I had a nightmare the other night about running late for dinner with my husband. In the dream, I went into the bedroom to change, but for the life of me I couldn’t get ready. I knew my husband was outside getting more and more impatient with me and we were going to miss our reservation, but nothing could make me speed up. I woke up with a start and looked at my bedside clock. It was 9:15 am. I was an hour and fifteen minutes late for my son Boodi’s sports day. I had slept through the alarm (and many many snooze alarms) like a zombie. My subconscious had been taking me on a dream guilt trip.
I jumped out of bed, irrationally angry at everyone in the world who didn’t wake me (including my 4 year old, Khaled, who I kept home from preschool to go with me to sports day). He greeted me saying, “Mama I was waiting and waiting and you weren’t coming.”
It took me 10 minutes to get from the bed to the car. My irrational anger began to subside when I realised that there is no one to blame. I simply slept through the alarm. This didn’t help with the guilt that swelled with every passing minute.
I should give you a little background: our nanny normally does the school drop-offs, which is why I was still asleep till 9:15. Also, I am 17 weeks pregnant with baby number 5 and running my own business – hence the coma-like sleep I have been experiencing lately.
Thankfully, our nanny had rushed back to school at 8 am to be there for my son and take pictures. I frantically called her from the car and she assured me they had 3 more games to play before the end of the sports day.
We arrived finally at 9:55 am. As I walked onto the field where the mothers were following their children’s classes from activity to activity, I ran into a couple of mother whom I know. One of them looked concerned and asked if I had just arrived. “Yes, I slept through the alarm! I feel terrible!” I told her. She gave me a sympathetic look and said not to worry, and that Boodi was pleased the nanny was there (kill me now). The other mother laughed and said “Well, good morning at night!” (An Arabic expression meaning too little, too late). The first mother was genuinely trying to help but this one, well, was just being bitchy.
I let out a little laugh, not knowing how else to respond. I held back my tears, and went to find Boodi. Khaled found him first and ran over to him to give him hugs. I found our nanny, apologized, and thanked her profusely for coming and taking pictures. She, as always, understood and left us to enjoy the last of the activities. I ran into a few other mothers who were genuinely empathetic. They made me feel better, but I couldn’t shake the sour taste the mean mother’s comment left in my mouth. I promised to pick Boodi up at the end of the day and headed home. Boodi was so happy to have us there the last 10 minutes that he didn’t even ask why I was late.
I came back to school at pick up time and was waiting outside for the final bell to ring. Another mother whom I know walked up to me and said “I didn’t see you today.” Previous interactions with this particular mother had me prepared me – I knew what to expect. “Oh, I saw you!” I said with a smile. “I arrived a bit late.”
“How late? After it finished?” She laughed. I stared at her, flabbergasted, and said “I slept through my alarm,” because that’s all I could muster. “Well, don’t be late for the grade 5 sports day tomorrow!” she snipped. Tomorrow’s sports day, which both our older children are part of, starts at 12 in the afternoon. I managed to say, “Of course I won’t! It’s at 12 pm! Who would sleep that late?” This answer took her back a bit. By the time the bell rang I was seething.
I went home planning what I would say the next day when I saw the mom shamers. I knew that someone would make a comment, and I wanted to have a snarky reply at the ready. Of course, the next day when the other mother passed by me on the field and said, “Ah, I see you made it on time today!” I just gave her a steely look and walked away. At the end of the day, I’m all talk.
Looking back on the different interactions I have had with the mom shamers at school, I lose count of how many times I have been shamed, or have witnessed shaming of others. Mom shamers can be brutally judgemental. No matter their reason for shaming other moms, it is inexcusable for women to be other women’s biggest critics. What happened to women supporting women? We’re in the trenches together, are we not?
Here is what I want those mom shamers to know:
- You don’t love my child more than I do. And if you feel I don’t love my child enough, your shaming me won’t change that.
- When I arrive for the last 10 minutes of my sons sports day looking frazzled and out of breath how do you think shaming me will help? I believe your goal was never to help me, but rather to feel better about yourself.
- Parenting is not measured by drop offs and pick ups or having a nanny versus doing everything yourself. No one can measure the strength of a mother and child’s relationship from these superficial, insignificant daily routines.
- Your focus on me and my child should be a sign for you to look deeper into yourself to see where this is coming from.
- My lateness is obviously triggering something inside you, making you need to lash out with a snide comment. Your energy is better used trying to figure out why it is so important to you to put me down.
Finally, as Bernard Meltzer said: “Before you speak, ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mama B. of Saudi Arabia. Photo credit to the author.
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.
In my home country of Brazil, the Zika virus has been on the minds of pregnant mothers. As a matter of fact, I’ve even had the virus myself. Zika is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, and more recently, there has been evidence that it can be transmitted sexually or from mother to child during pregnancy. Authorities believe the virus entered Brazil during the FIFA World Cup soccer games in 2014, setting off the outbreak in Latin America. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, almost 200,000 probable cases occurred from January to mid-August in 2016. 51,7% of these cases were confirmed.
At a first glance, the symptoms are not all that frightening: rashes, fever, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and headaches that go away after a few days without hospitalization. When I had the fever (I wasn’t pregnant at the time) it was uncomfortable, and I had painful headaches. However, it was over in just three days, without any special treatment. 80% of people infected with Zika don’t develop any symptoms at all, thus a large number of cases go unreported. Pregnant women are at the greatest risk from Zika due to the effects it can have on their unborn babies, such as microcephaly, a birth defect in which the baby’s head is smaller than normal.
Danielle Paes Leme, a lawyer from the state of Pernambuco, discovered that she was pregnant in the midst of the Zika crisis.
“When I first found out I was pregnant it was tough. Several of my friends were getting sick and I felt the disease getting closer and closer. For a while I felt quite tense thinking that I might catch Zika and that my baby would suffer the consequences for the rest of his life. I couldn’t sleep, I cried all the time, I had nightmares and I even thought of moving to another state”.
Nevertheless, Danielle reports that after the first trimester she began to feel calmer. “I tried not to let fear affect me as much. I did what I could to protect myself and I no longer thought of moving. For those who are pregnant I would say to be optimistic and believe that everything will turn out fine – and to try to enjoy pregnancy overall”.
According to a recent publication of the Brazilian Ministry of Health, thirteen lines of action are being carried out to combat Zika and other diseases spread by the Aedes mosquito, including the distribution of diagnosis kits, meetings with specialists and government officials, improvements to diagnosis and case reporting, and increased funds for research. There has also been a massive effort to educate the population and eliminate the mosquito, which breeds in still or stagnant water. For example, 220,000 troops and 270,000 health workers are visiting homes throughout my country in search of possible breeding grounds.
Additionally, pregnant women in Brazil have been instructed to wear long clothes, use safe insect repellent, and seek out proper pre-natal care. It has also been recommended that pregnant women planning to travel to Latin America reconsider their trip.
“My sincere hope”, says Danielle, “is that this disease does not spread to other places. However, if it does, people must be educated on how fighting the Aedes mosquito is everyone’s responsibility”.
The increased risk of microcephaly from a possible link to the rampant Zika virus has brought new concerns to Brazilian mothers-to-be, but we are hoping the actions put into place to control the virus will put a stop to the spreading of the disease and protect more babies from birth defects.
Have you done anything differently after first hearing about the Zika virus, such as delaying pregnancy or cancelling travel plans?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Eco Ziva of Brazil. Photo credit: Hamza Butt. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
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.
There’s a reality that’s been gnawing at me for a long time. I’m talking about the pressures that face women – unwanted pressures from society.
As soon as you hit the age of 25, people start asking, “When will you get married?” After your wedding they will ask, “When is ‘our’ firstborn arriving?” If your firstborn child is a baby girl, they will ask, “So when are you giving ‘us’ a boy?” And if your firstborn is a boy, they will ask you, “When are you giving ‘us’ a second child?” Even if you are lucky enough to give them all of that, they will demand a third, fourth and fifth child, because you must give them a namesake. In my African culture, we name our children after our relatives. It is a great honor to have a child named after you. Therefore, every relative will constantly put pressure on you to have more children so that you can give them a namesake.
In my country, there is a certain celebrity news anchor who recently married an equally famous gospel musician. The wedding was in December of last year, just eight short months ago. Since then, the public has been DEMANDING that the lovely couple give them a child. The public reacted horribly when the woman recently shared an old photo of herself on social media. It was a throwback photo of herself as a teenager in high school, reminiscing of the good times she had in her youth. The photo somehow made it to a popular online entertainment and gossip site, and the comments that followed the post were shocking.
“Stop showing us photos of your past, we want to see photos of you pregnant!” the commentators yelled.
“So now you are showing us photos of when you were a girl? Why not of now? Are you trying to hide something? Are you barren?” another asked.
“Give your husband a child now otherwise he will go looking elsewhere,” another said.
“If you’re having problems getting pregnant, inbox me. I’ll sort you out,” another offered.
Hundreds of comments followed, all of a similar nature.
It made me sad. Why does society put so much pressure on people? On couples? On women? What if the couple is not able to have a child? Or if they have been trying, unsuccessfully? What if they have suffered pregnancy loss – something they may not want to openly talk about? Or if they do not even want a child in the first place? Is it the public’s business? Society’s business? Their relatives’ business? Or is it between the husband and wife?
Seriously, as women, we have a lot to deal with, and we do not need societal pressure adding to our nightmares. Unfortunately, that is exactly what we face. In a society where a woman’s worth is valued by her reproductive prowess, it is indeed sad. In my culture, a woman may have achieved many notable feats and broken the glass ceilings over her head, but if she is not married (or, even worse, does not have a child), then she may just be nothing. Society will be harsh on her. That is, if they even recognize her.
But you know what else is interesting? Who is this society that we are talking about? Who are these people?
It is you and me. Us. We are the society. We are the same people who, when we meet a friend who got married over a year ago, will, while shaking her hand, be staring at her belly, trying to catch a glimpse of how swollen it is. Or whether it is swollen at all. Sometimes we do it consciously, sometimes we don’t even notice we are doing it. It just comes naturally. And then we talk with our other girlfriends saying “Lucy is not getting any younger, I wonder when she’s planning to start having babies.” That’s the pressure I’m talking about.
We all need to be a lot more sensitive to what fellow women go through. I hope you and I can make the difference.
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama of Mummy Tales in Kenya.
Photo courtesy of Frank Douwes / Flickr.