SOUTH AFRICA: The Best-Laid Birth Plan

SOUTH AFRICA: The Best-Laid Birth Plan

The Best-Laid Birth Plan
Before my (now 24 year old) son was born, I was a SuperSitter. Not only did I work for a Babysitting Agency called SuperSitters, but I’d also studied Child Psychology, Child and Infant First Aid and aced a course which would have allowed me to open up a daycare facility of my own, if I’d wanted to. I was the person they’d call for challenging babies and children. I could soothe a colicky baby and have a normally hyperactive child fast asleep before the parents came home. They all expressed their astonishment at how well their young ones behaved when in my care. I felt supremely confident in my ability to be a great mother – after all, if other people’s children behaved so wonderfully when I looked after them, surely my own flesh and blood would be even easier, right?!
When I found out I was pregnant, I was thrilled. I read every single book on pregnancy, childbirth and parenting that I could lay my hands on, attended prenatal classes, and congratulated myself on how well-prepared I was for motherhood. A week before my due date I had my bag packed for the hospital and my birth plan written out. My husband had been prepped as to what I would need from him at each stage of labour. We were ready – or so we thought!
My due date came and went with no sign whatsoever of my son wanting to be born.  I was extremely bloated and hot (January in South Africa is peak Summer heat), not to mention anxious to hold my son. To make matters even worse, my husband and I were living with my grandparents at the time, and with every braxton hicks contraction they would ask, “Is it time?” Eventually I couldn’t take it any more, so 10 days post due date I had my husband take me to the hospital. When I got there my contractions stopped again. On examination I was 3 cm dilated. The doctor asked me if I wanted to go home or if I was willing to have my labour induced. I wish that I’d been smart enough to go home, but at that moment I couldn’t face going home again without having given birth. This was to be the first of many mistakes I made as a mother.
I will spare you all the gory details, except to tell you that nothing went according to my meticulous birth plan, and I ended up needing an emergency c-section due to foetal distress. That was just the start of our problems.  The surgical team struggled to get my uterus to stop bleeding after they’d delivered my son. My blood pressure nearly bottomed out and (much later) my OB-Gyn admitted that, if I hadn’t stopped bleeding when I did, she would have had to perform a hysterectomy to save my life! I thank God every day that it didn’t happen, because I wouldn’t have my beautiful daughter if it had! I’d lost so much blood that they had to keep transfusing me throughout the night. I wasn’t taken back to the maternity ward until the next day.
Because of what had happened to me, I wasn’t given the chance to breastfeed my son until much later the next day.  By then they’d already given him a bottle and I never managed to get breastfeeding properly established. Instead of the minimum 6 months that I had planned to breastfeed, I ended up switching to bottle feeding almost from the day I got home. I really wish that I’d known then what I know now, like breastfeeding on demand!
As if that wasn’t bad enough, my son had severe colic for the first 3 months or so.  Much to my surprise and dismay, this “SuperSitter” was completely and utterly unable to soothe her own baby! I also suffered through Postpartum Depression. I thank God every day for the unbelievable support I had from my husband, grandparents and aunt, who all stepped in and did for my son what I wasn’t able to.
Things went from bad to worse for my poor son. He projectile vomited every feed for almost 2 years, despite all our best efforts. He also often had gastroenteritis. Between puke and diarrhea we did a full load of washing every.single.day.  I cried a lot during those first two years, because I felt like the world’s worst mother, and I was sure that my son wasn’t going to survive given all the vomiting.
Fast forward to today and the child I was so worried about has grown into a handsome, healthy and intelligent young man.  In those early days I couldn’t even begin to dream of him becoming the man he is today. He has surpassed all my expectations, and I am incredibly proud of him.
He is now married, and is the step-dad of a lovely little girl. My son has learnt how to speak, read and write German fluently, and is currently studying Computer Science (Informatik) at Goethe University in Frankfurt.
The main reason for writing this post (apart from the fact that today is my son’s birthday!) is to give hope to all the moms who, like me, feel that they’re not “good enough” mothers.  What I have learnt is that all children need to know three things – that you love them unconditionally, that you’re proud of them and that they can trust you.  As long as you have those 3 things in place, nothing else really matters that much.  Most of the things that we beat ourselves up for they don’t even remember when they grow up!
Was your labour and delivery what you hoped it would be?  What do you wish you’d known when you were younger?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Mama Simona from Cape Town, South Africa.

Photo credit to the author. 

Mamma Simona (South Africa)

Mamma Simona was born in Rome (Italy) but has lived in Cape Town (South Africa) since she was 8 years old. She studied French at school but says she’s forgotten most of it! She speaks Italian, English and Afrikaans. Even though Italian is the first language she learned, she considers English her "home" language as it's the language she's most comfortable in. She is happily married and the proud mother of 2 terrific teenagers! She also shares her home with 2 cats and 2 dogs ... all rescues. Mamma Simona has worked in such diverse fields as Childcare, Tourism, Library Services, Optometry, Sales and Admin! (With stints of SAHM in-between). She’s really looking forward to the day she can give up her current Admin job and devote herself entirely to blogging and (eventually) being a full-time grandmother!

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OMAN: Black Milk, an Identity Crisis

Black Milk

The moment I saw the title of the book, I knew what the author meant. It was as if it was written for me. Black Milk by Elif Shafak, renowned novelist from Turkey, is a memoir described as ‘a thoughtful and incisive meditation on literature, motherhood, and spiritual well-being.’

Although I enjoy reading, I am not good at writing book reviews. As a lover of books, I can talk about what I read with friends, who, like me, are still amazed by the creativity of authors. I find it easy to talk about my favorite books, and the stories that stick with me, ones that I will never forget. However, writing an objective book review is something I find very challenging. Yet with Black Milk, I believe I owe mothers out there. I owe them sharing what I gleaned from reading this groundbreaking book.

Shafak wrote about herself – but it could have been about me. Me, a mother who experienced postpartum depression; a new mother who felt at a loss, and who thought that she should not feel this way; a woman who stopped doing things for herself and thought that motherhood should be more than enough; a mother who experienced fluctuations in her feelings 100 times a day; a woman who did not really understand what was going on.

Black Milk describes those ups and downs encountered by many new mothers, especially those experiencing anxiety about the huge change they’ve embarked upon – those mothers who overthink things and believe that they should be able to control the world, and not stop and ‘relax’ for a moment and ‘blend’ with the world.

In the book, Shafak has many inner conversations with her ‘Thumbelinas,’ who each represent aspect of herself. These tiny ladies are constantly fighting, trying to overcome one another to be the dominant part of her personality. Shafak is very objective in writing about them, and instead of hating them, you feel the opposite. In writing about the competing characteristics within, she seeks to find some kind of unifying identity for herself.

Shafak writes about western female writers as well, including Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, and Alice Walker. She explores their lives, the way they found balance between being writers and mothers, or the way some of them chose one role over the other. In these women’s lives, Shafak seeks balance between her life as an artist, and her new life as a mother.

Being a mother and a writer means seeking some sense of self, besides the role of motherhood. The same applies to any personal career or decision a mother takes. Such a choice was not common in the West until recently, and it is still not acceptable in many eastern societies to this day. Thus this subject, though some might consider it a personal issue, is more of a political one that is affected by patriarchal societies. Elif Shafak does not make judgements, and why should she – this is a subject that has no right or wrong to it. The ability to choose and be respected for whatever choices you make should be totally acceptable.

Shafek’s book touched me, as a mother, a writer, and a woman. I really identified with her struggle, her experience with postpartum depression, and her personal crisis as she adapted to motherhood.

How do you find balance between your own personal well-being and the demands of motherhood? What books have inspired you on your journey?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Ibtisam Alwardi of Oman. 

Photo courtesy of Raúl Hernández González / Flickr.

 

Ibtisam Alwardi

Ibtisam (at Ibtisam's musings) is an Omani Mom of three, living in the capital city of Oman ,Muscat. After working for ten years as a speech and language therapist in a public hospital, she finally had the courage to resign and start her own business. She had a dream of owning a place where she can integrate fun, play and 'books', thus the iPlay Smart centre (@iplaysmart) was born. Currently she is focusing on raising awareness through social media about parenting, childhood, language acquisition. She started raising awareness on (the importance of reading) and (sexual harassment) targeting school-aged children. Ibtisam enjoys writing, both in Arabic and English, reading and working closely with children. She plans to write children books (in Arabic) one day. Contact Ibtisam at ibtisamblogging(at)gmail.com.

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NETHERLANDS:  Mommy Shoes

NETHERLANDS: Mommy Shoes

mommy shoesIt has been nearly two years since I asked for help.

Motherhood and life felt like too much of a burden for me. After years of thinking that the problem was me, it finally dawned on me that there might be something wrong.

I started therapy and found out that I had suffered from postpartum depression. Not once but three times. I also found out that the feelings I struggled with in my early teens were not just regular teen struggles. I found out that it was also depression that I had struggled with.

These past two years have been the most intense years of my life. I have experienced tremendous growth. I have opened new doors and have closed old doors behind me.

People talk about therapy lightly. They think therapy is nothing more than paying someone to listen and to give you advice. Therapy is no such thing. Therapy is facing yourself. Therapy is opening doors and looking into the dark corners of your soul. It is work. Hard work that sometimes  leaves you exhausted. Being as courageous, as walking into a lion’s den unarmed. Vulnerable. It is raw naked honesty and perseverance. Going down a steep, rocky and sometimes dark road without knowing when you will reach the end of it. It’s knowing that you can decide to leave that road at any moment, yet not giving in to that thought. Because you want to get well.

For the past two years I have been going down this road. To say it has been a roller coaster ride, is to take a devastating hurricane and to call it a warm summer’s breeze. The hardest part? Being a mother at the same time.

There is no time off. No time to lick my wounds or to take a break. When I come out of therapy I need to step quickly into my mommy shoes. Some days I come out of therapy feeling empowered. I stand tall and firm and switch roles like a pro. Other days I feel delivered, freed from a burden that has been carried for way too long. Those are the days that my mommy shoes feel like dancing shoes. Then there are days that I am exhausted from the hard work and I feel empty with little left to give. On those days my Mommy shoes are put on reluctantly.

Some days the carefully constructed bandages around my heart are ripped from their place and old wounds are exposed. My heart breaks and scatters into a thousand pieces. An hour passes as I work through the pain.  When the clock strikes reality, I hastily gather the pieces and put them back into place as best I can. I wear my mommy shoes, and though it is I that longs to be nurtured, it is I that gives the loving smile; it is I that spreads my arms in welcome;  I that carries and I that offers warmth and shelter.

On such days my feet struggle to find solid ground underneath my shoes. When my child reaches for me, my grasp is firm. And as I hold her little warm hand softly in mine, the ground underneath my feet gradually feels stable again.

Have you ever experienced something, that made it hard for you to step back into your ‘Mommy shoes’? I would love to hear about it.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our author in the Netherlands, Mirjam.

The image used in this post is credited to the author.

Mirjam

Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands. She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over a decade to the love of her life. Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home. In what little time she has left, she enjoys being an elementary school teacher. Mirjam has battled and survived three postpartum depressions. She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and she loves being creative in many ways. But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself. You can find Mirjam at Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter.

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MINNESOTA, USA:  The Love and Heartbreak of an Overbearing Mother

MINNESOTA, USA: The Love and Heartbreak of an Overbearing Mother

IMG_4888I grew up in a close-knit family of five in the seventies and eighties to such popular shows that reflected our lives like The Brady Bunch, Who’s the Boss and Different Strokes. Long gone were the days of Leave it to Beaver and mothers wearing aprons around the house all day greeting their working husband each evening with a freshly cooked meal and a smile. The seventies and eighties meant more liberation for women and the family structure changed right along with it.

My mother was always my biggest advocate picking me up off the ground when I fell, wiping the tears off my checks when I’d been dumped by a boy and loving and supporting me to follow my dreams. She also taught me to stand up for what was right and wrong and to always be humble, not proud. I followed her teachings and once I left for college our friendship and love grew into maturity.

Everything was wonderful for the next 12 years until the moment when everything changed. I became a mother.

At the time, I had no idea that anything would ever change between us. I thought our bond would grow stronger once I was a mother too. But I was wrong. Instead, our relationship has become filled with tension, confusion and stress.  It took me a long time to realize and understand that our relationship had permanently changed and even longer to understand the reason why. (more…)

Nicole Melancon (USA)

Third Eye Mom is a stay-at-home mom living in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her two children Max (6) and Sophia (4). Her children keep her continually busy and she is constantly amazed by the imagination, energy and joy of life that they possess! A world wanderer at heart, she has also been fortunate to have visited over 30 countries by either traveling, working, studying or volunteering and she continues to keep on the traveling path. A graduate of French and International Relations from the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she met her husband Paul, she has always been a Midwest gal living in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Chicago. This adventurous mom loves to be outside doing anything athletic (hiking, running, biking, skiing, snowshoeing or simply enjoying nature), to travel and volunteer abroad, to write, and to spend time with her beloved family and friends. Her latest venture involves her dream to raise enough money on her own to build and open a brand-new school in rural Nepal, and to teach her children to live compassionately, open-minded lives that understand different cultures and the importance of giving back to those in need. Third Eye Mom believes strongly in the value of making a difference in the world, no matter how small it may be. If there is a will, there is a way, and that anything is possible (as long as you set your heart and mind to it!). Visit her on her blog, Thirdeyemom, where she writes about her travels and experiences in other lands!

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NORTH CAROLINA, USA: A Journey Through Post Partum Depression

“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.” ~Vera Nazarian

One of the most misunderstood parts of motherhood is the emotional roller-coaster you’re on right after giving birth. Everyone expects you to be settling in blissfully while staring doe-eyed at your bundle of joy.

But having a baby is both amazingly fantastic and ridiculously exhausting.

Whether you’re a first time mom or not, the disruption while everyone adjusts to the new normal can be overwhelming. You may be fortunate enough to have a wonderful mom (or a well-meaning mother in law) to step in and help but relinquishing a degree of your control over the day-to-day can contribute to frustration too. And if you’re like many women, the combination of these factors may lead to a case of “baby blues”, or to full blown post partum depression [PPD].

These negative emotions can be confusing for both the mom and those around her as well. Many women think there must me something wrong with them, assuming they “should” feel happy. More often than (more…)

Frelle (USA)

Jenna grew up in the midwestern US, active in music and her church community from a young age. She developed a love of all things literary thanks to her mom, and a love of all things science fiction thanks to her dad. She left the midwest in her early twenties and has lived in the south ever since.

On her blog, she tries to write words that make a difference to people. Long before she attended college to major in Special Ed and Psychology, she became an advocate for special needs and invisible disabilities. She's always been perceptive of and encouraging to those who struggle to fit in. Having been through several dark seasons in her own life, she's found empowerment in being transparent and vulnerable about her emotions, making deep and lasting friendships, and finding courage to write from her heart. Her biggest wish is to raise her kids to be compassionate people who love well.

She's been online since 1993, with a total of 19 years of social media exposure. Having friends she doesn't know in real life has been normal for her since her junior year in college, and she's grateful every day for the ways technology helps her stay in touch with friends from all over the world.

Jenna lives in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina, and is a freelance writer and a stay at home single mom to 3 girls and a boy. She blogs at MadeMoreBeautiful.comMadeMoreBeautiful.com.

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CANADA: Breastfeeding

I love research.

I think it comes as part of the “I-have-an-anxiety-disorder” package that I research things obsessively. Getting a dog? Buy ALL the dog books. Having a baby? Spend hundreds of hours trawling through research study abstracts.

So when I saw a notice at the Reproductive Mental Health Centre looking for participants in a study on infant feeding in mothers with depression and anxiety, I volunteered. Why not give back?

Infant feeding and maternal mental health are slightly controversial topic. Research has shown that mothers with post partum depression are more likely to be formula feeders than breast feeders.

What no one really knows is which causes the other.

Does breastfeeding make you happier? Does formula feeding make you miserable? Or does post partum depression just wreck your chances of breastfeeding success? (more…)

Carol (Canada)

Carol from If By Yes has lived in four different Canadian provinces as well as the Caribbean. Now she lives in Vancouver, working a full time job at a vet clinic, training dogs on the side, and raising her son and daughter to be good citizens of the world. Carol is known for wearing inside-out underwear, microwaving yoghurt, killing house plants, over-thinking the mundane, and pointing out grammatical errors in "Twilight". When not trying to wrestle her son down for a nap, Carol loves to read and write. Carol can also be found on her blog, If By Yes, and on Twitter @IfByYesTweets

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