Why are two economists talking about babies? That’s the question we often hear when we discuss our book Pregnancy and Motherhood: Perspectives from Two Afropolitan Women. Our answer? Because when we had our babies, we realized that we were not prepared to become mothers – but who is though? We did not find information about what exactly happens to you − your mind, body and life − when becoming a mother. Also, we did not see women who look like us, shared some of our traditional backgrounds and who lived a rather cosmopolitan life in books, videos or movies talking about their experiences.
As much as we both decided we were ready to have children and endeavored for that, we did not know what we were in for. Our book offers insights into what we wish we knew and had when we started our journeys as new Afropolitan mothers. It covers preparing for motherhood; dealing with constant change; and relevant birth and parenting customs in West Africa. We also touch on fatherhood, the importance of self-care, and tools for navigating challenges presented by inefficient health care systems. In this article, we give a snippet of what to expect and how our book helps prepare you for your own unique journey.
(Not) Preparing for Parenthood
Despite being alpha females who live our personal and professional lives with plans A to Z, we got (un)pleasant surprises, a few health scares, several blissful moments, much anxiety, some tears and more. We did not anticipate the emotional rollercoaster, the body evolution or the many changes we had to willingly and unwillingly accept to become mothers. The truth is, just like sex or marriage, there is not much awareness among young women on this precious life experience. Granted, we come from cultures where elder women or relatives who are already mothers are always supportive. They actively try to help find a solution or a cure to anything that happens during those first few months of new motherhood, but that’s during the process, not before.
In retrospect, we asked ourselves why we prepared for most of our major life decisions by researching, mentally preparing ourselves, rehearsing or getting insights from others – and yet, for motherhood, we simply thought, “we will get there”. There is no guideline on motherhood, that’s for sure. But there are key decisions or discussions to have with oneself, with your partner, as well as family and/or friends to envision the type of mother you want to be. To envision the life you want to offer your children. That is where the preparation starts: with a vision and objectives.
Navigating Change as an Afropolitan Mother
Since we were not prepared, we wanted to make sure others, especially our younger sisters and brothers, are not in the same situation. Sharing is caring, right? In our book, we share as much as we can with no filter, no sugarcoating and much humor on our experiences with five kids between us. You will get a glimpse of the good, the bad and the ugly of all trimesters of pregnancy; childbirth (vaginal and C-Section deliveries) and baby’s first year. We share medical information and facts confirmed by an obstetrician-gynecologist who reviewed the book; some do’s and don’ts; recommendations on what worked for us or didn’t; and some of our decisions on motherhood and careers. We also illustrate some of our cultural practices and parenting tips."There is no guideline on motherhood…But there are key decisions or discussions to have with oneself, with your partner, as well as family and/or friends to envision the type of mother you want to be." – @yacinebtchane Click To Tweet
The onus of the book is selfcare: happy mommy = happy baby and family. So, we prioritise everything you can have, feel or live through to find your peaceful place in order to care for your baby, almost guilt free, while not forgetting yourself. You can never be in control with toddlers. So, now that we have our tribe, we are constantly reviewing that vision of motherhood; having these discussions; and making decisions for our wellbeing and that of our children and families. We are strong believers in putting ourselves first and not putting aside our dreams and aspirations because we are mothers. We try to find ways to make it work. Yes, there will be concessions, there will be sacrifices. including financial ones to afford child care and entertainment, but eventually, we manage to come out satisfied with an outcome where everyone gets a bit of what they want. Most importantly, we understand what works for now and that is just fine.
First released in 2018 in French, the English version of our book Pregnancy and Motherhood has two additional sections we felt were important on this journey: the role of the father and being self-aware at the hospital about consent, abuse and rights. We also introduced an index to help you find information quickly when you most need it."We prepared for most of our major life decisions by researching, mentally preparing ourselves, rehearsing or getting insights from others – and yet, for motherhood, we simply thought, “we will get there”." – @yacinebtchane Click To Tweet
Pregnancy & Motherhood Customs in West Africa
Representation matters. As much as the world is more connected than ever, it is still rare to see black women of African descent telling their stories on issues like pregnancy and motherhood. To hear their voices and retrace their journeys in all walks of life. We wanted to change that. We believe that our West African origins, our cultural background, our families’ traditions, our exposure to the world, and our personalities and life choices could resonate with someone somewhere. To offer a comforting light in what can sometimes be a confusing journey. Some themes that were dear to us given our backgrounds were:
- Breastfeeding: we are strong advocates of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of baby’s life and so we share the many ways a woman can achieve this regardless of where she is, with work and/or travel constraints.
- Massage: In our cultures, massages with hot water are customary for both babies and mothers (except those who had C-Sections) for the first few weeks after delivery. It has incredible virtues for both mother and child, and we highlight exactly that.
- Postpartum: This word is generally followed by depression but the two do not necessarily go together. While we do discuss postpartum depression, we also delve into dealing with overwhelm after delivery; how and where to accept help with baby; and designing a routine that works for you.
- Emotional Intelligence: Our babies are the apple of our eyes and their initial development is essential. We share tricks on how to engage them mentally and emotionally.
- Pregnancy & Postpartum Customs: The book includes a bonus “around-the-globe” trip to discover pregnancy and postpartum customs in a few countries.
As young Afropolitan mothers, we seek to keep the conversation going on pregnant women and mothers’ rights, wellbeing and encouraging each other in living our best lives. We hope Pregnancy and Motherhood: Perspectives from Two Afropolitan Women helps you do just that. Get the book in English or French, paperback or kindle.
Yacine Bio Tchane and Aminata N’Diaye Tall are two freelance economists from Benin and Senegal who grew up together in Senegal and who have studied, worked and lived in Africa, Europe and the US. First time authors, they are passionate about making the motherhood experience healthy, comfortable and empowering. Their debut book seeks to contribute to Black mothers’ representation, while sharing pregnancy and motherhood customs from West Africa and around the world.
Circumspecte offers insights and perspectives on business, development, lifestyle, culture, careers and human interest issues related to Africa and Africans.