The idea of parenthood really struck home when my wife’s pregnancy started becoming physically visible. The “I think I am pregnant” announcement followed by the positive pregnancy test and a subsequent confirmatory one didn’t drive the reality home, and neither did the initial 1st trimester visits to the gynecologist. It is the sight of my wife’s distended tummy that drove the reality home; her total physical transformation together with the baby’s movements, characterized by occasional kicks made it more real and exciting.
I think parenthood does really start with the pregnancy; there are strange and amazing needs that have to be taken care of. For example, I was tasked to have a constant supply of raw mangoes whether they were in or out of season, to help reduce the bitter-mouth feeling my wife constantly had. I once had to go looking for "nsenene" (grasshoppers) all over town during their off-season to satisfy another intense craving of hers. All these, up until delivery, bring the parenthood idea close to reality, but it’s still just an idea without the physical child in the picture.
Days to the delivery, my wife and I decided to pick out baby names. We agreed that I would choose the surname while my wife chose the first name. We chose the name Shane Victor Manzi. There is a lot of sentiment and meaning in the name Manzi. In my language, Manzi can mean “hero”, “fearless” or “brave”. For the sentiment behind choosing the name, I will spare you.
We had our first baby, a boy, on the morning of Independence day in 2008. The delivery was by elective caesarian section and I was allowed into the operating theater to watch the entire operation. I was actually encouraged to, and I talked to my wife on the operating table until she sunk into unconsciousness from the anesthetics. Watching the doctor cut her open, the mess of bodily fluids, the suction, the orders being given by the doctor and the bevy of supporting nurses, pediatrician and anesthetist created a mood of seriousness and much anticipation in me. Seeing her in that unconscious state on the operating table also created an intense urge in me to pray for her and the baby about to be delivered. I did.
Carrying the baby boy out of the open womb, cutting of the umbilical cord, tapping his back while he was held in the upside-down position to drive the logged fluid out of the nose and mouth by the doctor, the subsequent cry, the multiple test and shots given to him by the standby pediatrician; all this did not cause as much excitement and emotion as when the doctor officially presented, in my arms, my son. It was a magical moment that I still cannot adequately explain! Looking at this little human being wriggling in my arms, looking so yellow and fragile, launched my mind into deep meditation thinking of things like; how will I know what this little person needs? Will I be a good parent? Will I be able to adequately provide for him? etc. These thoughts are what really drove the reality home; that I had then become a parent with a human being that would depend on me and my wife for his every need, for quite a long a time.
Thankfully, my mum took time off to come orient and help us handle our son in the first few weeks, the only knowledge my wife and I had at that time was from off the internet. My mum showed us how to bathe Shane, oil him, clean his umbilical cord, put him to bed, the right posture for breast feeding and even gave us a lesson on "kyogero" (therapeutic herbs boiled with water and used to occasionally bathe the baby). It was amazing how she knew all these things like it was her first nature while we, on the other hand, were so clueless!
When she left us after 2 weeks of support, I must say that somehow I thought my wife would figure out everything concerning the baby, and somehow she did, thanks to her love for reading. She figured out all the important stuff, like the right lotion for his skin type, to the right colic medicine.
The first days of adjusting to parenthood demanded a steep learning curve. I could see the sleep deprivation multiple night feeding demands were causing my wife. I helped carrying and pacifying the baby on those late-night colic-induced crying episodes, but could see that despite the my support, my wife took most of the brunt!
Watching our first born grow was a mixture of emotions; holding him, playing with him and looking at his physical features develop gave me a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that I think words cannot adequately express. At the same time, there was always this anxiety of whether he was achieving the growth milestones at the appropriate age. In hindsight, I think the anxiety was bordering on impatience; I desired to see him crawl, sit, talk and walk all within the first three to four months.
Our second born, Terris Victor Mugume, was delivered by the same doctor, by the same method and as you can guess, I was also privileged to be part of the delivery team in the operating theater, playing the concerned spectator role, on August 7th 2010. I went through the same emotions as those at the delivery of our first born, albeit not as heightened. I guess this was due to the benefit of experience. His first cry after delivery was very gentle and soft, which I think said a lot about his personality, as he has turned out to be an extra ordinarily gentle, warm and cheerful young man. We managed the baby care routine on our own, thanks to the previous coaching by my mum, who had passed on by this time, God rest her soul.
For our third born, Lexi Victor Mugaba, delivery followed the same script, by the same doctor, only that this one tested my faith. I saw my wife pale and lifeless. A few minutes into the operation, I was chased out of the theater by the doctors. I saw several doctors rushing into the theater minutes after and realized something had gone terribly wrong. I instinctively knelt and prayed for the life of my wife and our baby. It was an out-of-body experience; I am certain that is the deepest I have ever prayed up to this point. I was awakened out of my prayer trance about an hour later by the pediatrician rushing out of the theater with our baby girl. I asked to hold her but my request was out-rightly rejected and dismissed. This strange gesture worried me the more and caused me to engage in even more prayer. The pediatrician called me after about thirty minutes, to come and meet my daughter, she told me how Lexi was non-responsive by the time she was removed from the womb and they had had to be resuscitate her. I am grateful to God that both my wife and daughter survived that ordeal.
My consultancy career has kept me away from home for the bigger part of my parenting life. There is mental torture caused by being away from my children for an extended period, sometimes up to 3 months; only dads in my position can understand this. Not being there to witness so many of their firsts creates a feeling of inadequacy and failure as a parent. I try to make up for this lost time during the weeks that I am home, which also comes at a cost to my external social life, a thing I however don’t regret.
Our two sons are now 12 and 9 years old respectively while our daughter is 5 years old.
With the media and other content out in the world, like many parents, we are very concerned about exposing our children to age and value appropriate content. We, for example, set strict television guidelines; only age and value appropriate channels are watched. They have embraced this and don’t even think of veering off to other channels even in our absence. The challenge is however with new people that come to the household like maids and relatives, whom we ensure to brief about the household television and media guidelines.
I have had a few appropriate reproductive health talks with my sons, and have been impressed with the level of openness and honesty about some of the issues. I am yet to have the same kind of talk with my daughter.
I take the old school and biblical disciplinary approach of “spare the rod and spoil the child” when I feel they are going overboard in some areas, especially when the standards are very well known. One of the vices I have made clear never to be tolerated is lying, I come so strongly on them for even simple lies but show forgiveness for what they see as big messes, especially when they are what can be considered as mistakes.
I however realize that I can no longer use the rod on our first born who is now approaching teenage-hood; I instead prefer having the man-to-man serious talk with him.
We have ensured to get them used to doing household chores; they clean their bedroom and bathroom everyday, sweep and rake the compound at-least twice a week and clear the table after every meal. I have emphasized social graces, like greeting everyone in the house every morning and ensuring to come and greet every visitor we receive. I ensure to enforce this after realizing it never comes naturally.
The COVID-19 lock down has presented the perfect and much needed opportunity to spend an extended period with my entire family, all day and every day. I have been able to engage in constructive activities with them like general house cleaning, bicycle rides, neighborhood walks and have been able to observe and correct some tiny details, like how they clean their room and bathroom, bullying and occasional bad attitude towards each other, pranks that go overboard, table manners and personal hygiene.
The highlight of this lock down is that we have set up a prayer altar, complete with daily night prayer and Holy Communion every Sunday. Everyone, including the children, looks forward to the prayer time, to the extent that they have taken on the time keeping responsibility. My daughter asks me every Sunday, starting early in the morning, “Daddy, today shall we have Holy Commilion?” We never get over this word and she has no clue!
Lexi has especially enjoyed my extended presence, as I have equally enjoyed hers, she doesn’t let me out of her sight for more than 5 minutes. It’s a very refreshing and welcome distraction when she budges into the study to check on me busy on my computer. I have been warned by especially lady friends that I risk spoiling her, I know it but cannot however do it any other way, I am incapable of doing so!
I consider parenting to be part of my growth and a reflection of who I am. I look forward to parenting my children up to the point I leave this earth.
About the author
Victor Ayebazibwe is an accountant by profession pursuing a management consultancy career. He is a Christian, determined to raise his children with strong Christian values. He is married to Dorothie Chihandae Ayebazibwe, a Lawyer by profession with a public service career and Christian children’s ministry. The two have been married for 13 years now. Victor loves body building and having a good swim with his family. When his work schedule allows, he likes reading a good book and watching a good movie.