What a joy to see other people start to enjoy your child and look forward to seeing them. By doing this, they are acknowledging the beauty of new life and are hopeful to experience glimpses of this new being's personality that is developing.
It's been exciting to see how having a baby has opened doors for relationships and conversations here. Babies seem to immediately draw people in- no matter their religion, history, etc. People who would normally come across as distant and aloof, are suddenly giving you a huge smile and asking how your baby is. People start having children at very young ages here, so asking if someone (who looks over 20) has a baby, is usually a safe question and a good way to start getting to know them. It's so fun to hear the responses. Sometimes, women who look like they are 18 will tell me they have a 9 year old child! Other times, you learn that someone your same age has 5 children already. I asked one landlord about his kids while we were looking for houses and he told me he has 10 children and 6 grandchildren! I asked these questions before, but there is something about having a child in your arms as you ask these questions that draws people in. They can connect to you on some level- you immediately have something in common.
Here are some things I have learned about having a baby in Uganda:
|Even dressed like this, people|
ask if she is a girl or boy.
2. Even if your baby is dressed in all pink and has a huge bow on their head, the first question people will ask is, "Is she a boy or a girl?" (he and she are often confused in English here, so the wording of this question makes me giggle inside every time).
3. Because of the community nature of this culture, people are very quick to give their opinion about how you should be raising your child. Every time I hold Ellie in an Ergo carrier, someone tells me that my child can't breathe and I should "fix her nose" or that, "my child is breaking". It has taken a while, but I'm starting to try to view these comments as people caring and wanting the best for my child. One friend told me that when she was burping her child after nursing one time, someone yelled at her and said, "Stop beating your child!!!". We are learning to respond in patience and gently educate when necessary.
4. If your baby is crying, people will always think she is hungry. The common thought here is that crying always indicates hunger. If Ellie is crying, people will sometimes tell me, "give her the breast!".
5. When walking by greeting a complete stranger, if I am holding Ellie, they will always ask, "How is the baby?!". Some people will even look at me and then at her and say, "Thank you!". We've learned this is an acknowledgement of gratitude for bringing a baby into the world. If they are Christian, it is always a way of thanking God for the new life.