When you’re preggers, you hear a lot of things. Naturally, all you really want to know is what giving birth is like. How painful is it? How long does it last? Invariably, the answers are ‘it’s not that painful’ and ‘it doesn’t last that long’…and besides ‘you’ll forget all about that as soon as the baby is born’. Once you go into labour, you’ll quickly discover that you were misled. Grossly misled. The truth is it hurts like hell. And it can last for long. But yeah, as soon as you’re done (if you have a normal delivery), the pain is done. You don’t forget. You just forgive that little demon called pain because you’re so overwhelmed with love for your little angel.
I was also told that as a first time Mum, you grow with the baby. You’re both adjusting to a new reality. One of my friends told me that she would cry sometimes when everything got a bit too much. Eish. Cry? Gosh. What a weakling, I thought. I would never do such a thing. If we’re both crying, who will be responsible for the other? Even the Bible says that one blind man can’t lead the other. I walked around in a mist of righteous indignation for a few days, buoyed by the certainty that the devil would build an ice rink in hell before I shed a tear.
So I give birth, bring baby home and begin to settle into a childcare routine. Like I told you last week, she quickly turned my life upside down. And I thought things were as taxing as they could get. That was until we had to do our second set of vaccinations. In the hospital the child had been angelic. She slept through the night, hardly had to be changed and didn’t fuss at all. When they vaccinated her for the first time, she didn’t even blink.
I did find one thing a bit odd though. The nurse came round with his vaccination kit, went about the business of injecting her and when he was done, presented me with a consent form.
“Kwani I can decide not to vaccinate?” I asked him. “Yah, you can. But sana sana it’s wazungus who refuse ati coz they don’t have these diseases huko kwao.”
“But si you should have given me this consent form before you injected her?” I persisted. “Yah. But sana sana wamama hu-accept tu.”
Aha. Interesting concept, that. Consenting after you’ve consented. One can only hope that these vaccinations that the World Health Organsiation recommends are all good and do no harm.
Fast forward four weeks when we had to go in for the second set. My sister told me to give baby a painkiller beforehand. “Strictly speaking, you’re not advised to do it but it will help,” she said. She didn’t have to say it twice. I might have forgiven that little demon called pain but I wasn’t inviting him under my roof again.
So I gave her some Panadol (the peadiatric one) and off we go to the clinic. The sun is shining, birds are singing and everyone is in good mood. We get there and they take off all her clothes, weigh her, take her temperature et cetera. Then they pop a little pill into her bum. What’s that? Oh, it’s just a little something for the pain. Woops, I thought. I’ve already given a painkiller. Please God, don’t let me kill my child.
After the suppository, comes the polio vaccine, which thankfully is oral. That goes down well. But then come the jabs. One in each chubby little thigh. The doctor holds her firmly as the nurse pricks her like a pin cushion. And my poor little baby let’s out the loudest wail. She wails and wails. And wails and wails. Her chest is heaving. Snot is coming out of her nose. Big fat tears are filling her eyes and overflowing. Saliva is rolling down the sides of her mouth. She’s looking at me as if to say, “You traitor! How could you do this to me?” Poor, poor girl.
Much as I hate, hate, hate needles, I wished I could have taken the cup away from her. But since I could not…I wept. It was the first time I cried like my baby. Yeah right, who am I kidding?
I cried that time when I thought I had burned her with tepid bathwater. And that time when her nose was blocked and she couldn’t breast feed. Also when I thought I had raptured her wrinkly, banana peel looking umbilical stub. And who could forget the time when I got soap in her eyes? Or the time she scratched her face and drew blood? Sigh. It’s a crying shame. But hey, there is no greater love than this, that a woman would give up her sanity for her child. The joys continue.