For Sophie and Belle

I was 5 months pregnant when we moved to Jakarta. It was January 2000 and there were still remnants of burnt out buildings from the 1998 riots. When you met people it came up in the conversation early, they wanted to know how long you’d been around. Were you living here in the riots? Everyone had their own evacuation story, where they were, how it played out, whether they evacuated from the airport or met in a “safe” place. Friends described streets lined with army tanks and desperate people handing over wads of cash at the airport trying to get themselves or their families out of the country.

Over time the buildings were restored,  changes in government were made, people started to feel safe that it wouldn’t happen again. We didn’t really consider terrorist attacks. We had a couple of bomb scares at G’s office and although we were cautious, for the most part we carried on a normal life.

As my tummy expanded we started to think about the logistics of having our first baby. We’d joined an ante natal group where we sat and nervously giggled with a group of about 20 others. It was the first baby for all of us. We watched those awful 70’s birthing movies, passed baby dolls around and practiced our breathing. I imagine it was like ante natal class anywhere in the world.

Naturally, we became friends.  We met for coffee or lunch, a few of the blokes met up for a drink. Being expats we were conscious of not having our families around.

We delivered our babies within a 2 month window of each other. Some couples went off to Singapore,  others to Malaysia, some to Australia. It’s different now, but back then no one was brave enough to give birth in Indonesia, we’d checked out the hospitals, discussed medical facilities, blood screening, what if something went wrong? It was the first baby for most of us.

When we returned, we regrouped.  We compared war stories, labour, episiotomies, emergency c-sections. Out of the 20 there was only one couple choosing the stay at home Dad option. They were both teachers at the school. Jamie was a Kiwi, Lissie an American. Jamie was a PE teacher, he was around my age, he looked like an athlete, he was good looking.

When we formed a baby group Jamie decided to give it a skip. I’m not sure if it was the idea of discussing cracked nipples and stitches that didn’t float his boat or perhaps it was just the horror of a “coffee morning” with a bunch of postpartum women.

I ran in to Jamie often over the next year. Initially it was at the makeshift baby clinic that was held in an English woman’s house. We’d be there with our baby books, recording weights and feeding patterns. As the babies went from newborns to healthy chubby babies the visits spread out and eventually ended. Often we’d run in to each other at the supermarket,  Sophie would be in one those backpacks on his shoulders. Jamie handled her like a guy, tossed her over his shoulder like a football and wore her like a guernsey, they were so comfortable together, they were very much a couple.

I’m guessing in Jamie’s sporting career he was a pretty competitive guy. He always wanted to compare notes. What was my little traveler eating? Could she lift her cup by herself yet? Sophie could. Could she crawl? Sophie could. Could she balance a plate on her head while unicycling……you get the picture.

He was a very proud father.

Within a couple of years most of us were pregnant again. G and I moved to Malaysia and said our goodbyes. We heard through the group they had another little girl in 2002, coincidentally she shared the same name as our 2nd little traveller, Annabelle.

On October 12th, 2002 Lissie and Jamie were in Bali for the Annual 10’s Rugby tour. Expats from all over the world were there. When the story was relayed we were told there had been 2 taxi’s traveling together, Jamie was in the first. When the bomb went off the occupants of the second taxi watched in  horror as  Jamie’s taxi “just disappeared”. Lissie and the girls were thankfully not in the taxi, Sophie was 2, Annabelle a tiny baby.

Over the years,  I’ve thought of Sophie and Annabelle often. I’ve thought about how much time they spent with their Dad, how intense he was about every part of their lives and how important they were to him.  I’ve heard through friends that they’re safe and happy and back in the States with their Mum.

I guess this is my way of letting you know girls, that for all of us who were watching from the side lines, it was very obvious that you were everything to your father. Although your time together was short you were very very loved.

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