Day 13 – Showtime


Last night we wound down with a very relaxed but also exciting evening of Henna tattooing. Sofia had said we need to be home by 6.30 because someone was coming to paint her belly. In the morning we had been ‘ooing and arhing’ over all wonders of artistic designs on pregnant bellies which Sofia found on the internet. I was expecting a grand artist to be coming, so was somewhat surprised therefore to find that it was Rumis’ daughter Fatima who was going to be our artist of the evening. Fatima is just 12 years old! I was doubtful that some of the intricate art from the pictures we saw could be replicated by such a young child. However, I have been delightfully surprised by many things about my time in Karachi and Fatima’s artistic skills were just one more such occasion because, boy oh boy, is she clever. The beautiful floral and bird design flowed up around Sofia’s pregnant bump all the way to between her breasts. Sofia was like an excited puppy dancing around showing off her new funky baby belly. We took lots of pictures and no woman could have appeared prouder of herself than this happy mum to be.



And so another day in this strange and interesting country was falling to a close. I felt tired and decided to take to my bed and try to sleep a lot earlier than usual. So 10.30pm saw me winding down and almost ready to fall asleep.


However, day 12 was determined to end on a bang and day 13 to be the ultimate day, the climax, the reason for me being here. The baby was on its way!


The long awaited knock came at approx. 11pm. I jumped up out of bed in a nanosecond and opened the door to find Sofia in a state of nervous excitement, “I am having contractions, it’s just started what do I do?” she asked. I lead her to the sofa and asked her to remember all the talking we had done. I reminded her that this could all stop, that it was early yet and could potentially go on for quite some time. Eventually, after lots of reassurance, I went back to bed, only for her to knock just 40 minutes later to tell me that water was running down her leg! It didn’t take long of observing Sofia for me to know that this labour was coming on fast and I was not going to be getting any sleep. Instead I cleaned my teeth, pulled on some clothes and began to do what I do best. I was once again in my element and supporting a woman in her hours of need.

“The room was filled with positivity, with love, with oxytocin, and with belief.”


All worries about us being in another country, Sofia having had a previous caesarean section, about post-partum, resuscitating babies and shoulder dystocia floated away to the back of my mind to be replaced with calm confidence and strong belief in the process that was beginning. I had done my skills drills in my mind over the preceding days and had all safety plans in place. I knew Sofia was making fully informed choices and we had mutual trust and a strong bond between us. It was going to be fine. There was no room for doubt, no room for worry. The room was filled with positivity, with love, with oxytocin, and with belief. There was only left for a little more love to enter the room, and that love would be bought by the two people yet to know that labour had begun, Azaan and Muna.


As Sofia called to be doused with ice water all over her body, to bring comfort from the heat-filling surges of power that were rushing through her body, I observed that labour was progressing fast. I could see, as she lay over the sofa with her back to me the Rhombus of Michaelis bulging proud, and as I massaged her back I could also spy the telling pink line of progress creeping up between her buttocks. I dialled Muna’s number from Sofia’s telephone and in turn she called Azaan to come too. Sunia, who had roused sleepily from her bed was, as per the plan, filling the pool. However, one glance at the ever deepening water and I was off in my mind arguing with myself about what I thought. The water was not the clear, crystal see through depths I was used to in the UK, but instead it was a murky yellow colour. Did this mean it wasn’t clean? Was this a problem for birthing the baby or was this just normal for here? I suddenly had horrible thoughts of a baby with legionaries disease flitting though my mind. Oh dear what to do?


“The Entonox we had fought so hard to find was some comfort to her.”


Sofia started to get expulsive whilst laying on her side on the sofa at around 01.30, and was just a little distressed. The Entonox we had fought so hard to find was some comfort to her, and she sucked on it during every contraction. Afterwards she said she was glad of the Entonox mask because it muffled the noises she needed to make and that helped her not worry about little Ebo hearing her. Once a concerned mother, always a concerned mother!


The ice cold flannels were giving her lots of comfort and she continued to ask that they be put all over her body. I looked over at the warm pool and thought she probably wouldn’t enjoy it anyway. However, she wanted to try it and so we helped her into the murkiness.



Unfortunately for the doubts and worries in my mind concerning the water quality, she found it to be heavenly. A vaginal examination in the pool found Sofia to be already 9 centimetres dilated. Wow! “I never got past 2 last time” she cried with a delighted smile on her face. She continued to be expulsive and I continued to fret about the water colour. I had taken my birth mirror all the way to Pakistan, but there was absolutely no chance of it allowing me to see if the birth was imminent in the yellow murky water. I was worried the birth was close, and by now the water issue was a high priority in my mind. I wanted to get her out of the pool! Sofia had now been pushing strongly, albeit prior to being fully dilated, for around 2 hours so I suggested “a change of position may help baby come down, so how about a quick walk around the room?” Sofia agreed happily, and out the murky water she got to my instant relief.


"Baby was gently born into my waiting hands at 04.16.”


A supported squat showed baby’s head clearly visible with a black mop of hair. It was now 03.35, and Sofia asked me “how much longer?” That typical, asked a million times over by women in labour, question. I felt confident to tell this brave woman that it would be minutes, not hours, before she would hold her baby. After a few supported squats Sofia wanted to lay on her side on the floor, and did so for the last bit of birthing her baby. As baby was gently born into my waiting hands at 04.16, I noticed a tiny hand up next to a shoulder, a hand that Sofia and I had regularly massaged up and away from the pain it had been causing in Sofia’s pubic bone in the last few days of pregnancy.



As Sofia reached down to receive her healthy baby daughter, her emotion was raw, and I could hardly see for the tears that coursed down my face. Within just a few minutes the placenta was also born with ease. No woman could ask for a more perfect birth. There was no damage to her perineum and no bleeding, just prefect physiology and a whole room full of positivity and love. There were tears and sobs from Muna, and Azaan too wiped his face as he was gazed on in wonder. It was an experience he could never have imagined, especially after the last traumatic birth of Ebo.



What a start to day 13, not unlucky in any form for this delighted new mother, her midwife and her very supportive wonderful mother Muna. We really were the dream team!


“Just like Mary Poppins the wind has changed and I am no longer needed.”


The end to day 13 was somewhat different to the exciting beginning. We all sat around lounging and eating snacks and sweets bought and prepared by the extended family and a few visitors who popped in to congratulate the new family. We let Dr Azra know that baby was born and all was well. She was delighted, and said she had been hoping that it would all go to plan and Sofia stayed home! She has offered to come and visit tomorrow so she can say she has seen Sofia and baby, which means she can sign paperwork and get a birth certificate. So now just like Mary Poppins the wind has changed and I am no longer needed. My job is done and I must think about leaving….it seems strange that after all this waiting and wondering that in the blink of an eye it is over. I don’t quite know how I feel about that.


Day 12 – Reflections and Relaxation


I really had high hopes that after the lovely relaxing and laughter-filled day yesterday, that last night I would get a knock on my door. However, I have to be patient as I always tell women and accept that baby will come when she is ready. Sofia did tell me this morning that she had been aware of cramps during the night, so at least we are getting some positive signs.


Last night I finally finished, not only 2 seasons of Game of Thrones but also all my caramel eggs have now been, most enjoyably, eaten! So now both my milestones have come and gone. I am just praying now to my birth angels that the next milestone, my birthday, will not come and go with me still here and still waiting, because by then I am sure it will not be quite so patiently. The good news, however, is that when I told Sofia that my night watch ING (bit of a pun there on night watch MEN, for those readers who are Game of Throne fans) had come to an end, she instantly made a phone call and, hey presto, within 15 minutes’ series 3,4 and 5 were delivered to the door. There are some benefits in countries where the rules are not always the priority.



Talking to the maids about their experiences of childbirth is both amazing and shocking. Rumi has had 4 children, 2 of which she had at home and 2 in a village hospital. The two she had at home sound as if they were easy, straightforward and, most interestingly, the things she says and advice she gives to Sofia are spot on. Like walking and squatting cuts the pain and how hot water makes the milk flow from the breast and the baby flow from the body. She talks about those births with so much instinct and control. She describes how she knows that when the pains come close together the baby is close as well and that she removes her knickers just at the correct time.


“Woman’s rights in childbirth just did not exist, let alone basic compassion or respect in many places.”


However, as soon as she talks about her hospital births (don’t read “hospital” as anything you may have seen in the west) her whole manner changes and instead she talks about what she was allowed to do and what they told her was happening. How “they” know best because she knows nothing. It upset me to hear that they make the women remove their clothes and they are kept naked from as soon as contractions start. They are given no privacy from male hospital workers and if they refuse to do what they are told they are often slapped! I later discussed this with Dr Azra and she confirmed that woman’s rights in childbirth just did not exist, let alone basic compassion or respect in many places.



Sofia had to visit an aunt for lunch today and so I was left for a couple of hours to my own devices, which being a lover of my own company, I quite enjoyed. I am never completely alone because the house is always a bustle with the staff cooking or cleaning, or visiting from upstairs. The upstairs chef bought my lunch on a tray and I knew, as Sofia has previously told me, that he has a tendency for his dishes to be slightly spicier/hotter. I had buttered chicken, which is a curry in a creamy sauce, a fish dish, also in a green sauce of some kind, aubergines in a yoghurt dressing, a salad, which I love because the lemon dressing they add make them taste so divine, and to round it off and to mop up at the end, one of the light breads he makes called roti, similar to a naan but not so stodgy or large. It was lovely and watching the telly as I ate (or in this case my laptop) what could be better?


Sofia was back by 3.30, then it was off to the beauty spa we go. Sofia had received a gift voucher for treatments and at the rate of £3- £4 per treatment, I was not going to pass up a chance like that. I had chosen a leg wax, manicure and blow dry, and the leg wax was first. Being dark skinned most women here are hairy and hate it, so they are obsessed with hair removal. My hairs are fine, blond, and hardly visible, but still I dislike the odd stray ones on the bottom half of my legs so decided to get rid. After getting me to put on a very (not) flattering elasticated skirt I hopped up onto the table where she proceeded to apply the hot wax… With a knife! Yup I kid you not, a typical stainless steel knife you would eat your dinner with and she certainly was not gentle. Ouch! Putting the wax on hurt more than stripping it off and the ouch factor was not from the heat. But not only did she wax my legs, she waxed my TOES! I have not even ever seen any hairs on my toes!



Next came a very relaxing manicure. The manicurist sat me in a great big lazy boy recliner and turned off the lights while she made my short nails look as best she could. The blow dry came next which I loved best because I hate blow drying my own hair, well actually I CAN’T do it myself without a few heated rollers to help me. All finished and now to pay the bill, grand total of £10.32 (1600 Rupees). Bargain!


“Home is what you make it and this is where Sofia grew up and where her heart is.”

Yesterday I wrote quite a lot about the pollution and poverty and last night showing Sophie, my daughter, some of the pictures via email she asked ” why do they live there”? Knowing that Sofia has a British passport I have often wondered the same. However, home is what you make it and this is where Sofia grew up and where her heart is. To be honest it’s not all doom, gloom and dirt. As the days have passed I can honestly say I have grown to love being here despite all the issues. The shopping mall I went to was modern and bright and the beauty parlour and restaurants nice too. The beach was wonderful even if unlike western beaches where life is mostly vibrant and exciting. The area where Sofia lives might be a bit of a building site now, but that’s because it’s area 8 whereas area 7 is finished and looks very habitable with nice roads, big individually designed houses, clean streets, flowers and greenery (even though there are still beggars to remind you of the horrors not far away). But life is not all about how something appears on the outside or the difficulties we face, it is about how you feel on the inside and overcoming difficulties to see the positives. I feel very comfortable with this group of people, I feel happy to be here, I feel positive vibes, I feel almost at home… Almost!


Day 11 – Due Date

It’s is Sofia’s due date today so the day called for keeping busy with a fun activity.

After our impromptu visit yesterday to the pretty grotty local beach, the plan was a trip to a “lovely beach” far different apparently from what I had already seen, and about an hour’s drive away.


The journey to this much further afield beach was worth the trip alone for the sights on the way, for if I thought I had seen Karachi at its worst in regards to dirt, pollution, rubbish poverty and grey, grey, grey, then I had a rude awakening. It truly was unexplainable but I will try. First a stop at the baker shop with sausage and chicken pastries – to supplement the picnic Muna had already prepared. Knowing Muna the picnic would consist of a tasty variety of foods fit for a king that she had “just thrown together”, so any purchased supplements, however delicious, I am sure would not be a patch on what we already have. While Muna shopped and the rest of us waited outside, we discussed the armed guard outside the fruit shop opposite, and I had them all in stitches with laughter as I did a John Wayne impression of ” your money or your apples”.



As we left the criss-cross, busy streets and huge billboards of Karachi behind we started to drive along a straight, quieter road with low concrete buildings either side. With no greenery or other scenic colours, it reminded me of driving through a cement works. Further driving and we were going through shanty towns of indescribable filth and decay. I took so many pictures from the windows of the car because the written description could never suffice.



Soon the grey gave way to vibrant colours as the roads began to be filled once more with huge colourful trucks. Muna explained that there is big business in customising the trucks, and we did see some pretty impressive decorations to the huge vehicles all around us. The vast, busy road we were on was a dual carriageway, and on the central reservation I noticed that someone had attempted to bring colour the landscape by planting palm trees in the middle, although sadly they had all died through, I am pretty sure, the dust and pollution. Most were now fallen black stumps of rotten vegetation. The few that were still standing had no trace of green left on the branches. They, like everything else, were a grey dust covered mess on the landscape.



All along the sides of the road the piles of garbage were smoking as if fires had been lit, but I am pretty sure it was the mixtures of gases produced by the waste and the heat of the sun that caused the ignition. I was dismayed to see the ever present scooters with families riding on them in amongst the trucks. One had a baby of around a year sitting ahead of daddy, and although a helmet would have been good, a face mask against the dust I sure would have been a better health protection.


"There are huts on the beach that are owned by the upper classes so that they had sun protection and somewhere to change.”


Eventually the roads started to clear and get wider, although by now this picture of a beautiful beach with palms trees had become a myth in my mind. After travelling through such awfulness how could a beautiful beach just appear? Sofia had told me that there are huts on the beach that are owned by the upper classes so that they had sun protection and somewhere to change, cook etc. and that we had managed to borrow one such hut from a friend. By now having seen the views from the car and knowing we were close to our destination I didn’t expect much. However, I was not disappointed when we finally arrived. About ten minutes away from our destination and the air suddenly began to get fresher and the landscape cleaner.


When we finally arrived I felt excited that this indeed would be a lovely day at the beach. The huts turned out to be concrete bungalows, although the owners had tried to individualise then with colourful doors, wooden window shutters and fenced off garden areas. The one we had use of had lovely Mediterranean blue shutters and doors, and although it was basic with concrete floors, it did have a terrace directly on the sandy beach and clean modern garden furniture.



The inside was as basic but again clean. It had 2 bathrooms and a kitchen, so all in all it was a nice place to spend the day. The surrounding areas was probably the nicest, cleanest place I had seen so far but still would make Leysdown on Sea look like paradise in relation to luxury, or even any amenities because there weren’t any! Sofia explained that very few Pakistani people would go to a beach for recreation.


The small cove had clean, soft sand and a warm blue green sea. Not in any way like the crystal depths of the clean Mediterranean Sea, but certainly on par with the cleanest of beaches in the UK. Muna, as I suspected, had packed delicious foods including a chicken drumstick casserole in a barbeque sauce, homemade couscous with mushrooms and all the pastries and fruits to supplement. By the time we arrived we were all ravenous and dug in deep. Sofia had been eating loads in the last day or so and saying she could not believe how hungry she was. Now I noticed she was walking around with a chicken drumstick stuck in her mouth even before she got Ebo settled on the terrace with a plate of food, such was her hunger. Hmmm… due date and suddenly starving hungry? Was this a sign? By now I was looking for signs in every action and word she said!



After we had eaten I sat in the sun (the first time since I had arrived) in shorts and a vest and gazed out at the wondrous view of the Arabian Sea. The place was deserted so getting our arms and legs out was of no concern and it was bliss. The sea just a few feet in front of us and the sky a beautiful deep blue. Finally, something pretty to look at! Of course Ebo, Sofia’s little boy, was mega excited and wanted to walk along the beach, so as soon as we were stuffed to the brim we all went paddling in the sea. The lack of beach culture means that, not only do Pakistani people pretty much avoid the beach, neither do they swim for fear of the sea. So it was with great hilarity that Sharif waded in up to his knees shrieking with exaggerated trepidation.



I left this lovely family to their hilarity and fun and wondered further round the picturesque little cove. I always have a deep sense of aloneness and loneliness when I am on a beach. The gentle sounds of the waves masking other sounds allowed me to go deep into my thoughts about my family and friends so far away right now. With the faces in mind of my darling Sean, the children I am so proud of, and the grandchildren I love so as my heart could break, I wrote a message in the hard packed wet sand to home. I took a picture of “I miss you” so I could send it to them and wondered what they were all doing at that exact moment.



As I tell women in labour, everything ends eventually, so as the lovely day drew to a close we fed the local dogs our leftovers and packed up our belongings. As the sun was getting cooler in the sky we all bundled back in to car and headed back home.


“On this same journey a friend of hers had been held up in her car at gunpoint and robbed.”


Sofia’s due date was drawing to a close and it didn’t look like baby was going to be born today. A little way down the road Sofia spotted an ice cream seller and we stopped for ice cream. I asked if was safe to get out of the car, Sofia said “no” but Muna said “yes” so being the person I am, I jumped out and did a little bit of videoing of the surroundings and the very funny little ice cream sellers bike. After Sharif had purchased the ice creams he called me back to get into the car. “Yes” said Muna “we don’t want you kidnapped do we”? Apparently on this same journey a friend of hers had been held up in her car at gunpoint and robbed and that is why they never drive themselves.


By the time we got back to Karachi rush-hour was underway and it was like a mixture of banger racing, donkey derby and whacky races with every man for himself. After going the wrong way round a roundabout (us and several other vehicles) and being waved on as if it was fine and dandy by the traffic police, I commented that there was no notion of lane observation. I burst into laughter when Muna, in her ever positive way replied “Oh no, the traffic here is very fluid.” I think if Muna was inspecting s**t she would only see the sweet corn…


So still no baby, but hey, I am a midwife… I have patience!


Day 10 – Sightseeing


After a slow start, today turned out to be quite an adventure. Drugs are cheap and everything is apparently available to purchase here, so Muna took me downtown to see if I could replenish my supply at a fraction of the cost from prices in the UK… a very cute helpful little Pakistani pharmacist is looking into my order and will come back to us tomorrow. The journey there saw the usual parade of beggars but also a few transvestites, who are generally ostracised by their family and society, so need to beg for a living. We drove down tiny streets the type of which I hadn’t previously seen and it appeared that the shops were all spilling into their neighbours. The types of shops ranged from those selling fruit and groceries to fixing bags and selling bicycles. There were elderly and deformed old men and women sitting at the curb side and a poor dog with a shocking, festering wound on it is haunches the size of a tea plate just walking along the road. I wonder if you eventually become immune to such atrocities?



The search for Entonox continued, but finally we appeared to have a breakthrough with a company that will rent us a cylinder, although they needed us to to meet the agent at a hospital on the other side of town. They were also renting us the equipment to use the Entonox and I was delighted that it was an identical set to that which I have in the UK, only brand spanking new! I was happy. So now if Sofia needs pain relief in labour it will not be a matter of giving up her dream of a home birth and instead transfer to hospital to get it.


“Huge and vast with the dark, dirty sea on one side and the concrete Jungle of crumbling buildings of Karachi on the other.”


On the journey home Muna decided that a trip to the beach was on the cards. As I have said before Munas’ dedication to Karachi is commendable and she appears to overlook the horrors I see on a daily basis and instead points out “beautiful this” and “beautiful that”. I have yet to see anything that I could in all honestly attribute the adjective “beautiful” to, except maybe the wonderful array of flowers at the Golf Club or planted around the ‘oasis houses’ as I have begun to regard them as. And so as we pulled up at the beach she was pointing out the beauty all around but all I could see was a beach like no other. Huge and vast with the dark, dirty sea on one side and the concrete Jungle of crumbling buildings of Karachi on the other. I wondered at the many families all around who were obviously enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze. I have to admit at least it had lovely light, sparkly, soft sand. However, I would not have wanted to walk barefoot on the sand for the visible rubbish atop it made me wonder about what dangers lay beneath!


We started to walk towards the hard, packed, wet sand nearer to the far out tide. We were instantly approached by a man plying his trade. His trade was a huge, brightly decorated, saddle carpeted camel. I had no desire to ride the beast but took a few pictures instead.



Next came what I can only describe as truly my worse ever nightmare. A man carrying a cloth bag across his back and a musical instrument held in front which appeared to be some sort of trumpet. I stopped to take a picture and Sofia, not knowing what an impact her words would have said “he is a snake charmer he has cobras in that bag!” My horror showed on my face. Did I run? Did I scream? Did I break out into a cold sweat? Oh yes all three because my real snake phobia is the only thing in life that can completely disarm me. As my feet peddled the sand I felt like I was trying to run in one of those dreams where you get nowhere fast. Sofia fell about laughing as she chased after me to give reassurance he wouldn’t be getting those slippery blighters out of the bag to do his snake charming unless I paid him! I thought how my darling Sean would have laughed had he seen that little episode.



Further down the beach we went to find horses waiting to be ridden, more camels along with quad bikes and beach buggies for hire. Many food sellers with rickety barrows of wares or trays of goods slung around their necks. The ice cream man with his half bike-half trolley and tinny music was such a funny sight to see. The ever present, lovely Sharif, the trusted family driver, asked if I wanted to try the food but the last thing I wanted was Deli belly so I politely declined. Nothing looked new or well-kept, everything had a feeling of old and decaying but it was clear that families, like they do the world over, were enjoying the fun relaxed atmosphere. Muna, Sofia and I resorted to acting like silly school girls as we pointed, nudged each other, and giggled at one of the stallion horses, who was keen to show us his particular type of wares. Woah big boy!



One the way home we stopped in a supermarket and, although it was messy and dusty underfoot, I have to say the products available had many English brands and they even had guys packing the bags at the checkouts…they don’t even have that in Sainsbury. It’s such an oxymoron of a country!



Day 9 – Bling


Corruption is big business in Pakistan, and Karachi sees its fair share of it. It was one of the first things Muna had told me about when she collected me from the airport. Corruption and the complete lack of accountability. Earlier in the week I went to the cinema. The trip was more for the experience rather than the film itself. I wanted to experience normal life for the Pakistani people who could afford such luxuries. The auditorium was much the same as any other worldwide and the nachos just as delicious, but as I sat there munching away, waiting for the film to start, to my horror the lights suddenly came up bright, the loud booming sounds of what obviously was the national anthem started and everyone commenced to stand. I was embarrassed and every part of my anarchistic personality (OK, not quite as bad as that) wanted to stay seated, however I did not want to draw even more attention to myself. I was already the only white, western, lone female in the auditorium, so nachos in hand and frantically wiping my chin of cheese sauce, I stood and listened to the stomping sounds of the song which, although I knew the ethos, I certainly could not understand the language.


“Sofia had already told me that the best way to earn a living from corruption here in Karachi is to join the police force.”


At its conclusion I quickly sunk back in to my big comfy seat, relieved when the lights dimmed and I once more had my anonymity. I presumed the film would now begin, but no, first we had the adverts and I was surprised and pleased to see an advert calling for Pakistanis to reject corruption. I supposed that the Government funded such an advert but I also had a sneaky suspicion that within that same Government, corruption was rife. Sofia had already told me that the best way to earn a living from corruption here Karachi is to join the police force, where you will be paid such a poor salary (hardly enough to feed your family) that you have to make it up to a living wage somehow. What better way to supplement your earnings than by using a bit of extortion on the 100’s of moped riders? Pull them over, threaten them with prison for some actual or invented driving misdemeanour, or hand over a fine which went straight into the policeman’s pocket!

I just thought I would mention that because day 9 has been pretty uneventful. Sofia went out this morning to sort out some banking issues, so I spent the best part of the day feet up and watching movies until around 5pm when the typical and usual trip out was decided upon, and I once again became the centre point for the excursion.


Oh yes, and Muna sent me an email with a link to the write up about the comedy at the Literary festival. If you click on this link you can see from the photo just how packed it was and read about all the satire comedy that was going on ( I am sure I can see the back of my red head down at the front on the left hand side).


I had noticed some pretty shoes in the shopping Malls earlier in the week which, unlike the expensive ones made by Sofia’s cousin, were within my budget. Muna had told me she would take me to some other cheap but nice shoe shops and today was the day!

Arriving at the street where the many shoes shops were I was no longer surprised to see the armed guards outside, but still took the obligatory photo to prove it.



I entered what felt like an Aladdin’s cave of bling. The shoes were beautiful. All manner of styles and all manner of coloured beads, stones and designs. I wanted sandals and I was spoilt for choice! With padded innersoles they felt so comfortable on my feet, unlike the hard flat bottoms of most of the UK sandals.




It was so hard to choose from the vast array of pretty styles. They made me wish I could buy lots and take them all home, but I calmed down eventually and settled on 3 pairs. The final price made me smile with delight, for who doesn’t love a bargain? Three pairs of well-made comfy pretty sandals for £30! Result.



Then home to, as usual, a delicious dinner of several new foods I had never tried, and that was end of day 9. Pretty mundane day really; still no baby and just a bit of sparkle to ward off the homesickness…


Day 8 – Home Comforts


Last night after my usual indulgence of a caramel egg accompanied by an episode of Game of Thrones I settled down to sleep. I had been asleep a while, but was aware that the night was early when I heard Sofia’s small 2-year-old boy crying loudly. The crying went on for some time and I could also hear Sofia’s raised voice and that of her estranged husband Azaan. I learnt this morning that Sofia, at the end of her tether with her 39 plus weeks of pregnancy, an unwell child and a horrible cold, had an understandable meltdown when Ebo was restless and unwilling to sleep.


“She was fast becoming a much loved surrogate daughter and I wanted her to feel better.”


In desperation she had called Muna to come for support. Azaan had seen Muna arrive at the house from his location, visiting his mother upstairs. He had come into the house and taken the little boy from Sofia in a supposed answer to her stress, which upset Sofia even more and she had spent a first ever enforced night away from little Ebo. She looked tired, drained and sad, and instinctively I put my arms around her and held her close. She was fast becoming a much loved surrogate daughter and I wanted her to feel better.


As an outsider I could see the dynamics of everyone’s feelings and points of view when personal issue came up for discussion. Of course my 100% sympathies lie with Sofia, but when a young couple meet in their teens, parenthood is also hard on a young man of 21.


“Often the beautiful melodious sounds of him singing his favourite Adele songs can be heard echoing through the building.”


So today Sofia understandably wanted to spend as little time as possible in the house where Azaan works and her in laws live in close proximity. As well as being a film producer, Azaan is an accomplished musician and singer, and often the beautiful melodious sounds of him singing his favourite Adele songs can be heard echoing through the building. Add problems of love to the situation and I could empathise with Sofia’s desire to escape. So at noon it was off to Muna’s house we went. A nice picnic on the grass in the garden discussing all aspects of post-natal care whiled away the hours of a quiet Sunday. I had taken my laptop, thinking that a quiet afternoon may mean I would watch a movie of some sort, but I kidded myself that they wouldn’t have something planned, and by 4pm we were in the car being driven to meet yet another family friend who “would love to meet Virginia”.



Auntie Arlya was a lovely woman who had lived a lot in USA. She and her husband had 4 kids ranging from 19 to 5 years old. All dressed very western and in a lovely big house behind yet another high wall, I was intrigued by the accomplishments of the children of parents who encouraged them to be responsible entrepreneurs. One of the boys of around 13 kept chickens and made chicken feed that he sold, one kept a vegetable patch, and the 16-year-old daughter made exquisite high end sandals. They showed me her workshop in the basement and the shoe collection. All very beautiful with amazing decorations and adornments of glass stones and beads in various colours and designs. All the different kinds and colours of leather was spread out on racks, as every pair of shoes is hand made. The prices however were not cheap for being made in Pakistan. A pair I very much liked were £30, and in Pakistan that’s a lot of money, so asked why they were so expensive? The answer was that they were being sold to high end Pakistanis and they could afford it! Fair play to her I suppose.


Accompanied with our tea we were served delicious homemade cottage cheese. Delicate mounds of mouth-watering softness with added herbs, spices and flavourings. Look out family of mine; I will be trying the recipe myself because it sounds very easy to make indeed. Whilst chatting about food the topic of sweets came up, and I happened to mention one of my favourites is liquorice. Oh boy I should have stayed quiet! Cue driver and we are off on a mission to the imported sweetie shop to find Virginia her home comforts. In a little side street, typical with small higgledy piggledy shops (although surprisingly free of the usual rubbish and filth) we came to a brightly lit modern shop, the contents of which made me long for home and my sofa in front of the TV.



Full from ceiling to floor with every confectionary Sainsbury has to offer, even Sainsbury’s own brands. Every chocolate biscuit and sweet I could very wish for filled the shelves. Unfortunately, the much craved for liquorice was nowhere to be seen, but knowing Muna as I have come to, I suspect it won’t be long before she tracks some down.



And so after a day that had an emotional start we ended on a high and a fun evening chatting and laughing. Little Ebo thought it would be hilarious to use the air pump needed for pumping up Sofia’s birth ball for pumping up mummy’s tummy instead… a tummy my enquiring hands and eyes noticed had grown considerably in the week I had been here!


Day 7 – Literary Festival


Today I finally woke at a reasonable time and found at 09.30 Muna was already here and wondering if I would like to accompany her to the Karachi literary festival, where she excitedly said I would meet lots of feminist and free thinking woman like me! It was being held in a Hotel and we had to go through the usual security checks. There are armed guards at every establishment, but anywhere where groups gather they also search your bags and you go through metal detectors. This event also had armed guards looking down on us from the hotel rooftops. Far from making me feel safe it hits home about the daily dangers.


Once inside however it was awash with exhibition stands and stage/seating areas inside and out. I was astounded at the amount of presentations going on. There were many scholars running sessions and talking about all sorts of issues, but the one that caught our attention was “laughter, the best medicine”. The speakers were 2 Pakistani men and one Indian, who were stand-up comics. They were here to discuss the place of satire comedy in the life of a Muslim. I have never seen such a packed audience. The auditorium had a seating capacity of more than some west end shows, and still people packed in to stand.



The place was in uproar with laughter and I was frustrated that I didn’t understand more. One joke went along this line: “I was robbed a while ago in Karachi. I was sitting in my car when a man approached and held his gun to the window, he was saying “mobile phone arsehole mobile phone arsehole”, but quite honestly I didn’t know if he wanted to rob me or have a relationship with me.”


This was from a comedian named Saad Haroon. He was asked by the audience how he knew he was successful and he answered that the death threats on YouTube gave him great confidence about that! You must watch this parody to Pretty Woman he performed called “Burka woman”;  he certainly had me laughing!


And so it was home once again through the dirty, decaying mess that is Karachi. We stopped for some fruit from one of the many street sellers and once again I was approached by a dirty shoeless boy of around 7 begging for money. The 100 Rupees I gave him will feed him for a week as long as a corrupt policeman or other adults doesn’t take it from him.


It breaks my heart to see all the beggars, but the ones that hurt the most are the deformed and maimed who beg at the cars that are stopped in traffic. Muna opened the window an inch at one such stop and handed a note out of the window to a man who had a bony useless arm hanging from his body. There is no welfare or help for such people. Seeing such extreme sides to society is so hard and so confusing. The roads are full of expensive, nice cars and yet overflowing with disease ridden rubbish, debris and filth. Most houses and buildings are decaying and grey on barren, sandy building site landscapes, and then there are odd new ornate building with high walls and surrounded by greenery and beautiful bougainvillea.



A conversation with Dr Azra left me heartbroken about the plight of pregnant women in Pakistan. Whilst around 50% of babies are born at home they are not the happy, planned, safe home births of the West; they are women who cannot access health care. With one of the highest infant and maternal death rates worldwide, the poorest, the least healthy and those far away from any clinics of hospitals have no choice but to suffer in silence. “Half the babies die” said Azra and my stomach felt heavy with the lack of power to change such a situation. “However good job they can’t all come to the hospitals, because we couldn’t cope if they did” she added. My thoughts at that moment were how lucky we were to be able to get health care free at the point of delivery in the UK.


Once back home we found Sofia having had a nesting day of sorting out all her baby clothes in preparation for her baby daughter, who we all hope will put in an appearance soon. We are still trying to source Entonox, but strangely enough in a country where you can purchase just about any drug over the counter it is proving quite difficult. The gas companies will only sell it to clinics and hospitals. I have emailed Dr Azra, who is going to try and pull a few strings, so fingers crossed.


The day is drawing to a close now, I enjoy this part of the day; when I go to my room get into bed, eat one of the caramel eggs I bought with me from the UK (my comfort food) and watch Game Of Thrones on my lap top. I have 5 eggs left….is that a sign of how many days before this baby finally puts in an appearance?