UNITED KINGDOM:  The Book I Never Thought I Would Write

UNITED KINGDOM: The Book I Never Thought I Would Write

peepingWhen I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer.

My bookshelves were bursting with myths and legends, tales of epic journeys and magical enchantments and warriors and warlocks and princesses; talking animals and terrifying villains. I read many of them over and over and would always think, when I closed the covers, how wonderful the author must have felt to have created such a thing.

I started writing my own stories, on sheets of rough paper, taped or stapled together. I would write the title first, then the author – me – beneath, then carefully index the chapters, number the pages and sometimes, if feeling really enthusiastic about the content, provide rave reviews for the back. I showed my parents, my friends, my teachers. People nodded and smiled.

I grew up, and kept writing. I studied English and French literature, and kept writing. I studied journalism, and kept writing. I got a proper job, and kept writing. Then I had a daughter, and stopped for a while. When I came back to it, I wrote furiously for several months, then realised the embarrassingly semi-autobiographical nature of the novel I had crafted, and put it aside. I got married, and got divorced, and had another child, and got married again.

There wasn’t very much time for writing, let alone for cudgeling my exhausted brain into thinking of something interesting to say.

Then my elder daughter Grace was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. It had taken us years to find out what it was that was ‘off’ – what the teachers saw, and wondered about, and what her peers saw, and walked away from, and what I saw, and thought was just my eccentrically lovable child. Finding out that my daughter had autism was like discovering she had been living behind glass for 8 years and that I had been oblivious to the sound of her banging her fists on it.

We were sent off with a label, and little support. Grace started to be bullied at school as she grew older and her differences became more apparent and other children were drawn to her weirdness and capacity for combustion when they pressed her buttons. They found all her buttons.

Grace spent a lot of time crying. I spent a lot of time crying. We both felt very alone.

Then one day on the way to work, I pulled out my notebook and emptied the thoughts in my head onto the pale blue lines. I scribbled and scribbled, oblivious to the other commuters, thinking that if I wrote everything down then I might be able to make sense of it. I came home and said to Grace: “Shall we write about what’s happening to us?” And Grace said: “Yes. Please tell them what it’s like.”

So I wrote. I wrote a blog and called it Grace Under Pressure. I wrote about how it feels to be the parent of a child with autism. I wrote about the things I was learning and about how much I realised I still had to learn. I wrote about Grace’s marathon attempts to fit in and understand her own limitations and learn to cope with the limitations of classmates who had no sympathy or understanding. I wrote about running a marathon myself in order to raise awareness among those who had no sympathy or understanding of autism.

People started reading the blog. Then more people read it, and more. Eventually, someone said: “You know, you should really think about making this into a book.” A publisher called Little, Brown agreed.

My book is not the book I ever thought I would write. But it is the kind of book that I used to read. It is the tale of an epic journey, and a magical enchantment, and a courageous princess. I am very proud of the princess, and I am grateful to her every day for letting me tell her story and for taking me with her on the adventure that changed our lives.

Grace Under Pressure: A Girl with Asperger’s and her Marathon Mom, by Sophie Walker, is published in the United States by New World Library, and in the UK by Little, Brown (Piatkus).  

**Enter to win a free copy of Grace Under Pressure!  Comment on this post for a chance to win — we will be choosing a winner on Friday, December 13th! **

This is an original post by our writer in the UK, Sophie Walker.

The image in this post is credited to the author.

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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SOUTH AFRICA: Why Are We Women So Hard on Ourselves?

SOUTH AFRICA: Why Are We Women So Hard on Ourselves?

SuperwomanSeveral years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. It’s a common disorder affecting about 5% of all women and is characterized by widespread pain and many other symptoms.

Fibromyalgia is not a psychiatric disorder, even though a particular kind of anti-depressant or anti-seizure medication is sometimes helpful in controlling the nerve pain.

In my case, on a “good” day I feel the same body “achiness” and fatigue normally associated with the flu. On a “bad” day any movement brings tears to my eyes.

The reason I mentioned my Fibromyalgia is just to illustrate a point – as moms we tend to put everybody else’s well-being ahead of our own.  My daily pain and fatigue is my new “normal” so for the most part I don’t even mention it.  Despite my daily pain, I hold down a full-time job, do chores, do charity work and study online.  Do I think I’m “special” for doing all that? Absolutely not!

Yet I still feel guilty because my husband cooks most night. I also rely on my teenage daughter to do a lot around the house and on my son to clean up the yard. I constantly feel that I’m not doing a good enough job of taking care of my house and my family. I want to be a better wife, mother and employee but I’m physically unable to do more than what I already do.

My husband and children are very loving and supportive. They don’t have a problem with helping out. I’m the one who feels like a failure when I can’t do everything I think I should be doing.

Even knowing that I’m doing the best I can, my inner critic doesn’t seem to cut me any slack. My best is simply not good enough. There, I’ve said it. I don’t think I’m a good enough wife and mother and that’s all I care about. What’s funny is that I know (in my head) that I can’t be all bad. I know I must be doing something right because I have a great relationship with my husband and I’ve helped to raise two really amazing young people.

Recently I started feeling worse than usual but I just chalked it up to my Fibromyalgia and kept on going. I finally went to see my doctor when the bad days weren’t letting up.

It turned out that I was feeling so awful not because of my Fibromyalgia (although that surely didn’t help) but because I had a bacterial infection that had spread from my sinuses to my chest.  I was diagnosed with sinusitis, laryngitis and a chest infection – all of which required antibiotics and bed rest. I didn’t even know it was possible to have all three at the same time.

Obviously my doctor booked me off work.  I stayed home but of course I felt guilty about not going to the office. I know I’m far from unique in this regard. No matter how “good” we moms try to be, we always feel that we’re somehow dropping the ball.

Why is that?  Why is it that we are able to be so supportive of each other and so compassionate towards others, but we’re so harsh with ourselves?

I know that I need to learn a new way of living.  I need to find a way to stop feeling guilty about things that are outside my control.

If you were hoping for some answers from this post, I’m sorry to disappoint you.  I don’t have any answers, just a lot of questions.

How do you change more than 40 years of conditioning so that your children learn a different way of being through your example? How do you learn to accept your limitations with grace and gratitude? How do you start being as kind to yourself as you are to others?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Mamma Simona from Cape Town, South Africa. She shares her home with a husband, 2 kids, 2 cats and 2 dogs.

Photo Credit To: Hans Van Den Berg : Flickr Creative Commons
This photo has a creative commons attribution license.

Mamma Simona (South Africa)

Mamma Simona was born in Rome (Italy) but has lived in Cape Town (South Africa) since she was 8 years old. She studied French at school but says she’s forgotten most of it! She speaks Italian, English and Afrikaans. Even though Italian is the first language she learned, she considers English her "home" language as it's the language she's most comfortable in. She is happily married and the proud mother of 2 terrific teenagers! She also shares her home with 2 cats and 2 dogs ... all rescues. Mamma Simona has worked in such diverse fields as Childcare, Tourism, Library Services, Optometry, Sales and Admin! (With stints of SAHM in-between). She’s really looking forward to the day she can give up her current Admin job and devote herself entirely to blogging and (eventually) being a full-time grandmother!

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#Moms4MDGs MDG #3 with Girl Up,Plan International & Al-Nahda

#Moms4MDGs MDG #3 with Girl Up,Plan International & Al-Nahda

#Moms4MDGs Button

In 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. This pledge turned into the eight Millennium Development Goals, and was written as the Millennium Goal Declaration .- United Nations Development Programme


 This month as we continue our #Moms4MDG campaign we are  joining forces with three dynamic organizations,  Al-Nahda in Saudi Arabia, and United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, and Plan International, all working towards MDG #3.

Al-Nahda is a charitable women’s society dedicated to empowering women socially and economically through the execution of numerous projects and programs with the goal for women to be active partners in the development of Saudi Arabian society.

Girl Up is a campaign of the United Nations Foundation where American girls are given the opportunity to become global leaders and to channel their energy and compassion to raise awareness and funds for United Nations programs that help some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls.  The goal of Girl Up is a world where all girls, no matter where they live, have the opportunity to become educated, healthy, safe, counted and positioned to be the next generation of leaders.

Plan International is one of the oldest and largest children’s development organizations in the world, working in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. Their Because I’m A Girl Campaign aims to support millions of girls to get the education, skills and support they need to transform their lives and the world around them.

Millennium Development Goal #3 is to promote gender equality and empower women.  Although the initial target of MDG 3 to eliminate the gender disparity between boys and girls in primary education has been reached, there are still huge gaps for women in higher education and the work force.  Violence, poverty and discrimination in the work force continue to delay progress for women in many areas of the world. Here, at World Moms Blog, we believe that when women come together we are powerful, and that collectively we can create change.

Join us tomorrow October 16th for our #Moms4MDGs Twitter party to discuss Gender Equality with @GirlUp at 1:00 EST, and with Plan International @PlanGlobal at 9pm EST.  By joining in you will automatically be entered to win a copy of Malala Yousafzai’s new book I Am Malala. We hope to see you there!


P.S. Never been to a twitter party before?  Go to www.tweetchat.com and put in the hashtag: “#Moms4MDGs during the party times. From there you can retweet and tweet and the hashtag will automatically be added to your tweets. And, from there you can also view all of the party tweets!

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Voice Editor, Elizabeth Atalay of Documama in Rhode Island, USA.  

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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BELGIUM:  The Balancing Act

BELGIUM: The Balancing Act

balancing actI suppose it is inevitable. After all, people are what they are, they can’t change themselves. And although curiosity was apparently the mastermind behind the murder of someone’s cat, there are many curious people out there.

And curious people ask questions.

Sometimes stupid questions, sometimes profound questions, sometime questions which aren’t really questions but more a judgement on one of your actions and/or beliefs.

And sometimes people ask questions on matters which are none of their damn business.

One of those questions is the oft asked : “When are you having another?” or – since I have two girls: “When are you going to have a boy?”.

The answer usually runs along the lines of : “Oh not just yet! I have enough on my plate with just these two!” or “A boy? With these two… (at which I point at my girls doing whatever they are doing) the poor thing would just get traumatized.”

But I rarely tell the truth: No, never. No we are not trying for another baby. No we are not planning to “gift” our girls with a baby brother.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that I had my two girls in such a short space of time (When n°2 was born n°1 was a mere 16 months old) but I am most definitely done having children.

There are many reasons, finances being but one of them. No, we are not in financial trouble, but face it: raising a child is wickedly expensive. For the past three years we’ve spent a small fortune on day care and let’s not even talk about the price of diapers shall we… Had I been better informed I might seriously have considered buying stock options in Pampers or Huggies. With both kids in school we get a bit of financial breathing space, we can afford to finish our home.

But the main reason is balance.

When you are a mother, whether you have a job or are a stay at home mom, life is nothing less than a big balancing act on a loose rope above a pit filled with hungry tigers and fire.

Our balance is OK, right now. We are not in immediate danger of falling off the rope. Both kids attend school full-time, they are too young to have ‘real’ hobbies yet so no rush, rush, rush on Saturday morning – as yet (Please note: I do not count running after each other screaming bloody murder as a hobby).

Because of their relative closeness in age their feeding schedules (if I may be so blunt) are relatively in sync, meaning I don’t have to provide three or four individual breakfasts, lunches and dinners anymore each day. Lately they’ve started playing proper games together, in which each is an equal player and which do not require constant parental interference, just distant supervision.

We can start going on proper outings without dragging half the nursery and a whole plethora of baby food along, just a change of clothes, some cookies and a water bottle will get us through.

So in short: after four years of clutching desperately at that rope we’ve arrived at a spot where we can breathe freely, where we can relax for just a second, where there is time to be “us” and “just me” again.

The realization that we were as we should be came when we gave away the double stroller without an inch of pain or regret. Just happiness that there would finally be some more room in the garage.

Our family has found its balance and it feels wonderful.

When did you realize your family was as it should be?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in Belgium and mother of just two…Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes.

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes

Born in Belgium on the fourth of July in a time before the invention of the smart phone Tinne is a working mother of two adorably mischievous little girls, the wife of her high school sweetheart and the owner of a black cat called Atilla. Since she likes to cook her blog is mainly devoted to food and because she is Belgian she has an absurd sense of humour and is frequently snarky. When she is not devoting all her attention to the internet, she likes to read, write and eat chocolate. Her greatest nemesis is laundry.

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swimmerHurrah for Diana Nyad!

In a few short weeks she has overturned long-established ideas about age and ability and strength and given us all a reason to keep swimming.

Nyad, in case you’ve been looking the other way, is the 64-year-old woman who recently became the first person to swim the 110 miles from Cuba to the U.S. without a shark cage, taking almost 53 hours.

This would be a marathon effort at any time, but when you consider that it was her fifth attempt over some forty years; that she had to wear a mask to protect her from jellyfish stings; that she took in so much sea water it caused her to vomit constantly for almost all of that 53 hours; that she arrived finally with face and lips swollen from sun and sea water – well, then her achievement, and her insistence not to be deflected from her aim, would seem to reflect almost superhuman levels of endurance.

The word endurance does not typically bring to mind 64-year-old women. In our culture, it is often used to describe young men – runners, rowers and cyclists at the peak of their profession or pushy capitalists doing extreme sports to fill that adrenaline void when Wall Street is closed.

Google “Endurance” and up come pictures of young, lean, tanned male muscle in a celebration of machismo as traditional now as images of mustachioed weight-lifters once were in Victorian times.

The same web search also shows sepia-tinged photographs of the tall-masted Victorian adventure ship christened Endurance, on which British polar explorer Ernest Shackleton set off for Antarctic expeditions in the last century. (Twenty-first century sailor Ellen MacArthur’s solo circumnavigation of the globe strangely does not feature.)

Nonetheless, I think many women, hearing Nyad’s achievement, will have given a little nod, and maybe a small smile, of understanding. Many more will never hear of her, yet understand without discussion the will that kept Nyad going.

Though they may not be sports fanatics, or travelers with a yen for the toughest destinations, many women set their own personal standards of endurance in their day-to-day existences.

Their marathon may consist of walking for hours to find water and food in conditions of extreme poverty and hunger. Their endurance training may consist of watching their children die for the lack of a cheap vaccine. Their 53-hour record may be for the time worked within a dangerous and miserably uncomfortable factory, to earn a tiny amount with which a family can just about be supported.

For the luckier ones, endurance may just mean a bleak commute, juggling the needs of employers and families and ever-mounting bills. It may mean keeping smiling when a child is in pain, it may mean getting up for the fifth time in one night to attend to small, fevered offspring while knowing that big important morning meeting is looming. It may mean getting over the disappointment when that male colleague got that promotion. It may mean an ability to keep walking with head high when the cat calls keep coming.

Endurance can mean many things. Diana Nyad has reminded us that it is not an exclusively male domain. Already crowds of cynics are assembling to cast doubt on Nyad’s achievement, wondering how an old woman could have completed that swim in that time. Clearly her next endurance test lies just ahead.

But whatever the outcome, she has broadened the parameters of what the will to keep going looks like. And that is no small feat, either.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in the UK and mother of four, Sophie.

The image used in this post is credited to Alan Cleaver. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.


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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BRAZIL: My Birth Story, Part III: A Rewarding Peace

BRAZIL: My Birth Story, Part III: A Rewarding Peace

Today’s post is a continuation of a South American birth story from our contributor in Brazil, Eco Ziva.  Click here for part one  and part two of her birth story on World Moms Blog. 

Pregnant Woman with Globe

Coincidence or not, about five minutes after the encouraging message the contractions began. At first I didn’t want to admit they were contractions – not even to myself. It is true that they were different from any kind of contraction I had felt before. They were restricted to a small area of my lower abdomen and were less painful. By then my husband had already filled in the tub and after a while I finally accepted I was in active labor and agreed that he turn on the water heater.

The warm water calmed me and I managed to get all thoughts out of my mind. The fear was completely gone. I soon figured out that each contraction lasted exactly the time it took for me to mentally recite four prayers I knew by heart due to my Catholic upbringing: Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Guardian Angel and the Saint Germain prayers. I used that as a meditation and it made the contractions quite bearable.

What was happening around me is all jumbled in my mind and I don’t really remember. I know that our daughter had become fully awake, while our son completely blacked out no matter how much his father tried to wake him. My husband was also running around back and forth organizing things (I think).

The midwife arrived at around 11:30 p.m. with her daughter (an apprentice midwife), a doula, and her sister, an acupuncturist. After talking with them for a while I reluctantly left the water to be examined. The baby’s heartbeat was fine and I was 7 cm dilated.

Since my daughter’s labor had progressed a bit faster I was slightly discouraged thinking I still had another hour or so before reaching full dilation. However, at this point the midwife asked permission to try something new with me. She (who is also an acupuncturist) and her sister had recently learned a way to diminish the pain in labor and I would be the first they would try it on. They also wanted to try a technique where I would push as little as possible and let the baby come out softly in order to avoid tearing (this was due to my big babies and the enormous tear I had the previous time).

No, the pain did not diminish (much to the contrary!). Yet what happened after she placed the acupuncture needles was equally amazing. Things sped up considerably and in two or three contractions I felt like pushing. Not only did I feel like pushing but I couldn’t help it – so much for letting the baby come out slowly! Differently from my previous labor processes, where the pushing phase felt much more like a need to go to the bathroom, this time these contractions were quite painful.

During my daughter’s labor process I held back for a while during the pushing phase because I was afraid of tearing. This time I just wanted to get it over with and see our son. Not simply get over with labor – I wanted to put it all behind me, all the months of illness after illness, all the fear, and now the pain.

At some point our daughter (who was watching everything outside the tub, right behind me) started crying, I guess from all the faces I was making as I pushed. I reassured her mommy was fine and my husband picked her up.

I pushed so hard I began to feel my blood pressure drop as if I was going to faint. I asked for the water-honey mixture my husband had prepared while the midwife pressed an acupressure point straight below my nose, and I soon felt better.

I checked to see how far the baby was from crowning and was once again discouraged when I felt the head about 10 cm away. The midwife reassured me that it wouldn’t take long for him to descend and in the next contraction I pushed with all my might. I checked again and the seemed the distance seemed to have decreased by half.

Amidst all this, everyone in the room was singing a beautiful song that talked of world peace, union and love. What a wonderful way to welcome a new being onto this planet! Over the next days this song was in my head, and every time a warm feeling came to my heart, along with a wish that more children could come into the world in such a loving, harmonious way. I truly believe it would contribute to a more peaceful Earth.

Two or three contractions later he emerged. It was 34 minutes past midnight. I remember the first words the midwife told me, smiling, were “You broke a record!”

I asked if the cord was around his neck and she said yes and removed it. Then he came straight to my breast. I had felt a great sense of relief and contentment after my two other children were born – even after the C-section, but nothing can be compared to this time. All of a sudden I felt like a completely new woman, fearless and full of energy, and who seemed to never have been ill or in pain.

After the cord stopped pulsating, my husband cut it and we waited for the placenta, chatting excitedly. I had thought of having a Lotus birth, but after so much havoc I realized now I just wanted to rest. I donated the placenta to the midwife as she uses it to make homeopathic medicine.

All in all – despite the initial fear and panic – it was a wonderful birth, a great gift after such a difficult pregnancy. As I finish writing this our beautiful baby boy (the best gift of this entire story!) is sleeping peacefully next to me.

How was/were your birthing experience(s)? Please share.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our mother of three in Brazil, Eco Ziva.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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