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I’ve been surprised by how many women have found my blog by searching “ambivalent about motherhood” or “ambivalent about pregnancy” into a search engine.

I’ve been overwhelmed by how many women are going through the ambivalence I felt when I first got pregnant. And how many of us are curious about how we’ve all moved forward since we first posted.

So here is my update:

My son turned 4 this year. He’s a happy healthy thriving little boy who looks like my father and like Mzee’s mother. He’s got a lot of my strong willed personality.  I like him. As a person. I find him a fascinating little person in his own right. I find his likes interesting and his dislikes fascinating. He asks for what he wants and speaks truths as he sees them.

Its been a challenge to balance my growing career with being a wife and mother.

But as Sheryl Sandberg says, the most important career decision a woman makes is in the choice of her life partner.  I’ve got an amazingly supportive husband who agreed to leave his well paying corporate job and move to a different country with me so I could focus on growing my work. Its been a year since the international move and all is well.

But we’ve also had to have serious negotiations about our roles in the family.

I think our marriage is very gender unconventional but thats because of our personalities.

I’m impatient and brash, he’s patient and very nurturing.  So he does the things about parenting that need the patience and I do the things about parenting that need mixing up. I take our son out and about into the world with me when we’re running errands. When he’s with his Dad they stay home. Dad is the one to read him a story and put him to bed.

The price I pay for that is when he’s got a boo boo, he runs to Dad first.  Its hard sometimes but I also know that Dad has put in the work and I don’t begrudge him.  We play different roles in our son’s life.

But I’ve also had to learn to balance my career zeal with my time with family. One of my resolutions for this year is to be at home and present more. I won’t work from home. I leave work at work and I don’t work the insane hours I enjoyed working before having my son.  I’m enjoying it actually. But I know i’m enjoying it because its a decision I’ve made and not one forced on my by society’s conventions.

We’ve also had a challenge getting other people to accept the roles we’ve built in our marriage.  Women especially are the meanest. Women are the most staunch defenders of conventional gender roles. It blows my mind.

I’m still a work in progress. My family is still a work in progress.

And in the last few months my hubby and I have been debating whether to try and have another child!

eeeek!!!

 

Oh my my my my.

I’m breathless.

I got sucked in hard!

I just got to the office at 1.30 in the afternoon after spending what was only supposed to be five minutes reading while on my morning loo visit.  Four hours later I had a serious cramp in my legs so I just crawled back in bed and continued reading.  I can’t stop.  I can’t help myself.  Yesterday I went to the library and checked the book and its sequel out.  I thought there is no way I’m going to plough through these in the time I have before they are due.  Well, I’m almost done with the first tome and salivating at the sequel.  I didn’t get to sleep until 4am this morning.

The culprit: Twilight

OMG!!!!

I first saw the movie on a flight to Kenya this summer and I was completely drawn in.  With reading the book now, I’m officially a Twihard.  Yep, a Twilight diehard

O.k. hurriedly catching up with work thats urgently due so i can run home and read some more.

Whats come over me?!!

Any other fans out there?

So I never have time to do anything nowadays.  showers are a rare luxury even.

But today was special.  Today baby Barack took a long nap enough to allow me to indulge in one of my favorite things; making ice cream.  Mzee and I bonded over the project.  He cut and quartered the fresh strawberries and we chatted as I made up the recipe from thin air.

The final product was absolutely fantastic!  I ended up using very simple ingridients. Fresh strawberries, grated ginger and a dash of apple juice in the blender.  Whipping cream and sugar mixed together and slightly whipped to fold in air.  Combine  the two batches and put them in an ice cream maker for about 25 minutes and presto, fresh, homemade ice cream thats better than anything you could ever buy.  I made three batches so I can take over to people’s houses when we’re invited for meals or to serve as dessert when we have people over.  All that is assuming I don’t eat it all next week.

This new re-discovery of the ice cream machine is going to have me concocting new mixtures all summer long.  I can’t wait till all the fresh fruits come out. I saw somewhere that you can use coconut cream to make a vegan sorbet thats still creamy.  Thats my next experiment.

In the meanwhile, I’ve got containers full of strawberry ice cream to polish off. lets hear it for spring and summer!

the ice cream machine at work this afternoon

the ice cream machine at work this afternoon

I swear I don’t know where my days are going!!

I  had all these brilliant ideas about all these things I would be able to accomplish once I was home on maternity leave.  Well, projects are still on the shelf waiting for me.  Ati I even thought i’d have time to put together some scrap books.  Yeah right!

I can’t figure out where all my time is going.  I had no idea taking care of a baby took this much time.  I barely have time to check email let alone write people back.  And blogging is such an indulgence nowadays!!

oh and lets talk about showers…. I used to think its a joke those women who would complain about not having time to take a shower.  Kumbe its true!  As soon as I put baby Obama to nap and step into the shower he wakes up and start wailing.  There I am, all soaped up and debating to let him keep screaming and rinse off, or create a sudzy puddle all the way to his crib and try and calm him down.  It was funny the first two times.  After the third time it gets old.

Much as i’m miffed at how little time I have for myself I have to admit i’m quite proud of myself and the little guy for how much he’s grown.  He’s put on close to 4lbs in 9 weeks and has those chubby cheeks babies get.  I marvel that all this is from drinking my milk and my milk only!

And as i’m typing this he’s swaddled in bed right next to me completely refusing to take his nap and just smiling and cooing at me instead. It warms my heart.  What a cutie…….I”m smitten

I remember growing up watching this movie about animals that get drunk off marula fruit.

KBC played it again in December during PEV.  There we were, Mzee and I in our little studio apartment watching elephants falling over drunk as the country fell apart outside.

Quick post while baby naps…

My brain is barely functioning!

I keep forgeting stuff and can barely retain new info. I’d heard about this phenomenon but its really trippy when it happens to you!

So much for trying to work on my book while baby Barack is napping.  All i can muster is folding laundry and ironing.

Hopefully things get better in some weeks here because this really is not sustainable.

In other news, today is my first day alone with the bambino.  He was born exactly a month ago (January 16th) and since then I’ve either had Mzee or his parents or my parents around.  So far its going swimmingly. I even figured out how to go to the bathroom while holding him because he was screaming his head off and I really had to go.  about those Kegels……

I keep thinking that if I knew six months ago what I know now I would have had so much more fun with my pregnancy.

I spent so much time and energy flipping out and fearing the labour and delivery that it seriously cut into my enjoyment of pregnancy.  Turns out I had nothing to worry about and I should have just chilled out.

1. Yes labour and delivery are painful but its doable and bearable with the right kind of pain medication.  I went into the process thinking that it was either an epidural or nothing.  Kumbe there are IV medication options which is what I took and it worked perfectly for me.  Every hour the nurse would load me up with a dose and I would continue labouring. I could still feel the contractions and the pushing but the meds just took the edge off.  Halfway through the nurse looked at me and told me that I was well on my way to doing this without an epidural and for the first time I believed that i was capable.  That nurse was awesome!

2. My body is capable of a lot more than I’ve ever given it credit for.  I’ve had a really rough relationship with my body for years now.  Coming to America as a teenage girl to a family where the women had serious body image issues themselves was horrible for my self image.  Consequently i’ve wasted the last decade in conflict with my body.  I feel like labour and delivery have ended a long civil war.  My body has won.   I love it, I respect it, and I am in awed amazement at what it can do.  For example, I’m already weighing less than I did on the day that I found out I was pregnant!!  This is not because I went on some extreme diet during the pregnancy.  I just decided that I wasn’t going to care about dieting and that I was just going to focus on eating healthy but eating what I fancied.  Nausea took care of my tendancy to overeat and the rest is history.  I’m hoping to parlay my newfound respect for my body into a new healthy lifestyle.  wish me luck!!

Announcing the arrival of one baby Barak born on Friday January 16th at 4.30pm and weighing in at a hefty 3.8 kgs or 8lbs and 8oz and 21 inches long.  Labour was 13 hours and nowhere near as bad as I feared!!

He was born vaginally with no epidural!!!

He’s doing well and despite some worries about bruising on his head and some hearing tests, he’s doing very well and is perfectly healthy.

I’m doing well too.  Its been an amazing experience and I have so much to process about the whole experience.

In short, his birth was the most incredible experience of my life and I wish I had not spent so much of my pregnancy freaking out about labour and delivery because not only was it not that bad, it was in itself a transformative experience.  I am in awe of my body and what it can accomplish!!

Will try to post more in the coming days but as you can imagine my schedule is not mine anymore!

Thanks to you all for the warm wishes! Can’t wait to share tales from my journey into  motherhood with you!

yep. No baby Barack yet.  I’m due in less than four days now but it sounded from my last visit to the doc like the dilating had slowed down.  I have another appointment on Thursday and will know if I’ll have gotten any more extra centimeters.

I’ve been having tons of braxton hicks contractions though.  Thankfully they don’t hurt.

In the meanwhile i’m pleased because I’ve had the free time I needed to complete some projects around the house and especially do some work on project A which I had not been able to focus on as much as I would have liked.

I’m begining to feel ready to meet the little guy actually.  The room is stocked and decorated, his clothes are washed and folded and his crib is assembled.

It also feels like Mzee and I have been doing a lot of work getting ready for him emotionally.  Perhaps blame it on hormones but we’ve been having some really intense conversations and I feel like we’ve been reconnecting a lot recently.  All goes towards making me feel more comfortable about bringing this baby into the world, into our home, and into our marriage.

Now back to twiddlig my thumbs and waiting……

For the first time in a couple of years Mzee and I are hosting Thankgiving at our place.

I LOVE the holidays and being pregnant this year has given me an excuse not to travel and to instead stay home and go overboard. I’m giddy with excitement and anticipation!

First of we’re feeding 16 people!  Ive been planning for months now and I’m ready with a typed up guest list and menu including two turkeys (hoping I can convince Mzee to give one of them the bikini outfit above), massive quantities of side dishes, four pies and peach cobbler etc.

I can’t wait!!

then the next day it will be time to go out and pick out the family christmas tree.  Mzee have a tradition of going to a farm to cut down our own christmas tree.  He usually goes for a modest size one, I go for the largest in the farm, we argue, then settle on one that just barely fits in the ceiling of our place.  I suspect this year will be no different.

I can’t wait though!!

wooohoooooo!! the holidays are here!!!!

So when Mzee and I got married my family went through a huge debate/fight/dilema about whether or not mzee should have to pay dowry.  Interestingly my mom was adamantly for the idea and my dad was adamantly opposed.

We managed to dodge the bullet at the time by deffering the issue.  At the ngurario my parents basically made the statement that the would overlook the issue at the moment since we were both young graduate students but they wanted us to know that dowry is an important part of the culture and should we ever feel compelled, we should bring some…..

Fast forward four years and now we’re expecting our first little guy.  Should we make a move on paying some dowry?

The issue only recently came up when my class was discussing the impact of culture on African women’s emporwerment and I shared my story.  I can’t stop thinking about it since then though….

On one hand I think culture is important and some of these traditional practices have their value.  And truth be told, I’m also a little supersticious that something bad might happen to me if we don’t handy up…

On the other hand, what statement about women as partriarchal property will I be contributing to by participating in the process?  Paying dowry just feels so wrong to my deeply feminist sensibility.  Like mzee and my dad are trading me.

I’m also thinking a lot about the issue because a close friend just died last week and I’ve been sensitive to the way that his Kenyan family is letting his American wife make the decisions.  I’m really impressed by their decision to stand by his wife and the choices she is making even though they are not their first preference.

Its made me wonder though, how my family would treat mzee if I passed on without the dowry issue resolved.  Would they stand aside and let him make the decisions or would they pull the traditional Kenyan “the woman wasn’t yours so you can’t burry her’ crap that is so common?

So, what do you think? Should I encourage Mzee to take home dowry to the folks?

I’ve been away from my blog for a while. Just been busy with midterms for my students and some happy gardening.

I had a bumper crop of vegetables this year.  The five tomato plants went absolutely crazy for me as the pictures below show.

the squirrels ate all the maize though 😦  Imagine, not a single cob for Mzee and I

Mona’s post reminded me of an unanswered question.

What will I ever tell little njugu karanga (peanut) if/when he asks me if I ever did drugs?

Truth is that I had quite a good time in college and the beginning of grad school.  I limited myself to herbs (nothing powdery or that needed complex equipment like needles etc).   So should I tell the truth and risk him thinking “well, she turned out alright so I will too”, or should I just plead the fifth and direct little njugu to his squeaky clean father who would actually be telling the truth when he say’s he never even touched alcohol until we started dating?

Paroz out there, will you fess up to your previous sins?  Have you fessed up yet?

sorry I gotta bitch.

So there’s this ridiculous expectation that pregnant women glow. I’M NOT GLOWING!

In fact, at the risk of being a ‘bad’ woman,  I’d be hard pressed to say that i’m enjoying being pregnant at all. I’m nauseous all the time, completely exhausted, I feel thoroughly fat and ugly, and the realization that my life will never again be mine and mine alone is dawning on me too fast for comfort.

I must admit I got caught up in the unrealistic expectations. Particularly the ones that tell you that your second trimester is full of energy and radiance.  I”m well in to my second and feel just as crappy as I did in the first.

i’ve never been of the Miss Kenya proportions but the physical changes are happening too fast.  I now don’t have a belly and instead my entire midsection has inflated all around from my boobs down to my knees. I feel more like the Michelin tire blimp….

I know I know it could all be much worse. I could be on strict bedrest and so long as the baby turns out healthy thats what counts, and Its all going to get worse once there is a little wailer attached to my boobs at all times. I know that. But on some days its just hard being pregnant.

I’m sure i’ll be back to my normal cheery self again tomorrow but for today, I just needed to exhale and let it out.

21 weeks knocked up

21 weeks knocked up

BOY!!!

At today’s ultrasound we found that we’re having a healthy, big and tall boy. (I can’t believe its been 20 weeks already!)  I must say that it came as quite a suprise because in my mind I had decided that we’re having a girl.  Don’t know why but that had been my intuition.  oh well. so much for women’s intuition. Perhaps it was just me wishing….  Good thing I hadn’t painted the nursery pink!

Now comes the fun part of picking names.  Mzee and I are picking a Swahili first name then each of the grandfathers get to pick out one middle name and then he’ll keep mzee’s last name for his last name.  Yep, this unfortunate cross cultural kid will get loaded down with four names total.

Mzee and I had so much settled into thinking that its a girl that we had picked out the girl name: Naima.  Boy names are harder.  We’ve got a short list of swahili boy names none of which we’re  thrilled about. we’ve already considered Fadhili, Tumaini, Taraji, Jabari and Johari and none of those are really working well for us.

So Swahili speakers out there:  What are your suggestions for swahili boy’s names.  Help!!

I know its a little late in the game but I just discovered Anthony Hamilton, my latest crush.  This is the same Anthony Hamilton of “Charlene” and “Coming from where I’m from” fame.  I always liked those two songs but I wasn’t familiar with the rest of his work.   I bought his relatively unknown (at least to me before this) album “Southern Comfort” and i’m in love.  My favorite track by far: “Don’t say what you won’t do”.  Other favorites are “glad u called”, “never give up”, and “they don’t know”.  Unfortunately i can’t find videos from this album on youtube but to get a taste of his work here is

Sister Big bones (featuring Monique)

Charlene

and Coming from where i’m from

So mzee and I have been talking about getting a second car for a couple of years now.  We’ve been quite unconventional for Californians by sharing the one car since we’ve been married.  Yesterday, almost quite on a whim we ended up buying a new car.  Not any old car, but my dream car!  (I’m trying to convince mzee that he’s quite lucky that my dream car isn’t a pricey merc or beemer!).  I’ve been salivating over the Prius for years and now I’m the proud owner of a 45/48 miles per gallon (aprox 20 km per liter!) powder blue prius!!
my new baby!

my new baby!

I think this is exactly the kind of car that would do really really well in Kenya especially as fuel prices continue to soar.  What are the chances of hybrid technology being introduced there in the form of new cars though?  Pretty darn low according to an industry player I had a chat with when I was there.  In fact it sounded like there were absolutely no plans to go that route.  The only hope is for Kenyans to be able to import used hybrid cars from Europe and Asia where i gather their production and sale is not government subsidized and so prices remain high.  Which is all too unfortunate because with the growing pollution problem, mass adoption of hybrid cars (which i’m sure would happen if Kenyans had access to them) could really make a difference.

So I absolute love being here.  Every time I land I wonder why i’m not already living here permanently.

But there are still some things that drive me nuts.

Like the maid at the apartment where i’m staying stealing my jewlery including a prized gold and sapphire ring!  And management seemingly uninterested in doing anything about it despite it being them who hired the staff member. (its a furnished and serviced place).  I don’t know what to do.  I’m certain its the maid who stole it.  Can I demand that they compensate me for the loss?

And of course I’m having these debates with myself about not making a big deal of it because the girl lives in Kibera and in the larger scheme of things I have a lot more material possessions than she will ever have access to and that parting with my jewelry is a small price to pay for the place of privilege I occupy in society and especially her certainly underpaid labour cleaning up after me………

Then sometimes I just get mad because its MY stuff and its not fair to steal, and I am already giving back with project A so I am already paying for my privileged place in society……..

probably sounds petty to some but indulge me.  I’m a political scientist and I spend an inordinate ammount of time and brain energy thinking about how my principles and ideas translate into my daily lived experiences…….. whoa i’m rambling. I’ll stop now.

And I know i’m paranoid on this rape thing but I’ve spent the past two days at a really intense conference on sexual violence and i’m up to my ears in thinking about it.

Then this morning I had to take my mom to the police station (long story but my mom is one of those women who will pursue justice avidly and I really admire her for it).  Anyway, there was this young girl who walked in with super red bloodshot eyes to report that she was raped last night by a classmate who tried to choke her to death which is how her eyes got that way.  Taking a brake from a conference on rape and running into a rape victim within minutes is just overwhelming.  I’m about to lose my mind.

I know its because its along my line of work and its what I study so i’m exposed to the topic more than most but still. surely, something needs to change in this society!  Why are people behaving like animals!

Anyway, I’m off my high horse.  Its just that when it comes to sexual violence, my nose is constantly stuck in Kenya’s armpit and I’m not liking the smell at all!

In other news I’ve been driving around the last couple of days and I must say I actually enjoy driving in Nairobi.  Now granted that’s because I’m used to California drivers and California traffic but its actually not that bad and the radio stations are super entertaining!

Back to the daunting task of networking with people working here as Mzee and I try to figure out a soft landing for when we relocate here in a few years.

Yesterday i passed the 12 week mark and I breathed a muted sigh of relief for surviving the first trimester!!

I leave for Kenya in less than 24 hours (still no apartment lined up!) and I’m really wondering if this is a dumb thing to do. To commit to over 20 hours in the air with another 10 hour layover.  Doesn’t sound like its good for pregnancy but they say it is.  Its usually a hard journey to make even without the additional exhaustion of pregnancy. Not to mention I am still in the throes of pretty intense ‘morning’ sickness with constant nausea and heartburn and assorted other maladies.

What if I start bleeding again while on the airplane?  Or while in Kenya? Will I be able to get the medical care I need?

Its a real battle in my head. On one hand women give birth in Kenya on a daily basis and children survive and thrive. I was born there and turned out well for all practical intents and purposes.  I really dont’ want to fall into paranoia.
Then again I now have two friends in Kenya who have lost their babies in pregnancies that I’m convinced could have been saved had they been in the States. There is no doubting that the medical technologies are far more advanced in the states.

Am I being a bad parent by traveling and not ensuring that my unborn child has access to these medical technologies?

Mzee seems to be o.k. with my traveling. I wonder though if he’s not speaking up because he doesn’t want to get into an argument about it. It must be rough to not have that control. The welfare of his child is completely dependent on me and the decisions I make at this point. I had never thought of the challenges of fatherhood in that way before. The only point he has completely emphasized is that I am in no way to lose weight while pregnant. I had this idea in my mind that I could still lose some pounds in the first trimester and it wouldn’t matter. Boy did he make a stand! Surprisingly, I’ve been able to maintain the exact same weight for the past three months. All thanks to the nausea.

Anyway, am I being reckless by traveling and denying my unborn baby access to the best medical care possible? What if something happens to me while i’m there? I’ve gotten dysentery during a trip in the not too distant past. How would getting it again affect the baby? What if I have to take medications when i’m there? What if I’m raped? I know its far fetched but I know enough to know that rape is a real problem that hardly anyone talks about. And I’ve been threatened before….

worry worry worry

Its that time of year to again start organizing for my time in Kenya.  The ticket has been bought and friends and relatives alerted.  And again I come up to a familar roadblock; housing.

For all the wonderful things about the city, the Nairobi housing situation really really sucks.  Its virtually impossible to find decently priced furnished apartments available for the short run.  Most things run over 100K a month for a mere one bedroom apartment!  Thats more in rent than an equivalent hotel room out here!

Its amazing to me that for how stiff the demand is, there aren’t more options for consumers.  Its such a ripe business opportunity!

Twice a year I have to pull teeth finding a convenient and safe apartment to rent for a couple of weeks.  I suppose I could stay with family but that would just drive me nuts and especially now that i’m a hormonal wreck!

What do others in the diaspora do for their trips home?

Also, any recommendations for places to stay in the Kilimani, Westlands, Lavington, Riverside areas?  I’m looking for a furnished or semi-furnished studio in a super secure compound.  And i’ve only got two weeks left before departure!  aaarrrgggg!!!!!