Namikango Mission

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The Nesting Drive

May 9, 2014

by Justine Hayes

Before we left for Malawi, I often heard people talk about the "nesting drive" that hits mothers-to-be at some point during their pregnancy, often kicking into high gear just before the baby is born. This includes the desire to get things ready for baby's arrival, prepare a nursery, redecorate the house, and more.

Since we are temporarily staying in the Namikango guest house, "nesting" has looked different than I had originally imagined. I began to wonder what Malawian women do to prepare for birth. Is "nesting" a cultural phenomenon, based on circumstance and culture, rather than maternal instinct?

I took my question to the Head Nurse of the Maternity Clinic, who has worked in the medical environment for over 30 years. While sharing more about the clinic, she enlightened me about what Malawian mamas may do before and after the baby arrives.

Women come to deliver at the Namikango Maternity Clinic from all around the Southern Region. Those who live nearby may come just a day or two before they deliver, while women coming from further away may come a week or two in advance. Before they come, most women have prepared at least three things in their home: a space for baby to sleep, some dolls or toys to cheer up both mom and baby, and juice or something sweet to give mom energy as she takes care of baby while recovering.

Baby's "space" looks very different as well - you won't often find a newborn sleeping in a bassinet.

While American women are warned of the dangers of "co-sleeping" (sleeping in the same bed as baby), Malawian women are encouraged to sleep next to baby to promote maternal bonding. Baby will sleep this way until she/he is a toddler.

What about the "energy burst" that I have heard women get just before it is time to deliver? Since most families take care of more children than those that are biologically their "own," this drive seems to be less present in the Malawian mothers.

At the Clinic, they encourage women in prenatal classes to eat nutritiously and exercise lightly to promote energy in the midst of what is likely a bustling household. The desire to nurture and care for new life looks different in our cultures and offers great perspective on the things we "need" to take care of a newborn baby.

Since we are now expecting our first child, we are eager to learn from both cultures as we enter into this new adventure.

We invite your prayers for our work at Namikango and for protection of our firstborn.

(This was written shortly before Justine’s delivery of Amelie.)