Motherhood and the challenges

Motherhood is an amazing journey filled with love, excitement and rewards. Becoming a mother would give the woman a great sense of achievement. Yet, it could be an overwhelming time of stress and struggle to some.

Along the journey to motherhood most women will struggle and stumble. This naturally is part and parcel of any change we would experience in our lives. The struggle and the overwhelming joy that one feels with the new arrival is all part of the broader emotional experience of motherhood. It is of utmost importance that expectant mothers and new mothers together with their families become aware of these mood swings in order to identify and decide when to seek help.

It is not common in our culture to openly talk about our feeling and emotions with the fear of being laughed at, ridiculed or of simply being ignored. Expressing negative emotions will lead to you being judged as weak, inadequate or failure. Women ultimately become “silent sufferers” within these cultural enclaves.

Preparing for motherhood:

Before the baby is born it is important to discuss as a couple to know how much they know about motherhood or parenthood.  The way you were brought up and your own parent’s experiences would be useful. However it is important for the couples to openly discuss how they want to raise their child irrespective of their own experiences which may or may not be the ideal. Especially in our culture the usual practice for a new mother is either to go to her own parents or her own mother to move in to offer help soon after giving birth. Although this practice is widely welcomed, there may be instances where it can lead to conflicts among the couple which will leave long term scars in their own relationship.  The most important thing to remember is that you and your partner together with the baby to be born are going to make your own family.

The bundle of joy and the challenges

Loss of control and freedom

In our culture women have comparatively less freedom than in western cultures when it comes to decision making especially after marriage. This applies to both pregnancy and child birth as well. Though we are moving from extended families to nuclear families the external influence sometimes become overwhelming to the expectant mother. Therefore you need to be ready for this change before hand. You will get various advice from health care professionals and from the family and friends which sometimes will be too difficult to follow. So be prepared to discuss with your partner and the healthcare provider and have a clear plan about the pregnancy, mode of delivery and childcare without spoiling your relationship with the family and friends.

Once the baby is born, the entire daily routine will change according to the needs of the new arrival. So be prepared, accept the reality and take up the challenge. It is going to be a rollercoaster ride the first few weeks until you and the baby get in to a routine. You cannot be a hundred percent perfect mother and do not strive to be one either.

Make sure you get some rest and time for yourself as well and some couple time too.

Too much exhaustion will lead to emotional and physical draining

 Changes in roles and responsibilities

As the new addition to the family consumes most of your time and attention, balancing your roles and responsibilities as mother and wife becomes increasingly difficult. The husband may feel emotionally and physically replaced by the new baby, if there are older children the divided attention might lead to sibling rivalry. While the assistance offered by the extended family is welcomed it is important to keep the situation under your control so when it comes to making important decisions the priority is given to “your family”. If you are a working mother ,it needs to be carefully planned how you would arrange baby care once the maternity leave is over, a huge problem faced by many Sri Lankan mothers as there is paucity of quality childcare providing institutions and support from the extended family is not that common in modern society.

Breastfeeding

Although breast feeding is a natural process, some mothers may experience difficulties due to various reasons. The negative comments and criticism from others will make matters worse if not dealt with proper understanding. It is important to understand that the new mother needs her own time, space and pace to establish correct technique of breast feeding.

Physical and Mental health

Exhaustion is probably the most common issue for the new mother with endless sleepless nights, struggling to calm the baby, breastfeeding on demand, coping with other household chores. It is important to understand that all babies are not the same cute bundles of joy all the time. There may be babies who are difficult to settle, or babies with medical problems or special needs. You need to anticipate and be prepared to cope with such circumstances.  Parenting needs to be a collaborative one with mutual understanding and supporting each other. It is not the sole responsibility of the new mother to care for the baby. Fathers must share the burden and allow the mother to take much needed rest as well.

The experiences of the new mother are wide ranging and sometimes it may be difficult to differentiate “normal” from “abnormal”.  It is important to identify “abnormal” experiences which can become more frequent, distressing and disturbing the day to day activities. Do not hesitate to seek help from a health professional if you have any concerns about you experiences or emotions. Public health midwife is your first contact as well as the person who has been in constant contact with you throughout your pregnancy and the child birth. So talk to her openly and share your thoughts and she will guide you and advise what action needs to be taken.

Motherhood can be magical. It can also be mundane.

 

Dr. Gayani Punchihewa
Consultant Psychiatrist/Senior lecturer
Department of Psychiatry

Faculty of Medicine
University of Ruhuna.

Mission : Fulfilling the mental health information needs of public through increased access to accurate information effectively and efficient delivered with established ethics.
Vision : The realization of optimum mental health of Sri Lankan community.

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