Some of the things I am about to discuss, I have never discussed with people outside my family. I decided to share these very personal things to help women that I know are going through the same things but have no one to talk to or feel they are alone. You are not alone. I went through it and I am back to normal and I know you too will survive. All the best!
After labouring for 48 hours, delivering a baby without epidural and then finally having the chance to rest, it was time to go home with our new addition to the family. We were discharged the very next day. I was given all my paperwork with the information I would need for his vaccinations, appointment dates and a public health book I was supposed to read to guide me with his nutrition and all that. We carefully placed him in an infant carseat and whisked him off to the car. Kobby had proudly stuck the “Baby on Board” sticker at the back of the car and he looked both nervous and excited.
The ride home was so surreal and I couldn’t believe I was actually a mother now. How Crazy! I gazed at his tiny fragile frame and watched as he slept so peacefully. I was still sore and couldn’t sit properly and I was deeply worried about how I was going to take care of him. Here I was thinking I was done with the difficult part and was naturally going to settle into motherhood. All this while, I had been trying to breastfeed but was unable to because the milk hadn’t started coming out and he had been on formula at the hospital. My mom had made two jugs full of mashed kenkey which was supposed to help produce lots of breast milk. My sister-in-law had also graciously sent a video of how I could stimulate the breast to produce milk. I did all that and nothing came out. We stopped by a pharmacy and I bought a jar of NAN-1 which was the same formula he was given at the hospital so I maintained it. We finally arrived home.
My mother moved in with us the day we arrived and was sleeping in the nursery. I was told not to exert myself too much and to rest. I ignored all that and unpacked everything and tried to put the house in order. The next day, I finally resorted to something I had heard about; using a syringe to pull out the nipple and suck out the milk. It was PAINFUL! Pain was the last thing I needed, but I needed to feed my child and I knew the first yellow milk (colostrum) was the most important milk I could give him to fight diseases and I couldn’t be selfish. It worked. The pores in my nipples finally opened up and I tried expressing into a bottle with the breast pump. It took forever! I was only getting little drops of milk at a time and I would sit for hours doing this and I couldn’t even fill a 180mil bottle to the brim. I looked at the milk storage bags I had bought earlier (when I thought I was going to have so much excess milk left over that I would need to freeze) and scoffed. My mom always bragged about how much excess milk she had and I was sure I would be the same. I had sworn no baby of mine was going to be on formula (as if it was the worst thing) and life just humbled me.
The act of breastfeeding itself was a whole new ball game. I had to help him latch onto the nipple properly and this was another excruciatingly painful process. He was now learning, but he was hungry and impatient and he would latch onto the wrong parts and my nipple would be so sore! The milk was also not enough because he would be feeding and crying and I knew the flow was too slow for him. Through this painful process, another painful thing was happening; my uterus was contracting. Breastfeeding helps the uterus to contract to its normal size before pregnancy. It is a necessary but painful process and I honestly thought I was done with the word “contraction” till now. So, in essence, I was sore from childbirth especially when I sat, I had to sit to breastfeed, breastfeeding was painful because he hadn’t yet mastered the skill of latching on properly, not latching properly was making my nipples sore, the act of breastfeeding itself was making my uterus contract and I wasn’t getting any sleep because I was either breastfeeding or expressing. H-E-L-P!!!!!.
While all this was happening, my mother was also on my neck, telling me “You need to hold him this way” “You need to sit like this” “Always carry him with a blanket” “His neck isn’t properly supported” “Wrap him up properly” “His head shouldn’t be exposed” “Wake up, he needs to eat” “Motherhood is about sacrifice” and it went on and on. I knew she meant well but it was pure torture. I was making so many mistakes with the baby because I was obviously now learning but that didn’t stop me from feeling like a terrible mom.
Apart from what I was going through emotionally, physically, my body had completely changed. My tummy was dark and still bloated, my face was also still bloated, my skin was looking rough, the stretch marks were still there, I was obviously not my original size and don’t get me started on what was going on down there. The painkillers had worn off and my “hoo-ha” was on FIRE especially when I peed. This wasn’t just because of the vaginal delivery, it was more because of the incision and the stitches. The thick maternity pad I had to wear for the bleeding wasn’t helping either. Yup, you bleed continuously for 4- 6 weeks after delivery. I would scream anytime I peed and so I dreaded going to the bathroom. I was also scared to sneeze because that could rapture the stitches. My body image also gave me self esteem issues and I was truly in a dark place. I felt unattractive and I had convinced myself Kobby felt the same way because of all that he was subjected to in the labour ward. He had actually said “After this experience, I’m done, one child is enough”. I knew he had been traumatized. On the flip side, his respect for me was on a whole new level. I seemed like a superhuman to him all of a sudden because certain remarks he would make like “I could’ve never done that” “I don’t know how you went through that and you’re just walking around like nothing happened” lol.
I honestly had no idea. To me, I was rather dealing with the aftermath very poorly. Because of all that I was going through, I would hide and cry for hours. I was always in a bad mood and Kobby and I were arguing a lot because he felt I was ungrateful for what I had and didn’t seem to understand what I was going through. “People want babies and you have one, what’s there to be sad about? It’s like you’re constantly looking for something to complain about even when your life is perfect. I don’t get it” he would say. “What are you crying about exactly? Tell me” he demanded. I couldn’t express it in words. Yes, my son was healthy and yes I had a child, yes I didn’t die on the hospital bed BUT being in constant pain and not knowing when it would end was nothing to smile about. I was unknowingly falling into postpartum depression and my mum was very worried. She had that for several days after she had given birth to me and she detected the signs very early; (Unable to properly bond with the baby, secluding myself, constant sadness, crying spells, guilt etc). She had a long talk with me about how I was feeling and we prayed. Well she prayed, I was too upset to.
The next day, Kobby and I went grocery shopping. I was moody the whole trip and I was in a rotten mood when we got back. The minute he parked at the house, I left my bag, my phone, basically anything I took with me and walked straight into the house to the bedroom and cried for no reason. He was so upset and didn’t speak to me for the rest of the day. I didn’t speak to him either and my mom came to the rescue as usual trying to diffuse the situation. It was tense. I didn’t understand why I had to go through all this and he didn’t have to, when we both made the baby. I didn’t understand why HE didn’t understand what I was going through when I didn’t understand what I was going through either (confusing I know). It was madness in my mind. This is not how I expected to feel after just having a baby.
It had been only 3 days but it felt longer than that. I stuck a mirror down there to find out what exactly was happening with my hoo-ha. I had questions that needed answers. “Was it healing? Would it ever go back to normal? Was I going to be left with a scar?”. I took a look and gosh I wish I hadn’t. It was like an open wound, very red and I could see the stitches and the area that had been cut. It wasn’t pretty. I was sure I needed to be re-stitched at this point. We had an appointment the next day at the hospital to take our baby for his BCG & Polio immunization and I also had my post delivery appointment. I decided I would let them know what I was going through.
The next day we got ready and left for the hospital. Kobby took him for his immunizations, while I got examined by a midwife. I had wanted the actual midwife who had delivered the baby but she wasn’t on duty then. This elderly lady rather did the examination. Once I took off my panty, there was a dark blood clot on my pad, and I got very alarmed. “Oh don’t worry my dear, once the clot is dark, it means it is an old one and not a new blood clot forming.” she assured me. She took a look down there and didn’t look too pleased. She told me I was healing but at a slow rate and that I needed to come back on Monday to be re-examined. I didn’t like the sound of that. She also examined my boobs and said they were very full and hard and that wasn’t a good thing. That meant I did have breast milk but it was all stored in and I needed to get it out. “When you get home, soak your towel in warm water and then massage your breast with it. Afterwards, apply shea butter and you should be able to breastfeed nicely. If you don’t do this and continue this way, you will eventually get a fever and fall sick. Trust me, you don’t want to fall sick in your state.” she warned. “Also next week, after examining you again, you can start the sitz bath”. (The sitz bath was basically sitting in a tub/basin/ bucket of warm water and letting the steam or the water itself naturally heal your hoo-ha.) I was surprised she was telling me this because, this directly contradicted what the other midwives had told me the day I was being discharged. They said, “Make sure you don’t get any warm water down there, just wash with room temperature water and Savlon and you’ll be fine. Don’t listen to the old people and their archaic remedies”. My mom was very offended when I told her what they had said, because that was her remedy after she delivered all three of her kids and she had been hounding me to do this for some relief and I didn’t budge. I left the hospital feeling quite stressed but slightly optimistic as I narrated what had happened to Kobby.
We got home and I tried the warm towel remedy for my boobs and it worked. I was able to express more into a bottle and my boobs which were rock hard were slowly deflating which was a good thing. It still took a while to fill up a bottle but I was now finally filling a full bottle a day. I was making slow progress but progress all the same. For my fiery hoo-ha, I sprayed the Earth Mama Bottom spray down there. It had a cooling effect and I did it as many times in the day as possible and even in the night and it was divine. I had hesitated using it at first because I felt, it was too soon, but it was now almost a week and so enough time had passed by. As these changes were happening, I was starting to heal emotionally as well but I still had quite a journey from where I was to where I wanted to be and my impatient self wasn’t having it.