Ibhayi Lengane: "The Child’s Blanket"

blanketIbhayi Lengane: "The Child’s Blanket"

In our blog on the 9 March, we wrote about a more recently developed process; Ibhayi Lengane. Julie Stone, Paedeatric Psychiatrist, long-time friend of dlalanathi and founder of uThando Dolls, visited our partners, Ethembeni, who helped us to field test the Ibhayi Lengane program. We love how Julie captured many aspects we love best about our friends at Ethembeni and the positive impact the process can have on relationships. Please enjoy this blog written from Julie’s perspective.
The day began with Rachel, Robyn, Peter and I travelling to Mpophomeni to meet with members of the Ethembeni team and three young mothers and their babies whom the Ethembeni primary health team worked with during the testing and refining of the Ibhayi Lengane Program material. The Ibhayi Lengane Program offers a conceptual framework/program with resource material, in isiZulu and English, for home visitors to use with pregnant women, supporting them in their journey over the 1st 1000 days of their baby’s life. The central and organising metaphor is a baby blanket – a warm, safe and containing space for the baby. The program embraces the mother’s need to take care of her own health and wellbeing, so that she can care for her baby’s. All the material promotes the Community Health Visitor (some paid, some volunteers) building a relationship with the mother, and supporting and encouraging her to build a relationship with her baby. The material offers activities and guidance to encourage participation from all members of the household, in the hope that they will all work together to support mother and baby.
The Ethembeni health workers were very enthusiastic about the program and grateful for the practical and relevant knowledge and skills they had gained. Tutu, an experienced isiZulu health worker, said the materials had helped her gain confidence allowing her to deepen her conversation with pregnant women, and to be better able to understand the challenges she faced and the concerns she had.
The three young mothers shared their experience of being part of the 1st 1000 days program. Two spoke in isiZulu with Tutu translating, the third in Sotho. Terese, a bilingual team member, translated the Sotho into isiZulu for Tutu to then translate into English. Both of the isiZulu women spoke of their despair when they found out they were pregnant, one with twins. They both already had a child and knew their families would be angry with them. One worried she would be turned out of the home. Both said they considered abortion and one said she contemplated suicide.
The women said the support of the home visitor and the conversations about the 1st 1000 days (the English words threaded throughout their discourse) brought hope to each of them. They were so relieved to learn that she would walk with them until their baby was two years old. She helped them tell their families, and helped the families talk about some of their disappointment and their fears. Before delivery two of the women said they felt ready to welcome their baby and it was clear by their handling and breast feeding of their babies that the new relationships have begun well enough. The children were well nourished, and content. One, a little girl of six or seven months, whose twin died in utero, was lively and engaging. The other, a little boy, only six weeks old, slept for most of the time and fed quietly before resettling to sleep in his mother’s arms.
The young mother from Lesotho came to KZN with her boyfriend to find work. They live as part of a large informal settlement on the outskirts of Howick, near to Mpophomeni. Shelley, a midwife who has worked in close partnership with Tutu for the last seven years, said employing Terese, an isiZulu and Sotho speaker, has been so important for Ethembeni’s work with the many very disadvantaged families who come from Lesotho in search of a better future for themselves and their children.
This young mother, isolated from her family, said how very important Terese has become for her, her boyfriend and their son. She said it has made the world of difference to know that someone is looking out for her, and said she has learned so much from Terese about “being a mother” and looking after her boy.
To hear the primary care team’s enthusiasm for the 1st 1000 days program and the Ibhayi Lengane resource material, which includes a blanket and some A3 posters with important messages and information for the mothers, meeting the mothers and their children, hearing the women’s stories, and observing them breastfeeding and talking to their babies, was a wonderful endorsement of the potential and power of this program to set a positive developmental trajectory for the parent-child relationship and the future positive developmental course for the baby.
For more info on uThando dolls visit: uthandoproject.org
For more info on Ethembeni visit: www.ethembeni.co.za