Did you know that babies can’t really see when they are born? Well I didn’t. Their eyes are opened but they still can’t see. I was told that in the past it took a whole week for their eyes to open up and when it did, it was a big deal because everyone would be called to witness.
So anyway my baby couldn’t see just yet which defeated the bonding process for me because the whole point was to breastfeed and gaze into each other’s eyes right? That’s what I always saw in movies. Why don’t people ever tell us the truth? You know, the real stuff? It was such a let down finding out all these things for myself. I did have some things to look forward to though. For example, his umbilical cord. Even though it gets cut at the hospital, there is still a small piece attached to his belly button which eventually falls off after a week or less. The midwife had attached an object like a plastic peg to it so that the weight could help it fall off quickly. We cleaned it every morning and night with spirit and cotton wool as directed by the hospital. After cleaning, we put him in his baby kimono (it’s specially designed for this purpose, to allow the cord to hang freely so that the air would dry it out. It’s sold in almost all baby shops) and put him down to sleep.
It was Monday, exactly a week after I had given birth. It was time to head back to the hospital for my second examination. Kobby and I went with the baby as well because he also had his one week paediatric appointment. We were called into her office and we undressed him as she examined his cord. “It’s healing really well and it should fall off any day now. Have you been exposing it?” she asked. “Well we do sometimes, but we usually wrap him up in a blanket to keep him warm.” I explained. “You have to expose it, because it should’ve fallen off by now. So start doing that. Once it falls off, you can call the hospital to book an appointment for his circumcision okay?” she advised. We nodded and dressed him up. I had been dreading his circumcision because I had been told so many horrific stories about how they would cry non stop throughout the night because of the pain, they pee everywhere because they cannot be wrapped properly with a diaper etc. She must’ve read my thoughts because she quickly added “Don’t worry, this isn’t like it was in the past. We use the ring method and it’s very clean and precise. There’s minimal pain and it is over in no time. He can also wear a diaper, so you should be fine”. Thank God!
I went upstairs to be examined. This time, my gyno was around as well as the midwife who had examined me earlier. I complained to him about the pain I was in and the fact that I felt I needed to be re-stitched. They both took a look and he said “I don’t think you’ll need to get stitched again. You are starting to heal and I wouldn’t want to disturb the process. Give it some more time, you’ll get better. In the meantime, you can start the sitz bath or splash some warm water down there and the heat will help with the healing process.” he advised. I was disappointed. I was convinced I needed to be re-stitched and I didn’t see how this open wound was going to seal up all on its own. I felt helpless.
That night, as I was putting my baby to sleep, his cord fell! We had exposed it for some hours after we got back and it had really dried up. Finally! Something worth celebrating. There was just a tiny bit of blood at the tip of his belly button (which now had an opening) but there was no real bleeding. He didn’t cry, so that was a good sign. We cleaned his belly button again and left it to heal on its own. We decided it was better to hold off with the circumcision till after his naming ceremony. We had set the date for the 4th of December, which was in a week and exactly two weeks after he was born. It was going to be a very simple ceremony with my mom and brothers and an uncle as well as David’s parents and his godfather and our Catholic priest.
The days leading to the naming were filled with lots of sitz baths. Guys, I cannot overemphasize the wonders JUST warm can do! Warm water and nothing else! I would sit directly in the warm water for about an hour every day while I read a book or browsed the internet. I slowly started to enjoy it. The first few minutes were uncomfortable because of the heat but once my body adjusted, I was fine. It was quite soothing and it was the only hour I had to myself and my thoughts. It really calmed me down and I needed that. I did this twice a day-morning and evening before I showered and then I would stick the mirror down there to check my progress. The healing process was incredible. I could actually see the opening getting smaller and smaller each day and the burning was also reducing as it healed. A week later was the naming ceremony and I felt wayyy better by then. I could sit very comfortably, my mood was better and I felt better in general. My face and body were still bloated but I didn’t care about that then.
Our families came over to our place at 8am because we were scheduled to start at 9am. (We couldn’t delay because Catholic priests are never late).The priest arrived and we commenced. This was merely a formality because we had already informally named him DJ (David Junior). My father-in-law read out his full name “David Paapa Kojo Quagraine.” He also poured water on a teaspoon and put a drop on his tongue (which was to signify the good things in life and then a teaspoon of alcohol (to signify the bad) but that wasn’t put on his tongue. It was just lifted and then put down. This was the traditional ceremony we did to name a child and to teach him right from wrong and bless him. The priest then asked us to take the baby outside into the sunlight so he could see the sun for the first time. We came back in and he prayed over him and we were done. This was a brief ceremony that lasted only 20 minutes. Throughout this period, including the time we took him outside, DJ slept. He didn’t wake up once. It was such a relief but he was quite the sleeper anyway so it wasn’t out of the ordinary. We had breakfast and we sat around to chat for a while and everyone left. We called the hospital to book an appointment the next day for the circumcision because we figured it was better to get it over with. Kobby had to rush off to work because sadly his paternity leave had ended. Two of my friends came over that afternoon so I wasn’t too bored.
The next day, we arrived at the hospital quite early at about 8am. We were asked to go upstairs and wait. After a few minutes, we were escorted to the theatre where we had to leave our shoes outside and wear the ones we were given. They kept the place very sterile and with good reason. We wore the hospital robe, the hat and the mask (which I thought was a bit dramatic but what do I know?) and the male nurse in charge came and took him out of his infant car seat and placed him on the bed. We watched us he carefully injected his “peepee” with anaesthesia, cut the sack around it, placed a plastic ring on it and then dressed the wound. Kobby could barely watch but I watched so keenly, I didn’t miss a thing. I was surprised how well I handled it and how well DJ did too. He cried for a good 15 seconds or so and that was it. “Once the ring falls off, he will be completely healed. This should happen in about 5 days. If it doesn’t fall, call the hospital” the nurse said. We thanked him and headed home.
The days that followed were filled with visits from friends and family, gifts, sitz baths, expressing milk and observing the ring. DJ wasn’t too much of a fussy baby. He slept a lot and ate a lot. He didn’t cry as much as I thought he would, usually only when he was hungry which was great. His belly button had finally sealed and we were patiently waiting for the ring to fall off. On the 5th day, just like the nurse had predicted, his ring fell off! His peepee was still pinkish so my mom applied an antibacterial ointment to it and it started to look better after a few days. My depressed days were long gone and I was finally settling into the rhythm of motherhood!