It will be my 31st birthday in a few days. It is going to be a very different one; different in a good way. For those who know me know that motherhood has been a long time dream. And I will be celebrating my 31st as a mother of a wonderful five and a half month old son. I am grateful to God for this gift of motherhood. I sleep and awake knowing that there is someone I cherish more that myself. Yes, motherhood makes you very selfless. That is just one of the things you learn from being a mum. I am not old at this but I will just highlight a few of the lessons I have learnt.
A baby is a big boss. Sometime ago, when I was in Class 1, in the year 1990, my sister did a poem for the music festivals that had a Kibwagizo that went like this “Bwana Mkubwa ni tumbo, wengine ni watumishi”. I tend to agree with him, but probably, he or she never encountered this boss am talking about, because he surely is bigger and has more driving force than the stomach. This boss, once you interact with him, your life changes forever, because the stomach ceases to motivate your actions, this boss becomes your centre of the world. This boss is fragile, yet strong at the same time, is demanding yet flexible, loves yet needs more love. This boss is very trusting. I once went for a recollection at Africa Bible on the Ground in Nanyuki and there is this tree whose branches, once they touch each other, they change direction. Once a child lands on your arms on the first day, all a mother will ever think of is baby. Is what I am doing well for my baby? Is the weather good for baby to go out? Are the people interacting with my baby good for him, or they will make him become a spoilt one? Is the program of investment long term enough to ensure a good future for my baby? What will happen to baby when I go back to work? Well, nothing a mother does exclude baby, including the fulfillment of those appetites that used to drive us in the first place. It is baby and then everything else. Does that mean that mothers don’t have a life, or their life exists? No, their life is just redefined.
I am not a patient person and those who have kept me waiting in town for whatever meeting we had scheduled will tell you the same. I hate waiting. It is for that reason I hate sitting in traffic. Why should I wait for 4 hours to conclude a journey that can take 20 minutes? It doesn’t make sense. A baby teaches you to be patient. You have to learn to wait for them to learn things in their own time, including a basic thing as sleeping. Many mothers will tell you how night shift is a norm. Many will wonder how they even function the following day taking care of chores after only one hour of solid sleep or none at all. But they do function and very well at that. They will even wait on you when you visit, crack jokes, laugh and tell you how wonderful life is. And when you are gone, they will go back to waiting for the child to grow up; they will nurture them from total dependence to semi independence, and wait patiently for them to become the persons they would want to be. Patience becomes an everyday virtue that has to be exercised. Mothers will wait for their children to poop, and if they don’t they get disturbed. They will wait for the child to wake up if he sleeps for very long. They will wait for them to lift their hands and wiggle their bodies which are a sign that they are okay. They will wait for them to keep quiet, when they have colic and crying is a norm. They will feed them patiently, waiting for them until they are full, some will take up to two hours to feed, or will feed every hour. They will be patient with friends whose comments hurt deep. They will be patient with touts who yell at them when the baby can’t stop crying. They will be patient with the next door neighbor who plays loud music when she and her child are trying to catch a nap because they have not slept a wink for weeks. Patience per excellence.
Before I was a mum, I believed that I must own a Halley Davidson, until I discovered it wakes all the children in a 50 meter radius when you start it. Motherhood makes you realize there are many unimportant things we dream of having or owning. Maybe it is rationalizing life in a way, I don’t know but you learn to actually discover what is important in life. You realize that the relationship you nurture with your child is more important than that work that earns you a daily bread. I remember being recalled to work severally just to sort a project issue that no one else could not handle, or seemed not to be able to handle. My answer was the same. No. No matter how much you plead, I only have a few months before I resume that work anyway, so, it is me and my baby for now, period.
Mothers are the best innovators. It is driven by the fact that the tricks you use today to make baby eat, sleep, stop crying or smile may not work tomorrow. You will rock him to sleep today but tomorrow he will want a lullaby and the day after he will want to be nursed. He cries for many reasons; when hungry, when wet, when tired, when he wants to play, when bored, when agitated, when sick, when sleepy. You have to figure out the reason so that you can calm him down. So you try solving the reasons one at a time. If all fails, you just have to invent something to calm him. One of my professors would probably call it muddling through. Innovation is not limited to nurturing, it involves use of things, modification of toys e.t.c.
Motherhood has taught me to let go. I believe that the lives of our children are lent to us. Before we became parents, God already parented them. He designed a life for them and drew a purpose that only they can fulfill in this world. Our role is to take care of them and bring them up to fulfill that purpose. Barbara Taylor in her book Act of will reiterated the same saying we cannot force our children to become who we want them to be. Many times, parents try to design their children’s lives to suit their own needs, but however much we try to do it, we cannot stop them from becoming. We would want our babies to sleep, eat, drink, poop, sus, cry and smile when we want to. But, they are totally different individuals with a big mind of their own and they will define their own schedules to do what they want. It is this same principle that makes me not to worry much about my boy now that I have resumed work. I know He has a father looking out for him, taking care of him where I cannot, protecting him from dangers that I cannot foresee, and nurturing him in the best way to fulfill that which he was created. Every day I pray that I may be granted wisdom to bring him up to know His heavenly Daddy, to know that he was created for a purpose, that he is not an accident, that he is special in the eyes of His God, because he was fashioned most perfectly for that one thing that only he can do, that he will forever be unique in his own way and there can never be another like him, that no matter how much environment forces him to conform to some norms, he should not change to suit others, that he should not be afraid to follow his dreams because they do not appeal to me or his father and that through him people may encounter Christ. That does not mean I do not love him. I love him to bits. But I also know that God loves him more. I accept that I can only do so much for him, but God will do everything for him. That the guardian Angel assigned to him will look out for him always. I only understand that before He was mine, he belonged to God, and he forever will. I will be the vessel God uses to perfect Him for His work.
I have learnt to respect my mother more. I love my mother, and I know the pains she has been through to see me to the woman I have become. Being a mom has raised that respect a hundred fold. First I know I gave difficult labor, which was way beyond 24 hours. I have given her many scares throughout my life, when she wonders if I am okay, when I tell her I am unwell, when I turned up sick at home from school earlier than usual and many more. Looking after a child whose only mode of expression is a cry when they are a few days old makes you understand that mothers are superhuman. They can read and tell when you have a problem. They have an eighth sense. I used to wonder how she could call me always when I had issues I was dealing with in college. I just know that she could tell. And I know I am also learning to tell. I am learning not to be scared by small things because, whatever happens even to me, I am a mother first. I used to wonder how, when my grandmother passed on, she still had the strength to hold my sister and I one on each shoulder. She was grieving her mother, but she never forgot that her children were grieving their grandmother too. She is a model I look up to. And every time it gets tough with my baby I always tell myself, my mother did it and so can I. If I ever become half the woman to my son she is to me, I will not have lived in vain.
The biggest lesson is probably the fact that I have to thank God for everything even those that look obvious, like feeding, sleeping walking, and breathing e.tc. In this life there is nothing obvious. You wake up and you are healthy, you thank God. You go to sleep, and you actually sleep, thank God. Your child can suckle, thank God. Your baby is adding weight even if it is one gram, thank God. It is not a guarantee that you will go to hospital and make it through labor and leave the hospital with a healthy child. If you did, thank God. I read somewhere when one goes to labor you come close to death. For those who believe they are in control of their lives, they should probably try going in to labor; you will realize there is someone beyond you who orders your life every day. Well, of course you must have the capacity to get pregnant. Your child sleeps, even for half an hour and wakes up to feed, thank God, some totally have the idea that sleep is a bad state to be in, so will keep you awake hours on end. Baby can look at you, can hear you, can squeal at the sight of you, and can smile at you, crawl, walk and every other milestone every mother looks forward to, thank God. It doesn’t matter if they will speak at three years or crawl at 4 months; the fact is they crawled, they talked, they stood and walked; thank God. Be patient with your child. He is alive, he is well, he is blessed and he is where he is meant to be, doing what he is meant to do and being what he is meant to be at whatever age, thank God.
I know that I am in a school called motherhood, where every day is a new lesson. I keep travelling this journey, with hope that I will one day sit and listen to my son tell me, mummy, you did a good job raising me, that I will sit back and say even if I am given a chance again, I would still do the same things I did to bring my baby, or babies up. I believe God will travel with me. I will never be alone. He will always guard and guide. And even if I never hear them say that, I will do my best, because it is all I can do. My best. So help me God…