Regina Mhagama, Global Volunteers’ Tanzania Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) Caregiver Supervisor, said her second pregnancy in 2019 was an opportunity to demonstrate recommended prenatal practices to the 518 pregnant women and mothers in the RCP program. Together with her son Daniel, she models essential skills in early childhood interventions so mothers can improve their babies’ health and growth. In this recent interview, Regina credits Global Volunteers’ parent workshops for enabling her to learn along with those she teaches.
Regina, can you explain how your first and second pregnancies differed?
I experienced fatigue most of the time, and back pain that required bed rest during my first pregnancy with my daughter Doreen. With Daniel, I did not have any complications, due to the workshops where I learned how to ensure a healthy pregnancy with good nutrition, exercise and good hygiene. I learned to be alert to my baby kicking, and to start interacting with my child from the womb.
What did you learn from the RCP parent workshops that was new to you?
There were many things I didn’t know when my daughter was born that I learned when I was pregnant with Daniel. For instance, the importance of exercise before and after delivery. Also, I learned the importance of breastfeeding, when and how to introduce supplementary food and how to interact with the newborn with games and songs to stimulate his brain. The way I interact with Daniel, through eye contact (looking at my baby and watching his response), is very different from how I interacted with Doreen. I apply the principles I learned in RCP workshops with Daniel by practicing eye contact, speaking softly and playing different games. I feel so happy when I see the movement of my baby. He looks so happy!
Was recovery after pregnancy different the second time?
Yes. I learned how to take care of myself better with exercise, good nutrition and proper hand washing. All of these – diet, rest, protection from illness – improved my vitality.
From whom did you learn how to care for Doreen as a new mother?
At that time, I did not have much information. I learned a little from the medical clinic when I started prenatal care. They talked to me about eating various foods, but not as much as I learned from the RCP program. Also my mother helped me. I do remember she taught me how to help Doreen feed. When I learned from the RCP workshop about bonding and attachment, I noticed it is more clear and helpful. Honestly, I feel more prepared and supported with Daniel, in the way of knowing about exclusive breastfeeding, and when and how to introduce other food. Before he was born, I met with different volunteers and had a full package on the 1,000 days, which explains each and everything about pregnancy and child development as well.
How are Doreen’s and Daniel’s health and development different?
With Doreen, I did not understand the importance of vaccination, and I did not finish them all. After joining RCP, I learned how important vaccines are, and now Daniel is doing well. As a newborn, Daniel was robust and alert. As he’s grown over the past year, he’s met or surpassed milestones beyond his older sister’s development as a baby. Throughout his early childhood he’s never gotten seriously sick. But Doreen experienced illness that even required her at seven months to be hospitalized, due to constipation because I fed her solid food before six months. Daniel is more active and energetic than Doreen was. She is doing well in class now, but she is not any more active in her childhood. It is not a matter of sex difference. I know now that the mother must interact with her baby like singing songs, looking in their eyes, constantly speaking, having toys available, and watching the baby’s movement. If all this is done, either a girl or boy can be active.
What difference does your husband notice in Daniel as he’s grown?
He believes Daniel will reach his dream very easily due to a smart brain and alertness. Of course, he’s impressed when he spends time to play with Daniel, as we’ve come to recognize that Daniel likes to play with the football so much!