KENYA: Sharing Maternal Health Stories, Helping Mothers

KENYA: Sharing Maternal Health Stories, Helping Mothers

Maryanne and Son

World Mom, Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, and her son.

I began blogging when I was eight months pregnant with my first son, in March 2011. As a 32 year-old who had worked in both, the media and the development fields, for a decade, I considered myself ‘very well-knowledgeable about stuff’ and thought I knew all there was to know about pregnancy and motherhood.

But in those eight months, I had soon discovered that I really didn’t know much.  This is because I would always have so many questions about the pregnancy – very simple, but yet, difficult questions that not even the internet could answer. At each gynecologist’s appointment, I would always have tens of questions for my doctor who thankfully was patient enough to answer them all.

But even then, there are questions that the doctor could not answer satisfactorily. I needed to hear from someone who’d gone through what I was going through, and hence, I would find myself asking many mums about their experiences and if what I was going through was normal – you know – the weird cravings, the forgetfulness, the clumsiness, the sleepiness and extreme laziness that I felt. Had they also gone through the same, or was there something wrong with me?

As the pregnancy neared the end, I asked them about their birth experiences, and if they, too, had felt anxious about labor, and how they had dealt with this fear. It always felt better having their support in my journey to motherhood.

Then my son came in April 2011. That was when it really dawned on me that it does indeed take a village to raise a child. Motherhood comes with no manual, and new motherhood can be completely confusing and overwhelming –especially if you don’t have a good support network.

My mum, mother-in-law, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends were on my speed dial as I asked them hundreds of questions a day. Then there was also my paediatrician, too, who thankfully, would also always offer the expert bit.

2016 Jan WMB Quote Maryanne

When I started my blog, Mummy Tales, at home in Kenya, it was about my own motherhood chronicles, but as my readership grew, my inbox would  be filled with pregnant women and new mums asking me the same questions that I, myself, had asked when I was in their situation.

And the more my blog grew, the more women wrote in about their experiences with fertility struggles, miscarriages, still births, neonatal sepsis and more. Some I would answer, while others I would get the answers from doctors then share the responses with my readers.

With time, readers began sending me their experiences, asking me to post on my blog for the benefit of fellow women and mums.

This exchange of information enriched me too, and I realized that many women had undergone unfortunate pregnancy and childbirth experiences because they lacked adequate information. I remember one woman who had lost her pregnancy at 25 weeks due to high-blood pressure issues.

“It was only after I saw a story on your blog about a young woman who had died from eclampsia that I came to understand that I had actually been lucky to survive. In my next pregnancy, I paid more attention to everything I was going through, religiously attended all my antenatal clinics and paid attention to my pressure and urine levels during each visit, unlike before. I also became very keen on unusual swelling on my face, hands and feet. This time round, I asked the nurses many questions unlike in my first pregnancy. Even though I still developed pre-eclampsia again, I knew both my baby and I would survive because I was more informed. I was put on medication until the end of my pregnancy, and delivered a healthy baby. Thank God I had become more knowledgeable because of the article I read on your blog,” she told me.

Some of the most common questions I receive on my blog are about the warning signs in pregnancy, foods to eat and avoid during pregnancy, how to prepare for the birth experience and how to generally maintain a healthy pregnancy. I also get lots of questions about breastfeeding, weaning and baby’s nutrition. The answers I give come from my own personal experiences, the experiences of fellow readers, as well as the input of experts.

My blog today is an information hub with real-life practical experiences of motherhood. The ‘tales’ are relatable and as an online community, we are raising our children together, learning together, saving lives of both, mothers and children, and raising healthy babies together.  My goal is to ensure that women and babies survive pregnancy and childbirth, and that mothers go on to enjoy the blessing of motherhood, by putting authentic information in their hands.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Mom, Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama of Kenya of Mummy Tales

Photo credit to the author and World Moms Blog. 

Maryanne Waweru Wanyama

Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, a mother of two boys, writes for a living. She lives in Nairobi, Kenya with her family. Maryanne, a Christian who is passionate about telling stories, hopes blogging will be a good way for her to engage in her foremost passion as she spreads the message of hope and faith through her own experiences and those of other women, children, mums and dads. She can be found at Mummy Tales.

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SAUDI ARABIA: A Woman’s World: Niqab, Coifed Hair and Starting a Business

SAUDI ARABIA: A Woman’s World: Niqab, Coifed Hair and Starting a Business

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Growing up I never had to see any women around me struggle with finding a ‘work life balance’ because women didn’t work much. They were either teachers or worked in hospitals. A few women owned their own businesses but had to have men run them. And the large majority of women I knew worked for the non profit sector running charities or working in them. I would say these charities were where I saw Saudi women working the most. They were a force to be reckoned with.

We also saw women doctors. I remember going to the eye doctor to get lenses for the first time when in walked a tall, thin woman wearing a niqab (face cover with opening for eyes). She was the opthemologist. Her hands, which were the only body parts I could see, were beautiful.

Her nails immaculate (being a life long nail bitter I notice these things). But women who worked in hospitals sometimes had a stigma because they worked in a mixed environment. I later learned that the majority of women who wore niqab’s in the hospital only did so to avoid this stigma and indeed never wore them anywhere else!

I went to an all female school and was taught exclusively by women, but the majority of them were Syrian. One year I remember distinctly there was a surge in the number of Saudi women in managerial positions and some teaching positions in school. They were always well coiffed, smelled nice, wore nice shoes and had make up on. They didn’t look like the typical teachers we were used to seeing, harried and there to do a job.

Then in 2010 things began to change. Mainly because of huge reform in laws that used to restrict women working in Saudi. This was the beginning of the King Abdullah era which saw the number of women in the workforce rise from 55,000 to 454,000 in 3 years! Suddently, women were in the work force, working along side men in many cases.

There was a mixed reaction to this change. Families could see the importance and benefit of adding another income, but at the same time, were conflicted about the women of the family going into the work environment and gaining independence. The women who were already in the work force were a huge support for the women newly coming into it. But men had a hard time working with women. Some didn’t respect them, others had no idea what do with them or where to look or how to address them. In the case of my cousin, who is the head of a non profit organisation, some men flat out refused to talk to her util they realised that they would not be offered an alternative and either had to work with her of shove off.

Then there is me. I have always felt the need to do something.

Since I got married at the age of 22 I have been planning, and researching and imagining this business I would open. I have files and files of papers printed, notes scribbled, suppliers contacted over the years until, finally, my dream was realised. Before opening my business it was a breeze working on it while being a ‘good’ wife and a ‘good’ homemaker and a ‘good’ mother. My time was my own and I worked when I liked. And it was still a dream… not a commitment.

Then I opened… and my life changed. I cannot speak for the women for whom work is a necessity. The ones who’s families depend on them to live. I do not think they have the pleasure of having this ‘life work balance’ conversation because without work there would be no life. Such as Um Ahmed who worked for a while as a cleaning lady at my center. She was the sole breadwinner of her family. When I met her she was in her late 30’s, she had 5 children, none of which worked. What blew me over was when she told me she would have to take a day off or leave early every few weeks as she was learning to read and write and wanted to sit her exams. Um Ahmed left a year after working for me as she got pregnant and had to stay home with her 6th baby.

In my case, working was a choice. It did come from a need to realise a dream I truly believed would be beneficial to society even in a small way. It was a necessity in that sense but it was very much a choice I made. No one is relying on any money I could potentially make (God willing at some point) from my business.

Society here puts the burden of making everything work on the woman. If the marriage fails they look at what the woman didn’t do. If the children turned out messed up they looked at the mother. If the house was less than pristine they looked at the wife. If the husband strayed they say “did you see how his wife let herself go?’.

I remember talking to a school teacher as we sat in a restaurant with her 11 month old and a few friends. She looked tired and harried while she bobbed her child on her knee and told us all about how when she gets home from work she makes dinner immediately so she has time to shower and fix her hair and get dressed up for her husband before he got home from work. She tried to make sure her son was calm and clean for his father.

She even gave us suggestions of things to do to make our husbands lives easier and more interesting (from having him walk in on you wearing your wedding dress to having him walk in on you wearing nothing… not sure what she did with her son in these instances).

She said “you know, we have to make sure they are happy and comfortable”, and I said “who makes sure you are happy and comfortable?”, and she looked surprised, then laughed at the absurdity of it. I went on saying “what little things does he do for you? take you out to dinner? Give your son a bath? Help with the house work?” she didn’t like this line of questioning and thought I was being rude I think so I dropped it.

In our society women must look beautiful for their husbands. And if you are lucky then you have a husband who at least tries to look presentable for you. I remember going to see a child counsellor when I was pregnant with my second child because of an anxiety issue my son had. I walked into her office, 8 months pregnant with my daughter, and talked to her about my son.

Somehow we ended up talking about me and about how I needed to make an effort in the way I look! She said “why don’t you have any makeup on? did you husband see you like this before you left the house?” Needless to say I left the office and never came back.

But it goes without saying that if you, like me, work because you want to work not because you have to work, and that work means you will not be perfumed, creamed and coiffed and wide awake for your husband when he comes back from seeing his friends at night, then you have failed. If your house is not totally impeccable then you have failed. If you don’t look like you stepped out of some sort of magazine at least 85% of the time then you have failed.

We have not entered, nor do I think we will ever, the phase of being proud of our mommy pants and the fact that we look tired because, well, we work hard and we are tired. Regardless of how hard you work or how much you have accomplished you will always be expected to maintain yourself. And in most cases it is down to you to make life interesting, entertaining and comfortable for your husband and children.

How do I feel about this? Even though, in the light of how much I have put into this business and how obsessed I was when starting it and how supportive my husband has been, (He only asked me to shut it down once when we were on vacation and I spent my whole time Skyping the staff.) I feel like I am failing probably about 60% of the time.

My husband works from home, and therefore, sleeps late. This means that I sleep late because I love spending time with him one on one. And by the time my kids are in bed he would have gone out to see his family or friends, and I would do the same. On most nights I would go out just to avoid falling asleep on the couch or in some instances I would fall asleep with my kids do and have a late nap till her comes home!

How is your life similar? How is your life different?

This an original blog post by World Mom, Mama B. of Saudi Arabia. You can also find her at her blog, YaMaaMaa.

Photo credit to Roberto Trombetta. This photo has a creative commons attribution noncommercial license. It has not been altered. 

Mama B (Saudi Arabia)

Mama B’s a young mother of four beautiful children who leave her speechless in both, good ways and bad. She has been married for 9 years and has lived in London twice in her life. The first time was before marriage (for 4 years) and then again after marriage and kid number 2 (for almost 2 years). She is settled now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (or as settled as one can be while renovating a house). Mama B loves writing and has been doing it since she could pick up a crayon. Then, for reasons beyond her comprehension, she did not study to become a writer, but instead took graphic design courses. Mama B writes about the challenges of raising children in this world, as it is, who are happy, confident, self reliant and productive without driving them (or herself) insane in the process. Mama B also sheds some light on the life of Saudi, Muslim children but does not claim to be the voice of all mothers or children in Saudi. Just her little "tribe." She has a huge, beautiful, loving family of brothers and sisters that make her feel like she wants to give her kids a huge, loving family of brothers and sisters, but then is snapped out of it by one of her three monkeys screaming “Ya Maamaa” (Ya being the arabic word for ‘hey’). You can find Mama B writing at her blog, Ya Maamaa . She's also on Twitter @YaMaamaa.

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USA: Feeling Tired, World Moms?

USA: Feeling Tired, World Moms?

World Moms Global Call To Action

Recently, I’ve felt like I was running on empty and had entered a new state of exhaustion. It started gradually about a year ago, and as I am inching up to year 40, I assumed this is just what it was like to be growing older.

During the summer, I was constantly falling asleep in my clothes from the night before, sometimes in one of my daughters’ beds, while putting the kids to sleep. Other times, it would be on the couch after cleaning up from dinner. I couldn’t operate like I used to. I thought, “This is it. I can’t keep up my usual pace. I’m burning out.”

I don’t drink coffee, with the exception of the occasional tiramisu dessert. I just don’t like the taste, unless it involves lady fingers and sugar! I drink a cup of green or white tea in the morning, but I thought, “Is this how moms are getting through? Do I need something stronger? Should I start drinking coffee?”

I decided to try a few things first before I made the plunge to cocoa beans. First, I tried exercise. I was running around with the kids, always on my feet, but I wasn’t raising my heart rate enough. I always got a boost from starting to exercise, but this time, nothing.

Then I decided it must be stress. Running the website was taking its toll, I thought. I have to do less, so this summer, we pulled back a bit, while many of our kids were home from school. I knew we would pick up again once we get to September.

And during the summer the kids and I seemed unstoppable. We were swimming, hiking, traveling. You name it. We were doing it! Having them off of school for 10 weeks, I felt like we had to carpe diem! But, by the evening my carpe was nowhere to be found. And my ability to keep up during the day was challenged. I panted more on hikes and walking uphill was so much more difficult than it had ever been.

Also, instead of a best friend, my husband was living with an exhausted mess, me. We weren’t staying up late playing marathon games of Mancala, watching movies or anything else exciting for that matter, because my day was over by the time the kids were to bed, and I was being woken every morning by the kids while he was off to work. It was a tough cycle.

And, did I mention that I was gaining weight, too? I was awake less hours over time, and I was lacking my normal energy levels. Overtime, the problem was affecting my ability to button my pants (that’s trousers for the international crowd). I just bought the size up, ignoring the expansion and getting on with my life.

I even thought that maybe it was lack of vitamin B12 because I don’t eat meat, so I started to take B12 pills. They weren’t giving me more energy, but I still continued to take them. I was desperate.

I finally came to the conclusion that I couldn’t live like this. It was affecting my kids, my marriage, my work, my life. If it’s not just me getting older, not a lack of exercise (at least not directly, but I still could use more), not stress, and the B12 isn’t helping, I needed to go to the doctor.

It was hard to make the appointment because every morning I would have energy again, so I’d blow it off, thinking it was a waste of time because I was feeling better today and that I was finally over this. Then every evening, the exhaustion hit me like a brick wall.

So, I booked an appointment and explained to my doctor what was going on. She said I was due for blood work, so she ordered a full work up. I was too busy with the kids to have time to worry about what it could be. I had a follow up appointment with my doctor the next week to go over my results.

It turned out that I was anemic. Very anemic. And, it was, oh, so fixable.

But then I got hard on myself. Why did I feel like I had to figure it out myself at first? Why didn’t I just head to the doctor when I was feeling like this in the first place??!!

After one week of prescribed iron pills, I was feeling a major boost. I could stay awake after the kids went to bed! I had energy to exercise! My husband has his best friend back! Even our World Moms Blog newsletter has finally gone out!

Being a parent and, thus, caregiver, if it was my kid who was feeling this way, I’d be at the doctor’s office in a heart beat. Why, when it was myself, the appointment with my doctor was put on the backburner? We can’t forget to put our own oxygen masks on.

So, World Moms, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to immediately right now, or if that’s impossible, schedule yourself an hour in your calendar for this week, immediately, to check in with your health.

Are you up to date with your mammograms? When was your last gynecological appointment? Are you seeing a doctor on a reactionary basis – when was the last time you booked yourself in for a physical?

Everyone is different, and my story of trying to self diagnose is a bit embarrassing. Especially because I could have solved this in one doctors visit months ago! I was popping B12 pills that I didn’t need, and if it was something more serious, I could have nipped it in the bud.

Did this post ring a bell with you? Are you feeling tired? What are you planning to do about it?

This is an original post by World Mom and founder, Jennifer Burden of New Jersey, USA.

Photo credit to the author.  

Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India. She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls. Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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UK: What We See, And How We Choose To See It

UK: What We See, And How We Choose To See It

dr-stella-ameyo-adadevohDo you know who Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh is?

Don’t worry. I hadn’t heard of her until just a day or two ago.

When I read about her, my first thought was how wonderful she was. My second was how glad I was of the opportunity to find out about her. My third: what a strange week of news.

It’s largely thanks to Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh that the World Health Organisation was able to announce recently that Nigeria – that chaotic, corruption-riddled country – was free of Ebola, the deadly virus currently killing thousands across west Africa in the worst outbreak of the disease known so far.

Dr Adadevoh was the doctor who took care of Patrick Sawyer. Sawyer was the Liberian man who brought Ebola to Nigeria. Nigeria had never had a case of Ebola before. Sawyer denied having had any contact with Ebola, despite his sister dying of the disease. He fought to get out of the hospital. His employers fought to have him discharged.

Adadevoh not only diagnosed a disease previously unseen in her country, but she resisted huge pressure to let it go, according to accounts from the doctors who worked with her.

She quarantined Sawyer – no small task, given his violent attempt to flee – “He pulled his intravenous (tubes) and spilled blood everywhere”, said one witness.  She rebutted accusations from the Liberian ambassador that she had kidnapped Sawyer. She contacted the authorities, and she got hospital staff the training and materials they needed to treat Sawyer safely.

Sadly Adadevoh herself contracted the virus and died on August 19, one of eight deaths in Nigeria from Ebola. Not long afterwards the Nigerian government released its National Honours list for this year. Adadevoh was not on it because, as a government spokesman explained, the awards are never given posthumously.

I’ve seen two stories this week about Dr Stella Adadevoh. She did a great thing, and died for it, and too few people noticed.

In contrast, I’ve seen at least twenty-two stories this week about Rene Zellweger, an actress who changed her face and prompted acres – and acres – of media coverage.

I have nothing against Zellweger. Indeed, I have a degree of (angry) sympathy. I recognise the pressure on actresses over forty who are looking for work.

But what a strange week of news, when a woman who has done so much was unseen by so many, and another woman was not just seen but ripped apart for being far too visible.

I’m a journalist by trade. I accept that much of this disparity is down to skewed ideas among major media outlets of what makes news.

But we too – by we I mean us women – bear a responsibility for the way in which women’s lives and achievements are reported. Too often we read and comment on the scandalous stories. Too often we’re boosting the click rates and thus telling those media outlets that yes we are interested in reading this stuff. We are perpetuating the myth that it’s ok to pass judgment on other women purely because of the way they look. We are contributing to the noise around the non-stories that is stopping us from hearing the real ones.

I want to read about more Stellas. Don’t you?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophie Walker of the United Kingdom.

Sophie Walker (UK)

Writer, mother, runner: Sophie works for an international news agency and has written about economics, politics, trade, war, diplomacy and finance from datelines as diverse as Paris, Washington, Hong Kong, Kabul, Baghdad and Islamabad. She now lives in London with her husband, two daughters and two step-sons. Sophie's elder daughter Grace was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome several years ago. Grace is a bright, artistic girl who nonetheless struggles to fit into a world she often finds hard to understand. Sophie and Grace have come across great kindness but more often been shocked by how little people know and understand about autism and by how difficult it is to get Grace the help she needs. Sophie writes about Grace’s daily challenges, and those of the grueling training regimes she sets herself to run long-distance events in order to raise awareness and funds for Britain’s National Autistic Society so that Grace and children like her can blossom. Her book "Grace Under Pressure: Going The Distance as an Asperger's Mum" was published by Little, Brown (Piatkus) in 2012. Her blog is called Grace Under Pressure.

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Saturday Sidebar: Baby weight and pregnancy weight…what’s the norm?

This week’s Saturday Sidebar Question comes from World Moms Blog writer Maggie Ellison.  She asked our writers,

“Pregnancy/baby weight….where are you with this? What are the social norms about pregnancy/baby weight where you are from?”

Check out what some of our World Moms had to say…

Hamakkomommy of Japan writes:
“In Japan we are told the optimal weight gain is 7kg (~15.4 lbs)! Pregnant women are scolded, shamed, and berated for gaining too much weight. Women are told gaining too much weight will result in difficult labor, and often blamed when their labors are difficult. The flip side of this is that most women are able to lose the weight quickly. The average newborn baby weight here is 3kg (~6.6 lbs).” (more…)

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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