Heavy soaking rain fell all through 1973. By Christmas the dams were full of life giving water ready to be pumped to outlying farms or to the city water treatment works. The landscape looked cool, clean and green. An artist paradise.
My husband (Trevor) and I were living in two caravans at the rear of his mother's house. One caravan we had converted to a kitchen/dining room and the other served as a bedroom. We were happy there madly squirreling our savings away to buy a home of our own. We had the deposit and were starting to look for a house. Just in time too because on January 11th our family was expected to increase by one. January 11 came and went.
My baby obviously had her own idea about when to make an entrance into this world. Then it happened....
Cyclone Wanda formed off the Queensland coastline bringing with it days and days of torrential rain. The rivers and creeks began to swell and spill over their banks. Our home was in danger of flooding and the roads were becoming inaccessible. By 26 January, aware of the fact that my baby could come at any time, I was packed off to stay with my brother-in-law and his wife. They lived close to the hospital. Mass evacuations were happening across the city as the water rose. Some people with foresight managed to shift their furniture and belongings. Others lost all they had except the cloths they were wearing. The flood waters continued to rise.
At 2am on January 29th my contractions started. I woke Trevor, he grabbed my overnight bag and we drove through the rain to the hospital. We walked up the steps to the labour ward and pressed the buzzer. There was no reply. No one came. I sat on the wooden bench provided at the door as another contraction racked my body. Time went by, probably only ten minutes but it seemed like an eternity to me.
Further down the hall we saw a nurse. She halted in mid stride. A look of astonishment passed across her face and was gone. As she ushered us into the labour ward she explained that the hospital was running on emergency power - the buzzer wasn't working . Trevor was given the task of filling up the old hurricane lamps with kero (just in case power was lost altogether). At about 6.00am he was sent home. The labour ward was no place for a man. During the birth it became apparent that the nurses were inexperienced and no doctor was available. Many hospital staff were unable to get to work because of the rising water and a call went out for all nurses and doctors in the area to report to any hospital they could get to.
My baby girl was born on Tuesday 29 January 1974..... The same day the skies sleared and the sun shone. The whole of south east Queensland rejoiced and the flood finally peaked. Slowly the water returned to the rivers and creeks leaving behind a deposit of brown sludge over the land. Mum and Dad were unable to get to the hospital in those first few days as desperate as they were to see their first grandchild. They were cut off by water. Mum phoned a distant relative and asked her to visit and report back.
As the water receded, clean up operations began. My parents house, built on high ground, escaped damage but Trevor's Mothers house had water through it up to the window sills. The caravan we were using as our kitchen was unable to be moved and so was flooded. I was released from hospital and went to live in the one caravan remaining. It had been towed to my parents house.
The risk of disease was high and so I stayed away from the flooded areas with my new baby. Flood relief organisations were set up and donations of clothing, furniture money emergency food and accomodation came pouring in. Australians are very generous when it comes to helping people in genuine need. Houses were painstakingly scraped of the thick layers of foul smelling sludge. The government helped by providing funds to pay for paint and floor coverings etc. Slowly South East Queensland recovered. Trevor and I resumed our search for a home. One of our main priorities was to ensure the home we chose was well above the flood line.
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