Monday, July 23, 2012

The culture of motherhood: “medicine”

I’ve known for a long time that mothers use traditional medicine on their babies, but it hasn’t been until coming back with baby B that I have a better idea of what this all entails. I’m still figuring things out, but I’ll share at least a bit of what I have learned. The majority of babies wear around their neck a necklace made out of chitenge material. Wrapped inside the material is one of two things – either a piece of bark from a specific tree or some part of a snake (I still don’t know which part – my Bemba education has not yet included snake anatomy). The purpose of this necklace is to ensure that the baby’s skull forms properly. I know, “forms properly” is vague for me too, but that’s all I can get.

 I’ve started talking to every woman I know with a baby, asking why they put this around their child’s neck. “Its medicine,” is always the reply. When I press them on how it works, I only hear the same response of, “it helps the head form.” I ask whether the clinic teaches them how to do this, and they all tell me that no, there are specific women in the village who know how to do this and they are the ones who understand this tradition.
When it comes to tranditional medicine, I’m usually pretty skeptical. I understand that not all traditions are based in witchcraft, but the vast majority are, and I’m trying to understand whether these necklaces are connecting these women and babies to evil spirits. Since none of the women seem confused (like I am) about the fact that the material around the neck doesn’t put any medicine into the body, I’ve stopped trying to understand how this is supposed to work. Instead, I’ve started asking the women whether this necklace is using power from God or from the spirits. “It’s not witchcraft, its medicine,” they say confidently, and that’s pretty much that.

The conversation ends there as I’m the only one seeing logical problems with this method and I’m the only one questioning whether this might actually be connected to evil. The whole concept has raised an important question though: if no one believes that a current tradition is demonic, even if it originally was connected with demonic principles, does that remove them of evil consequences, or put them right in Satan’s path? I’m not sure. EVERY SINGLE MAMA talks to me about this tradition as if it is normal as giving your child tylonol. Hopefully I can find someone with additional information who might explain to me the history. The other interesting piece is that no one thinks that my baby is at risk even though she doesn’t wear this around her neck. Still trying to make sense of it all… I’ll keep you posted. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

the culture of motherhood: hats

Its cold season here. And by cold, I mean high 70's low 80's during the day. There is a belief that if you don't put a hat on your baby, cold air will get into the head via the soft spot and your baby will have brain damage and die. Once the soft spot is closed up, a hat is not essential, but still a good idea. Most people are appalled - truly - that I do not put a hat on Baby B's head all day every day. Usually my response of "she's sweating bullets" (or the Bemba equivalent of that phrase) appeases my critics, but its   a little intense how every single woman I pass will give me a "tisk, tisk" and tell me to cover my child's head if we are out and she is hatless. Even though I know that no air will enter her head via the soft spot and kill her, I do try to come across to the general population as an attentive mother. I won't let her head get all sweaty, but as long as it stays dry under there, I suppose I'll keep putting a hat on her head.

the Kazembe children, properly wearing their knit hats


wearing a hat, and making everyone happy 

where to put her?

So while I diligently did my bicep curls throughout my pregnancy, I still find that i get tired of just holding Bronwyn all of the time. With no highchair, no swing, no bumbo or boppy or whatever that miracle chair is that vibrates and sings and sounds like a waterfall... my options are to hold her in my arms or strap her to my body, and sometimes, I get tired and am dying to just put her down somewhere! Thankfully, she's getting a little bit bigger and my options are expanding.

We picked up a dangly buuncy chair from Target kind of on a whim before we left and we are so thankful we did! 

One day I was supposed to be putting away laundry, but Bronwyn fell asleep on top of it. She almost never will sleep alone and so I decided to let the laundry sit there and took advantage of her little nap session to do some other things. (Don't worry, I didn't leave the room lest she roll off the couch!)

And the best thing in our life right now is the go pod. She's still too small for it, so we stuff a blanket in behind her. The kids love coming and kneeling in front of her and shaking her colored rings or cooing at her or just saying, "winnie, winnie, winnie" on repeat. She thinks its fun, and so do they, and it lets this momma lean over the fire to get dinner ready without a baby strapped to me! Woohoo! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

happy birthday to meeeee

July 3rd was my 29th birthday. We celebrated with birthday tiaras and nutella crepes. It was fantastic.
who doesn't want to wake up to THIS?

Now that I have a child, I feel like the true focus of any birth day should be the one who did the actual birthing. So thanks, Mom, for doing what it took to bring me into the world 29 years ago. And yes, Jeremy, next to Bronwyn's cake and presents, I would like a bouquet of flowers on every March 25th henceforth. ;)


three months

Just when I think about how little my baby is, I'm reminded that she actually used to be so much littler!