Few things beat the excitement a new mum experiences when she meets her newborn baby for the first time.
After carrying that vulnerable little human for nine months, all she desires is to protect him and nurture him. It may look like other women have an inbuilt capacity to raise children, where little seems to puzzle them. But can parenting sometimes be too much for a mother?
Karey Gachuri, 29, who owns an events firm, is a first time mum to Ciiru, two and a half. She confesses she did not know the first thing about parenting when her baby was born. “I had no idea where to start or how to hold her,” she says.
“Fortunately for me, my mum-in-law was understanding and she took me to her house when I told her I was clueless,” says Karey. Contrary to what most people think, breastfeeding is not automatic to new mums.
“My mum-in-law taught me how to breastfeed and I was also fortunate that my mum called me daily to check on us,” she continues. Her sister, Esther, a mother of two, was also very instrumental in helping her adjust to motherhood.
Karey preferred to hold her daughter throughout as she did not feel anyone else would take care of her like she would. “I would go to the salon and keep calling my mum-in-law every five minutes to ask if Ciiru was fine,” she laughs.
NO MORE FRIENDS
“I would even tell them to send me video clips to see how she was sleeping.” She imagined something bad would happen to her as she deemed her too delicate. “It was worse when visitors came to see the baby since I would hover around them like mother hen,” explains Karey. “The poor visitors would not even hold Ciiru for five minutes before I took her,” she says.
Her graduation day was no different. Since she could not take her baby with her, she remembers being on phone the entire time ‘finding out how Ciiru was doing.’ “My friends kept complaining that I wasn’t bonding with them and reprimanded me for being antisocial.”
In the meantime, Karey must have demanded for about half a dozen videos to see how her daughter was doing. “I even asked for one when they told me she was asleep so that I could see which side she was sleeping on!” laughs Karey.
And for the first year of Ciiru’s life, Karey did not want to share her with anyone. “I was even scared of getting a house help in case my baby ended up loving her more than me,” she confesses. Today, however, Ciiru is more attached to her dad. “When we get home, she breezes right past me like I don’t exist,” laments Karey. “I guess I have not been able to release her and still think I should not share her with anyone else.”
Karey remembers one particular incident that took place when her daughter was just learning how to crawl. “I left her on the seat and dashed downstairs to take out the garbage,” she recalls. “On my way back, I found a neighbour’s cat leaving my house.”
When she got to the sitting room, her daughter was nowhere to be seen. Hysterical, she started screaming and told the neighbours that a cat had taken her baby… until she heard cooing noises coming from under the table where her daughter was comfortably playing. “’Mama Ciiru, you are stressed,’ I remember my neighbour telling me. Of course I still laugh at that incident up to date,” she says. “Babies can make you do crazy things!”
When journalist Terry Nzau, 31, went to hospital to deliver her baby, she could not remember why she had gone to hospital.
“I had gone for a check-up after spending the day at work,” she explains. “Unfortunately, it turned out to be an emergency and the doctor ordered a Caesarian section.”
When she came to from theatre, she had no idea why she was there and when the nurse told her that she had a beautiful baby girl, it still did not hit home. However, when the anaesthesia finally wore off, she was glad to be a mum. That was when she started bonding with the baby.
“You know, suddenly you come face to face with this little person who looks like you, who you have been carrying for nine months,” she says, her voice laden with emotion. “It is a feeling that you cannot explain.”
When she took her daughter Malia Kisaka home, she remembers how fascinated she was. “I couldn’t sleep and was staring at the baby the whole time,” she says.
Unlike most first time mums who are scared of washing their newborns, Terry remembers attempting to wash Malia on day two.
Incidentally the nurses had tried telling her watch them wash the babies so she could learn, but she was scared of trying, saying she would drop the baby.
SCARED OF SUFFOCATION
“However, when I washed her the first time, I realised it wasn’t as scary as I thought and would wash her twice a day,” says Terry. She was fortunate her baby never got colic and would sleep for most of the time, which she wasn’t sure whether it was a good or bad thing.
“My husband would wake me up in the night to breastfeed seeing as the baby would sleep for many hours,” she says. “I had no idea that I needed to feed her at night,” says Terry.
Has having a baby changed Terry’s lifestyle in any way? “Babies are little bosses,” she says. “I remember I was used to going to town every day but suddenly, I could not. In fact the furthest I could go to was to take baby to the balcony for some sunshine,” she laughs. “I longed to go to town, just to look around and come back home. It can feel like a prison.
“My greatest fear was that Malia would pull her blankets over her face when asleep and suffocate,” Terry continues explains. “I would stand by her cot watching her, or carry her to the sitting room and watch her as I watched TV,” confesses Terry.
She was fortunate to have a good house help who understood parenting and who really helped her raise Malia. “Of course she had her own weird remedies, especially when baby had constipation,” continues Terry. “She would insert soap in baby’s bottom and I would cringe.” Terry is a now a – much more relaxed and confident – second time mum, having welcomed her son Daymond to the world on December 4.
Njeri Ngunjiri, 31, a stay-at-home mum, was excited to be a mother but admits she did not realise the weight that came with the title until Tyler, now, two and a half came.
“There are days that are pure bliss while some are quite challenging and nothing like all the reality shows I have watched of babies who never cry!” admits Njeri. “I remember one time Tyler woke up at midnight and would not stop crying,” she recalls.
Sometimes babies cry so much the mother feels helpless; Njeri started crying along with her baby before calling her sister, Mumbi, a mother of one, who explained to her that the baby had colic. Unfortunately, colic became a part of her life for the next three months and every night, like clockwork, Tyler would wake up at midnight to start his crying ritual.
Despite having a house help, Njeri says paranoia took the better of her and she held her son throughout. “I was scared something bad would happen to Tyler in my absence,” she says. This fear had been fuelled by a clip that had gone viral about a child who had been mistreated by her nanny.
FELL ON THE FLOOR
“I had watched that video when pregnant and that was all I could think about,” she says. “I was petrified and nannies gave me the creeps,” confesses Njeri. At least today she is able to relax and can freely leave her son with the nanny.
“It’s amazing watching babies in the movies who seem to understand what their parents tell them,” she says, laughing. “I would tell Tyler to stop crying but he would yell louder,” she bursts into laughter.
Njeri remembers an incident when she was preparing Tyler’s bath and placed him in the furthest corner of the bed only for him to fall on the floor. “These little humans don’t tell you they have learned to crawl and I had no idea he could move around,” she says.
“Besides, I knew he was safe on the bed until I heard a soft thud and heard him crying,” says Njeri. In a frenzy, she called the paediatrician to ask for advice like most new mums when faced with a challenge. “Luckily she told me all was well and I had nothing to worry about,” she says. However, that experience was too scary for Njeri. “I just sponge bathed him and closed that chapter of taking a shower,” she concludes laughing.