Monthly Archives: June 2010

Milk From Mommy’s Garden

As I was laying in the post -op recovery room last week, my guts just exposed to a room full of people not 20 minutes before, I looked over a saw a perky brunette surrounded by a gaggle of nurses. Her very skittish husband was glued to her side. His mannerisms and the look on his face told me this was his first baby. Whereas my husband was reclined in the chair next to my bed, casually snapping pictures, this strapping young man was flitting about the 4×6 space simultaneously trying to make himself of some use and not be in the way. Finally, his wife suggested he go outside and make a few calls to update the family. The 6 or so nurses surrounding her asked her if she had done skin-to-skin contact with her baby yet, and proceeded to assist her in getting her son to latch on in those few minutes after his birth. They fussed and cooed over her and the baby. My nurse noncommittally washed my child, swadled her, and moved on. Sure, this was my fourth child, and most of the staff probably recognized me from the year before, but I wanted fussing and cooing too, dang it!

And in a moment of insanity, that’s what I decided I was going to get. The next day, I summoned a group that the nursing staff referred to as The Nipple Nazis – the lactation consultants. Humph! If anyone would coo and fuss over me, it would be them.

Careful what you wish for.

The first consultant was pleasant enough. She fit the profile of a lactation consultant: White, middle aged (maybe 58), conservative hair-do, and dressed in a lab coat like she was “really doing something”. She asked me how she could help.

“I just need some help getting the baby to latch on,” I explained. “It’s hard for me to do it in the first two days.”

I made no mention of my uber selfish ulterior desire.

“Well I see you have a pump here,” she commented.

“Yes. That’s to get my milk lowing until she latches on.

She praised my decision making and got straight to work. We chatted about family, and how many children I had altogether. 15-20 minutes later, my newborn was making excellent progress, I had been fussed over and had had my ego satiated. As she was leaving, she asked if it was okay with me to have a colleague drop in the next day to follow up with me.

“Sure! No problem.”

The next morning, a woman with a graying bob, paisley print purse, enormous boobs stuffed into a blue cotton t-shirt, and an air of smug authority stepped into  my room before I could invite her in. She introduced herself as Elizabeth. She was the “hip” (61 year old) lactation consultant.

“How can I help you this morning?” she asked.

“I don’t really need any help,” I replied. “Your colleague asked if it was okay to have someone follow up. I think we’re fine with feeding.”

She ignored me and began washing her hands.

“Is it okay for me to take a look at your breasts?”

“Yes.”

I slid my arm out of my gown and she lifted my right breast.

“Well you’ve got the perfect breasts for nursing,” she commented, inspecting my mammary as she talked. “Lets see if we can get this baby to latch on.”

I glanced at her sideways. I had already said we were FINE. But whatever. If it made her feel like she had a job that mattered, I could indulge her for a few minutes. I repeated my family information. Yes, I have 4 kids. Yes, I nursed them all for a period of time. No, the only difficulty I have is in the first 2 days – when they are trying to figure out how to feed.

In the 40 minutes that she was there, food service brought me a tray, my nurse brought me pain pills, and an administrator came to do a brief survey. All the while, she was manhandling my nipples and trying to get me to focus on her and the baby exclusively. She would not permit me a moment of modesty! I endured, because I know their type. The Nip Nazis take nursing extremely seriously. Finally, she was gone, and I could settle back into my routine of doing nothing for the remainder of the day.

But she wasn’t the worst of the lot.

The next morning, I emerged from the shower, refreshed and ready to spend my day on Facebook and watching old re-runs of Little House on the Prairie. As I settled into the bed (no easy task after a c-section), the nursery worker brought my child. 10 minutes later, food service brought me breakfast. My husband came to visit with our son a short while later. It was going to be a breezy day! A knock came  on my door, interrupting my thoughts.

“Hi!” a cheery voice screeched. “I’m C.J.”

She shoved her hospital ID in my face. Cynthia Jean. She was wearing a white lab coat. Not again?!?!?

“Hi,” I said flatly.

She was already washing her hands and eagerly putting on latex gloves.

“Do you mind if I take a look at your breasts?”

She didn’t wait for an answer. She was already unsnapping my gown – on both sides.

“Ooooh,” she cooed. “You have the perfect breasts.”

I know, I thought. That’s what y’all keep telling me every freakin’ morning!

She gave the nipple a not-so-friendly squeeze and coaxed some milk out of it. I was aghast.

“So how can I help you today?”

“I really don’t need any help,” I replied. “Like I told the 2 other ladies before, this is my fourth child, and I just needed help on the first day with getting her to latch on…”

“Well let’s just see if we can’t get that baby to latch on!”

Ugh…..

She asked if I had a nipple shield. I pointed at the table where it sat.

“Good…good!”

She instructed me to hold the baby just so, placed the shield on my nipple and began to pour formula around the baby’s mouth, her face and down the side of my chest. I had just had a shower, lady! I tried not to glare at her. My husband sat silently watching this whole fiasco unfurl. Liya began to lap up the formula. That’s when C.J. switched to baby talk.

“No, no widdle one,” she scolded. “I know you want dat formuwa ’cause it’s easy. We don’t want you to have that fast food – that McDonald’s. We want you to get dat guuuud (she groaned as she said ‘guuud’) miwk from mommy’s garden. Dat fresh gween beans and tomadoes miwk.”

Marshall’s eyes raised ever so slightly. I could see the word “WOW” flash through his mind. I looked at C.J. like she had lost hers. When she was finished making a big soupy mess, she blurted out:

“Do you have WIC?”

“What? Uhh…I suppose I qualify for it, but I don’t plan to go get it,” my voice trailed off.

“Oh! Because I was going to tell you they have breastfeeding workshops at the county office.”

She pointed to a number on the back of a massive booklet. And risk going to meet other crazy women like you? Who work for the government? No thank you. Next, she spent an eternity telling me how the baby was the best stimulant for my breasts, how often to feed her, what I should/should not eat, stay away from the pump if I can; and did I know breastfed babies had higher IQs than formula fed babies? – blah blah BLAH. When she paused, I took the opportunity to remind her that this was my fourth child, and I had nursed all of them before.

Minutes later, as she prepared to exit, she got teary eyed. She looked at my husband.

“You know, you’ve got a winner in this one here,” she said pointing at me. “You’re very lucky.”

“I think I’ve got a winner in him too…”

She lifted her hand, requesting silence. Her voice began to crack.

“Thank you both for making the decision to breast feed your child. It is truly one of the most, if not the most, important decisions you could make for her life.”

Marshall looked just passed her, pursed his lips raised his eye-brows again, and nodded his headed slowly. I answered her audibly, as she seemed to be looking for some sort of verbal response.

“Uhh…you’re welcome?”

She turned and exited my room dramatically.

********

As I was being discharged 2 nights later, the nurse asked me if I needed any follow up from lactation. No, I did not. I made sure she marked it on her chart. The next morning, my phone rang. It was the hospital. Did we forget to pay a bill or something? I hesitantly answered the call.

“Hello?”

“Hi! Mrs. Grant? Ma-lah-ka? This is Elizabeth from lactation…”

NNNNOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

Special Deliver-weave!!

(This is what it sounds like when doves cry)

I’ve had 4 pregnancies in 6 years and every one of them has been unique. I’ve had preeclampsia, a placenta previa, a fetus suspected/diagnosed as having Down’s Syndrome, and one regular term birth with no issues.  In every instance, my hair has summed up the story of each pregnancy.

I had preeclampsia with my first born. ‘Preemclampsia’ is just a fancy medical term for ‘high blood pressure’, in case you were wondering. The antics of my first child’s biological father sent me into such a tail-spin that by week 32 of carrying the child, I was barely able to get through the day without popping 8 Tylenol by dinner. It was a terrible time, with days categorized by uncertainty and fear; and on the day I had an emergency C-Section to save both my and my daughter’s life, I indeed looked terrible. I call this look Dramatic & Traumatic.

My daughter’s conception and birth were unplanned and unexpected. As such, I did not make the time to get my hair done in anticipation of her arrival. The whole affair was flown by the seat of my pants, and you can see the ‘dramatic’ results in the picture above. Coincidentally, my first born is a true pure bred drama queen.

My second pregnancy was an absolute breeze – classic text book. It was predictable and pleasant, as is my next child. I made sure that my hair was cornrowed in a practical and easily maintainable style. There were no surprises and again, the hair tells the story. My little Ayako is a predictable and dependable child, just like that set of cornrows. Again, the child modeled the hair. Could this be a trend? Hmmm…

My son was the one with whom I had the previa. He refused to be detached from my uterus, and my OB had to dive in and cut his placenta off my muscle walls. For his delivery, I had chosen to get my natural hair pressed so that he might run his tiny little newborn hands through it if he so wished. It’s only natural that little boys want to be as close to their mommas as possible (especially those raised in the South), so again the hair fit the child. And make no mistake – my son is embedded in my very hip! This straight press (or what was left of the straightness after an hour in delivery) is called…drum roll…It’s Only Natural!

And finally, finally, we come to my little Liya, born just this past Thursday. Liya was named after Liya Kebede, the model and Goodwill Ambassador. She is also the child that my practice’s geneticist declared to have Down’s Syndrome,  measuring way smaller than her peers in utero, and could never get an accurate read on her age during gestation. As our son was meant to be our last child, her conception came as something as a surprise. (It’s been suggested we read the book Where Do Babies Come From?) Yes – yes this child was special, and for her grand entrance into the world, I too had to herald her with a special hairstyle. So I went out and spent 6 hours in a chair to get a weave, now affectionately termed as my Deliver-Weave. I went full glam for my last girl!  I even sprung for human hair, and for anyone who knows me, that’s generally out of the question: I do synthetic because I AM CHEAP.

What type of personality this child will have, I do not know. I’ve only known her outside of the womb for 3 days. But if she follows the trend set by her siblings and her alloted, distinct hair style, she’ll be a woman of class, refinement, beauty and surprises. In other words, the antithesis of her mom.

Welcome to the world Liya!

And P.S.: The docs were all wrong. She is a healthy 6 lbs baby with a perfect set of long legs and almond shaped eyes. Medical technology really bites sometimes.

New Mommy Blues

You know what the hardest part about becoming a new mom is? It’s not the fact that you have this brand new life whose very survival is dependent upon your every breath; it’s not the irrevocable change to every facet of your life that comes with cohabiting with your new “room mate” (i.e. the baby); it’s not even living in the state auto-mode that every woman finds herself existing in after getting by for weeks on snatches of sleep, snatches of food and snatches of a shower every day. Uh-uh. What sucks about becoming a new mom is contending with old biddies who had their children 30 – 40 years ago and

TRULY THINK THEY KNOW EVERYTHING.

For my part, I had a gaggle of old women telling me what and what not to do when my eldest was born. Everything I, my pediatrician and my OB/GYN said was wrong…even down to diapering.

“You new-fangle moms,” they would chide. “You have no idea how what you’re doing!”

Really? For real? Perhaps our infant mortality rates are a liiiiiittle bit better in 2010 than they were in 1968-1978 because we switched things up. Perhaps it has something to do with expectant mothers not taking a final drag off her cigarette and swallowing down her last sip of Cognac before as she watched her water break at the house party she was attending at 9.5 months pregnant!

I digress. This post is not about me. It’s about my poor baby sister, who does not have the balls to call out the old hags who put her through the ringer this week: the grandmothers of her new baby. One of these women I don’t even like (our mom) and the other I don’t even know (her troll-mate’s mother), so I have inclination to bite my tongue. Ladies and gents, I present to you 7 Pieces of Crappy Advice from Women who Think they Know Better,  and an Assassination Attempt.

Cocoa Butter on the baby’s lips: My nephew (who is now known as Sir Longfellow as he was born 22″ long) was born with black smoker’s lips. At a loss for what to do to ‘cure’ this, my sister called me to ask how to treat the coloring on his lips.

“His lips are fine,” I said. “As long as he’s getting moisture from his saliva on them and they’re not cracked, it’s nothing to be concerned about.”

Old Biddy 1 had a problem with this advice. She suggested/insisted on putting cocoa butter on the baby’s lips. Cocoa butter? For real? Do adults even put cocoa butter on their lips??

Give him some water!: Sir Longfellow just turned a month old 2 days ago. He’s still a newborn. ALL HE NEEDS IS FORMULA AND/OR BREAST MILK. However, Old Biddy 2 was adamant that he needed to drink water as well. Did you know water to a newborn is potentially lethal? Yeah. It flushes out the valuable nutrients they need to survive. Please don’t let any idiot old ladies coerce you into giving your baby WATER before his immune system can handle it.

His tongue is white. Wipe it off with a white cloth: Sir Longfellow, as we have established, drinks milk. It stands to reason that his tongue would have a tinge of white to it. Now, unless this is thrush (and in this case it wasn’t), there is no need to run grabbing the nearest dish cloth to wipe off his tongue, thereby introducing bacteria and drying out his poor little mouth! ‘Nuff said.

Oh! YOU must have left the gas on: Old Biddy 1 generously offered to allow my sister and her troll-mate a few hours out alone and stayed at home to watch her new (2 week old at the time) grandson. Upon re-entering the house a few hours later, my sister detected gas in the air… As in propane. She walked over to her sleeping baby and noticed his breathing was funny.

“Um…Did you try cook something? Did you leave the gas on?”, she asked Crazy Old Biddy.

“No, no!” was her shrill reply. “You guys must have left it on before you left!”

I stopped my sister as she was narrating these events.I was not the person she needed to be talking to.

“Please hang up the phone and take the baby to the hospital right now.”

Old Crazy Biddy 1 protested the whole way, saying the baby did not need to be seen. He was fine, she insisted. Uh-huh. You’re just trying to save your old mole-y hide because you almost killed someone, you selfish hag!

Night air causes colic: Old Biddy 2 was very firm in her assertion that Longfellow must never be taken out in the summer evening air, never mind that it’s still 80* at 9 pm. “Taking a baby out in the night air gives them colic,” she said matter-of-factly. I had to laugh at this one. Colic is not something you catch. Colic is something that happens, like SIDS. It’s an unexplained anamoly.

Brown some flower for his behind!: *Sigh*. Old Biddy 2, once again! Her maternal piece of advice was to inform my sister that if the baby ever develops a diaper rash, she is to brown flower and sprinkle it on his behind with each diaper change. What? Are we making baby bootie gravy now? 1) My sister doesn’t bake and 2) In the effort it would take to run out and buy some flower and then brown it, she could easily purchase Butt Paste or any other cream with Zinc in it to treat said rash, like normal people do! Which brings me to…

I don’t need no bib: Old Biddy 2, ever so proud to be THE principle caregiver (for 5 days) of her new grandson, rebuffed almost all my sister’s advice and requests.

“You need to pump your milk so I can feed him,” she stated.

Anyone who has ever breast fed knows that this is a huge inconvenience unless it is a necessity, but being a good sport (or a punk) my sister kowtowed. She then watched in horror as the woman, on more than one occasion, thrust the bottle into the baby’s mouth, failed to support neither his neck nor his bottle, and allowed milk to dribble down his shirt and ultimately into the creases of his neck as she chatted on the phone.

“Could you please use a bib or one of the towels I laid next to you,” my sister asked timidly, I’m sure.

“He don’t need no bib,” was the brisk reply. “It’s just milk.”

Again, I stopped her mid-sentence to scold her. I was mad.

“This is your baby. Your first baby. Don’t let some crazy old woman let him suck in air because she’s too lazy to feed him properly, and definitely make her wipe up the milk! That sh*t causes a yeast infection if you don’t keep his neck clean.”

“Oh! Is that what that is? His neck is all raw and red and it stinks.”

Now my nephew has  yeast infection.

Babies can swim on their own: I think it was Old Biddy 2 who again, matter-of-factly, told my sister to drop her son in the pool because babies instinctively know how to swim. They spent 9 months in a watery environment, after all.

I can’t even comment on this one.

These women are crazy. If you’re a new mom and you’re reading this PLEASE ignore the idle yammering of anyone over the age of 50 unless you can look at their children and want to model your kid’s life after theirs. These women have no frikkin’ clue. We don’t put lead in our paint anymore because it kills us. The “mom stop” has been eradicated because we now strap our kids safely in the back seat. We don’t leave our kids in a running vehicle while we go inside to grocery shop. There are certain things we don’t do anymore, simply because we never should have been doing them in the first place!

I think I like what my dear friend Chris said in response to all this madness:

“Careful Adj. You may come home to find your baby floating in the pool with a tube stuck through his belly button. You know, babies feed through their belly buttons in the womb, and a pool full of water is just like being at home for a baby…where life began.”

I’ll Do ANYTHING For You!…’Cept That

Last night I was standing in the mirror, subconsciously looking for flaws (you know how it is, ladies). My husband was lying on the bed watching the Travel Channel in what he thought was going to be in relative peace.

“Baaaaaaaaaaaabe!” I screeched.

“Yes.”

“Do you think my boobs are little?”

“No.”

I AM 10 months pregnant and my DDs barely fit anymore…so I supposed he was telling the truth. I scanned the mirror.

“Babe? Do you think I look fat or pregnant?”

“I think you look pregnant.”

“But my belly doesn’t look round! It looks all misshapen and jiggly at the bottom.”

I think I heard his eyes roll. He reassured me that my belly was round.

“Baaaaabe?!?! Do you think I’m pretty? Even though I have gray lips and bags under my eyes?”

“Your lips aren’t gray. They’re pink…and I don’t see any bags under your eyes.”

I could tell he was trying to be patient, like talking to a 5 year old. I kept scouring over my image in the mirror until finally I caught it: My nails.

“Babe! Look at my nails! They’re awful. I have to do something.”

He readily agreed. They looked like claws. The paint was chipping off. It looked like I had “black French tips”. He mentioned all of the above and went back to watching TV, assuming I would be dashing off to the nail salon the next day. Unfortunately, that was out of the question. I had lost the gift certificate that my friend had given me to get my nails done, and I’m far too frugal to spend my discretionary money on something that someone else had paid for. I didn’t have time to wait for the certificate to turn up. My nails had to be done NOW. I sat down and began to rub off the chipped 6 month old polish. After choosing what color I wanted my cuticles to be converted to, I bent down to paint my toes and was denied access. My stomach was way too big.

“Babe? Can you paint my toe nails for me please?”

His answer was swift and final.

“No.”

No? No?? “No” was a word reserved for our children. If either of us didn’t want to do something for the other, the appropriate was response was “Not tonight; I have a headache”, or “Gimme a sec, and I’ll get to it soon/later”; not straight up “no”!

“What do you mean ‘no’?” I asked. “I thought you said you would do anything for me!”

“When did I say that?” he challenged.

“When we were dating and when we first got married! You said you would ‘do anything for me as long as it doesn’t cause you to sin against God’”.

He turned his attention back to the TV.

“Babe? Don’t you want me to look pretty for when the baby comes?”

“Look woman. I’ve done a lot for you. I’ve carried your purse while you were in the changing room. I’ve bought you maxi pads when you couldn’t or didn’t want to go out and get them yourself. I’ve even scratched your butt when you couldn’t reach it. But I’m. Not. Painting. Your. Nails.”

So 10 minutes later, after he was done painting my nails, I inspected his work.

“I could have done a better job myself,” I sniffed. “Look how bumpy the finish is!”

I caught him staring at me, like a raccoon about to be struck by minivan.

“What? Lets see what Dhani’s doing tonight on the Travel Channel.”

I love my man.

A Salute to all that Dads that DO.

This Father’s Day, I am feeling uncharacteristically sentimental. Call it hormones if you will, but I appreciate real men and real fathers today. Instead of spending time blasting the sorry dad’s that “don’t…”, I want to thank the dads that “do…”. In a world where fathers routinely eschew their responsibilities,  I am proud to be a part of a generation that is turning a tide that has been churned in the direction of neglectful and unconcerned fatherhood. The examples of fatherhood in our culture over the last 20+ years have left me unimpressed, underwhelmed and dismayed at the prospects for the future. So abysmal has been the performance of the most recent crop of fathers that a person might be hard pressed to rattle off 5 the names of Admirable Dads. But today, I can say with smug satisfaction that if challenged, I could name 20 men off the top of my head who are true fathers – and real men.

It takes more than sweet words and a quick skeet in the sheets to make you a Father. Even dogs can do that. What defines a real man (in my humble estimation at least) is not only his character outside the home, but if his wife (or baby momma) and children would say that character is matched inside the home as well. The men I wish to salute today are part of a new generation of Fathers, who recognize that fatherhood like all things, must adapt with times. They are willing and open to change, and do so with quiet dignity, stern pragmatism or boisterous laughter.  They know that being a dad is much more than bringing home a paycheck. It’s also walking in the door and checking to see if Junior’s diaper is dirty as well. These are the men who know that how they treat the mothers of their children (whether they are married to them or not)  is not only a reflection on them, but a lesson to their sons and daughters as well. These are the men who do not have to proclaim “I am a good man!”. A good man’s actions will ALWAYS speak on his behalf and there will be legions to declare his goodness long after he’s dead and gone. Today’s Father knows that this title is one that is earned, as well as the respect and honor that comes along with it.

Oh heck. Let me get to it. These are the dads I want to salute and why. I hope they will forgive me for putting them on blast:

To Nii Hesse, who loves his bride with unflinching conviction and a purity that is hardly seen these days. That love is shone in his daughter’s eyes and will no doubt be evident in his new baby to come.

To Carlos Sackitey, who is easy to smile and quick to laughter. Whose daughter inherited the twinkle in his eye and his son his contemplative gaze.

To Peter Mburu, a new dad whose daughter’s glory must indeed be so glorious that his Facebook family is not permitted to see her. Yes! Shield her from the world under you are ready to reveal the leader that you are training up. She has a true example of quiet dedication and leadership in her father.

To Mike Hamann, who traverses the globe to provide for his wife baby girl. Who hops off a plane and hops into the kitchen to feed his family. I can’t say enough about this dude. He makes the best asparagus…ever.

To Chris Jones, who has ruined his wife with his lavish affection and teaches his sons humility, grace and hard work. May all boys grow up to be like yours.

To Senyo A, who looks into the face of his 2 week old daughter and sees her virtue and talent already.

To Amewoke Adamaley, who left his heart in Minnesota and went all the way to China to pursue a higher education so that he could be and do more for his little girl. Though it’s painful now, at least you can teach her how to make great fried rice when all is said and done!

To Earl Myers, who has no fear of letting his sons fail, knowing that the lessons of failure will lead them to success. He is the only Black man I know who willingly lets his Black son ice skate. He is a man who does not ascribe to the notion that “Black people don’t do dat” (whatever ‘dat’ may be). Thank for exposing your boys to more than what the world says is “acceptable” for them.

Hmmm!!! To Ben Afeku, who just learned that just because your baby is an angel at home does not mean you can take an 11 month old to go see Iron Man 2 and expect her to sit in silence! Your confidence in the little one is to be admired. More lessons are to come my friend.

To Jason Boone, whose perpetual furrowed brow and hard gaze I have only seen soften as roams the halls with his brand new baby girl.

To Big Stu! – The cop with guns on his biceps and guns on his waist. Who will absolutely destroy your life if you look at his baby girl cross-eyed.

To Edwin Joseph, who has kept his family afloat in these trying times. Who has managed to maintain their same standard of living by having the foresight to plan and save for the future – A man who has an unwavering love and dedication to God, and is a friend to everyone. I’ve only known you a short while, but you’re a good man!

To Arnold Murray, who comes home from work everyday, glides through the door, commands sudden silence from his rowdy (5? 7? 12?) kids and asks only for some fried chicken wings for his trouble.

And rounding out the list is my own hubby, Marshall Grant. What a man! He has managed to instill gratitude in his children while still spoiling them; gets his point across with quiet authority; shown himself consistent and dependable to both his wife and his kids; and has earned every ear-piercing “Yay!!! DADDY’S home!!” when he lumbers through. He’s gone through heaven and hell living with this cantankerous hybrid Ghanaian woman, and I’m glad on this Father’s Day, he’s sacrificing his Daddy time so that I have time to write this post.

To these and all amazing dads, I salute you! Know that today, you are much loved and appreciated. Now go enjoy some chicken or cake.

Errr…Hoo-hoo. Yeah.

Man, I struggled with what to call this post. Here are a couple of titles I contemplated:

1) Self-exploration and my 5 year old

2) Your hoo-hoo is supposed to look like that

3) For the love of Pete, don’t scratch yourself down there!

I struggled even more with whether or not to write this post at all, but I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t.

For the last two weeks, my eldest daughter has been complaining that her privates “burn” and “itch” and would emphasize this by screeching bloody murder while doing an awkward dance in which her legs would twist about each other and simultaneously flailing her arms uncontrollably. Of course, her malady only manifested itself when it was time to go to bed – and I of course ignored her incessant cries because of the timing. However, 3  intermittent  midnight trips to inform me that her ‘hoo-hoo’ indeed burned convinced me to take her to the doctor, which I did begrudgingly yesterday. I cannot abide another night of lost sleep.

As a mom, there are things that I am prepared to deal with in terms of child rearing. I’m ready for the day that some big-headed boy breaks my baby’s heart; I’m ready for the day that she struggles with whether to keep her virginity or give it up to the first guy who makes her think she’s in love; I’m ready for the day she calls me to tell me how much she hates/loves her new job and blames/thanks me for making her takes certain courses in school. These are things that new parents discuss amongst ourselves. No one ever told me that 5 year-olds touch themselves…and that it is normal. These are not things that are discussed at Kidz n’ Koffee play dates.

“It’s normal?” I asked her pediatrician incredulously. I was watching her examine my baby as she pointed out lacerations on the delicate pink skin inside her labial folds, the result of any number of possible things including over-aggressive scratching, an injury from her bike or a yeast infection from long hours in the pool.

“Yes. Completely,” she reiterated.

“Oh.”

She instructed me to put an ointment she’d prescribed between her legs 3 times a day, restrict her to showers from now on, and sent us on our way. That night, as I dressed my baby in her nightie, she peered down between her legs and began to ask me questions. Questions I was not comfortable with. Questions I was not ready to answer.

“Mommy, what’s this?”

“This” was her urethral opening.

“It’s where your pee comes out,” I replied.

“And what’s this hole??”

That “hole” was her vagina. Ugh.

“It’s…uh…just a hole.” ( I wasn’t prepared to inform her that she would one day be tasked with squeezing a baby the size and weight of a bowling ball from that little hole.)

Then she started to thumb things down there. Suddenly, she squealed in horror.

“Look Mommy!!! My skin is all red down there! Is it because my hoo-hoo burned?”

By then I was just dismayed. I resisted the urge to rip off my own panties, part my sweaty legs and show her that my skin was red/pink too… It was ok!

Deep breaths, Malaka. Deep breaths.

“That’s normal, Na. It’s supposed to look like that.”

“Mommy…”

That’s when I cut her off. I mean, what else could there be to ask?

“Lets get to bed. Good night baby! I love you!”

I fled the room, praying that that would be the last conversation I’d have to have with anyone else about their privates. And then it dawned on me: She has two younger siblings and one yet to be born. Ughhh…

I once read somewhere that you’re supposed to answer your child’s questions about their privates as honestly and without as much drama as possible. This promotes “confidence” and keeps them from developing the notion that said privates are “dirty”. What I don’t recall from this particle article is exactly how one is to go about discussing hoo-hoos and ding-dongs with their kid. I suppose I could start there – by calling things by their proper names. As in: “Son, this is your penis” and “Daughter, this is your…your errr…Just don’t let anybody touch that – ever!!! Ya heard?!?!?”

Viva FIFA!!!

Man I love the World Cup!!!!

It truly does bring out the best in human kind. There are so many emotions that come along with watching the games. Fury, Fear, Fervor, Friendship and any other f-ing adjective you can think of. Princes and paupers, pontiffs and pagans, scullery maids and cabinet ministers – everyone loves a great game of football played on the world’s stage.

The World Cup is just about the only time a small girl (the maid)  in Accra will be forgiven for abandoning her sweeping duties to catch a glimpse of the game on her master’s TV. If she lives in a benevolent household, they may even offer her a mineral to enjoy with the rest of the family. She’ll have to sit in the back of the room, of course – the space on the carpet in front of the TV is reserved for the master and his spoiled little brats. In these exciting days, an Afghan man just might stop beating his wife long enough to let her catch her breath as his eyes are fixed on the tele for those intense 90 minutes, waiting for the pivotal moment when he can screech GOOOOAAALL!!! at the top of his lungs.

Yes sir, those 40 days every 4 years are indeed the best of times.

Unlike the other sport that shares it’s same name (and by that I mean American ‘football’, the abhorrent game in which only one player on each team actually touches the ball with his feet), true football is easy to understand and has very simple rules: 1)Keep from getting offside, 2)put the ball in the net, 3) don’t touch anyone or anything with your hands. Whether the referee is Korean and the player Xhosa, a yellow card is a yellow card. There’s no need for discussion or complaint. You both know the rules, you both know that you (Mr. Player) committed an offense, and all your jibbering won’t make sense to the Ref anyway.  Koreans don’t speak Xhosa.

Apart from Jacob Zuma’s ramblings this morning about this being “Africa’s World Cup” and going off script before declaring the games open, I’d say we’re off to a good start. The entertainment has been top notch, with African artists like M.anifest and K’naan ushering in the spirit with their invigorating and inspirational music in the days leading up to the event. I for one am proud that the games are being hosted on my continent’s soil…and that pride can only be snuffed out if those bush boys in S.A. don’t ruin the reverie in Jo’burg by robbing the world’s visitors blind. Some restraint fellows, I beg you.

Viva La Cup!!!

Ugh!!!

I know it’s barely 8 o’clock in morning and by all accounts, I should be blogging about the most tremendous sporting event on the planet (which will kick off at 9:30 am – Go SA!!), but I woke up with bile in my mouth and venom boiling in my veins. The cause: Douche Bag.

Yes, that Black backwater cretin has reared his ugly bald head yet again.

Have you ever met someone who just sucks all the goodness and whatever measure of God you claim to have abiding in you right out of you? They are usually some form of an ex: Ex-boss, ex-husband, ex-coworker…you get my drift. Douche Bag and I had no titles when we were together, so he’s just some constant reminder of a bad year spent making bad decision that resulted in me ending up with some incurable, reoccurring disease -  Like ‘yuck-mouth’.

I have been fortunate enough to have dodged any sort of personal encounter with him for the last 3 months or so, but that all ended yesterday when I was tasked with delivering my daughter into his vile, treacherous hands yesterday evening. Accompanied by my good friend Caroline and with my 3 child in tow, I agreed to meet him at a McDonald’s on Holcomb Bridge Rd so that he could spend 2 days with my daughter before going off to NC to visit his uncle who is on “life support”. Keep in mind, this is the week that he is meant to be beginning his 2 consecutive weeks in the summer with her (a thought I am dreading), which he has hitherto asserted it would be difficult to do due to a myriad of reasons. I wrote about these earlier. They include 1) going to clean off his dead infant sister’s grave in ‘Buffalop’, 2) completing a job training course over the summer, and 3) the inevitable cramping of his bachelor lifestyle. Now, miraculously, his uncle is on “life support”.

Please don’t misread me. I am generally capable of great empathy and uncommon amounts of sympathy – however it is difficult for me to muster these sentiments for someone who when my own grandmother was dying responded to my pain by saying “Oh. Well, can you lend me $200 so that I can keep my house out of foreclosure?” In addition to that, I highly doubt that his uncle is dying and/or on life support. Why? Because he is an abashed, debased liar. This is a man who has sanctioned 5 abortions and left his fiance after she suffered 4 miscarriages. He is obviously not sterile, but told me with great pride how he avoided the responsibility of another baby by telling some clueless woman that he “suffered in an accident when he was a kid that left his balls crushed and sterile.”

“Call my momma,” he bluffed to this woman. She of course did not, and ‘handled it’ on her own. I sat listening to this tale in awe, and he seemed quite pleased with himself. So in light of all this, do i believe his uncle is on life support? No.

As I sat in the parking lot of the McDonald’s listening to my oldest inform me again and again that she did not want to go to his house and that she did not want to just sit here in the parking lot, I attempted to console her by agreeing with her.

“I don’t want to sit here any more than you do baby. I will miss you, but you have to go.”

“Because he took you to court,” she said shrewdly.

“Yes.”

She grumbled a bit and proceeded to play some made up game with her sister. 15 minutes later, Douche Bag pulled up next to my vehicle; late as was to be expected. Caroline got out of the car to help Nadjah out, and I kept my eyes forward and face shielded with my left hand. I could not even abide to look at this poor excuse for a man. My anger turned to anguish when I heard sniffling in the back seat. Nadjah had climbed back into the car to give her sister a final hug and her baby brother a kiss. This of course sent her 3 year old sister into hysterics as she cried “I want Nadjah to stay!!” Powerless, I told my children it would be ok and that she would be back in a few days. I kissed Nadjah’s tear stained face and promised to pick her up on time on Saturday morning.

Douche Bag, the black cold-hearted bastard whose self serving antics were tearing my kids’ bonds apart stood somewhat impatiently by his car and drove off soon afterward. He had gotten what he came for, never mind how anyone else felt.

I wouldn’t be so angry if he had not sent me the following text message just a few days before:

U know I’m not a bad person. And I don’t thing u r. We both just see, and do things in our own eyes. (Ok, that’s from tha church) LOL! But u feel me!

What are you LOL-ing for? Something funny to you? There is nothing funny about any of this, you misguided illiterate platypus. And contrary to what you believe, you ARE a bad person.

The End.

De Corprit Shuffle

Take a good look at this face. LOOK.AT. IT! Does it offend you? Well it ought to. It offends me…and that’s my mug painted over in black-face, scratching my head in apparent confusion. The source offense is not in the paint itself, but rather from the folks that make me feel this way every time I re-enter corporate America and force me to dance a little jig I like to call “De Corprit Shuffle”. Corporate America makes me feel like a minstrel. Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that this post is not about anybody who has an employer who gives them 6 weeks a year of vacation time, is perfectly understanding and lets you work from home when your kid is sick, and has few questions (if any) when you call up and say you need the day off for a “mental day”. You live in an utopia. This post is about the 99.93% of us who live in the real world.

I was laid off almost 2 years ago, and have only passively been looking for work. News reports of hiring and job opportunities have been abysmal, and the hundreds of resumes I’ve sent out have gone out largely unresponded to.  In the last few months, I’ve decided to take a different approach. I’m going to be a lot more selective about what job I choose, as opposed to taking whatever comes along. This, I think, should keep my little African feet from being scorched on the unforgiving Berber carpets of corporate America, as I seek to do their bidding and maximize their margins.

The impetus for this paradigm shift came when I spoke to my friend Nana a few weeks ago. She and I have had very similar upbringings: We went to the same secondary school, did many of the same courses, attended elite universities, got married and have 3 kids each. Somewhere along the line, she became a director for some global conglomerate – and I became an unemployed idealist sitting at home blogging about all things inconsequential for her amusement. At first, I felt sorry for myself. By society’s definition, she would be considered a true success story and I a sorry failure. However as I thought more about her situation, I realized that she is shufflin’ harder than I ever have; and here’s why:

During her last pregnancy, she worked up until the day before she was scheduled for a c-section. After her delivery, she logged onto her laptop and worked on projects while she was still in the hospital. When she got home, she worked on emails and other action items filtering into her inbox in between nursing her baby and changing diapers (to add to the fun, she had two older kids at home to care for as well). When she got back to work 8 weeks later, her superiors asked her how her “vacation” was…and they were serious! Anyone who has spent any amount of time caring for a newborn and getting by on snatches of sleep every 2-3 hours knows that life after that is not a “vacation”. She was aggravated, to say the least. A few months later at review time, she was given a bonus that was far less than what she was expecting. The reason? Her higher-ups felt that that she was not as dedicated to her post because she had a family to look after and would leave work at 6 pm sharp every day. What these ass hats failed to realize that is is because she has such small children that she is able to leave work at 6 pm every day. She closes her office door, rejects idle office chatter, and has become more efficient in her work. I for one can attest to the fact that since having multiple children, I can mop, sweep and do dishes in a record 10 minutes as opposed to the hour it would take me when I was single and childless.  You adapt and learn to do things not only quickly, but quickly and well when you have kids.  But hey, she’s a “director”.They pay her enough money to afford a Benz and got to work with a briefcase – the hallmarks of a successful American life. Incidentally, they are also hallmarks of someone who has been shufflin’ for a loooong time.

There are few people who are strong enough to withstand the brawn of Corprit. A buddy of mine who is in the military told me that his first child (who has just turned 1) was sick with the flu and of course could not go to daycare. He was in school and couldn’t miss class – so it was left to his wife to take off from work to care for their baby. Having only been on the job for 3 months and still in training, her employer was less than sympathetic or congenial concerning her situation. They hinted that she might have to be let go for this “infraction”. She was quick to retort.

“So you’re telling me that you’re going to fire me because my infant is sick with the flu, and because I have no alternatives to provide care for her?” she queried. “Oh, and let’s not forget that I’m a military wife who is seeking to improve herself through training and solidify a future for my family.”

Smelling a potential lawsuit, her management quickly offered her two weeks to take of the baby and resume her training when she was well enough.

But you know, not everyone can flex like that. The majority of us would have no alternative but to raise our hands and  say, “You know what boss? You is right? I needs dis job, so I’ll jes’ work som’n else out.” Suddenly, some hapless woman has locked her ill children in a storage unit while she does her 8 hour shift because she has no support system and no daycare will take in her young ones. They of course can’t sicken the rest of the brood for the sake of one, can they?

Now that I’m about to have yet another newborn, I’m even more reluctant to re-enter the Cruel Corprit World, and it has everything to do with my mammary glands. Can anyone recall a few months back, Campbell Brown broke a story concerning a nursing mother’s lawsuit against an Ohio company that not only refused to give her 15 minutes every three hours to pump her milk, but also created conditions that forced her to have pump said milk in a bathroom stall?  Oh, and that’s not the worst part: the woman was fired for taking “excessive breaks”. Meanwhile, her smoking co-workers had a private entrance where they could go smoke for 10-15 minutes every hour if they so chose without any fear of reprisal. Did that bother anyone besides me? I daresay there is no worse feeling than being summoned up to your company’s HR department, and expecting sympathy once explaining your situation to some crotchety old hag whose own eggs dried up and became dust two decades before, be told that you are being terminated effective immediately. What do you do? Do you fight? Do you cry? Do you do a little minstrel jig and offer the HR professional some watermelon and swear never to pump milk for your baby again? I mean, formula is only $14 a can, and the baby only goes through 2 cans a week…that’s only an extra $100 a month (not including your other bills). You can swing it, right? Absolutely! Especially in a country where the majority of all fathers are unconcerned and uninvolved in the upbringing of their children. Who, if they do pay child support, pay a mere pittance…say $72 a week?

I’m sure that men must suffer through their own version of De Corprit Shuffle…but I’m not a man and I cannot speak to it. I would still argue that professional women with families have it far harder than their male counterparts. When a child gets sick, she is expected to stay at home and play nurse, not he. When there is a bake sale at school, she is expected to show up with the confections and raise some money; rarely he. When a child isn’t reading at grade level, she has to schedule time off from work for the parent/teacher conference to discuss the child’s failings. If said dad does show up, he’s praised as an “involved parent”. If she can’t show up, she’s reviled a “bad mom”.

Man. It’s hard out there. For all you ladies doing De Shuffle: I salute you. If I do go back, I’ll need a new pair of heels. You can’t shuffle effectively in flats y’know.

Every Little Girl Needs a Crazy Daddy

You see that old Black man with the self-satisfied smirk on his face and a knot on his forehead? That’s Kwasi Gyekye – my dad and the first love of my life. I have measured every man’s ability by his; whether that be an ability to comfort me, provide for me, praise or belittle me (and yes, my dad has disgraced me in public on several occasions for my “own good”). My dad is the standard of measure for all things male.

I understood my dad very little when I was little, and even less when I was a teenager. Why was he so hostile to all these boys that would come over to visit me? They were just friends after all. None of these guys with nick names like “Skido” “Rasmoke” or “Jata” had ulterior motives when they sat on my porch sipping ice-water and shooting the breeze…or did they?

“Naw!” I rationalized in my pubecent mind. “They were truly just my friends!”

Stupid, stupid Malaka.

Now that I’m a mother of two girls with one on the way, I understand my father completely. All boys are bad and are to be regarded with the highest suspicion. As far as my father was concerned, none of them had any proper home training, could ever be respectful enough, and were certainly dead set on “spoiling” his daughter. And for that, they must all be made to suffer. My father made it his business to make sure none of these “small boys” felt completely comfortable coming to his house, sitting on his sofa, watching his VHS and drinking his drinks. Oh yes, he would nod politely as they approached the gate and saluted him…as he sat bare-chested on his veranda in khaki shorts or trousers. Nostrils flared and hairy chest moving up and down as though some demon was waiting to burst from his rib cage, he would yell for either me or my sister to announce that we had “visitors” after a brief stare down with the offensive male intruder. My sister and I would wait expectantly for him to enter the house and put on a shirt, a singlet or something…anything! – but all Kwasi Gyekye did was sit there fanning himself, angrily listening to the crows caw in the huge nym tree that grew just beyond our wall.

The visitors who had either trekked in the hot Ghana sun or spent hard earned cedis on a taxi to visit us did not stay long. They were either too scared to ask if they could enter the house or were disquieted by my father’s steely, silent glare. They announced that they were leaving and quietly informed my dad that they were going.

“Ehh. Buh-bye,” he would say dismissively. “And next time change your dressing when you are coming here. You are not a clown.” (My father could not abide 90′s fashion; and that included sagging, baggy pants, oversized t-shirts and Tek boots.)  For my part, I would fly to my room in shame.

Everything my father did in terms of protecting his daughters was strategic. His bedroom was on the first floor of the house, with a window that allowed him to hear every conversation from the kitchen, to the living room (where the phone was), to the garden…which also just outside his bedroom. No conversation, no matter how “innocent” was safe from his sonar. He was like a Navy Seal – part of an elite force among fathers. I hated it. Some of my other friends were allowed to bring boys into their bedrooms for godsakes! My male visitors could only gain access to the inside of the house if they had been coming to visit for 8 months or more – And that was on the condition that they had been unceremoniously told to “get out!” at least once before, and had the balls to come back and apologize to him face-to-face for the hideous infraction that prompted their eviction. That infraction could be tantamount to wearing purple on a Tuesday.

As we got a little bit older, my dad became a lot more congenial to my male guests. This new tactic gave me cause for concern. Why was he smiling and joking with these boys so much? Why was he taking them aside to have private talks with them? What was he up to??  I never found out, but I do know that several of my longer term boyfriends were considerably more reluctant to get  intimate with me after those chats.

Even into my late 20′s, my father continued to assert his dominance in my life. My husband (who was still just a boyfriend at the time) had come to Ghana with me to visit. In America, he was the man of my life, and held a position of strong influence (or as much as I would allow him) over my life. Unfortunately, that all changed when we landed at Kotoka, and I had failed to inform that the balance of power was no longer in his favor. We were Kwasi Gyekye’s domain now. At a local beer bar one evening, I challenged my dad to a chug-off, sure that I could swallow my 40 oz faster than he could. As the patrons of the bar regarded our game with amusement, cheering for my dad to “go!”, my boyfriend looked on in disapproval. The look was not lost on my father.

“Ei Marshall. What’s your problem?” he asked, obviously irritated.

“Nothing,” Marshall countered. “I just don’t think Malaka should be drinking.”

This, to say the least, pissed my dad off. He stuck his finger in my chest.

“This is MY daughter, and I’ll do with her whatever I like! If I want to drink a beer with my daughter, I will!!”

*********

Last night, my husband and I were watching Lock Up on MSNBC, and the reasons behind my father’s antics become starkly clear. Some guy was serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend when they were in their teens. As he sat in prison 20 years later, the girl’s parents came to see him and confront him, where he then acknowledged that he’d killed her and betrayed their their trust. He was apologetic. I was stunned. I immediately thought of my own father.

“You see? This is why every girl needs a dad that is absolutely insane,” I said to my husband. “If that boy had had a little bit more fear in him, this probably wouldn’t have happened!”

My husband agreed.

Like I said, now that I am a mother, I completely understand my father’s unpredictable, irrational behavior.  My husband and I have agreed that he too must take on the mantle of a completely inhospitable, invasive, intrusive, unbearable dad as far as our future enemies are concerned. For my part, I will play the listening (but very unsympathetic) mother whose only retort for my daughters’ woeful bleating will be “Ah. That’s just the way your father is.”

For all the boys who have been through Kwasi’s boot-camp, who have been kicked out, reviled, insulted and eventually welcomed into the fold…I can’t say that I’m sorry. Most of you have little girls of your own now, and you know that you are ready to do far worse: I hope he’s taught you something you can use as you become Crazy Daddies.