“I embraced my newborn, remembering that I have witnessed and helped in giving birth to a miracle. It was the moment I remembered vividly the joy I experienced when I had my first ultrasound, seeing the little parts of the baby growing. These moments cannot be described in words,” said Yasmine Hesham, 27, one of Egypt’s first-time mums.
“Witnessing your baby growing inside your womb and then having her out in the world to be held in your arms in flesh and blood is one of God’s greatest blessings,” she added.
She said that even if life can sometimes hinder mothers from feeling this blessing, there is a whole new life ahead. Diapers, breastfeeding, difficulties with car seats, the baby’s cries, baby formula, and other details are all parts of this new and changing life.
Although in Egypt there has been a sharp decline in the role played by a traditional doula or midwife, Hesham insisted that a doula be at her side before and after giving birth to her daughter Laila. “I cannot imagine my life without Fatemah, my doula. She helped and nurtured me as a mum-to-be throughout the pregnancy and birth, and she will help me overcome my postpartum journey.”
“She taught me how to breastfeed and how to put my baby’s clothes on in the correct way. She taught me how to look at my baby and how to bathe her,” Hesham added, saying that she would like to see more mothers experience the different roles a doula as a support system for new mothers can play.
Motherhood is a shift that reverberates through every aspect of a woman’s life, including her emotions, career, psychology, physical appearance, social circle, finances, and spiritual identity. For all first-time mums, a good day will consist of feeding and comforting the baby, changing his or her diapers, getting out of pyjamas, and having a shower. There might also be a photoshoot for mothers and babies to capture amazing moments together.
“The smile on any mother’s face when carrying her baby in its first days is priceless,” said Marina Adel, a certified newborn, baby, and maternity photographer in Cairo.
Adel has been working as a photographer for maternity and newborns for the past three years. She has photographed many mothers before and after giving birth. “It can be a crazy time or a happy time; it can be a doubtful time or a miraculous time; but I believe that if I can help in any way in making a mother happy by recording her special moments, then my work is done,” Adel said.
Many mothers are doubtful about their looks during pregnancy and afraid of doing photoshoots. “But then they thank me years later for having been there to document and record special moments,” she said.
First time motherhood is an intense experience. It is not an easy job or an easy experience for many mothers. Sometimes, they can fall prey to depression, especially after giving birth. Sometimes they become sensitive about their emotions and the physical transformation that has happened to them. At other times, they may take the whole journey with such a blessing loving bond that they can turn any negative encounters into positive ones.
“Depression can be at your door,” said Hanna Soliman, a 29-year-old mother who gave birth to her first baby 25 days ago. Though for Soliman it is a blessing to have given birth after earlier problems conceiving, she has not enjoyed the journey the way she imagined.
“Sleep deprivation is one of my ultimate challenges at this time. I am not managing my time well. I am always tired,” she added. “Since my baby is just turning one month old, I cannot say I am enjoying Mother’s Day yet, but in future years I am sure my baby will make the best celebrations ever.”
Soliman said that getting to know your baby and at the same time trying to keep yourself sane, healthy, and emotionally balanced is a challenging experience that needs a lot of support from husband and family.
“I always try to read baby books and be part of other mothers’ groups so that I don’t feel alone,” she said.
The motherhood journey is a communal one on which friends and family members can gather round to help. However, the experience can be a difficult one for mothers living in a foreign country.
Shatha Hussein, a working mother in the UAE who has just given birth to her second child, said that “I thank God that my mother travelled all the way from Egypt to stay with me and the baby before and after childbirth. She is my true support, and I cannot do anything without her.”
Hussein said that most private-sector companies give new mothers 45 days to return to work after birth. “This is too short to be able to do anything. It pressures working mothers either to send their babies to nurseries or to quit working in order to spend time with their babies in their early days,” she added.
Hussein also experienced postpartum depression with her first child. “I had all kinds of baby blues after childbirth, which included mood swings, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping,” she said. However, with Amalia, her newborn, the situation is different, and Hussein is enjoying every moment of the experience.
“It helps a lot when we educate ourselves more about ourselves and our babies either through videos, reading books, or any means one can have access to,” she added.
Though first-time mums might not be as aware of Mother’s Day as others this year, since their little ones are still so tiny, they will doubtless want to reenter their own worlds outside to celebrate their mothers and themselves this Mother’s Day.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 March, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.