The journey continues…

We were sure our daughter was being treated by one of the best doctors in town. Well, we never liked the clinic and the long queue but we felt we were in the right place for her regular checkups and other medical needs she may have. But oh, were we wrong!

A few months ago, we decided to go to another clinic nearby when our daughter caught a cold. It was the most opportune experience that reminded us what a ‘good’ clinic should look and feel like. But most importantly it was fortunate because the doctor was able to discover something  that was never looked into before. Of course like most parents, we were frowning upon her suspicions because she looked very well to us and she started asking us questions that I don’t like being asked.

‘Is she saying baba and mama?’

‘Has she started walking?’

‘Not even holding onto furniture?’

But when she started pointing out her observations like how her eyes looked small and dejected and how her skin was relatively dry, it picked my attention and we went along with the blood tests. To our surprise, the tests showed that she has hypothyroidism, which in simple terms mean that her thyroid gland was not producing enough thyroid hormone.

The gland produces crucial hormones for almost every aspect of development and growth. Hence, when the gland is under-active, symptoms like fatigue (slower heart rate and loss of muscle tone), slow growth, coarse and dry skin, droopy eyelids, swollen face and a number of other issues follow. However, many of the symptoms are overlooked because they are mostly part of the normal growth process. But it is paramount that treatment start as soon as possible to avoid the adverse effects it can bring. Fortunately, in most cases, hypothyroidism is treatable with thyroid hormone replacement pills that are given daily (which can be life long).

While it is mandatory to do a routine testing for thyroid function in newborns in most countries, it is optional in Kenya. Considering the number of specialists that have seen our daughter from the day she joined this world, and the pediatrician she has been seeing, it was disappointing to know that it took another doctor to diagnose her right. It took almost three months for her extremely low levels of thyroid hormones to be in the normal range. Since she started taking the pills, she has shown a number of positive improvements that clearly show us that we are on the right track.

The side effects of hypothyroidism can be irreversible when treatment is not started as early as possible. It can lead to growth and developmental defects including general learning disability. To know that could have been a possibility not because we have not provided our daughter the treatment she needed but because her case was not looked thoroughly because of an overworked and busy doctor was saddening. This is an example to show that expensive medical services does not always guarantee best medical treatment. It takes keen parents and medical professionals to understand the case and find a solution. If you feel something is not right, seek a second opinion. You will relieve yourself from the numerous what-ifs later on.

This first appeared on The Standard on 2 July 2017

Who takes care of the baby more?

My dad has been very much involved in our daily lives since I can remember.  He was and still is an amazing father. He played games with us, he helped us with our homework, he ruffled our hair and kissed our foreheads twice every day…in short, I used to think he was the best and mom, the nitpicker (Sorry Etete). But years later I came to realize that he never did the other important things parents do. He never gave us a bath (except that only time she was in hospital after giving birth to our younger brother) while mom continued to come to the ‘bathroom’ for years to check if we have washed ourselves well. While mom checked our lunchboxes to see if we have eaten the food she had packed for us, dad checked our books for home works. And now that I am a mother, I also remembered how he would run around the house playing with my brother but the moment he wanted to feed, he would hand him over to mom.

‘To know that a man is a father is generally less of an indication of how he lives his life, than it is for a mother.’ When I came across this quote a few weeks ago, all that observation from my childhood and from my personal experience came back to me. I understand times have changed and fathers are more involved in child upbringing but it is not a secret that responsibilities are not split evenly. Even with ‘stay at home dads’ and paternity leave, it is obvious that mothers have much of the burden especially in the first few years.

But why?

It is a simple math – the more you spend time with the baby, the more you bond. It is natural for the mother to understand the different cries or needs and react accordingly better than a father who sometimes changes diapers or does bottle feeding – after all they have been together for 9 months.

The traditional gender roles we have been living through also have an effect on how we lead our lives today.  Despite both parents working a full time job, the mother by default takes the role of managing the house and taking care of the baby which usually draws resentment when she is burnt out. These gender roles are more pronounced when the mother is a stay at home mother, in which case she takes on the full roles.

And now?

However, we are more conscious about sharing baby-care responsibilities today. Most fathers understand the burden of baby-care and dedicate time to contribute their share of parenting. But the amount of workload they have or our high expectations might interfere with their interest to help in. Often times, we expect them to do things the way we do it and our critical remarks can most likely make them refrain from offering any help.

As much as my husband might not have woken up every night to feed our daughter, he was there for almost all medical checkups or  to take her to another room when I wanted to rest but above all the fact that he recognizes and appreciates the demands of being a mother means so much to me.

This first appeared on The Standard on 25 June 2017