“From the moment of birth the Stone Age Baby confronts the twentieth century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence called love, as its mother and father and their parents before them have been. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities and on the whole, this enterprise is successful.”
Yah, Laing. I used to think this was the most accurate quote in the world at a time when I felt that my mother was assaulting and inhibiting my movement with all her love and care. Then I became a mother and I am all for this violent force called love, and I have not yet destroyed any of my son’s potentialities. He is already quite the human being.
But let’s start from the beginning.
I had a wonderful pregnancy. I was very happy, not moody, and my baby was very busy in there. Couldn’t sit still for a moment and really amused doctors during ultrasounds. I was looking forward to having cute, cuddly moments. Like those I saw on sitcoms. I looked at all the baby photos on earth and hoped that I wouldn’t have an ugly one (I didn’t). I watched all the baby videos on YouTube and my heart melted from here to there and back. Babies….awwwww…so cute…so giggly and wiggly. Then I had mine. Perfect with a full head of hair and very loud symptoms of future balding courtesy of his dad.
At the hospital everything was easy. The nurses helped. Well, a bit; I was given a baby and diapers and told to breastfeed. I was clueless but nilijisort. They bathed and jabbed him. Visitors helped. Except for that day I kicked all my girlfriends out of my room when they asked me why my belly is still big yet some women deflate immediately. (Bitches, how would I know? Go.) But no one warned me about what was coming. I left the hospital feeling quite in control of myself. I was going to be a kick ass mummy without any hassle. Plus everyone had misled me into believing that it was all daisies and the poo would smell like roses.
Yah. The devil is not a liar. Everybody else is.
Hello sleepless nights, because my child knew that night was day and that is when he should do all of his rocket-type pooping and ravenous feeding. And I was stupid because instead of sleeping during the day with him, I stayed up with visitors and did all manner of little chores in the house…and also added a splash of ‘me time’ with old episodes of Gilmore Girls and Adrian Monk. By nighttime I was tired and when I tried to sleep for like ten minutes, sleep paralysis was my real nightmare. Nothing scares you more than the freaky demon-like stuff that comes with sleep paralysis. It talks to you, licks you and presses you down on your mattress, man. Sometimes I would doze off and forget that I had put the baby in the cot. When I woke up and found he was not in my arms I would lose my mind thinking I had dropped him. But I never learned. I still stayed up all day. Now that I think about it, I should have locked out visitors until now when he is much older and can sit, babble, pinch, scream and stare you down to your knees you lowly adult!
Bath time was a mess the first two months. He cried through it. I got frustrated. I cried too, on some days. Then relatives gave me a lot of foul mouth about how I was massaging him. I cannot count the number of times I was scorned and scolded about the way I did it and how I was harming my baby. They even had lengthy phone conversations about how bad a mummy I was. They didn’t forget the umbilical cord belly button thingum and how I was not using the right spirit (even though I got it from the hospital), and I should put this and that and the other together with that other thing for the stump to dry and fall off in a week. Because two weeks later it was still there and there was a perfectly good reason for it; ours was a healthy cord so it would take a bit longer to dry and bugger off. Try telling that to old wives.
Going to the hospital for his vaccinations and being treated like I don’t know my child’s age. I am tiny but I managed to bring forth 4kgs of wonder. So nurse weighs baby and then asks how old he is. I say two weeks. She looks at me like I am out of it. Then, “When was he born?”
I tell her.
“No. Let me see the card.” After confirmation, “Normal or caesarean?”
Get out of my uterus and vagina, and do your damn job.
They did not warn me about how much I will worry about my tot. Is he warm? Is he wet (20 minutes after changing a diaper)? Is he breathing? Did a mosquito get into his cot? Is he still hungry? Is he too fat? Has he lost weight (two days after a paediatrician tells me he is quite heavy and very tall)? Will someone take him away from me? Why is that woman looking at my baby *insert the evil eye I use to dismiss because ‘I am educated not superstitious’*? Is he full of bacteria (after he spits up some milk because I overfed him)? Why is his hair not growing after I cut it? Why is he so quiet? And I will google the answers to all these questions. Yes, even ‘Why is that woman looking at my baby?’
I have also been judged by strangers. Women who stop you on a warm morning to ask you why you have not covered your baby’s face with a THICK FAT shawl.
Well, ma’am, because he will suffocate and die.
The MEN who ask me why I am not carrying an umbrella on a sunny day.
Well, sir, my hands are full; the baby is wearing a wide-brimmed hat; and are you his mother?
Not forgetting the looks his daddy gets while carrying him in the carrier when we go out. Like we are abnormal and ‘nimekalia mwanaume chapo’. He is his father. He can carry him all his life if he wants.
I do not have a house help. So everybody asks us, ‘Mnataka mtu wa kibarua?’ No. I have managed to keep my house and take care of my man and boy without a house help, because I am not lazy, I do not need one, and I do not want a stranger getting familiar with my space. All I need is an alarm clock. Just.
Eight months in and I have found my rhythm. My child is mine. I can’t take care of him the same way the next mother does her child. He has his own spirit and I have to follow his cues. He makes me laugh every day and I am continuously amazed by his ability and willingness to learn. He loves books, eats them like candy. He tries to sneak in as much TV as he can but no TV until he is two. He will hiss when bored. Pinch when in the ‘cause and effect’ mood. He will throw bowls on the floor a million times and we will pick them up (and tone our butts) a million times because it is a learning process for him and we can’t take it away from him. He will play with his food and use it as paint on our clothes. His farts will wake him up and we will laugh about it months and years later. That shit is funny man!
I guard him with my life, hands and thoughts. No, you will never see my child’s face on social media and if I find that you took a photo of him and put it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or anything, I will sue you so fucking efficiently you won’t have clothes to wear. He is a human being with his right to privacy. Until such a time when he decides to plaster himself on online notice boards, I have no business putting his face on them.
Another thing I have learned is how to save money. Funny thing is I no longer save for myself. Every extra coin I have is for my child. And that is because I love him too much to even think that he will lack anything. I hope for the best education, the best healthcare, the best home and the best family.
Just for him.
Because he is my life.
I finally understand my mother’s worry and sacrifice. You know nothing, R.D Laing. Do me a favour and just rest in peace.