DEAR SON: How I survived my first diaper-changing mission

Friday October 27 2017

Those ones reduced the changing nightmare a

Those ones reduced the changing nightmare a great deal because the art of sticking Velcro strips to fit a diaper — which felt like a major surgery procedure — was now a thing of the past. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 

By PETER MOGAMBI

Dear Jijee,

The day I dreaded had finally come and I now had to face — and touch — my fears. I was all alone with you and you needed a change of diapers. Those were the longest 10 minutes of my life.

Don’t get it twisted; I did not hate changing your soiled clothes. You are my son, my blood, my all. There is no way I could have loathed changing you. But let’s say it took time to grow in me. By your ninth month when I was writing this, it had not grown enough, though.

That dreaded day came when you were about seven months old. You did a number two and though you were still playful and oblivious, it would not be good for you to continue wearing the same diaper. Sh** got really real that day.

One voice told me to wait until mum came back home. Ah, she would need just a couple of seconds to clean up everything. But another voice was pummelling my mind, shouting, “Shame on you! How can you do this to your son? Do you want him to develop a never-ending rash?”

The latter won. All that while, I was thinking I had mastered your mum’s changing procedure: let him lie on his back, undress him, untie the diaper, wipe, place another diaper, dress him, throw away the waste, wash hands, voila!

But just like maths lessons where the example is always easier than even the first question, I got stuck on the “let him lie” process. Your excitable legs could not give me a moment of peace to execute the procedure I had crammed. However, soon you were in a new diaper. The end justifies the means, doesn’t it?

WORN-OUT CAR BUMPER

Mum alias msema kweli returned after a long wait. Only until her return did I realise that the diaper had been fixed so terribly it looked like a worn-out car bumper that is about to drop.

In the rest of her analysis, whereupon I scored a 3 out of 10 in the whole changing process, she also discovered that I had used about a tonne of wet wipe sheets. I don’t know which magic she could use so that just a single sheet would do the whole clean-up. Mothers are magicians.

I would later get some consolation on YouTube, where I realised I was not that bad at the job. If the tens of videos of fathers changing their children’s diapers were anything to go by, then at least I was a hero because I did not feel like throwing up like some dads had done elsewhere.

I knew some dads in the YouTube videos were trying to be funny but I would reckon there is a father somewhere in the world tying a cloth around his nose to keep off the smell of his child’s excrement as he changes the little angel’s diaper.

One video captured a man questioning his son: “You just ate bananas and milk, man, that’s all you ate … it’s not fair.”

And like I had done that day, he uses three tonnes of wet wipes to finish the cleaning up. In the video, he calls his wife who does not respond and he continues to change the kid. “That was the worst thing I’d ever seen,” he says. I roared in laughter watching the very relatable video.

Then I looked around the internet and came across a research by four experts who dedicated a whole research project to dads changing diapers among other roles that fathers need to take while raising kids. Some 137 couples in the US were sampled, with the focus being on how the mother and the father contributed to the raising of the child.

“Despite the fact that women reported contributing almost twice as much to the division of childcare as their male partners did, women seemed to handle the transition to parenthood and childcare tasks better than most men. This might be attributable to the fact that the typical woman has greater familiarity or experience with childcare tasks,” stated Jennifer Fillo, Jeffry Simpson, Steven Rholes and Jamie Kohn in a February 2015 report.

And with that I said “amen”. I was not the only visitor in this murky Jerusalem.

But it is as if the gods were on my side because in your early months, the diapers that can be fitted on a child just like pants hit supermarket shelves. Those ones reduced the changing nightmare a great deal because the art of sticking Velcro strips to fit a diaper — which felt like a major surgery procedure — was now a thing of the past. Thank God for innovators!

After that eventful day I performed two or three diaper changes but, by the time of writing this, none had ended as cleanly as a mum would do it. But, hey, a man has to try. And changing you somehow changed my mind.

***

This series brings you writings by PETER MOGAMBI, a Nairobi residentwho became a father in January 2017. By the time his son is old enough to read and comprehend, which is at least 11 years from today, a lot of water will have passed under the bridge. So, he has decided to preserve happenings in black and white so that when the boy can finally comprehend, he will get to follow his father’s feelings.