No matter where a mother is in the world, her struggles can be remarkably similar. For example, our European Safe Motherhood survey of expectant and new mothers in 2016 revealed that around a quarter of mothers in Europe do not receive sufficient or appropriate information. The survey also found that over one-third of mothers felt their pregnancy had prevented them from advancing in the workplace, while 14% said they felt discriminated during pregnancy by their employer.
Alina from Romania faced a long road to motherhood. Having begun trying to conceive at the age of 21, she underwent a series of gruelling fertility treatments before finally becoming pregnant at 26. Her joy at the news she was to become a mother is evident, but she admits she had issues after the birth with balancing employment and motherhood, as well as dealing with an ill baby.
“I really wanted to have kids and followed various treatments from the fairly early age of 21 years old. That’s why I was completely speechless when I finally found out I was pregnant at 26 years old. I was always crying when a friend was telling me she’s pregnant, but this time I was crying tears of happiness for myself,” she says.
This joy persisted throughout her pregnancy and childbirth experience. “The day I had my first child was so special. Everything went perfectly and four years and nine months later (five days after I turned 32) I gave birth to my second child.”
Alina is positive about her childbirth experience, but admits there was one shortfall in her care; she had to purchase some of the medications she needed for her procedures.
“I had a good birthing experience. I had two C-sections, with a regular recovery time. I received support from a psychologist, as well as advice on breastfeeding. I gave birth in public hospitals. The conditions were decent, the personnel was very professional and the doctor who monitored my pregnancy was there, assisting me. The only problem was I had to buy myself some of the drugs needed during the procedures.”
Yet her experience of motherhood with her second child was a difficult and upsetting time. She explains that she knew her child was ill, but found it difficult to get information and answers. She also struggled to balance her work and motherhood.
“Vulnerability is part of a parent’s life. With my first child, my daughter, I felt so vulnerable whenever she was sick (respiratory viruses, enterocolitis etc) and I couldn’t be there for her. I was a working mom, and I could have taken a sick leave of course, but that’s not always possible – I didn’t have a backup for my work, so if I wasn’t there things were left unfinished). I had to both work and take care of my sick child. This can quickly become very stressful.”
“With my second child I felt vulnerable from his first day. The doctors kept telling me he was a healthy baby boy, but I knew something was wrong. And that’s how I started the fight with the healthcare system. My son was born with a cerebral malformation that puts him through drug-resistant seizures. The first times I noticed something was wrong, the doctors were telling me I’m exaggerating. They were great during birth, but I can’t say the same thing when it comes to neonatology care. Because the doctors are inexperienced, we are losing precious time during the diagnostic process. Older medical technology is also contributing to the problem, with CT scanners, MRIs etc. giving inaccurate results,” she explains.
“The doctors were great during birth, but I can’t say the same thing when it comes to neonatology care. Because doctors are inexperienced, we are losing precious time during the diagnostic process.”
In the end, Alina and her partner thankfully found the answers and care for their son they were desperately seeking. “We were very lucky though, and travelled to a reputable hospital and getting a definitive diagnosis when my son was eight months old. Here we also found a solution, a surgical procedure in a private hospital with excellent conditions and medical technology, similar to Western European standards.”
Did you feel empowered during birth but vulnerable in the early days of motherhood? During this Safe Motherhood Week, share your personal story of motherhood with us using the hashtag #makemotherhoodcount.