There it is. My famous line. I’m not glowing, I’m sweating.
Whenever anyone asks me what it’s like to be pregnant, go through labour or have a newborn, I always respond with ‘it sucks’. I’ve been told many times that I’m a walking talking contraception because of my story, but I will never lie just to fit in. One of the biggest reasons I started this blog was to share my stories with full honesty because who knows, someone may resonate with them.
Everyone tells you that pregnancy is a beautiful miracle of life! From fellow mums-to-be, professionals, bloggers, celebs and personalities and magazines. They tell you that you’ll love every minute! You may feel sick a little and it gets a little uncomfortable, but it’s amazing! Well I certainly didn’t glow, but I did sweat… a lot! From the 24 hour 20 week hangover, to the constant cramps, I hated the whole thing! And I’m definitely not ashamed to say it!
I’m a mum to an almost 5 year old son Benny and I’m currently 28 weeks pregnant with my second son. It took me 4 years to want to go through the whole process again, as the first time around literally traumatised me. There’s a scene in the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’ where they show two lots of soldiers sitting in a boat going to battle. On one side the soldiers are physically sick because they don’t know what to expect. On the other side, the solders are also physically sick because they DO know what to expect. Falling pregnant the second time around is pretty much the same thing- without the actual war. You know what you’ve gotten yourself into, but there’s no going back now! Surprisingly though, as time goes on, I feel a lot more in control this time.
Now, let’s make this perfectly clear. This is MY journey. This is MY experience. Never will I judge any mum that genuinely enjoyed their pregnancy; I’m just here to speak up for those other mums. The ones that didn’t feel the glow, or the instant love for their newborn. There are so many mums out there that feel the pressure from society to pretend like they loved being pregnant because if they didn’t then they must be bad mums. I’m here to tell them that it’s OK. It’s OK to hate it. Acknowledge how you feel and why you feel it. Speak up and take control.
I thought the best way to go about sharing my story was to list 10 things about pregnancy, labour and the first few weeks, that I wish someone had told me – while still telling my story. Being prepared helps you stay in control, so it’s definitely helped me have a more positive experience this second time around knowing what I know. I am warning you though, I don’t hold back. If you are planning on having kids in the near future, you may want to stop reading. A lot of it is also very gross, maybe even TMI, but this blog isn’t called My ‘Raw’ Self for nothing! I also talk a lot, and therefore write a lot. Give this post a good 15 minutes to get through.
1. Lack of support
The first thing I noticed when I fell pregnant the first time around was that there was little to no support. I had my family and friends, but professionally, there wasn’t much. There wasn’t a phone number you could call to ask all those silly questions. As you sit there on the couch crying because you don’t know what’s happening to your mind and body, who do you call? Your GP? The hospital? Your mum? How do you know you’re not going crazy? You try to google “pregnancy is tough, why do I have nightmares?” and all that comes up are a bunch of discussions on pregnancy forums with other women asking the same thing. But does anyone actually answer them? No.
One reason I feel a lot more in control this time is that I made sure I had a great support system around me. I didn’t rely on the occasional obstetrician appointments to ask all my silly questions. My GP, my naturopath and my therapist are my favourite people. They’re like family, and they’re professionals. My husband, my dad (my mum passed away when my little boy was almost 2 so I’m doing it without her this time) and my 3 close friends were all warned that they’d be called upon to help me through the tears whenever I needed them. They’re my saviours and without their support, I would be completely lost!
2. The pain
Oh the pain! And I’m not talking about a little cramp here and there, I’m talking about “don’t come near me or my boobs because I will slap you silly” kind of pain. That’s the first pain you feel- the boobs. The tenderness is unbearable! As the weeks go on, you suffer from constant leg and stomach cramps, restless legs, heartburn, headaches, dizziness and swollen feet that you don’t want to stand on. If you’re like me, your tailbone will be so inflamed that sitting down for more than 5 minutes will cause a shooting pain right up into your shoulders. So you try to move around a little and then notice that your back is completely stiff and the only way to reduce the pain is to lay down- which is perfect during a two hour work meeting! The best bit? Getting in and out of bed, in and out of the car, on and off the couch is excruciating if you don’t take it slow and literally roll out. I actually got stuck in a bean bag the other day. That was fun.
3. Gestational diabetes
So my first born weighed 4.8kg (10.6 pounds). Yep he was a fatty. This meant that I had my GTT test (‘glucose tolerance test’ which checks your blood sugar levels) at 17 weeksthis second pregnancy. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and started checking my sugar levels 4 times a day (via a needle prick in my finger). Within about two weeks, I started insulin (protaphane) where I inject myself each night to keep my overnight levels down.
I personally feel there is little information for pregnant woman with gestational diabetes. As soon as I was diagnosed, the midwives and dieticians made me believe that I was a bad mum. How dare I have two apples in a day, and how dare I feel afraid of insulin. “Insulin will help keep your baby alive” is what I was told and so clearly, I was an emotional wreck for a few weeks after the diagnosis while I adjusted to this new journey. I started doing my own research and experimenting to see what food I could and couldn’t eat. I did it all on my own.
When you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s important to know that you are different to the other woman sitting next to you in the ‘diabetes education class’. Some women’s bodies can’t cope with the extra sugar in their blood that pregnancy hormones cause. Others – like me – have healthy bodies. Too healthy. My liver apparently was so healthy that it fed my baby too much during the night, and hence the insulin at night to keep my fasting sugar levels down.
I now have to watch what I eat- all the time! Not that I ate chocolate every day, I am pretty healthy, but I just went through Easter without any eggs. I eat raw and I eat clean. I’m basically one of those Instagram #lifestyle fitness feeds who snacks on raw almonds and adds chia seeds in everything! It’s very tough! But hey, I’ve lost 4kgs since I found out I was pregnant (and am looking great, thank you) which is a huge bonus! The baby is growing well, so it’s just my fatty goodness that’s wasting away.
I’ve already put in my order for once the baby comes though- two x large Nandos chips with peri peri salt and perinaise sauce, along with a standard $5 chocolate mud cake from Coles. #drool!
4. Pregnant while already a mum
This time around, I have an almost 5 year old boy to add to the pregnancy mix. I’m normally the fun mum, the one that plays soccer in the backyard with him for hours, the one that gives him piggy backs through the house and the one he hangs off and tries to wrestle. Because that’s what having a boy is like. It was not only tough for me, but tough for him when we had to tone it down a little once I fell pregnant. I can no longer carry him and I can no longer play soccer for hours on end.
I’m scared that he finds me boring. I try to do what I can, but I have to give in to what my body is telling me to do. If I need to sit down, I have to. If I need a quick powernap, I have to. I just hope he’s old enough to understand and won’t resent me. Emotionally, this is the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with this pregnancy.
On top of that, I don’t get to rest as much as I’d like to because I’m already a mum. I have to cook, clean, do the laundry, teach him things and help him develop, and generally be standing. Unlike the first time I was pregnant, I can’t sleep as soon as I get home from work.
5. The labour
Traumatising! Absolutely traumatising! (warning: skip #5 if you don’t like the word gunk)
I was so ready. It was five days post my due date and I felt my first contraction at 7pm on a Monday night. Here we go! I called the hospital who told me to start recording everything and call them back when the contractions were four minutes apart. A few hours in I felt fine. I was in pain, but felt fine. By the next morning after having no sleep, about six showers and a few rounds of Panadol later, I had had enough. My contractions were nowhere near four minutes apart and at that point the panic had set in. I don’t know how I got through the next few hours until I finally decided to just go into the hospital at about 4pm. After practically crawling into emergency, I patiently waited in line for about 10 minutes until a nurse walked over and asked “sweetie, are you in labour?” ‘No shit’ I thought!! Look at me!!
They took me into the birthing suites where I was told to sit on one of the beds (there were about 10 of us all in a line) and take my clothes off so that they could have a ‘feel’ for where the baby was positioned. This is where all my dignity was lost.
My waters hadn’t yet broken, so they decided to do it for me with a needle looking thing, to speed up the process. “8 hours to go” was what they told me as I felt like I had just peed my pants. I had been in labour for about 20 odd hours so anther 8 didn’t sound that bad, even if the bed sheets were soaked in gunk.
I was then taken into my own birthing suite. It was very clinical and kinda looked like something from a Saw movie. I was told to “relax” and have a shower if I wanted to and that they’d check on my every 4 hours. What I really wanted to do was throw the bed against a wall and pull the baby out myself, but I politely nodded and kneeled down against the bed. (This was the only comfortable position at that point).
8 hours later, the obstetrician came in to see me. I hadn’t really progressed so he decided to have a feel to see what was going on. Apparently the nurse hadn’t fully broken my waters, so he did it properly this time. At that point, the pain went from 9/10 to about 50/10. The next few hours went something like this- pain, scream, laughing gas, pass out, quick dream, pain, scream, laughing gas, pass out, quick dream, pain…. And so on.
About 30 hours into my labour, the midwife in charge of me ‘secretly’ reminded me that there were other pain medications that I could try. (They’re not allowed to encourage alternative pain relievers at this hospital.) “Epidural” I said. I then waited an hour and a half for the epidural person to come. The nurse putting my drip in also told me to “stop carrying on” as I quietly cried through the contractions that continued as she took her sweet time putting the needle in my hand. To this day, I don’t know what she did but I don’t have any feeling in that area on my left hand. I was told to sit still on the bed and crouch over. If I moved while they were putting the epidural in, I could be paralysed. I looked at my husband and I remember him saying “please don’t move”. I held his hands, grit my teeth and got through it.
About half an hour later as I lay on my back for the first time in about 32 hours, I felt nothing. No pain, no fear, no nothing. I asked my husband if he had eaten anything and he shook his head. I actually forgot he was there! I had wires and machines all over me and as doctors rushed in and out (the baby’s heart rate had dropped and he was in distress- all little be known to me) I felt a sense of calm and control. I could totally do this now!
I stayed that way for about 3 hours while the baby was monitored. I then pushed for 3 hours with no luck. “prep her for a caesarean” I heard the doc say. Awesome. I wasn’t afraid of caesareans at all! I was totally ready to get this baby out!
An hour or so later, 37 hours into labour, at 8am on Wednesday 20th July 2011, in a very cold theatre with about 20 doctors and nurses around us, our baby boy was pulled out of my tummy and started to cry. He was the fattest little thing I had ever seen and looked to me just like a jelly fish! His first reaction, probably reading my thoughts, was to pee. Into my open tummy. Nice.
They took him away, cleaned him up, gave him to my husband and started taking bets as to how heavy he actually was. They then took my husband and the baby away while they stitched me up and took me into recovery. A couple of hours later I was taken into the room (that I shared with another lady who liked to hum to her baby… constantly and loudly) and the first thing I was told was that my baby didn’t fit into 0000 jumpsuits. OK.
To this day, thinking back to those few days is very tough. I cry a lot because I feel violated. I don’t think I was treated very well and deserved much better. Oh how I wish someone actually told me “you’ll be fine, everything is fine” at least once during the most terrifying few days of my life. But this was reality I guess. I was just a number.
6. The first day
After being reunited with my husband and my baby, no one really came in to tell me what to do next. I felt lost. Do I change its nappy? Do I let it sleep? What do I do?
I wasn’t given any skin to skin time and actually didn’t hold him until 12 hours after he was born. The nurses came in and out a few times, checking me and checking the baby. They even held him while I tried to breastfeed (see point 8 below) rather than give him to me to hold. There was no time to connect with him and so I felt very distant and didn’t like him very much.
Once everyone had left, at about 9pm that night, the night shift nurse came in and asked if I had held my baby yet. I said No. She changed his nappy, wrapped him up, pulled up the safety rail on the bed and told me to put my arms out and gave me my baby. “Go to sleep” she said. And so I did. He woke up crying in the middle of the night and she came in before I could buzz her, changed his nappy, helped me breastfeed him and pulled up the rail on the other side of the bed and gave him to me again. “Go back to sleep” she said.
We woke up at 7am and looking at his sweet face, I could not believe the love I had for him. I truly believe that if it wasn’t for that nurse, I would not have loved my baby. I never saw her again but I thank her.
Please! Hold your baby. Bond with them. Have some alone time with them. It’s OK to not love them at first, but do what you can to connect as soon as you can. The photos I chose for this blog are of that next day. I don’t like looking at the photos right after he was born because I didn’t love him then. These photos though, they’re pretty special, even if I look horrid!
7. The first 6 weeks
The first 6 weeks are just gross! You bleed, gunk comes out of ‘down there’ and if you’re breastfeeding, milk drips everywhere. Showers are pointless because as soon as you clean yourself, you get disgusting again! You don’t know what day it is, or time it is. You forget to eat, you don’t get to sleep and you definitely don’t get a chance to feel like a woman!
My advice? Just go with it! Ride the wave and you’ll come out the other end at some point. It’s OK to feel like you’re in a dream, and it’s OK to live in the same pj’s for the first few weeks straight.It’s normal. Very very normal.
The first time I tried to breastfeed was in the hospital a few hours after the birth. Two nurses came into my room and said “let’s try breastfeeding.” They didn’t ask me, they told me. Instead of giving me my baby, they started to milk me. Literally milk me like a cow. A little bit of milk came out so they held my baby against me until it latched on. A few minutes later they took him away. There. That was breastfeeding. I was now to do it on my own!
As the days and weeks went on, I got pretty good at it (learning on my own) and we got into a routine. I was totally rocking this whole breastfeeding thing! Until about 3 months in when the cracks started and I started to bleed. I actually didn’t want to feed my baby anymore. He was one of those ‘every 3 hours’ types of babies, but I was dragging it out to about 4 or 5 hours while he screamed and screamed because I couldn’t handle the pain anymore.
I decided to introduce formula and a week later, I stopped breastfeeding.
Do not ever, EVER let anyone force you to breastfeed!! It’s great for the baby, yes. BUT if it’s not for you, it’s not for you!! It’s definitely not for me and this time around, I will stop as soon as I feel like it. Because my sanity is just as important as my baby’s health.
The isolation once you have a newborn is real. Your family and friends don’t want to intrude so they leave you alone the first few weeks or months. Being isolated from the outside world, for me, brought on my anxiety. (I’ll get into my anxiety in a later post, but at this stage I hadn’t yet been formally diagnosed so didn’t know how to manage it.)
I found myself staring at my baby wondering why his face looked different when he sat up compared to when he laid down. I wondered why his mouth moved sometimes. I began to panic every time he cried, even though I knew it was for a feed or a nappy change. I wouldn’t let anyone hold him for too long because ‘they didn’t really know how to do it like me’. I was out of control. This baby took over my life and not in a good way.
They say that the ‘baby blues’ happen to everyone. But what happens when those baby blues don’t go away? Weeks, months, years even. I can guarantee that I suffered from postnatal depression. I didn’t see anyone and I didn’t ask for help. I was hospitalised three days after initially coming home from the hospital with heart palpitations and a blood pressure of 200 / 100 (stroke levels), but once they had it under control with medication, I was on my way. No one checked up on me, no one asked if I felt better. The numbers were better so clearly I was better too right? Wrong.
If you don’t feel right, ask for help. Tell your husband, tell a friend, your GP. Tell someone. It is not normal to be completely consumed by your baby to the point where you feel trapped. I felt trapped. I just didn’t know it wasn’t normal. Not until I started to see my therapist 3 years ago.
10. You’re all they have!
Among all of this, you need to keep the baby alive!
You will never ever love something more than your own child. NEVER. Period. Everything you do, you do for them. Everything you feel, you feel for them. From the unconditional love, the fear, the excitement, and the obsession, it’s all for them. It’s these emotions that keep you going. It’s like you’re always ready for battle, willing to do everything you can to keep them safe, warm and away from harm. But it’s all on you. This baby relies on you and only you. The pressure is indescribable.
There it is. That’s my story. I’m not going to lie; this post was tough to write. Not because I’m afraid of who may read it as it is very open, but because it brought on a lot of those emotions that I had already dealt with, so now I need another coffee.
In closing of what – I promise – will be the one and only long post, the best way to describe all of this in one line is: it’s mentally, emotionally and physically overwhelmingly exhausting.
It’s not easy. But you get through it. You end up stronger than you have ever been before and you end up with your own story to tell. This was mine. Admitting that being a mum is hard work, doesn’t mean you’re a bad mum. It means your journey is a little different and may be tougher than someone else’s. And that’s OK! Be kind to yourself, you’re doing the best you can.
If you’re not coping though, please ask for help. Even if it is the checkout chick at Coles, trust me, they always listen.
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