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