3

CELEBRATING EVERY MOTHER.

This Mother’s Day, I would like to take a little time to celebrate mothers. I will try to encompass every mother. Please forgive me if I leave anyone out and kindly add her in the comments section so we may celebrate her as every mother deserves celebrating.

To my mother. How could I possibly put into words how I feel about her. She is a special woman. Not just your average kind of special or your everyday special, but truly remarkable. Her strength in taking on the seemingly impossible, her forgiveness of me when I went through a very nasty rebellious stage in my late teens/early 20s. Her grace in the face of my defiance. Her embracing me when I informed her (and my dad) that I was pregnant; standing by me and helping me overcome my fear. Her acceptance of my Richard and her love for him. Her nurturing words as I set off on my journey as a homemaker. Her love for my children; the special, super nutritious uji flour she has made for Kamau and the warm yarn sweaters she buys them. Her frequent phone calls. Especially those, because in my “too busy” life I have no time to call her yet she keeps calling to find out how I am doing. I want to be just like her. I really do. Whenever one of my siblings makes a comment and says, “that is so mom!” I embrace that. To be half the woman that she is would be one of the greatest blessings.

To the mother that had a normal delivery. The one that pushed her baby (or babies) into the world. The one that went through hours of labour, afraid that the delivery would never come yet bravely soldiered on. To the mother that had a Caesarian Section- whether elective or because of a medical emergency. There is nothing to be ashamed about because you did not push or because your body didn’t go through labour. You are just as brave and just as special. Do not let anyone take that away from you. To the mother that went through IVF or surrogacy or adoption. Whatever your circumstance, enjoy being a mother to your children. You are wonderful. An inspiration.

To the mother going through post postpartum depression. The one that waited for the love that she was told would hit her when she first held her little one, but didn’t feel it. The one that cries herself to sleep because she is so afraid that someone will realize how blue she feels when they all expect her to feel magical. The one that feels anxious and extremely helpless. Do not be afraid. It happens to the best of us. Talk to someone you love and trust. Take it a day at a time. You’ll see. In no time, you’ll be the wonderful mommy we all know you can be.

To the mother that was blessed to breastfeed her baby. The one that struggled through the pain of her newborn learning to latch on. Give thanks that you have been able to and give it your very best. We know it’s not easy and we applaud your effort. To the mother that had to bottle feed; perhaps because baby didn’t quite take to the breast, or you didn’t have enough milk to satisfy baby’s needs, whatever your reason. The best decision you made was to put your pride aside and put your child’s needs first. Their being full is more important than any study or snide remarks society shoves your way.

To a special kind of mother; the one that is raising her children through chronic illness. The breast cancer survivor that breastfed her baby on one breast due to a mastectomy on the other. The lupee that pushes through chronic pain to care for her children. All this despite the adversity you faced to be able to bring your children into the world. You are heroines. We are truly in awe of the special kind of brave that you are.

To the mother that made the decision to stay at home and raise her children. The one that doesn’t get to have a day off. The one that is unappreciated and often taken for granted. The one that still gets asked what she does all day. Do not let society tell you who or what you ought to be. You have made the best decision for your children. Own it with great pride.

To the working mother. The one that has to wake up early to beat traffic and gets home to, sometimes, find her little ones already asleep. The one that has to juggle office and school play outfit deadlines. The one that struggles to enjoy a win at work because she worries she is failing on the home front. Take a moment to just appreciate yourself. Stop beating yourself up. Forget those unbelievably high standards you have set for yourself and accept you cannot do everything. Delegate a little- both at the office and at home- and be the best working mother that you can be.

To the single mother. The one that was pregnant alone or the one that was suddenly alone because being with that person was no longer the right choice for her. The one that has to wear both the mommy and the daddy hat. We salute how hard you are working to raise your children- to give them everything a two-parent home has. You are, indeed, special for it is difficult enough with a partner. Remember to take a little time for yourself too.

To the mothers that lost their little ones before they met them. The ones that were bursting with excitement when the pregnancy test read positive. The ones that rubbed their bellies with love and dreamed about cradling their little ones. Take heart. It may not feel like it, but it gets better. Truly. Your time will come. Have faith. Mine did.

Finally, to the mothers we have lost. Some that we never got to meet as they gave their lives so we could have ours. We know you loved us. Even though we do not know you, we are because you were. We are hopeful that someday we will get to meet you. To those that raised us yet left too soon. You live within us. A candle in our hearts that burns forever. Your laugh is still with us for when we think of you we only think of the beauty you brought to our lives. We pray for you every single day and hope to see you again.

Happy Mother’s Day!

xoxo!

 

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1

WHAT IS INNOCENCE?

I sit her up, in the safety of my breastfeeding pillow and a few minutes later I look at her, to check that she is alright, and watch as she helplessly- and in slow motion- droops to her side. She looks at me, and will actually smile sometimes, as she gets more and more uncomfortable yet is completely at my mercy as she cannot sit up on her own. I walk towards her and she grins- really grins- in that beautiful way that completely melts your insides. She will coo when I pick her up and kick her little legs as I sit her down. I get back to whatever activity I had interrupted and when I look back at her, she grins and kicks her legs as soon as we make eye contact.

We’re at a doctor’s appointment. The bad, scary doctor has been making her drink something that is definitely not mommy’s wonderful breast milk (the Rotavirus oral vaccination). R picks her up and she calms down and looks at him in that trusting way that babies look at people they are familiar with. He sits down with her in his lap, all the while talking to her and apologizing for her being upset. The entire time, the nurse is preparing three other jabs that she is supposed to get. She completely settles down, her eyes not leaving her father’s as in his eyes she finds familiar comfort. Three jabs later, she is crying uncontrollably yet daddy’s voice manages to calm her down and in a few minutes she is back to staring up at him. Pain forgotten. Trust in him not shaken.

I am giving her her post bath massage. I lay her on her stomach. She struggles to raise her head off the bed and I encourage her, knowing that this is good for her neck stability and head control. She tires out and lies down- head to the side and with lots and lots of drool from the side of her mouth. You can tell she isn’t particularly happy with this position as every so often she takes those short, rapid breaths that signify she is about to cry. Still, she lies there fully trusting my voice as I walk her through her massage and the benefits of having one; promising her a restful, fatigue free slumber.

We have guests over. Family or friends- or both, depending on the occasion. Everyone is excited about meeting her and wants to hold her. She willingly goes into their arms offering that big, beautiful, warm smile that has become her signature. I have bragged about it to everyone and just like I had promised, she offers it eagerly. She isn’t picky about who gets to hold her and doesn’t discriminate against anyone. Make an effort to be friends with her and she will coo and smile at you like you have been friends forever.

She is breastfeeding and I look down at her as she makes those cute, suckling noises. She has a serious look on her face. She takes the business of breastfeeding very seriously. I smile down at her and with the little finger in her mouth technique, disengage her from my breast. She gets off with a “plop!” and gives me a flustered look- you can tell she doesn’t understand what’s going on. I smile at her and just like that she smiles back at me.

The trust I see in her eyes whenever I look at her, the fact that she (quite literally) needs me for everything, the way she smiles with everything that she has- not just at me, but at anyone that is warm towards her. Even when she wakes up for a feed in the middle of the night or from a nap and just coos in her basket waiting to be picked up, unable to sit up, just trusting that someone will pick her up. This. This is my definition of innocence.

Of course, in a few months she begins to get more independent. I feel like it begins once they are able to roll over. Soon she is sitting up on her own, discerning that she doesn’t know every single person she meets and will not go as readily into their arms and before I know it she is discussing everyday issues that affect women with me. I look forward to these stages too. To watching her blossom into a woman. Today, though, I celebrate the sweet, little things that define my 3 month old daughter.

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xoxo!

2

KAMAURISMS.

Kamaurisms

noun

Phrases that Kamau will use that cause you to pause, either because they are absolutely adorable or are delivered as punch lines.

“Mommy! Si that’s the boy of We Dem Boyz?”

He first said this one day as we were driving home from an afternoon out. When I asked which boy he meant, he pointed out to a guy in dreadlocks. That’s when I realized that he was referring to Wiz Khalifa…and the fact that the “boy” in question had dreadlocks. I confirmed my hunch when, on a separate occassion, he used the same line- once again- in reference to a man in dreadlocks. He and R have this thing where they are “Dem Boyz” and Kamau once watched the song’s video and just like that every man in dreadlocks has become, “the boy of We Dem Boyz.”

Speaking of, any male is referred to as “boy” by Kamau. I have tried to explain the distinction between a boy and a man, but no.

“Mommy, the boy who makes the internet is here.”

“Mommy, you know (by the way, he pronounces ‘you know’ as weeno) that boy has a car like daddy.”

We are also going through that stage where it’s difficult to get past tense words and phrases correct. He adds ‘ed’ to every other word.

“Mommy, I already do-ed (did) that.”

“I put-ed my toys away.”

I appreciate that he now applies the past tense in the correct situations- that’s a part of his speech development, I figure. We have taken up correcting him and taking time to teach him how the words change (for those that do). He will not always remember to use the correct words or phrases but is learning and we will keep teaching him.

“This one is going to be nice! Close your eyes, mommy. It’s going to be a surprise.”

He says this as we do his homework, particularly as we get to the end of a segment. If we were working on a sound, say ‘g’, he will say this at the very last one he has to write. Of course, I have to act really surprised and make a huge fuss. A bit like going out in a blaze of glory 🙂

“You’re so softy soft.”

“Chubby chubby. Chubby chubby.” This in a sing-song voice.

“Beautiful princess.”

All adorable endearments he uses on his little sister.

“Mommy, you know my teacher said…”

This is the introduction to every single statement in which he wants to counter something I have said or asked him to do. The teacher is the greatest authority. Even mommy has to listen to what the teacher has said.

“Whaaat?”

You know how Malcolm (Tim Meadows) in Grown Ups 2 says this to Lenny (Adam Sandler) and his crew in that supermarket scene? Kamau says this. It gets me every single time.

(To Patty) “Mama, why are you sitting out here?”

“I am sitting here cos I’m hiding from you guys.”

“Whaaat?”

Last week on Facebook I posted about a conversation Kamau and I had where I told him that I would add cheese to his sandwich to carry to school for his break. He (authoritatively) informed me that, “cheese is food for mice.” That statement totally made my evening. On Sunday, Patty told me that Kamau had found her preparing her oatmeal and once she informed him that she was preparing porridge, he told her that porridge is food for bears. Ha! I am just glad to see that he has taken some of our favourite bedtime reads (Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse) to heart.

I live for his ‘Kamaurisms.’

xoxo!

 

 

1

RECONNECTING WITH KAMAU.

For a while it felt as though I had lost the little boy who means the world to me. Our conversations were mainly about me shouting and him crying and it went as far as him breaking down on several instances and accusing me of not being his friend (“mommy, you are not my friend!”) and not loving him anymore (“mommy, you, you don’t love me anymore!”). I knew it would take us both adjusting to his little sister’s birth, but I hadn’t been prepared for how much our relationship would change. It felt as if we didn’t laugh naturally or have fun like we used to. I felt as if I was forcing the little moments we had together- like there was some invisible wall between us. Little by little, I watched him rely on R more for even the little things that normally were my forte. When he walked into our room in the morning, he would say good morning to R first. When he needed someone in the middle of the night, he would call out to R. It was beginning to get to me and I decided I had to figure out a way to get us back to being friends.

The first, conscious, thing I did was stop shouting at him. I had fallen into the habit of raising my voice whenever I was concerned that he would do something to “hurt” his sister. In hindsight, I would shout so as to assert myself inorder to discourage a repeat of the same behaviour in future. It seemed the more I shouted, the more he did little things and that became our main channel of communication. When I wasn’t shouting, he was crying because I had shouted. It also developed into him preempting a situation in which I may raise my voice by saying things like, “mommy you know if you shout at me I will go somewhere else.” The day he told me this, I just nearly broke down and cried right in front of him. I actually haven’t told anyone this. I knew something was very wrong and I had to do something about it. I also realised just how unfair I was being to him.

“Don’t touch her!”

“Don’t cough while next to her!”

“Don’t sit on her blanket after sand play!”

All these commands to the very person I asked, several times a day, if he loved his little sister. How on earth was he going to love her if the little ways he tried to shower her with love were punished? See, the thing about Kamau is that he has loved Kui from the moment we brought her home from the hospital. He has always been protective of her; so much so that he had banned me from allowing her to go outside (for her Vitamin D) with the nanny. Why can’t I go with her, he once asked me. The problem wasn’t Kamau and Kui’s relationship. It was me. All he wanted to do was be close to her and show her love and I had, in my newborn paranoia, turned their interaction into a shout fest. I felt guilty and ashamed. More importantly, I stopped shouting.

“Mommy, can I hold baby Kui?”

“Yes, you can.”

“Kui, Kui. Kui, Kui” This, in a sing-song voice as he grinds his teeth (I have realized he grinds his teeth whenever he is showing affection- even towards us).

I began looking for little ways to spend alone time with him away from Kui. I would pick he and Lisa up from school and we would drive to the mall and we would buy lollipops and have some fun activities. Some days, we’d go to the Club and they’d have fries and play in the sand. I also stopped bringing Kui to his room as we read a bedtime story as I felt this had always been our thing and I wanted it to remain our special time. I took up feeding him after school and giving him a bath as the nanny watched Kui as a way to have more one on one time with him. I would make bath time as exciting as possible- from letting him have as many toys as he wanted to filling his water gun with water and even when I felt impatient, I let him have his fun just as a way of rebuilding what I had began chipping away at.

I also began involving him in little things to do with Kui. I noticed that every time I would send Lisa (she is such a wonderful helper) to bring me a diaper, or pour water after a diaper change, he would run out of the room before Lisa and try and do the task at hand himself. I began involving him and he would run whenever I sent him; eager to obey what I’d asked him to do. He is in charge of soap during Kui’s bath time. The simple act of soaping her wash cloth makes him very happy.

There is one other thing I am still working on- changing our conversations so they do not revolve around the baby. I realised that I use the baby as an excuse for everything.

“Don’t play your video games too loud. The baby is sleeping.”

“I can’t go outside with you because I am feeding the baby.”

“You need to hurry up so I can get back to the baby.”

This is still work in progress as it really is a genuine excuse, but that doesn’t make it easier for him to hear (I imagine) as it sounds like everything revolves around the baby. I have decided that regardless of the fact that our lives are largely controlled by the youngest member of our family, Kamau need not be reminded of this. I now stop myself whenever I am about to make an excuse for something he wants me to do and try, as much as possible, to indulge him. Often, he only needs my attention for a few minutes and I have learned to put Kui down or hand her over to someone so I can pay attention to what Kamau needs.

The road to finding each other began with a little, blue sticker. I picked him up from school one afternoon and he had this little blue sticker which he said had been awarded to him for his colouring work. Shortly after he showed it to me, he stuck it on my cheek and asked me to keep it. That little gesture right there was the beginning of us reestablishing our friendship. I was extremely excited and happily told R about the sticker, telling him I had a feeling I was going to get my Kamau back.

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The little sticker.

I am happy to report that we are friends again. It has taken months to get here, but we did it. As I type this, he is seated next to me just after asking me to buy him a different Ben 10 Playstation game than the one he currently has. He didn’t ask me to ask daddy to buy it for him. He asked that I buy it. This is testament of the fact that we are rebuilding our relationship. The school break was good to us. It gave us a chance to spend time together and where I would look forward to mornings so he would go to school and I would have “peace,” I now miss having him around the house since school resumed. I went through days when I felt like I got angry at him over everything and then when he was away I would feel extremely guilty yet the vicious cycle seemed unending. I was terrified of what seemed like the new script to our relationship. I am taking each day at a time. An unexpected hug or kiss, a request to help him put a puzzle together, I take these as small victories. We are getting back to being ‘us’ again.

xoxo!

0

WHEN KARATINA CAME TO KAREN.

We call it gucugia mwana.

It is a beautiful, heart warming, traditional ceremony in which a child is celebrated and welcomed to the world. The “gucugia (can loosely be translated to swinging)” is done by women as they sing songs, dance and present various gifts to the child.

We had been preparing for nearly a month and I was very excited. My mom had called to find out if the date they were proposing worked for us. I think one of the most exciting things about this day, for me, was the fact that it felt like I was back home, where I grew up, only I was at my home-the home R an I have built together. I don’t know if I can quite put to words how that felt. It was everything and everyone I love, every person that has played a role in moulding me into who I am today, all in one place. My parents, my siblings, my grandparents, my aunties, my mom’s friends, my neighbours, even our tutor growing up! It felt like a mesh of my years as (just) Wangari-Kari, as my mom’s friends call me- with the Wangari I am now-R’s person and Mama Kamau and Kui. As the vehicles drove into our compound (in 2NK vans-no doubt), I marveled at embracing people I never would have imagined would be in our compound. Happy doesn’t really describe the feeling I had in my heart. Even as I call everyone- I had my mom send me every person’s telephone number- to thank them for being with us and for the generous gifts gifted to Kui, I am still humbled that these people care about my parents enough to want to celebrate their grandchild in such a grand way.

My grandma.

My grandma.

I wanted everything to be perfect, and it was. I had been praying for wonderful weather so we could all sit outside and I got just that. The chef did a wonderful job. So wonderful, in fact, that when I spoke to my cucu she told me my guka (famously known as Soldier as he is a Mau Mau veteran) had five samosas. He doesn’t eat much, is the point, so this was no small feat. I had a moment of panic in the morning, worried that the tent guy would be late but his team was able to set up just in time and by the time the guests arrived everything looked perfect.

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Guka Soldier and Cucu.

My father had planned the day’s program- as he does with everything else- meticulously. Every momen,t from the minute they arrived- not a minute later than he had informed me they would be arriving-to the moment they drove out, was planned within a specific time frame. A program for the day had been typed in advance. He asked me to go through it so I would have an idea of what they had planned. The ceremony, being their gift to us, was planned and executed by them and I was a facilitator. I played my part to ensure that everything went as planned knowing how important time management is to my dad.

Mom and daddy.

Mom and daddy.

Kui was a wonderful guest of honour. She smiled at her guests, cooed and slept during the gucugia ceremony. She didn’t fuss and I think gave every single guest a chance to hold her.

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A week later, I can still hear some of the songs playing in my head. I hear the laughter, feel the love. My mom is still talking about the day. She’ll call me whenever she meets up with a friend and they reminisce about the day. One of my mom’s friends- when I called to thank her- told me, “you are one of us.” She told me that I shouldn’t be surprised at their going above and beyond for my mom as I am one of them. That sentiment warms my heart. Moving away from where you were raised doesn’t mean you have been forgotten. You are forever a part of that community. It felt good to be reminded of that as that part of my life is the foundation of the life I am living now. Families that pray together, dine and merry together. Friendships built on love, good neighbourliness and praying together. These are the kind of friendships I want our children to be raised in.

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A few of mom’s friends. Women I have known all my life. Women that have shaped who I am. It takes a village.

 

xoxo!

0

KAMAU TURNS 4!

Staying true to both his heroes- a Spiderman face in a Ben 10 shirt.

Staying true to both his heroes- a Spiderman face in a Ben 10 shirt.

This little person who set me off on a journey that completely changed my life. This little person that has brought me intense joy and taught me a whole new definition of love. He turned four. It is hard to believe how fast he is growing.

We threw him a party that was all about him and, largely, by him. We had his classmates over and I let him pick his party decorations at the supermarket which had us end up with a mesh between Spiderman and Ben 10, with a bit of Cars on the side. He had informed us last year that he wanted a Ben 10 birthday cake. He picked green balloons because, “Ben 10 is colour green (said with authority and a facial expression he uses when describing things he is really into- I did manage to sneak in a few yellow ones, though).” He picked Ben 10 masks and Cars party hats because Lightning McQueen is “really, really fast (and Ty- one of his best friends- is a McQueen fan).” He picked Spiderman banners, serviettes and paper plates. At the till he announced that he was excited about his birthday. What more could a mother ask for? 🙂

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Throwing a party when I have a 2 month old wasn’t easy, but with help from R and my sisters I was able to pull it off. Having a chef in charge of the kitchen also took a load off. I didn’t have to be up too early or worry about this and that meal. We came up with a menu and he did everything else and I could concentrate on making sure Kamau and his friends were having a good time amid breastfeeding breaks. I was a good kind of exhausted at the end of the day.

We had a break where his friends got to enjoy his favourite snack- Lyons Maid Vanilla flavoured yoghurt.

We had a break where his friends got to enjoy his favourite snack- Lyons Maid Vanilla flavoured yoghurt.

I love that we had a day that was all about Kamau, especially now that he has to share the spotlight with Kui. Having him pick what he wanted for his party and having his classmates at his home to celebrate with him were just little ways of making his day all the more special. At bedtime I asked him if he had a good time. He said he did and asked if he could play for a little longer with his new toys. I promised him they would still be there in the morning and tucked him in bed.

Another year, another wonderfully done Joybells cake.

Another year, another wonderfully done Joybells cake.

Thank you God for seeing us through another year.

xoxo!

0

SECOND TIME AROUND.

My lovelies.

My lovelies.

It feels different. It definitely isn’t that the baby aspect has changed- I mean, I am still changing what feels like a gazilion diapers everyday as I did with Kamau, staring back at (and loving) a toothless smile and having a baby to my breast more often than not. I have, thus, come to the conclusion that I am the one that has changed. This is the reason it feels different.

I am more confident and I have definitely learned to relax a little. I do not panic when she cries and will do something as simple as go to the washroom if I need to- even if she is fussing- because I know it will not change anything. I was telling R the other day that with Kamau I would panic about everything and often, during the early days of his life, he would nap in my arms- for two hours plus- because I was so afraid that if I put him in his basket or bed something may go wrong. The realization- in the almost four years that I have been raising Kamau-that children aren’t as delicate as we worry that they are has been a wonderful lesson to bring into motherhood the second time around. Just this morning I expressed to R my concern that Kui didn’t poop all day yesterday and a few motherhood forums later we agreed it was no cause for concern. No panic. No dash to the car. No drive the emergency room. Simply, the quiet confidence that since we know what to watch out for we need not worry. The night time feeds are also MUCH easier and I have accepted that we will fall into a natural schedule. I boxed myself into a painful routine with Kamau because of my paranoia and fear. I would go to bed after his 2 am feed as only at this time would he sleep for a continuous four hours. This was the only time I felt I could really get “enough” sleep without worrying that he would wake up and I would not hear him. As you can imagine, it meant that I was tired most of the time. With Kui, whether she wakes up after every three hours or every twenty minutes, I will go to bed when I am tired because I know that rest (whenever possible) makes for a better mother.

In truth, another thing that has made me realise that my first and second experiences cannot be the same is the fact that I have an older child who also needs my attention. I will be in Kamau’s room reading him his bedtime story when Kui wakes up and needs to be picked up. My initial reaction is to drop the book and dash to her side, but I do not give in to this. For me, the concern is the message that sends to Kamau. I will try and finish up the book, as calmly as I can, with all my attention devoted to him and even when he brings up the fact that the baby is fussing, I reassure him that he is also my baby and what we are doing is important. Of course, I will always get to Kui as soon as I can- just not at the expense of making Kamau feel less important. Being a mother for the second time means you are picking up after an older child even as you tend to the newborn. Somewhere along the way, you learn that you must figure out how to balance both as each child needs you and the older one, being the more alert one, is more prone to feeling neglected. I have found that this makes it easier to put Kui on a swing or just lay her in her basket for as long as she is fed as this gives me a few minutes to devote my attention to Kamau. I suppose this is one of the reasons why second babies appear more settled and as if they come programmed on how to entertain themselves or put themselves to sleep.

Things are also easier for me, this time around, because R is here. He was in Juba with UNDP when Kamau was born and even though he was home for paternity leave and would come home every six weeks, it isn’t the same as him being here. I lean on him during those night feeds and something as simple as him fetching me a glass of water makes all the difference. I, especially, do not know what I would have done without him when I had my spinal headache.

We cannot change our experiences with our first children. You, first time mother reading this, should also not imagine that reading this and/or any other motherhood material online will save you from the fears of being a first time mother. We should, instead, embrace the fact that our first children give us the practice and experience that we fall back on when raising our second babies. If I hadn’t gone through the fear and paranoia and helicopting with Kamau, I wouldn’t be the mother I am today. The most beautiful thing about this, in my opinion, is that both Kamau and Kui get to benefit from the lessons I have learned about motherhood as I am not a better mother to either one, but to both of them.

xoxo!