Amahle and I walk into the hospital and decide to have breakfast at the café.

“What would you like nana?” I ask.

Amahle just shrugs her shoulders, she is still not used to this life where you order food and people serve you. She looks at the menu but, I am not sure she can read any of it.

“Just point at the picture of what you want.” I wink.

She  buries herself in the menu, her eyes grow wide and her face glows. It has only been a few weeks with her here and she is beginning to blossom. I must be doing something right I think to myself. The thought of Sifiso bounces in, he looked so delicious, almost younger, I wonder when I will see him again. It is so much harder now with Amahle here, I need to get a helper… My phone rings cracking my thoughts.

“Chomi, are you here yet?”

“Yes babe, we are sitting at the café we didn’t have time to have breakfast.” I can here Tsholo mourning, the first mourn is muffled and then she sounds like an animal in distress. “Oh my gosh is that the baby coming?”

“Chomz I have no idea what is happening here, this girl looks like she is about to die! Hayi shem I am good with having kids hey.” She chuckles. “Listen let me come there because, ya kurough la.”

“Are you really going to leave Tsholo alone?”

“Her mom is here, she just doesn’t want to go into the delivery room. I am coming there will tell you everything.”

She hangs up the phone.

“Are you gorgeous ladies ready to order?” asks the waitress.

I look up and my breath stumbles, she looks so much like Zenzile. I hold my gaze, waiting for her to recognise me, she just widens her eyes and slowly shakes her head, the way a person does before they wave their hand in your face to bring you back to the present.

“Oh…sorry…yes. Could I please have your toasted…” I stop and look at her again, I shake my head slightly, as if to scramble the thought. “I am sorry, you look so much like someone I know, your eyes.” She turns to the side to hide her eyes and the smile creeping up, she’s blushing. “Anyway, toasted chicken sandwich and two cappacinos please.” I watch her as she writes my order down, her concentration, the way she furrows her brows takes me back to the day I walked back into my house and found Zenzile sure of herself.  Her stern look, how those brows seemed like they had a life of its own and were scolding me.

“Sorry, maam and for her?” she asks while pointing at Amahle.

“Arg, sorry, my mind is not here today.” I raise a corner of my mouth in an attempt to smile. “Do you know what you want nana?”

Ngifuna lena.” Amahle points at a picture of scrambled eggs and viennas.

“Are you sure?”

She nods without looking at me.

I watch as the nurses walk from one side of the hospital to the other, the café is smack bang in the middle of the hospital, it has always seemed odd to me. At the next table there is a woman dressed in a hospital gown and man cooing over a newborn, their new baby. The woman looks tired, her face is puffy and she doesn’t look as excited about the baby as the father seems. I wonder why she doesn’t have the love at first sight glow all these baby and parenting magazines talk about. Would I have had it?

“Hey darling!”

“Thobi we are in a hospital, calm down.” I laugh.

“Hayi suka! Haven’t seen you gorgeous in a while.” She gives me a tight squeeze it feels like she is attempting to meld us into one person. “Hello my princess.” She turns to Amahle. Amahle’s eyes light up, she has loved Thobi almost the minute she met her. Well this makes life easy is what I thought the first time Thobi came over to the house to meet her.

“Hi aunty.” She beams up at Thobi.

“Yho, this child I am always just blown away by how beautiful she is, umhle yazi,” says Thobi.

“And SMART!” I say.

“Of course she is smart.”

“Yes friend and that’s what we should be telling her and not how beautiful she is, what will her looks do for her?”

“Plenty.” Thobi laughs. She knows how it has always annoyed me how we hold up a girl’s beauty, like she had anything to do with it.

The waitress arrives with our orders and just as Thobi complains about me not getting her anything, her cappuccino arrives.

Uyaphapha I didn’t know what you wanted to eat though, so you can order,” I say.

“You feel different, what’s up?” says Thobi. She sees the puzzled look crawl across my face. “Don’t give that look, I know something is up, come out with it.”

I shrug.

“Anyway, uneglow.” She smiles with suspicion hanging in her eyes. “Chomi you are going to have to go help Tsholo with this birth thing hey, no shem I will not be able to, I love that girl BUT nope, this part is not for me.”

I look over at Amahle dressed in the hospital outfit she picked out weeks ago and all to just sit at the hospital café.

“I will stay with her don’t worry, I think you need this bec…” she lets the rest of her statement trail off. But I know what she is saying, I need the closure of witnessing a real life birth, I need to find out if parts of me still ache, if they still want this reality. I need to check if I truly am happy for Tsholo and her ability to birth live babies.

Thobi entices Amahle with a trip to the mall, “you can get whatever you like,” she says. Amahle smiles. I don’t think Thobi even needs to entice her, Amahle would go anywhere with her. Sometimes I think if she had a choice, she would pick living with Thobi over me.

I walk into find Tsholo lying on her side and her arm dangling, she looks like a pregnant rag doll. Her mother nods her head to acknowledge my presence, Tsholo doesn’t even seem to notice that I have walked in. I go over to her mother who is sitting with an open bible on her lap, her eyes are bloodshot. I assume tears of joy?

“Hello mama,” I whisper as I give her a hug. “How are you?”

“I am okay, thank you for coming.” Her thank you  sounds like I have just come to pay my condolences.

“Aren’t you excited mama? You are about to be a gogo.” I smile.

“I am so excited but you know wena Anathi, giving birth is a very scary process, not everyone makes it.”

Her words are like a steel rod jammed into my heart, I go straight back to the day I gave birth to a quiet Siphesihle, not a single sound, a loud silence.

“I am sorry I didn—”

I hold up my hand to stop Tsholo’s mother from apologizing.  “How is she?” I look over at Tsholo, who still hasn’t realised I am in the room or has very little energy to send my way.

“The doctor says she is at seven centimetres, and she still doesn’t want an epidural,” she says and shakes her head. “You know these drugs are better now, it is not like when I was giving birth but, your friend is so sure it will cripple her.”

“It is late now to get it anyway, right?”

Tsholo’s mom shrugs and sit back in her chair. She opens her bible to signal the end of our conversation. I walk over to Tsholo and crouch by her side, her eyes are barely open and she sounds like a wounded animal, too tired to carry her muffled mourn into a full blown scream. I put my hand in hers and I feel it shake, she tries to hold onto my hand but, her fingers can’t curl around my hand. She lets her hand drop and the pitch in her mourn goes up as if the action of dropping her hand recalled the pain.

“You’re almost there friend,” I whisper. She mourns again, she looks like she would rather be anywhere else in the world than in this hospital bed. I tell her Amahle is here and she is so excited to meet the baby and how she had a special outfit picked out for this day, and the doll she spent forever deciding on. I tell her about the shop assistant who reminded me I am not a real mother, I just talk to help her forget the pain. But nothing helps. She closes her eyes, her Lamaze breathing isn’t working. It seems everything she learned in the antenatal classes was for nothing. A short nurse with brown rimmed spectacles that cover most of her face walks in.  At first glance she looks chubby but, it is just her breasts that take up most of her torso. “Mama, it is time for me to check again,” she says looking at Tsholo. Tsholo’s face goes pale. “I know my baby but, it will all be over soon.” The nurse smiles. She then turns to greet me and gently motions me out of her way. She asks Tsholo to lay on her back, and open her legs.  Tsholo moves like every part of her body is bruised, she is slow and deliberate.

The nurse then shoves her hand up Tsholo’s vagina, and Tsholo’s eyes grow wider and tears stream down the sides of her eyes. This is why mothers love their kids so much, I think. This truly is a labour of love.  “Haaa wena you are going to give birth just now, we are at nine centimetres, you are doing so great,” says the nurse. “I am going to let your doctor know and see what is happening in the delivery room, hang in there.”  She covers Tsholo with the hospital sheet and smiles at me, I smile back. “Ey rapela mama, your baby will be fine,” she says to Tsholo’s mom.

Tsholo is wheeled into the delivery room and I trot alongside the hospital stretcher. She looks so tired from fighting with the pain, I wonder if she has any energy left to push. Her doctor waltz in, she has green scrubs on and her white lab coat. She looks like she is an actress on a medical show than a real life doctor. Her skin a polished caramel tone and her almond shaped eyes with piercing dark brown irises they almost look black.  “We are finally here Tsholo,” she exclaims. Her excitement fills the room. She has been a doctor for almost ten years but she makes me feel like this is her very first baby delivery mission. She is a rare find. Most doctors just play it cool, forgetting this is your first time. “Are you ready to push? And meet this little missy?” she asks Tsholo and smiles at me. I read her name tag, Tsholo had shared her name but in the moment it escaped me, Dr. Bhungane. She plays We Are The Champions By Queen softly from a small cd player/ radio shaped like a spaceship. The two nurses helping her swing their heads from side to side, this is something they always do. The swinging of their heads is in unison. It surprises me that Tsholo has strength to push, maybe the presence of her doctor gives her a boost and she taps into reserves she didn’t know she had. I stroke her hair and tell her she is doing well. After three long pushes and fears of tearing, little missy bursts out of Tsholo with a scream so loud and ongoing as if all she’s been gearing up to do is cry about being out.  Tears well up, after all these years, I get to witness a baby’s first cry. I get to see the sheer relief on a mother’s face, the only cry mother’s love to hear.  The baby is placed on Tsholo’s chest after she has been weighed and all her vitals checked. I want to say she is beautiful, but she is wrinkled and covered in a thin white film. “Well done friend,” I say, instead.

I find Thobi and Amahle having cake and tea at the hospital café, with shopping bags on the floor.

“What is she like?” asks Thobi.

“She’s a baby,” I say. “Cute I guess.” I shrug, “we need to give her few hours to thaw, I guess.” We both laugh. “How was your guys’ trip to the mall?”

“Nice!” yells Amahle.

“Hayi ke my job here is done,” say Thobi and does a half-hearted cursty.  “Let me go see this new member.” She turns to Amahle and tells her she had a great time with her and they should do it all again soon. She then turns to me and asks, “who is the man with big voice, who told you are still beautiful?” she asks with a smirk.

I look at Amahle and she looks out the large glass wall and follows the movements of birds.

“So, she told you?”

“Why didn’t you chomi? What did he say?”

“He said we must meet up for lunch or dinner, you know…the usual.”

“And are you going to?”

I shrug.

“I think you will, you can’t help yourself where he’s involved.” She chuckles, “don’t worry mina I will babysit.” She laughs again. She hugs Amahle and then kisses me on the cheek, “let me go check out our new baby.” She winks and gallops off.

You can’t help yourself where he’s involved the words come back to me as soon as Thobi disappears around the corner. I start counting the minutes to Saturday night…

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