Wednesday, September 25, 2013

half birthday

Can you believe this little peach is a year and a had already? It feels like just yesterday she was turning one! GAH! I cannot handle the speed at which life is happening these days!

I decided that after Bronwyn turned one I wouldn't do monthly growth updates anymore. But we obviously keep taking her picture, and sometimes the cuteness is irresistible! It still blows my mind that every thirty days she is like a completely different person! It is so fun watching her change, listening to the new words she knows and observing the new skills she has developed. We're pretty obsessed with her, but I think that's a good thing. =)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

confessions of a bush mama part 2

(I’m really enjoying this confession thing. Writers therapy at its best.)

So here's my other confession. I don’t let my baby cry it out.

My blood pressure rises when I even type this because this confession is even more touchy than the co-sleeping thing. I’ve googled this one too. And read books. And talked to mothers in person and read their exchanges on the internet. I don’t even need to explain the cry it out debate – its uglier than the co-sleeping one and again, everyone under the sun has an opinion.

My biggest regret from my early(er) parenting days was insisting that Bronwyn learn to go to sleep at a certain time, in a certain way. Well intentioned friends had led me to believe that the cry it out theory was a universal best practice, and yet, at six weeks old, we were driving everyone in the house crazy by letting Bronwyn “cry it out” at night, all because that’s what THE BOOK said to do. “But she needs to get on a schedule!” I told my sleep deprived father one morning. And in his wisdom, all he said was, “Why?” I had no answer. And that was the end of that. Nursing her back to sleep without consideration of time of day or time since last feeding was the best decision we ever made. She’s fat and happy, and we’re happy that she’s fat and happy. AND - icing on the cake - our neighbors are more than happy that she’s fat and happy.

"girl, I don't even know what to do with your happiness right now."
I’m also glad that we chose a culturally relevant method of sleeping and feeding because Zambians don’t let their babies cry either. Once, I was gone on an errand that took longer than I expected and Bronwyn was struggling to go down for a nap without me and was letting the world know of her unhappiness. Our neighbor girl Gertrude came banging on the door, pleading with Jeremy to let her do something, anything, to help the wailing babe. 

thanks for the offer Gertrude, but I think she wants more than the pen

On another occasion, we experimented with trying to see if Bronwyn could last a night without nursing at all – there were expected tears and, I kid you not, within two minutes Ba Ben’s flashlight was shining through our window trying to figure out where the fire or leopard or robber was that was preventing this mother from meeting her baby’s legitimate need.  

Bronwyn's message: this is not hard, people

The Zambian thought, with which I agree is – if mommy can prevent baby’s tears with a simple drink of milk, then why on earth would she withhold it? So serious is this philosophy that I have been given the death stare more than once by nearby moms who feel like I am clearly not moving fast enough to get my boob into my child’s mouth. I’ve developed lighting fast reflexes, bounding out of chairs and hurdling over bushes and goats to reach the crying babe. (I kid. But only sort of.) And the fascinating thing is this – I’ve never met a spoiled Zambian child. I’ve never encountered a child-run household or a mother who feels manipulated by her child’s “demands” to nurse. On the contrary, Zambian kids cherish, honor and respect their mothers all the more as they see her as the giver of milk and of comfort. I see it written on the pages of their life book, “She gives me that which I need and therefore I shall rise and call her blessed.” What more could a Proverbs 31 woman ask for? 

some of the sweetest boys you'll ever meet. happily
breastfed during those crucial development years,
and now clearly possessing extra confidence (and swagger) because of it.

Now, that said, when it comes to things other than nursing/feeding/sleeping with the wee ones, the “I won’t let you cry” card is off the table. A kid who is pitching a fit because of a scuffle with an older sibling or because she didn't get her way gets a look that says, “Now I can nurse you or you can sit there and scream but I am not fighting this battle for you.” Because the moms know the difference between need and want. When to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em. When to let the tears fall, and when not to. Thank you Kenny Rogers for your invaluable parenting advice.

But insofar as eating and sleeping are concerned, prompt, consistent, caring response is seen as nothing more than meeting a legitimate need in a legitimate way. Zambian mamas, and this hybrid known as Bana Winnie, will unabashedly choose to meet that need every time.

What about you? What has worked in your household?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

confessions of a bush mama part 1

I have a confession. Our baby still sleeps in our bed.

A few months ago we were traveling to Lusaka and stopped over at a guesthouse to catch a few winks before continuing on with our journey. Anna, the sweet Zambian lady who owns the place along with her American husband asked me which room we had been assigned. I told her ‘four’ and she said, “oh why don’t you just move into ‘six,’ it has two beds because I know American’s don’t like to sleep with their babies. I giggled and said, “No its ok, we sleep with her. We like it that way.” The lady almost hugged me – “Oh thank you, thank you!” she said, grasping my arm in solid affirmation, as if I were doing her a favor. (We‘ve actually been friends with Anna ever since she bailed Jeremy out of prison that one time – but that’s another story for another blog post. If you are ever driving through Serenje though and need a meal or a place to stay, let me know and I’ll give you her number.)

We never intended to be long term co-sleepers. We have this super-duper thingy called a pea pod. It pops up and zips closed and has good ventilation without mosquito entry. After our shower, we were almost more excited about getting to use the pea pod than we were bringing home the new baby. But… Ask me how many minutes she has slept in it so far – I think 27. Between her every-five-seconds nursing and absolute need to feel another’s body heat, sleeping alone has been a non-option for this child, bless her heart. Unfortunately it took me quite a while to stop stressing about this “situation” and realize that we are just fine, not a parenting debacle, and that our family could actually thrive in a bed-sharing environment.

I love it mom - but I don't think we can both fit in here, so don't expect a nap out of me

I’ve googled co-sleeping and bed-sharing, and holy-mother-opinionated-fire there are some VERY strong feelings on this subject. Everything from “if your baby sleeps with your bed you are going to kill her, and kill your marriage, and you are a bad person,” to, “if your baby doesn’t sleep in your bed or at least close to it, you are cruel and unusual and heartless and therefore a bad person.”  

I’ve talked with my Zambian lady friends a lot about this and in case you want to know, (hold your fire, please, my dear disagreeing friends) they totally side with the bed-sharing mothers of the world. Anna at the guesthouse was so relieved that we slept with our baby because she, just like the plethora of Fimpulu-folk I’ve polled, absolutely concurs that a child should never sleep alone. To stick a baby in a crib is borderline child abuse. Babies belong right next to the mother until they are at least weaned, preferably potty trained and then they should be moved into a bed with another child. We’ve already had people offer to send their children to our house at night to sleep with Bronwyn when its time for her to move out of our bed. With respect to safety, I’ve never heard of a single SIDS case here. Never even heard it mentioned. I have a feeling this would would make a phenominal research project for an ethno-pediatrics PHD candidate. 

Oh and, What about romantic time with your husband? I sure did ask. And they all looked at me like I was an idiot and said something to the effect of “What kind of freaky sex do you people have? Just don’t make so much noise.” There you have it. The co-sleeping debate can be over now.

For us, the logistics of keeping Bronwyn with us havd been more important than anything. With no temperature control, having her in our bed means I can check to see if she is cold or sweating without going out from under the safety of our mosquito net. I nurse her frequently during the night but if you were to ask me how many times, I’d have to say, I don’t know – BECAUSE I WAKE UP AND GO BACK TO SLEEP 30 SECONDS LATER – and for that priceless gift, sweet pea can sleep with us till she’s 30 if she wants to. As long as I get my zzz’s.

Are you a bed sharing family? Has it worked well for you? Your friends in Zambia are giving you a long-distance high five! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why our cold season is better than yours

“Cold season” here is officially coming to the end, and as our American friends head back to school, I’m sure you’re well aware that your legit cold season will be nipping at your noses all too soon.

Growing up in upstate New York, I know what “cold season” is all about. I mean really, when your nose hairs have frozen in the five minutes it has taken you to walk from the car to the store and when you never take your coat off in class because you just can’t warm up, and when a snow blower is not a luxury item but an essential commodity… that’s when you know you have entered the realm of for real cold.

Zambians whine (sorry, ya’ll, you do.) about how cold it is from the end of May to the beginning of September. It gets down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which granted does feel cold when your house is not air tight and there is really no way to heat that 50 degrees up. The night time and mornings are admittedly a bit chilly, but “cold season” actually becomes a bit of a farce when, as the day goes on, the sun heats things up to around 85 and we start shedding layers to cool off. Most Zambians stay in their winter coats and stocking caps all day – I think the label “cold season” makes people perceive the temperature as cooler than it is. I get yelled at for letting Bronwyn run around naked, but I usually get off the hook by explaining that she was born in a freezing country and is therefore her body can withstand the “cold.” Not accurate, but it keeps people from wigging out on me.

snow bunny in the morning

beach babe in the afternoon
So there you have it, I've subjected you to my albeit subversive description of beautiful clear skies and balmy temps all “winter” long. Feel free to be jealous. Since that’s my real goal, anyway. And when that when that first ice storm hits, your tan lines have faded into a uniform, pasty white, and you can no longer feel your fingers, you are already primed to say, “This is lame. I’m moving to Zambia.” And here we shall be waiting with open arms. And sunscreen.

snow bunny in the morning

beach babe in the afternoon