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Waking up is hard to do
Masimba Biriwasha, Mail & Guardian (SA)
October 03, 2008

http://www.mg.co.za/article/2008-10-02-waking-up-is-hard-to-do

Zimbabwe's capital was turning purple, not because of the country's heated politics, but from the jacaranda blossoms that colour the city between September and October.

As Harare went through its seasonal floral transformation, Michelle and I celebrated the birth of our morning star, Tadana Yuki Takudzwa Biriwasha, whose tiny, overwhelming presence has taken our lives into a whole new territory called parenthood.

When I gave myself a pat on the back for going through Michelle's pregnancy journey -- especially for my presence in the delivery room -- little did I know how ill-prepared I was for what lay ahead. After all, I don't have a map and much has to be learned as the script of life unfolds.

Our first four weeks as new parents have been full of trials, joys and sacrifices -- mostly in the sleep department. We have listened to loads of advice and it's turning out to be a real trip, one full of blind corners and unfamiliar paths.

On Tadana's first day at home, instead of celebrating our new family status after months of expectation, we experienced a power cut. Not that it was a surprise in Zimbabwe: power cuts drop from the sky like jackhammers. Like sheep passively heading out to the meadows, we have become accustomed to being in the dark. Often we dismiss the cuts with a flippant groan or remark. Then we wait for the light to come back, much as we wait for whatever our chaotic national politics throw at us to pass.

I don't think Tadana was worried about being in the dark. That's the beauty of a being a child: the world is magical in all its states. But I do hope that when he grows up he will be able to question why the electricity just goes out without notice and that he will get prompt answers in a future democratic Zimbabwe.

Certainly if our son is as outspoken about his country as he is about getting fed, it's a good omen.

Tadana announced his arrival home with a lusty yell for attention that showed he already has a well-developed sense of self-centredness: his wake-up times, crying and milk-drinking schedules are as jagged as my nerves. During the night he wakes about four times and bawls like no-man's business. He keeps quiet only when he is being breastfed. Only someone who knows what he or she wants will do that. I am already taking a cue from him.

But at first, I confess, I was not the first one to leap out of bed when he called. Actually, I was kind of disappointed that I didn't have much of a part to play as a new dad in fulfilling Tadana's major need: breast milk.

So I would just curl up and snore away while Michelle sat alone to feed the baby, especially in the early hours of morning. And if she tried to wake me, I would grunt and go back to catch up on my action-packed dreams.

I know I am not the only man guilty of this. I soon gathered from many of Michelle's friends who have babies that their husbands also have a big problem when it comes to waking up at odd hours to take care of the baby. One evening when I came back from work Michelle threw a bunch of baby magazines at me and directed me to a specific article on what new dads are supposed to do for their children.

Frankly, I never thought one could learn much from a magazine, but the baby magazines Michelle gave me were packed with amazing practical information.

I recommend reading baby magazines to all new dads. Because everyone and his mother offers advice -- usually conflicting and confusing -- so it's good to get confirmation.

Being a good dad is an art that needs to be mastered. The most important thing is that, as a dad, you have to be there for both the child and the mum. I can't pretend it's easy to get up in the middle of the night to burp a baby and repeat the same routine two hours later.

Now I force myself out of my dream state and help my wife to get the baby to burp or simply put Tadana to sleep after she's fed him. With a little knowledge, I have become better equipped to play my part in raising a child. I know that there is still a lot to learn --I haven't changed a nappy yet. I will get to it when I overcome my feeling that the baby is still too fragile for my hands.

Sometimes Michelle throws a tantrum. I think the post-natal blues set off fireworks inside her. I try to make sure I don't fuel the flames.

Right now I'm preparing for a trip to Johannesburg to do some major shopping for the baby. The cost of baby goods in Zimbabwe is shocking. A dad has to do what a dad has to do to make sure the baby survives some of life's shocks.

*Chief K Masimba Biriwasha is a children's author, poet and playwright. His 'dad's diary' will appear on the first Friday of each month.

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