Welcome to motherhood: the reality

Congratulations! You have become a new mother to the most beautiful, delicate, tiny human being you have ever set eyes on. Waves of well wishes, presents and “oohs and aahhs” start coming your way. But how are you feeling? I mean, honestly? Are you really prepared to face life with a newborn, with all the struggles one needs to handle?

Before getting pregnant, you dream about the perfect birth journey: from conception to delivery, showing off your baby bump and enjoying the attention it brings, to the birth of your precious child and the very first moments of motherhood. Sounds amazing, right? You might need to think again.

For a lot of mothers, pregnancy is not exactly the fairytale they imagined, or better, what the media and society at large make them believe. One can start by mentioning morning sickness as the first hurdle for pregnant mothers, which in turn can lead to a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum.

For a lot of mothers, pregnancy is not exactly the fairytale they imagined, or better, what the media and society at large make them believe.

According to americanpregnancy.org, “Hyperemesis gravidarum is a condition characterised by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance. Mild cases are treated with dietary changes, rest, and antacids. More severe cases often require a stay in the hospital so that the mother can receive fluid and nutrition through an intravenous (IV) line.”

Some women experience this condition in the first three months of pregnancy, others less lucky continue to experience HG throughout their pregnancy. Other notable pregnancy symptoms can include diabetes and high blood pressure.

Fast forward to the birth of your precious baby. Finally, the wait is over and you are waiting to hold your baby after all the tiredness and generally feeling like on oversized pufferfish…yep, forget about the pregnancy glow!

Sadly, not everyone’s birth story replicates a scene from the soppy romantic comedies we see on the big screens. Some births are traumatic, so much so that they leave the mother suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and post-partum depression. However, once your little one is in your hands, all the issues experienced during pregnancy will fade like a distant memory.

Once your oh-so-awaited-for offspring is in your hands, here comes an avalanche of unsolicited advice from your dearest and nearest. We all know close family and friends all mean well, however, not everyone tackles motherhood in the same way. It is a personal journey for both mother and baby, and surely, the father as well.

In order to understand the struggles of most mothers and carers of little ones, I turned to our trusty Facebook and asked mothers to underline what difficulties they face. Being a new mum myself, I can certainly relate to many of these scenarios.

One of the most common difficulties is that various places are not adequately equipped for parents with young children or infants, from accessibility with a pram or pushchair to nappy changing and breastfeeding facilities. It is evident that the majority of public places have limited areas for nappy changing facilities, not to mention they are usually found in female rest rooms only. Although we must mention that many establishments are keeping up with the times making such facilities available.

Various places are not adequately equipped for parents with young children or infants, from accessibility with a pram or pushchair to nappy changing and breastfeeding facilities.

Speaking of accessibility, one cannot fail to mention the state of the pavements and streets in every Maltese locality. Speaking from experience, it is practically impossible to go about your day doing errands while pushing a pram or pushchair safely on a pavement. Badly kept pavements, garage ramps and door steps are just a few of the inconveniences encountered, being forced to walk on the roads and getting honked at by drivers.

Some fellow new mums also mentioned that it would be most helpful to have parking spots available for pregnant mothers and parents with babies, especially in shopping centres.

Another common issue is that concerning parental leave and parental duties. Unfortunately, it is taken for granted by the general society that the mother will be the primary carer of infants and children. Following this, mothers may face a number of issues mainly concerning their jobs and professional lives. On numerous occasions, young women of the stereo typical child bearing age are looked at in a different light from employers, fearing that this employee will likely fall pregnant and avail herself of maternity leave, even though this is not necessarily made obvious during the interview itself.

Fathers cannot avail themselves of equal parental leave, many times leaving the mother to fend for herself with a new-born baby, whilst dealing with aches and pains together with baby blues that follow childbirth. This of course is also grossly unfair on the fathers that do not get to enjoy their baby’s initial period at home. Notwithstanding this, the intense emotional feeling when your baby looks at you and shares his gummy smile erases almost all aches and pains!

A number of mothers expressed their concern of being judged when returning to work. Often times, this is against the mother’s wishes, however in today’s day and age, both parents need to work to accommodate the day to day expenses and monthly financial commitments. Even if the latter does not apply, why should a mother stop her fulfilling career because she has a child? The father is more than capable of taking care of the child too.

Some parents do not have family members that can assist with the upbringing of children. Many times, when a child is sick, parents need to avail themselves of annual leave. Perhaps offering flexibility to work from home where possible will surely help parents with work-life balance. This will simultaneously reduce stress and increase a positive outlook towards work. Especially in the first few months of an infant’s life, there will be countless sleep interruptions for both parents, which make going about your day a little harder than usual.

All of the above issues carry a heavy mental load; juggling new parenthood, house chores, bodily and hormonal changes, work and financial commitments, sometimes coupled with post-partum depression.

Of course, one could go on and on forever about different challenges and this article is by no means exhaustive.

However, no matter how uphill the struggle is, parenthood is a wonderful journey and I am sure that when the time comes to look back on our children’s first years, it will all be worth it!


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