Just over a year ago, I was lying in a hospital bed scared to death about having to push out a baby. Then I was told there wouldn’t be any pushing after all, because the baby had decided to poop inside me and was in distress so my doctor would need to perform an emergency C-section. So my fear became less about having to push out an entire human through a rather small opening, and more about the safety of that little human. And myself. Because I won’t lie, childbirth could result in so many different things, and for a second there I was scared of death.
An hour later our not-so-little 3.995kg human was placed on my chest for a few seconds before I asked the nurse to take her away so I wouldn’t give her the homa. One year later we’re both nursing the flu, but she’s taking it better than I am.
I still stare at her and wonder how we got here, my Lover and I. How the most unplanned of things became our biggest joy. We never pictured ourselves as parents: people with the actual responsibility of caring for a child. Yet here we are, with the most delicious of blessings and no clue what we did to deserve it.
I get asked quite a number of questions about my motherhood experience, including favourite things, tips and places, so here’s a list of the 12 things I’ve learned in the last one year.
- Babies are resilient – you will at some point drop your baby, leave a diaper on too long, forget how many drinks you had and give your baby the boob to keep her quiet after a night out. And the baby will be fine. Provided you don’t make this a habit.
- Babies are manipulative little things – it’s all in their eyes. They will use those eyes and some crying to bend you to their will, and you will find yourself doing backflips and handstands to accommodate these little humans. If you want to maintain your resolve, avoid eye contact.
- There is no manual – everybody has their own way of doing things. Follow your gut, create your own routine, figure it out in your own way. There is no one size fits all when dealing with babies, just like there’s no one size fits all in dress sizes: no matter what the labels on clothes say.
- Motherhood will change you – do not be fooled. You will not be the same person. Something will change. Whether it’s your body, your taste in people or food or your attitude; something will change. Most days I wake up groggy and sounding like a man, but I’ll see Gong and suddenly find myself speaking in a considerably higher-pitched voice than I can manage in any other situation. And I smile at strangers’ babies these days.
- Something about your body will change – I gained a shitload of weight and one year later, I’m only down about 13 kilos (close to 4 of them were the baby). I haven’t done much about it though so I cannot blame Gong entirely; this is mostly due to my affinity for food and aversion to physical activity. But I will change my ways. Some people are fortunate enough to snap back within a month and get zero stretch marks, while others struggle with flab and a sudden taste for big bowls of sweet uji every day. But I’m pretty sure all of us lose the perkiness in our boobs. Plus it doesn’t matter who you are, how rich you are, how big your glam squad is: you will wear those post-delivery panties. Childbirth is such an equalizer.
- The littlest of things will make the biggest of deals – first poop? First burp? First smile? First fart? First crawl? First step? First tooth? First bite of food? First tantrum? First word? First birthday? Everything will be a big deal. But do not be fooled into spending a stupid amount of money you cannot afford to for a birthday your child will not remember. Same thing applies to weddings.
- Clinic visits are a drag – I do not like them. Maybe it’s the fact that my doctor doesn’t work on booked appointments. You get a date, it’s first come first served, and you could very well spend six hours at the clinic, waiting your turn. That, and each triage becomes a competition between you, and the you that you think you should be. One time I told the nurse I could get a more accurate weight reading from my local butchery. I also offered to buy them a more “modern” scale because I was convinced theirs was broken, which explained why my baby didn’t seem to be gaining weight as fast as I wanted.
- Fat baby does not equal healthy baby – your mom and aunties will comment about the size of your baby from the day s/he is born. And if, like me, you struggle with your milk supply, then you’ll be expected to eat and drink and feed and pump all day and night, and still, it will not be enough if your kid is not chunky. And then one day you’ll wake up and not give a damn any more. You’ll calmly tell people not to comment on your baby’s size any more. With the murderous look of an angry mother in your eyes. And they will get the point.
- Your baby will be a mini version of either the father or mother – so be careful what you do around him/her. I’m pretty sure mine already rolls her eyes at me. And is as stubborn as her father and I combined. And – and this is the most exciting part – she appears to have mild OCD, just like me. Her teenage years should be fun.
- If you’re religious or spiritual or both, you’ll probably find yourself praying harder than you’ve ever prayed before – if you’re like me, who still can’t believe that you’ve been blessed with this incredible gift, then you’ll probably find yourself whispering quiet thank you’s a number of times a day, and praying each day for health, wealth (both financial and spiritual), and guidance (not the reggae one, but if you want that too then that’s cool). And if your nanny is as good as mine, you’ll pray for her like you would your closest friends and family members, because you need her not to desert you.
- You’ll realize that there are very few things you can control, and you’ll learn to be ok with that – planned to push but had to be sliced open? That’s ok, the strong drugs you’re put on after your C-section have a wonderful effect. I was so high, and I loved it. Baby doesn’t sleep through the night? It’s alright. What is sleep anyway? Baby prefers to be fed by the nanny? Then let her feed her, and conserve that energy for Sunday’s when you’re left alone with the fruit of your loins and meal times become teary affairs for you both. This is when you’ll discover that a baby can survive on milk and snacks all day, until the nanny arrives.
- Contraception is cheaper than a baby – Durex recalled batches of condoms the other day, so I’m waiting to show a few more people around Biashara Street in the coming months. Because that’s where we take a chunk of our money every month. When the muhindi shop owner is feeling generous, he throws in a pair of socks, or pants – no discounts, and nothing that costs over 200 bob. This is mostly when I pay via cash or M-PESA. When I pay via card, he returns the favour by throwing my baby wipes into a “free” bag. Which costs ten bob when I pay for it, and which probably cost him two bob. The lesson here is: babies are bloody expensive. So unless you really want one, keep it strapped. And dear reproductive health specialists, now would be a really good time to come up with more options for male contraception. We need a break.
Here’s to babies, and all the people who help us raise them, and all the friends who come through with the wine and laughs. We survived the first year thanks to you, and considering I couldn’t even keep succulents alive before this, I’m pretty much a superhero now. My cool superhero name? Just call me M.O.M.