Friday, July 6, 2018

How to not throw up

I will pretend that it hasn't been a year since I wrote in here. No excuse. Hopefully if you were seriously looking through here looking for something from me, maybe the old posts kept you company. There are some oldies but goodies guys.

I'm currently trying not to throw up. So this is what happened. We had a happy surprise. In Zimbabwe they say just do gagaga. Basically they mean reproduce one after the other as if you have never attended a family planning session. They don't however offer to look after the small babies whilst you have a smaller baby. Nooo, just do gagaga. It's good for you. Apparently you will be grateful when you/they are older. So yes in case you have failed to read between the lines, we are expecting another baby. Very excited and grateful... Just don't try this if you value basic human posture and don't like carrying 20kgs around all the time.

Anashe is at that stage where she wants to be carried or she unleashes an academy winning performance of rolling in anguish on the floor. Then comes a shrill scream which will only stop if I pick her up. Mind you I am honoured to be the only recipient of this show. She is pretty much an angel with everyone else. It's like she knows there's someone about to join us and is maximising on being the baby. But shame, she is a baby. So maybe we will just say I am about to be a mum of twins.. One slightly older. I used to look at parents who dress their kids same same and think come on. A little individuality guys. I now know it's because ain't nobody got time to be going through kids section clothes looking for individuality. Does it fit. Yes. Get two.

Anyway, so yeah just thought I would update you. I have many a funny little story of my daily struggles. If you are my friend on LinkedIn you will know I started a new job. I hope my new employer can see through my waddle and panting up the stairs and believe the stuff I said in the interview. I'm good, I promise. Just give me benefit of the belly. I will be back. Its a great place though. Good people. I've hung my clinical coat and stethoscope and committed rest of my career to health programming and research. You knew it was inevitable. I do miss my patients. Sometimes. Especially the ones who came with colds and flue at my fancy locum and we would just have a good chat about life. I do not miss feeling helpless when there was nothing we could do for a malnourished child with an HB of 3, with mother who fed them sadza and soup for months and is gasping  no blood in the blood bank. No vien in site. And this was daily. After having Anashe I couldn't handle paediatrics. It was now too personal. But I have resolved that I can do my part by influencing policy, being an advocate and educating and preventing the problems which would walk in through those casualty doors.

Anyway, writing this on my phone so not sure how long it will be. Good news is I still haven't thrown up. Let us keep it that way. Please.

Next time I will have something more useful for you to read in terms of how to be an excellent mother and home keeper. Not from my experience of course.

Have a lovely day, my people.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I am a vulnerable girl

The African girl child is the lowest denomination of a human being.

Think about it. Being a woman. Being black. Being a child. Being African. Each of these have had a hashtag or two advocating for their rights on social media. Imagine being all the above? We could add to these factors - poverty, no education, wrangle in political instability, war, drought, famine. How is any girl supposed to make it against these insurmountable odds?

And yet. They rise. Still they rise.

I have specialized in field epidemiology. It is an unexpected passion. I always knew I would do something a little different but battling the elements, interviewing communities and producing document upon document is a little out there. And I love it. I recently evaluated a mentorship programme for vulnerable girls in Zimbabwe called Sista2sista in one of the countries' provinces and my findings were impressive.

The Sista2sista programme was launched in Zimbabwe in September 2013. The aim of the Sista2Sista programme is to enhance the self-efficacy of young women to access and utilize integrated HIV prevention, Sexual Reproductive Health and Gender-based Violence services by empowering them to make responsible reproductive health decisions. The methodology that was chosen is one of building group rapport among a group of young women through facilitating meetings in clubs for girls only. These clubs, coined “Sista2Sista Clubs” provide an environment where an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust between the Club members can be built, giving them a social support network within their own community that is likely to lie beyond the confines and the lifespan of their Sista2Sista Club. The clubs create safe spaces for mentoring vulnerable adolescent girls (school drop outs, orphans and teenage mothers), a space where they can speak with mentors and each other about their problems and receive information, counselling and support.

You will find the results of my evaluation in my published work (listen to me). Well, I'm sure I'm not allowed to share anything yet but what I can tell you is that the African girl is out there clutching onto any shred of hope offered to her. Mentorship is one of the best ways to empower and teach vulnerable girls. It uses a long-term intervention approach as compared to fly-by-night campaigns which wear off with time. Mentors form relationships with mentees which are long-lasting and can imprint on a young mind in a meaningful way. I was so impressed by the attitude of the volunteer mentors who did not care that they were paid $15 a month but rather recommended the programme increase the minimum number of girls they are allowed to recruit. These are women who, because of their role, were elevated in their communities and felt obliged to be better role models for their girls. The girls themselves; confident, happy, financially aware, wanting to do better, be better; after a year in the programme were pillars for the other girls in the community. It was very encouraging to see that somethings are actually working.

I saw these girls and thought: but I was once here. Bright eyed and ambitious. When I was 17 my aspirations included wanting to travel, wanting to be pretty, wanting independence which would enable me to provide for my family and of course, love. The girls in the programme I was evaluating now, to many, are just statistics. Highest incidence of HIV. Drivers of the epidemic. Vulnerable group. Key affected population. But really, they are just like I was; a girl wanting adventure, freedom, love.

I am happy I am in a position to make some sort of impact here or there in this area. Empowering these vulnerable girls to just be girls. Allow them to be silly and giggly and happy. Everyone deserves to be who they are. Even the vulnerable African girl child.

Friday, January 13, 2017

First 136 Hours of Love - My Week One of Motherhood

Firstly for those guys who don't have kids and are thinking 'oh no, not another baby post'...I used to be you. And yes I still think most newborn babies look exactly the same - like prunes; I don't get why we need moment by moment feeds of a baby's every move when they all generally do the same thing right, and generally bored by the milestone photo's (how are we celebrating someone using a toilet alone? they better be!) Okay I am not that disinterested. Some babies are cute like the ones on But that's another post. The thing is now that I am on the other side of things, I sorta get it. No, no I am not selling out, let me try and explain in 10 simple points stuff I have learnt about being a mum in the last 135 hours since my world was turned up-side down.

1. My baby is the best. No, seriously. This is what every parent thinks. They have the best facial expressions, the best fingers, even the best poo! And the reason parents post and boast about their kids like they are being paid to is because they are convinced of this fact. But on a real, mine is the best.

2. Sources of information for first-time mums comes from 7x77 different sources. You got to just mix and match as you go. and umamazala (mother-in-law) may have completely opposite advice. Tie-breaker is the midwife. But then the paediatrician and your friend with 4 healthy grown up kids will also tell you different things regarding say 'use of baby powder'. Well just ask the baby, try both sides of advice and see what works. But who wants their baby to be an experiment? You also have what your mum advises, the ladies at the baby shower, the Baby Centre website forum, the e-book your sister sent, and actual research from published medical journals...which I tend to be inclined to due to my profession but then again everything has been proven to be bad for you 'in recent studies'. Then there's good ol' wives tales. Ignore these at your own risk. Then there's actual information I have as a qualified doctor. This is apparently nullified because I am not allowed to treat my own child..but guys, I can't UNknow stuff. Info will kill you. Pray for wisdom. Read but also listen.

3. When will this baby's real mother show up? From the moment they hand her over to you, you simply cannot believe she is yours. You can finally put the tummy kicks to a face and this creature is so perfect. But wait a minute. Seriously, she is yours? You feel like you will be found out by the baby police for masquerading as parents. So you just play it cool and pretend you know what you are doing. Eventually though, you realize that diaper change is actually not that hard. And when you (they) achieve the first burp ( a real one, not that cough you decided was a burp) you look around waiting for a standing ovation from your imaginary reality TV audience. But there's nothing in the dead of 2:47am, just the burp. And that's enough for you.

4. Suddenly the world is too big, too unstable and too dangerous. You get concerned about things you never cared about. The kid who was kidnapped from hospital in 2007 is suddenly the most important news item you have ever read. AND now you wonder about good education and the future of the economy. Congrats, you are becoming a good member of society. But then it gets personal and you wonder whether your job is worth the hours away from bubba. Then again bubba is the reason you feel so motivated to become a millionaire. And I mean like tomorrow. Because obviously, you are going to give this human the world.

5. I have never been so tired in my life...but also never so alive. The threats are real. When you are pregnant everyone is like 'oh you think you are tired now, wait till the baby comes!' And secretly you think, nah not me. I will have a 'routine'. Mfana, you think others didn't have routines? Generally you can't do anything every two hours and think you will be normal. The word is zombie. But of all the things I've had to wake up for at 3am, this sure beats studying for microbiology paper 2. And at the end of it you get a heart-breaking smile which looks like its saying 'thanks mum'. OK that's a lie, she just sleeps but I imagine she is smiling on the inside.

6. Do one thing at a time. Choose wisely what that is. You will be faced with many decisions like should I get into the shower now or attend to that whimper I may have imagined coming from the baby. I'm sure you know the answer. When in doubt always check the diaper. They will tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps. Good luck with that one. Sheer excitement and visitors can keep you up but the consequences will make you change your ways. Refer to point number 5. They don't advise you to put on your oxygen mask first before anyone else's in an aircrash for nothing. You have to have to have to look after yourself before you can ably look after somebody else. I learnt this the hard way when I forgot to take my pain medicine. At the end of it all no body is happy.

7. My heart has left my body and is walking around outside. I was told the worrying never stops, maybe I may learn to handle it better in future. I'm talking about full blown panic over a tiny pimple on the baby's thigh for instance. Rational thinking has been lost forever. And the worst part is I have TOO MUCH knowledge of worst case scenarios. The mosquito I saw near the crib the other day was like a dragon sent from the world of Ors. Never have I killed so vengefully. All cars drive too fast. Insects should be banned. The country of China should be sued for products which cause reactions. And hand sanitizer is the best invention.

8. Breastfeeding. I have no words. In shona they would say 'ma-one'.

9. I could win the photojournalist award of the year. Never have I wanted to take pictures of anything so much. Every moment deserves a video. I don't want to miss a thing. We were sharing pics to friends and family the first few days willy-nilly until my husband saw a picture of our baby on a relative stranger's twitter-gram-book. Neither of us knew who this person was and how they got the photo. The sharing stopped immediately. It is a fine balance. Yes you will be so proud but this information age is hard to regulate. Even with your best privacy settings, it may be your contacts that don't bother with security.

10. Savouring every hour. Life is no longer in days. I don't even know what the weekend means. Life is now in hours which consist of feeds, sleep, poo. Repeat. It is an honour to have a front-row seat to this little one's growth and development. Never felt more blessed. So overwhelmed. So happy. My world literally has been turned inside out. And it feels good. The last 136 hours have been hours of pure love. Looking forward to the weeks becoming months, then years, then a lifetime. Bring it on.

Anashe Joy