Recently in found myself scrolling through the news concerning the ever-lasting pandemic that we all have to thank for the last two months being in quarantine or semi-quarantine.
With the help of healthcare workers and the public now we are reemerging back to normal life. However, one must now get used to the “new normality” of social distancing which it easier said than done especially among young people.
I needed to distract myself from mundane news and found myself viewing news of novel motherhood. Baby pictures filled my screen with stories of joy, happiness and hope for the bright future. However, after the initial excitement had subsided one question kept creeping in my line of thought.
How do newly mothers navigate their new-found reality?
Childbirth can either be a plain sailing or a traumatic experience for mothers. The latter can leave detrimental effects on some novel mothers. This can leave them feeling exhausted and if no help and support is provided, some women will develop what are called the “Baby Blues”. The symptoms of “Baby Blues” are impatience, fatigue, irritability and insomnia.
The exact causes of “Baby Blues’ are unknown; however, they are thought to occur due to hormone changes that go into effect during pregnancy and can persist after the baby is born. Of course, the arrival of a baby is exhilarating and will require the emergence of a new routine often characterized by dealing with a new born non-stop. In light of this some novel mothers will feel both physically and emotionally exhausted. However, the good news is that these “Baby Blues” symptoms do not persist for long, lasting only for a few days to two weeks after the baby is born.
Consequently, “Baby Blues” symptoms in some cases can develop into severe and recurring symptoms which are known as Post-Partum Depression (DDP). These symptoms can become so severe that eventually will interfere with daily tasks and ultimately hinder the care of the baby. Post-Partum depression is characterized by depressed mood and mood swings, appetite problems, anxiety, sadness and feeling overwhelmed by the present situation.
These symptoms can be coupled with the feeling of not being a good mother, having problems bonding with the baby. Some mothers being new to realities of motherhood will find it hard to adjust and thus struggle both in their private and public sphere.
Recently, my close friend Clare* gave me the joyful news of the arrival of a new born. As I went to visit Clare after the birth, I began wondering how a mother thinks that her new life will be like. I posed the question to Clare being a second-time mother. She told me that every situation has its ups and downs, however, being a first-time mother is immensely different to being a second-time mother.
In her experience Clare battled with post-partum depression when becoming a first-time mother. She explained that for a long-time she considered mother hood as the most important aspect of her life leading her to eagerly anticipate it. However, due to developing complications during the birth, the medics performed a cesarean section. She further explained to me that she was terrified during the birth and that left her with severe feelings of anxiety about her child. The fact that she also wasn’t “awake” to experience the first touch of her child, left her feeling unable to bond with her child.
At first Clare downplayed these feelings within herself and convinced herself that everything will pass away. However, as months rolled on and her baby became older, the feelings of hopelessness persisted.
At this time Clare knew that she had to seek help. This posed another obstacle: she had no body to turn to and did not know of any professional help to guide her through.
As Clare recounted her story, I couldn’t help but think of thousands of mothers who had gone through experience with no one to turn to. Furthermore, Clare recounted the feeling of being ashamed that she could not live up to society’s standards of being the prefect and happy mother. Finally, she told me that every day represented a battle against these recurring feelings. Clare stressed that mothers should take their mental health seriously as a mother’s health is just as important.
This conversation left me pondering heavily about the trials and tribulations that come with motherhood and how can these be a driving force to further initiate conversations about the challenges that motherhood can present.
Since then novel mothers are expressing their grievances by speaking out about their experiences and are urging other mothers to do the same. Many forums and Facebook pages have since then sprung up pledging to support mothers and family members especially the father, to navigate their new found role as parents. One factor that was welcomed by parents was the Mental Health Strategy in which it seeks to target and eventually help patients with mental health among them new mothers.
The Mental Health Strategy was launched by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Health Chris Fearne. The Deputy Prime Minister described mental health as “…one of the most significant public health challenges…”. With this initiative Labour government is supporting and providing help to those who are affected by such medical conditions. Novel mothers can also seek help from specialized therapists which will ultimately help them on their journey to recovery.
At the delicate time of child birth, the mother focuses on the event of holding and seeing her child for the first time. What follows after is that often, novel mothers may focus on other aspects and forget their wellbeing especially mental health. This may lead to underlying problems of uncertainty amongst other things.
In light of this mothers need the emotional and professional support from family and health workers. Midwives are the most important factor for women in ante and post-labor as they guide them through their journey and birth of their children. Furthermore, mothers facing this new reality need constant help and support through agencies such as support groups which are increasingly flourishing throughout Malta.