3 months out

It's been 3 months since Alethia's birth.  Since then, I've mostly been a homebody, trying to get a handle on my new normal, but we did get the chance to visit the Kpalime schools to introduce her to the teachers.  Togolese baby girls have their ears pierced shortly after their birth, but Alethia's ears are untouched, so everyone thinks she's a boy.  I put her in purple and pink, but added a bow to help them figure it out since Togolese don't assign gender to color.

Aside from the earrings and all colors being neutral, I've noticed some other differences of mothering an infant between Togolese and American cultures.  Togolese wear their babies on their backs, while Americans usually just carry them in their arms or wear them in a wrap on their front.  Backwards.  My house-helper calls me special.  :-)  Then there are the diapers. Togolese babies don’t always wear them.  Many babies here rarely wear them, actually. Not my cup of tea. 

So life goes on, and mostly I’m just doing what I would normally do (based on the culture I was raised in).  It’s definitely an adjustment, though, going back to being a mother of a baby again.  This week has been good (as far as homeschooling during naptime goes), but then . . . it’s only Tuesday.  I’m sure there will be good weeks and not so good weeks ahead.  At least they’re cute.  


  1. I've been reading your interesting blog about your adventures in Togo. After reading your recent post, I recalled a similar experience encountered when I delivered our daughter while living in Costa Rica.

    Like you, I was having a girl, but unsure whether or not I was going to follow the custom or tradition having her ears pierced at one day old. In this culture, there is a fundamental, underlying expection why all little girls have their ears pierced at birth. Interestingly, the rationale goes much further than simply identifying the baby as either a boy or girl. My best GF apprised me of the subtle reasons why baby girls have their ears pierced at one day old before they leave the hospital.

    In the Hispanic culture, males dominate the society for the most part. Don't know if this the same in Togo. However, more importantly, piercing the ears of newborn baby girls with earrings signifies they are loved by their family regardless of being a girl. Often red stone earrings are chosen as the desired color to impart the sign of "love" for the newborn baby girl or infant. Alternately, little pearl earrings are deemed equally acceptable. The chosen earrings come from godparents or close friends who are "loving family members." They are brought to the hospital when the mother comes in for delivery. After the baby girls are born, their ears are pierced and earrings gently placed in their lobes. The lobes are very soft and thin, so it is atraumatic. The piercing is often done while babies are asleep to minimize any movement or discomfort.

    After learning about the origins of piercing little girls, we elected to have them pierced in the nursery and share in the local tradition with some gold balls provided by some close friends. According to the nurses, Sandi didn't cry (photo on request).

    Mary, I know this is a personal decision, but if you decide to have Alethia's ears pierced, then everyone will not only she is a baby girl, but deeply loved by her parents and family.I found it important to follow cultural norms in our host country when possible. As a result, we garnered a great deal of respect from those we were helping.



  2. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Angie. Togolese baby girls usually get their ears pierced a few weeks after they're born, but I've never heard a reason other than to differentiate between genders. Sounds like something I need to ask more about! The Togolese do absolutely love it that we introduce our daughter as Akouvi (The Ewe name for a little girl, born on Wednesday).

  3. Angie, We got her ears pierced and while people don't ask what gender she is anymore, I can't really tell a big difference in how she is perceived. Before they were pierced, I think they wondered why we didn't do it, but I don't think they thought it was a huge deal. Anyway, thanks for following our story. ♥

  4. Mary,

    You've made my day!Aren't your soO sweet for letting me know Alethia's now has her ears pierced! Am sure she is adorable and now everyone knows she is a little girl and known as Akouvi with her newly pierced ears! More importantly, everyone now realizes her parents have assimilated a small part of Togolese culture and tradition into your family. Although you said, "...before they were pierced, I think they wondered why we didn't do it." Maybe it's because Togolese do absolutely love little girls with pierced ears as a tangible sign of love and affection. They wondered, "...why you hadn't pierced her ears," because they knew you and Andrew loved Akouvi, but curious why there wasn't something outward to show your caring and love for her. Now there is and the Togolese are very happy accepting you both now as part of their people!

    Only hope my comment helped you decide to go ahead and take a small step crossing the cultural divide. Please let me know. It may not yet be apparent, but having Alethia's ears pierced has shown your respect for Togolesee cultural norms. What a wonderful story you'll be able to share with Alethia when she grows up and thanks your for the "gift of pierced ears."

    Would love to hear the story of the tipping point which made you decide to go ahead and have Alethia's ears pierced now. Curious how it was done and by whom since in some cultures, it is a rite of passage done by a Matron, or designated person in a tribe or family. Sometime it can be ceremonial with family, friends and others.

    Please post your experience and picture to share. Know you're happy about your decision to have her ears pierced now.

    Thanks again and hope my comment helped understand local culture and traditions and how important to be perceived respectful of them.



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