While speaking about her elder daughter. She keeps grimacing with pain. Shouted at, doors slammed. Verbal abuses of failure lashed in to her face. These are some of nightmares for the mother of four.
Replied with irritation, her heart breaks each time her 16-year-old treats her as though she was some stranger at home.
Becoming a mother has made her realise a myriad of things. “The thought that I would one day become a mother, was with a mixture of feelings,” she says. It started with listening to different mothers talking about the excruciating labour pains, the complications that are likely to come along the way got her scared. Imagining what it was like to carry a pregnancy for nine months plus stories of how horrible stepmothers, were always in your face, she did not know what fate had for her.
Settling with a single father, she became a stepmother.
“Away from what society thinks of stepmothers I have always wanted to prove that I am a better stepmother. But this did not stop me from getting scared. Wondering if the child would also accept me as her new mother,” she says she was right about her worries. The child was not ready to welcome a new mother in her life.
Going into labour, she felt elated and ready. Surrounded by midwives, she could not wait to receive her bundle of joy.
“Soon, I was going to be called mother.” However, she says the pain was beyond imagination as midwives encouraged her to push harder.
The beginning of motherhood was tough. Her child being diagnosed with sickle cells was traumatising, especially for a first time mother. To save her child’s life, with no relative or friends to confide in they were in India for a bone marrow transplant. They spent two years there.
“I had to quit my job in order to take care of my child. I have since not been able to find another job,” she relates.
Today, her greatest fear is the rejection she is facing from her child. Her daughter thinks of her as the worst mother. “She reminds me of how I am dependent on her father’s income.” While struggling to resolve issues with her daughter on one hand, her stepdaughter makes her meals from the bedroom on the other hand. She believes her stepmother is the reason her parents separated. Her husband does not make it any better. “Leave the girls to do as they please,” is all he says.
To her, motherhood seems like a litany of sorrows. This conversation broke the silence of many mothers that were at a conference about motherhood and its fears. Several mothers, thus opened up about their fears.
‘Repeating the mistakes I made’
Getting pregnant at a tender age, Annette Mbabazi, a mother of two, worries that her daughters could at some point mess up like her. Lied to and promised heaven on earth, Mbabazi conceived at the age of 17. She says every aspect of life seemed worrying.
“What if I die during birth? What if the baby dies? What if I suffer from fistula? What if I eat the wrong foods? These questions got me scared. Jobless, I wondered how I was going to raise my child,” Mbabazi recalls.
She consoled herself that after birth, her fears would be resolved yet the journey had just started. Health bills, education, and other needs were her new responsibilities.
“I was uncertain my daughter would make it. Referred to as a secondhand, different partners expected me to accept the fact that they had a child or children from their previous relationships. None of them was willing to accept my child and I,” Mbabazi reveals. She made it with support from friends and family.
“Today, my greatest fear is for my two daughters to repeat the mistakes I made as a teenager.
She wishes to see them taking the right path, but she feels overwhelmed. Besides, Mbabazi notes that raising her children in an already messed up generation is challenging. She is sailing uncharted waters without a map or compass.
Leaving my children at a tender age or losing any of them
Heron Namagembe, a mother of five, says before motherhood she never worried about death.
“I never had much to lose,” Namagembe says. That changed when she had her first born.
Having lost a child before, she prays not to face the same tragedy. “I had a normal delivery at Nsambya hospital, but after 10 minutes my child passed on,” she relates.
Her hardest moment has been carrying her child’s body. At whatever age, she says no parent would love to see their child pass away.
The mother of five worries about what will become of her children in case she passed away. She says leaving them as toddlers is heartbreaking. They are innocent and still need a mother’s love and guidance.
Thinking of this every day, Namagembe’s only prayer is for God to keep her alive and strong to see her children through school.
Dealing with the teen years
Caroline Nakiyaga, a mother of five, says teen years are scary. Experiencing new feelings, relationships, responsibilities, decisions and a new lifestyle, makes motherhood overwhelming. She says a parent can never tell what to expect. Seeing children through adolescence feels like both of you are standing on the edge of a cliff. In case of any mistake, you might fall off.
“When adolescence clocks in, my worries are; how I will openly speak to the children about things such as body changes, sex, menstruation and wet dreams. Imagine monitoring their relationships with others, all that restlessness, confusion and decision-making is stressful.”
And, what if her children become rebellious and what will her reaction to them be like. Will I be rude, will I try to understand them and for how long? Besides, they might decide to become secretive of what is happening in their lives.
“Thinking back on my own teen years, I pray not to be an overly controlling mother,” says Nakiyaga.
Making wrong decisions
Every mother wishes their child the best. “In the struggle to see them prosper, as a mother I am often scared of the kind of decisions I make for my children,” Connie Nakayiza says. And on many occasions, mothers’ decisions are final. Deciding on what you want them to be, for example, the kind of friends they ought to play with and hang out with. For those that are grown, you wish to decide on the kind of partner they could have. Nakayiza wonders, what if her eight-year-old son questions her decisions in future and blames her for any thing that goes wrong in life.
Decisions made earlier in life tend to dictate the path they take.
“Will they ever understand that mummy did not mean any harm? On many occasions I see parents falling out with their children over decisions that were made years ago,” Nakayiza reveals. Imagining herself conflicting with her children is terrifying.
My children conflicting
Not worried about anything else, Stella Kobusingye’s greatest fear is seeing her two children fight. As toddlers, she says it is normal but in case the fights and competition persist to adulthood, it spells danger.
“Growing up, my siblings have been my best friends to the extent that when I have a problem I turn to them first. Like my mother did it then, I would like to teach my children the same principle. But, the question rings, “will it be easy for me?”
On many occasions we watched or read news about siblings that have killed each other over property wrangles, among other things.
Who their future partner will be
Esther Nakidde, 55, is a mother of seven. Nakidde worries about the kind of partners her children will settle with. She prays that when each one of them decides to bring home their life partner; they at least find one who is decent, loving and respectful just like their late father was.
“I do not want to dominate their marriages but I just do not want them to endure any things such as domestic violence or bad marriages,” she says. Unlike their generation, today the rate at which marriages are breaking up is high and so is the number of single parents.
“I know marriage is arranged by God and for that reason I pray and entrust Him with my children’s life partners. Much as I would love to, I cannot dictate on my children’s marriages or decide on who they should date,” she concludes.
Eve Nakiyingi, a family counsellor and a mother of two, says motherhood fears are endless. All stages are a new challenge but there is no particular way to do things. Many mothers fear being judged for their parenting styles, but children are like a blank page where you write your story, leaving out what you think is unnecessary.
The story you write now is what will be told 23 years later. There is no direction for child upbringing, which is why you will be surprised that each of your children is different from the other. Thus, embrace them the way they are.
Nakiyingi notes that being a parent covers many things, but the biggest challenge is that parents of the 20th Century are raising children of the 21st Century. The two have different values and skills.
Bottomline, Nakiyingi says parenting is like a puzzle, piece by piece you put it together, waiting for the outcome. “Understand the children’s needs, consult where need be and be as patient,” says Nakiyingi.