When a 2-week old baby is on a bike.
It hit me immediately the moment I saw them standing their roadside between Chimbiya and Mtendere in Dedza. They had alighted off the bicycle and seeming wanting to take some rest when we arrived on the spot. This was around noon Friday 17th March on our way to Malirana about 13 km from Chimbiya off the Lilongwe-Blantyre Road. I was with my colleague Janet to meet listeners to TWR.
At the sight of the Baby in the young mother’s hands, my heart got angry-wondering what a torture this must be to the fresh mother and the baby too. Within me was anger at the man carrying them but also at the mother carrying the baby. I did not just expect they would be on a bike because it all did not seem right.
I stopped, asked to know where they were going and offered to carry the young mother to the Hospital at Mtendere (belonging to the Roman Catholic about ten kilometres ahead). The man refused and she agreed, though they seemed not very sure they were really saying no. I asked, “Are you sure?” to which they responded, “Ayi, pitani, tiyenda…” (No, just go ahead, we will make it).
I said, “Are you afraid of us-afraid that we might go with the baby since this happens sometimes? For your information, we are from Trans World Radio and would really want to help…” At the mention of Trans World Radio, their faces brightened up. Within me, I recalled the many times people have refused a lift yet they are desperate. Honestly, I was not going to let this moment pass like that. NO. This team needed help.
The man asked, “Ah Trans World Radio? And you are…?” I responded, “I am Victor Kaonga… If you doubt, see my TWR-branded T-Shirt I am wearing”. But also here is a brochure for TWR…?
I joked that that they looked to be first time parents and that I could identify with the pride but also their struggle in taking a baby to the hospital. He explained that they were going to the hospital for medical check as she had delivered nine days earlier at Dedza District Hospital.
He asked who the lady is (in the vehicle on the passenger side). I advised him to come near and hear her response by himself. He told us that they are regular listeners to TWR and they were very blessed to have met some TWR people they had just been hearing about.
His wife happily walked towards the car and I promised to take her and the baby to the hospital. He was to come behind us, cycling his way up. I pitied the young mother and the baby-yes even her father. But I was proud of their courage and adventure.
As we drove on, we learnt that the baby had been born on 8thMarch and is a boy, named Truth. She did confirm that this was her first born child. With her husband, they had done teacher training but at their home around Chimbiya, from where they were waiting for posting.
The young mother told us that while she had delivered at Dedza District Hospital which was about 20 km away from their home and more accessible by public transport, they were advised to get to the nearest hospital for post-delivery check up.
It was lunch-time at the time we arrived at the hospital. This meant that she was to wait for an hour and half before being attended to. I asked for her phone number so that we could call her on our way back and possibly pick her again should they be through by then. She had left her and her hubby’s phone at Chimbiya to have the batteries charged. I then wrote my number on a paper and we agreed that they could borrow a phone later and update us. Thankfully her hubby arrived and I gave the same instructions.
On our way back from Malirana, we decided to branch to the hospital to check if they had been assisted-after all we had received no call by this time (almost at 2:45 pm). As we approached the car park, we noticed they were just getting out of the hospital-just on time as they were now through. They, like us, were overjoyed to see each other again sensing the timeliness of our arrival.
The man escorted her into the car while he was carrying the baby. We told him that were going to drop her at their home at Chimbiya. He said he had no words with which to thank us. He gladly stayed behind to pedal off after us.
As we neared her home, she guided us on how to reach her village but also on which route to take back to the main road. At her home, she insisted we needed to alight off the vehicle so that she could give us some fresh maize.
Yes I was both angry and excited. Angry at the man thinking he was cruel to the wife and the baby. Angry at the young mother, feeling she was unfair to the baby. Yes angry at myself that I have not been angry enough, may be, to educate new parents on how to prepare for their children. I had told her that I have kids myself and even retired from having more!
But I was also excited that in spite of our hustles earlier on the other routes before Chimbiya, the best we could do was to assist this family of Philemon, Annie and Truth. These were my real listeners.