I have a friend who just adopted a baby boy. She got him when he was 6 months old, was already weaned and had two, perfect milk teeth. In one of the first pictures she sent of the little man, he was sitting in a walker, smiling up at the camera with an orange in his hand. “Just tore this orange apart,” the caption read. Adoti was maybe 3 months old at the time and I remember being very jealous of my friend for having a baby who could one) recline in a walker unattended and two) eat an orange, and more than that, tear it apart.
We were still very much in the exclusive breastfeeding stage and I felt like an overworked heifer in a very busy dairy. But then my friend complained about how tired she was: “This level of exhaustion is beyond,” she said, “I’m so tired!”
Instantly, I felt much better. It was comforting to know that I was not alone. There is a certain kind of exhaustion that only a mother can relate to. It’s bone deep, seeping right to the centre of your soul. It’s an exhaustion that never really goes away; it just hangs around like a cloud, sometimes heavy, dark and grey, other times light and fluffy. Sometimes the rain comes pouring down and other times, the sun comes shining through. But while this exhaustion might change in nature it is always there.
The thing is though, no matter how tired you are, if there’s some baby-related duty that you have to attend to, you’re going to have to feel the exhaustion but do it anyway. Babies don’t care that you’ve been at work for 14 hours. They couldn’t care less that you’ve been exercising and your limbs feel like lead. Whether you have a headache or not is none of their concern. And yeah, if you’re sleepy, deal with it. Your sleep, your problem. Babies are like 24-hour economies; wee, little human hubs that demand power from the grid at all hours of the night and day.
So as a mother, especially a new Mum, your energy is continuously being drained. But it’s not really something to complain about because even as a baby withdraws from one account, they are always depositing into another. Their currency of love, acceptance and affection is as stable as they come.
Still, there are days when try as you might, you just can’t seem to find the ‘get-up-and-go’ to supply your baby’s every need. I had a few of those days last week and it was so hectic that I couldn’t find any time anywhere to write this column.
I would leave home early in the morning and come back at night. The work itself was not the problem, it was the commute. I was usually bleary eyed on both ends of the journey and on top of that in the morning, there was the legendary Nairobi traffic to suffer through and at night, even though the roads were clearer, I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open.
The struggle was real and it carried on way into the night because as soon as I entered our front door, baby duty began with a quick stop at the dairy (Adoti will not let me settle until she’s had her milk), a bath, a meal and finally, bedtime.
Some days she would fuss, either refusing to eat or to sleep. Other days she was angelic. Either way, what I was feeling or why were irrelevant in Adoti’s world.
In Adoti’s world, Adoti comes first.
At nine months of age, that’s about right. I don’t begrudge her the right to be a baby but let’s be honest, it can be tiring.
And yet, there are times when it seems like she is showing empathy. Sometimes she rests her head on my chest and places an open palm against my cheek as if to say, “Don’t worry Mummy, it’s going to be okay.”
Other times, she makes a face or a funny sound, trying to make me laugh. Just recently, she has begun imitating my movements and facial expressions. It’s the cutest thing because she doesn’t know what they mean. So sometimes, out of nowhere, she’ll tuck in her chin, look up and frown, as if deep in thought. Or she’ll shrug her shoulder and laugh, just for the sake of it.
Her responses are usually mismatched. For instance, she says, “Ah-ah” (meaning no) to everything. So when I say, “It’s time to eat Adoti”, she goes like, “Ah-ah”.
Or “Let’s have a bath.”
“Shall we change your diaper?”
“Do you love your Mummy?”