My daughter turned four months last Saturday. (Muna, by the way. Her name is Muna.) Four months ago is just about the time I shared my last post. Four months is also how long I’ve been away on maternity leave.
Four months may seem like a bleep in your life. But in my baby girl’s life – and for a new momsie like me – four months is defined by a string of moments each as dense as a ball of knit wool.
Four months is the length of a season, plus the loose spare of an entire month just dangling onto it. And do you know what happens in one season? Change.
In one season, status quo ought to have been flipped over then the chaos reorganized into a handbook that’ll inform your next season. In one season, you must be able to look back and admit that you were as foolish and as naive as the short-sightedness of your inexperience cornered you to be. In one season, you should be able to look back and breathlessly say to yourself, ‘Damn, that was one hell of a ride.’
One season should show the world if you are all about public gab or private grit.
You ought to grow in one season – you should be speaking with crisper diction thanks to all that material you’ve been chomping; you should have sanded over your archaic opinions and stopped labelling religious folk as ‘maleficent’; you should know if Makena is the girl you want to wife and stop wasting everyone’s damn time already; you should have gotten rid of that Ankara outfit you wore to your boy’s wedding last October, you know the one you like breaking on casual Fridays to pair with your navy blue Dockers pants? Yeah, that one Korir, that one; you should have turned your side-hustle idea into a biashara that’s already earned you your first thirty thousand bob.
Job recruiters will feed you bullshit as you wait to for your phone to ring with good news of placement. But if they’ve been silent for three months, I say wisen up and carry on with your hunt.
If you haven’t become better in one season – in whichever way, even by a whisper – then you wasted opportunity. You snoozed, my friend. And you lost.
What sucks for me is that, with Muna, the penny dropped a tad too late.
I made a mistake on the day GB and I brought her home from the hospital in mid November. The mistake I made was that I convinced myself I had missed out on too much already, what with everyone’s life around me progressing. I told myself that I now had the energy and brain space to get stuff done, stuff I couldn’t do before because I was walking around like I was balancing a basketball between my legs. What made it the worse is that maternity leave gives you this spurious belief about time – it tells you that you have this endless stretch of three months of unscheduled days before you; the entire space of an open season to get back to the normalcy of life before you became preggers. So you plan around getting back into the groove, the old groove. The old groove is good but a new groove would be better. Actually, any groove at this point would do.
You foolishly leave your newborn out of this immature preplanning.
So a week after Muna was born, I put on some eyeliner then dragged her nanny – Nanny Dee – with me to the market for grocery shopping. I left Muna with GB, they were both asleep. I returned to find them both still sleeping, but her diapered bum fit more snugly in my open palm. I didn’t realize it. What I realized instead was that leaving her was easy.
A week before she clocked one month, I pulled on a snug pair of Levi’s (you know that pair that makes your thighs feel like a million bucks? Yeah. No one told me I looked like a hotdog) then drove to tao for an afternoon errand. I got back home as the sun was setting. (My thighs were killing me, Jesus.) I returned to find her doll-like marble eyes gone. In their place were these bedazzling eyes whose blacks took up so much space I couldn’t see the whites. It was like looking into dark pools full of colour; even her tears spilled colourfully. Later, when I was rubbing the bottom of her feet, she held my stare for so long I looked away blushing.
A week before Christmas, I dashed out for a meeting. I told Nanny Dee it was a quick meeting, and that I’d be back in an hour tops. She said sawa. I returned to find her feeding Muna from a bottle of expressed milk. I felt redundant and replaced. I balanced lonely tears as I headed for the shower.
A week after New Year’s, I returned from Nakumatt to hear her laughing with Nanny Dee; it was a real-person laugh, like ha-ha. Three days before Valentine’s, I nipped to tao to buy a pair of brogues, I returned to find her trying to sit herself up.
But her firsts don’t happen only when I’m away from her. Sometimes they happen when my gaze shifts from her: Get this, I am on WhatsApp making a rejoinder and look back to find her four fingers in her mouth, and she’s sucking them. I am Shazam’ing a soundtrack from Grey’s Anatomy then boom, she’s making spit bubbles. I am Facebook’ing when she squeals. I am typing an email with my left hand and rocking her with my right hand when she grabs my face and plants what feels like a sloppy kiss at the corner of my mouth, I didn’t see that one coming. I am on my laptop piecing my 1,000 words for the day when I hear Nanny Dee say, in loud excitement, Good, then she chuckles. I abandon my copy at 257 words to go see what’s all this ‘Good’ I’m missing out.
Muna’s best moments didn’t happen two seconds ago, or are waiting to happen when she turns six months. Her best moments are happening right now. Right here, right now. Do you feel my insane urgency in that sentence? Let me repeat that: Right here! Right now!
In three months, her life gets better by the moment. Not by the day, but by the moment.
I understood this late. Individually and to the observer, these milestones may seem quotidian in their heft. But to me, and when they are put together, they are greater than the sum of their individuality. You know why? Because it all happened to Muna, and in the space of three months. Just about the time I acknowledged that everything else can wait. I had wasted crucial hours, probably days, yearning to play a part in the world outside my front door. But there really was nothing to miss beyond Muna – the real magic was happening right here. Hers was the stuff I shouldn’t miss.
My last roll of the dice was an extra month of leave.
I’m outdoing myself now.
I cuddle her to exhaustion. I plant so many little kisses on her face I leave her with a rash. I bathe her for longer, scrub her sore because I want to feel her nakedness beneath my finger tips. I doll up her hair, I like to oil it then slick it back like she’s a Mafia don. I nap with her, sometimes even forcing her to, even when I can see she’s fussing to go hang with Nanny Dee. When she whimpers in the middle of the night, I am quick to get her out of her cot and bring her to bed with GB and I (I’m told she’ll never leave, not until she’s going to Form One, hehhe). I am anxious to move her out to another room. I need her more than I believe she needs me.
On several warm afternoons, I bare us down to the essentials then lie with her under the cover of a Maasai blanket; our skin breathes into each other, speaking in a language only she and I will ever understand.
I hover over her alot, hoping for another milestone to hit while I’m at it. I’ve snapped so many moments in sequence that Google Photos is tired of creating collages out of those images. My convos with her are more engaging, our music playlist ready and on repeat, because I want to school her with as much intensity as I can. I babble a chuckle out of her harder. I don’t leave the digs unless I absolutely have to. And even then it’s really difficult to.
Sometimes – most times – I find myself just staring.
GB barrages me with questions about when she will hit new milestones. Like, “When will she run to meet me at the door?”, “When will she first call me ‘Papa’?” Or, “When can she spend a weekend in Nyeri?”, “When will you switch her onesies for dresses?” Or, “When will you take her for her first swim?”, “When will she crack open a bottle of Coke with her teeth? Hehhe.”
My response is always the same: I shake my head and I tell him don’t know. When she gets around to doing it, then we will be there to know.