Feb 8 , 2020
By Kidist Yidnekachew
I was washing my son’s milk bottles and pacifiers furiously when my husband interjected.
“Stop washing his pacifier every other second,” he said. “He needs to be exposed naturally to some germs, so he can build up his immune system.”
There is scientific truth to this, and it was not lost on me. It was also all too clear that whatever amount of washing I was going to do was not going to keep him entirely germ-free. But with the worry that comes with being a new mom, one takes extra precautions when it comes to a child’s health. I am always under the impression that I know what is best for my son and that I need to shield him from every bad thing that can come his way.
Starting from the very moment my eyes filled with tears after hearing him cry for the first time up until this day, the joy and worry that comes from having a child has multiplied. The little human has got me under his spell.
People say that women have a special bond with their babies and that being a mother changes them. I had assumed that this was an exaggeration. I was certain I was not going to feel anything special and thought having a baby would not be a life-changing experience.
The idea of having children with a person I love felt great, but the notion of being a mother anytime soon was filled with uncertainty. This was partly because I was preparing myself for the worst-case scenario - the possibility of not being able to bear children.
But children do change us in ways we can barely imagine, and when it happens it can often be jarring. What people do not mention as much as they should is the worry that comes with having children.
No doubt, any adult can be heard protesting that raising children is a huge responsibility, but no one really breaks it down to us in the smallest details. What people warn us about is usually the responsibility that comes with being a parent.
There is even a saying in Amharic, satwelid tegna, which can roughly be translated to “sleep well before having children." There is also a similar saying, satwelid bla, which translates to “sleep well before having children.” Both sayings are warnings for parents to spoil themselves as much as they can before they embark on the daring mission of becoming parents.
My uncle used to share with me a similar sentiment, and he could not have been more right.
It is evident that having children means sacrificing some of our needs for their benefit. It means being fully responsible for another human being aside from ourselves. It also means that our selfish days are over.
I only learned what this meant a month ago when I had my first child. This manifested in how I felt bad at the thought that something would happen to my child if I am not close by. Or how I question each and everything I do.
Have his milk bottles been washed thoroughly? Am I holding him the right way? What does the rash on his face mean? Is the blanket he is wearing suffocating him?
It is a long list of worries. Recently, I noticed a bulge on one side of his tummy, which terrified me to the core. Perhaps such feelings emanate from having no experience in raising children, but I cannot shake the notion that I am more scared than ever before.
Each day he breathes is a miracle. Each second is a blessing and should not be taken for granted. It is funny how a miniature human that completely depends on his parents for survival can have such an impact. There are days I sit around thinking and contemplating what my son’s future would look like, what it would be like when he starts crawling, talking and when he is old enough to go to school.
Having a baby changes us. It has made me a believer. It also forces us to reflect how we were once children and our parents raised us with love and care. They fed us, changed our diapers, looked after us, watched us fall asleep and grow. All the things we do now for our children, our parents have done for us. But most of the time, it takes having children to realize what our parents did for us.
That is why we have the Amharic saying, weldeheyew, which roughly translates to “have children and see for yourself.”
PUBLISHED ON Feb 08,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1032]
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