15.12.2010 30 °C
Having a baby here has opened up a pandora’s box of new, but frustrating cultural experiences. Mainly, it involves the white man making a lot of faux- pas according to the way people bring up their newborn here. I suspect if there was a Kenyan social services similar to the one in the UK, wee Amelie Zuri would have been taken from us already…
It feels that anyone has the right to tell you what it is you should be doing, to the point of physically taking the baby from you to demonstrate. It is all quite infuriating and less than encouraging, when you take the baby out to run an errand or to get some fresh air and old ladies, mamas, young men or anyone and everyone, tell you off and criticise you. Here is a list of things that we are doing “wrong”:
- Babies must always wear socks (even in 30 degrees C).
- Babies must always be wrapped tightly in several large woollen blankets (even in 30 degrees C).
- The baby’s must wear a woolly hat (even in 30 degrees C).
- The baby must be covered in any case, in case someone is trying to bewitch her.
- Babies should not be carried in public by the man, neither should he carry any of the baby’s belongings. This is a woman’s job.
- Babies should never be carried in a sling. It will probably break her spine.
- Newborn babies should stay in the house all day every day for 1 month, 2 months or 4 months depending on who you speak to (I mean, depending on who speaks to you).
- New mothers should on no account leave the house for several weeks.
- A baby should never cry, if he/she is crying, something is very wrong, feed her or take her to the doctor. No, she can’t be hot or tired.
- The mother’s breasts are human pacifiers that must be whipped out anywhere at the first moment a baby utters a whimper.
- The mother is to wear a very tight belt to shrink the uterus.
- The mother is not to wear any bra so as to allow ample milk flow.
- The mother is to drink a lot of hot chocolate and milky tea to produce lots of milk.
- Regardless of her actual name, Amelie will be called ‘Achieng’ (Luo for daytime, when she was born) or ‘Awino’ (a Luo name to signify that Amelie had a cord round her neck at birth!)
It takes all our self- control not to scream ‘Gie’s a brek!’ or try to throttle someone!
Okay, I have to admit, this baby in Kisumu saga has annoyed me somewhat as I have a bugbear about being bound by tradition. When tradition and beliefs keep someone from seeing new ideas and possible better ways because ‘That’s not the way we do things around here!’ then someone can really miss out on a real blessing. Are we courageous enough to breakthrough traditional teachings to get to truth? Sometimes I ask myself ‘Who has the vision to welcome change in their lives’????
Yes, that is a real snapshot of the inner workings of my thought processes within my brain when confronted with others who seem set in their ways. I guess I like the idea that change is possible and can be a good thing sometimes.
Anyway, not that Roger our cat has to worry about any of the above with his/her newborn. Moja (Swahili for one, and cleverly rhyming with Roja), was born a few weeks after Amelie. The cat only gave birth to the one kitten, a rarity, so I’ve heard. The incredible thing was that Roger called me up to her labour and Em and I both witnessed her giving birth!
It is very exciting to be so close to new life in this house these days!