‘And you? We’re waiting for baby number two’, my aunt teased.
I chimed in, and we laughed.
She smiled and said, ‘I lost a miscarriage two weeks ago.’
‘Oh my God, are you serious?!’ We started speaking at once.
Of course she was serious. Who would joke about such a thing? We hugged her. We said we were so sorry. We asked what happened. We asked how she was. We held each other and breathed.
But we were typical weren’t we? Pushing and teasing that since she had one child, she should start thinking about a second? And if she didn’t have one, she should start thinking about having one? We were typical in our ‘mummies should be…’ rhetoric (busy making babies maybe). And see, how much pain we unwittingly caused.
I ran into a woman at the government office where I went to apply for Keyo’s birth certificate. She was in front of me and showed the birth notification to the officer and said she wanted to change the name on the certificate.
The officer replied, ‘Huyu mtoto amefika 2 years? (this child is 2 years old).
‘Ndio‘ she replied (yes).
‘Hauwezi badilisha jina la mtoto amefika mia miwili‘ (you can’t change the name of a child who is already 2).
She just stood there looking at the officer. She didn’t look like she was going to accept that. And the officer had apparently moved on and was ready to serve me.
He looked at me and then back at her, ‘tumemalizana?’ (are we finished)
‘Basi simutoe hiyo jina la mwisho‘ (Then, remove the last name), she pleaded.
‘Ni ya nani?’ (Whose is it), he asked, almost like it was a rehearsed script.
‘Ya babake’ (His/her father’s)
She had obviously changed her mind about having the child’s father’s name on the certificate and wanted to have the government recognize her decision. The government wasn’t having that.
Mummies should be able to decide what name they want their children to have, right?
My friend just had a baby 2 months ago. I went to visit her. Her baby was fussing and carrying on and trying to suck her fingers. But her hands were in mittens and she was getting more and more frustrated.
‘She wants to suck her fingers’ I said, ‘Can I remove the mittens?’
‘Why?’ she asked.
‘So, she can suck her fingers’
‘Why?’ it seemed to be the only word she knew that day.
‘So, that she doesn’t have to use your breast as a pacifier. She can sooth herself.’
‘Why?’ she was really starting to confuse me now.
‘Are you going to go with her to the office?’ I almost yelled.
‘Yes’ she yelled back. We all laughed.
Mummies should be comforting, or at least use their bodies to pacify babies. I don’t like to be a pacifier. But her decision to be one is OK too.
I watched a video of a woman today speaking about how she has come to love her post maternity body, just as it is. It gave her beautiful twin boys, carried her through supporting one of them through cancer. It was strong and it worked. She loved her body. But the world was telling her that she needed to erase the memory of maternity from it. To ‘fix’ it.
Mummies should be slim and fashionable and well rested. It’s alright if they are. It’s also alright if they aren’t.
Mummies should be whatever they want. And need.