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Posted by on August 16, 2017 | 2 comments

“Ek kan nie meer nie” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves


When I was a 4th year medical student we were required to do an 8 week rotation in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. During the obstetric component of the block we were each given a log book in which to track the number of babies we delivered as well as the procedures such as forceps deliveries and episiotomies we observed.

When I first got to the labour wards I was excited! This was our first real foray into hands-on doctoring; before that most of our work had been theoretical. I especially looked forward to helping to bring new life into the world.

It took no time at all for me to become familiar with the phrase “ek kan nie meer nie”, Afrikaans for “I can’t (do this) anymore”. The women would scream it during the final phases of labour, when the pain felt too much to bear. Some would ask for an epidural, while others would insist that they be taken straight to theater for a caesarean section.

A small proportion of these mothers really couldn’t go on any more. For various reasons continuing with the labour would put their lives or the lives of their babies at risk, and a caesar was the most appropriate route to take.

But for most, they could go on, even when they felt as if they couldn’t. With encouragement, mild pain relief and a back rub, they found that they could withstand the excruciating pain of one more contraction, one more push, until they were finally rewarded with a crying baby announcing its arrival into the world.

Are you going through a challenge in your life right now that’s left you feeling as if you “kan nie meer nie“?

Firstly, consider that it may be unwise to keep going. You’ll know if this applies to you if the particular challenge is taking its toll on your health, your relationships and your general well-being. In that case, your best approach is to stop what you are doing; ask for help; pivot and move in a different direction. Letting go of what no longer serves you takes courage, and you’ll be much better off in the long run.

However, if your challenge isn’t causing you harm, consider that, like those women in the labour ward, you may be way stronger than you think.

  • Remember why you got started in the first place.
  • Keep your eye on the prize, and keep taking the next step and then the next.
  • Pay attention to what your struggle is teaching you. And most importantly, learn the lessons and apply them.

We all go through periods in our lives when it all feels too much. Growth happens when we appreciate our own strength and we draw on that inner capacity to keep going.


  1. Your article gave me a appreciation for women and the pain they go through. Thank you.

    • You’re welcome!

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