A short introduction
I am Sarah Barhoush, a single mother of four lovely children. My oldest daughter is nine and I have five-year-old triplets; two boys and one girl. I am Lebanese from Beirut; I hold a degree in business marketing, and I am currently the lead presenter at Omooma.
The first pregnancy
It was a beautiful experience being pregnant with my daughter Miral. It was an easy pregnancy; I didn’t feel any of the difficult pregnancy symptoms. I was extremely happy; I didn’t feel different at all before my belly started growing and gained extra weight. Although it was a beautiful and easy experience, I must say I wasn’t quite ready for it. When I found out I was pregnant I was surprised, but as the pregnancy weeks passed I became more connected with my unborn child, and I became attached to the idea of motherhood.
Caring for a new-born for the first time
I wasn’t ready at all to care for a newborn, despite believing otherwise. After the birth of my first child, I felt very anxious, I started questioning myself; am I taking care of my baby properly? Are there any mistakes I am making without realizing them? The truth is when Miral was born, I didn’t have enough information, or experience in baby care. I was listening to my mother’s advice, and to other mothers in my family. But I soon realized that their advice doesn’t always apply to my experience with my baby, as what I was going through with her was sometimes different from what they told me. This made the first few months somehow difficult and challenging.
What I wish I knew before pregnancy and giving birth
I must admit, I didn’t know much about being pregnant, I thought it would be a regular experience for a few months and that it would be over once the baby is born. I wish I knew more about pregnancy symptoms, about pregnancy trimesters, about the physical changes I will go through every month of my pregnancy, and I wish I knew more about fetal development.
I also wish I had more know-how about easily caring for a newborn. I wish I knew how to better care for myself during pregnancy and after giving birth, as I was always focused on how to care for myself for the sake of the fetus and later for the baby, I never gave any thought to my needs or how to take care of myself, because I didn’t realize self-care is as important as baby care.
The multiple pregnancy and birth
It was a very hard experience! In the beginning, I didn’t know I was carrying multiples; I knew I was pregnant of course and I assumed that as before there will be one baby. The first baby scans showed one heartbeat, during my third visit to the doctor’s, I noticed that he became anxious while doing the ultrasound, I was scared, I thought something is wrong with the baby, then the doctor told me I am carrying more than one baby, so I thought twins! But my doctor told me they were in fact triplets! I felt overwhelmed and started crying.
I felt then that I wasn’t ready for this experience, neither physically nor emotionally, I was scared and confused for days. The first five months of my pregnancy with the triplets were beautiful, there weren’t any issues at all. Then during the fifth month, challenges started flowing. It turned out my pelvis was too small to be accommodating three babies, then my uterus opened earlier than it was supposed to. I was admitted to the hospital where I had to undergo two surgeries, to keep the babies inside to give them more time to develop and grow. When I left the hospital, I was in so much pain, and I faced many complications, so I was admitted again to the hospital where I spent the next two and a half months.
At first, I didn’t know how long I would stay in the hospital, doctors kept telling me it would be until the babies fully develop and it would be safe to deliver them. Looking back at this experience I say I am one of the first people to experience quarantine, even before the Covid pandemic. I wasn’t allowed to leave my room, I was only allowed to roam the hospital corridor in a wheelchair, to then go back and be the prisoner of a hospital bed. It was an extremely challenging time, I convinced myself every day that the wait and patience are worth it, I am waiting for my babies to grow to be delivered safely.
My triplet babies were born during the thirty-first week of my pregnancy, although the doctors were hoping I would continue to carry them at least until the thirty-fourth week. They were premature newborns; they were immediately taken to the NICU. I couldn’t see them or touch them or check on them. My babies stayed in the incubators for forty days, during which some of them were sick. Jad’s lungs were unwell, and he wasn’t feeding properly, Karam was unstable as well. It was devastating to learn these things about them every day. I was allowed to see them later, but I wasn’t receiving any reassurances from the medical staff, that they will soon be alright, this is heartbreaking to a mother.
When it was finally time to take them home, I was asked to sign an undertaking saying I will bring them back to the hospital in case they don’t grow properly at home. So, all I cared about in the following weeks is that for my babies to grow, so all I did was feed them and put them to sleep so that they won’t leave my sight to go back to the hospital. This was a challenging period, as I was all alone until my mother came to help me out. After the wait and the suffering came the first pediatrician visit to check on my babies. The doctor was very satisfied with their growth, the triplets gained a good amount of weight and their overall health improved significantly, which was the greatest challenge in this experience.
I suffered from many severe symptoms postpartum, due to the excessive hormone changes that come with carrying multiples. I received medical care to overcome these symptoms and I was able to put this behind me after nine months of giving birth.
It was not an easy experience, but the happiness and joy my triplets bring me, have no limit. I wish for any woman carrying multiples to know that this is a big challenge and that she needs a lot of knowledge and information, and finally a woman expecting multiples must realize she needs to take care of herself during and after pregnancy.
The effect of my experience with the triplets on my daughter
Dealing with five-year-old Miral while I was pregnant was extremely easy. The hard part was being away from her during my hospital stay. I was talking to her daily and got her to look forward to my coming back home with three babies. Miral was waiting for the triplets with the same excitement she would wait for a toy she loves. When she was visiting me at the hospital, she used to talk to everybody since she is a social butterfly, she used to have a good time, so these visits didn’t have a negative impact on her. Nights were hard, it was difficult for her to go to bed while I am away. It was tough for me to worry about her while going through my ordeal. I am very grateful that my mother was there to take care of Miral while I was in the hospital and to support me during this experience.
During Mother’s Day of that year, Miral’s school was doing a video while asking children why they loved their mother, to which Miral replied: “Because she brings me a lot of babies!” Overall, my experience with Miral was positive during the difficulties I went through with the triplets.
Mental health and Motherhood
Like any other pregnant woman, I experienced huge changes in my body that affected my mental health. The multiple pregnancies were more taxing due to the difficulties I went through. But I didn’t realize that my mental health was affected, as I was always positive and kept telling myself and everybody around me that I am OK. Even when I started crying, I thought I was crying of exhaustion. When I would have insomnia or trouble sleeping, I thought it was because of staying up late with my babies. I insisted I was fine and that was my mistake! My advice to every woman who experiences different emotions during pregnancy or after birth is to not give in to these emotions and take them as normal. It is very important to be knowledgeable and aware of everything related to mental health.
I kept insisting I was alright until I had a severe headache, so I went to the doctor who referred me to do thorough tests and scans. The tests and scans didn’t find any physical problem. Then another doctor who was consulting on my case diagnosed me with suffering from severe stress! I had no idea, but I am grateful that I was able to receive the medical care and treatment I needed. I was able to put all these symptoms behind me after only 8 or 9 months. But If I had insisted I was OK and didn’t seek help on time, I probably wouldn’t have found out that I was suffering from mental stress.
The challenges I face as a single mother
Motherhood is a big challenge, so being single and walking the path of motherhood alone is definitely a struggle. I feel that I play different roles, the mother, the father, and the provider of this family. The mother is usually the caregiver and the nurturer, while the father is the strict and firm character, so playing both roles is difficult. I can’t say I overcame this hardship, but I am constantly learning to be better at it. With every stage in my children’s lives, there are new challenges that I must adapt to. Despite the difficulty of being a single mom, I can’t say it is mission impossible, a woman can do it and even thrive at it.
Balancing career and motherhood
Being a working mother is not easy, but can there be a balance between career and motherhood? The answer is NO! a complete balance is impossible, there is a constant swing between the two sides of this tricky scale. What I realized over time is that there are some steps that can help me through the challenge of working while being a mother, such as time management. For example, I do my best to dedicate the entire morning to my children before I leave to work, to take care of them and their needs, and to spend quality time with them. I also try to divide the weekend between some me time and some time with them.
Supporting women through motherhood
I don’t believe women in our society have enough support in their motherhood journey. The support a woman gets is often the support of the husband, immediate family, or she relies on what she learned from her previous experience in pregnancy and birth. Usually, a woman gets information from her mother or aunt, who sometimes give contradicting information, to confuse her even more.
Sometimes the husband is not available for his wife in her journey through motherhood, he often doesn’t know anything about the physical and emotional changes she is experiencing during and after pregnancy. He is often unavailable when it comes to caring for the baby and all the responsibilities related to this.
There is also the knowledge and information aspect of motherhood, if we search online for a topic related to pregnancy, we will find many articles written in different ways, and providing different information as well. There isn’t a unique source that offers all the information needed about motherhood in a clear and direct way. This is why I am so excited about the concept of Omooma because it is a platform providing online training and articles by experts in Arabic. The advantage that Omooma has over any other similar platform is that it is in Arabic, even though we became used to speaking English daily, but when it comes to precise medical information about pregnancy, birth, and baby care it must be in Arabic. The other advantage Omooma has is that it doesn’t only provide articles, but also classes and courses presented by experts.
Preparing my daughters for the future
This is one of the difficult things I have to think about. After what I have gone through, I seek to raise strong and independent girls, to become strong independent women capable of facing the hardships of life by themselves. I always teach them about many things that we were shielded from as children, under the excuse that we were too young. I believe children should learn many things early on, they should about differentiating learn right from wrong, and about acceptable and unacceptable behavior, to be able to make sound decisions later in life.
How Omooma is helping women in our society
When I first learned about Omooma I found it a great idea, it is the first of its kind. Despite the existence of other platforms offering content for mothers, there isn’t one dedicated entirely to providing high-quality expert content, offered by lead health care professionals specializing in all the fields related to motherhood. I look forward to its launch and to what it will offer women in our region.
Omooma will be an excellent support to women throughout their motherhood journey. My experience made me realize the importance of such information and knowledge about pregnancy, birth, and baby care. As it was a challenge not knowing how to care for my newborn or understand the changes I was going through. Not having enough knowledge was the greatest challenge I had to face during my motherhood journey.
Also read: Why do you need Motherhood training?