Life Matters | Aug 01,2020
February 13 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. )
With great power comes great responsibility, they say. It is also true that with great power comes great sacrifice. This is true of motherhood. A huge responsibility is shouldered by mothers for their children with little to no support from society. With it goes great sacrifice as well.
What being a mother involves is portrayed in the simplest of terms — taking care of the physical and emotional wellbeing of the child. What is rarely pointed out is that women also have to be brave through physical and mental health challenges. This was the case for two friends that recently had children.
For one of them, I was there starting from the day she gave birth up until she was discharged from the hospital. She gave birth through a Caesarian section (C-section), thus it was long before she fully regained her strength. The procedure's side effects include a massive headache and back pain that make it hard to leave the bed.
While she was still at the hospital, a day after she had given birth, the doctor visited her to check how she was doing. The first advice they had for her was to nurse her newborn consistently. Stating the obvious, she told them she could barely hold her head up let alone feed the baby, and they should know that.
She had a point. Everyone seems to emphasise the importance of breastfeeding for the baby, but few point out that it takes a toll on the mother through backpain and stiffness, especially after going through surgery. It was not only the doctors but family members as well eagerly asking her when she was going to start breastfeeding the baby, never mind the pain she is going through.
Mothers usually put the needs of their children first without hesitation. This norm has been practiced with such consistency throughout generations that questioning its merits even under dire circumstances raises society’s wrath. But we live in more civilised times, and the sacrifice women pay to raise children has to be empathised with and supported by society.
But the physical pain is just the beginning of the story. There is then postpartum depression, a type of depression women may experience after giving birth. It is accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, lack of interest, despair and inability to bond with the newborn.
It is an affliction more common than people think. In Ethiopia, its prevalence was found to stand at nearly 16pc for new moms following a modest study carried out in Debre Berhan for BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, a peer-reviewed journal.
“Being widowed/widower, having poor social support, having a current hospitalised child, and experienced a death of family member or close relative” were factors found to be “significantly” associated with postpartum depression, according to the study.
Still, when another friend who had just given birth told me that she could be experiencing depression, I was skeptical. With a newborn, a mother will not get a minute to herself. For the most part, we are taking care of them, and when we are not, we are worrying about them.
She did not have a diagnosis from a doctor, but her symptoms were too familiar for comfort. She does not feel like her old self, not to mention having lost interest in most things around her. She barely leaves the bed, thus her husband and family take care of the baby.
She reached out to me, because I was the closest of her friends who recently gave birth. It is not like she has a choice but to reach out to someone young and likely to have gone through the same experience. Most people could not fathom a mother being any less than dizzy with happiness for having a child.
As a result, mothers may feel guilty at the thought of considering that what society has deemed to be “motherly” behaviours and actions could in fact have negative consequences on mental and physical health. They come to assume that they are being selfish and condemn themselves.
But society needs to assert that the woman's life is just as valuable as the child it wants to be born to ensure that the population is naturally replaced. It has to insist and put in its fair share in ascertaining that women are taken care of to have the energy to take good care of others.
PUBLISHED ON Feb 13,2021 [ VOL 21 , NO 1085]
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