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When a woman you’ve only just met won’t let you change your own baby’s diaper

30 Sep 2017, Posted by Fungai Tichawangana in Travel Diary

We’ve just arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and cleared immigration, Verity, Nips and I. Nips is one day younger than two.

While we’re waiting for our luggage at the carousel, Verity complains that her tummy is a bit off. We head out of the baggage collection area and stand behind a couple who are buying new phone lines at a Safaricom booth in the terminal. It’s taking forever. We already have lines and simply want to enable them for M-Pesa, Kenya’s famous mobile money platform.

Verity is still complaining about her tummy and wants to go home. “We can do this another time,” she says.

The thing is we’ve tried to register for M-Pesa before, but the Safaricom shops in Nairobi and in Machakos where we spend a lot of our time now are always so busy, so I am adamant that we do this here. I know, not cool. Bad hubby for prioritising technology over wife.

I’m trying to gauge how badly her tummy is aching by her facial expressions and I tell her it’ll be worth it. She’s muttering something, but I’m running after Nips, who’s trying to escape from the terminal.

I’m trying to gauge how badly her tummy is aching by her facial expressions and I tell her it’ll be worth it.

The couple in front of us finally gets their business done. The M-Pesa registration doesn’t take long and soon we’re heading out. As I pick up Nips, a telltale whiff hits my nose. “Dang it, she’s pooped. We need to change her.”

I grab her diaper bag and head for the bathroom. There are two cleaners, a man and a woman seated outside the toilets.

I walk past them into the gents and immediately walk out. The gents is a tiny do. There is no space at all to change a baby’s diaper.

“Sawa sawa?” I greet the cleaners, “Is there somewhere I can change the baby?”

The woman jumps up and motions me to the ladies toilet. I follow her. It is as small as the gents. A toilet flushes and someone tries to come out of one of the stalls. The door hits me as she tries to open it. I move to the side. She steps out, gives me a quizzical look, quickly washes her hands and then squeezes past us as she walks out.

I am left looking at the cleaning woman – Sorry, I wish I could call her something else, but we didn’t get to exchange names. “Is there a place in here where I can change the baby?”

“Yes,” she says and reaches out for Nips. I hand the baby over, thinking she is giving me a chance to open the diaper bag so I can take all the changing stuff out. But no, she reaches for the bag too.

“I’ll change her,” she says.

“No, it’s ok, I can change her,” I respond.

She looks taken aback. “I’ll change her,” she says again.

“I know how to change her.” I take the baby back from her. “Where can I do that?”

She motions to the stall and I look inside. There is no space to even turn around in there. I say to her, “It’s ok, I’ll change her on the floor outside.”

She seems offended that I am going to change my own baby’s diaper and leads the way out. I put Nips down next to their chairs and pull out her changing mat (Dads, if you have never heard of it, I highly recommend this amazing piece of equipment in your baby’s toolkit. Here’s a link to check a few out).

Once Nips is on her back on the mat, her head between a chair on one side and buckets with mops on the other, the male cleaner, apparently similarly horrified, asks me, “But where is the mother?”

I am offended. “She’s outside.” I resolve that I am going to show them how deftly I can change a diaper. After today, they will never doubt that a man can do this and do it well. I will erase their reticence and bemusement. 

They exchange glances as I start the operation.

I pull off Nips’ shoes and as her tights come off I realise we have a blow out. “Dang it! Dang it! Dang it!” I swear under my breath.”

Now, diaper blowouts come in different varieties. I have experienced three types; the down-the-thighers, the up-the-backers and the why-the-f-do-we-even-bother-with-diapers-cause-this-shit-is-everywhere types.

Now, diaper blowouts come in different varieties. I have experienced three types; the down-the-thighers, the up-the-backers and the why-the-f-do-we-even-bother-with-diapers-cause-this-shit-is-everywhere types.

The severity of a blowout is determined to a great extent by quantity of released matter, speed with which it’s released and viscosity of the said matter. Another critical factor is how soon after it happens it’s dealt with.

I think this blowout happened at a very high velocity of release, cause there is goo halfway up the poor baby’s back and it has just started to leak down her thighs. So it’s a combination of blowout number 1 and blowout number 2, but I have an audience who think I am inept and, sadly, I do not disappoint them. By the time I am done taking her clothes off, it looks like a heavy version of blowout type 3 has happened. There is goo everywhere, up her back, on her top, on her legs, on the mat and on my hands. I have to lift her off the mat and stand her up so that I can clean it all up before it could be usable.

Nips happily thinks she can walk off, and I have to pull her back with the two clean fingers of one hand while holding a sodden diaper up with the other one. I manage to stabilise the baby runaway situation and use about a dozen wipes to get everything cleaned up, including the baby. Her top is more brown than white now and beyond anything I can sanely pack into her diaper bag so I toss it into the trash along with the diaper and wipes.

Meanwhile, I am keenly aware of the shocked eyes that are watching my every move.

To my horror there is no spare top in the bag. I panic for a second and then realise she can just put her sweater back on without a top underneath.

It is so. A few minutes later, we both walk out, looking clean and depooped. I avoid eye contact with the two members of my audience. If I am frazzled, I hope it doesn’t show.

 

PHOTO: When you do find a place to change the baby at some airports, you’re still left feeling short-changed. Blame it on budget cuts… or something…

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