Mother of five shares her 'letter of solidarity' to overwhelmed working moms

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Marlize Jacobs and her family
Marlize Jacobs and her family

Marlize Jacobs, mother to five children, wrote to News24 to share the story of her surprise pregnancy with twins, how it affected her and how she overcame the many challenges she faced. She shares her insights and tips for other working parents who feel overwhelmed by it all...

When I discovered I was pregnant with twins, I began falling into a downward spiral of anxiety and, eventually, depression. 

I already had three children and a responsible job. How on earth would I keep working, run a household and care for five children? 

Peri-partum depression can happen to anyone, regardless of their financial position and life circumstances. It took months for me to recover – a process that included a seven-week stay in hospital with my twins, when they were born three months’ premature. 

If my story helps even just one more overwhelmed working mother, I will be glad to have told it.

I fell pregnant on contraceptives, so at first it felt like a miracle, if rather a shock, to me and my husband. We knew we could manage one more child. Then, we discovered it was twins. I began feeling extremely stressed about how I could cope. My mental and emotional energy began ebbing away. 

At first, I told myself this was due to the exhaustion of the first trimester and morning sickness, but a gigantic monster of worry was building up in my head. Already, my hands were very full. My husband works at a hospital and doesn’t have the time to help with household duties. Where would I fit two new babies into our busy lives? 

After the first trimester, my physical energy began returning – I no longer felt the need to go to sleep at 6pm every evening – but I still had no emotional energy. Everything felt like an effort, and I could find no joy in anything.

I remember my boss telling me that worry isn’t always a bad thing, as it means one can put structures in place that will help. However, I was shutting myself off, from the news and Facebook, as reading about other moms’ problems and the challenges in our country simply deepened my negativity.

My sister would ask why I was so quiet, and I would say very little back but that I was worried. I began feeling guilty. Why could I not feel excited about my new babies? 

Read: 'The most important thing is not to panic': How to prepare and cope with disappointing matric results 

When I shared my worries with others, they told me all would be well. This did not help, and I became even more distracted. 

By March 2021, I had been pregnant for four months and the babies were showing, but I didn’t want to tell anybody. I felt embarrassed that we would have five kids! My husband was excited and starting to tell his friends. One day, I told him how worried I was about all we would have to buy and do. He responded by saying that we don’t have real problems. There were people without jobs, people who were starving or ill with Covid-19, and they were really struggling. That gave me some mental perspective I had lost. 

I went to see my doctor often. He told me I was moving through the stages of grief regarding the changes my life would undergo. I had already experienced anger, denial and depression; now I needed to start with the process of acceptance. 

I was still deep in anxiety but, gradually, I began to control the anxious thoughts each time they reared up in my head. 

That is how I started to get better. I simply could not carry on worrying. 

Read: Unpacking parents’ reasons for not vaccinating their children: why it matters

By the end of March, when I had my baby shower, I was starting to get excited about preparing for the twins’ birth – unpacking the gifts and preparing their room. Then, two weeks later, the babies started going into distress. I was hospitalised for an emergency C-section. Suddenly, my world was shaken again. The twins were three months early, and I was not ready. 

The doctors told me I would have to stay in hospital with the babies. How would my other three children cope? I needed a Covid-19 test every time I re-entered the hospital, and it was not feasible to be tested every day, should I return to my family. I had to stay in hospital. It was very lonely as I was not allowed to see anybody, and the twins’ ups and downs had me very worried. I only went home for three weekends out of seven. I chatted to my three older children every night but saw them only on a Sunday at my husband’s practice at the hospital. 

Then I realised there was a bigger picture. By the time the babies were ready to go home, I too would be healed physically from the surgery, and I had time to heal emotionally, too. I would be able to welcome the babies home and give them my full attention. 

My older children did very well. My mom came from Pretoria and stayed with us for about 10 weeks. My sister helped too, and friends and fellow church-goers all offered to help. It was amazing to experience this level of support.

Read: This mother has birthed and breastfed two healthy baby girls. She is also HIV positive 

I am extremely fortunate, as my company allows me to work at home one day a week and gives me flexibility to attend to my children when necessary. My boss believes that if his employees are happy, they will give 200% at work. It always falls upon women, especially working moms, to give and sacrifice so much. If we receive a little consideration, we will give back in spades. 

To other moms feeling as I did, I ask you to give yourself a little grace. Things will not work out perfectly - we are all human beings - but you are able to find a way through. Tell yourself you will be OK, even if it is hard to believe. 

You cannot do it alone – ask for help. People are glad to step in, especially when children are involved. (((We just need to stop being proud and find the guts to ask.)) 

Your worry makes you live in the future, not the present. Live one day at a time. Try, is possible, to do things calmly, controlling your mind and emotions. 

Find time for yourself, even if it is very short, and use every moment wisely. 

When your child is born, put structures in place, as much as possible, to help you cope. Then, live in the moment. 


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