Friday, October 23, 2009

Welcome, Little One!

Today we went to greet Justina and her new baby boy. We thought he was going to be born in December, but he decided to come early! He is small, but still a decent size. I think the due date may have been a bit mixed up.

My kids couldn't wait to meet the new baby. They kept asking what his name is, and I kept shushing them because you don't ask that question during the first week. Justina finally told them a name they are thinking about, but they're not sure yet. Generally by the 8th day, babies have a name, but not always. Obviously we don't get birth certificates before the baby is discharged from the hospital!

For those of you who are wondering, the baby's parents are black, and he will be as dark as Lily is in her picture. Most babies here start out a bit light and get darker in the first couple of months.

Justina is a new mother, and I gave my standard piece of advice: Don't keep a lit charcoal pot in your room. She was interested to hear what I had to say because she had already had countless women tell her to bring a charcoal fire into the room to keep the baby warm. Mothers are generally overly cautious about temperature. Babies are bundled in numerous layers--anywhere from 3-6 layers--and then the windows and door are closed while a charcoal fire is lit in the room. I always tell new mothers that the charcoal fumes and lack of ventilation are harmful for the baby.

As we exited the two-room house, I noticed a neighbor preparing the charcoal pot. I'm one voice in the midst of a community of women who all do things the same way. Will this new mother have the inner strength to make up her own mind concerning her child?

Here's the cultural ramification: If she doesn't use a coal pot and her baby gets sick, everyone will blame the sickness on the fact that she didn't use a coal pot. If she does use a coal pot and the baby gets sick, no one will make any connection between the two because it's taken for granted that of course you use a coal pot when you have a new baby.

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