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Fatherhood Chronicles: Calla is All Grown Now

Calla all grown

Children grow very fast. I mean, just the other day, we were struggling with holding and bathing Calla, because she was too small, too fragile… She looked like she would break.

But now, she is a grown girl who can’t keep calm. She is literally always on the move, running to the kitchen, bedrooms, through the living room to the balconies. If she finds the gate open, she runs out, too. And so, we have to keep an eye on her all the time.

And she learnt how to hide and commit her sins. The more we ban her from doing things, the more she hides to do them. Like eating her toothpaste – if she lands it, she literally distracts you and runs to hide and suck it away. He favourite hiding place is behind the curtains – and it took us a while to discover it.

When you catch her, she throws the evidence away and either laughs like a maniac (and she’s loud) or hugs your feet.

Makes you forget your anger.

Speaking of anger. There’s no much anger in this Meru house any more. She is such a light. Much because sometimes, she is maddening. She does things that make you feel like kicking her. Like standing on her little plastic seat which she drags around all the time and trying to light the cooker, or to climb on the kitchen counter to throw away utensils… or like yesterday, I caught her dancing on top of my laptop.

Baby climbs ladders.

She climbs ladders, too.

Maddening. But then she calls you Papi, Baba, Mami, Bami, Maaam, Baaa (she calls you whatever comes to her lips) and you forget you were mad in the first place.

Yes, she talks now. A lot. She’s always talking and telling us stories. She takes all the phone calls and won’t let you speak, she imitates people on TV, she chats, complete with hand gestures and facial expressions… Only that we don’t understand 99% of what she says.


We know tutu, though, which is poo poo in her language. I guess she loves the toilet, like her dad, because she kills boredom by making us run helter skelter looking for her potty when she says these magic words, tutu. Try to fart around her, and she will point at your your ass, shouting tutu and laughing like those village women.

Calla in the village feeding cattle

The Village woman with her grandmother feeding cattle and sharing stories of old

The only time she stops talking is when she is watching her cartoons. She literally zones out, doesn’t acknowledge our presence and we can leave her for hours, only getting up to dance with the cartoons, and get drinking water. That’s why I know Baby Shark, Humpty Dumpty, The Little Monkeys and other baby songs this much now.

She makes me look forward to going home, Calla. Because she also looks forward to seeing me at home, too. She gets off her seat when she hears the car wheels on the gravel outside, is normally out on the balcony confirming it’s me by the time I’m locking up, and is standing at the door with the keys by the time I’m at the door.

baby marshall headphones

Headphone ameanza mapema

Oh, you should experience the shrieks and the hugs and the kisses I get to understand real love.

In the mornings, I have to tiptoe (sometimes humming that song wanaanza ku-tipi-toe 🙂 ) to get out of the house. Because if she hears me, it will be 30 minutes before I can distract her enough to leave. And she’s a hard one to distract. Still, she realises I’m gone and screams like she’s on fire. That scream is so heartbreaking I have caught myself going back to blow another 30 minutes to be given permission by her majesty.

She’s also a prayer warrior. Tell her it’s time to pray and she’ll stop whatever she’s doing, close her eyes, grasp her hands and start mumbling. We don’t know what she says, but I know God knows, he hears and does it for her. Yes, we are trying to raise her in the ways of the Lord … so that when she grows, she doesn’t depart from them (Pro 22:6). That’s what the Bible says.

Speaking of ways of the Lord, Calla is a star of the church…and pretty much any public place we go. She dances (and she’s a complete dancer), shouts, sings, plays with other kids, runs around. And steals the show with her beauty.

My little puppy is all grown, and I love her to bits.

Fatherhood Chronicles 3: Meeting my Daughter for the First Time.

Where were we last time? Oh yes … I was crying myself to sleep when I heard the news that Calla, hear this, MY daughter had been born healthy. Jeddy actually used the sentence “I’m holding your kamzungu here.”

That was the picture I slept with at 2:00 am and woke up to at 4:30 am without the need of an alarm. Those who know me know I can sleep, and I do sleep. And I need an alarm to get up, after snoozing like 17 times.

Not this dawn, May 19 2017. I woke up like a father should. I didn’t shower – what’s showering? – and dragged Kero out of the other bedroom. He was also so excited you would think he was the father. When the hospital doors opened at 6:00, we were the first in – running. Even the nurses and other patients started clapping and cheering when I ran in like a village boy expecting scones from his mother.

And there she was. Sleeping like a little, cuddly doll, breathing softly – I placed my ears under her nose to listen to the most beautiful sound you will every hear, the sound of your child breathing. I just looked at her, transfixed. She was beautiful, too beautiful to be true. I’m not saying this because she’s my daughter, but honestly, she was the most beautiful baby. Curly, dark hair, lips more beautiful than her mother’s (and Jeddy has beautiful lips), a masterpiece of a nose (like a cat’s, not my long German nose), and the clenched fingers, long a thin like mine…

calla baby fingers

Then she opened her eyes, and my-oh-my!

I was mystified as I looked into those eyes. So pure, and innocent, and loving and white with large pupils at the middle like a cat’s. I swear she was also looking at me too, I can swear I saw her smile when she saw me. Haters will say babies’ eyes don’t actually see the first day and that was just a movement on her lips, but hamsemi kitu. Calla saw me, recognized me, and gave me her first ever smile.

So, I looked at her, she looked at me… We looked into each other’s eyes like true lovers – that’s who we were, anyway. I was her true love and she was my true love. She was all that mattered to me at that moment, and it was overwhelming… a pure emotion surge hit me. I started trembling and tearing up. This small life was my blood, and flesh, and water… and sperm. My seed.

God had blessed me with the most beautiful child, ever. And she was breathing and looking at me and smiling at me. I didn’t hold her first… I walked away for a moment before I could burst into a sob in front of my daughter. See, I’m an African man and we don’t cry in front of women and children. Well, apart from Kero who was crying again and wringing his hands like a certain woman in my village.

Jeddy was laughing at us grown, crying men.

By then, I had not even greeted her, nor had I held Calla. And I looked at her look at the baby with a lit face like we see in the pictures. I wish Rich Allela were there to capture that moment. Only the previous evening she was ashen with pain, and now, having done her thing, was beaming like the morning sun. Ever been slapped by love?

When I finally held Calla in my arms (I still hadn’t), my life was complete. I was in Wonderland.

I still am.

Fatherhood Chronicles 2: Stubborn Calla is Born

Calla baby foot BORN

Kids, when you see the little, cute babies, don’t think it’s an easy, cute thing. Giving birth is not your mother. 🙂

It’s a whole 9 months of strife, of carrying an extra, 3 or 4 kgs, all day every day, not forgetting your own ballooning weight. Going to hospital for every simple illness, like an headache. It’s being ready always, like a Boy Scout, because you don’t know the day nor the hour, when the baby will want to pop.

Like us, we literally didn’t know the due date, because we had 4 different due dates, all spanning over a whole month. Every scan, every doctor, had a different due date.

So, on the 17th of May 2017, we just went for a routine check up at the hospital. I remember we: Mwaura, Ben and myself, were shooting a video commercial for Kilimall, and I told them to keep at it while I took Jeddy to hospital. I would be back in a short while.

Only that I didn’t. The next time they saw me two hours later, I was shopping for baby clothes in Biashara Street!

You are due today!

That’s what she said. The nurse.

“What?” That’s us, in shock.

“Yes. You’ve already opened up 3 inches. So, by tonight, you should be delivering.”

Whoa. That was so unexpected, it was shocking. I mean, how does a routine hospital visit turn out into a real maternity time?

She told me to leave Jeddy there and go get the needed stuff to welcome the baby. Of course we refused… told her since we hadn’t expected it, and there was no way I could buy baby stuff alone, we would assume we hadn’t come…  leave and come back later. As if you can postpone childbirth.

Btw, did you know when it’s time for the baby to come, it has to come out… Whether you have its sahani or not.

The nurse agreed, told us to be back within 6 hours or earlier if she feels any sort of pain. She even told us to do some tabia mbaya in the meantime to make the passage smooth for the baby. (It was around 11:00 am – we came back 12 hours later. 🙂 )

And that’s how Mwaura and Ben found me in a baby shop on Biashara Street buying a baby bag, baby clothes, receiving blankets, mosquito net… and all those things that make people realize they are parents.

We then went home and sanitized the house, sanitized our hearts… And prayed. Prayed for safe delivery for both the mother and the baby.

Out of 1,000 women that leave the house to give birth in Kenya, 5 of them don’t return, and even if they return, 23 don’t return with their babies. Maternal and infant mortality rates in Kenya remain quite high.

Baby bumb photoshoot

So, we packed and left the house late in the evening. I even wore a kabuti because I wanted to be there to witness my baby coming to this world. I wanted to be the first to hold her, and lick her clean like cows do. And cut the cord. And start being an awww daddy.

But we were in for a rude shock. They wouldn’t let me spend the night in hospital! The hospital only has maternity wards and if you aren’t giving birth, you have no business being within the premises beyond 7:00 pm. And so, I tucked my tail inside my kabuti and called an Uber to take me home.

Jeddy says: I watched him leave and felt loneliness that I had ever felt before. I had never spent a night in hospital and this was scary. It felt like those Hospital horror movies. I cried.

In the morning, at 6:00 am, I was back at the hospital. Forget the fact that I am never a morning person, and 6:00 normally won’t find me awake. But now, with my new fatherhood status, I couldn’t afford to sleep. For my daughter. And I had to be there to see her. I didn’t even bother to call, I left in faith to hold my baby.

Only that it wasn’t to be. She hadn’t come yet. It had been a night of just waiting. Aisuru, she would be born in a few… Actually, I didn’t go far when visiting hours ended. I hung around talking to doctors, nurses, and the Watchman. Especially the watchman. I strike good conversations with watchmen. Till lunch-time visiting came along and I walked in smiling like a father. Only that I didn’t see my daughter. Just a wailing Jeddy. Her labour pains had been induced… And that’s real, sheer pain.

Kanungo Dance

So I spent two hours rubbing her back, and helping her walk because she had to be walking around with all those drips… And dancing Kanungo.

pregnancy photoshoot calla

By evening, I was mighty stressed. My brain was on overload, just didn’t know what to do… And I don’t get stressed easy. So much that I went into a local just next to the hospital and ordered beer. My all dependable crew – Kero, Dan and Ben met me drunk like a fish. And helped me drink more. So drunk we went into the hospital past visiting hours and bribed our way in.

Jeddy was still wailing in pain. So much that Kérò started crying too, and I sobered up, demanded to see the doctors for an educated prognosis.

They said all would be okay, prolonged labour is normal, even when induced. It’s only that the girl was a stubborn one. Keroh, a believer in money, gave the nurses some money and told them to keep a special eye on Jeddy. And for Chrissake, deliver her before morning.

And then we went back to the bar, drunk some more and went back home.

Not that we slept. At least I didn’t sleep. I kept trying to call Jeddy – naturally she wasn’t picking – and my stress levels were at the very peak. In my mind, all the wrong things were racing at me. I Googled Mother and Child Mortality rates in Kenya, the best hospitals for Caesarian Section, reviews of that particular hospital… and the worst that could happen during childbirth.

It was a grim night.

And then Jeddy called at 1:30ish am. Our daughter had been born successfully, a healthy 3+ kgs!

It was my turn to cry. And I cried myself to sleep.

The story continues. Maybe we should convince Jeddy to write her version of the story.  Ama namna gani?

Photography: RichAllela

Fatherhood Chronicles: Her name will be Calla.

fatherhood frankmwenda

On 19th May 2018, an event was going down at the Nairobi Children’s Home in Lower Kabete. There was food, games, lots of gifts, and cake. Oh, and a brightly dressed girl in a shining crown. A princess.

The name of the event was CALLABASH.

It was quite a party. Complete with 2 MCs and white, custom t-shirts by one Mike Atoti (don’t ask me about the second name). We even planted about 20 trees, organised by environmentalist Doreen Ntiritu.

Turned out to be quite the bash.

It was my daughter’s birthday. And the day marked one year since I looked into the most beautiful set of eyes I have ever seen. Completely white, and waiting to see the world for the first time.

My new status and initiation into fatherhood was confirmed on 19th May 2017. Or maybe 9 months earlier. 🙂

One fine week in 2016, Jeddy had a stomach ache. It bugged her for some time and you know about Thika Road clinics. She was positively diagnosed with typhoid and got her large share of antibiotics. Only that they didn’t work, and she had to go to another hospital.

This one was more serious, and after all tests revealed nothing, they took an ultrasound scan.

She brought the results, and I looked at that thing that looked like those photography negatives of old, before being washed.

Not Calla.

“So, what does this show?” I asked.

“They are saying I’m two weeks pregnant.”

“Okay. Where is the baby here? ”

“This black spot.”

“This black spot is a baby?”

“Yes, it’s 0.63 centimeters. Could be a pimple, but they said it’s most probably a baby.”


“Okay? Just okay.”

“Yes. If it’s a baby, I am ready. Guess we won’t go to TRM to eat chicken today. We have to save for the baby.”

It was all surreal, this confirmed fatherhood. I couldn’t believe that I was holding, in my hand, the first picture of my child. My own child!

For months, we prepared. Bought a lot of unisex clothes… and visiting baby shops on Biashara Street, asking around for hospitals and collecting random Baby Stuff on Facebook groups.

And started writing down names. The only name that was definite for me was the name Calla if it was a girl. There was no discussion there. If it was a boy, he would have a close derivative of the name Calla. The second name would be the same, whether it would be a boy or a girl. A unisex name.

And another thing, no Kimeru name.

Weren’t we proud to be Meru, or Africans?

Number one, have you noticed that Meru names are finished? Taken up like Gmail addresses or Twitter handles. Girls are either Kendi, Makena, Karimi, Nkirote or Mukiri. Throw a stone in Maua and you will hit a boy called Mwenda, Muthomi, Kirimi or Murithi.

My extended family has 4 Murithis, 3 Mwendwas, 7 Karimis, 3 Kendis, 5 Makenas. What’s wrong with Merus and names?

Anyway, that was one reason. The second reason was more fundamental. There’s a lot of tribalism in Kenya, and we know for a fact that people have missed out jobs just because of the name on their CV. Or gotten jobs.

And we didn’t want to be a factor for our child. He or she would be playing on a level ground. No undue favours and definitely no discrimination based on tribe.

baby bump

Our baby bump

The journey was smooth. At least to me because I wasn’t the one pregnant. 🙂 But I was there when we did the scans, watching as the heartbeats (oh that feeling of seeing a new life) turned into something I saw in Biology lessons (a tadpole) to a time when we could see a proper baby, you know, with a head a moving arms and legs. Oh, and always drinking the amniotic fluid. Always. That was crazy, even to me.

And we learned it would be a girl! The drinking girl. [Remember the letter I wrote to my daughter?]

The name Calla had found an owner.

Welcome to my Fatherhood Chronicles

It has taken me over one year to write this – I kept postponing. But now, get ready to be bored by my stories of fatherhood, in this new series.

Photography: Rich Allela

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