The Case For The Male Baby Shower

 

IMG_20170415_173641_1492268736052

I’m jealous. A couple of weeks back, the missus had a baby shower to prepare her for this journey of motherhood. How thoughtful, isn’t it? She got all this advice and lots of baby related stuff. Blankets, diapers, more blankets. Ten different shower gels so that she gives birth smelling of hibiscus flowers and not placenta. Fancy stuff like breast pumps. Apparently, the modern human lady produces excess breast milk and needs to express it lest it fills up her breasts. Bottomless breast milk I think it’s called.

You should have seen my house when she got back.  It was filled with bags, upon bags of all this fancy stuff for her and the baby. What did I get you ask? A few hugs and numerous ‘aaawwww’ s from her lady friends. That’s it. Not even a wallet. Which has to be the most purchased men’s gift ever. It’s like saying, I’ve given you a place to put money. Now go get some money.

The chief had warned me about the loneliness that comes with being a man, a husband, a father. I don’t think I’d fully comprehended that warning. Nowhere in those 25 odd bags was a cigar. A six pack. A bottle of rare scotch. A sack of money. Nothing. I secretly rummaged through the stuff in the middle of the night as the missus snored away. I only came up with fluffy stuff and disappointment.

I sat there in the room, dimly lit by the backlight of my phone. The light silently mocking me. Illuminating the gift bags around me. Then, for the first time I felt it. Barely illuminated too. The loneliness. I thought to myself. How come I didn’t have a shindig for me? In fact I’ll plan it. Not a strip club though. That probably doesn’t enhance the idea of responsibility and fatherhood. And no, it’s no place to practice spanking bottoms.

It would be a manly place. A cabin in the woods maybe. With no trimmings of modernity. No electricity, no wifi, no ‘network’. Only Kenyans say such things. ‘Hakuna network’. The network is there, it’s your reception that has a problem. Those are the same people who call transport ‘means’. ‘Pole, sikukuja. Sikuwa na means’. The full phrase is means of transport. Not means. If you wanted to shorten the phrase, why didn’t you just choose the word transport?

Where was I? Yes, a secluded place. With no network reception. Away from wives and side pieces. Lots of beers and whiskey and cigars. There would be a chef too. To barbecue steak. Chicken for those white meat aficionados. Manly food full of cholesterol and succulent sweetness. There would be an option for no chef too. To allow the men to take control of how they want their steak roasted.

It would be a place to have men just chatting, laughing and taking time away from the thing called life that has all odds stacked up against them. A chance for the soon to be father to take it easy before diving into that storm called fatherhood. A chance for the current fathers to unwind but also to lay out wisdom and experiences in weathering that storm. A mix of the old and the young should be there. For wisdom doesn’t only inhabit grey topped heads.

Gifts? Men aren’t complicated. Money, would be good. A little something to lighten the impending load. Contacts of reliable doctors or hospitals or insurance covers that can work towards the future of the little one. More importantly, a support circle to enable raise these children. When did we lose these traits as Africans? When did the family unit become so small and measured that young boys and girls feel lost in an ever changing and demanding world?

A night would be sufficient for this. Men can only stay cooped up so long together without the need for some sports or the entertainment of women. Questionable or otherwise. It would be a time to laugh at our problems and wives and lives. For some, those are one and the same thing. Hehe. It would be a time to kick back and reflect without the din of ever shrieking demons of bills and responsibilities. A time to escape, albeit for a moment, the pressures of business and chasing payments. Is it just a Kenyan thing? Where people obtain goods and/or services and refuse or ignore to pay thereafter? It’s grossly unethical in my opinion. In this country you’ll have more success bleeding a stone than chasing down what you’re owed.

The night would be filled with the smells of whiskey and cigars and punctuated by laughter and wisdom.  Of course, once in a while there’d be the off course tangent of discourse on sports trends and the related insults depending on the team one supports.  And war stories of women pursued. And that’s ok. There will be memories of less responsible days gone by, of youth and the folly that comes with it. And everyone will lament how time flies and stare down in silence and disbelief at how far they’ve come. Someone will break the uncomfortable silence and stand, a glass raised in hand:

Cheers guys. Here’s to progress. Here’s to the bullets we dodged and the ones that caught us. Here’s to our sons and daughters. May we ever be present for them. May they hear our roar from a distance and know that we’re men. May our spouses warm our beds…

Or not nag when we seek other warmed beds, someone will quip. There’s always that clande advocate in a group.

And everyone will shout him down. You guy be serious bana. We’re trying to make a toast. The ruccus would taper off into murmurs and soft laughter.

The toast maker would conclude, Cheers bros. Here’s to fatherhood.

Cheers. Would be the group response in acclamation followed by the clinking of glasses, murmurs and loosely coordinated swigs of drink.

Thereafter the night would proceed with a less serious agenda. Men breaking up into different groups of influence. The cars guys, the sports guys, the work and careers guys, the business guys and the random banter guys. And at various stages all these guys will gravitate towards the talk of women. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

As the new father to be, you would go home armed with wisdom, allayed fears and the courage to face your family. Also, your pockets would be slightly heavier which can’t be a bad thing. And the missus will ask,

How was your “guys” thing?

And you’ll respond as only men do.

It was ok. Plop yourself on the couch and turn on the TV. Please get me some water.

She’ll amble off to the kitchen and you’ll both smile in the collective knowledge that everything is going to be alright.

 

Advertisement

Lessons In Breathing

I don’t like hospitals. They smell of despair and sanitation. A nauseating smell that embraces you. It attaches itself to your clothing and skin, hanging around like a relative from shagz. Hospitals make me sick.

But I had to go to hospital. Not because I was ill. No. But to attend Lamaze classes. Let me explain. Dr Lamaze was a French physician. Sometime in the fifties, he got bored of treating French people and decided to head off to the Soviet Union. He must have broken up with some French girl and decided he needed some space. A cooling off period. What better place to cool off than the Soviet Union, right? Hehe. So he’s chilling in some province in the soviet, cooling his heels and hustling from clinic to clinic doing locums. Making enough money for a roof over his head, some vodka and the occasional dalliance with a soviet chick to help him forget about his French squeeze. On one of his rounds in the maternity wards, he notices something peculiar. Relative silence. There’s no screaming. No husbands receiving insults for what they’d done. Nothing. A suppressed soviet moan on occasion, but nothing more. He discovers that soviet women don’t scream and shout. They make labour look like a walk in the park. Is it the government? Are they forbidden from screaming and yelling in pain? Are they giving birth at gun point? He finds out it’s not as dramatic. Apparently, the Soviet women had discovered through breathing techniques and relaxation rituals, they are able to give birth effortlessly. It’s very different from the French girls he’d seen. So Lamaze, being the curious guy he was decided to study these practices. Ever the enthusiast, he went back to home to teach women these practices and dedicated his life to sharing this with pregnant women all over France. One of his patients was an American named Marjorie. Being American she did what Americans always do. She super-sized the Lamaze curriculum, writing a book and founding the Lamaze association turning it into an international patented curriculum. Helping women around the world pop out children with ease and a smile on their face.

This international curriculum is in Kenya too. Which makes me sceptical, because every African I know has a story of a mother going into the shamba pregnant and returning with a baby that she delivered on her own. A baby she brings home, breastfeeds, takes a nap and off she is back to the pressing matters of tilling the land. Soviet women aren’t the only bad ass women around. Lamaze should have come to Africa.

So when I decided to attend Lamaze classes, I broached the subject with the missus and she looked at me, with lack of recognition on her face.

What did you do? Are you cheating on me?

Eh? No. I just think it would be a good thing to do.

She checked my forehead and asked me if I had a terminal illness. You see, I had mocked Lamaze classes a few years back. I don’t even intend to be in the delivery room when this child lands. “Me am” an African man. They should call me when it’s done. Kwani, how did the men before us do it? When I was born, the chief wasn’t even in the country. My entrance to this world was delivered to him via telegram.

IT IS BOY STOP ALL FINE

If there were emojis back then, he’d probably respond with a simple thumbs up emoji. But it was the eighties, so he just replied, via telegram;

OK STOP GOOD

After confirming I was not dying, I told her it was a good deal and besides, the classes serve killer samosas during breaks. At least that’s what I’d heard. (They really do serve killer samosas).

So we paid for the classes which were due to commence in a couple of weeks. It was a crash course, Friday through Sunday. Two hours on Friday evening (I couldn’t even tell the boys I was going to miss the usual Friday shindig), the whole day Saturday and the afternoon on Sunday.

On the first day, we stepped into The Aga Khan Hospital, Princess Zahra pavilion wing. That’s where the Lamaze classes were to be held. And gladly so because it doesn’t feel like you’re in a hospital. It’s like you’re on a floor at the Hilton. Wall to wall carpets that absorb your every step. Large wooden doors emblazoned with room numbers. It doesn’t even have that hospital smell. The patients are not even sick, they’re what we’d call “under the weather”. I think even the diseases there speak with a posh accent. The diarrhea patients have there isn’t even diarrhea. It’s just “involuntary constant bowel movement.” The kind you get from eating shell fish or caviar. Not from mutura or those boiled eggs from the street.

We navigated the posh corridors and finally got to a room with the door ajar. Within the room were four couples seated. The women were slouched awkwardly in their seats, their bellies protruding before them like inflated balloons. We were obviously in the right place. The men were at their sides sitting proud (or guilty?) of their handy work. Their hands clasped in love and support. We dithered for a moment, peering in awkwardly and acted typically Kenyan by asking an obvious question.

Is this the Lamaze class?

We took our seats and after introductions we realised there were 2 doctors in the group. Now, either medical school is a joke or this birth thing is serious business. Even doctors! I mean I was there because I didn’t know what to expect of this process. I was in search for answers but what answers do doctors need? I soon found out it’s worse for them. They know too much about all the bad things that can happen with child birth and need reassurance.

The classes were enlightening though. We learnt how to breathe. Through the nose. Imagine that. And how to sit on large medicine balls and maternity stools. What’s a maternity stool? It’s a horseshoe shaped…urrrm..stool. The top of which looks like a toilet seat. It relieves the pressure on the pelvis and helps guide the baby through the birth canal. Yes, I’ll be getting my medical degree after this. I didn’t know, let alone care, what a pelvis was until now.

We also learnt how to massage your spouse while she’s in the throes of labour. Not as sexy as you might think. Lamaze did one thing wrong though. It killed boobs for me. Never has the sexiness of breasts been taken away as it happens in a Lamaze class. It was all biology. Did you know there are breasts without nipples? Depressed nipples I think they’re called. Go figure. I felt like a kid finally learning that Santa Claus isn’t real.

Would I recommend Lamaze to anyone? If its your first baby. Maybe. It’s good. You learn alot. But if you tell the chief I attended Lamaze, I will deny your existence.