1943 A War Story Chapter 8
War Stories - chapter 8 (The birth of Johan Hubert Smulders)
It all happened so quickly. The pains came and went as I lay in my bed. Was this the time? I could not know for certain, but I needed to find out, and so I walked down the passage to my parent’s room. My mother knew, and so soon we were getting ready to leave for town and the maternity hospital. My Dad has already called the hospital to let them know we would soon be there. The telephone is on a party- line which works through the exchange in East Lynne, so I’m sure the news of the imminent arrival of the new little one has already been broadcast to others in the neighborhood; “Have you heard - Ruth has gone into labour?”
Dad is hurrying us along, as nervous as I have ever seen him. Perhaps the tragedy of my sister Helen losing her child, and their first grandchild, is adding to his concern. Mom is calm as ever, comforting and reassuring me in the way that only a mother can. I am so glad Dad is home because Mom does not drive. At least we haven’t needed to call a neighbour for help. The nurses are wonderful, the doctor efficient and kind, and the birth painful as expected, but has been relatively “easy and quick”. That is the doctor’s opinion, but then he did not and never will have to experience child birth from the other side.
Here I am holding my first born, my son in my arms. I hardly can believe that it is over! A few hours ago I had been trying to find a comfortable way to sleep and now this tiny bundle is sucking at my swollen breast. Johan Hubert Smulders came into the world on the 23rd of March 1943, a child of the Second World War. Born in Pretoria while his Dad is somewhere in the desert of North Africa. I wonder when Hub will get to see him and even hear that he has arrived. All I know is that my baby is safely in my arms and at my breast. I feel contentment in spite of the lingering pain that followed the birth - a contentment that can only be felt by a woman who has given birth.
The days and weeks following the birth seem to be a blur; so much to experience and so much to learn. You can read all the books and discuss everything a thousand times, but when it happens the experience is uniquely yours and so are the questions. Is he still breathing? Is he getting enough milk? Oh how I long for the comforting words and touch of Hub! When I start feeling sorry for myself I remind myself that during these difficult times I am not the first and certainly will not be the last women who will have to go through this experience without the support of her husband. But that is also not true because I never for a moment felt that I had lost Hub’s support. It is just the reality of the war that separates us. I know with certainty that he will never withdraw himself from our love, and this knowledge comforts me.
Many times during our war enforced separation I sense a tremendous feeling of togetherness that is hard to explain, a togetherness that fills the empty space in my heart, and now as I hold our child I feel it again.