A LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER
Before you, life was so much easier. We went out all the time, often coming back home in the wee hours of the morning, or even sometimes at noon the next day. Our adulting levels went only as far as making sure the rent and utilities were paid, and that we had enough food in the house for the month.
Sundays were spent recovering from Friday/Saturday night shenanigans, wondering who would make the 30-second trip to Vineyard to pick up hangover-busting nyama with pilipili, fries and Fanta. Weekday evenings were spent on the couch watching series before dozing off then waking up at midnight and having to stagger to bed, sleep-drunk.
Before you, I had somewhat perky boobs, fewer stretch marks, a healthy hairline, slimmer hips that someone once referred to as the “child bearing” kind (guess he was right) and slimmer arms. I was only 5-6kgs away from my ideal weight and obsessed about losing weight, while doing almost nothing to get there.
Before you, we didn’t know that formula and diapers cost as much as renting a small room in Nairobi each month; or that it was possible to function on three minutes of sleep each night. We didn’t know that breast pumps and baby monitors literally suck all the power out of batteries, or that the consistency and colour of poop could be daily hot topics.
We were young, wild and free, and we loved it.
But then your dad knocked me up, and here we are now.
Because of you, I’ve had to learn to walk in heels again. I long for my old body every day, and the picture I have of myself at four months pregnant, when I was barely showing but still thought I was getting fat, has become my new body goals.
Because of you, I have a thick C-Section scar, a pooch and a lot of weight to lose. OK I might be blaming you a bit more than you deserve here because you only accounted for four of the 25kg I put on while pregnant. But I’m your mom so whatever I say goes.
Because of you, our coffee table is currently up against the TV stand so that you don’t hurt the TV (or yourself), and so that you have enough room to crawl and more surface area to spill food and drinks on. My table scape is no more, your toys litter our custom-made chevron rug, and I’m hiding knick-knacks so that you don’t break them, eat them or poke your eye with them.
Because of you, I come straight home after work every day. Every. Day. I no longer have the luxury of spontaneously meeting people for after work drinks, chilling, watching a series or reading a book in bed uninterrupted.
We can no longer be as loose as we were; we have to make sure the baby bag is packed full of things we probably won’t use, that you’ve taken a nap and fed before we can even think of leaving the house. And even when we leave, we have to come back home as soon as the sleep gets you cranky, because unlike other normal babies you cannot sleep under a different roof or open skies.
Because of you we take a good chunk of our salaries to Sunu’s on Biashara Street every month, where the shrewd muindi shop owner thanks us for our business with a few sweets or if we’re lucky, sweets AND a reusable bag for free.
But it’s also because of you that I’ve become more patient, more understanding, more present. I’ve learned to see beauty in things I never noticed before, to appreciate the little things and to celebrate the tiniest of achievements – such as making the bed each morning or super-gluing the curtain stopper to the rod because it was bugging the hell out of me.
I’ve learned to get through the day with a smile despite suffering from pinched toes, dead feet, suffocation from my body shaper and lack of sleep, because these things are nothing compared to labour pains and the discomfort of healing from child birth.
I’ve learned to pay more attention to, and be grateful for, what really matters: family, friends, good health, a roof over our heads and being able to afford more meals than I should desire.
I’ve learned that life, life is fleeting, and we have very little control over it so it’s important that we live each day fully present. Life itself is a gift, and many of us spend way too much time obsessing over the most inconsequential things (like why nobody has thought of designing body shapers that give the illusion of slimmer arms, or creating weighing scales that tell you what you want to hear).
You’ve filled me with as much love and hope as you have with anxiety and fear, but you’ve also taught me what unconditional love is; how to not hold grudges (those fights we have on Sunday’s really test me), how to let go of material things and embrace experiences that enrich you.
You’ve also taught me how to not give a flying rat’s ass about people’s opinions. Because I want to be a great role model for you and the three young women on Instagram who say they look up to me, I’m inspired to be better, to do better, to not be afraid of going for what I want.
So my wish for you is that one day you’ll look at me and in addition to thinking and telling everyone that I’m really hot, you’ll tell me and your dad that we’re great parents.
That you’ll be kind, respectful, honest, curious, confident, hard working and God-fearing; that you will find joy in self-love, being authentic and not a highly stylized and curated presentation for the public to like.
My wish for you is that you will be adventurous, ambitious, passionate, a lover of good food, good wine and good books; that you will have your father’s kind heart, sense of humour, neat handwriting, nice eyebrows, long eyelashes and cute nose, and my legs, waist to hip ratio and good taste in shoes, home styling and ONE MAN WHO MUST EARN YOUR FATHER’S RESPECT AND APPROVAL.
You don’t know it yet, but you’re the greatest thing that happened to your father and I – besides him spotting me on TV and tracking me down, and me rescuing him from a life without me.
Mom (and dad though he fell asleep on the couch while pretending to watch golf)