Pregnant househelp – real life experience

How have you faired in the past as a pregnant househelp?

I am one lucky househelp. Virtually all my employers have been very understanding during my pregnancies. I think it is because most of them have been mothers. I vividly remember my young, single, female American employer when I was expecting Ian; my second born. She understood my needs unbelievably well and there were times when I would be so tired, she would allow me to go off duty and rest. She even reminded me of my antenatal clinic appointments. When I left to go and have Ian, she gave me two months paid leave. She also paid my maternity bill at the hospital where I delivered. As if that was not enough she did the household shopping for my family, worth over four thousand shillings! And when she left the country she gave me some of her furniture, bedding, cutlery and household goods.

How was your very first pregnancy?

When I gave birth to my first baby in 1990 I was still living at my mother’s house. I am the seventh born in a family of ten children, and was brought up in rural Kaimosi in Kenya’s Western Province. I was only fifteen years when I got pregnant, having just done my KCPE the year before. When I conceived I did not have the slightest idea what pregnancy was all about and it never dawned on me that I was pregnant until some months into the pregnancy. I became every neighbour’s pet subject and other women mocked my mother. They had noticed that I was pregnant and some seemed to know more about my pregnancy than I did.

Did you attend any antenatal clinic?

I did not attend any antenatal clinic as no one advised me about such a thing. I gave birth to a baby girl one morning at four, at home. My mother was around but a neighbour was called in to help since it is a taboo in my community for a mother to be her daughter’s midwife. It was the most painful experience I have ever gone through. I thought I would die. I had no idea what was happening but gathering from what they were saying, I was in labour. They told me to push. ‘How?’ I asked. ’Just push the baby out!’ came the command. I really pushed and felt like all my internal organs would burst out. Finally the baby came out; I heard the cry and I took a deep breath. I wanted to sit up and hold my baby in my hands, but ouch! That hurt.

My first born baby still lives with my mother in ‘shags.’ I came to Nairobi in 1997 to a relative’s home in Waithaka suburb where I stayed for a while before getting my first job as a househelp. Back then, I earned 600 shillings every month and I would send it to my mother who had taken custody of my daughter.

Was your second pregnancy a better experience?

I delivered my second baby in hospital. Even though I got all the support that I needed, there is one thing that made me dislike the whole setup — the vaginal examinations. I did not understand why the doctors and nurses had to keep doing it. I would not have minded if they did it once or twice, but not so many times! Since none of them bothered to tell me why they were doing it and for how long it was going to be done, I felt like I was denied my dignity.

Was your current pregnancy planned?

My current pregnancy is the third and was totally unplanned for. After Ian’s birth, my husband and I agreed that we would take another four years before getting another baby. Ian is now almost two years and I am five months pregnant.

Any special arrangements for delivery?

When I had my second pregnancy, I stopped working one week before my due date and intend to do the same with this pregnancy. My husband and I have been saving money so that I can deliver in hospital. I hope for a normal delivery and pray that my baby can have its own room, a beautiful baby cot, a pram and several toys. I admire them, but I do not have the resources.

Will your husband witness the birth of your baby?

No! I would not want my husband to be in the room while I deliver. I think the whole scenario would traumatize him. His presence would also make me very nervous and shy.

Are you attending ante-natal clinic?

I have not started attending antenatal clinic but I intend to start soon. I know I should have started attending earlier but I am avoiding the fact that I have to go there every other time.

What are your pregnancy challenges?

Sometimes I don’t even remember that I am pregnant as I carry out my employer’s household chores. I enjoy my work very much. My current engagement is a full-time day job. Sometimes I get back home in the evening quite tired. Luckily, my husband often helps prepare supper. Sometimes he also takes care of Ian while I am away, whenever he is available.

During my first few weeks of pregnancy, I hated sukuma wiki and meat so much. The smell of food being stewed would nauseate me and sometimes I would vomit. Somehow, I managed to put up with the smell. Being a househelp, I cannot avoid being in the kitchen.

I also crave for oranges; they help me to keep away the nausea. But as you well know, those oranges in the house belong to my employer and I cannot eat them as I please. That is challenging for a pregnant househelp.

Do you wish for a boy or girl?

I would want to have a boy though I will also accept a girl if that is what I get. I even have names in store. If it is a boy I will call him Eugene and if it is a girl I will call her Yna, after the lady in the soap opera ‘The Promise’, aired on KBC television every Monday and Tuesday evening. I never miss the program. I like Yna’s character: she is cool, calm, composed, beautiful and very resilient.

Is there a perfect employer for a pregnant househelp?

Yes, an understanding person, not the nagging type, One who works out issues by communicating. Employers who have gone through pregnancy tend to be more understanding. They can identify with the pregnant househelp and sometimes know what to expect and at what stage.They do not make unnecessary demands.

Some employers have sent their househelps away just because they are spitting frequently or going through one of those annoying habits in early weeks of pregnancy. I know a girl who was sent away the minute her employer discovered she was pregnant. The fact that a girl is pregnant does not mean that she cannot work. Talk to her and find out her wishes concerning the pregnancy. Discuss important matters such as when she would be attending clinic and what arrangements need to be put in place. Find out how long she intends to continue working and whether she would like to resume work after she delivers and at what point. Sending her away may be cruel as it denies her the chance to financially prepare for her baby’s arrival.

When I was pregnant with Ian, l had a discussion with my employer. We agreed that I would get someone to work in my place during the two months I was going to be away.

Any tips for the pregnant househelp?

Hiding your pregnancy from your employer will not benefit you in any way. I must admit that employers can be very varied; different people will react differently to their house girl’s pregnancy. All the same, talk to your employer about your status. Let your employer know that you are going to have a baby soon. Iron out certain aspects of the pregnancy that will affect both of you. Talk freely about your need to attend antenatal clinics and to take occasional rests. Let your employer know how long you intend to work and whether you would like to resume work after delivery or not. Agree on terms acceptable to both of you.

END: PG 1/32-33

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