I was having a conversation with a friend recently about how volatile our emotions get during pregnancy, and how damaging this can be to our relationships with the people we love the most: our significant others, typically – but also our mothers. And today I’ll focus on our mothers. My friend, who also recently gave birth, could relate. I personally found it difficult to control my emotions during pregnancy and my loved ones endured quite a few of my meltdowns. They also witnessed the occasional fall out between my mother and I. Not surprisingly my main excuse for behaving the way I did towards her was the ‘hormones’. But what if there was more to it? What if there were other underlying issues that neither of us could really fix until the 9 months were over and we both took a step back to just enjoy the new baby? Here’s a little list of what I believe is the cause for these fall outs.
The generational differences
Things were very different for baby boomers. We’re in a completely different era in terms of advances in science and technology. Still, our mothers want the best for us but at times may be stuck in the way things were done in the past – this is what they know to be the norm after all. Putting old wives tales aside and adjusting to modern day practices and ‘rules’ when it comes to pregnancy, birth and motherhood may not always come naturally to them.
And so when our mothers tell us not to use gas and air during labour because “it could be bad for the baby”; or when they tell us we should start giving water to our babies from the age of two months even though they don’t really need it… let’s remember to think of it as generational differences as opposed to them trying to aggravate us. Even if we didn’t ask for their opinion.
Their desire to help and be involved, often perceived as interference
I’m very independent by nature and rarely ask my mother or anyone else for help. So when my mother, as generous and as selfless she is, tried to offer her assistance and be involved in some way, I saw it as unwanted interference. Deep down I knew this wasn’t the case, it was just her desire to help.
What I constantly tell myself is that she isn’t trying to make decisions for me or “take over” as the overbearing grandma. She’s simply trying to be there for me and my family. Culturally speaking as well, my mother was set to take on a very prominent role from the moment I started having children, at times almost ‘replacing’ my husband – for example, back home in Congo, she would be expected to attend the birth and my husband would be expected to stay outside of the delivery room.
Nonetheless establishing healthy boundaries very early on was important. And once I learned to look beyond the gauche attempts at “being involved” and started to see them as gestures of kindness from a loving grandmother, I realised all she really wanted was to have her place in the family cocoon, and rightly so. I gradually let her in.
Well, those infamous hormones. We all know what they can do to us women at various times in our lives from PMS to pregnancy, to menopause… it is undeniable that biology isn’t always on our side. Did I struggle to deal with the hormonal changes in my body? Yes. Did this become a barrier between my mother and I? Yes, on more than one occasion. And I feel terrible for the times I lashed out, the times she had to face the wrath of her highly irritable pregnant daughter. But I think one lesson we both took away from this, if anything, was the importance of communication. Forgiveness, understanding and patience were key to maintaining a good mother-daughter relationship.
The far-from-ideal circumstances around the pregnancy
Now this will not apply to everyone but I can speak from experience. The circumstances around my first pregnancy weren’t exactly ideal: not-yet-married, fresh out of uni and only working a low-paid part-time job. And despite being engaged to the most amazing and responsible man, my mother still had her reservations, understandably. This quickly changed after I settled down, however I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect our mother-daughter relationship at the time.
Again, we have to keep mind that our mothers want the best for us. Many of them still hold the traditional values that their own mothers instilled in them when they were younger. Deviating from these values is bound to have an effect on the relationship at a time when we need the most support. But thankfully the arrival of a baby usually brings people closer together.
Maturity, wisdom, mutual respect and understanding all go a long way. My mother reminded me on several occasions how blessed I was to still have her around – and as aggravating as it sounded at the time of our arguments, she was absolutely right. I think about those who would do anything to still have their mothers by their side during such a precious time as pregnancy. Having my amazing mum here, just a phone call away, is something I refuse to take for granted.