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Saturday, June 12, 2010

the story of a baby-bather

Working mothers keep a traditional job going; baby-bathing.

When summer vacation arrives with the scorching heat, Mary's hands will burn from constantly bathing newborn babies. In a single day her hands will rub, knead and squeeze several tiny, tender babes amid their heartrending squeals. For the bather, such shrieks are normal just like their alarmed mothers' stares. In fact, next in line to be massaged and pressed are, hold your breath, mothers.

Mary Paulin, 55, has been in the 'bathing field' for 15 years. Her job falls in the numerous uncategorized occupations of some of Kuwait's expats. She is not an average maid, though she is on 'qadim' visa. She is not a masseuse either. But, like many in her 'clan,' she does massaging, bathing, laundering and cooking. She is a 'baby-all' expert, rather than a bather. If you can extend her job description, she is, say, a mother.

Just as any woman is not born a mother one fine morning, gradually growing into the role, Mary gradually 'became' a baby expert. At 19, back home in India, she initiated herself into methods for bathing babies when these skills were required in her own family circle when a biological mother, Mary's cousin, had to take bed rest after undergoing a caesarean operation. It was teamwork, Mary admits. Somebody would carefully undress the baby, another person would apply the oil after laying the baby on a plastic mat, then the senior among them would do the massaging, bathing and wiping before others performed a small scale make-up on the now exhausted baby before handing the baby to the mother to feed and lull to sleep.

When Mary started her second job as a baby bather, she performed these 'bathing steps' for her first customer using the techniques remembered from her first experience and of course her memories of bathing her own four children. The first customer in Kuwait, an acquaintance of Mary, helped in the bathing process before asking Mary for a massage herself. Through word of mouth from one acquaintance to another and from one mother to a friend and her friend's friend, Mary established herself as the bather most
sought-after by Indian parents in Hawally-Salmiya area.

There are three phases, according to Mary, in a baby-bathing session, which lasts a minimum of two hours. The pre-bathing phase, usually carried out in the bedroom, includes oiling, massaging, stretching of the limbs and even shaping of the nose and chin. The bathing phase, in which the utmost care is needed because the screaming baby is held in the bather's hands, is completed in less than five minutes. The sweet-scented final stage occurs on the bed where the straightened baby is tied tightly with a soft cloth, not to make the tiny hands move while in sleep. The make-up, Mary says, depends on the tastes of the family. "Some mothers like eyeliners for the baby and some a 'bindi' (a black dot) on the baby girl's powdered forehead", she said. "Some parents like to make sure the baby has a 'bindi' on the cheek, so as not to get an evil eye. But it varies.

As the treatment varies, so does Mary's fee or rate. For one month of bathing, Mary charges KD60, which rises according to the requirements. Although bathers like Mary are busy throughout the year summer vacation, apparently a favorite time for women for delivery, calls for the Marys of Kuwait to multiply their shifts and duties.

Another hectic time for Mary is already at (her burning) hand!


poor-me/പാവം-ഞാന്‍ said...

മേരിക്ക് നമോവാകം!!!
അവരുടെ കയ്യിലെ കുഞുങള്‍ക്കായി പ്രാറ്ത്ഥനയും...

Anonymous said...

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this details from you.

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