Today’s big news out of Tanzania is the stowaway who joined us on our flight to Dar last month. We’re expecting a new addition to the Herickhoff clan, coming to a theater [probably not very] near you on February 25, 2017!
Paige is excited thus far, and has requested that we name him (!) “Floppy”. I told her we’d take it under consideration. We were initially cautious to spring the news on her in conjunction with an international move + leaving all her friends. But out of nowhere at the end of July, she informed John:
- “We need more kids in this house.”
- “Daddy, I want a boy baby. So you have to grow him in your belly because mommies have girl babies and daddies have boy babies.”
We took that as a positive sign, so we’ve started talking about it with her casually, and let her join me for an appointment at the embassy last week to hear the baby’s heartbeat. She’s not yet correlated this new arrival with any reduction in our willingness to watch her every move or play every game she dreams up. We hope to keep up that illusion as long as possible. 😉
Of course, being pregnant in Africa does not come without some degree of additional…excitement? For those who knew my mother, you’ll probably agree that it is for the best that she did not have to hear that her advanced maternal age daughter would be spending most of her 2nd pregnancy living in Tanzania, a winner of the highest “category 5 risk” for malaria designation.
A full write up on the tradeoffs of taking (or not taking) one of the three recommended malaria chemoprophylaxis (a.k.a. antimalarial meds) would probably fill 3-4 more blog posts… and lose the interest of 98% of my readers. In a nutshell, there’s only 1 drug approved by the FDA for use during pregnancy, and its MedlinePlus page includes the statement “Mefloquine may cause serious mental health problems.” Sooo, that’s relaxing.
HOWEVER, I’ve been on it for about 7 weeks now and haven’t experienced any of the well-documented side effects, so we’re hoping that I fall into the “if you tolerate it, it’s a great option for you” camp. We’ll re-assess antimalarial strategy post-baby, but for now, avoiding the serious risks of getting malaria while pregnant won out over the less-definitive risks of the meds.
The other obvious question is whether I’ll be giving birth here in Tanzania. Per the embassy’s medical handbook: “Evacuation for delivery is expected for all pregnant mission personnel at 34 weeks of gestation, or earlier if indicated. A US delivery is strongly recommended, as this usually will ensure optimal care to both the mother and the baby.” There are several hospitals here in Dar (including Aga Khan, which would be our likely go-to if we had an urgent medical issue here that was beyond what the embassy’s Medical Unit could handle), but I’d say that out of an abundance of caution, you get medevac’d for most conditions.
Therefore, I’ll be flying back to the US in early January 2017, assuming all continues to go smoothly. January & February tend to be the hottest, least pleasant months here in Dar, so you’d think I would be smug about avoiding that. However, I’m heading back to the polar opposite – and I do mean polar. Mankato, Minnesota is supposed to be LOVELY that time of year, right? 😉
We did briefly bandy about a recommendation from one of John’s colleagues who medevac’d from Dar to Cape Town, South Africa to give birth… I had grand visions of 3 months lounging in a beachfront condo with 70-degree weather surrounded by wineries and penguin colonies. And then I awoke from my blackout and remembered: oh wait, I’m giving birth, accompanied by our 3 year old daughter with only whatever possessions fit into our suitcases.
My logistics + mom brain won out, so we’re headed to the ease of Grandma Penny’s house which has a separate apartment + crib + toys + dachshund. And the bonus of getting to see all our family in the US before we head back to Africa (probably @ the end of April)! And we’ll STILL get our penguin fix when I head to South Africa next month for my second trimester appointment medevac in Pretoria. John & Paige are coming with me, and we’ll spend 5 days in Cape Town before flying back to the Johannesburg airport (about 30 min from Pretoria).
Anyway, I feel like we’re navigating the challenges of “pregnant in Africa” as well as can be expected. It’s hard not to feel a little paranoid/crazy, especially when this baby cost us about a zillion percent more just to get this point than Paige did (ask me about that over a dirty martini in six months)… but so far so good! We soldier on with lots of mefloquine & DEET, and not so much street food or bajaj rides.
I have high hopes of not letting an infant constrain our exploration of Tanzania… but we are hoping to squeeze in a safari or two yet this year. You know, just in the unlikely event that bringing a newborn on long bumpy jeep rides & in tents near lions ends up feeling unwise.
I’ll go ahead and capture the thought that was forming in your mind: “You mean unwise in a way that bringing a three year old on a safari doesn’t??” Valid point, but as I’ve already heard myself say 40 times since arriving here – everything is relative. (I mostly say it about the caliber of the various pizza options, but it applies to this too.) Four years ago, I’m pretty sure you couldn’t have paid me to entertain the idea of bringing a threenager into the middle of the Serengeti. But now that we have a 2nd on the way? I think Paige is only 2-3 more Lion King movie viewings away from being a safari pro.