Full-time midwife, full-time mother
Alexia Sciberras is the mother of four young children and, in addition, experiences motherhood on a daily basis as a midwife – profession she has practised and held close to her heart for the past 16 years. This makes her one potential personification of the word ‘motherhood’.
“Years back, perhaps right after I got married, I took motherhood for granted, you know, you think you will have children and all will be good,” she said, echoing the perhaps conventional ideology with which most Maltese women are brought up.
“But today, partly due to what I see in my career, and also what we hear about what is going on around us, with the struggles that some people face to get pregnant and have kids, I see that having four children, and with things having happened as part of the natural cycle, is above all, a privilege.”
Being your children’s taxi and motherhood’s biggest surprise
As one can imagine, being a mother to four children of different ages and personalities is not easy. When I arrived at her house, Alexia told me what her day looks like as she cleaned up the breakfast plates of her 14, 12, 6 and 4-year-old. Our meeting took place after she had done the morning school round, and taking the time to spruce herself up a bit in between.
Her agenda for the rest of the day included taxying her children around, on average every hour of the day, and, after beating the final spurt of rush hour madness, dashes off to a night shift in the evening, only to repeat the process again tomorrow.
“Four kids with four different characters, it’s a daily challenge, and it is tiring,” she said. “But at the same time, there is nothing better than motherhood. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
I wonder what the biggest unexpected surprise was for Alexia, what motherhood has handed her which she did not expect. She replied that her biggest surprise has actually emerged recently, through her 14-year-old daughter.
“The biggest surprise is when you hear your children speaking so much like you do and you realise that you have really rubbed off on them,” she said. “I see myself so much in my eldest as she is growing up. I realised there is so much of me in her – and it’s strong.”
When it comes to the difference between motherhood and fatherhood, Alexia said that the baby’s biological bond with the mother from a young age makes the children more naturally reliant on the mother.
“My husband Claude is a very hands-on person and always pulls on the same rope with me, but somehow, it’s always ‘mummy mummy mummy’ first for most things.”
Alexia’s routine working night shifts has made the children more reliant on her during the day, but have their sleeping routine synonymous with their father, she said.
The first child as opposed to the fourth
Alexia describes the first child as having the biggest impact on her lifestyle. “It’s the biggest shock to who you are as a person,” she said, “as well as a couple, because your lifestyle changes completely.”
“Although it is beautiful, it is also a bit tough at the beginning, having a new baby depending on you 24/7, no matter how prepared you are (prior to giving birth).”
By the second and third child, Alexia explained there was more multi-tasking in her routine, but the child-adjusted lifestyle was already established. In fact, for Alexia, one of her main concerns when having her fourth child was giving enough quality time to the other three. However, in terms of coping, she felt it easier as time went by and more children appeared. Moreover, certain fears subside.
“While with the first baby you feel like you have to do everything by the book that feeling disappears after that” she said. Baby after baby, Alexia said that other challenges were logistical. “We felt we had to move house, and these logistical things changed more than anything.”
Inside the suite where women become mothers
Alexia was always drawn to the idea of working in the caring profession. She recalls daydreaming about working as a nurse in conflict zones when she was a child, until finally being exposed to what a career as a midwife entails through a girl guides leader when she was about 12 years old, and sticking to that path.
With her position as a senior midwife in the delivery suite at Mater Dei Hospital, delivering about 10 to 15 newborns a month, Alexia experiences all kinds of mothers and fathers on a daily basis. The suite can be seen as some kind of microcosm of society, and perhaps a room of raw emotion.
“Sometimes men walk into the suite all macho and then just turn soft at the sight of their baby,” she smiled. She added that through her job, you also realise the number of issues and difficulties which exist in society. “Sometimes we don’t understand what certain mothers and couples go through,” she said, “with finance, education and just merely coping.”
Through her experiences in the delivery suite Alexia also feels that in today’s evergrowing multicultural Malta, midwives have to now take up the challenge of understanding the different cultural backgrounds of the women who enter their doors.
What do the moments before and after motherhood look like?
Alexia describes the moment a child is born and put in their mother’s arms as ‘beautiful’.
“Many advancements in medicine and technology along with the care we give creates a lot of incredible moments,” said Alexia, who believes that over her 16-year career, the number of instances where ‘things go wrong’ has dropped due to the advancements.
“We have many more healthy and happy outcomes when compared to tough circumstances,” she said. “I believe that it’s a closed box though, until the baby is in your hands.”
Talking about how occasionally non-expected things happen, Alexia narrated stories where parents have turned up with pink towels, pink bags, pink clothes and pink luggage, only to find out that their baby is a boy.