“Where the hell do you think you are going?”

Nellie looked at her boss. He had shouted at her in Afrikaans as she left the table where she sorted and wrapped the peaches for the market. She looked down as she felt her water break, the fluid dribbling slowly down her leg.

“Baas,” she cried out, “I have to go. The baby is coming.” She had always thought that she was only eight months pregnant, which was why she continued going to work. “I have to get home,” she shouted, her face a picture of horror at what had happened, “and quickly.”

“Well, see that you are back at work tomorrow,” he shouted after her as she hurried out the door, hiding the wet spot on her dress with her coat. She started running down the road towards her house as the first labour pain hit her. ‘Liewe Hemel, Good heavens’ she thought as she gritted her teeth, bending over in agony. ‘but this one is different from Jonas. It wants to come, and quickly. I hope I make it home.”

Jonas was her first baby, born a year and a half earlier. She had delivered him in her bed at home, with her neighbour Patricia, as the midwife.

Another labour pain hit her, and she doubled over with the cramp, a cry of pain escaping from her lips. Her home was not that far from where she worked, but as the labour pains started to come quicker, it seemed like 100 miles away.

Nellie’s meager diet had kept her weight down, and her pregnancy had not been that obvious to anyone. She started feeling the pressure of a child wanting to be born. As she passed the Peninsula Maternity Home, she decided to walk into it rather than attempt to walk home and have Patricia help her deliver it.

Two hours after Emily had been born, her delivery helped by nurses at the Home, Nellie dressed herself, collected her belongings and with a newborn baby cradled in her right arm, walked unseen out the back door of the Home. She hobbled slowly along the cobbled Hostley street, a road climbing toward Table Mountain that dominated District Six, to her house, a three-roomed home shaded by a grapevine at the front door. The house boasted a verandah that on a long humid summer evening would see the whole family enjoying supper watching the activities of the street and waiting for the sea breeze to cool the air as the sun set over the bay. No-one was at home. She walked in, placed Emily in a cot that she brought in from the verandah, and lay down in her bed.

Ag Hemel,’ she thought as she closed her eyes, ‘what a day.’

She looked at Emily sleeping in the cot.

Somehow she looks anders (different’) and she hasn’t cried for a nipple yet. I hope there is nothing wrong with her.’