We made it! Finally, we are one month postnatal…
Pregnancy is really nothing compared to the postnatal life. I described in earlier posts about my pregnancy journey, the challenges and survival. But there is so much more I wish I knew going into pregnancy and childbirth. There is really such a wealth of information and books written about pregnancy, child birth and child rearing; but it seems that this material has been written with the idea of ensuring that it is seen in a positive way so that women are not deterred from reproducing, this does not mean that the real experiences are negative per say, but it didn’t all feel as easy as the texts suggests.
I don’t think all the antenatal classes in the world prepares you fully for the birthing experience. The advice / information you get from others is:
- It’s so painful
- Take the drugs
- I’ll never give natural birth again
- A C-section is the worst kind of pain
- You just deal with the pain
- Labour and labour pains can last more than 24 hours – be prepared
Yet, no one tells you what it’s really like. No one tells you what the pain sensation is really like, or what you’ll feel when getting pain relief.
I was “prepared” for a natural birth. When I say prepared I mean: I’ve made peace with the fact that I will have to be ready to push a 3kg+ baby out my nether-region. I had also heard all the complications that is associated with natural birth. Naturally, I kept my expectations low and I tried not to imagine what the birth experience would be like. By keeping the expectations low, I was also trying to keep myself naive about the whole experience. This being said, a C-section is always a possibility, but one never wants to think about what is essentially major abdominal surgery.
Unfortunately due to complications, I was told we would have to have the C-section. In a way I was relieved, because the thinking I’d be pushing this baby out for hours was haunting me, but then again I was anxious not knowing what surgery would be like.
The morning of the C-section, I didn’t feel too worried about the outcome, I knew I was good hands (the prayers were flowing). The doctor and the anaesthetist were in to explain the process, everyone was calm, I tried to take in all the information so that I would have a better understanding of what would be happening. Everything was going well. The anxiety set in when I was wheeled into the operating room. Honestly, being in that room, getting the epidural, and having all these people around your body, as the drugs are setting in to keep you numb and drowsy, is the absolute scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. I think that my anxiety was spilling over to the rest of the room even.
Laying in the surgery room, as the doctors and nurses are tugging and pulling at my abdomen to free my baby from the uterus he called home for 38 weeks. There was no pain, but the anxiety was very present. When my baby was eventually out, they show him to you before they have h cleaned up and checked out – the pain relief medication was so intense, I don’t recall if I really looked at my baby but I can clearly remember thinking “I hope he doesn’t have an annoying cry”. Once they cleaned him, weighed him and my husband cut the umbilical cord, they handed me this very small baby and I honestly didn’t know what to think or how to feel. Some people say it’s a magical feeling, or you feel this instant love and joy. This was not true, the first thing I felt was fear and panic. My baby was finally here, on my chest, enjoying skin to skin and I had no idea what I was going to do with little boy who’s life I was now responsible for. The look of pride and excitement on my husband’s face was some solace, because atleast I knew I was not in it alone.
The first few nights in the hospital were not too bad, my pain was adequately managed, it was so good to have food delivered on time, the nurses were real helpful at all times and offered amazing support, especially with baby. The hardest part of the hospital stay was the pain and discomfort of the scar was still very real, and then you have this fresh newborn you have to care for and breast feed. It was quite difficult, as movement is restricted and your nipples become nackered from your first few attempts at breastfeeding, and when you get to go home, I can promise you it doesn’t get easier.
Coming home from the hospital, starts a whole new chapter of the postnatal journey. At the beginning, it felt like I was just on a cloud, just trying to get through looking after this baby and looking after myself.
The one thing I was not prepared for, was the flood of emotions that basically attack you when you least expect it. Being flushed with emotions when your body is healing, your body looks and feels physically different, you have a new small baby relying on you for literally everything. It can really take a toll on one’s emotional state.
The most painful experience of having a newborn baby, is the breastfeeding. Yes, breastfeeding is the best way to feed your new baby, but what they don’t tell you is that breastfeeding can be the hardest part of having a new baby. A week after giving birth, and breastfeeding my baby, my nipples were totally chewed up. The pain can be described as steak knives stabbed through the nipples with every attempt. It is utterly depressing when your baby is struggling to latch, he’s hungry and grumpy because he thinks you’re teasing him with his food, next thing the baby is crying, you’re crying and you’re husband is getting frustrated because he doesn’t understand how can breastfeeding be that difficult. For me, even laser treatment can heal the damage your newborns gums have done. Sadly, by day 9, I physically could not take the pain of breastfeeding anymore, I couldn’t even use a breast pump. This is when I realised, that if I can’t heal and look after myself, how would I be able to adequately look after and feed my baby. Breast may be best, but a fed & healthy baby should be the goal. Thank goodness for infant formula, because 2 days of formula = 2 days of healing. The formula feeding was the best decision, not only did my breasts heal, but having baby on the bottle for those two days, actually helped us with latching, and ever since, breastfeeding has really become so much easier (thank you Tommee Tippee).
Luckily, having support in the form of a husband, and two sets of new grandparents can make the home-life with a newborn much easier. Especially when you can hand the baby to them at 5am so that you can get a couple of hours of un-interupted sleep, are able to shower, brush your teeth and eat before missing your bundle joy (or until they need a feed or a change). Having support can however be difficult when you realise that you can’t use the support as a crutch and you need to figure out your new life as a mom, your home that’s now got an extra occupant and less space.
This last month has been difficult in a sense that my whole life has literally changed and I’m a whole new person. I’m trying to navigate a new life that includes my baby (and of course a lack of sleep). I don’t think people really understand how difficult it is to adjust to the new life. You literally go from a “normal” life before you were pregnant, to being pregnant and then being a new parent. The life stage transitions are not the only things that is difficult, because your body literally goes from being what you’re comfortable with, to having a bump and being confident, and now I’m feeling lighter but frumpy and it feels like nothing in my wardrobe fits me anymore, from my favourite t-shirt to my almost every single pair of shoes. All these changes make me wish that the stages came with a budget for a new wardrobe / make-over.
It’s only been a month and we are still trying to adjust to the new addition to our family. We’re just starting to get into a routine and finding what works and what doesn’t work for us. We are though having the most fun just staring at our little boy and watching him grow. Together as this small family learns to live together, we’re growing and healing together, transitioning through the stages as a collective. I can’t wait for what the future has in store for us! ☺️