One of the most surprising aspects of new motherhood is the way it impacts our own relationships with our mothers. The four of us who comprise The Baby Hero Team are fortunate to have been raised by loving women we admire and who continue to play a big role in our and our childrens' lives today. We asked them a few questions about their experiences of new motherhood.
Tasnim & Samar in 1978
Giving birth in Pakistan then was not a bad experience at all, at least for me as I was fortunate to be able to afford a hospital birth. My labor was very long....nearly two days but not too painful - we didn't have any drugs, of course. I had a very attentive doctor and nurses, so felt well looked after.
Motherhood for me was a pleasure and fairly stress free. I had a lot of family support. The first six weeks were spent at my parents home in Karachi, where my mother and other relatives were always ready with all kind of help. Later I took Samar to Lahore and both her dad and I enjoyed sharing the experiences of first time parents. Our favorite go to manual was Baby and Child Care by Dr Spock. I did not have a nanny for Samar at that time, which was common with my peers, as I enjoyed doing all her work myself. I never found becoming a mother difficult - I took to it right away.
I have many favorite memories of Samar as a baby. The one I remember most is her sitting on her potty reading books, around the time she turned one, I thought it was the cutest thing. Also, when she started talking around nine months, we were in Athens, she used to sit on our balcony spouting new words.....it was almost wondrous.
Tasnim right after giving birth to Samar with Samar's two grandmothers
People lived closer to their families then - there was always someone to give the baby to if you were tired. Also, mothers rely much more on google and peer groups now. In our time the main source of information and advice were our mothers and aunts and everyone encouraged us to follow tradition. It was truly a joint effort and everyone had a say in how children were brought up. We also took their advice a lot - now tradition does not matter and parents want to be the only decision makers. There is no right or wrong way and both have advantages and disadvantages
Deborah and Allie in 1985
I had a Cesarean delivery and felt very fortunate to have excellent doctors and facilities in the U.S.
It was wonderful to be able to raise Alicia in the same city as both of her grandparents and extended family. There was always lots of love and help and every family celebration was a big celebration. I can't think of any disadvantages.
Alicia was simply a delight. She loved to be involved in whatever was going on. She rarely fussed, usually only when she was tired. So I would put her down for her nap and say, "When you wake up, you'll be a happy baby!" At about 18 months when it was time for a nap, Alicia would try to run off saying, "No, I'm a happy baby!" and she was!
I think the biggest difference now is all the technological advances and social media. While much of it is wonderful, I think it's a very frightening world for parents and children with worries of predators, bullying and pressures from so many directions.
Elsa and Joyce in 1998 in Europe. Joyce tells us she has no photos of her as a baby, they are all in storage!
I had smooth deliveries in general. All natural birth for all 3 kids, with laughing gas. I got to stay in hospital for 5-7 days before going home.
We were living with my in laws when Joyce was born. We had helpers and family support to help take care of our children. My mother-in-law was an experienced and hands-on mother of 7 children. She had passed down valuable tips to me as a first time mother.
Motherhood was relatively easy and simple, you just followed the tradition and what other mothers would do. I was a working mom, didn't really spend much time with my children in their early childhood, however, the time we spent together was quality time. Besides all the support at home, having children in Hong Kong was relatively convenient as well. It didn't take long to travel from places to places. They had a lot of opportunity to explore and were exposed to different experiences.
A disadvantage of the time was that breastfeeding wasn't popular, so all my children were formula babies.
It was so long ago, i can't really remember much about Joyce as a baby! She was cute and smart and she cried a lot! Whenever there was visitors at home, we had to lock her up or hide her in the room! She would cry non stop until the visitors left the flat. She cried the moment someone (literally ANYONE!) walked in to our home!
I was a working mother back then, i didn't get to spend too much time with my children, and there was less pressure on being a mother. Nowadays, being a mother is very stressful, competitive and mothers are more attached to their children. Technology plays a big part in parenthood, good and bad. Mothers have a chance to be a mom as well as a working woman in the society with the help of all kinds of technology such as checking in with their kids remotely while at work. Or a mother can work remotely, from home and still spend time with her children.
The world is different now, a mother is required to multi-task at all time. We were much happier and simpler 30+ years ago. We worked hard at our jobs and when we got home we got to be a mother to our beloved children.
Anney and Aquin in 1980
Both my children were born in Kerala in South India in the 1970s. My older son – Anoop was a home-birth attended by my aunt who was a doctor. It was a natural birth but fraught with worry, as I had chickenpox in my last trimester. There were no CT scans at the time and we had no way of finding out if the chickenpox had caused complications to his development.
I delivered Aquin at a hospital and was given an epidural. It was an innovative, experimental drug at the time. The epidural completely numbed my labor pain and I couldn’t push her out, and it ended up being a vacuum delivery, which was also a novel concept.
My children were 7 and 3 when we my husband moved for his job from Mumbai, India to Lagos, Nigeria. By then, the harder years were behind us – the children were semi-independent and off to school. To be honest, it was an over-protective, mostly mono-cultural life. They attended an Indian school and we hung out mostly with a close-knit Indian community, so their exposure to Nigerian culture was limited. It was also an expatriate life, so they hardly witnessed any socio-economic disparities amongst their friends.
Aquin was ALWAYS strong willed and independent and hated to conform. We still laugh at how she always had a sharp retort handy. My husband’s direct manager had a son who was Aquin’s classmate in primary school. She refused to share her study notes with him, and we suggested she be nice because he was “dad’s boss’ son”. Her response - “He may be dad’s boss, he’s not my boss!” Another time, my older son had gotten into a fight at school and was whining about it at home. Aquin who was 6, turned to her brother and rebuked him saying, “If you have a problem at school, you need to sort it out on your own. Don’t bring it home to dad and mom!” Aquin also hated off-the-rack clothes. Most everything she wore from middle school to high school was “bespoke” and stitched by me.
I wish we had modern conveniences you now probably take for granted. Cloth diapers in those days were so poorly designed, hard to clean and time-consuming. We also didn’t have breast pumps, so it was practically impossible to go anywhere (let alone work) without your baby in tow.
Back then, we relied a lot on the wisdom passed down the generations by our mothers and aunts. Now all you need is Google, which I don’t think it’s the best source of parenting wisdom.