13 February 2012

The Art of Carrying

This morning as I was checking in with the rounding doctors to see if they had any new patients for me, a young mother offered me her baby.

Believe it or not, this is a typical occurrence, which usually ends with roars of laughter when I explain that I have no physiological means to feed their baby . . . which, as a woman of 30, just blows them out of the water . . . and then once they've all explained it to one another how on earth, for the moment, my wells could be dry, they laugh at my expense.

And today, there was laughter, as usual, but this time it was because I don't know how to properly carry a baby!

The Momma held out her baby boy and insisted I take him.  She was happy to share one of her many with me, the MamanYara (mother of the children) without any of her her own.

'Oh, babu nono' (no breast milk) I said with a helpless shrug.  She answered with a long string of Hausa that I didn't understand.

'Ba komi!' (no problem!) she said in the end, and reached around to her back, indicating where I was to carry him.

I laughed, 'Ama, akwai aiki yenzu.  Ko akwai yaro, zan bakata tahiya haka!' (But, there is work now.  If there is a boy, I will need walk like this!') and I bent over and mimed walking while lugging something heavy on my back.

A momma carries crutches, a pee kettle, a pillow
and her baby through the hospital halls.
They all laughed at my pantomime.

She continued to insist.

That is, until, the woman next to her held her hands out like a basketball hoop in front of her and began explaining what I could only translate as 'No, those silly Western women don't have a clue how to properly carry a baby . . . they hold them out front!  It's ridiculous, but that's what they do!'

All the women in the room stared at her as if she had lost her mind.

She assured them.

They gawked at me.

'Yup!  It's true!' I confirmed.  'Mun yi haka' (We do like this) and I acted out how we carry babies.

For a moment they were too shocked to respond.

When the moment passed, they simultaneously erupted into laughter.  Once again, at my expense.


Leah Long said...

Well, I went out at dusk, 20+ weeks pregnant, and with my toddler in tow, to visit my neighbors. I had a feeling it was a no-no but had only been told by my language informant that pregnant women are not to BATHE at that time of night, for certain superstitions. Even as I walked out the gate, I thought, "I'll probably get scolded." I did it anyway, and I'm waiting for the awkward conversation when one of my neighbors has to try to educate the foreigner. We western women can really get a lot of things wrong! ;o)

;) said...

Your posts can sometimes make me roar with laughter or cry...  but they all make me grow. 
The purple palm flower is in the washing machine !!!!!!!!!!!!! §

Shal said...

So funny Deb! If it makes you feel any better, I'm laughing with you, not at you. :)

Deb. said...


Deb. said...

Hopefully this one was roaring with laughter and not the other way around! :)  

The mangoes have fallen from the tree!!!!!

Deb. said...

CONGRATS LEAH!!  Will be praying for your Giving Birth in Africa story!

Sarah Fountain said...

So, I decided to look into "baby wearing," especially in back, because of this post.  The funny second chapter: lots youtube videos of western women spending $100+ on a 5-yard+ piece of fabric that needs to be wrapped in a very complex manner in order to back-carry.  Then, two videos of African women using much smaller pieces of fabric (one used a towel) to, very simply, carry their babies on their backs.  We not only do it wrong, we make the right way SO complicated! 

Deb. said...

Crazy what we'll do, hey?!