Sunday, February 12, 2012


My sister recently had a beautiful baby girl – her second child.  She had a home birth in the house she and her husband built (and I’m not talking about directing a bunch of architects and contractors – they literally did the hammer and nailing!) and have made their home for the past 13 years. 
After the birth she relaxed into the soft familiar sheets of her own bed to snuggle with her new baby, husband and son.  Dozens of longtime friends and neighbors took turns bringing her food nearly every night.  Her mother flew in to help care for her 4 year old son while she recovered. 

Can you even imagine a more tender scene?

As I look down at my ballooning belly and contemplate the birth of my own second child, I think of my sister in the mountains with utter envy.
I’ll be having this baby in a city where I know very few people and have no relatives to speak of.  I have some new friends and acquaintances, a loving but very overworked husband and an adorable but very demanding toddler. There will be no one else to bring me food, comfort me, help my son adjust to the biggest upheaval to his life so far or my welcome my new baby to the world with unconditional love.  It’s daunting to say the least.
At least that’s what I thought until recently. 
As luck (and maybe a little creative planning) would have it, Colin’s father will be traveling to Nairobi for work during the weeks around Jelly Bean’s birth!  So, Caleb will have his loving Babu to distract him from the fact that his little brother is sucking his mom’s attention (among other body parts) and JB will have another soul to welcome him to this world the way only relatives can. 
Things were looking up. 
And then, just this weekend, over a Skype call, my dad, in his typically nonchalant offhanded manner, told us that he would be coming for the birth too.  Ha ha, very funny dad. (I naturally assumed he was kidding.) 
My parents had, just months before and at great expense and risk of pissing off clients/bosses, taken a trip to visit us in Kenya.  They had never been to Africa before, and it’s not an easy trip.
The plan was for us to visit Chicago as soon as JB could travel.  Plus, I figured that with 6 new grandbabies in 4 years, some of the shine had worn off of this whole “being there for the birth” thing.
But he wasn’t kidding.  He’s coming all the way to Kenya to be here for me.  For Caleb.  And for his grandson. I could cry it makes me so happy. (It’s breaking my mom’s heart, but she can’t take any more time off of work to join him)
All of this makes me feel incredibly lucky and blessed. 
But something else as well…
You see, giving birth is the most female of rites of passage. Around the world, births are predominantly attended by women and so is the recovery process.  In some places, men are chased from the scene, and not too long ago in the US it was a man’s role to simply wait anxiously outside and then merrily puff on cigars and receive congratulatory pats on the back.
So, I’m in a kind of unique situation here.  I’ll be surrounded entirely by testosterone: my husband, my father, my father-in-law, hell, even my son and new baby – not a drop of estrogen between them.    
Which is fine.  I mean, they are all loving, compassionate and generous people.  And, like I said, I’m so lucky to have family around me. 
But I’m thinking a bit of training re: recovering moms might be required. 
They’re not going know the first thing about soothing sore nipples or any of the other weird and intimate pains I’ll have after child birth.  They probably won’t anticipate how thirsty I’ll get the minute I start breast feeding or know the kinds of foods that satiate a rapacious post-pregnancy hunger. 
I’m guessing they won’t totally relate to the impatience I’ll feel at reaching for my newborn as soon as he starts to cry (men seem a bit more tolerant of this kind of thing).  I imagine any post-partum emotional crises will be met with sympathy but a bit of head-scratching.
But that’s OK.  They are going to be some of the most doting grandfathers this side of the Atlantic, and the pleasure I’ll get at watching them meet their new grandson and play with Caleb will surely outweigh any possibly clumsy (but always well intentioned) caregiving to the recovering mom.
Bring on the men!


  1. Kim! Will you have JB by March 9th? I'll be coming to Nairobi on the 9th to fly to the US on the 11th and would love to bring some estrogen to your abode on the 10th if possible:) Let me know!

  2. Hi Katie! Almost definitely he'll be here by the 9th and we'll also be home from the hospital by then. Bring on the estrogen (and the pie. I'd like some pie). ; )

    1. Hmm...pie...I have never been very good at pie, but I can make a delicious (if I do say so myself) flourless chocolate torte...would that do?
      Also I'd be happy to cook anything you'd like out of my rep which includes: chili, saag paneer, lentil-based things, potato dumplings, spaghetti, soups, home-made pizza...and other items I can learn by request.

  3. Kim - I told Dad his job is to concentrate on Caleb,he has to promise to cook for you (if that works out in your temporary digs) and to understand that the emotions will likely be all over the place. Just remember: these two loving men also saw their wives through 3 post partem episodes. They may have more experience than you think.

  4. Oy, oy, oy! Your post makes me fervently wish we all lived closer - how I would love to be a behind-the-scenes help to you. I feel like an auntie of sorts, after all. (And I DO know somewhat of what you are feeling, as I was the FIRST in my group to have a baby - not much help from uninitiated friends - and my mother wasn't much interested in helping out or being a grandmother at that point in her life.)

    I know your sweet and marvelous mother must be literally sitting on her hands in order not to make flight plans - and all the time wondering/worrying about you. And I know she would relish taking Caleb under her wing while you tend to JB. Ah, this too big, big world we live in!!!

  5. You can do it! You'll be the queen! It'll be great! Congratulations to your sister and to you! New babies are wonderful gifts! Thank you for stopping by my blog today!

  6. Count me in to contribute some estrogen to the balance. I'm here, just over the fence... and happy to help out. Very honored to be right next door during this very exciting time.