I remember finding out that we were pregnant for the very first time.
It was back in 2008. We had just moved out of our flat and into Seth’s parents house so that we could save a little bit of extra cash before buying my parents house from them. Complicated I know. Anyway, the previous day at work I’d eaten a strawberry yoghurt and not even minutes later, had clung to the toilet as it all came back up again.
Now, while it was not unusual for me to have the occasional tummy bug, I just KNEW something was up.
So, off to the store we went to get a couple (hundred) tests and then raced back home to figure out what was going on. Then we took the test. Wait I say “we” took the test but I was on only one weeing on the stick. Anyway, I took the test and…
Negative. Not pregnant.
But I just knew, you know? So a week later I sneakily took the test while Seth was sleeping. When those two little lines showed up I literally pounced on him with joy. After that I was reading up on folic acid and prenatal vitamins while simultaneously rubbing my belly with lotions and potions to stop the stretch marks. (It didn’t work, but let’s not go there). The pregnancy was pretty great and by the 14th of July, Kyla was ready to make her entrance – a little late but perfectly beautiful.
I spent my maternity leave reading up on all the various aspects of mothering, washing bottles and trying to get my newborn to go to sleep. After going back to work, I started researching nutritious food options and optimal sleep whatevers. (Yup, I was one of those Moms. Note I say was, because well, three kids later and I’m just grateful that they sleep at all). We had their names down on a variety of school lists in the area and we celebrated every milestone with a little party.
The thing is, in those first 1000 days of Kyla’s life I tried my hardest to provide everything I could for her. From conception till her 2nd birthday. And even though we were only about 635 days in before we welcomed Riya into the mix, we still continued to try and give our girls the very best that we could give them. And still do.
But what about the rest of our country?
Guys, I find this super awkward to talk about because I am just so freaking privileged. I mean, just think about it – I had the privilege of choosing what my kids ate or when they slept. There was a choice of schools that I could send them to and I could pay for it with relative ease. I had the luxury of spending time with my children every day. I could dictate it. I had that choice. But for so many of my fellow mothers in South Africa, these are not a choices they are able to make.
The reality is that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are the most important.
These first crucial days are when we have the window of opportunity to raise children with the prospect of healthier and more prosperous futures. How do we do this? Well, there are three key areas:
- Health and Nutrition – This is not only for baby, but Mom too. It’s so important for expectant mothers to get the nutrients they need to help their bodies grow a healthy baby. It’s the time that essential nutrients are used in the formation of the brain, which helps with school-readiness and educational achievements of the child. It’s very important not to smoke, drink alcohol or do drugs when expecting a baby or are currently breastfeeding. The damage caused by malnutrition is irreversible.
- Love and Attention – The child needs to feel secure and loved in their various social environments. Both Mom and baby need the support of the family and community. Protect the child from harm, stress and neglect.
- Play and Stimulation – A child is not able to grow to their full potential when they are not stimulated. The baby has a real need for learning. Encouraging parents to talk to and play with their baby.
Getting these three areas right helps with so many things. The result is child that has the real potential to suffer less health issues, learn more efficiently and actually be able to work later in life. This not only saves lives and boost the country’s GDP by as much as 12% – it also gives each little person a chance at a better life.
A couple of weeks ago I was able to go with the Cipla Foundation to Mama Martha’s school in the heart of Gugulethu in Cape Town. What an eye opening experience it was for me. In the midst of an informal settlement that looks like this…
We found the oasis of Mama Martha’s school.
How great is this little nursery school? Mama Martha is dedicated to helping the Moms in the community by giving their children all three of the essential things that they need. The school focuses on providing the children with two balanced meals every day as well as the vital aspect of early childhood development with learning in a safe environment.
About The School…
Mama Martha and her team of skilled teachers look after 187 children every single day. When I spoke to her, Mama mentioned that she’s constantly asked by desperate mothers for a chance to get their children in there, but there’s just not enough space. Mama Martha even went so far as to say that she’d happily keep taking on children, she’d even go to jail for it – as long as she could keep them off the street.
She really is passionate about what she does and you can see that in the pristine condition of the school and how well the children are doing under her care.
We need more of these places. LOTS more of these places.
But that doesn’t come easy. The children only pay a maximum of R180 per month and with that, all the teachers are being paid and the children receive two cooked meals. The Cipla Foundation helped to get Mama Martha started by giving her the school building to run out of, equipping her with the skills she needs and supporting her in various other ways. They want to do more projects like this and I think we should help them!
If you have been looking for a way to support our community and better our South Africa, then I’d say that this is how you do it. I’m #NotAskingForAnything for me, but I am asking for the children of our country. If you want to read more about this project, here’s the place. Want to donate to this awesome project? Do that here: