Friday was my first day at home with Kira all day. I had her on Monday for the day but we had so many appointments to do and business to take care of it wasn’t the same as being at home. I am trying to observe her natural rhythms in her day. How long will she sleep, how much she eats, how long can she go between feedings, what scares her, what makes her giggle, how long is her attention span, how does she indicate hunger and sleepiness… all these questions will slowly be answered over the next several days.
Of course I have my tried and true opinions about how to manage the schedule of a baby, but this situation is different. She has already established habits and I was not the one to shape them. Out of respect to her I feel I must identify and validate the routine which makes her comfortable. She needs to feel that I, the first mama to ever come along, am in rhythm with her. I think this will give her security and it will strengthen our growing bond. When we get home in America and life settles down quietly we will gradually establish my way of scheduling the care of baby. If I were to meet a new friend who I had a feeling might need a little encouragement and help with some basic life issues, I would not begin telling her how to run her life the first time we meet. We would get to know each other and build a strong trust and understanding. After that it is easy for her to learn and for me to assist. I think it is the same with a baby because she is after all a person with big feelings like fear, comfort, love, happiness and sadness. Just because she can’t communicate to me with words doesn’t mean there are none of these emotions happening inside of her. A baby isn’t meant to just be managed, but more importantly taught to communicate in a secure way with those around her that love her. This requires more concentration and attention, but the rewards are rich for the child. A child deserves this from her family.
If I could be so bold I might go so far as to say it is psychology 101, behavior shaping, positive negative reinforcement and consistency. I used it on my boys and there were no problems with their respecting me, in fact it has served our relationship well now that we are in the teen years. I use it on my dog too, and she and I are solid in our communication because she knows I understand her needs and feelings. It requires my hawk like observation and decisiveness. This is motivated by love.
I see some of the younger parents jump in and try to parent the way they want to, or have read is right, expecting the baby to switch in a finger snap. Of course this method hits a wall and now they are feeling insecure, confused and lost. Now is not the time to change anything for Kira. Now is the time to really observe her, know her and learn to predict her needs. She’s really the best Christmas present I’ve ever unwrapped.
What I learned yesterday is she loves to see herself in a mirror. She kissed herself over and over in the mirror on the dining room wall while Emily held her. I was a little jealous; I want her to kiss me, at least once. She won’t comply when I beg. She took four bottles yesterday and a little rice porridge with pears. She took a short morning nap and another short afternoon nap, and I put her to bed at seven. I also slipped into bed at the same time, tried to process my safari photos but sleep won.
We took her for a walk in her stroller for the first time to the Greek restaurant around the corner for lunch. She discovered riding in the stroller is interesting, but sitting in it while we eat, that’s another story. I returned to the days when I ate my meal quickly while someone held her and then I held her while everyone else ate, restaurants do not have high chairs. After lunch we walked to the food market and the surpermarket by ourselves, that is, without a guide. Milk comes in plastic bags, and so does the yogurt. We have to put them in our own containers. Surroundings and grocery items are beginning to be familiar to me.
At the market we were not a new sight to the venders. They have seen us before so we weren’t stared at quite so hard, some even smiled at us. I heard a lot of whispering of the word “mzungu”. (white person) We bought more fresh beans, and avocado, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, and onion. We said thank you in their language, and it surprised them so much. We hauled the groceries home and nana made soup while we trekked up the hill to visit the baby home.
When we walked into the door Kira began to pump her legs and flap her arms with excitement. I had a feeling she missed the comfort of her baby home with all its sights, sounds and smells. She went to play in the doorway jumper smiling at the sights of familiar friends. The aunties who missed her came to scoop her up and pass her around. They remarked on her new hair style and her pretty clothes. She disappeared while I held the bittiest baby, Moses. My boys played happily with all of the busy toddlers. Peter ran the troop as usual. He’s the alpha. Emily made a deep and true friendship with Bower who she had giggling uncontrollably for the first time. This gave her great satisfaction in the accomplishment of breaking through his shyness. Joseph came out of his shell playing peek-a-boo with a shawl. Mercy bounced happily next to our Kira. Playing with the babies at the end of the day is a real treat for all of us. We like to arrive when our business and school is finished. The target is three o’clock because all the big boys are up from their naps and ready for play. They greet us with hugs and big smiles now. I am so thankful the home is so close to where we are staying. I plan to get good photos of all the aunties holding Kira to put in her book so some day she can see that, yes, she was in an orphanage, but the women who worked there made it a baby home filled with God’s love.