BY FLORENCE BETT
The first time my mother-in-law started to call me every day was when I was two days past my due date. I was at home idling as I waited. It was mid November. I remember it was a Monday, around noon, when my phone rang.
“Nothing yet?” she asked. She was more anxious than I were, I could tell.
“No,” I said, “nothing yet.”
“If he’s not here by tomorrow go to the doctor and have him checked out. He needs to come out already! What is he doing in there anyway?”
We were referring to the baby as ‘he’ because we didn’t know if we were getting a boy or girl. GB and I were open to whichever because it was our first baby. It was also the first grandkid on his side. If it were a girl, her name would be Mwihaki.
Mother-in-law – Mum – called again Tuesday. “Nothing yet?”
I shook my head into the phone. “Nothing.”
“Look, go to the hospital. With all my five kids, I didn’t wait a day past the due date. Due date got here and me and my bags were on the way to hospital!”
I snickered. “We’ll go see the Doctor tomorrow.”
And it we did. It was a Wednesday.
Mum called me on our way back home. “Nothing yet?” She swallowed, sighed then added, “OK, OK, if the doctor says we wait then we wait. But I suggest we get that baby out. Fine, let’s talk tomorrow.”
By the time she was calling the next day, on Thursday at noon, I was in labour.
I was in hospital for the weekend. My Princess and I returned home Monday. Tuesday, Mum’s calls began in earnest. “How is the baby? How are you? Are you still bloated? Have you let the gas out? Are you ankles still swollen? Did you sleep at night?” She sent me a basket of paw paws for the gas, and warned me against eating greens.
Mum would call every day, Monday to Saturday, at around noon, for the entire year and three months now. And still counting. She never skipped a beat. She’d ask the usual questions – “How is Mwihaki?” Pause. “How is GB?” Pause. “How is the Nanny with Mwihaki?” Pause. “And how are you?” – then ask about that month’s milestone, before giving me a heads-up to when they’d visit.
At month one, she asked if Muna is still bawling her lungs out and whether GB was of good help. “We’re coming over for lunch Sunday.”
At month two, if Muna is breastfeeding well and whether I need more bone soup and more flour for my uji. “We’re coming over for lunch next Sunday.”
At month three, if Muna is cooing and giggling when we tickled her and if the Nanny is taking her out into the morning sun. “We’ll be there for Saturday afternoon for tea.”
At month four, if Muna is sitting up and if we could send to her more photos on WhatsApp. “How’s it going back to work? Do you miss her? Why don’t you guys come over Sunday afternoon?”
Mum didn’t give me room to say no. GB didn’t either.
At month five, “Mwihaki anashiba maziwa kweli?” I said yes, she seems to be getting satisfied but not quite. I think we’re going to introduce her to solids early. “Great! We’re coming over Sunday after church, we can talk about what she’ll start with.”
At month six, “What’s on your menu? What will you introduce her to next? Don’t blend her food, mash it. My friend’s daughter tells me pumpkins are very good for them. What about uji, does she love the uji? Can I get her more flour? Let’s meet at your Mum’s Saturday afternoon, she said she’d be here for the weekend.”
At month seven, “Let me send you more minjis and warus for Mwihaki. Is she trying to walk on her own now, dancing maybe? We’re coming over Sunday afternoon.”
And so it went every day – getting on phone with Mum to share with her the experiences of Motherhood-101.
If I didn’t hear my phone ring – maybe I was in the shower or taking a nap or in a meeting – she’d ring three or four times in a row until I picked up. It didn’t matter if I was picking up to tell her I couldn’t talk then or if that I’d call her back later, so long as she heard my voice then she’d stop worrying.
At first, I found her consistency and relentlessness oddly fascinating, especially that our convos started with the same how-are-you questions. She never tired, still doesn’t. We spoke daily as if we hadn’t spoken to each in a long long time.
As the pressure of being a new mum versus returning to life-as-usual bemused me, Mum’s calls comforted and reassured me. I didn’t speak to my own Mum as often I spoke to Mum. (My Mum is retired with my Ol’Man to our shagz in Kaplong now. They’re both farming; growing crop and a healthy breed of cattle that are cared for more than us, their own kids. Those cows can even get pocket money if they could ask for it, hehhe, my little sis in Uni doesn’t have the same privileges. )
Eventually I found it necessary to update Mum – when she didn’t call me for a day or more, I’d call to tell her how we were doing.
Looking back, it’s so clear to me now: I felt cared for. I felt like a child. Mum made me feel like a child who is greatly cared for. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time, and Lord knows we all need that.
So here’s the drill: call your new-mum pals daily. Share tips they haven’t asked for. Nip in to check in on them as often as you can, always go with a bag of necessary goodies. Granted, she needs her rest and alone time to bond with her Munchkin, she doesn’t want her house crowded with guests and tire herself hosting them blah blah blah. Do it anyway.
OK, my phone just rang. Guess who’s calling?
An edited version of this story first run in the July-2017 issue of True Love Magazine24