If the Observer Was Human…

Tracing the first Observer baby

Unrelenting nausea, throwing up and general weakness characterised Halima Abdallah’s pregnancy in 2005. It was the most problematic yet. Staying home, however, was not an option as she had to eke out a living penning articles at The Weekly Observer.

A couple of months into it and Halima Abdallah could keep up no more with the gruelling work that journalism entails going to the field, interviewing sources, and then hours at the desk piecing stories together.

Noticing Abdallah’s discomfort, the paper’s managing editor, the late Kevin Aliro, gave her a few days off, saying he didn’t want her to collapse in office. She stayed home for a month. On September 11, 2005, Abdallah’s bundle of joy came knocking and out of the womb. It was by caesarean. The foetus was in distress and yet the mother was not dilating, which posed a risk to both.

This marked the birth of The Weekly Observer family’s first baby. She was named Asmaa, Arabic for many names. As the weeks went by, Asmaa started crying and wouldn’t let up. Colic, a problem common with infants, had set in. the crying went on until she was four months. Thereafter, she became a jolly kid, always smiling. Once, when travelling with her mother on assignment to Kabale by bus, an old man quipped that Abdallah must have been happy during pregnancy to have such a cheerful child.

Weighing in at 3.2kg at birth, Asmaa did not gain much weight over the months. Neither was she sickly, except for a breathing problem and allergies that get worse when it is cold. The story changed at two years, when faced with malaria, she convulsed and lost consciousness where after she was rushed to a nearby clinic in Namuwongo. Although put on drip, she yanked the tubes out and paced about the clinic, forcing her mother to stay up all night to play sentry in case she hurt herself.

Asmaa was the neighbourhood darling, earning the nickname Calypso girl, for the dance moves she often displayed. When she turned four years, her mother took her to a salon to have her ears pierced.

“She cried and screamed so loud while calling out, ‘Police.’ There was a traffic officer nearby who came to investigate and joined in the laughter. They all agreed that she knew who to call in case of trouble,” says Abdallah.

Now working with The EastAfrican newspaper, Abdallah says her daughter has a generous soul, often picking things from the house and distributing to her friends.

“She’s empathetic towards others. She easily cries when something bad happens around her. When she witnesses children suffering, beaten and bullied, whether it is on television or not, she cries. She also cries when happy. She’s good hearted and easily gives.”

Although talkative when younger, Asmaa has become more reserved. You can’t get anything out of her if you shout and threaten her. Rather, talk gently and she’ll understand. Because she was lonely, she lacked someone to play with when her older sister was away at school, Abdallah asked her brother to bring over his daughter to stay with them. The girls hit it off immediately and like each other very much. They alternate homes every holiday.

“When I announced that I was taking them to Rennat Junior School, a boarding facility on Bombo Road, they were excited. While she loved it in the beginning, it was later that she started crying and asking to come back home,” says Abdallah.

Putting her in the day section meant waking up very early, something Abdallah did not want to stress her daughter with. In the boarding section, she can rest until dawn.

As The Observer celebrates her 10th anniversary, Asmaa grows into a more responsible girl who turns nine years later this year.

Source : The Observer

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