When I began CleanBirth.org in 2012, it was very important to me that the organization succeed. I wanted so much to help other mothers give birth safely. I also craved a project of my own that was unrelated to being a mother or wife.
I can remember worrying in the first year that the Clean Birth Kits wouldn’t be well received or that my partner organization in Laos, ACD-Laos, wouldn’t do their part to ensure success.
In the first 2 years, I worked endlessly with ACD-Laos and traveled to Laos twice per year. Back at home, I went to conferences, Tweeted and posted on Facebook non-stop, and sought connections and fundraising opportunities everywhere.
There was so much of me in the organization in that early period. I needed the moms in Laos to give me a purpose, as much as they needed me.
Yet, the more I traveled to Laos, the more I understood that the only agents for real change in birth practices are local nurses. With common language and traditions, these nurses are uniquely effective at conveying knowledge about safe birth.
With the goal of empowering local nurses, my partners at ACD-Laos and I spent time in 2014 establishing mutually-agreed up Monitoring and Evaluation procedures. With these clear objectives and methods of tracking funds, the way was cleared for my partners at ACD-Laos to take ownership of day-to-day activities.
In 2016, when they began conducting training without me and then requested to expand to more clinics and a hospital, it was clear that ACD-Laos and the nurses were invested and in charge.It was also clear that my role had changed.
Just as the organization had evolved, so had I. With an international move and growing kids, I no longer needed CleanBirth.org to be my purpose.
While the need is gone, my commitment is stronger than ever. I am so proud to be part of the team we’ve created: the nurses, ACD-Laos, CleanBirth.org and our supporters. Year after year we make birth safe for an increasingly large number of women in Laos.
World Moms Network has supported CleanBirth.org since the beginning. We need your help in the next 2 weeks,as we raise our largest amount ever $20,000.
Please give now if you can: http://cleanbirthorg.causevox.com/
To be honest, it didn’t start well. The 11 year-old’s surfboard channeled too much wind and snapped before we’d even hit the main highway. There were tears at the devastation: his father had given it to him for Christmas and he’d yet to use it. It didn’t help that after moving the surfboards inside the car, I then accidentally shut the car door on his ankle. Calm apologies were made, and eventually accepted. (We bought a new surfboard a few days later.)
I was resolute. This trip had been a year in the planning: I felt it was the last chance I had to whisk the almost 15 year-old away for a long road trip; the accommodation had been booked for months, and there was a long overdue extended family gathering for Christmas planned.
So now we had three children, myself, all our gear, Christmas stuff and two surfboards in the car. The atmosphere settled and the first three hour drive of the adventure begun. It’s probably an asset that I hadn’t overthought the whole thing. Over 3000 km (A little more than 2000 miles) of travelling in the space of three weeks with three boys who are all respectful and strong-willed, polite and assertive, tall for their ages and cramped, and excited and easily annoyed by each other.
I must have been mad.
The adventures were great: rising at dawn to go and dig holes in the sand where boiling-hot geothermal water rises between the tide lines; roller-coaster rides and rides that made someone’s 48 year-old inner-ear fluid spin for hours; bush walks to see ancient trees, one with the girth of a water-tank; climbing a sand dune to boogie-board down; historic sites and wharf jumping near the two oldest buildings in the country; family and more family; rivers and lakes and swimming pools, and swimming on both coasts and fishing; a 70s party with the shiniest pants and the longest sideburns I’d seen in years; New Year’s in a flash hotel with room service and valet parking; barefoot games of pool in a pub and being invited to compete against the locals; and river rock-sliding on airbeds, including a few epic wipe outs.
The boys tell me it was 80% fun and worth doing, but please let’s not do it that way again.
For me, it was both wonderful and terrible. There were times when it was insanely exhausting. When we arrived somewhere, no matter how ratty we all were, there was a car to be unpacked and food to be found – at the very least fresh milk to be bought for the morning, and it was all my responsibility. There was washing to be done every few days and maps to be read, the car to be filled with petrol on long stretches of road with few service stations, and the budget to be managed, and it was all my responsibility. We took detours we shouldn’t have, had nights with inadequate sleep and we all had tantrums, and I was the only one who could sort it all out.
I had one night of adulting thanks to two wonderful cousins who kidnapped me and took me dancing, and my lovely aunt and uncle who babysat.
It was a one-off adventure, and I’m very aware that we are lucky we had the opportunity to do it. I am pleased I chose to spend the money I saved so ardently on seeing a chunk of our country, rather than heading overseas. We made some great memories and will have stories to retell for years to come. As for the surfing: 3000 kms with surfboards in the car, and because of the waves we encountered, they used them once. Mad. I tell you.
Have you ever traveled a long way with children alone? Was it easier than you imagined it would be?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Karyn Willis.
A few years ago, I went on a retreat for moms of kids with disabilities. I remember being a little skeptical when I signed up: the word “retreat” conjured up mental images of doing yoga, eating nothing but root vegetables, and spending great swathes of time alone in the great outdoors (which is not bad in itself, but it was winter and freezing cold, and the retreat was on the shores of a lake).
The reality turned out to be very different. About twenty of us spent the weekend doing journaling exercises and talking about our lives and the things that were making us feel overwhelmed.
Our stories were all very different, but a common theme ran through all of our narratives: all of us were fantastic at taking care of our families, but we were hopeless at taking care of ourselves.
We were all so caught up in our roles as special needs parents that we never had the time to just be.
A few days ago, while I was frantically scrabbling for the notes I needed to meet a deadline for a client, I came across my scribbled notes from that weekend. The notes included a journal exercise, in which we were asked to write as many sentences as we could that started with the phrase, “I am the kind of mother that…”
It was quite an insightful exercise, and it was quite cathartic. It helped me identify those little gold nuggets that make parenting truly special, as well as the more difficult aspects that needed to be acknowledged and, where possible, changed. Here are the sentences that I came up with, many of which are still true today.
I am the kind of mother that…
…feels guilty about all of the hours she spends working instead of being with her children.
…yells in frustration when things get overwhelming.
…does most of the chores around the house, just so they get done, even though it is exhausting.
…goes to sleep too late and wakes up too early.
…snaps at strangers who stare and say rude things.
…tries to see the positive in even the worst situations.
…takes care of everyone before herself, even though she has her own needs that go unmet.
…blames herself when things go wrong.
…hugs the kids anytime they want, day or night.
…never sends the kids to bed when there is anger or sadness.
…tries hard to be an advocate for her kids in the school system.
…worries about whether her kids are eating healthily enough.
…pretends she needs to pee, just to get a couple of minutes alone.
…sometimes longs for the kids’ bedtime.
…sometimes cleans up the kids’ messes because it’s easier than trying to make them do it themselves.
How would you finish that sentence? What are some of the things that shape your life as a mother?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.
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.
Many cultures have always thought of marriage as one of partnership but a tribe in Tanzania has taken it one step further.
In the village of Nyamongo of northern Tanzania, some women who reside in the Kurya tribe are redefining the roles of marriage. For married couple Mugosi Maningo & Anastasia Juma, their union is based solely on economics. When the two women met, Maningo’s husband had left her ten years prior because she couldn’t have children. Juma’s marital situation changed when she left her abusive husband after her firstborn, then was left to care for two other children after being left by two other men. Left on their own, these women decided to change their circumstances for their families.
Land ownership is traditionally held by men and most don’t question the validity of it, but in this situation, women are fighting against age-old traditions in order secure their families’ futures. Maningo and Juma are challenging these roles by practicing “nyumba ntobhu”, which means “woman marrying woman”.
Established years ago by Kurya elders, this was done in order to protect women from losing land ownership if their husband died or abandoned them. This practice is allowed by the Kurya tribe’s elders since it benefits the community, but more importantly, it validates the power of women in this village. While there is a Kuryan law which stipulates that only men can inherit land, women get around it by marrying a younger woman who has children or can have sex with a male partner to produce male heirs.
For Maningo, this arrangement has not only ensured her land ownership, but the freedom to choose a partner, and not necessarily a man. While same-sex marriages in the West include a sexual component, this is not seen as an important factor in the Kurya tribe. Maningo and Juma who are both heterosexual, see having male sex partners as a way of bearing children, and a choice they get to make not imposed on them. Having the right to decide whether to take on a male partner reduces the likelihood of abuse, child marriage and genital mutilation on women.
It should be noted that “nyumba ntobhu” marriages are only recognized in tribal law, not Tanzanian law. Not all Tanzanian women practice same-sex marriages, but the incentive of controlling property and having the choice to have a male partner or not, has made this practice an attractive, and often, a safer option. In addition, male partners who help women bear children must honor this tradition and give up their paternal rights.
As someone who was raised in a country where women continue to fight for equality, I can understand the attraction of this practice.
In Tanzania where patriarchy and gender inequality are dominating forces in their culture, same-sex marriages like Maningo and Juma’s are uncommon but necessary for communities to survive. While I know that marriages are not perfect, the concept of “nyumba ntobhu” works for the women of the Kurya tribe. Who knows, maybe one day, “nyumba ntobhu” will not just be a practice but a way of life for Tanzanian women.
Do you know of any similar types of arrangements in your country?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Tes Silverman.
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Photo Attribution: Rasheedhrasheed