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.
“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.
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