Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Love is in the air

What does love have to do with your health?

It’s Valentine’s Day. Let’s talk about love. Red hearts, roses and chocolates! We may think of the heart as the source of love and romance, but researchers tell us otherwise. These emotions, they say, come from ‘the thinker’ – our brain. It’s the source of chemicals or hormones that control our body like an invisible electrical wiring system. It’s called ‘emotional biochemistry’.

On researching emotional biochemistry, this is what I found on the net. It’s written by Pilar Gerasimo journalist, social explorer, podcaster, and self-proclaimed Healthy Deviant. Read her blog: https://pilargerasimo.com/

“Like it or not, emotions share some very real biochemical links with your nervous, endocrine, immune and digestive systems. Isn’t it time you learned something about how your body responds to what you feel—and vice versa?

Thanks to new imaging technologies, research scientists have now been able to demonstrate how thoughts and emotions cause distinct neuron-firing patterns within various parts of the brain. They can also observe how these patterns coincide with chemical releases and reactions throughout the body.”

In other words, emotions affect our health – and love is one that we can’t live without. This reminded me of my student-nursing days when I was working at the Children’s Hospital.

One little patient had nothing physically wrong with him, but was diagnosed as a ‘failure to thrive’ and was behind in his developmental milestones, unresponsive to stimulation and had ‘flat-head syndrome’ because he was never picked up, played with or loved. Social workers had found this neglected baby in a brothel, and his treatment plan was to play, stimulate and love him. It took months for this baby boy to recover ‘lost time’, but it was very rewarding watching him respond to love. He recovered sufficiently to be sent to a loving family for foster care.

According to the Greek translation of the word love, there are many types:

Philia is affectionate love – the love you have for a friend
Ludus is uncommitted, playful love – like flirting and your first-love
Pragma is long-lasting, enduring love – a mature love that older married couples enjoy after many stormy years together
Philautic love is loving yourself in spite of personal setbacks
Agape is unconditional love
Eros, the Greek god of fertility, is sexual love.  

“Hooked” by Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic Bush is an interesting book about love, sex and the brain. Here is a short extract:

“In a relationship of true love and long-term commitment, sex takes its appropriate place – not at the centre of the relationship, but as one of the natural outcomes of the healthy connectedness of two people. Sex will then be a catalyst to the full, healthy, long-term committed relationship it strengthens.”

Love is what makes us human. Love overrides mistakes and imperfections. It forgives and forgets past hurts. Love is the link in a chain that keeps a family together. The ‘greatest book ever written’ summarises love like this: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. LOVE NEVER ENDS.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8.

Celebrate the gift of Love today! 

This month’s recommended blogger is Clint Edwards – the author of the humorous book on parenting This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things and No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Read what he has to say about Valentines Day. I highly recommend you follow his advice!


Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Pregnancy Education Week

Pregnancy Education Week (12 – 16th February) African Birth

It is interesting working as a midwife in South Africa because many African women still hold onto traditional cultural beliefs when it comes to pregnancy, birth and babies. For example, women are told not to have sex during the last few weeks of pregnancy. If her baby is born with vernix (natural creamy water-proofing lubricant on baby’s skin) she’s found guilty of breaking this cardinal rule!

It’s understandable that women will go to great lengths to avoid pregnancy and labour difficulties – even if it means complying to traditional myths like not plaiting your hair so that the umbilical cord does not get knotted, covering your belly with buck skin so that the baby will be born fit and agile, and not eating boiled eggs because it’s believed that they will delay labour.

It’s not easy being a woman – periods are painful, messy and inconvenient, pregnancy is nine-months of uncertainty and childbirth is just darned-right scary. Women will do anything to make it easier, prevent complications and make the pain go away. Each time that I was pregnant I went to church more often, prayed the rosary and lit thanksgiving candles afterwards! I pinned medals onto the vests of my grandchildren and blessed them with holy water from Medjugorje. So, who am I to question the validity of ‘lucky charms’ worn by African women during pregnancy, the wrist, ankle and belly amulets, the ‘tsonga xanga’ (a maiden’s post-puberty ‘initiation belt’ that’s dipped in her first menses as part of the transition from childhood to womanhood and again in a herbal mixture after the birth of her first baby) or drinking a herbal mixture called “isihambezo”.

Professor Beverly Chalmers (PhD) studied African birth and wrote a fascinating book on the subject.  My own experience of African birth were brief spells working voluntarily in the townships of Grahamstown, delivering babies by the dozen during the 1976 riots in make-shift conditions, and working in the municipal ante-natal clinic during the apartheid era when black and white mothers were kept separate.

It’s taken me a life-time to learn that centuries of inbred cultural beliefs are powerful and that no young midwife fresh from college is going to persuade an African woman to follow instructions that make no sense to her. My colleagues who worked at BBH (Boksburg-Benoni Hospital) told us stories of women in labour who complied with the ‘stranded-beetle position’ (lying flat on your back during labour) until the baby’s head was ready to ‘crown’. Then they would get off the bed to squat underneath it, give birth to her baby, then climb back onto the bed with the wet and slippery baby in her arms, still attached to the umbilical cord!

The objective of Pregnancy Education Week is to stress the importance of ante-natal care to help prevent complications. In South Africa, all women are tested for HIV so that they can have ARV (Ante-retroviral) treatment to spare the baby getting the virus – mainly during delivery. We know that babies of women with Low folate and vitamin B12 levels risk neural-tube defects, that some viruses during the first trimester affect the developing baby, that toxins like nicotine, drugs and alcohol can cause irreparable damage and that certain vaginal infections will infect the baby during the birth.

The objective of ante-natal clinics is to prevent preventable complications and to date, the successes of these clinics outweigh the inconveniences of having to take time off work, or wait in long queues when women don’t have the luxury of medical aid and private health care.

Finally, let’s not forget the pregnant teenager who often hides her pregnancy for as long as possible – sometimes until she goes into labour. Women younger than 18 are just as much at risk for complications as are women over the age of 40. These young girls are ostracised at school, and often by their parents and society because their ‘mistake’ is public knowledge. More needs to be done to help the pregnant teenager who has opted to go ahead with her pregnancy for the sake of her baby, in spite of the challenges she will have to face alone in the future.

If you are pregnant, scared and alone, reach out to a friend or pick up the phone and find out about ante-natal care. For your sake, and that of your unborn child.

Illustration taken from “African Birth – Childbirth in Cultural Transition” by Beverly Chalmers PhD

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Living with a purpose

The Purpose Driven Life

It’s the end of January and I’m wondering what happened to the ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ we made just a few weeks ago?

Since most of us have broken them anyway, I thought: How about changing them to: The Purpose Driven Life? Is this more doable than making unrealistic promises?

I look at it like this – a day without purpose is a day wasted. It doesn’t have to be amazing – when you’re a busy mom, just getting the basics done is a day with purpose. But don’t forget to have some fun while you’re at it. Enjoy your children, laugh with them, treasure their innocence, look them in the eye when you talk to them.

I realise that not everybody has a purpose. Not everybody has a job to go to (I work from home).  Not having a purpose can make people feel rejected and unwanted. Then depression sets in and people don’t want to (or don’t have the energy) to do things. The doctor prescribes ante-depressants and sleeping tablets. These can become addictive with unpleasant side-effects. It can go downhill from here.

But when you have a Purpose Driven Life, it gives you a reason to get up in the morning – even if you don’t have a job to go to – or your children are all grown up. When you have set your mind to DO something, it keeps you focused and motivated. It renews your energy and stimulates ‘happiness hormones’. Happiness is contagious. Happy people draw others into their circle. Happiness boosts confidence, appetite, energy levels and ultimately our health. It’s all part of the ‘human condition’ – the more you do, the more you want to do it … and the less you do, the less you want to do.

What is The Purpose Driven Life:

In babyhood it’s to adapt and survive.

In childhood it’s to learn.

In young adulthood it’s to strive for a career, a profession, a partner for life. For many women, it’s to find the right man who will father her children. Men ultimately get ‘domesticated’ and play a very important role in nurturing a family. 
In adulthood we either follow a career or raise a family.

After this chaotic life-style, pressure and stress, we may find ourselves at a loose-end and asking: What is my purpose? What are my talents? What happened to my dreams to write, paint, play a musical instrument, open a coffee-shop, do carpentry, start a business, fly an aeroplane or learn a new skill?

Maybe you missed the bus because there was no time and no money to pursue these?

The first step is to make a start. Write down your PURPOSE and the steps you need to take to do this. Join a group. Look for a blog to give you the know-how. Surf the net for resources.

Take one day at a time. Even if you are ill. Phone a friend. Write your story. Make something. Grow a garden. Bake a cake and invite somebody you have not spoken to for a long time to eat it with you! Have a purpose for tomorrow and every tomorrow after today. 

Live the Purpose Driven Life!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

After matric / school-leaving, your teen's 'long walk to freedom' has just begun!

School’s finished – now what?

Even though most teens can’t wait to finish school, many may find themselves at a loose end now that the holidays are over and schools have re-opened – especially if they have decided to take a gap-year but can’t find a job, if they haven’t made study-plans or don’t qualify for college or university.

Understandably parents get frustrated when their teens mooch around the house, watch TV, hang out with their friends and eat. Days become weeks become months and demotivation and depression sets in when their friends find jobs – or when jobs become scarcer and nastier.

Every year, thousands of matriculants leave school and look for work. The current unemployment rate in South Africa is a daunting 27.7%. School-leavers who don’t have experience, skills or teachableness could be facing a bleak and jobless future. 
The school curriculum, ambitious teachers and protective parents doesn’t always prepare teens for the harsh realities of the REAL world out there! School-leavers walk a tightrope between school and the unknown, not sure where they’re heading! Until now they've pretty much taken life for granted. Their "long walk to freedom" has just begun!

Top tips for teens:

  • Have the courage of your convictions. If you want to travel, go overseas, work on a ship or become a chef, make a plan to follow your dreams
  • Take your school-blinkers off and think out of the box. Do things differently – be bold and brave when looking for a job, and be prepared to start in the basement (I started by emptying bed-pans!)
  • Read, read, read. Motivational books, stories, articles. Make lists. Plan and stick to these plans
  • Be prepared to ask questions. This does not make you stupid – it makes you smart
  • Network with people you know already working in the industry you’re interested in
  • Start afresh. Turn over a new leaf. Be different to the way you were when you were in school
  • Ask older folk (even grandparents) for advice. Ask them: ‘What would you do if you were in my shoes?’

There are gaps in the job market – you just have to show that you’ve got what it takes for the job. Getting a foot in the door means eating humble-pie and doing voluntary work in return for training and a small stipend to cover living costs. Getting into the industry of your choice can begin by sweeping floors, filing or making tea. Gaining experience comes with hard work. Use mentors like Mark Shuttleworth, Tokyo Sexwale and Cyril Ramaphosa. 

Success can begin with baking muffins, sewing on grandma’s old singer or working from your neighbour’s garage.

Tips for parents:

  • Don’t nag!
  • Encourage your teen to focus on their talents and passions
  • Let your teen make the calls and call the shots
  • Start local – scan community newspapers and notice boards for job opportunities
  • Make use of NGO’s offering free basic training workshops
  • If teens WFF (work for free) it gives them the chance to make contacts with the right people
  • Encourage creative ideas: e.g. collecting yesterday’s fashion from the wealthy-trendy-upper crust and resell it (washed and ironed) or recycling old computers
  • Waitressing – this can be lucrative but shouldn’t be seen as permanent.

You’ll hear ‘Nah!’ to these suggestions but set a dead-line and tell your teen that you have plan B in mind e.g. volunteer him/her to WFF as a teacher’s assistant, on a family farm, grocery store or B&B.

Don’t break their spirit! Don’t keep saying “I told you”. Listen to your teen. If their idea sounds crazy, keep your lips sealed. Once a teen has made up their mind there’s no stopping them – even if it’s only to prove you wrong!

With their matric certificate, teens can apply to go to college/ university/trade-school/au-pairing when applications for 2019 open later in the year. In the meantime, they WILL mature, get their drivers licence, open a savings account, become responsible and gain confidence!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

What to look out for in day-care facilities

Choosing the best day care for your child

Women are an important part of the work-force and yet (in South African at least) employers don’t do much to help moms take care of their babies and children when they’re not at home. Some women use the services of an au-pair, a nanny or ask granny to help during baby’s first year. The benefits are that babies don’t have to leave the house, they’re spared crèche infections and enjoy one-on-one attention.

Some crèches have a baby centre. Here’s what to look for when you’re shopping for baby-care:

Is the child-minder friendly? Does she enjoy looking after babies and small children?
Does she have experience? Or children of her own?
Is the facility clean?
Do the babies look happy?
Does the centre provide for the baby’s needs i.e. clean, safe cots, hygienic nappy-changing area, feeding chairs, safe area for babies to crawl around, sufficient staff?
Is the environment colourful and stimulating?
Is the kitchen where food and bottles are prepared, hygienic?
Does each baby have a daily ‘report book’?

Toddlers and young children who go to play-school are:

Developing social skills
Nurturing their intelligence
Learning to talk
Very curious

Play-school needs to fulfil these needs. A nursery-school should not:

Leave the children to watch TV
Leave them to play unsupervised
Medicate them to sleep (sigh!) This happens!
Keep the children inside all day
Expect children of all ages to play together.

Pre-schoolers are prepped for going to ‘big school’. This means learning their reading, writing and numbers. They need to get used to routine and learn to sit still while paying attention for at least 20 minutes at a stretch. They also need to learn to copy from the blackboard and do what the teacher tells them to do – not only what they want to do!

You can help your child cope with nursery school by making sure he is healthy, eats a balance diet and gets at least 12 hours sleep every night. It also helps when the home is organised and there is routine during the week. Because the child does not get to spend a lot of time with his parents, make the evening meal a family occasion and read to your child at bed-time. It’s difficult I know, because parents are frazzled at the end of their busy day, but it’s worth enjoying your children while they’re young. All too soon they will be teenagers who only want to do their own thing.

Top tips:

Children learn confidence when they’re loved
Show an interest in everything that your child does
Reward co-operative behaviour
Listen to your child’s point of view.