What is love? I believe that each one of us understands “love” differently. Our upbringing has a lot to do with the way we show our love to others, and in the way we interpret loving gestures. Sometimes this leads to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. In this era of internet communication there are myriad ways of being misunderstood and / or to be taken advantage of, because of our imperfect understanding of what true love means.
I’m sure that every single one of you reading this has a clear idea of what love means to you – and I bet no two ideas are the same. That said, love is a universal need. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy, as soon as the basic necessities of survival (such as food, shelter, warmth, rest, safety and security) have been met, the next thing humans crave is love and the feeling of belonging.
For the longest time I felt unworthy of love, until I was exposed to the work of Dr. John Demartini. In his book The Breakthrough Experience, Dr. Demartini defines true love:
True love is a synthesis of the two aspects of one wave, and one full wave is light, which can also be called love. Love is a full quantum state. In physics they know that a full quantum state is massless, chargeless, spaceless and timeless, which by definition is spiritual and unconditional. Consciousness is light, and it comes in full quantum states. God is full quantum light.
Many people have different ideas of what love is, but I’m defining it as the synthesis or perfect blending of all dualistic perceptions, the summation of all polarities. When happiness and sadness are synthesized, they make love. Like and dislike, positive and negative, pain and pleasure, electron and positron in physics, all dualities, when totally synthesized, are love. No matter what -ology you investigate they all lead to the same essence, which is love, which is the unified field theory that permeates every human being and links us all.
Another quote of his is this:
No matter what you’ve done or not done, you’re worthy of love, and there’s nothing but love, all else is illusion. If you take the time to ask the right questions and reveal to your awareness what your intuition and inspiration are constantly calling you to be aware of, you will discover this, and you will be grateful for your life and you will do extraordinary things.
What I got out of that is that we don’t need to be a particular way or do a particular thing in order to be loved. Our essence is love. We just need to remember that!
How do you understand and define love? Do you agree that everyone is worthy of unconditional love?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Mama Simona from Cape Town, South Africa. Photo credit: Simon Shek / Flickr.
I’m 36 + weeks pregnant, so last week I packed my hospital bags, checked them in at the airport, and hopped on an international flight. Destination: Cape Town, South Africa, where sunshine, ocean waves, beaches, mouthwatering fresh seafood, mountains, and stretches of vineyards await. My new life rule is that I only have babies near sunshine and oceans.
When you’re an expat about to give birth, and you reside in Lusaka, Zambia, you hightail it out of Zambia to welcome baby into the world. Some of us head to the U.S., and others to places like the U.K., and a few of us to South Africa. South Africa has some of the most top-notch medical care on the African continent. Did I mention the oceans and beaches? Plus penguins. Babies love penguins.
A few of us expats decide to go ahead and give birth in Zambia. Of course, I have friends, both local and expat, who have given birth to healthy babies in Zambia without incident. Lots of babies are born there, with a fertility rate of nearly six children per woman.
Since this is my fourth birth, I seriously contemplated staying in Zambia to give birth. With three natural and uncomplicated births under my belt (except that pesky postpartum hemorrhage thing that plagues me each time), it’s been pretty straightforward so far.
A birth in Zambia would be less complicated logistically. My husband can’t be gone from work for the whole one month before and one month after the birth. My four-year old can probably afford to miss pre-school without risking failing to get into college, but my six-year old is learning how to read and write – in a second language (French) – this year, so it’s not really fair to her to pull her out for two whole months, either. I suppose, with the support of Google Translate, I could make some attempts at homeschooling….no. Just no. Plus, there’s the familiarity, the friends, the easiness in Lusaka. Planning a birth in a different country requires more paperwork, emails, phone calls, and really savvy packing skills.
I put out some feelers and asked people’s opinions about giving birth in Lusaka. I got many stories of uneventful births that resulted in a happy baby and mother, and some recommendations for good OBs. I see a lovely OB who has the most caring bedside manner, and is available to instantly answer questions by text message (that does NOT happen in the U.S.), but unfortunately she doesn’t deliver babies anymore.
Others graced my ears with stories about the mother who needed an emergency C-section, but the medical team couldn’t get a hold of the anesthesiologist, so she had a C-section without medication. Then there was the woman who had her arms and legs strapped down during a normal vaginal childbirth, and the one who lost her baby during child birth due to poor management and care—at a private hospital in Lusaka. My doctor friends in Zambia asked me if I was crazy—one directly, and one indirectly. My lovely OB providing prenatal care for me in Lusaka laughed.
The reason for these responses is because babies die in Zambia, and mothers do too. According to UNICEF, the maternal mortality rate in Zambia is 591 deaths per 100,000 live births, the neonatal mortality rate is 34 per 1,000 live births, and the infant mortality rate is 70 per 1,000 live births. Even for those who can afford private care in the capital, Lusaka, being pregnant and giving birth is risky business. Simple complications—including postpartum hemorrhage—can go from bad to worse because of poor infrastructure, care, and a slew of other issues. (For more information about maternal health care in Zambia, check out the trailer for this fascinating documentary.)
The message was loud and clear—most likely, if I gave birth in Lusaka, everything would be fine. But, if I have the choice and the means, why would I take the risk of that small chance of something going wrong and me or my baby suffering serious health complications or worse?
So, around 20 weeks pregnant I began to plan an international babycation. I did this once before, less than two years ago. My last baby was born in Cape Town, so that helped quite a bit, especially because I used the same midwives, know the area, etc. Another bonus is that water birth is an option here in Cape Town, similar to an alternative birthing center option within a hospital that I used to deliver my first two in Chicago. There were less unknowns this time around with planning babycation round #2.
Everything is relative. Buying plane tickets for a family of five, plus a nanny, renting a house for two months, as well as a car, and paying for private health care in South Africa adds up. This is clearly cost prohibitive to most people, and I understand this inherent privilege of choice for my ocean-side babycation.
But, if I compare this Cape Town babycation cost to the cost of giving birth in the U.S., it’s at worst equal, and at best a cost-savings. For what I will pay for all my private health care, including an at-home post-natal visit and a couple nights in the hospital, combined with the cost of my two month “babycation” in South Africa…I’ll end up paying about the same or less than what I’d pay for the cost of childbirth alone in the U.S. I can pay $12,000 minimum, out-of-pocket in the US to push a baby out of me (without any medical intervention), or I can pay about $2,000 for the exact same quality of care and facility standards in Cape Town…along with all the perks of glorious sunshine and ocean views. I’ll take the penguins, thank you very much.
Our family of five, plus our nanny from Zambia, packed up with three suitcases and a boatload of car seats, and my husband helped me settle into the lovely house we rented on AirBnB in Kalk Bay, overlooking the ocean. But, my husband returned this past weekend to Lusaka with my six- and four-year old children to resume school and work.
So, here I sit with an 18-month old, nanny, and loads of sunshine and water at nearly 37 weeks pregnant. The baby is measuring at a beautiful 3kg already, and I’m having some super maddening Braxton Hicks contractions. My husband is two flights away (Lusaka- Johannesburg- Cape Town), and can get on a flight from Lusaka at 9am and rock-up into Cape Town by 3:30pm.
If baby decides to make a quick, slippery exit, Papa might miss the birth of his baby – which would be sad. He was pretty helpful the last three times – except when he told me during difficult push during crowning, “It’s just like doing back squats.” No, it’s really not like that at all. But, I’d kind of like him to be with me for the birth. So, I have the calming effect of going to sleep to the sound of ocean waves obliterated by the anxiety of my husband missing the birth. This is not a, “Will my husband make it from the office on time?” worry. It’s a, “Will my husband, with two tiny humans in tow, be able to get on the first flight out of Lusaka and make it through immigration, out of the airport, and to the hospital?”
My husband and two oldest kids plan on returning to Cape Town on April 1, 10 days before this bad boy’s due date. In the meantime, I have some amazing mama friends coming in (one from Kenya, one from Zambia) to keep me company before the crew returns, mostly to have fun and to stand-in for my husband— just in case. The next two weeks will be filled with botanical gardens, delicious food, and sea breezes. Not too shabby a way to waddle through these last few pregnancy weeks.
The next question is—will I be able to make this my last babycation? Those penguins!
This is an original guest post for World Moms Network from Jessica Menon of Gypsy Momma. Jess is a mom with three children under the age of six, with her fourth baby on the way. Jess and her family are currently based in Lusaka, Zambia.
Photos courtesy of Alda Smith. Photo of penguins and Jess and her youngest daughter at the beach courtesy of the author.
Crime is not part of my daily life. I live in a middle to upper-class neighbourhood in Cape Town. We have an active Neighbourhood Watch, and most of the people in my neighbourhood also belong to the Community Policing Forum (aka CPF). The CPF has monthly meetings where we discuss crime stats, share self-defence tips etc. We all have signs on our gates indicating that we’re part of the CPF. We also have a WhatsApp group where we keep in contact with each. We’re all just a message away in case of medical or other emergency. I have always felt safe enough to leave my front door unlatched during the day.
This month, my illusion of safety was temporarily shattered. One morning, in broad daylight, shots were fired on my road! At first we couldn’t believe that it was gunshots. After all, this is a quiet neighbourhood and it was at a time of day when our road is pretty busy. Neighbourhood Watch was immediately on the case, whilst the rest of us were left stunned and wondering what we could do to help.
Roughly 30 minutes later I pulled out of my driveway into a surreal scene. Police cars, Neighbourhood Watch personnel and private security company vehicles were blocking the road. The crime tape was around my next-door neighbour’s property! That’s right – an armed robbery happened in the house on the other side of our boundary wall! I felt as if I’d been cast as an extra in a movie or TV series. Surely this can’t be real?! It was.
This is what happened:
My neighbour (let’s call him Bill) pulled out of his driveway and realised that he’d forgotten something, so he quickly ran back inside the house to fetch it without closing his gate (as we’ve all done numerous times). Two armed men followed him inside, pistol-whipped him, tied him up and demanded that he show them where his safe was.
At this time my neighbour’s adult son (let’s call him John) arrived with his wife. She walked inside whilst he waited in the car. She walked in on the robbers and screamed. The 2 armed suspects fled with the safe, but then dropped it as soon as they saw John, and jumped into the vehicle which was being driven by a 3rd suspect. John followed them and they shot at him out of the window – just like they do in movies! By then (thanks to our CPF network), police and other response vehicles joined in the chase. Two of the suspects jumped out the car when it got stuck in traffic and were promptly arrested. The driver got away, but later the same day he was arrested too.
I’ve been left rather bemused by this. By the next day there was no sign left of what had happened. Apart from the shock that this happening caused in our quiet and close-knit community, no real harm was done. The stolen goods were recovered, nobody was seriously injured and the suspects were arrested immediately. Things could have gone a lot worse. In fact, in many ways this could be considered a win for law and order.
That said, it still doesn’t quite feel real. I don’t know if it’s because of the shows that I watch, or just because it doesn’t seem possible that this happened right next door to my house. The strangest thing is that my neighbour is one of very few people on our street who did not belong to the CPF, and I can’t help but wonder if that was a factor in him being targeted.
Truthfully (but possibly foolishly) I still feel safe where I live.
Have you lived through something that just didn’t seem real or possible? How do you feel about it with hindsight?
My 20 year old daughter and I have been having some very interesting conversations lately. The latest is what prompted me to share this with you.
I believe that all of us have things on our “To Do” Lists that somehow never get done. We feel badly about not getting around to them, but we console ourselves with the “I don’t have time to do it” excuse. We might even believe that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, but the truth is that we make time to do what really matters to us.
It’s actually a relief to admit to yourself the real reason for not doing something. It might be fear of failure, or simply the fact that we haven’t yet reached the level where the discomfort of not doing it is greater than the relief / happiness / sense of accomplishment etc. that getting it done would give us. Of course this is almost always something that happens subconsciously. It’s only when you take a step back and objectively look at how you have spent your time until now, that you realise what’s truly important to you, and / or what’s holding you back.
Now I could argue that what I do at the office Monday to Friday is not something that I necessarily want to do, or ever aspired to be doing, however bringing the paycheck home is a priority (because we couldn’t afford to pay for my chronic medication, send our daughter to College, live in the house and neighbourhood we do, etc.) if it wasn’t for the money I contribute to our household every month. Moms of babies, still in the blur of sleepless nights, feedings and nappy changes could argue that they would rather be doing something else, but it’s not really true, because the well-being of our children trumps everything else (at least for most moms)!
So why do we do the things we do? It’s all about the “payoff.”
As much as we don’t like admitting it, humans are self-centered. This is a simple fact. It doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily selfish or egotistical, merely that we (again, usually subconsciously) don’t do anything unless there’s some kind of benefit for us in doing it. For example, I have chosen a charity that does amazing work with special needs children in my neighborhood, and I have volunteered to be their Fundraising Co-ordinator. The “payoff” is simply “feeling good” about doing something to help further a cause close to my heart. I have started a “secret” Facebook page called Living with an Invisible Illness (for everyone who is living with any kind of chronic condition). The payoff? It’s an online support group that helps me as much as it helps the other members.
I’m pretty sure that, if you really think about it, you will find your “payoff” for even the most altruistic things that you do.
Is there anything that you feel you “should” do, but never get around to? Can you identify the real reason for not doing it?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Mama Simona from Cape Town, South Africa.
Before my (now 24 year old) son was born, I was a SuperSitter. Not only did I work for a Babysitting Agency called SuperSitters, but I’d also studied Child Psychology, Child and Infant First Aid and aced a course which would have allowed me to open up a daycare facility of my own, if I’d wanted to. I was the person they’d call for challenging babies and children. I could soothe a colicky baby and have a normally hyperactive child fast asleep before the parents came home. They all expressed their astonishment at how well their young ones behaved when in my care. I felt supremely confident in my ability to be a great mother – after all, if other people’s children behaved so wonderfully when I looked after them, surely my own flesh and blood would be even easier, right?!
When I found out I was pregnant, I was thrilled. I read every single book on pregnancy, childbirth and parenting that I could lay my hands on, attended prenatal classes, and congratulated myself on how well-prepared I was for motherhood. A week before my due date I had my bag packed for the hospital and my birth plan written out. My husband had been prepped as to what I would need from him at each stage of labour. We were ready – or so we thought!
My due date came and went with no sign whatsoever of my son wanting to be born. I was extremely bloated and hot (January in South Africa is peak Summer heat), not to mention anxious to hold my son. To make matters even worse, my husband and I were living with my grandparents at the time, and with every braxton hicks contraction they would ask, “Is it time?” Eventually I couldn’t take it any more, so 10 days post due date I had my husband take me to the hospital. When I got there my contractions stopped again. On examination I was 3 cm dilated. The doctor asked me if I wanted to go home or if I was willing to have my labour induced. I wish that I’d been smart enough to go home, but at that moment I couldn’t face going home again without having given birth. This was to be the first of many mistakes I made as a mother.
I will spare you all the gory details, except to tell you that nothing went according to my meticulous birth plan, and I ended up needing an emergency c-section due to foetal distress. That was just the start of our problems. The surgical team struggled to get my uterus to stop bleeding after they’d delivered my son. My blood pressure nearly bottomed out and (much later) my OB-Gyn admitted that, if I hadn’t stopped bleeding when I did, she would have had to perform a hysterectomy to save my life! I thank God every day that it didn’t happen, because I wouldn’t have my beautiful daughter if it had! I’d lost so much blood that they had to keep transfusing me throughout the night. I wasn’t taken back to the maternity ward until the next day.
Because of what had happened to me, I wasn’t given the chance to breastfeed my son until much later the next day. By then they’d already given him a bottle and I never managed to get breastfeeding properly established. Instead of the minimum 6 months that I had planned to breastfeed, I ended up switching to bottle feeding almost from the day I got home. I really wish that I’d known then what I know now, like breastfeeding on demand!
As if that wasn’t bad enough, my son had severe colic for the first 3 months or so. Much to my surprise and dismay, this “SuperSitter” was completely and utterly unable to soothe her own baby! I also suffered through Postpartum Depression. I thank God every day for the unbelievable support I had from my husband, grandparents and aunt, who all stepped in and did for my son what I wasn’t able to.
Things went from bad to worse for my poor son. He projectile vomited every feed for almost 2 years, despite all our best efforts. He also often had gastroenteritis. Between puke and diarrhea we did a full load of washing every.single.day. I cried a lot during those first two years, because I felt like the world’s worst mother, and I was sure that my son wasn’t going to survive given all the vomiting.
Fast forward to today and the child I was so worried about has grown into a handsome, healthy and intelligent young man. In those early days I couldn’t even begin to dream of him becoming the man he is today. He has surpassed all my expectations, and I am incredibly proud of him.
He is now married, and is the step-dad of a lovely little girl. My son has learnt how to speak, read and write German fluently, and is currently studying Computer Science (Informatik) at Goethe University in Frankfurt.
The main reason for writing this post (apart from the fact that today is my son’s birthday!) is to give hope to all the moms who, like me, feel that they’re not “good enough” mothers. What I have learnt is that all children need to know three things – that you love them unconditionally, that you’re proud of them and that they can trust you. As long as you have those 3 things in place, nothing else really matters that much. Most of the things that we beat ourselves up for they don’t even remember when they grow up!
Was your labour and delivery what you hoped it would be? What do you wish you’d known when you were younger?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Mama Simona from Cape Town, South Africa.
Photo credit to the author.
On my way to work this morning, the song “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield played on the radio. I’ve heard the song many times before. This morning, I really paid attention to the lyrics for the first time, and reflected upon my own goals.
Many of us feel trapped in the routine of our daily life. We’ve all said at some point that we don’t have enough time. I’ve been using this excuse for two important goals in my life: decluttering my home, and writing my novel. These are things that I know will make me feel happy and proud of having accomplished them. The truth is that none of us “have” time, we “make” time to do what we really want to do. So I must ask myself the question, “Why have I not made time for the two goals that I’d most like to accomplish?”
The clutter in my home is complicated, as much of it was inherited from my husband’s family. For that reason, I feel that my husband must make the decision regarding what to keep and what to sell. Of course, there is no excuse for me not to get rid of my own clutter!
I know that my almost pathological fear of giving things away stems from my childhood. My parents were terrible at managing our family finances, and in our house, it was feast or famine. When my parents had money, they’d literally buy champagne and caviar. When they had none, we had to make do with “mystery” tins (we had a box of tins without labels). I guess it’s the fear of being without that holds me back from doing what I should in this regard. The ultimate irony is that I usually can’t find what I need, when I need it, anyway!
This brings me to my unwritten novel, which I have dreamt of writing for as long as I can remember. A couple of years ago, I signed up to NaNoWriMo, and started to work on my goal in earnest. Then I was diagnosed with lupus and psoriasis – two severe autoimmune diseases that have since wrecked havoc on my life. I was unable to type due to numbness and pain in my arms and hands. Since then, I have abandoned my goal of writing my novel. While my health challenges are certainly a handicap, I suspect that the real obstacle isn’t lack of time or my health, it’s fear. As long as my novel remains unwritten, it can’t be rejected. I can hold on to my dream of being an author “one day”, whereas if I write it and it’s not good enough, I would have to give up on the dream.
You would think that, given the above insights, I’d be able to overcome my psychological hurdles and get on with it. I’m happy to be able to confirm that I’ve started taking baby steps in the right direction. I have given away two large bags full of clothes I no longer wear, and I’ve started writing for World Moms Network again.
To paraphrase Unwritten: each day we get a brand new chance to “begin our book.” No one else can do or say what we are meant to do and say. We’re all unique, and therefore uniquely qualified for whatever it is that we’re meant to accomplish in our lifetimes.
What goals do you have, but “don’t have time” for? If you have already published a book, do you have any advice for us aspirant authors?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Mama Simona from Cape Town, South Africa.
Photo credit: Caleb Roenigk / Flickr.