Statement of Birth
By Shameelah Khan
(Transcribed from a short interview over coffee with my mother)
Name: Shameelah Khan (almost not though)
Age: one week (according to my mother)
Weight: 2.5 kgs (again- but my father slightly confirmed this)
Race: X (my mother said that in 1992 it didn’t matter to have a Race on your birth certificate)
Sex: Female (but we shall not discuss what this means as a psychological imposition just yet)
Hair Colour: brown, with a hint of gold (I remember it being curly as a kid)
Eyes: Green (Really- It is weird to experience your eyes as your eyes, but people remind you)
Nationality: South African (This one…)
Religion: Islam (what a mess this one was and what a beautiful surprise it ended up being)
Language: English (?)
Date of Birth: 22/07/1992
Status: Premature (by 2 months)
Your father and my cousin were arguing over a car. I think your father needed my cousin to fix our car because he had a feeling that you were going to be born. Paternal Instinct of a rare kind I think. Anyway- during their bickering, out of nowhere, a cupboard fell on to my head which induced my labour. It had happened rather quickly. You know when something goes by so quickly? Look at you now.
(She ponders off)
(And lights a cigarette but I hate the smell)
Then I was rushed to the hospital and the nurse was hysterical. Apparently, you were crowning. I didn’t know anything- you were my first child- but I knew that I was being guided by my gut. Maternal instincts of a rare kind I think. Usually, you are told to lay down and breathe. Push and breathe. But my body spoke to me that day and said sit up and catch her. That is what I did you know. I pulled you out of me and held you close by before they did their medical procedures. I don’t think doctors and nurses realise how important those moments are before they impose on the body of the new-born.
Just let the mother hold the baby for as long as she wants to before routine. My birth was very quick. 15-20 minutes and there you were.
(drags on the cigarette and blows in the opposite direction to me)
But they had to take you away because you were premature and needed an incubator for a while. You had such a funny-looking head. We used to laugh at you and call you “Egg-Head.”
(Giggling to herself)
And you had no eyebrows. You were so beautiful but so funny-looking my child. But I knew- you would be strong because you were -and are- always a fighter. We named you Naeemah, which means Benevolent or something like that but it didn’t feel right to me. I remember the day after they had you incubated, it was so late but I felt like you were calling me so I snuck out in the night to find you and I got so lost that night. I ended up following the signs to the smoking room instead because your father forgot to bring me my smokes man. Anyway- as luck would have it- there is my cousin’s one friend sitting in the courtyard having a smoke. Always such a small world. And we spoke and spoke and then she asked me what does it mean to be a mother now after so many months had passed by?
(drifting off in thought)
Everything. It meant everything. You know in Islam, before you name a baby, you recite the call to prayer, Athaan, in the ears of the baby and because we had already named you, I didn’t have the time to have that done all over again. So, when the nurse finally brought you as Naeemah to me, there in the middle of the night, all alone, I recited the Athaan by myself in your ears and I re-named you Shameelah, which means all sorts of things but one of the meanings is Everything. I am not sure if it was everything in a literal way or a metaphorical way but for me it was a cosmological name for you.
(she smiles at me)
I think now when I look at your life and all the many things you want to do and know and say and feel and breathe and cry and laugh and create. I made the right choice.
(any final comments mummy?)
Every mother should name her own child.
The Odd Team
In this issue:
renaissance – Juwayriya Bemath
apra wara – Feeya Asmal
Tragic Symphonies – Kii Gxobole
Sonnet for Jamie – Brendon Booth-Jones
Groans of Tomorrow – Nomthandazo Nxabela
Fireworks – Sarah Leck
The Confessions of St Anger – Marguerite Ward
A Mad Woman’s Song to Self – Meshalini Govender