In my home country of Brazil, the Zika virus has been on the minds of pregnant mothers. As a matter of fact, I’ve even had the virus myself. Zika is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, and more recently, there has been evidence that it can be transmitted sexually or from mother to child during pregnancy. Authorities believe the virus entered Brazil during the FIFA World Cup soccer games in 2014, setting off the outbreak in Latin America. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, almost 200,000 probable cases occurred from January to mid-August in 2016. 51,7% of these cases were confirmed.
At a first glance, the symptoms are not all that frightening: rashes, fever, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and headaches that go away after a few days without hospitalization. When I had the fever (I wasn’t pregnant at the time) it was uncomfortable, and I had painful headaches. However, it was over in just three days, without any special treatment. 80% of people infected with Zika don’t develop any symptoms at all, thus a large number of cases go unreported. Pregnant women are at the greatest risk from Zika due to the effects it can have on their unborn babies, such as microcephaly, a birth defect in which the baby’s head is smaller than normal.
Danielle Paes Leme, a lawyer from the state of Pernambuco, discovered that she was pregnant in the midst of the Zika crisis.
“When I first found out I was pregnant it was tough. Several of my friends were getting sick and I felt the disease getting closer and closer. For a while I felt quite tense thinking that I might catch Zika and that my baby would suffer the consequences for the rest of his life. I couldn’t sleep, I cried all the time, I had nightmares and I even thought of moving to another state”.
Nevertheless, Danielle reports that after the first trimester she began to feel calmer. “I tried not to let fear affect me as much. I did what I could to protect myself and I no longer thought of moving. For those who are pregnant I would say to be optimistic and believe that everything will turn out fine – and to try to enjoy pregnancy overall”.
According to a recent publication of the Brazilian Ministry of Health, thirteen lines of action are being carried out to combat Zika and other diseases spread by the Aedes mosquito, including the distribution of diagnosis kits, meetings with specialists and government officials, improvements to diagnosis and case reporting, and increased funds for research. There has also been a massive effort to educate the population and eliminate the mosquito, which breeds in still or stagnant water. For example, 220,000 troops and 270,000 health workers are visiting homes throughout my country in search of possible breeding grounds.
Additionally, pregnant women in Brazil have been instructed to wear long clothes, use safe insect repellent, and seek out proper pre-natal care. It has also been recommended that pregnant women planning to travel to Latin America reconsider their trip.
“My sincere hope”, says Danielle, “is that this disease does not spread to other places. However, if it does, people must be educated on how fighting the Aedes mosquito is everyone’s responsibility”.
The increased risk of microcephaly from a possible link to the rampant Zika virus has brought new concerns to Brazilian mothers-to-be, but we are hoping the actions put into place to control the virus will put a stop to the spreading of the disease and protect more babies from birth defects.
Have you done anything differently after first hearing about the Zika virus, such as delaying pregnancy or cancelling travel plans?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Eco Ziva of Brazil. Photo credit: Hamza Butt. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
I want to start out by saying that this is not some sort of fat shaming post – much to the contrary.
Not many years ago I weighed 67 kg (about 147 lbs.) – what is considered to be the “ideal” weight for my height. Now I weigh 105 kg (231 lbs.). Yes, my weight fluctuated back and forth over the years, but I had never weighed so much, not even during my pregnancies.
In fact, people often ask whether my weight gain had anything to do with my pregnancies. “No”, I answer, “I began gaining more weight after my youngest child turned one”. “So what happened?” is often the next question.
Having been the slave of an eating disorder for a long 26 years, I have a lot of answers for that one. Analyzing the motives behind my overeating and binging episodes took up a great portion of my life when I was trying to cure myself, but that is the theme of a sequel to this post.
The fact is, my gaining weight, now that I look back, was actually an important step in rethinking my relationship with food and with my own body.
What I wanted to share today was a handful of things I learned after gaining close to 40 kg (over 80 lbs).
It did take a while for people to notice and start to comment. After all, I am a very tall, big boned woman who likes to wear loose, comfy clothing. But after a certain point people started to comment. A lot.
“What is happening? Have you been to a doctor?”
“You have to work on your self-esteem!”
“Are you pregnant again?”
“Are you absolutely sure you’re not pregnant?”
“You need to try this recipe/diet/exercise program.”
“You need to take care of yourself!”
“Be careful, your husband might start cheating on you if you don’t get your act together!”
And on and on and on…
Most people meant well, especially close friends and family. However, I would stare at the mirror and think I didn’t look that bad. No, I didn’t like having a protuberant tummy for the first non-pregnant time in my life (nothing against tummies, but I have always been more pear shaped). But other than that I thought I looked quite good. Medically I am fine too – after looking at the results of a whopping 26 tests, my doctor said my blood work could have been that of a 15-year-old.
However, other stuff does bother me a lot, the first being the assumptions people started to make, well-meaning or not. Many assume that being fat means you have health issues or very low self-esteem.
Another annoyance is trying to find clothes. For most of my life – even when I was skinny – I have had trouble finding clothes (and shoes!) that fit me, as I am a tall and big boned woman in a region where most ladies are not this large. Now it is so much worse and soooooooo much more expensive, which always feels like I am being punished for some reason.
At some point I began to read about the different movements that have been sparking up around the globe to celebrate women of any size and shape (men too, but there is just so much more pressure on women). I discovered that among all of the studies linking body fat to health issues, there are several that have not found such a clear link. But these are not given nearly as much attention by the media.
All in all, health and body size is a very personal issue that is linked to a huge number of variables. There are also studies that have linked dieting patterns to eating disorders, and teenage girls are at the greatest risk.
So, in the midst of all this, what are the dangers of being a fat mother?
To me the greatest dangers of being a fat mother are forgetting to love my body no matter what, trying to change it to conform to the world’s standards, and obsessing over weight-related issues instead of truly enjoying my life.
I want my children, and my daughter especially, to know that they are worthy of love regardless of what their bodies might look like, and I must model that example as best as possible.
I said this would not be a fat shaming post, but it is not advocating fat either. It is advocating joy, self-love and happiness, no matter what size, shape or state your body is. People (me included, for a long time) tend to think that if you love your body as it is you won’t have the motivation to change. Now I see that not loving my body regardless of anything else only makes things worse, and for a long time only made me want to eat more. Also, for a long time I thought avoiding my body (as in avoiding the mirror) was a good enough substitute for loving it.
There is so much more to say, but for now that is a small piece of my story with my body.
And you? How do you relate to your body? Tell us your story in the comments!
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Eco Ziva of Brazil. Photo credit: Alan Levine. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
A part of me wants a fun, carefree life
A part of me says, not possible anymore
A part of me says it’s because of the kids
A part of me says there were excuses before
A part of me wants my body of so many years ago
A part of me says it’s possible no more
A part of me says I didn’t like it anyway
A part of me says, time to start loving it evermore
A part of me wants a successful career
A part of me says it matters no more
A part of me says it’s just my livelihood
A part of me says, I’ll soon miss the toys on the floor
A part of me wants to follow my dreams
A part of me says, I remember no more
A part of me wants to throw everything up in the air
A part of me says it’s all an inner war
What inner conflicts do you face as a mother?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva of Brazil. Photo credit: Ian Burt. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Many women nowadays have to split their time between a full time job and their kids (and their husband, and taking care of their home, and and and…). Another group of women is able to work from home, at least part of the time, or to work some at home and some in the office. If you, like me, are in this second group, some days it might seem like there are two women chatting in your head, the Professional working mom and the Homemaker. For me, a typical work day outside of the home goes more or less like this…
Professional – Oh my gosh it is so great to be able to get some work done in peace! I love to work!
Homemaker – The kids are growing up so fast… soon they will be teens and won’t even want to look at you!
Professional – The kids need to see their mother working and doing something she likes.
Homemaker – Come on, don’t be cynical, you don’t even like your job that much! It’s just a way to escape the kids a bit!
Professional (ignoring the Homemaker) – If only I could work outside of home for more days I could get sooooo much done!! My career would skyrocket! Maybe I should put the three-year old in play school next semester. Imagine, working in peace five mornings a week!?
Homemaker – Oh yeah? And where would you find the extra money? What about the car pool? You can barely find rides for two to come home from school, three would be worse! And he is so little…
Professional – Oh no! I can’t believe it’s time to go home already!! I didn’t do ten percent of what I needed to!! Ahhhhh! Another sleepless night awaits me!! I am so tired! I need chocolate… Sob…
On other days, a typical day at home goes like this…
Homemaker (at the park) – Oh, look at them. They are so cute and cuddly. I love being a mom. I can’t believe the youngest is already three. I will miss having little kids around. Should I have another baby?
Professional – Are you out of your mind?????
Homemaker (ignoring the Professional working mom) – If only I could afford to stay at home all the time… And then, when they started to grow older, I could work in what I really like. I would also have time to take better care of the house and to exercise and get in shape again.
Professional – My job is stable. I can’t earn enough money to raise kids doing only what you like. That’s so naïve.
Homemaker – It’s so peaceful here with them. If only I could stay at home in peace and not need to hear you worry about work and deadlines and…
Professional – Oh no! That deadline! You need to drop them off at grandma’s now!!
Homemaker – You know they only stay at grandma’s once a week max. Otherwise they get stressed out. You can work tonight.
Professional – I need to sleep!! I already worked last night! You know I can’t work all night two days in a row! I am not twenty anymore!
Homemaker – On that we agree! We get so crabby when we don’t sleep enough. It’s not good for the kids. Maybe you should stop working nights and work only during the weekend when they can stay with their father.
Professional – No!!!!! I have so much to do!!!!! Weekends are not enough.
And so it goes….
And you… Do you work from home, from an office or both? How do you find balance? Please share your story below.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva in Brazil. Photo credit to the author.
In an interview, a renowned academic in my field once said that when he was young he was certain about two things: 1) he didn’t want to teach, and 2) he didn’t want to write too much. He went on to teach in several famous universities and ended up writing 20 books. I found this very funny because although I have always loved to write, I always knew I didn’t want to teach, but I have been doing it for several years now.
This is something that comes to mind when I try to respond to some questions my husband and I often ask ourselves, as I listed in Part I of this post. Are we still living according to the same principles we followed when we first met (especially in relation to the environment)? Or are we fleeing our responsibility of making a difference in the world? Have we left our ideals aside in exchange for modern, middle class comforts? Are we still being true to our dreams? Above all, how can we be true to our dreams and ideals while at the same time guaranteeing a decent life for our children? And what is a “decent life”? Can’t we live a simpler life? The list goes on. (more…)
When I was a teenager/young adult I wanted to change the world (as it happens with so many youngsters). And changing the world usually meant Doing Big Things.
Now, three kids and more than twenty years later, my saving the world efforts seem so distant. I grapple with alternating days when I stay home with the kids, sorting socks and washing dishes, and days teaching classes at the university, advising students’ research, and trying to do some research of my own.
At one point of my life I thought my career would be in the non-profit sector; i.e., I would be a professional environmentalist, forever. By then my volunteering efforts had evolved into parallel paying jobs related to social-environmental issues, and this kind of lifestyle went on for 12+ years.
I continued on to graduate school not because I wanted to become an academic, but because I thought it would be a great addition to what I already did. I found it exciting to go from project to project, often working on more than one at once. I felt almost repulsed by the thought of staying in the same job for the rest of my life, always doing the same thing. I even got a certain thrill from not knowing where my salary would come from after the current project ended.
My husband (who worked for the same NGO) was not as thrilled and dreamed of the day at least one of us would have a more stable job. Since I was already on the academic path in one way or the other, that person became me.
When I first became a professor I wasn’t overjoyed. Although I love to do research, teaching is a different story and it was very hard in the beginning. At this point I already had three children and the “saving the world” type of projects were in the past. Another dream that I tried to pursue (to become a professional writer) had also been buried. I sadly realized I wasn’t really passionate about anything anymore – except, of course, my kids.
By this time my husband had gotten a relatively stable government job, although he didn’t really love it. We were finally okay financially and we were living a comfortable life. Nevertheless, we began to question ourselves about our choices.
Were we still living according to the same principles we followed when we first met (especially in relation to the environment)? Were we fleeing our responsibility of making a difference in the world? Had we left our ideals aside for modern, middle class comforts? Were we still being true to our dreams?
At first I had a good excuse to avoid these issues because two of our kids were very small and I had to deal with all of the related motherhood issues. In parallel, I tried to make the most of my job focusing on the good things: stability, flexible hours, and the possibility of quantity time with my children even if that meant doing a lot of work at night and during the weekend. I told myself (and I still do), that there are many means to make a difference, even if in “small” ways.
After all, in practice, there are no real big things. Big things take place in small steps and often need more than one person involved. Also, what seems like small, local things, often involve a lot of work and may have a greater impact on the world than expected. No wonder one of the most popular environmentalist mottos is, “Think global, act local”.
Today, in my attempts to continue to be of service to the world, I try (for example) to be a good listener to my students because sometimes I sense they are more in need of a friendly ear than anything else. A great number of students suffer from depression and other related disorders, for instance. And it’s not that I serve as a psychologist or anything, but I frequently feel that just treating them kindly and making an effort to advise them extra well regarding academic issues makes a significant difference.
Yet the fact is, regardless of how we do in our present jobs, the sort of questions I listed before has been haunting us for the past few years. Now that our youngest is past three, these questions have resurfaced. The biggest issue that remains is how to be true to our dreams and ideals while at the same time guaranteeing enough food on the table (and healthcare, and a good education etc., etc.)?
This post will be continued in Part 2.
Please share your story below on how you have managed (or not) to follow your dreams, personally and professionally.
This post was inspired by two other posts: “Surviving the turmoil” and “My frame world”.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva in Brazil.
Photo credit to Claremont Colleges Digital Library. This photo has a creative commons attribute license.