Sunday 6 September 2020. 2147hours
Muna came to the hospital earlier this afternoon. She came to see me and to meet Njeeh. Big sister, baby brother – my daughter meeting my son, that’s something of a solar eclipse. There was no one I was more excited for to meet Njeeh than her. She had been asking for weeks, ‘Mummy, when is the Baby coming?’ ‘Is the doctor removing him today?’ ‘Are you going to get him from the hospital, Papa?’ Njeeh was in the nursery getting blood drawn and the nurse insisted I go wait in my room, that she’ll bring him to me when they’re done. But I didn’t want that. I wanted to wait so I could be the first one Muna sees him with.
They finished, the poor boy had cried himself to sleep. I had told Muna to sit on the ka couch in the corner and wait for me, eyes closed. I walked in and placed Njeeh in her lap. I told her to open her eyes.
Guess what the look in her face said? She was totally confused, disappointed to some degree. Taken aback. I knew she was because she did that thing she does with her mouth. I think she expected him to be a walking talking super fun toddler. Someone like her but less little. Instead she gets this puny newborn who doesn’t know how to do… pretty much anything.
She doesn’t pronounce his name right, either. She says Ni-jee. At least she warmed up as the afternoon wore on.
Monday 7 September. 2133hours
We returned home from the hospital today. Late afternoon. Skies still hang low. Kina Lucy were here to welcome us. Lucy, Maggie, Wangui and Winnie, my lovely sisters, Rosie and Susan couldn’t make it. There’s nothing in this world like a sister. Aki. I feel bad for my pals who don’t have sisters. I hope our next baby is a girl. I want Muna to have her own sister, someone to do life with.
Anyway, Mummy wasn’t around to shake things up with Kale songs so kina Lucy played some jams from YouTube, ha-ha. Rose Chebai’s ‘Tumdo’ and the works. Bluetooth Bose speaker instead of handmade leather drums that smell of smoke. They danced in that lazy way Kales dance. The one-dance-fits-all-songs dance. I swear. They’re such Kale women. Ha-ha. I’ve left them in the living room drinking and hanging, I’m in bed.
First night at home with the baby. Look at that.
Emotionally, I’m OK. But the avalanche is coming, that emotional avalanche. It’ll hit later this week, for sure. And next week. I’m in between hormones in this moment – the estrogen is fading away, prolactin is coming, plus oxytocin. Prolactin will make me feel lumpy, oxytocin happy. I’ll be a ball of emotions. Mood swings I won’t be able to explain. A dampening I won’t shake off. Stubborn useless tears.
Tighten that girdle, woman, it’s going to be a crazy ride.
Tuesday 8 September. 2315hours
Today is officially day four of maternity leave. Njeeh is four days old. I think he still thinks he’s in my belly. He must look at us staring and think, ‘Who are you people?’ We are your family, kiddo. Your rides or die. Did I mention that he still looks a bit funny, especially when I take his photos? He has that scrunched up newborn face that’ll soon open up. Blossom like a… I want to say blossom like a red rose, but c’mon. Writing standards are low but now thaaat low. He does the most adorable thing with his mouth, though.
GB sees me perambulating the digs with Njeeh in my arms or watching Netflix while pumping, or napping in the late afternoons, and he assumes I’m on holiday. Or on a break from life. Having it easy. I’m not.
What he doesn’t understand – or what anyone who has never had a newborn would – is that there is always something to do. Some mothering. It’s a never-exhausted to-do list. Mothering is hard work. The only time I have nothing to do is the small window between him going to sleep and me in bed. About 15 minutes before I shut down as well.
Fifteen minutes, that’s all I get to myself. Know what I’ll do with my 15 minutes? I’ll continue to write. Journal. Journaling has always centered me. Pressed the reset button. Put things in perspective. And so I will journal. Everyday. As long as I need to.
I will journal – on Google Notes – because it’s easy to lose it. It’s easy to lose myself. So damn easy.
Sunday 13 September. 2327hours
I had the best day today, the best one so far. Njeeh slept in our bed with me – ha-ha – and GB in Muna’s. He suckled himself to sleep, Njeeh that is. The hours he awoke coincided with my N-REM sleep, so I woke refreshed and energetic.
I was up by 4.30AM, listened to Boyz II Men, expressed 200ml (I am obsessed with expressing breastmilk! Counting millimeters is what I do when thinking about that day that has been). I later stuffed my face with Aunty Willow’s chapos and minji, downed my supplements, had a shower then took Njeeh outside to soak in some sun. His skin is pale and peeling, as wan as spring chicken. And he has never seen sunshine before or felt wind in his face, so it was heartwarming to imagine how it was making him feel.
We later napped all afternoon. I pulled his body so close to mine we were about to meld into each other.
On any other Sunday we would be hosting guests. But, you know, 2020, COVID. To be honest, I’m happy about this no-guests rule. I get to have the day to myself and Njeeh and just rest. Rest and bond. Recover. Guests wear me out, actually I get worn out with the thought that they are coming and that I’ll have to entertain. They come bearing diapers and words of encouragement and boatloads of wisdom but they also wear me out. Sorry. Rather, I’m sorry for not being sorry.
Last two days I have gone to bed feeling low and abandoned and without bearing. Today, I go feeling full and spongy and sunshiny and that I have tamed this beast called parenting. I am happy in this moment. Content. Thank you, Lord. And thank you for my little growing family. Winnie turned 26 today. Happy birthday, Love.
Tuesday 29 September. 1429hours
I’m feeling so needy right now. And I am wishing – hoping, dying – for some attention and love. No, not attention. More like recognition. Acknowledgement. “I see you, I appreciate you, I thank you, I love you.” You are seen, you are appreciated, you are thanked, you are loved.
I know who I would like to hear these words from but I also know that I am expecting too much. Rather, I am setting myself up for disappointment. Unmet expectations equate to disappointment. But can you imagine how you would feel if they – Njeeh, Muna, GB – would actually verbalise these words in context.
Aunty Willow said it and that felt good. She is a woman, after all, she empathizes with me. We mirror each other as women and mothers and caregivers. As givers, generally. All these others take from me but don’t return in near-equal measure.
You know what, I will tell them how I feel. Fuck being so strong and so put together all the damn time. I am human, a girl and I get vulnerable too. Mama, too, needs some attention and love.
I want to cry a little but I also don’t want to.
Wednesday 30 September. 2223hours
I am already in bed. Pretty early, right? Njeeh is snoring in his crib like a gentle giant, which means he’s getting quality REM sleep. Yesterday I changed his bedtime routine and it went horribly. Jesus. A book I’m reading – ‘The Happy Sleeper: A Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night’s Sleep’ – says to have him in bed by 7 p.m. This early bedtime is in line with his circadian system and will have him sleep through the night by three months, it says. So I brought his bath time up from 8.30 to 6.40PM.
Didn’t the young man fuss! Jesus. He was waking almost every hour. I even stopped checking the time because it was depressing me. Poor fella didn’t rest well. Then it was an unseasonably hot night. His tummy made him colicky. I napped at around 1AM, maybe two, who knows. That nap is what gave me the strength to push myself until 6AM, when he finally dozed off.
Anyway I am keen on getting Njeeh to sleep through the night because the night wakings are frustrating me. Last week Saturday I pinched him in his sides, hissing at him to stop crying. It was those wee hours, the hours of thick drug-like sleep. Zombie mode. I was pissed off because he had spent most of the day snoozed out – so why was he bothering us at night? I felt terrible. Gosh. He cried much harder after. Because it was painful.
I pinched my three-week old baby, can you believe that? Forgive me, dear son.
His skin reddened at that spot, it has only just cleared today.
I am so sorry.
Friday 9 October. 2308hours
I wrote today, for Saturday Nation. I wrote and filed the copy. My mind was crisp as I wrote, crisp as a green apple. As an apple cider. It was like I had never left. I feel good. Deliriously good. I feel like myself again. I feel in control. That everything will be OK.
I will keep writing and filing copy, just so I can chase this high again.
Writing for a living is difficult.
I sometimes feel cursed to be chosen as an artist. But on the days it goes well, this art, on the days you get this high, when you connect with your soul, like today, it’s nothing short of beautiful.