The Star (Nairobi)

12 January 2013

Kenya: In the Pink Corner - the New Year, Love and Saggy Pants

As the New Year kicks off, I am celebrating the end of my first trimester. Like all modern parents, I am glued to the internet for regular baby updates. I find the internet has more patience for endless stupid questions than real life doctors.

This week I found out that my unborn child is old enough to have functioning kidneys, which means it (or they) are probably peeing in my tummy. They are also developing intestines, and should therefore be adding shit to the contents of my womb shortly. Great news, but forgive me if I'm not dancing about with joy. Pregnancy has been mostly unkind to me so far, although I am overall cognisant of the great blessing of being with child in the first place.

The one thing the pregnancy has birthed is a new and heightened appreciation for my husband. Instead of dumping me at my mother's house like any good African brute, he has been on hand 24-7 through all the first trimester drama. He has held my dreadlocks out of the toilet while I throw my guts up. He has become a vegetarian for weeks while I banished the very smell of meat from the house.

He has patiently gone out at all hours to procure pizza, rum and raisin chocolate, ice cream, chilli crisps, peanut butter, tuna and pineapple soda - depending on which way the wind was blowing when I woke up (of course with no guarantee that I would still want to eat these things once he returned). He has kept away the people I did not care to see. He has typed my work, managed my emails, answered my phone, chauffeured me about, chosen my daily clothes and has not once lost his patience with me and my pity parties. He has also endured my total loss of interest in life and conversation without complaint.

When I turn on the television and see shirtless teenage boys covered in stupid tattoos with the waistbands of their pants hanging at the backs of their knees singing to semi-nude girls about love, I snort - what could they possibly know of what we have been through the past three months? What do they know of being entirely responsible for another human being; of selflessness? I can only hope they are lucky enough to get here someday. In any case, I find it difficult to take anyone seriously when they cannot even tie their trousers properly. In the course of my work, I occasionally get to talk to some teenagers, and I find that narrating to them the origin of that saggy pants fashion tends to cure most of them of the desire to show their underwear.

Apparently, whether it be urban myth, legend, or fact, the habit of letting one's pants hang down originated from the prisons of America. The men let a little bit of the crack of their bottom show as an advertisement to the other inmates that they were open for business at that end, as it were. For most boys, this is enough of an incentive to figure out how to use their belts properly.

Anyway, in other good New Year news, my tendency to throw up everything has gone down drastically. I find that if I eat a little bit at a time and sit very still after a meal, my stomach is confused into thinking I am not there, and it hangs on to the food awaiting my return. By the time it realises it has been fooled, we have digested enough to keep us alive. However, there are other things which can still make me nauseous - such as a conversation I overheard yesterday.

Two very respectable looking men were standing on the pavement while I waited for Hubby in the car. A mentally disturbed young girl walked past; she was about 17 and naked except for a piece of cloth barely covering her essentials. And of all things, these two men began to discuss how this girl was not going to survive being raped that evening, especially with a pair of buttocks like hers. Hubby returned to find me looking very green - and when I told him why, we were both ill. These reminders of the kind of world we are bringing children into can be a bit too sobering. I'll focus on the happier thought of the banana bread Hubby has lovingly dished up.

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