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The Family; From the Uterine Environment to Moment of Birth

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Let’s talk about the uterine environment and the moment of birth.

What happens in the uterine environment at birth? Maybe if we had a clear perception of this moment in life we might have a better understanding of our child creation and the enormous responsibility that comes with parenting during conception, fetal growth, and infant health; all of which are essential before a child even begins their first step towards life.

Let’s look at the Latin word ‘infans’. It means ‘not speaking’ and hence the word infancy has come to mean the first year of childhood. Humans are born naked, helpless, and vulnerable. Humans have a long gestation period without obtaining great size or maturity at the time of birth. Another human peculiarity is the size of the brain, which weighs about 350 grams, or .772 pounds, at birth or is 10% of the average total body weight. The fetus adaptation from complete dependence upon the maternal uterine environment and placenta to the extra-uterine environment requires major changes in the infant body organs. Within a minute of the cessation of placental blood supply and the delivery from a watery to a gaseous environment, the infant lungs, heart, skin, and the alimentary, renal, and nervous systems undergo a series of dramatic functional changes.

During pregnancy the fetus depends on the mother for obtaining oxygen and nutrients, and for the excretion of carbon dioxide, heat, and other metabolic waste products through their combined bloodstreams. Upon birth the infant must fend for itself. More blood flow must be directed through the lungs for gas exchange, to the gut for nutrient absorption, to the kidneys for urine formation. But first and foremost, breathing must begin.

BREATHING:
Fetal breathing movements are necessary for normal lung development in the womb. The patterns of these movements are related to the ‘sleep’ and ‘awake’ states of the fetus but may also be affected by external factors such as maternal smoking, drinking, drug abuse, and unhealthy diets. Normal vaginally-delivered infants make their first breathing movements within 20 to 30 seconds from the emergence of the nose. Within 90 seconds of complete delivery most infants have started to breathe rhythmically.

CIRCULATION:
The circulation of the blood is drastically re-routed at birth. In the fetus there was relatively little blood flow through the lungs. Oxygenated blood reached the fetus from the placenta in the umbilical vein and joined the blood entering the right side of the heart. Most of this blood bypassed the lungs. After birth, the right ventricle must pump all the blood it receives through the lungs. This change is assisted by the onset of breathing itself. The expansion of the lungs with air reduces the resistance to flow in their blood vessels.

NUTRITION AND METABOLISM:
There is a continuum of nutrient supply by the mother from conception until after complete weaning. Even after weaning in most human societies, the mother is primarily responsible for helping the immature offspring to obtain adequate nutrition. The importance of optimal nutrition in human fetal and neonatal life is crucial in early life. Studies strongly indicate an increased incidence of hypertension, strokes, diabetes, and coronary artery disease in later life when the mother neglects her responsibilities for supplying healthy nutrition to her fetus and infant.

ENERGY:
The human infant has relatively large stores of lipid, carbohydrate, and important nutrient elements such as iron. After birth, fat and lactose supplied in the mother’s milk are the major sources of energy, whereas before birth glucose supplied by the placenta provided the energy for fetal growth. This abrupt transition in nutrient supply causes major challenges to the digestive, absorptive, and metabolic processes of the infant. Until lactation is established, stores of glycogen in the liver and muscles, and triglyceride fat, help to maintain the infant body temperature, metabolic activity, and tissue growth.

TEMPERATURE:
If the infant’s temperature falls, neural thermostats stimulate the sympathetic nervous system to release heat and  fatty acids from brown fat. Brown fat looks brown because its cells are full of mitochondria, which are cellular power-houses for the release of energy from fat; it is located mainly between the shoulder blades in the newborn infant and there is relatively little in later life. Maternal body heat, and covering the head and body of the infant with clothing to reduce heat and fluid loss, greatly reduce the energy and fluid needs of the newborn.

COLOSTRUM AND MILK:
Once the immediate needs for an adequate supply of oxygen have been met the infant normally within minutes begins to seek a supply of water and nutrients at the mother’s breast. During the first few days the mother supplies colostrum, which is specifically designed for her own infant in that it contains antibodies, cells, and other protective substances which will safeguard her infant from virtually all of the infections to which she has been previously exposed.

DIGESTION:
Over 90% of the fat present in human milk can be digested and absorbed by the infant intestine. Fat digestion is possible because lipases are present in the milk, and are also released from glands in the infant tongue. These enzymes remain active in the environment of the stomach. There are no digestive enzymes for protein in human milk in the infant’s stomach and duodenum. This is significant because there are important proteins in the milk, immunoglobulin and growth factors, which might otherwise be damaged before they can be absorbed from the intestine.

WEANING:
Weaning is the process of expanding the diet to include foods and drinks other than breast milk or infant formula. A Department of Health working group in 1994 recommended that most infants should not be given solid foods before the age of 4 months and that a mixed diet should be offered by the age of 6 months. Cow’s milk is not recommended as a main drink during infancy but during the second year it can make an important contribution to the intakes of several different nutrients and energy.

GROWTH:
Factors which influence growth are genetic, nutritional, endocrine, and psychosocial. Malnutrition, specific nutritional deficiencies, and disease can prevent children from achieving their genetic growth potential. They are completely dependent upon their parents for their nutritional needs and brain development through nutrition. At birth much of the underlying brain and neuroendocrine system development is equipped to integrate newborn infant body functions, but it is becoming evident that if there is failure during the first year of life to use and develop good patterns of response to a given stimulus from the environment, then there may be significant impairment in the ability to respond in later life to stresses both physical and emotional.

SUMMARY:
I propose we begin educating parents and children now, in the family and through courses in our public school system, in an understanding of the fetal uterine environment and the moment of birth. If we could sensitize this generation with an appreciation of the responsibilities they undertake when giving birth, perhaps they will begin to improve the next generation and we could begin to end this cycle of poverty and sloth in our society.


I owe my understanding of this subject to Forrester Cockburn, Emeritus Professor of Child Health at the University of Edinburgh and a Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh.

The Family; A Serious Decision

October 6, 2010 1 comment

I used to tell my sons, “The most serious decision you will ever make in your entire life is the woman you choose to be the mother of your children. Your children and your family will prosper if you make this decision carefully, thoughtfully, and with love.” It’s a simple concept and yet so many children are born haphazardly into relationships where their parents are children, and whose parents were children, and so it goes.

I don’t know how to change humanity. I don’t even know how to influence the children who are having children. Since they come from families where they were conceived with little thought, and raised with little guidance, how can we expect a generation of the thoughtlessly conceived to care about the uterine environment, birth, and childhood of their children? How can we expect them to care about raising their children with love, care, and discipline when they were not offered this opportunity in their own lives? It is a leap! I am asking for a leap into the unknown. How do parents become something that was not demonstrated to them as children? This is the dilemma.

In order to change a generation, the generation who produces it must change. Change is difficult but it is possible. I did it. If I did it, anyone can do it. I was raised by parents who were teenagers when I was born. Childhood for me was difficult at best. However, when I became an adult and had children I was determined they would not be raised as I was. I knew I had to accept the responsibility of changing myself so these small, innocent wonders would have a different life than mine.

It is the responsibility of each generation to improve the next. If this enlightenment does not occur then generation after generation languishes in an unending cycle of ignorance, poverty, and repetition. How undignified! How humiliating! What a curse to place upon an infant before they even have time to open their eyes and smile up at whoever it is that birthed them.

Now you might ask, “What does this have to do with education?” Everything!

If we are unable to reach and influence today’s parents about how they birth and raise their children in stable environments, and who are surrounded with care and love, then we will never have an opportunity to produce a generation that will be free of the repetitious past of the generations preceding them. We need to begin at the beginning. We need to find a way to reach into our culture and have parents realize that when they have children they are their guardians and teachers. They are their example.

This begins in the uterine environment where the child gets its nutrients through the mother’s placenta. She is the Beginner. How do we do this? How do we change those who are soaked in poverty and humiliation? How do we unhinge peer pressure that manipulates so many children into staying where they are, wearing their sloth like a badge of honor? Somewhere, someone has an answer and I am anxious to hear it. We are running out of time. We are falling behind and soon our nation’s children will become the slaves of those nations whose children are motivated by parents who are raising and improving the next generation.

We need to send our children to school with an attitude of self confidence, intellectual curiosity, and undaunted creativity. We need to unburden our educational system from the job of disciplining children and set them free to teach, educate, and enlighten. We need to return to discipline, structure, and compassion in the classroom. This can only be done when there is discipline, structure, and compassion in the home.

I know this sounds so old century to a generation that is hyped on technology. But you know, the truth is some things never change. Some things are absolutes. Parenting is one of those unchangeable, absolute laws of nature.

The Family; It Begins at the Beginning

October 4, 2010 2 comments

We blame our Public Educational System because we say they aren’t producing educated children. We pile on teachers because we say they are lazy, self serving, and cannot teach. We blame teacher unions for protecting incompetent teachers, who cannot be fired. We say these teachers and their unions are destroying the future of our children, the future of our country. Our politicians throw billions into this seemingly corrupt and incompetent system and we blame them for pandering to unions and teachers. When you think about it we have conjured up an amazing array of scapegoats for our failures as parents to birth and raise our children so they are able to be educated.

I am not excusing the system, its teachers, or their unions. I was a teacher once. I was compelled to join the union, whose dues were deducted from my check. I know the public educational system is crumbling, figuratively and literally and I don’t much care for politicians. All of this awareness and finger pointing does not solve the problem of educating our children. It only keeps the blame game going on endlessly with no hope in sight for resolution. However, it does make for empty cocktail conversation that resolves nothing.

Somehow we must lift unaware parents into an awareness of their parental responsibilities so they may send intellectually curious, alert, physically healthy, and disciplined children into our school systems. If we take away the excuses the educational system has for not doing their job, we then allow our many good teachers to actually educate. With properly parented children we take back the power to demand the best results for our children. As the Japanese say, “Forget about blame; solve the problem.”

Instead of beginning at the end; let’s begin at the beginning.

I read an article this morning, At Risk From the Womb, by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. He is a man who champions the rights of women from all over the world and has written a book with his wife called, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”. I admire his honest writing. His article points out that the uterine environment is a critical factor in determining the mental and physical success of the child. He says, “Researchers are finding indications that obesity, diabetes and mental illness among adults are all related in part to what happened in the womb decades earlier.” What struck me most about this article, which I highly recommend you reading, is that a stressful uterine environment may be the mechanism that allows poverty to replicate itself generation after generation. Women who come from poverty will absorb the stress of their environment into their uterine child and instead of one generation improving the next these offspring remain dormant, stuck in a cycle of deprivation based upon ignorance.

We will solve our educational problems by beginning with parenting, and we must begin during the uterine cycle. Mr. Kristof goes on to lament, “The result is children who start life at a disadvantage — for kids facing stresses before birth appear to have lower educational attainment, lower incomes and worse health throughout their lives. If that’s true, then even early childhood education may be a bit late as a way to break the cycles of poverty.”

We must begin at the beginning, the uterine environment. Then we must develop an awareness of infant needs and responses after birth. How can we really expect our teachers and schools to deliver a high standard of education and literacy to our children when we resist learning how to parent them with diligence? An article in my June 25th post by Dennis D. Muhumuza of Uganda, quoted Mr. Fagil Mandy:

What is the true measure of a parent?

First, one must be knowledgeable enough – one is not going to be a parent worth their soul when they are ignorant; a parent must know a bit of everything because they are the encyclopedia for their child. Secondly, parents must know how to do several things because a child must follow their example; you must be a good reader, be able to clean your own compound, fix a bulb and have a multi-skilled capacity for your child to emulate. Also, you must be healthy; no child likes to grow up with a dying parent; remember, a parent must help the child lead a healthy life and how can you do that if you are not healthy yourself? Then of course, a parent must be able to generate enough income to look after the family and be available to provide the time required for the child. If you are unavailable, don’t produce the child. (My emphasis)

Simple, straight forward, uncomplicated – Mr. Fagil Mandy is on to something in Uganda!

This is the beginning.

UTERINE CHILD

The Public School Nightmare – John T. Gatto

July 22, 2010 1 comment

John Taylor Gatto is the author of Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling, and Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. He was the 1991 New York State Teacher of the Year.

I just read his article, The Public School Nightmare: Why fix a system designed to destroy individual thought? Please click on the link and read what this man has to say.

If you are a parent, a grandparent, a teacher, or thinking about having a child you MUST read this article. Even though I am unfamiliar with this man, he is stating the case for what I believed when I became a parent. I taught in the public school system after graduation from my university. I know what I experienced and I know how I felt about my students. I experienced the most amazing resistance from my principal and colleagues to innovation and creativity within the classroom. The rejection was discouraging. They did achieve their goals; I quit the system.

When I became pregnant I determined that our children would have a childhood filled with what Bertrand Russell describes below:

“Bertrand Russell once observed that American schooling was among the most radical experiments in human history, that America was deliberately denying its children the tools of critical thinking. When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That’s if you want to teach them to think.”

Thinkers! I write about how we achieved this in my book , Peek-A-Boo, I See You.

Children in Crisis; Taking on the Challenges of Parenting

It seems these days that all things begin simple and go to complex as the discussion moves up the chain of command. For example, what is complicated about parenting? It takes common sense, serious thought, dedicated action, and daily commitment. Instead of focusing on the simplicity of what should come naturally to parents in raising children, we build elaborate explanations for poor parenting. Instead of tackling the parenting issue in a straightforward manner as Bill Cosby does, we build an array of complex solutions that require funding, governmental intervention that support places to dump our children, and academic treatise that define a multitude of esoteric explanations devoted to “parenting problems”.

Having said this, I was ruffling about in the stacks of papers on my desk looking for my latest thoughts on parenting when I came across an article I read and printed on March 7, 2010. It was printed in “The Daily Monitor; Truth Everyday; Uganda News…” It came from the Sunday Life section of the paper. I have no recollection of the article and I was intrigued as to what it was that made me print this article by Dennis D. Muhumuza. He credited Fagil Mandy, an educational consultant in Uganda, who developed a series of trainings. Mandy says, “The rising cases of child sacrifice, street children, starvation of children and violence in homes has resulted in a parenting crisis.” The article is amazing in its simplicity of solutions. Follow below the thinking of Fagil Mandy as he is interviewed by Dennis Muhumuza on Uganda’s “parenting crisis”.

Why have you started the Good Parenting training?

Because there is a parenting crisis and we cannot afford to have our future generations going without proper tuning and direction. Parents or potential parents, young people and university students, policy implementers or leaders both in government and private sector or even those interested in learning more about good parenting need to know about addressing the challenges of parenting today; we are going to look at the world of work and education; how to train a child to be a worker, thinker, leader. The world is changing so fast that the demands on a child or the growing up generations are so intense and diversified and the parent must be brought along to understand the diversity in the world today.

You talked of a parenting crisis. What really is the problem?

I’ve run workshops for parents and young people and have made some discoveries: I’ve found out, particularly children from middle class parents have no capacities to deliver, to work, to produce or generate ideas. And, today, because most parents are working, the child is largely neglected so there is an increasing mystery or this huge gap between the parents and the children. Also, I’ve met a lot of parents who think parenting is simply producing a child; most of them think that a child of four or five years doesn’t need any particular guidance and counseling, or driving in a certain direction, so there’s a heavy dose of ignorance. Even more, our education system is not equipping our children with the right attitude, mindset and physical skills to succeed in this tough world.

What are the major concerns of young people in regard to the way they are brought up?

The last time I carried out a leadership training programme, I asked the children what they would have wished their parents to teach them. Many of them regretted that their parents had not talked to them enough about issues of love, relationships, sexuality and even politics and leadership. Also, most of them complained their fathers hardly featured in their lives and that they feel not protected or guided by their parents.

Did you also register any complaints by parents about their children?

Of course! Most parents cried out about the cartoons on TV; their children are becoming cartoons themselves; TV has become a preoccupation for young people. And most TV stations show pornographic material – it is killing their children.

But how can children keep themselves occupied meaningfully in a situation where parents are at work and cannot keep a close eye on them?

But you see, I don’t agree that every parent must work away from home. One of my sons works but his wife is a stay-at-home mother. But most mothers don’t want to first stay home and raise their children because of greed, it’s all primitive accumulations; we think that the wife must produce so much money and the husband so much money but I think someone intelligent enough must sacrifice; why can’t wife and husband organize their activities in such a way that, say, the husband works out and the wife stays at home or looks after a small family business that involves the children too? Parents must involve children in the family business.

In this age of emancipation, women cannot surely be expected to stay at home to look after children.

Why not? I think, again, it is greed; a lot of women are running around in this so called economic independence because they want to run wild programmes. I disagree with that sort of thing because every child needs a stay-at-home mother because there is no way you are going to compensate for the emotional dislocation of a child who has not had proper parentage.

What is the true measure of a parent?

First, one must be knowledgeable enough – one is not going to be a parent worth their soul when they are ignorant; a parent must know a bit of everything because they are the encyclopedia for their child. Secondly, parents must know how to do several things because a child must follow their example; you must be a good reader, be able to clean your own compound, fix a bulb and have a multi-skilled capacity for your child to emulate. Also, you must be healthy; no child likes to grow up with a dying parent; remember, a parent must help the child lead a healthy life and how can you do that if you are not healthy yourself? Then of course, a parent must be able to generate enough income to look after the family and be available to provide the time required for the child. If you are unavailable, don’t produce the child.

Simple, straight forward, uncomplicated – Mr. Fagil Mandy is on to something in Uganda!

Are animals better parents than humans?

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