They say childbirth is a beautiful thing. They lie. It’s not. The pain, the blood, the sheer agony of trying to get another human out of your body; I don’t see what’s beautiful about it. I think it’s more of strength; childbirth is a show of strength. Maybe that’s why it’s a woman’s thing. Men would probably whine the whole way through it and give up halfway; they just don’t have what it takes. If you think I’m being unfair, just refer to the man flu. They barely come out of that alive.
What’s beautiful though, is the end result. I’ve been a mom two weeks now, and I’m completely obsessed with my baby. I won’t lie and say it was love at first sight. Not for me anyway. I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of taking care of another human being who is completely dependent on me. What I feel towards her now is a mixture of love and a fierce determination to fulfill my duty to her, which basically means bending to her every demand.
So here’s what the last 18 days of motherhood have been like for me:
I don’t think anything really prepares you for what you have to deal with after you give birth to your first child.
I’m still recovering from the C-Section, so I can’t move around as freely as I’d like to. I’m happy I’m no longer in pain and don’t have to rely on painkillers, though I have to admit that those morphine shots I was getting in hospital were the truth!
I haven’t really seen my scar yet, since I am now the proud owner of a mommy pooch that hangs nicely right above the site of the incision and no amount of contortionism I am capable of right now will allow me to see it. But both my doctor and My Lover say it’s healing well. And it’s neat. And it will be covered should I decide to wear a bikini again, which I have every intention of doing, stretch marks and all. #bodypositive right?
Then you know that period-like thing (lochia), the one that lasts an entire lifetime once you deliver the baby? It’s real. OK maybe I’m exaggerating, but you can’t blame me for feeling that way since I’ve never had a period last this long – and I’m told I still have some weeks to go since it can last up to two months. So every day, I have to wear these ultra-thick maternity pads with my high waist cotton granny pants, because lace panties are just too delicate to hold those monstrosities in place. So sexy.
Another thing I wasn’t prepared for? The recovering pelvis. In the last three months or so of my pregnancy I had the most irritating pains in my pelvis (Symphisis Pubis Dysfunction), it felt like I was literally being pulled apart. The pains ended as soon as I gave birth (hallelujah!); but nature said no Shiro, I must keep reminding you that you were recently pregnant, so let’s introduce a different kind of discomfort. Now I can literally feel my bones creak when I move a certain way. The nurse at my last appointment said it was nothing, just the pelvis trying to get back into position. I should feel assured by that, but it’s not so assuring when you’re trying to get off the bed or couch and hear a crack; and it’s often loud enough for My Lover to hear it too. Now I live in constant fear of breaking my pelvis. Fun.
And the boobs! I remember one of the nurses in hospital commenting on my nipples being flat/small – something I have always taken great pride in since it allowed me to go braless without being suggestive – and proceeding to pull them. I was filled with so much WTF I didn’t even know how to react. Though to be honest I don’t know which felt like more of a violation; that, or having a pill stuck up my anus once a day for pain relief.
Anyway, the baby is still able to feed off my “flat” nips, but I’m yet to get used to being sucked all day and night and seeing milk come out of me. I’m like, a freaking cow for real now, with udders full of milk, and for some reason I find that really funny. Sometimes I splash the milk just for giggles.
I’m still getting used to night feeds, and getting by on no more than three and a half hours of sleep at a time when lucky. I’ve accepted that a certain level of exhaustion will be with me until the baby learns to sleep through the night. I’ve learned two new skills though: diaper changing on autopilot and nursing on my side.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the five day constipation that followed the birth, and the fear that putting some effort into pooping would result in my scar ripping apart owing to the pressure. We’re happy that’s over now. Do not take regular bowel movements for granted!
I’m alternating between losing my mind and just being completely taken by Gong.
Some days I feel like I’m doing alright: the baby is feeding well, I’m feeling relatively rested, and I’m doing what the doula and Baby Centre say I should be doing, like sunbathing for that vitamin D, checking for poop and pee regularly and bathing her without drowning her.
Other days are spent second-guessing myself. Have I positioned her right when she sleeps, am I feeding her often enough and is she actually satisfied or am I starving my baby, am I burping her the way I should? I read about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and obsess about it, and check on her every few minutes to make sure she’s breathing, especially since we’re sharing a bed with her for now. Hell, I keep checking that my humongous boob isn’t quietly suffocating her by finding rest on her nose while she’s feeding.
Most days, I just wonder whether I’m being a good mom. It’s the little things that make me doubt myself. Like whether I’m ready to look and sound like a fool for the sake of my baby. Look, I have never been one to coo and make funny faces at children. My interaction with them has previously been limited to blank stares and quick dismissal. Now I have a little one of my own and the books say to talk to her, have a conversation, entertain her. I don’t know how to do that! I have a resting bitch face, my voice is probably not attractive to children and I damn sure do not know how to have a conversation with someone who can’t talk. Now I’m worried my child’s development may be impaired because I don’t know how to interact with children. Am I crazy? Anyway, at least she has my black and white living room wall to entertain her – I hear newborns are attracted to black and white. That is what I call serendipity.
I’d read about the post-partum hormonal changes but again, I wasn’t prepared for their intensity.
The first time I broke down, we were in hospital, two days after the baby arrived. I’d been struggling to feed her that night since my milk hadn’t come in, and after about three hours with little luck, we asked the nurse on duty to help by supplementing the little I’d given her with formula. We’d done the same thing the previous night so didn’t think it was a big deal, but that nurse thought it was. She was being such an idiot about it, going on about not wanting to do it because the hospital was committed to promoting breastfeeding, and I should just keep trying. My nipples were sore, I was tired, my baby wouldn’t stop crying and we didn’t know what to do. Next thing I knew, I was crying. I was angry and frustrated and this woman was not offering me solutions. I was so mad I was cussing and telling My Lover to make sure she didn’t enter my room again because I was going to kill her. I still remember her name – Fellister Murigi. I checked her nametag to make sure I got the right person when I ordered a hit on her.
It happened again the day we were leaving hospital. I remember being fine one minute, and the next minute, while being shown how to bathe the baby, I just panicked and started questioning how we were going to take care of a baby. It was at that precise moment that my pain meds wore off, at the same time I was trying to swallow the panic that was rising in my throat, I was a bit mad at My Lover for forgetting to install the car seat (I forgave him quickly enough though), and I just felt like I couldn’t handle everything that was going on. So I broke down in my room for a few minutes – and blamed it on the pain because I didn’t want to show how scared I was.
To be honest, the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve felt since having this baby have been unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Every day I fight feelings of inadequacy, and it takes My Lover’s constant reminders that I’m doing well – we’re doing well – to pull me out of that. It sucks, and I can’t control it, and it makes me understand why post-partum depression is real, even though I know what I’m going through is nowhere near PPD.
It’s challenging being a new mom. I’m having a hard time because I’m used to being good at what I do, and not knowing how to do everything has got me questioning everything I do. But despite that, my heart is full. I cannot believe that Gong is here, and she’s real, and she’s all ours. I have never been so in love with a child, or with My Lover, as much as I am now. I look at our perfect little family and my heart bursts with gratitude because I never saw myself as a wife or mom at thirty; and now I’m both.
The aftermath is worth it. Now I know what it means to see my heart outside my body.