By Francois Rank
"Miracles really do happen and this is our little miracle," ecstatic Port Elizabeth ripper-rape survivor Alison Botha excitedly exclaimed this week as she introduced her newborn son to the world.
Radiant and glowing only a day after baby Daniel was delivered by caesarean section, Alison said she now felt her recovery from the unspeakably savage attack which almost cost her her life nine years ago was finally complete.
"The part of my recovery where I have been sharing my story has been an outward thing. This is something that has brought it full circle personally. That is why I enjoyed my pregnancy so much. I could focus on myself as a woman, not as Alison," she said.
Daniel made his entrance into the world in George at 1.56pm on Thursday, weighing a healthy 3,56kg.
"We are so amazed," said Alison from her hospital bed. "It was a remarkably uncomplicated pregnancy and we are just happy he is here. I can't compare what I am feeling to what anyone else would feel. But we do call him our miracle baby."
Daniel is named after dad Tienie's grandfather and his second name, Murray, is Alison's paternal grandmother's family name.
But while Alison and Tienie are over the moon with their new arrival, memories of the attack on Alison in December, 1994, can never be completely erased.
The tall, attractive former head girl was abducted outside her Port Elizabeth home by Satanists Frans du Toit and Theuns Kruger.
They drove her to a deserted site in bushes near a secluded coastal road and raped, stabbed and practically disembowelled her. They slashed her throat 16 times and stabbed her more than 30 times in the stomach before leaving her for dead.
In an extraordinary story of survival, Alison clung to life, crawling slowly through the bush, bleeding profusely and cradling her exposed intestines in a denim shirt while holding her partially severed head straight with her other hand.
After crawling 90m, Alison collapsed on the road where she was found by motorists, including veterinary student Tiaan Eilerd, who covered her with his shirt and tended to her.
The attack shocked the country but also inspired an outpouring of support and admiration for her because of her gritty determination to take back her life. At their trial, the convicted "ripper rapists" were given several life sentences.
Alison's injuries were so severe doctors feared she would not survive. They said only time would tell whether or not she would be able to bear children. So for more than eight years, Alison never knew for sure whether she would ever be able to have a baby.
"We had planned to get pregnant, but when we found out it still came as a big surprise to us," said Alison, who married Tienie in 1997.
She said she had done a lot of reading in preparing to become a mother.
"There are several things I am pleased to know about through reading books, but at the end of the day I think instinct just kicks in."
Daniel looked serene in his little T-shirt which read: "I am a George Medi-Clinic product."
Proud dad Tienie said: "It will be nice for us to spend some time together as a family unit. The next six months are going to be a very calm time for us."
But if all goes well Daniel won't be an only child for too long.
"If we are blessed, we will try again as soon as possible. Even more so now that we know the first one is all right and that it is possible," Tienie said.
Immediately after Daniel was born, Tienie cemented the father-son bond by lying down with his son.
"I felt humbled by the entire experience of being in surgery with Alison. Afterwards, I spent an hour-and-a-half lying skin to skin with him. It was remarkable," the beaming father said.
Alison has inspired thousands of people in South Africa and around the world with her astonishing story of survival.
After deciding to go public about her ordeal, Alison told her story in her book, I Have Life - Alison's Journey. It has sold more than 50 000 copies and has been translated into seven languages.
Alison - now a full-time motivational speaker - recalled that Du Toit had actually admitted that he had deliberately mutilated her reproductive organs.
"That was his intention, which is what makes this news so positive," she said.