Being born in Italy today is completely different from the pre-Covid period. The conditions in which a woman becomes a mother, increasingly alone, have worsened. The family is in crisis, a mirror of a troubled society, in constant search of new balances and in which the female figure of the home is caught between children to be nurtured and the elderly to care for, weary with the weight of social and family pressure. If one then looks at the hospital structures that welcome expectant mothers and their children, the impression is that women do not find adequate answers to their needs. We also reflect on the issue in light of what happened in Rome’s Pertini, where a newborn baby died, suffocating in its mother’s arms.
“The hospital has strict protocols and the woman has lost her uniqueness,” he explains Alessandra Bramante, Psychologist, Perinatal Psychotherapist and President of the Marcé Italiana Society for Perinatal Mental Health. “Society, doctors and hospitals need to look at women in a personalized way, because not all expectant mothers and not all births are the same. For example, hospital standards require that a woman giving birth via cesarean section the next day must be upright and able to care for the newborn, but this is not the case for everyone. If we think about any other operation, the admission times are determined by evaluating the situation of the individual patient. Why can’t this also be the case during childbirth?».
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“There is a lot of attention for care, for the fact that mothers must be ‘on point’ at all costs: become a mother, become slim again, be good wives and professionals,” the expert continues.
“Women can’t take it anymore, they’re frustrated and tired and due to Covid, parents’ levels of stress, anxiety and loneliness have increased in recent years. We come from a period when we are all exhausted, and when we are dealing with a woman who has given birth, perhaps with a caesarean section, the fatigue is enormous and the period, albeit short, in the hospital should be able to give her the ability to recharge, to be able to take care of her baby once she gets home.
Thinking about the death of the newborn in Rome, what mother is sure she never fell asleep while breastfeeding her child? From a psychological point of view, at home in bed, a new mother is more active because there is no supervision by the medical staff, while in the hospital she needs support and certain rigid protocols (however valid) – such as rooming-in at the expense of everything – they are a limit and a huge stress for some women. Then when we think about the moment of childbirth, it’s good for mothers to know that traumatic events can happen, but let’s get back to the usual point: women can’t just feel like the means to give birth to the child. Attention has been lost on the value of every woman. During pregnancy the mother is the center of the world, all attention goes to her welcoming the baby, after that the center of the world becomes only the baby. The mother is put aside, but it must be remembered that if the mother is not well, the newborn suffers too, »explains the expert.
Putting women back at the center
“And here’s the point: every woman is unique. When she comes into labor, we don’t know her story, maybe she didn’t sleep during her pregnancy, let’s ask her how she is, if she wants to have her baby on her body, if she wants to breastfeed him. It is true that there are standard parameters, but there must also be a flexibility that allows respecting the woman’s freedom to decide for herself and her child,” emphasizes Bramante. «However, in order to give proper attention to every new mother, there is a need for staff, a few midwives in a large structure may not be enough. There is a need to give every woman devoted attention and, above all, the narration of motherhood must be changed, starting from the story of birth which can no longer be simplistically described as something “natural”, and therefore an easy event for everyone, and not even as a wonderful and unforgettable moment. There are other deep-seated thoughts that do not help to have a realistic vision of motherhood: breastfeeding as an easy experience, sleeping or the tiredness that is easily overcome by thinking about the baby or whether it is enough to look after your child. look to love him”.
“A woman who has just become a mother is overwhelmed by the expectations she has created over time due to a stereotypical maternal ideal, often exacerbated by the expectations of her partner and family,” the specialist reinforces. “Obviously, if the woman is not in this image, she can only feel guilty if she feels inadequate and different from the norms for some reason. It would suffice to dismantle the ideologisation behind the concept of becoming a mother and being a mother and understand that there are many ways to be, and they are all valid. There are those who were born to be full-time mothers, those who need to find space for their child in a full life, it’s important to start over from individuality. For this reason, new protocols and rules are needed in the birth process, but first of all we need to find space and ways to listen to every woman. Perhaps today too much attention is paid only to the child and the expectant mother is seen as a “container” and then as “the one who feeds the little one”. In reality, it would be essential to go out with her, to understand how she is physically and emotionally ».
Motherhood does not (always) rhyme with happiness
«In Italy it is difficult to understand how a woman can not be happy about having a child, but in reality the problem starts from afar. They spend their lives with labels: they have to have children at a certain age, if they express their frustrations or if they are emotional it is the fault of the hormones, they are born with the idea that they have to meet certain parameters that society, with a tenacity on motherhood that is very strong» says Marcé’s president.
«And women get tired, we see it on social networks, where stories of suffering situations explode that, however – apart from the outburst – do not find qualified listening, concrete help. Nowadays there is more awareness of the illnesses that revolve around motherhood. There is more talk, not only about depression, but also about fatigue, fears, restlessness, mother-child relationship problems. An example is the number of twins, increasingly due to medically assisted reproductive techniques, which require twice as much effort on the mother, sometimes resulting in new mothers having difficulty accepting children even when they are strongly desired. The one standing next to the woman plays a fundamental role. If it’s an immature partner, unprepared for what’s happening, not only won’t it be helpful, but it will subconsciously fuel the partner’s stress. We must invest in a new parenting that takes both parents into account, from preparatory courses to work permits, everything must be shared and the responsibilities and weight of day-to-day management must not fall solely on the mother. Already from a biological point of view, responsibility is perceived by mothers as a greater burden. To give a concrete example, if a mother goes to work and leaves her newborn child at home, her thoughts are with her child all day long, while with the father it is different, then her thoughts are at work. Let’s take some of the material burden off the mothers, let’s give the fathers more time to stay at home, let’s relieve the women of some of the hard work».
“From my experience I think so the so-called obstetric violence has worsened, but because of the lack of staff, from shift work, to situations present in hospitals. This aspect should also be reviewed politically and structurally, those who accompany women at birth should be valued and able to do their job by giving quality time to mothers and their children. The birth of a child is also the birth of a mother,” recalls the psychologist.
Signs of discomfort during pregnancy and after childbirth
“Those who have had forms of depression, those who have had eating disorders at a young age, may experience an aggravation of previous conditions as early as pregnancy, with some symptoms being confused with those of waiting. Women must learn to listen to each other: for example, if fear of childbirth is a recurring thought, it is physiological, if fear takes away sleep or hunger, it may be a symptom of a deeper malaise, in this case it is better to consult a specialist. Anxiety becomes pathological if it doesn’t take away the will to live and makes you think “I’m not going out”, “I’m afraid of everything”, “I’m afraid for my child”. And here the pediatrician also plays a fundamental role, who must be able to accommodate any discomforts of the mother. In fact, another limitation in the support of new mothers is the lack of medical checks dedicated to her. After discharge from the hospital and the “forty day” visit, a new mother is alone again”.
The imaginary child and the real child
“There is still an aura around motherhood that is seen as the most beautiful thing in the world, with the widespread idea that the love of children begins at birth. But it’s not for everyone, if this is the expectation, it is painful and frustrating not to feel worthy to become a mother. If a mother doesn’t want to hold her baby after hours of labour, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t love him, maybe she just needs to rest,” concludes Bramante.
“We must remember that white blood cells rise during pregnancy, that the child we meet is still a stranger, why should we like him right away? Why can’t we explain it to expectant mothers by saying that they need time, for example when they have fallen in love with their partner or made an important friendship. Just imagine this idea of love that must start immediately, be forever, be unconditional and crazy. This is not the truth, and if we continue to present it as such, we are putting many women in a position to feel wrong. It is also important to distinguish two different levels: one concerns what one feels (I am angry with my son for not sleeping), the other concerns what one feels deep down (I hate him). If a mother is angry with her baby for keeping her up all night, not only is it understandable, but it also means that the woman has validated her anger, that feeling is over and it is normal to feel it . Let’s stop saying that children are the most beautiful thing in the world. We do everything for them, we love them unconditionally and this has nothing to do with the realization that life is more difficult with them. We must learn to listen to each other more, keeping in mind that a child is not a mother’s project, but a family project. In contrast, in our country, a child is only considered a mother, let’s relieve them of this responsibility and we will have more serene mothers and children.”
I am Barbara Redford, a professional journalist and writer with extensive experience in news reporting. I have been writing for The News Dept since 2019, covering topics related to health and wellness. My passion is to keep people informed about the latest developments in healthcare and the medical industry. With my articles, I strive to create awareness on various diseases while also highlighting their remedies or treatments.
Aside from writing for The News Dept, I also conduct interviews with renowned doctors and medical practitioners who provide valuable insight into different illnesses or conditions. My articles are often highlighted by several leading health websites as well as magazines due to their quality of information and accuracy of facts.