Motherhood Culture


photo courtesy// pintrest

I went for a funeral for one of my kids’ great grandparents, used my kids’ relation to show that he was really old 89 hears, his death is part of the cycle of life, we are born we live, we die.  We want to live a full life, one that we regret not at all when we get to the afterlife you want to do a whole Michael Jackson spin and scream the was fun!  Wait did MJ even have a spin?

Given the very old age that he died, the funeral was full of old folks, I overheard one of them say that we have come to bid him goodbye because we will also be bid goodbye when we die it sounds perfect in Kikuyu ‘ona ithui no tukaumagario’ I asked her how old she was and she said 87.

As we were leaving the funeral service at PCEA Kikuyu, I had guka and his brother and cucu in the car, I never really knew their brother who did, I have probably lyrics met him a couple of time but the photo on the programme did little to jog my memory.  The three talked about Thogoto and how it was as they were growing up, cucu showed me a field where she had been given to cultivate and plant crops to feed her family, it is now Musa Gitau High School, the opposite side is where guka and his brother used to care for goats and cows, it was full of grass and trees, it is now Presbyterian University. Naikoloth is the name of the Italian guka worked for and every morning he would be given 2liters of milk, then life moved on, he went to school, studied and passed and was sent to America to study engineering and architecture, life changed for him.

The old sat down, the priest presided over the grave ceremony, the a lil bit older ones sang and danced, you know that distict kikuyu thud thud of the drum, tum-tu-tu-tu-tu-tum that goes with every song, as the young men covered the grave with soil, there were no tears at the funeral, it was almost an anticipated death, reminds me of my grandmother’s funeral exactly one year ago. The old die and we are glad they graced our lives for so long, he has gone to rest is what we call it.

As the young men continued heaping soil onto the grave I contemplated on the history that had just been buried, stories that in the old days were told and passed on at the fireplace and now, they aren’t told anymore, they die with every 80 year old who dies and might just never be told.

I have been very intrigued by the culture that surrounded motherhood in our communities, what happened when a girl suspected she was pregnant? How did they do a pregnancy test? How were girls who weren’t married and had gotten pregnant treated and protected at the same time? We have clinics and gynae appointments, we have sonograms and all to prepare us for how many children we will have, in case there are chances of multiples, you already know how many and even boys or girl, what happened to my grandma? Did they have cases of high-risk pregnancies? How did they know which was high risk and which wasn’t and how were mums carrying high-risk pregnancies treated? A woman working around the home was how you marked your territory as a woman, what happened when one got pregnant and she just couldn’t.

How was the birth process? How was labour detected? How did you know that you were overdue? We have all this info online about mucus plug and all, did they know this? If not, what did they use to know that labour was around the corner, what happened to cases of stillbirth? How were miscarriages treated? Did they have a womb cleaning process like we have nowadays? If they did, what exactly happened? Barrenness?

How were women in the coastal region taken care of different from women in Luhya land? What food were the pregnant women permitted to eat and which ones were forbidden? How was a new mom taken care of in Turkana, how long did they breastfeed for? Which foods did the new moms eat? How long before she had to get back on the grind? What happened when baby was transverse? We have the CS option what did they do to induce labour, was that even ever done? Who taught the Traditional Birth Assistant? How did they detect an emergency? Were there emergencies then? Did they have cases of Post Partum Depression? What happened to cases of mortality, either the child, the mother died, how was that handled?

What myths surround motherhood in the different communities? Did you know Luyha’s believe in the macho mbaya myth? was it, is it true? Chira? is that a true story? How about the whole cutting of hair, is it the maternal or parternal grandma who did it what happened if they didn’t? Plastic teeth which is one that has been held onto even by women in the 21st century, did they have it back then?

At this point I am thinking about my grandma who was a Birth Assistant, had I known this would be my passion years later, I would have spent more time with her, asking questions and researching about birth from her point of view. She was a perfect masseuse for preggo moms, she was known around Kitui, in fact she used to say had she gone to school she would have been a doctor and that was seen through her passion for helping people get better, the whole 9 yard of giving neem and aloe vera to prescribing bed rest.

My grandma and her kind are slowly dying and the sad bit is they are dying with the history, not just motherhood which I have a huge interest in, but the whole rite of passage process, childhood, teenagehood etc.

My grandpa who died when I was in form 2 he was a war veteran, he fought in the WW2 in Burma, they were all young men who were rounded up and taken to fight for the British, “we marched day and night and in the morning, we were served with a cup of black tea without sugar, into the iron train we went and we finally landed at the sea.” He had a song that he had composed about how they were bombed at sea, in his words, “Death doesn’t see rich or poor,” because he survived and his wealthy friends died, “Our People were buried in the sea.” I don’t know if he ever made it to Burma or they turned around after the attack. Stories that are unique to every family and region that need to be told, documented preserved.

If you have a grandma or know of a grandma who will have great info on motherhood, please hook me up. At least if we can’t have it on video, I will write about it, my wanderlust will take me to her and my love for motherhood will have me listening. Let’s document motherhood =)

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Happy Parenting


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