Pregnancy is a delicate period that calls for a good measure of emotional and physical stillness. But there are vocations that make you do the forbidden: Standing long hours, miles and miles of travel – even to malaria prone environs – weight lifting involving cameras, stands and endless electric chords, doing running battles, and mental stress that sometimes involves almost endless working hours.
Being a TV reporter and pregnant is definitely an interesting, if not worrisome, phase in a journalistic career. The interesting news is that many have gone through such unscathed. KTN’s Zubeida Kananu, on her final leg, is keen to unravel her pregnancy journey in TV journalism.
She looks around the restaurant for me, catches my cue and carefully makes her way to our meeting table with a juice tumbler in her hand. She is all smiles and from our bubbly greeting, you would bet that we grew up in the same neighbourhood. Now, that tells you the lady is cut out for her people-oriented profession. She has a photogenic smile,
which TV likes to work with, and I’m sure the magazine will be flattered to feature her. Her dreadlocks are pulled away from her face into a neat bun. Isn’t she going motherly! We take it off.
‘I got crazy pains in my lower abdomen,’ she says looking to her side as though that’s where her recall setting is. ‘
I went to gynae after gynae, all of whom told me I was ovulating, having early menstrual cramps and the like. The last one asked that I do a blood and urine test. The diagnosis read a bladder infection and a five weeks pregnancy!’ She articulates laughing. ‘A scan immediately thereafter showed that the baby was fine and I sighed relief. I was given antibiotics and in five days I was as good as new.’ And there she was, revelling in the good surprise. The news was splashed on her Facebook profile and from then ensued a steady count down to D-day. Only for the first
trimester malady to kick in. No sooner would food go down than her system threw it out. ‘Food, cologne… I could not stand a lot of things – including some people!’ she laughs, almost unbelievingly.
Which brings as to pregnant Zubeida and her ‘populated’ career. The first three months would have been impossible at work had it not been for drug intervention,’ explains the reporter. She says that helped keep the food down, her body calm and her mind sane. Transitioning to motherhood can surely take a toll on one’s emotions.
But a few important things have remained no go zones: greens, liver, fish and water. ‘It doesn’t matter how their importance is drummed into me, I just don’t want them near me. But I can take a whole litre of juice.’ How about her intimate life? She mutters, ‘My libido has really gone…,’ pointing down and thanking God for an understanding husband.
For the love of duty
‘When I was four months along, I travelled to Western Kenya to do the ‘County Edition’ that featured Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma and Busia Counties, all the way to the Kenya-Uganda borders. It was just me and three men: the driver, camera man and a colleague reporter,’ Zubeida recalls. She says the hill-climbing, mosquitoes, cold nights, security concerns and all, put her in tune with her spiritual side. ‘I have never been more prayerful; I kept saying, “God protect my baby!”‘ and adds that the heaven-bound communication, her hubby’s call every other minute to confirm she was well, and the baby kicks urged her on.
In the midst of all that, I knew I had to deliver. Looking at the investment my organisation had made for that trip, I could not come back with a flimsy story that would make our audience guickly change the station,’ says the reporter. ‘Sure enough, it was a job I got lots of pats on the back for,’ she says, citing that the juicy stories we see on TV are not easy to come by. Sometimes you have to rummage for them through thickets, mire and kilometres upon kilometres.
Then came the Juja by-election which Zubeida covered for four days. ‘We would work until 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. then be up by 5:00 a.m. Besides the medication that helped keep the crazy nausea in check, my handbag was full of junk – crisps, ginger biscuits and juice packs, which my crew generously helped themselves with,’ she recounts. They compensated that with ‘A one’ treatment: carried all the heavy things, gave her the only seat and constantly dished out humour that made their ribs call for help, she says. But that was off camera.
Work time she was her own woman. ‘About every 20 – 30 minutes, I’d be told “Zubeida stand-by… You are on air!”
When you take the cue and open your mouth, what comes out of it must be substantive and creative enough to keep folk glued to the screen, she avows, her face going professional, ‘Remember you are not reading from the tele-prompter. You better have done your interviews, married them with your research and compared notes with your co-reporter so that you both give out fresh info -because no one now remembers that you are heavy with child, or battling nausea. The job has to be done, and done outstandingly.’
The referendum was another memorable assignment for the KTN reporter. She was located at Bomas, the heart of the entire event. She says knowing that all eyes were glued to the screen to get the verdict of a document so important to Kenyans, her Swahili articulation had to be at its best. The creative bit to stand out in their delivery could not be left out too; not to mention that they were required at site by 5:00 a.m. and would go back home almost after everyone else. That was hectic for a pregnant lady, but a highly rewarding one for a passionate journalist like myself,’ she articulates, laughing.
‘Oh yes!’ she asserts, explaining that there is some confidence, ease and ingenuity that checked in when she was told she was going to be a mum. ‘My jobs have become outstanding. I just love my baby!’ Zubeida says jubilantly.
There was also the Majiwa Trial that was the journalist’s mandate when she was seven months along. It was intriguing as usual, getting the details and artfully dispensing them to the masses, until just around the time the ruling was being made. She can’t recall whether it was the intensity, suspense and unwindingness of the case taking toll on her, but she remembers her body giving in to the heat of the crowded court room and lengthy standing. A guard helped her out and administered first aid.
When she got back to the office, she made for the canteen to replenish her worn our body with milk. Before she got there, fate two struck: ‘I hit my head on a window pane I had missed seeing,’ she says re-living the disturbance. The magnitude of the bang confined her to a seat for a while and the wound bled for almost five minutes. As she thankfully got back to her old self, her editors struck her off the field assignments’ docket. ‘I miss them. I miss the field… I miss the people, the tear gas, running around … now that there is a lot of fever in the air…’ she says longingly in her usual chortle.
Now that I’m a mother…
Zubeida says she has always had an incline towards women and children. That is why my health feature ‘Afya’ was full of children-related issues. Now doing the feature from a mother’s perspective, I’m definitely more charged. I want to do whatever possible to fix the issues,’ she says adorning the serious face again. She remembers visiting the Cancer, HIV and other special-condition wards that had many abandoned children and women in her prior expectancy months.
‘Somewhere in the middle of these assignments, I would ask for time out – to go cry. Then come back and do the story, with the energy I would otherwise use to punish the estranged parents,’ she states. ‘Now that I am no longer in the field, you’d almost always find me running through the baby health files as I liaise with reporters in the field chasing after the ‘Afya’ stories,’ she says evidently comfortable with her latest jurisdiction. She says she is so crazy about children, that adopting a child is underscored in her life’s to-do list.
The coping magic
Having an understanding hubby, who just loves me even when I am not at my best. This is in addition to lots of prayer.
A nephew of mine came over for Christmas and I was dressed up and all. My hubby, keen on striking a conversation asked him, ‘Unaona vile Auntie ako smart? (You see how smart your aunt is?)’ As he continued fiddling with his toys, he said, ‘Eeh… lakini tumbo yake imefura,’ (Yeah… but her stomach is swollen) clearly showing he did not like what he saw.
Boy or girl
I want a surprise. My friends are guessing as well. Baby names: Now that he/she is a World Cup baby, I have so far gotten suggestions like Jabulani, Diego Folan, Silver Boot or Octopus.