the house by myself worrying, I'd better go too.
For those interested here's some fast facts on Namibia:
1. It is situated on the southwestern coast of Africa, bordering Angola and Zambia in the north, Botswana to the east, and South Africa to the south
2. Population is approx. 2.2 million - that's right, this whole African country has less people than Sydney and Melbourne and only just more than Brisbane!! But as Mr B pointed out to me, it still has more people than Bots!!
3. The capital city is Windhoek
4. Languages spoken are English, Afrikaans, German, Bantu and Khoisan
5. Namibia was colonised by Germany in the late 19th century
6. At the end of WWI South Africa gained control of the country from Germany
7. Namibia or the Republic of Namibia as it is now officially called, gained independence in March 1990.
8. The Namibian Dollar and South African Rand are both accepted as legal tender in Namibia (which let me tell you sometimes got very confusing!)

Our rondavel room
We spent our first night on the road still in Bots, in the town of Ghanzi. There's not a lot to say about Ghanzi. It's a town in the middle of nowhere enroute to Namibia. As the Lonely Planet describes it, it's a dusty outpost town ... travellers stop either to fill up on petrol and stock up on supplies, or to breakup the monotonous drive to Windhoek. Which is exactly what we did. We stayed at the Kalahari Arms Hotel in a round traditional styled hut called a rondavel. It was clean and comfortable and all that we needed for one night. The hotel also provided pub style meals and breakfast.

Mum, Dad and Uncle Allan enjoying a much needed cuppa after the long drive to Ghanzi

Rather than a kangaroo sign, it's Pumbaa!!!
The next day we hit Namibia and our first stop was the capital, Windhoek. We stayed 3 nights at Klein Windhoek Guesthouse in one of their self-catering flats. This is where our stay in Windhoek became less than impressive. Don't you hate it when the place you book looks better online than it does in real life?? I always feel completely jipped when this happens (not that it's happened to me very often, if ever, until this place). I booked this guesthouse primarily because it was self-catering. 2 weeks of constantly eating out, 3 meals a day, can become a bit much sometimes and my parents aren't overly keen on that. We wanted somewhere we could make ourselves breakfast, have tea and coffee whenever we wanted, and maybe knock together some lunch or bring back takeaway dinner. This is where the place let us down. Despite stating that the flat slept 4-5, there was only 3 mugs/cups, not enough plates or cutlery. There was also not enough towels, and it felt like we were constantly having to go to reception to ask for something else. This does not work for me. I expect the room to be ready for new guests, when the guests arrive. Guests should not be having to chase things up. I was cross!

To make matters worse it was a long weekend in Namibia and most of the tourist places and shops were shut. Crazy I know - long weekend, people travelling, tourist places and in particular, the tourist information centre, closed up tight! We did visit a fantastic craft market - Namibia Craft Centre - that was set up in an old brewery. Naturally Mum and I bought some wares, but generally just enjoyed some good ol' browsing, and some yummy morning tea - HUGE muffins!!! Yum! 

Hair cut anyone?
As often happens when travelling with my Dad, he got talking to one of the shop ladies about possible city tours. We had seen a sign outside the craft market advertising city tours yet when we had tried to book one no one was available - the tour wasn't running because of the long weekend! So this very kind lady offered to call her cousin (I think?!) and organised for him to take us on a tour. He worked for a tour company but generally just did the airport run. I think he was happy for the extra work and happily agreed to drive us around Windhoek for a few hours. It wasn't the most organised ciy tour but he did take us to the shanty town area - Katutura - where many different people live. This was good and interesting and eye-opening to see, but also a little daunting. Imagine living in a box virtually made out of whatever you can find - bits of corrugated iron, old doors, random bricks, etc etc. Obviously not all the houses were like this but many were, and some were even worse.

We spent the next couple of days in Windhoek driving ourselves around, checking things out - the train station, the brewery, the lookout, three old private castles (the German influence)- hitting the shops, and looking at some of the different buildings and architecture throughout the city. We went to Namibia's largest shopping mall where I purchased a little babygrow for baby splodge. At almost 6 months pregnant I still hadn't bought anything for the baby and was dying to. So when I saw the cute little white suit I just had to get it.
After 3 days in Windhoek I was happy to be moving on to what promised to be more exciting places. Windhoek was a nice city but I didn't really think much of it in terms of a tourist destination. It was a functional city that was easy to navigate - good roads with great signage - but not a lot to do or see.
So back in the car , we were headed south to the red sand dunes at Sossusvlei, a very popular tourist area of Namibia. The drive south was interesting - all dirt roads that at times had the whole car vibrating. But it was fun and the scenery was often stunning.

We stayed at a fantastic place - Solitaire Guest Farm which I highly recommend. The couple who ran the place and the staff were so friendly and just couldn't do enough for you. The Guest Farm was an eclectic mix of old style farm, meets African lodge. It was very comfortable.
Welcome to Solitaire Guest Farm

The restaurant and pool area
The dunes at Sossusvlei are part of the 32,000sq km sand sea that covers much of western Namibia. Some dunes reach as high as 325m, and are part of one of the oldest and driest ecosystems on earth. The landscape here is constantly changing - the wind alters the shape of the dunes, while the colours change with the light (similar to Uluru in Australia - sunrise and sunset on the rock).

The Solitaire Guest Farm is actually 60km away from the dunes. We chose to stay there as most accommodation closer, at Sesriem, is a lot more expensive. The park headquarters is at Sesriem and the park is open between sunrise and sunset.

The sand dunes themselves were a great site - not quite as dramatic as I was expecting but still amazing to see.

After 2 days in the sand we headed north again; to the coast this time and the lovely beachside town of Swakopmund (or Swakop as the locals call it!). The drive there was again on dirt roads all the way - through the sand and the desert.

The road to nowhere, or so it seemed

The Raft Restaurant - I can recommend the fish!
We stopped first at Swakopmund's neighbouring coastal town, Walvis Bay. Walvis Bay is home to one of the largest flocks of flamingo in Southern Africa and is one of the most important maritime centres in the South Atlantic.We enjoyed our first amazing seafood lunch at a fantastic restaurant - Raft -  a Walvis Bay eating institution that sits on stilts offshore and has a great front-row view of the ocean. The restaurant actually had an Aussie flavour to it - Australian music kept coming through on the stereo - I think maybe the chef or manager was an Aussie!!

Flamingo at Walvis Bay

The nasty weather that welcomed us to Swakopmund
Swakopmund is apparently the extreme sports capital of Namibia. In my condition, we unfortunately didn't partake in any of it. But when Mr B ended up visiting Swakopmund with work a year later he got to go sandboarding, quad-biking, and abseiling. Needless to say he LOVED IT!!
The day we arrived in Swakop, the town was covered in mist and you couldn't really see the sea - it was blowing a gale and freezing cold which was a shock to the system after the heat of the sand dunes. The mist is a common occurence in the town during winter providing an incessant drizzle and a sometimes dreary atmosphere. This fog though is needed as it can roll up to 50km inland, providing much needed moisture to desert plants and animals.
We stayed at a lovely holiday rental - Ocean Walk Holiday House - that I would highly recommend (and have done to our friends the Grovers who stayed in the same place almost 2 years later! And loved it!). It was just back from the beach and north of the town a little but easy to find and very comfortable.
Our holiday rental in Swakop
The view from our place

The beach and all that endless sand
Swakopmund and Walvis Bay are both surrounded by sand dunes that seem never-ending. If it's not the sea fog moving into town, then the towns are usually getting a good sandblasting from the other direction.

The sand blowing across the highway
Swakopmund is Namibia's most popular tourist attraction. It is often described as more German than Germany. The town is brimming with examples of historic German architecture. It is also brimming with apple danish, which we enjoyed every. single. day! I blame Dad!!

We did a day drive north to the town of Henties Bay - home to a huge seal colony. All I can say is what a STINK!!!! I got out of the car and almost started gagging - it was BAD!! The number of seals was unbelievable. It's a huge breeding spot so there were lots of cute pups shuffling about. There were also many Jackals (kind of like a fox/dingo) wandering through the seals, simply climbing over the female seals and picking off the pups for supper. It explained on an info sign that this was natures way of keeping the colony size in check.

After Swakopmund we headed inland towards Etosha National Park. On the way we overnighted at Otjiwarango at the Falcon Nest Guesthouse. Otjiwarango is Herero for "the Pleasant Place". As regional agricultural centres go, it was pleasant enough. Compared to many African towns it had lovely well maintained parks and gardens, and the streets were clean and tidy.

Etosha National Park covers approx 22,750sq km. Etosha means "place of dry water" and encompasses a huge 5000sq km pan providing great shimmering mirages. The drier months from June to November are probably the best times to visit the park - some of the 150 mammal species found in the park will be frequenting the numerous waterholes, making them easier to spot.

The park has 3 camp areas to choose from. We stayed at the rest camp Halali, which is in the middle of the park, in a family chalet which was lovely. The gates to the camp are closed everynight at sunset and open again at sunrise. It is to secure the camp from predators - lion, leopard, hyena etc. And to also prevent visitors from driving around the park at night, which is prohibited.

Halali camp has it's own flood-lit waterhole where you can go, sit, and watch the animals drink. We went there each evening and sat and enjoyed the show. The first night we saw the hugest herd of elephant I had seen yet, come in for a drink. I think it was actually two separate herds but it was hard to tell. There were a few altercations which made me think that one herd was trying to rush the other herd on so they could come in to drink. We also saw a Black rhino mum and her baby (Black rhino are usually very hard to see as they are very shy and also endangered). And a hyena.  

The man-made waterhole at Halali Camp

A large herd of elephant enjoying a drink
The 2nd night at the waterhole we saw a male black rhino, along with the same female black rhino with her baby as the night before. At one stage the baby got too close to the male and Mum had to step in before things got nasty. Mum made all sorts of noise telling the male rhino to back off. It was really fantastic to see. Rhinos are solitary animals and are only found together to breed. Males will often kill the babies if they are allowed to get too close in order to breed with the female.
During the day we drove ourselves around the park. The park is very easy to navigate on your own being well sign posted and with fantastic roads. A number of times we pulled up at a waterhole with a drink and some snacks and sat back and waited. This is often the best way to see animals rather than driving aimlessly searching for them. Inevitably something will come to the waterhole for a cool drink. We were lucky to see giraffe, elephant, gemsbok, springbok, and wildebeest but no lion. Obviously we didn't cover the whole park as it is huge. We tended to do the tracks and waterholes near to Halali camp.

The highlight was the waterhole at night - to see an endangered black rhino was incredible! And the excitement factor was raised even more when I was driving us back to camp one afternoon and we got caught up in a huge herd of elephant - animals on both sides of the road. I found it very nerve racking so I floored it to get through the herd before one of them decided we were in their path.

Once we left Etosha we were on the homeward stretch. Only two more nights and we'd be back in Francistown or so we thought!!! We got to a town called Rundu which was to be our last night in Namibia. Once we arrived at our accommodation and Dad went to move the car after we unloaded, the car died!!! It was crazy - we'd just driven thousands of kms on roads where you didn't see much traffic or civilisation, and thankfully the car held it together until we got to our stop. It was the alternator - a bearing caused it to seize (because I know about these things!!). So now came the fun part - where to go to get someone to fix it. By this stage it was 3pm and I didn't hold out much hope getting someone to look at it that day. We walked from our lodge by the river up to the main road and asked a local out walking to help us get a taxi. The taxi took us to the local Toyota retailer and service centre and after paying the driver probably triple or quadruple what he would normally receive we headed inside to ask for help. After explaining our situation a mechanic was kind enough to come and have a look at the car but unfortunately he told us they would need to get a new alternator sent up from South Africa and it would probably take 5 days. This was a Thursday so at best we were looking at being stuck there for a week - uh oh Mum, Dad's and Uncle Allan's flight was the following Friday - what the "beep" were we going to do????? I was in tears and completely over it by this stage. Stressed out, tired and hormonal, and just wanting to be back in my own bed with Mr B. There was no way I was going to sit in Runduu for 5 days or longer (TIA!!!) waiting for a new alternator.

Our Hero!! The mechanic working on our car
So we started brainstorming ideas - well we could leave the car there, get a hire car, fly back, get Mr B to drive up and get us, etc, etc, etc. Thankfully we didn't have to do any of that. The nice Toyota guy gave me a ring after I didn't sound too happy about the 5 day scenario and suggested I contact this other garage in town. What a life saviour that turned out to be. I rang the guy that same afternoon and he promised to come first thing the next day. After another early morning phone call on my part the next day he came, he took away the alternator, he fixed it, returned and the car was running again by lunch time - Phhhheeeewwww!!! Plus it cost us less than $A100!!!! We were stoked.
I should just mention here a few things about Runduu. It is your typical transit town - full of accommodation for the traveller passing through, and some shops and supermarkets. Angola is just on the other side of the river, and the Caprivi Strip to the east.

We stayed at a nice lodge - Tambuti Lodge. It is situated on the banks of the Okavango River and consists of 4 spacious whitewashed bungalows. The lodge was in the process of being renovated while we were there - the gardens were being redone and a swimming pool installed. It wasn't an inconvenience though - I was just thankful for a bed to lay down on while we waited for the car.

Tambuti Lodge

The streets of Rundu
So after having to stay only one extra night in Rundu instead of a week we got up at the crack of dawn the next day and drove the whole 1200kms back to Francistown. We had all had enough by then and couldn't wait to get home. We had planned to overnight at Maun to break up the journey but thankfully I hadn't booked anything and so we pushed on home. We ended up driving some of the way in the dark which is always a little scary here in Bots - you just never know when a cow or donkey is going to be crossing the road or even standing on the road enjoying the warmth from the bitumen. Thankfully we didn't encounter any problems such as these but we did have to contend with many drivers without headlights on and lots of people driving slowly into Francistown for a Friday night.

Mum, Dad and Uncle Allan's Botswanan adventure came to an end a week later. It had been a jam-packed holiday, full of the highlights of Bots and Namibia. And from everything they said, I could tell they had loved it.

Mr B and I were sad to see them go, the company and familiarity of family had been nice to have around. But we had our own adventure to prepare for ... the last 3 months of pregnancy and impending parenthood. What was in store for us we wondered?? How were things going to play out? Would all the expecting grandparents make it in time for the birth? And what was baby splodge going to be like - boy or girl? We were excited, scared, anxious and happy. Completely naive in our innocence. Little did we know how much our lives were going to change....
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