Lika Barabadze, 31, Tbilisi
“I would like to talk about the challenges I have faced since the birth of my child. My kid will turn 11 months soon and I have just seen the light at the end of the tunnel, but I cannot say yet that I have already dealt with the problems. One of the challenges is to be able to discover my own self, i.e. discover my new roles – who I am, except for the fact that I am a mother. It has taken me a lot of time to investigate who I am as a mother, but I also want to know who I am conceptually, who I am as a partner and how to fit these multiple parts into my new role. This reminds me of my adolescence. It was also a challenge to regain the role my body had before the childbirth. When I said that I was looking for my own self, I meant that I was also looking for my body because I had changed, and even though I already realized before labor that this would happen and could even write a long feminist treatise about this topic, it turned out that I would find it difficult to accept my new body. I felt I had been somehow split. On the one hand I suffered emotionally, on the other hand, I knew that it was not reasonable to think about that. But I have felt some comfort recently and I know which direction I would like to go.
The second challenge is the relationship with my partner. In my opinion, we are good parents. We have shared responsibilities quite conveniently for both of us. But what about romantic partnership? What about sexual partnership? I have always thought how to handle our relationships and remain two of us when we have a third one. I have talked to my psychotherapist who warned me that it is normal that couples who do not have a child for a long time and feel comfortable with that (because they have much time to be together) find it more difficult to get used to ‘losing’ each other.
Another big challenge is the environment which is not adapted. The modern approach is a universal design, i.e. adapting the streets and buildings to give people access to everything they need from the environment. For example, a ramp is not designed only for persons with disabilities; adapted city should be adapted for everyone, including mothers, who are not able to take their children outside, and the elders, who are not able to walk. I am absolutely sure that most of us will live until 70, because on average people live to this age, thus we will find difficult to walk on high stairs, will need rails, chairs, etc. So it turns out the environment is not adapted for a majority of population.
Even though my family members helped me, I felt rather restricted in everything until I hired a nanny. I could not go to a café because people smoked there and there were no ramps. When I took my kid for a walk, I could hardly handle duties as simple as buying some bread. The environment forced me to be only mother and live in isolation. I would not have been able to go out with my partner without my considerate family, who stayed with my kid as they knew this was important to me, or without my nanny, whom I hired after some time, or my partner who had shared responsibilities with me. The environment does not help me, as a mother, to do things independently. Let alone smoking and ramps, there is no place to change baby’s diapers. So I decided to disturb the non-adapted environment rather than feel uncomfortable because of it. I started to breastfeed my kid everywhere. If she needs to change diapers I do that everywhere. It is not my fault that a café does not have a toilet space for changing diapers.
I would like to tell the women living in isolation that staying alone with a child is dangerous and depressing. We have to use the slightest available comfort around. I would have not been able to handle the above mentioned challenges independently. Yes, I used to say before my child was born that I would do everything alone, but I realized later that when there is some help you should accept it. Bringing up a child has never been a duty of one person, neither evolutionarily nor historically, so if there is any resource, you should use it. It is not good when a mother devotes herself completely to the child because she isolates the kid and makes him/her dependent on her. As a result, the child does not have experience of communication with others. When Nita was 6 months old I went to a workshop held in Latvia. I had to work with my psychotherapist on this issue because I blamed myself. When I got there everyone told me that I was a wise mother. When you refuse something you need, this is bad both for you and your child. Both the mother and her child will win if the mother stands firmly on her own two feet.”