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Single mothers and maternal healthcare in Tunisia
Intersectional approach to single mothers’ self-perceptions and childbirth experiences
Explore how single mothers perceived the attitudes of maternal healthcare providers towards them.
Explore the challenges faced by single mothers to access adequate maternal healthcare services that ensure women’s right to dignified, respectful healthcare during childbirth.
Explore the participants’ self-perceptions as single mothers.
Experiencing disrespect and abuse
“After the delivery, I stayed the whole night in the cold. I used a hospital’s blanket to cover my son because he also stayed naked for the whole night(…) And, I was feeling hungry. Imagine… they gave me only a very cold soup.” (Sahar).
“They didn’t ask me to come back…I saw that they told the other women to come back in prefixed dates, but they didn’t do the same for me. I was not completely healed.... They told all women to come back except me.” (Ferdaws).
“The doctor was rude when she was making the sutures. She was shouting at me and screaming…She was beating me on my hips…Her attitude was not normal.” (Sawsen).
“I wish I can find my son…I wish that my son will come back to me…Every time I see a little boy, I remember my son.” (The participant started crying) (Mariem).
“When the nurses and interns asked me about the father’s name…I explained my situation and I told them that I was a single mother… and the way they treated me changed…A nurse started screaming and shouting at me.” (Marwa).“It wasn’t because of my status as single mother. They treated all women badly. The midwives became…I don’t know how to say it…maybe they got used to see women delivering.” (Sahar).
“Was she there to punish me for my mistake?!!…Is the doctor God to punish me?!!… she is not God to judge people!!” (Sawsen).
“When the nurse started shouting at me…I told her: "that’s it, I will leave!” (Marwa).
“At the moment of the delivery, I felt the contractions…It was very painful. The doctors asked me not to move…There were three doctors with me…and they told me to relax. (..) They treated me well…” (Kawthar).
Perceptions of regret and shame attributed to being a single mother
“I made a mistake…and I had my son. My son was born outside of marriage “Haram”…“ (The participant started crying) (Amani).
“I don’t know…I think I was strong.. I insisted to keep my son and I challenged all the people and…I had to challenge my brothers, my family…my dad (RIP)…Yet, I was the only girl in the family, I should had made them proud as they said.” (Amira).“The single mother cannot move forward, unless she ignores what people are saying…If she wants to move forward, she had to put society’s prejudices behind her…” (Sawsen).
The triad of vulnerability: stigma, social challenges, and health system challenges
“Actually, I met the social worker… I explained my situation to her and she asked me to give her my I.D so I can return and take the baby. I left the I.D for two weeks, (while I was looking for housing)…Then, the social assistant said she was afraid that I will abandon the child in the future or do something bad to him…” (Sahar).
“If woman makes a mistake once, she has to pay it for the rest of her life… she will pay it…Her family will reject her.” (Ferdaws).
“I was thinking about how can I take care of my baby…I didn’t know about organizations’ activities as I do now…I wasn’t aware of anything…I wasn’t in the same situation as now…I was worried about where I was going to live with her.” (Sawsen).“I suffered a lot and I couldn’t give up on my daughter. I didn’t have an income and I couldn’t pay the rent…so I left the house and I had to stay with my sick baby in the hospital.” (The baby was suffering from a fetal distress and was hospitalized for a short period) (Farah).
“The guard was taking money from all people. I had to pay to even receive visits from my mother or my sister.” (Amani).
“I can find excuses for the bad attitude of the one who assisted me in the delivery and for the doctor. I delivered by night…so maybe they had many women to assist in the delivery.” (Ferdaws).