Full-time mid­wife, full-time mother

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - MOTHER’S DAY - Joanna De­marco

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.

Alexia Sciber­ras

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