Dear First Time Parents

Congratulations! Your bundle of joy is on his/her/their way. Whether this is the culmination of many years of peeing on pregnancy sticks, doctors visits, fertility treatments etc, and getting that sinking feeling because the tests were negative, or whether it was the culmination of peeing on multiple pregnancy sticks because you just cannot believe you are in fact pregnant (oops baby), and your first reaction was a string of four letter words, your bundle of joy is definitely still on their way. So buckle up!

Depending on your age, you might have had family and friends ask, sometimes subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, when you plan to have children. This same set of well-meaning family and friends will be over-joyed when they hear the news, so over-joyed in fact that you should prepare yourself for a deluge of unsolicited advice. It is all well-meaning, I have caught myself doing this to friends, so we are all guilty.

You will hear everything from don’t eat too many eggs, your baby will be too big to give birth to unless you opt for a C-Section. Or, do eat many eggs, they will make your baby smarter. No pineapples or cinnamon in your third trimester- those are a recipe for an early labor.

Lay on your left side, it will increase blood flow to the baby (see? I just plugged in unsolicited advice)

Speaking of labor, you will be amazed at how strongly people feel about whether you should get an epidural or not. Will said people take the labor pain on your behalf? No. Will they still tell you not to take the epidural? Yes. Understand that they are well-meaning and want you to experience labor like they did, and not take the ‘coward’s way out’. Also, all the anti-epidural literature out there says that if you do not take an epidural, you ‘fully’ experience labor. I am yet to meet anyone who has experienced labor say, “I wish I could have prolonged the labor experience. It really was enjoyable”. That said, you will also meet the pro-epidural camp who will look at you like you have two heads when you indicate that you will not be taking an epidural. Again, they are well meaning, and do not want you to experience what will be the most excruciating pain of your life. I actually don’t think excruciating fully describes labor. But I won’t ruin the surprise:)

Just remember, do what you feel comfortable doing- with the advice of you doctor/ nurse/midwife. That goes for who you allow to be present for the birth. Labor is not pretty. Nor is it the SuperBowl where all your dear ones should have a front row seat. Pregnancy forums online have horror stories of uninvited friends and family appearing in the delivery room. It is your child and you can limit guests until you feel comfortable seeing visitors. Whatever you decide, remember that women have been giving birth for a long long time, there are not gold/silver/bronze medals for bravest mother who labored the longest.

By now, you must have consulted the interwebs to figure out what to buy your tot. The interwebs is a dangerous place, and the baby industry is a billion-plus dollar one for a reason. The sellers know just how to pull at your heart-strings. You must play classical music to your baby in-utero. It makes them smarter. To help you bring the next Einstein into the world are several gadgets ranging in price and complexity. I know many hightly intelligent people whose mothers were toiling under the hot sun farming while pregnant. Maybe I should record that sound, package it in a fancy recorder and sell it as the genius producer.

Your tot must have the safest car seat out there. This seat must be able to withstand everything short of a meteor shower. A few hundred dollars later, you sleep well in the comfort that you will bring your new addition home in a destruction-proof car seat. I won’t go into all the other swings, baskets, organic bedsheets, clothing , creams and baby accessories that will set you back a few thousand dollars. Some items however, deserve a special shout-out. Do you want your tot’s eyes protected while bathing them? A flimsy foam hat which sets you back about $5 does the job, according to the adverts. In reality, you baby removes it, in the process ripping a hole into it while soap pours into his eyes, thanks foam hat maker. Another shout-out to the pee cover, supposed to protect you from the fountain of pee. In reality, the fountain of pee lifts the cover so you are still covered in pee, and $10 broker for it.

When you finally bring your baby home, be prepared for sleep deprivation like you’ve never felt before. You will want to find the person who coined the phrase “sleep like a baby”, look them in the eye, and ask them why they coined such a cruel phrase. Babies do not sleep. To give you an idea, set an alarm clock to wake you every hour on the hour, every day for 3 months. That’s right. A newborn wakes up to eat so often, you will forget what sleep was like before. I now understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Try surviving on 40 minutes of sleep at a time, waking up at 2am to change an infant who manages to pee on your sleep-deprived face (thanks pee cover), and while you get your bearing and get new pajamas, said infant poops on the changing table. You finally get them in new pajamas and clean up the changing table in time for the baby to spit up on you and his new pajamas.

As a first time parent, there will be times when you will rush your baby to the hospital because you are just sure something is wrong. Your baby is grunting in his sleep, when all the newborns in the commercials sleep quietly. Newborns don’t open their eyes wide open, so of course you rush him to the optometrist to make sure his eyes are ok. Did she not react to a loud sound? Hearing specialist, here we come!

Speaking of doctors, feel free to change doctors if you do not feel comfortable with the one you have. Some have a gentle manner which is great and calming. Some are rushed and talk so fast they would put rappers and auctioneers to shame. Find one who is a good fit for you and your baby. Babies fall sick quite often, and it can be an alarming experience when your baby has a fever, but, they bounce back faster than we do. They are resilient little beings.

In your journey as a parent, especially as a mother, you will encounter a group of people known as sanctimommies. They are perfect mothers. You gave your child formula? The horror! You don’t use cloth diapers? You are poisoning your baby. You don’t co-sleep? Your child will have emotional attachment issues. You didn’t play classical music to your baby in-utero? My goodness this child will be intellectually delayed! You are not staying home with your child? You’re a bad and lazy mother.

What should you do when you encounter a sanctimommy? Wish her well and gently but firmly let her know that you will raise your child as you see best.

Say goodbye to TV and socializing for a while. Sleep is more important. Where there are people willing to help, accept all the help you can get. Also, if you are a stickler for planning, throw that out the window. Plans are constantly changing, and you will just have to take things as they come.

Another parenting “perk” ? When your bundle of joy starts daycare/ school, he/she will bring home all manner of bugs. An immune system bootcamp, if you will. Babies are more resilient than they seem. And modern medicine is great. Some of the bootcamp germs will make their way to you, so be prepared for pink eye, ear infections and my least favorite, stomach bugs.

If you were a squeamish person before baby came along, that will go out the window. Babies are messy. They poop, they pee, they puke, they spit up. Accept it, embrace it. You will leave the house and notice spit-up on your shirt. Wear it like a badge of honor. Your home will not be as tidy as it was before. It’s fine. Enjoy your baby, they grow so fast, other things can wait.

Why do people still have babies? Because they are the greatest thing that will ever happen to you. Nothing, no pain, or mess or discomfort will ever make you change your mind about being a parent. It is in our DNA to love our children more than we love ourselves. Elizabeth Stone said of parenthood “It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body” Truer words have never been spoken.




Fiery Avocado

It is said that you can remove the girl from the village, but you cannot remove the village from the girl. I grew up in a very small town in Kenya. Maybe you grew up in a small town too. But my small town is better than yours. How do I know this? How many Olympic and World record winners hail from your small town? I grew up in Eldoret, the home of too many Olympic medals to count. As you can see, I am very modest about my small town. Despite its world-class athletes, there are certain worldly things that had not made their way to Eldoret when I lived there.

When I moved to the United States, my brother decided to take me to a sushi restaurant. Prior to this, I had no experience eating Sushi. It wasn’t the chopsticks that phased me.Anyone who has gone through the 8-4-4 system and has had classes ranging from tailoring, cooking,carpentry and animal husbandry will not be intimidated by two wooden sticks. The fact that I cannot sew, draw, or make furniture just goes to show that despite Baba Moi’s best efforts, some students just cannot be helped. My sincere apologies to Baba Moi*.

When it came to sushi, the thought of eating raw fish, whether wrapped in rice and seaweed or not, just did not sit well with me. Nonetheless, I decided to try something new. I am glad I did, because the sushi was actually quite tasty, and remains one of my favorite foods to this day.. One of the side dishes was thinly sliced, pickled ginger. I added that to my sushi and it was even better. Next to the ginger was what appeared to be a small lump of avocado. I found it odd that the restaurant served avocado in such small quantities. But, being new to Japanese dining, I assumed that it might be a cultural thing. I scooped a spoonful of “avocado” and put it in my mouth.

Perhaps the first inkling that something was wrong should have been the fact that one of the patrons, an old lady, who saw me put the “avocado” in my mouth, instantly tensed and gasped. The next few minutes seemingly occurred in slow motion. While I was trying to figure out why the old lady had had such a strong reaction to my eating an avocado, I finally understood what the phrase “to drink from a firehose” meant.

It felt like a firehose had been forced into my mouth, and with nowhere to escape, the fire had gone up my nose and ears. My eyes watered, my ears, for lack of a better word, screamed. My throat was on fire. I reached for a glass of water, desperately trying to calm the wasabi induced inferno in my head. The old lady who had seen me ingest the whole thing had this pitiful look on her face. The kind you have when you wish you could have stopped something from happening- even though it happened so fast that you couldn’t possibly have.

To this day, I steer clear of Wasabi. It has been more than a decade since that incident occurred. But I remember, my throat, nose and eyes remember. The girl who grew up in the small town will not go anywhere near the innocuous-looking fiery Avocado.

*Baba Moi was an alias used by most Kenyans to describe President Moi, Kenya’s second president.