From the first day we arrived in Kenya to today, our ear holes have ceaselessly been bombarded with the question, “When are you having kids?” Because we got married when we were both nearly 30, we were already familiar with questions like:
- “When are you getting married?”
- “Do you plan to be celibate for the rest of your life?”
- “Are you gay?”
Enter the question du jour
Back in America, though many people may be wondering when a baby is coming, few people ask. Here in Kenya, everyone is wondering and everyone asks. It doesn’t matter if we met the person five seconds ago. Once he/she finds out that we’re married, we know what question is coming next. It never fails. The general expectation here is that within a month of a couple being married, the gossip grapevine should be bustling with baby news.
Ray and I both want to have and adopt a lot of kids, but aside from our decision to spend our first year of marriage focusing on our relationship, we just have a lot of cultural and personality issues that we are still trying to work through before we can answer that question.
Let’s start with delivery, shall we?
For American women, it can be incredibly disheartening if their husband is not present at the time of birth. You expect to have the guy responsible for putting the baby inside your belly to be present when it comes out. Of course we want to share the joy of meeting the baby for the first time with our husbands, but we also want them to share in our suffering. Someone has to. Here in Kenya, men aren’t allowed in the delivery room. Maybe some of our Kenyan readers can explain why it’s culturally improper, but we have yet to hear about a hospital here that will allow Ray in the delivery room.
**Update: After talking to a few people we found out that hospitals in Nairobi city will let the man in the delivery room if you communicate with doctors beforehand that it’s something you want. It’s mostly outside of the city that you won’t have that option.
Bringing home the baby… but who’s in charge?
The first week that the baby’s around, a Kenyan wife is relieved of her household duties, and relatives come and help her take care of the baby. Many of you have heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, and that’s truly the mindset here. For weeks, one or two family members will become a permanent fixture in the new parents’ home to teach the woman how to be a mom. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m an introvert. The first time Ray and I discussed this particular cultural expectation, I literally cried. I know in America some women have their mothers come stay with them for a week or so, and maybe I wouldn’t find that to be so bad, but that’s just the beginning. Part of the reason you have people come live with you is because there will be cycles of people coming to visit, and you are required to feed them all. It’s rude if you don’t. For this reason, once we find out we’re pregnant, it will be a must that we move into a bigger place, not just to accommodate the baby, but to accommodate all the guests, live-in and daily.
I guess for me I just was looking forward to learning by trial and error with Ray and spending quality time alone with my baby. I like the idea of a village helping to raise a child, but actually living that out is a different story. Maybe it’s the pride in me that doesn’t want to be told I’m doing things wrong or how to raise my child, but it’s something I’m going to have to deal with, because it’s important to my husband.
Is it a boy or a girl?
The majority of couples in the States find out the sex of their child as soon as possible so that they can prepare the nursery, clothing, and accessories. Unless you’re a modern couple living in Nairobi city, most people don’t find out the sex of their baby. Even when it comes to buying gender based items, it’s not that important. I often see baby boys in girls clothes and girls in boys clothes. Especially the rural areas, people aren’t as interested in dressing their kids in the appropriate clothing for their gender as much as they are interested in procuring any kind of clothing that fits well enough.
Infliction of pain on our boy child
I’m talking about circumcision here. There’s always the debate of whether or not to get your child circumcised, but for those that do circumcise, it’s usually taken care of shortly after birth so as to keep the child from having painful memories and to reduce certain risks, but for Ray’s tribe in particular, circumcision is a rite of passage for boys when they’re about ten (Ray was 8). There is a huge production that the Luhya tribe is known for when it comes to circumcision, involving parades, walking around naked, and covering themselves in mud (there’s more detailed information about it here), but thankfully Christians do not participate in these practices anymore, so our future boy child is safe there. Still, Ray thinks it’s cruel to cut a baby and I think it’s cruel to cut an adolescent, but we both think circumcision is important nonetheless.
And he shall be called…
Like most American girls, I picked out the names for my children long before puberty made child bearing possible for me. Flip through any of my journals from middle school and you’ll see lists of names, underlined, circled, or scribbled out (depending on if I was still into the dude I wanted to name my child after). A lot of you back home have heard me talk about this, but when Ray and I first got together, he told me that traditionally either his grandfather is supposed to name our child or our children should bear the name of at least one of his relatives. Nowadays it’s more of a respect thing to name your child after a grandparent, but not a necessity, so this matter has become the least of my concerns.
The battle of our wills
There are some issues on the list that are extremely important to me. I wouldn’t want anyone else in the delivery room with me except for Ray (and my bestie Lisa). I refuse to give birth without him present. Ray also is adamant about having family come to help out. As is characteristic of the nature of marriage, we both are going to have to sacrifice a lot, and we want to be in agreement about the majority of these issues before we’re bombarded with them as we’re dealing with the stress that will naturally come from having a newborn. Through natural family planning we’ve been able to give ourselves time to discuss this quite a bit, but Sammy honey wants to have a baby with a quickness, so hopefully we’ll be able to resolve all these issues soon enough.