By Nigel Nassar
Welcome to my baby-sitting drama. It could even be a fiasco – depends how you decode stuff. Just know that by the time you are done here, you will have labeled me. Either a super dad, or the worst one to ever occur to a baby in its first trimester of living.
But first things first – the other day I became a father. That will be February 16, 2014. And both baby and daddy are fine; the mum too, also known as my wife. Wife because I recently put a ring on it; sorry guys, she’s now Saragh Mbajja Musinguzi, taken for good!
And our son, the protagonist character in my baby-sitting drama, is Aydin Ramon Musinguzi. So you can call us the Musinguzis if you feel like it.
The Musinguzis on the day Sarah resumed work
Anyway, that day at Kadic Hospital when my wife handed me the little baby and went like, “Nigel Nassar Musinguzi, you are now a father,” it didn’t really hit home, not one bit.
Well, it did sink in when three months down the road, my wife Saragh had to resume work after her maternity leave, and the cards turned up yours truly as the next baby-sitter. How do you do an impossible assignment?
I had no escape route. For starters I was on leave for a whole 30 days. And Aydin’s grandma in Masaka, who had promised to find us a baby-sitter, hadn’t yet found one who met our specifications – we had given her too many specifications, so much so that at some point we had to relax them in order to actually find a sitter (talk of first-time parents).
Any way, the prospect of me baby-sitting was indeed scary. Because there was an earlier episode I specifically dreaded, one where my wife ended up crying along with the baby, upon failing to calm him down. You should have been there to witness that amalgam. Would I experience one of those?
Nigel had to learn how to bathe the baby by default
I took it in stride nonetheless, psyching myself up for it, you know? And then, Day One came. It was just me, Aydin and the bottle. And oh, the instructions as well. His mum, before leaving for work, had spelled out for me a whole list of instructions as I took notes – I am a journalist through and through, you know? Besides, his mum had insisted that I write everything down so I don’t make mistakes.
“Wash his feeding bottles with hot water. I repeat, with hot water. But first, wash your hands and disinfect them, okay? When he’s asleep, check on him at 10-minute intervals, make sure he’s breathing and not covering his nose with his sheets. When he wakes up, bathe him before you feed him. He should shower at least once every three hours.
The writer, Nigel M. Nassar, with his son, baby Aydin Ramon Musinguzi
Make sure he has his bib on while feeding, and be sure to change to a dry one after that. When he wets that one too with River Aydin (his saliva which flows all the time), change to another bib so he’s dry and comfy at all times. When the breast milk I expressed gets done, mix for him formula in the right proportions – be sure to read the instructions on the tin carefully.
When he cries a lot, chances are he’s either hungry, or wants to sleep, or is feeling uncomfortable and needs a shower; experiment with either and see what happens. Don’t tune into channels where they swear, have nudity and violence. Don’t dress him in a diaper, okay? I repeat, no diaper – it prevents his manhood from growing well…”
My God, the instructions were endless. Would I survive this?
That day started on a high, with the boy refusing to feed off the bottle. That was about 10:00am, so I figured it was still early; he was probably still full on what he had breastfed earlier in the day.
Nigel and Aydin are now inseparable
“He will get hungry later on and devour the milk,” I told myself. He didn’t. Towards 11:00am he read me the riot act, crying incessantly and brushing off the bottle with so much force. I got confused. Was he sick? Would seeing a doctor help? But then he didn’t have a temperature. And he looked pretty fine, really, so it had to be hunger, just that he didn’t want this strange milk.
I bundled him and his cargo in his car seat, strapped him in and off I drove. By cargo I mean his basin, flask of hot water and a jerry can of cold boiled water for bathing, towel, clothes, shower gel, bibs, name it – they usually travel with all their stuff, it turns out.
“Hey Mama Baby, please come to the parking lot, love you, bye.” I hang up. She couldn’t believe her eyes on seeing us, all there looking distressed. Good enough she wasn’t tough on me for turning up unannounced and disrupting her work.
In fact, she found my tribulations funny, patting my back and re-assuring me that I was doing a good job. Really? What was I, five? It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that I was doing a crappy job. Nonetheless I took the compliment; I needed one of those, not with this distress level.
So, she fed him while whispering to him some of those little nothings, that he had a great father and that he was doing a terrific job sitting him.
Fathers bond better with their babies when they take part in baby-sitting
Thereafter we drove off to Garden City mall, where we hang out all day, while driving back-and-forth on breastfeeding journeys to his mum’s office until the day ended, and the three of us drove back home together. That day felt like a week already, and I had cheated my way out.
But even that trick was not sustainable. We couldn’t keep distracting the mother from work, and Aydin certainly couldn’t live out of a car – it was uncomfortable in there, and that the weather was hot didn’t help matters. So we had to learn to be on our own.
Meanwhile, it turns out I wasn’t positioning the bottle in his mouth well. So that night after Day One, I had to learn how to do it, chocking the little thing with the nipple here and there and feeling guilty over it. But I was determined to learn, for the following day, Tuesday, and others to come, it would be just the two of us, and perhaps out TV.
Look, I can’t give a day-by-day account; a novel would suffice better for that. But just know the days were not shifting, and the baby-sitter wasn’t coming just yet.
There was a day when the feeding bottle suddenly popped open and all the milk poured out into the baby’s face. Then there were moments of the boy crying and I not having a clue what was up, at which points I would exhaust all the baby-carrying positions in vain. On one of those days I held him and started dancing, then he kept quiet – the rocking thing had worked.
Trouble was that whenever I stopped he cried again. So I wasn’t to stop dancing until another close to an hour before sleep caught up with him.
On other days the dancing stunt didn’t work, so I ended up having to carry him and walking around the entire estate for him to catch sleep.
There were days of his mother returning and him breastfeeding hungrily while grumbling, probably reprimanding her for leaving him with his clueless dad.
Then there is the peeing. This dude will wet his pants by the minute, and I mean by the minute. And seeing as he hates the slightest feel of wetness in there, you can’t keep the wet pants on him for even 10 seconds – he will scream the roof down, and it won’t be tears – just a little shrieking noise until you act.
He’s a hyper thing, that one. So there I was, having to wash several little pants, like 40 of them a day – thank God he ‘pooed’ only thrice over my five-day stint.
The cloth-soiling was too much sometimes I considered diapering him up and then keeping tabs on the clock to remove the diaper minutes to the mum’s return. But then I figured I would be cheating myself, and shelved the thought.
That is however not to say he was all trouble – we had our cool times, making funny faces to each other, him watching with me my documentaries on the History channel, and I watching with him his Disney Channel – yeah, he’s barely four-and-a-half but he so loves this channel.
Then there is this screaming game we played, which has become our routine these days. How it works is that I make a weird sound that nudges him to scream, and then I scream back.
From there it becomes a competition – the other day the neighbour above us came down to ask if we were alright. We apologised for disturbing the peace, but then again moments later we got taken up subconsciously. He hasn’t returned yet, he probably understood.
So, on the whole we had fun doing each other’s likes. Plus, I think he’s going to be a big-time reader. Because whenever I read to him that book The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, he gets excited, especially whenever I flip a page and there’s a fresh picture.
Babies will be trouble one minute, and then they will be lots of fun the next. In going through my baby-sitting week I always held the young man up and looked deep into his eyes and saw them appreciating me big time, that innocence winning me over whenever I felt frustrated by his occasional incessant cries.
It felt good to know that in his vulnerability, he depended on me entirely to sort him out. And that always made me be there for him in all his needs, and I did it tirelessly, along the way learning a lot. So much so that by the end of the week, when his sitter, Allen, finally came, I felt this strong bond with the little thing that I even didn’t need help.
Now whenever I am home, I want to do things for him and not leave him to the maid or the mother. Because trust me, it feels so good to be a father, and take part in parenting. I used to think it was overrated, but turns out it’s the other way round.
It starts as a task, but then it grows on you and you don’t want to live without it. My leave has just ended, but trust me money can’t buy that month I spent with my baby Aydin. Now I miss him every time I have to leave the house and go to the hustle (read work). But that’s the order of the day, right?
I now understand why our women parliamentarians need a breastfeeding centre at Parliament. It’s so worth it. Welcome to the world, Baby Aydin.
And Saragh, thank you for giving us the little bundle of joy. May God bless you both, and all mothers. Because you can’t affix a price to what they do to mother us.
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