Bringing Up Baby

Typically, when you begin to think about buying a house, you start saving money. When you know you’re having a baby, you start setting up the nursery. When you begin to think about getting married, you start telling all your old flames that you’re off the market. When you’re launching a war, you make sure your guns and munitions are ready, and your borders are fortified.

So why is it that most women walk into pregnancy unprepared?

As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. When you begin to think about getting pregnant, you should set up the environment where your baby is going to live for those nine months (your body). Now while it is understood that not every baby is planned ahead of time, it’s definitely common sense to think about this if you are planning to conceive a child within the next year.

A good friend of mine in Jeddah recently confided that after three years of marriage, she and her husband had started seriously thinking about having their first child. She wanted to go off the pill but wasn’t sure how or when to do it. She was due to switch positions at work, and had a choice of two, and thinking smart, she opted for the one with fewer hours. She asked me if there was anything else they hadn’t thought of, and I told her that for starters, going off the pill was best done under the supervision of a doctor; because he would be able to tell her at what point during the cycle to stop, and what to expect in terms of delays in conception. I also told her that she needed to evaluate their lifestyle as a couple and hers as an individual, and make informed choices.

Opting for the less time intensive job was brilliant, because it would minimize the strain on her before, during pregnancy and after having the baby.  Less job stress when attempting to conceive was a good idea in any case, she could eat better, sleep better, make love better.

The late nights and fast food they decided to dramatically cut back on, and they also initiated the process for employing a live-in maid and driver.  They decided to start a new baby fund, pooling from their incomes at the beginning of each month. They of course, kept these thoughts to themselves, to deny people around them the pleasure of pressuring them with questions and mounting expectations.

Technically speaking, having a baby necessitates a contribution from both mother and father. So it’s not just the mother who needs to shape up, as dad contributes half of the genetic material. So if his contribution is lacking, well…

I told her that physically speaking, as a woman she already had all the eggs she would ever have in her ovaries (females are born that way) and that a man’s sperm develops during a four-month cycle. Lifestyle changes couldn’t change her eggs for the better, but they could drastically improve the quality of husband’s wrigglers. Experts advise that any lifestyle changes should be introduced around 4-6 months prior to conception, to enable the body to adjust.

Here is some of what I suggested to my friend:

  • If you or your husband smokes, stop. If you feel you can’t do that on your own, join a smoking cessation service, there are several around you, just ask.
  • Try to limit caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, energy drinks) and chocolate.
  • Try to eat healthier; more variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Try to eat at least one kind of oily fish per week (Salmon, Tuna, Cod); experts have linked seafood with higher levels of infant and child intelligence.
  • Start taking a Folic Acid supplement; 400 mcg of Folic Acid per day for 3 months prior to conception and 3 months into pregnancy has been shown to reduce the risk of spinal abnormalities in babies.
  • Drink more fluids; keep a bottle of water in your handbag, or invest in a juicer to try out new combinations at home. Getting into the habit of keeping yourself hydrated will lessen the risk of stretch marks and tearing, this is especially important if you live in a warm climate.
  • If you’re overweight or underweight, try to work your way to a reasonable BMI; this aids conception and will make you feel better too.
  • If you aren’t physically active, join a class or be more active at home (jump rope, swim, buy a yoga DVD, and take the stairs instead of the elevator). The more physically active and therefore healthy you are, the less difficulty you will have conceiving, carrying and giving birth to your baby. (Haven’t you heard what an easy time Gisele had when she had her baby?)

Think of it as stocking up (nutrients) in your body for winter (in this case incubating a baby). This thinking smart and especially eating well before conception will stand you in good stead as well if you suffer morning sickness the first few weeks and can’t keep anything down; there will be a nutrient store for the embryo to draw from.

Research has proven that preparing your body to carry a baby significantly improves the quality of pregnancy, the experience of delivery and postpartum recovery, and positively impacts the health of your newborn and your child’s health throughout life. The suggestions I gave to my friend were those my husband and I used ourselves, and she now is a proud mom of two healthy twin 2 year old boys.



Money Makes the World Go ‘Round…

How on earth am I supposed to teach my 5-year old to handle money? Money Makes the  World Go ‘Round…

I don’t want him to end up a fool, a loose spender or otherwise just out for material self-gratification or even just a suspicious and mistrustful individual when it comes to money…I would like him to become a smart shopper, a cautious and practical spender, to make sound judgments on when and what to indulge himself –in something that’s worthy of his intelligence and hard-earned cash.

At his school this week they are holding a book fair, displayed in the school hall over a number of days. I am obviously not there with him during the day, and I only had some vague information as to when and how the teachers would let the children browse/buy if they wanted to. The leaflet said vouchers were available for purchase if desired but I decided to give him cash to start him on the road to understanding the value of money…

On the morning of the start of the bookfair, knowing full well the enthusiasm he has has for books (which I avidly encourage), I sat down with him, and showed him the leaflet with the list of titles, some with pictures, and we looked through it together. He expressed interest, so I took out my wallet and pulled out a 10sr note. (I wondered briefly if it was too much to give a 5-year old, or too little. How am I supposed to know? I don’t have any previous experience, other than the fact that I was five once. I’m trying all this out anyway right? He’s my tester!)

I took that and gave it to him, and told him it was 10sr and showed him the number on the note, and explained that it was like coins but instead of 10 coins it becomes a single piece of paper. I told him to put it in his jacket pocket where it would be safe, and that he had to take care of it and not lose it, because if he did then he wouldn’t be able to buy anything. I also told him not to let any of his friends take it from him, and if he had any questions he could ask the class teacher.

I told him that he could have a look at the tables in the hall and see if there was anything he liked, and to look at the numbers on the stickers on the books- which were called prices- and see if there was anything he liked, he could buy it with the money he had. I also smiled and said that he might even be lucky enough to buy more than one book or just one book and still have some change left over! (To which he looked at me sideways and broke into a grin, somewhat like the one in Tom and Jerry, when Jerry gets a sneaky idea?)

I asked him to choose carefully and not just get anything just for the sake of getting. I asked him to think before buying, and if there was nothing he liked particularly, then he and I could go the bookstore with me later and he could choose something there instead.

It could be that I gave him too much information, or that he would surprise me…

How would you handle this?

Social Norms

Obstacles Facing Moms with Communicating and Interacting with Boys Schools

I could see it happening, I could feel it in my gut. My baby was growing up and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

When they’re born, they’re attached at the breast. Then they move a few inches down and become attached to your hip. A few months later and they’re grabbing onto your legs for dear life as you encourage them (with that nasty choking feeling in the back of your throat) to have fun at nursery. A few years later and he pulls away from your hugs saying: “mom, enough!” and you’re saying to yourself “it’s okay for him to take the school bus, he’s old enough, he knows what to do, I’ve taught him what he needs to know”…

In Saudi Arabia, with most schools (public and private) still segregated by gender from the fourth grade, it’s a truly trying time for a mom when boys reach age 8-9 and move to enter the no-women’s land of the boys section. At my son’s end of year school play in Grade 3, I was shocked with the sudden realization and sense of mounting panic that this was the last time I could attend one of his school functions or speak to his teachers, or spend time in his classroom seeing what he was working on…

And I slowly found out that I wasn’t the only one feeling apprehensive at the impending change; there were the other mom’s, his classmates’, most especially those of us with these 3rd grade boys being our first foray into dealing with this upsetting stage in their growth and development. None of us had an older boy and could count on that experience. We didn’t know what to expect, and had no way of finding out. There was no open day for mom’s to visit the boys section, or a meet the teacher, or even a map of the premises or photos…

You could call the school if you wanted to, and ask to speak to someone about your child, but more often than not you would be fobbed off because as the common understanding was that the male teachers just didn’t care as much as the females in the other section; they were tougher, and with much less empathy and patience. You were therefore wholly dependent on having hands on father figure (dad) who would agree or see the importance of taking time off work to go find out what was happening with your kid, and if you had that you’d best consider yourself lucky. Otherwise your only option is to send them off with a prayer and hope for the best, and become dependent on what your child wishes to communicate when he comes home.

Keep your eyes wide open and your ears perked…that’s your best defense against no opportunity for offense.

June 1 2013