I am now the happy mother of little baby boy, who continuously inspires me, provides me with joy and new insights. Every day we hit together several milestones. He is exploring the world around him and ever since I hit the maternity zone, I have become a full on student again. In the beginning, it was all about learning the basics: changing diapers, nursing and feeding, putting my bub to sleep and calming him down. These days I find myself preoccupied with learning other things, like researching the effect of chemical substances used in baby products, on our health. It is also safe to say, that by now I have acquired a heightened sense of how to live a healthier lifestyle in terms of sleep, nutrition and physical exercise – as being pregnant and giving birth, seriously put that to the test.
Let’s start with my pregnancy. Honestly, it was a breeze until the final trimester. I got pregnant while I was finalizing my master thesis and I attributed all of the strange sensations I was experiencing to that. Therefore, I only found out towards the fourth month that I am pregnant and as I felt so well, my life didn’t change that much altogether. I kept my strict gym routine, went out with my friends and stayed up till late .It was only in the eight month when I found out firsthand, exactly how vicious hormones can be. All of a sudden, I got literally attacked by some strange itch which put my skin on fire, but didn’t cause a rash. Night after night, I woke up in agony and it was so bad that I ended up going to the ER. I couldn’t take another scratching episode and as I was in such distress, the doctors decided to give me some pills. That rescued me and the itch disappeared as quick as it came. Once the itch was under control, we had to embrace the fact that the baby wasn’t turning and that I’ll probably have to undergo a cesarean.
The entire ninth month I was waiting for some serious contractions, which never came. I didn’t lose my mucus plug and neither did my water break. It was almost as if my body had gone on a strike or as if my baby was not willing to cooperate. So on the actual due date, we finally drove to the hospital where the friendly medical staff prepared me for surgery. I wasn’t no nervous, as I was far too hyped to meet that little creature living inside of me. In addition, I kept telling myself that a cesarean is just a “routine procedure”. So there I lay and felt them, push and pull. As soon as they had fished my precious son out of my belly, they placed him on my chest – skin to skin. What should have been a moment of “perfect bliss” was just odd. I felt numb and that was not because of the epidural. Usually I am a very sentimental person and so I expected myself to get emotional, but I didn’t. While my husband was tearing up, I just felt void – some sort of disconnect. I remember thinking, OK – so apparently I am a mother now. I am looking at my baby, what am I supposed to do with it now? How do you operate this thing? The absence of my maternal instinct was incredibly overwhelming and it all went pretty much downhill from there.
During those first few weeks, I felt like a wreck both emotionally and physically. I might have had a post-natal depression, but one thing is for sure – being bedbound during my first week as a mother and being physically limited for another seven weeks, was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through. I felt helpless and incapable, both as a person and as a mother. My body was unrecognizable and I remember being shocked by how my previously tight stomach, was just hanging there. I felt completely out of control and started obsessing over how ugly and fat I am. My baby was also born on the lighter side and wouldn’t latch on properly, so nursing was nearly mission impossible. Overall, I felt like I had failed on several levels and I was faced with so many fears and insecurities. On the one hand, I was frustrated with how the pregnancy had impacted my body and on the other hand, I was worried for the well-being of my baby. It was a devastating.
Blessed as I am though, my husband and mother watched over me like to two guardian angels. My mother stayed around long enough to teach me the mothering business. Meanwhile, my husband made serious efforts to keep things light and made sure that I would not slip into the mud even further. Also my midwife followed up on us amazingly. She guided me through it all and referred me to a physical therapist, as she had diagnosed me with diastasis recti. My lovely stomach bulge was a direct result of doing the wrong exercises during pregnancy and had left me with a solid abdominal separation. Slowly but surely, I started getting back on my feet and embraced, my new reality.
Now, being four months postpartum, I cannot help but wonder: why does no one ever mention, life after birth? Everyone seems to be talking about the hardship of pregnancy and labor, but why is the post-natal period never mentioned? I knew that it wouldn’t be all peaches and cream and that everyone has a different experience, but since I joined the mom club – many women have confided in it and me appears as if the majority is struggling. Society expects you to just bounce back and pick up where you left, but that is so unrealistic and unfair. As soon as you start life as a parent, you have to completely reinvent yourself and establish a new routine. Everything you ever knew has changed. That is beautiful, but you need time to adapt. Women need about nine months to create life and naturally, it takes at least the same amount of time to restore our physical and mental state. Similarly, how are fathers supposed to function at work when they were up half of the night with their newborn?
My point is that in today’s day and age, where information is so easily accessible and we’re all so curious to find out what happens behind the scenes, we ought to open up about these things. I feel personally responsible now, to share my experiences with others so we can learn from each other. I am not painting it black, neither looking through rose-colored glasses as it is crucial to perceive reality as it is. I am also of the opinion, that as a society we are obliged to rethink the balance between family life and work, especially in the beginning. Additionally, we ought to ask ourselves what our priorities really are. That said, I encourage all parents in this world, not to hide behind closed doors but to share their stories. Speak up and let it be all out in the open, so we can grow and improve.