Who can you turn to when you're home alone?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 October, 2005, 12:00am

It's one of the most natural thing in world, yet for many women motherhood is the most challenging.

'Motherhood - especially the first child - is a major initiation for women,' says psychotherapist David O'Rose. 'It's a rite of passage from girl to woman, and in our society the value of initiation is lost.

'With its primal force, birth has the power to transform a woman, but our society glides over that. The medicalisation of birth ignores this process and a woman can find herself in the new territory of motherhood and not, on some deeper level, know how she got there.'

Indeed, right after the birth, when a woman needs to sleep, heal and gather her strength, her hormones start to run riot and a new little life demands immediate attention. Often the father, the primary source of support, has only one week of paternity leave. For many Hong Kong women, the situation is compounded by the absence of family. Mothers, sisters and in-laws are often a long plane ride away and, although they might visit for a couple of weeks after the birth, soon there's no one to turn to for help.

Without the reassurance of the extended family or regular, free check-ups from home-visiting midwives, returning from hospital with a baby can be daunting.

The Hong Kong trend of hiring an amah to help out doesn't provide the kind of emotional support a new mother needs, O'Rose says.

Friends, particularly those with children, can make a difference as long as everyone is prepared to share their experiences honestly. A woman who puts on a brave face and pretends everything is OK is only going to feel more isolated and alone.