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“Doctor” Mommy: Celebrating the First Doctors At Home

There were waves of joyous felicitation at the beginning of this week on the occasion of this year’s Mothers day. Splashed across social media were photos and videos tinted with goodwill messages, prayers and best wishes for mothers, not to count phone calls from loved ones near and afar.

The happy cheers were quite heart-warming.  Mothers are indeed special. Thinking about mothers, my mind goes back to the recent movie drama “Maami” in which Funke Akindele portrayed the heart-warming and passionate role of a mother who in spite of having so little, gave so much.

Medical practitioners usually refer to mothers as the ‘first doctor’ in the home. This term is derived from the fact that mothers are usually the first to recognise symptoms of illness in a child or the first to get the report of ill-health. On the basis of this recognition, they are able to administer First Aid to the affected child or family member. Mothers are usually the first to take the initiative to bring a child to the hospital (hopefully, on time) and to therefore also receive first-hand information from the health provider on the necessary steps to nurse the child back to good health. Their ability to relent on myths, superstitions and harmful cultural practices also determine to a great extent how healthy our children will be.

Let me share five reasons why mothers are the ‘first doctors’ in the home:

  1. Mothers ‘doctor’ children from the womb. During pregnancy, their bodies house us for most of a year. They give up their body shape and space for the endearing new-born in the offing. Many mothers have to take up almost permanent hospital residence in those months for the sake of that precious baby. It is from the mother that oxygen and nutrients diffuse to the foetus. Mothers provide warmth to the foetus and incubators can mimic this God-infused ability only to a limited extent. The decision of a mother to eat healthily, to avoid substances such as smoking and alcohol in pregnancy as well as to nurse healthy emotions have lasting consequences on the baby.
  2. Mothers virtually nurse from the cradle till after the nest is empty; starting with breastfeeding which establishes a bond that lasts a lifetime. Through breast-milk, they transfer protective antibodies and immunoglobins which reduce the risk of neonatal illness. They take overnight calls, breastfeeding at night or keeping awake over an ailing child; tepid-sponging in order to keep down a fever. They ensure healthy meals at home and at school.  They have this way of caring even if through tough actions. If not for their hygienic efforts, vomiting and diarrhoea would frequently feature during school days.
  3. Mothers love cleanliness and try to maintain orderliness. Sweeping, scrubbing and dusting are unending house-chores yet they do it every day. A colleague of mine was tagged Mrs Clean by her husband in this regard. Mothers will always remind you to brush your teeth, wash your hands and dust your feet before getting into bed. Without all this seeming much-ado-about-nothing, many of us would fall sick often. Doctors frequently counsel on hygiene in order to prevent and control the spread of disease. 
  4. Listening is a vital communication skill that mothers have exhibited through the years, listening, paying attention, reading in between the lines so as to decipher what the real problem is. Doctors do the same when encountering their patients. Listening helps diagnosis.
  5. Mothers have a sixth sense. It’s called intuitiveness. Most moms can describe to you that uncanny feeling that something is not right even when you have explained all the possible reasons why it should be. They know when you have not swallowed your medicine. Many people seem to think that doctors are magicians. This is because they expect the doctor to decipher all their medical problems without much information. Doctors also depend on high indices of suspicion during history and examination to arrive at the right diagnosis especially when there is a paucity of information. Having a consistently correct index of suspicion comes with years of training and experience.

Mothers from time memorial stand out as a special ‘kind’ of people. You can call them super-moms, super-heroes or super-stars, but they are definitely humans with feelings, strengths and weaknesses. Applauding their positive contributions to family development today, the ‘International Day of Families’ is certainly not out of place. The stronger and healthier our mothers are, the stronger and healthier our families will be. 

Dr Oore Makinde is a Consultant Family Physician and certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician. She is the founder of Lifestyle Champions International

Oore Makinde

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