The birth of my third child is one of my most empowering stories ever.
Ideally the birth of a child is a time where communities come together and provide various levels of support, strengthening the already established intimate bonds within the community. In this scenario, a mother can fully, physically and emotionally, recover and be honoured and supported in her role as a mother.
In reality, what happened is that I received hardly any support :
- my family is distant in both location and in their ability and desire to offer support
- my boyfriend was recovering from a hernia operation just the week before I gave birth by C-section
Communities are often not very connected, and today they are more transient than ever before. But I had my own little community well organized and together. I have a housekeeper who takes care of cleaning, washing and ironing. A nanny who collects the older children, does small grocery shopping and homework. And my groceries are delivered to the house. Really all I have to do is get up in the morning, show up for work and be a loving mother to my children. Though being a mother of three is more challenging than that at times, I can assure you.
Interactions between neighbours tend to be superficial and polite at best, with many people not even knowing their neighbours. My neighbours were all so very lovely in dropping by cards of good wishes and little presents for the baby. Yet they knew nothing of my personal story and I prefer to keep it that way, unless asked specifically. It is after all no big secret.
Post-pregnancy can often be a time of isolation, confusion, insufficient support, and suffering for mothers and families — when the stressors of modern life are combined with the physical, emotional, and social demands of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and raising a child, plus sleep deprivation. This is fertile ground for postnatal depletion. A mother who hardly has the physical energy or the mental clarity to take care of herself and her kids is hardly going to have the energy and time to devote to supporting other mothers and sisters in her community. I see this as a perpetuating intergenerational cycle.
Like I said, I had it all together. I had a blissful pregnancy. An easy birth, C-section is actually not as bad as it sounds, lets the body recuperate much faster. I have a wide circle of friends around me and a support system in place, all to compensate for the lack of family goodwill. And I just adore motherhood. Just a word of caution to other mothers out there: don’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it.
— Mechelen, Belgium (July 2016)