A Not So Turkish Life

on forty days and compromise

Istanbul is either trying to taunt me or act as saving grace to my bank account. The city’s marketing peeps had a brainwave that involved a concept of forty days and forty nights of shopping – with major discounts- to pull in the tourists. Quite how discounts in Mango, Topshop and Adidas are going to convince people to fork out for a plane ticket, I don’t know – anyone? – but nonetheless, the shopping bonanza of 40days, 40nights is a great coup for anyone who lives here or does happen to be around. 30%discounts in Banana Republic? Yes please!

Only, I can’t. Right now, the words, “forty days and forty nights” hold a different meaning, one far more significant than that of a shopping fiesta (even if I do seem set to throw glorifying adjectives at the event…): My little boy is 20 days old today, marking the half-way point in our joint 40 day confinement.

Whether it’s to the guy next door or a hippy from Calcutta, when you get married there are going to be compromises on both sides. No two people are the same, no two visions of ‘marriage’ replicate each other and certainly no two visions on parenthood will ever mirror-trace the other. We’ve been married 18months, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in that time it’s to choose the battles to challenge. During my pregnancy, neither of us expected me to adhere to the 40day post-birth period where a baby is expected to stay indoors, and therefore the mother with them. But, just like many things regarding pregnancy and parenting, hypothecising about how you’ll do things is pointless; until you’re in it, you have no idea how any given situation will take you.

We brought K home at 2 days old and aside from a doctors visit, he hasn’t left the house since. Unlike the UK where women have babies and dive straight back into ‘normal’ life the day after, in Turkey women are expected to take it easy for a while. And unlike the UK, where midwives and doctors advise giving the baby fresh air to ward off jaundice, Turkish culture favours vitamin drops and staying in the home. The idea is that babies are extremely susceptible to germs and by keeping them at home for the first six weeks, their immune systems are given a chance to strengthen. Ignoring the fact immune systems strengthen as a direct result of the contact with germs rather than avoidance, or that to isolate a baby from germs visitors should be germ-screened at the door, keeping a baby indoors – in my mind – makes them more susceptible to coughs, colds and sneezes from being unused to the weather once you do eventually take them out! But, like I said, K came home at 2 days old and hasn’t let since.

The 40day period was one of those issues where I really had to decide whether to fight or not. My gut and logic said to fight; if you ignore her lifelong checkout girl ambition, being in Tesco at 24 hours old did my sister no harm, but my instinct, as a wife and a Mum said this wasn’t a battle we need to have. When you get married, you sign up to compromise, you sign up to make a life as a team and as a team, you have to respect each others beliefs. I married my best friend. When I disagree with something he believes in, I question, but I’d never try to force him to believe what I believe. That would make him me, not him. G loves K as much as I, and in every decision he makes for K he follows only what he believes to be best. And also, G loves me. And ditto.

Being home every day is tough. I long to walk by the sea, burning off the baby-weight, taking deep, salty breaths. At the same time, being home everyday gives me moments with my son I’d otherwise miss. Would I have noticed his first smile as his first if I was trying to dress him to leave the house instead of staring at him in my arms? Would we have spent as much skin-to-skin time if we were home between coffee dates or supermarket trips? I hope the answer would be yes, but I need never know. As it is, I spend my days soaking in those moments we could never again repeat, knowing the sea will still be there in a month…

But the sales won’t. Ho hum!

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This entry was published on 04/05/2011 at 14:13. It’s filed under Baby 'n' Me, Externalise and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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