My Love of Numerology or #233moments

I am not sure how it started, but it feels like I have always had a love for numerology or finding meaning in numbers. For instance, it makes me happy to see the time is 12.34 (AM or PM does not matter). 

Further, I feel good about facts like:

  • The date having an interesting sequence like the 11th of December did a few years ago, 11.12.13.
  • The city Tema (where I live) lies smack on the Greewich Meridian and hence on longitude 0.0…the centre of the world. A good place to live for a numerologist!
  • I am born on the 7th in a month – as 7 is an age-old magical number (like 3, 13, and 21).
  • I graduated from high school the year 2000.

In Ghana, as most of readers of this blog will know, the weekday of which you were born is important and many Ghanaians have a first name relating to it. This also gives rise to beautiful parallels:

  • My husband is the third Kweku or Wednesday born on his father’s side. Hence his father and grandfather are both Kweku as well.
  • Our first daughter was born on a Thursday, just like the first born daughter of my husbands grandfather (Kweku the 1st), and inherited her name, Nana Aba Adua.
  • The same daughter had two different nannies, both born on a Thursday, just like her! My second daughter is born on a Monday and when she was born, our previous nanny had quit and we had to find a new one. Only after she was hired, I realised she is also born on a Monday.

A problem with this love of parallelism, is when it does not occur and the deep discomfort it brings. For instance, when we were getting married, the date 29th March, 2008 was decided on for a number of practical reasons. Twenty-nine-zero-three-two-thousand-and-eight. It was so random. So non-special. It had no parallelism. I just did not “feel” the date! Almost considering rescheduling for a “better” date, suddenly my mother-in-law pulled me aside. She told me that the 29th of March, 1967 was the day of her first date together with my husband’s father! The parallelism had been found! I never reconsidered the date again.

When our second child was born on the SAME DATE as our first born, as an avid numerologist I was ecstatic! The birthday, is also a beautiful number as the 21st of the 7th month! It is hard to explain, but in my numerology brain that makes it feel like it was somehow meant to be. On top, the water broke at 2.33 in the morning, I’m not joking, the quintessential #233moment (hashtag created by Ato Ulzen-Appiah for all things Ghana). Our second child’s birth was almost on the hour exactly three years later from the first. On top, my first born is born 30 years after I was born, and my second born, 30 years after my younger and closest sister.

Maybe it is a human thing, this looking for meaning and symmetry in a chaotic world. While I enjoy numbers looking neat and organised around me, at the same time, I can of course see that so many other things were not beautiful, numerical coincidences, but have worked out anyways.  I do not officially subscribe to any numerology faith, I am definitely an atheist. But coincidences, numbers and parallelism do have an impact on my emotions.

Recently, I realized I have never really discussed this with anyone. Do you think the same way? Or do I seem mad to you?


This post is part of my new series of more personal posts to be posted on Fridays, Personal Friday




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First Aid after Dog Bite – First, Bring the Cash

In the weekend a relative called my friend and in an upset voice conveyed how her five year old son had been severely bitten by a stray dog. She had of course rushed her child to hospital and he had been attended to, his wounds cleaned, but now she needed money for Tetanus shots for her son. The cost was 200 GHC ($100) . 

Now let me add the following facts:

Ghana Statistical Survey (2008):

Household income
Average annual household income in Ghana is about GH¢1,217.00 whilst the average per
capita income is almost GH¢400. With an average exchange rate of GH¢0.92 (¢9,176.48)
to the US dollar prevailing in June 2006, the average annual household income is
US$1,327 and the average per capita income is US$433 (Section 9.8). There are regional
differences with Greater Accra region recording the highest of GH¢544.00 whilst Upper
West and Upper East regions had less than GH¢130.00. Urban localities had higher per
capita income than rural localities. advices:

All patients with a bite should receive a tetanus shot, given the risk of tetanus after all kinds of bites, not just those of dogs and cats.

Note the figures above are averages (and from 2008, but the dollar estimate is likely still relevant). I think they show that a Tetanus treatment, though needed after a dog bite, might be out of reach for the average Ghanaian and those earning less –  as it costs the equivalent of a monthly household income. Not everybody can pay that or find someone who can, especially on short notice which a dog bite situation requires.

In this case, my friend said, no problem and handed over the money to the upset, but now grateful, mother. The woman who called my friend was lucky to have a relative with that kind of money in pocket. But should children’s lives depend on luck?

Ghana, I am tired. Let’s prioritise well. Please let’s make sure no child dies from a treatable infectious disease like Tetanus.

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Breastfeeding in Ghana: Statistics, Misconceptions and Formula

Beautiful mural from my neighborhood of a breastfeeding woman.

Since I returned to Ghana with our daughter, I have gotten many comments about me breastfeeding her. Most often, I am met with surprise, raised eyebrows and reassuring comments such as “you have done well!” Many of these reactions seem to come out of the misconception that “white people do not breastfeed”. Nothing could be more wrong!

In my native Sweden, there is extensive education on breastfeeding both for parents-to-be in preparatory courses and at the hospital when your infant is just born. Breastfeeding is highly encouraged, and initially 97% of mothers breastfeed. When the baby is 2 months 88% breastfeed partially and 69% exclusively. At 6 months the share of breastfeeding mothers is at 65% (Statistics from Swedish national board for health and welfare for children born 2009. Additionally, there is stats for babies’ breastfeeding of 9 months as well as 12 months!)

Surviving Life in Sweden blog (written by an American in Sweden) has some experience on breastfeeding and is surprised how openly Swedish mothers feed their children:

“In Sweden, the attitude toward the boob is different. Seriously, they are everywhere – in often very non-sexual ways – and it’s not a big deal. You will be stared at if you wear a nursing burka USA style. If you are shy and your child will oblige lay a small cloth over your shoulder/baby – but nothing dramatic. And no – it’s not because Swedish ladies want the world to see their boobs, it’s because they just wanted to keep their baby fed and not be chained to the house all day.”

I guess this goes to say that when it comes to attitudes on breastfeeding, there are also differences in the Global north.

Moving onto the attitudes to breastfeeding in Ghana: some of the Ghanaians I have talked to about this topic have informed me of a new trend in Ghana where Ghanaian mothers do not breastfeed their children. Some not at all, some very briefly.

I was surprised when I heard this, had I not seen many mothers feeding their children in Ghana? When water security is a problem, why not breastfeed? I decided to do some research and realized this is not a new trend, but a major health problem for Ghana. The Linkages Project summarizes the situation like this:

“Nearly all mothers initiate breastfeeding in Ghana. However, sub-optimal breastfeeding practices begin on the first day. Only 25 percent of women initiate breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. Approximately 20 percent of mothers nationwide practice exclusive breastfeeding for the recommended period of the first six months. The low rate of exclusive breastfeeding is largely due to the introduction of water and other liquids at an early age. The Ghana Health Service estimates that sub-optimal breastfeeding practices contribute to about eight percent of infant deaths or about 3,300 infant deaths each year.”

Only 20% of mothers breastfeed exclusively? I continued my search and found some more assuring data. According to World Bank data the rate of mothers practicing exclusive breastfeeding to children under six months is 62,8%. However, considering that this number likely comes from health providers and the indicator on children under 5 seeing a health practitioner is only half the population or 51%, the 20% stated above might sadly be about accurate.

The good news is that education really seem to help. The Linkages Project reports big jumps in numbers of breastfeeding mothers after sensitization.The Breastfeeding Week (!) might also help bring awareness. So education seems to be step one.

But one friend was insisting that also well-educated Ghanaians refrain from breastfeeding. Can an explanation to this behavior can be found in the relatively short Ghanaian maternity leave of three months? Compare with the recommended breastfeeding time of 6 months and you see the discrepancy.

Or are there other reasons? Vanity (“I do not want stretched out breasts”), corporate miseducation (“formula is better”) or something else?

What do you think?

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Ashesi’s New Berekuso Campus

On a day like this, I miss work. Today, Ashesi University College’s brand new campus in Berekuso, north of Accra, will be inaugurated and except for my name being there on the founders’ wall, I will not be there.

Kajsa in Berekuso 2009However, from the information provided, many dignitaries will be. Except for Ashesi’s own president Patrick Awuah, Ghana’s vice president has been invited along with diplomats from around the world.

Berekuso boysAlthough, I won’t be present when Ashesi opens up shop in our own facilities, I feel happy Continue Reading

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“Happy Mother’s Day in Advance!”

Yesterday was mother’s day in Ghana and in many other countries (however not in Sweden!). Celebrations here in Ghana are maybe a little more pronounced than in Sweden, but apart for some Mother’s day parties and marches, pretty much the same. This year as every year.

Except for one, important thing. This year, I was included!

“Happy Mother’s Day in Advance!”

I got to hear several times during the day that was spent with mother-in-law, relatives and friends. So, yes, now it is official here on my blog too: I am expecting a baby! I am going to be a mother!

How did you celebrate mother’s day?

By the way, I had to check Wikipedia for the spelling and liked the information on the apostrophe:

In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day”, and created the Mother’s Day International Association.

“She was specific about the location of the apostrophe; it was to be a singular possessive, for each family to honour their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.”
By the way 2. I added the categories “Pregnancy” and “Parenting” under “Personal”. More posts on these topics are likely to follow…
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International Women’s Day: Why Are Mothers Still Dying?

Birth in Lagos from Alice Proujansky on Vimeo.

Today is March 8th, international women’s day. It is a day to rejoice for the amazing advances women as a group has made over the last 100 years, but also to focus on important issues of tomorrow.

My husband always says that equal pay must be the starting point for any viable change towards equality for women. But after seeing Alice Proujansky’s scary and beautiful birth clinic pictures from around the world (see slideshow above from Nigeria, where 1 in 13 women die during pregnancy or in childbirth), listening to Christy Turlington/EveryMotherCounts on Aljaazerah this morning (sign her petition!) and since last year pondering on the success of Ghana’s free health care policy for mothers, I still wonder if global maternity health is not the most important issue for the women of tomorrow.

According to Turlington:

“an additional investment of $1.3 billion per year would save the lives of an estimated 250,000 women and babies per year.”

Then why are mothers still dying to give birth to human kind?

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