How did you find labour? If it was a doddle and you have no complaints, then wow, seriously good for you! But this is reality and let's face it, labour isn't pretty, it isn't easy, and it doesn't come without it's down-falls. Although you get something absolutely AMAZING at the end of it, the actual giving birth thing is bloomin' horrible. And post-birth traumatic stress and post natal depression are way more common than you may think, so never be afraid to speak up.
Everyone see's images on social media of the 'perfect life', sometimes these images include how radiant a mother looks after just giving birth. Some show her getting out and about 2 days after having her baby, with a flat tummy, a beautiful face of makeup and gorgeous hair. While some very lucky Mum's are like this, and good for you!! The reality is that most new Mum's aren't. So don't compare yourself to what you see online!
I came across a lovely lady, Hajra Ghanchi who was willing to share her labour story with me, with the hope it'd help someone else. It took Hajra a long while to get over her labour, and writing about it helped her. So here's her story, it's full of embarrassment, gore, and very personal moments, but it's honest...
In Hajra's own words:
“Why are you crying? Aren’t you happy? We’re finally going home!” I looked around the room where my husband and new born baby sat together on the chair. We were going home. I should’ve been happy. I was happy! But I also had another one million emotions running through me. I remembered the nights where I was alone in that very room with my new born baby, struggling to stand up from the pain of my stitches, pressing the buzzer and waiting what seemed like a lifetime for someone to come to my aid, looking at the clock in front of me and counting down the minutes till 10am when my husband would arrive.
I looked at my baby, his tiny hands and feet, so perfect, so innocent. Only been in the world for a week, yet what a week it had been for us. I had heard horror labour stories, of course I wasn’t expecting it to be a walk in the park. But I did not for even one moment expect this. I felt guilty as the question “why did it happen to us?” kept cropping into my mind. What did I do wrong? I was active. I worked right till the very end, two weeks before my due date to be precise. Long walks after work with my husband who would bribe me with ice-cream after we’d done our second or third lap. I prayed. So why did it go so pear shaped?
I wasn’t the type who had written out a birth plan. I knew things in the labour room would never go ‘to plan.’ You can’t plan these things. But I still had an image of how it would happen. I guess in my mind I was convinced that I wouldn’t be induced and I definitely wouldn’t be having an emergency caesarean section. In my mind my waters would break, I would feel pain and begin to time my contractions and then go to hospital towards the end when my contractions were getting close together, I would then after a while, even if it was a long while, even if it was immensely painful, give birth to my baby (preferably a water birth) and I would be handed my baby and it would be the most magical moment of my life. But what happens in the mind and what happens in reality are two different entities.
My waters did break. But I had no pain. “You need to come in straight away,” said the midwife I spoke to. “Why? I’m not feeling any pain yet?” Looking back, I should’ve taken my rose coloured specs off at that point. I should’ve taken them off and trampled all over them. We went in of course and after a few checks were sent back home. I left the house thinking the next time we come inside I’ll have my baby in my arms. I was told to come back if I experienced pain, if not then the next morning I would be booked in for an induction. In my mind though, I knew this wouldn’t happen. It wasn’t what I wanted, it wasn’t what I had prayed for.
That day, I prayed for pain all day. Nothing. Not a tiny bit. I woke up the next morning, trying to stay calm but feeling nervous inside. I tried to act like it was a normal day, as if getting a baby was like going for a quick shop. “I’ll be back home before I know it,” I thought. Once we were at the hospital and the dreaded (and awful might I add) induction process took place, we were left to our own devices. We went for a stroll, and I tried to have a bite to eat but I could slowly feel the pain kicking in. By late evening, my contractions had begun and they were getting stronger. I could feel the pain resonate inside me, taking over my whole body. It was a pain I had never felt before, but I knew I could get through it. “It would be over soon,” I kept telling myself. I was told my husband could now stay the night and I was officially in labour. “Your baby will be here by early hours of the morning.”
WOW! I thought to myself. I wasn’t one of those women who went in thinking ‘no pain relief!’ I was happy to have an epidural. My aunt, who was more of a best friend, stayed with me whilst the epidural was inserted in me. I sat still, even through the contractions. She held my hand tightly. We had been through so much together, and now she was with me through this too. I held on to her tightly. “I’m so proud of you,” she said. The pain almost instantly disappeared and I was as comfortable as I could be in the hospital bed, falling asleep whilst watching my husband, uncomfortably sat in the chair near me. It didn’t matter though, as our baby would be here soon, this would all be worth it. Nicola, a midwife stayed with me that night.
After regular checks, I was told my contractions were too strong. I was already on a water drip and was now put on a hormone drip to try and regulate my contractions. I could hear in the background whilst the midwives swapped their shift about how my pregnancy was considered to be high risk. “Really?!” I thought to myself. I looked back on my pregnancy, yes the first three months were full of sickness but after that passed, it was the best period of my life. Feeling this little human grow inside me, half me and half the love of my life, feeling the kicks, feeling the little jolts and movements. Enjoying food, going out, going on holiday, being spoilt rotten at home and at work too. I thought about how just two weeks back, I was at work. Teaching wasn’t an easy job but I remember how towards the end I started to feel quite emotional. This had been my life for six years. My students, so excited for me, who I always called ‘my kids,’ and now I was having my own! I thought about my work ‘family.’ Today was our department’s professional review. I sent a text in the group they’d created for me – ‘fat blob’ “Good luck! Missing you guys so much.” I remembered how at each appointment, my lovely midwife, Doreen, would say the same things to me. “What a perfect little bump! No stretch marks! Wow! What do you use? This is a low risk pregnancy. Your labour will be a good one, I can feel it.” I smiled faintly to myself.
It was now approaching early hours of the morning, yet still no sign of my baby. “We’ll wait a few more hours, if not it might have to be a C-section,” I was told. I looked at my husband, who held my hand and told me that he knew this isn’t what I wanted but I needed to prepare myself for it, just in case. Still, I had hope. I kept thinking, this isn’t what I had asked for. I hadn’t prayed for this. I know it’ll be okay. It won’t come to that. At approximately 12pm after my final make or break check, I was given some good news by my new midwife, Steph. Finally! I was fully dilated and ready to push. I remember the advice I was given by my loved ones. “Give it your all, push with every single bit inside you.” And I did. I tried. And tried and tried. “Five big pushes and your baby will be here!” I felt like I had pushed a million times. I was exhausted, starving, completely drained out. Yet I kept going. A part of me wanted to just give up, but I didn’t. “I can feel the head, you’re doing so well!” Nearly there, so close! And then all of a sudden, the unexpected happened.
A doctor was called in and he began checking me. He bought in a scanner to see what was going on. My baby had turned, he was now back to back. As I looked at the people around me, I was getting a feeling that things weren’t looking too great. Before I knew it, I was being rushed into theatre. “We’ll try forceps, but if that doesn’t work we’ll have to do an emergency section.” As they prepared me for theatre, I lay there, tears streaming down my face, just wanting to go home. I missed the security of my home so much, I wanted to be there, on the sofa, cuddled up with my husband, more than anywhere else in the world. I looked around at the team of doctors, nurses and anaesthetists, a million thoughts and feelings running through my mind. Of course, forceps didn’t work and I was being cut open for my section. My husband held my hand tightly, “it’ll be ok,” he said. Yes, it will be ok. How many women had been through this and got through. Of course it’ll be fine. I began feeling sick after a few moments, and the exhaustion started hitting me again, but I remember feeling as though falling asleep would mean that I wouldn’t wake up again. I snoozed off for a few minutes, completely out of my control, trying so hard to keep my eyes open and keep the sickness inside me. I felt someone rub some Carmex on my lips to give me some sort of relief. What I thought was a quick and simple procedure was taking a long time. Cold flannels were being placed on my forehead, apparently my temperature was sky high. Water! I needed water. I begged for a drink, only to be given a few drops in my mouth from a small plastic vial. “Please, more!!” The anaesthetist who was with me must have given me around thirty of them, yet my thirst still wasn’t quenched.
Finally, my baby was pulled out of me, wrapped up in a green towel and placed over me. Although I don’t remember much of this part, it was a feeling like no other. My baby. All mine! My own!! “What was it?!?!? Show me!!” A baby boy. My world had changed at that point. I looked at my husband, who was now welling up. Wow. What a feeling. Soon after, my husband was scooted off with my baby and the surgeons carried on working on me. The nauseas feeling began again, looking around, feeling petrified, hanging onto the anaesthetists hand for dear life. “How much longer is this going to take?! I want a cold coke with ice!” I screamed. I was promised a cold coke with ice would be waiting for me as soon as I got out of theatre but I needed to be patient.
I found out later on that I had haemorrhaged in theatre. They couldn’t control my blood loss. Or my temperature. As soon as I was out, I was put on an antibiotic drip. As I was wheeled into the recovery room, my husband and sister stood there, both looking at me. I could tell from the shocked look on their faces that this was not the ‘me’ they were both used to seeing. I felt as though I had been hit by a bus. And then again. “You look beautiful,” my husband whispered. What a charmer. And liar. This is why I had fallen for him! “Shhh…. The docs said you need to wait for a couple of hours before having this but drink it quickly before anyone sees!” whispered Steph, as she handed me a cold coke with ice. Ah! The relief!! I later found out that she was the one who had also rubbed some Carmex on my lips. I couldn’t believe that I had only known Nicola and Steph for one day. They had played such huge roles in my life that day. I’m forever grateful to them for their kindness. Midwives really are amazing.
There really are no words to describe how exhausted I was, so exhausted that when my baby was handed to me again I only realised a few minutes later that he too was on an antibiotic drip. I looked at his little hand which had a massive plaster bulging out of his sleeve. His tiny litter fingers and his small button nose. I was so exhausted that I fell asleep mid sentence whilst talking to the doctor. It was approaching evening now and it was nearly time for my husband to go home. My sister stayed with me for a bit longer and changed my son into a cute little outfit and hat. She hugged and kissed him and wouldn’t let go. I remember clearly when her daughter was born, how I had the same reaction to my niece. She’d also bought some food for me. She actually ended up sending us lunch and dinner every day at the hospital for the next week as we weren’t fans of hospital food. Sisters!
I was taken to a ward where there was one other couple, having a chat, I could hear pictures being taken. A baby boy too. My epidural had started to wear off and I could start to feel the pain. And then the lights in the ward went dim. I looked at my baby who was fast asleep in the little plastic cot next to me. He was quite frankly the cutest thing I had seen in my life. A mini version of my husband. My tiredness overtook me and I drifted off thinking about the day I had. Crazy was an understatement. Traumatic, perhaps describes it best. I was woken up at around 1am by a nurse who’d come to clean me up. What she’d also done though was accidentally tug at my catheter. I felt a sharp pain coarse through me and as I tried to sit up properly to deal with it, I felt ripples of pain through my stomach and abdomen. I could feel again, the epidural had most definitely worn off. Not only did I have stitches from my c-section, I had also had stitches from the forceps. The midwife explained that I had been torn where most of my nerves were which is why I was in immense pain. I was given stronger medication. I started to think about the previous day, about theatre, all those people around me, each doing something different. I felt pain in my muscles with each breath I took. The tears started. I wanted to go home. I wanted my husband. I started sobbing. I was given more drugs to control the pain and was told I’ll feel better soon. “You’ve just experienced something very traumatic. Try not to think about it.” “Thanks for that,” I thought as I sobbed alone, with my baby in my arms. “Excuse me, are you okay?” asked the girl next to me. She had given birth to her baby boy just a short while after us. She had also had a c-section. I’ve never in my life been so grateful for some company as I was that night. We spent the rest of the night chatting. My antibiotic drip was changed a few times through the night and my baby’s was changed at 6am.
I looked at the time as it approached 8am, two more hours till I could see my husband. A lump formed in my throat as I thought about him. I’ve never missed anyone as much as I missed him that night. As soon as he arrived, 10am on the dot, I saw him and started sobbing. He put his arms around me and as I felt his warmth I started to feel calmer. What an experience. “Take me home,” I sobbed. Soon after, our families came to see me. I couldn’t wait to see my mum. The look on her face when she saw me, her baby. I dug my face into her warm hug and my tears started again. I realised how much I owed her. My best friends arrived too, 6pm on the dot, so excited to see my son and so shocked to see me. As the small room filled up with more friends and family, I could feel that awful feeling once again. What was wrong with me? I wanted everyone to go home. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just wanted my husband. I wanted my mum. I didn’t want to open my one million messages and I certainly wasn’t ready to reply back to any of them. “I’m afraid you can’t go home anytime soon, you’ve lost too much blood. You won’t be able to stand up or get out of bed anytime soon either. You’ll need at least three blood transfusions.”
I felt helpless. Helpless for myself and helpless for my son. Every time he needed me I had to press the buzzer for someone else to come to his rescue. I began feeling like a failure. I hadn’t been able to give birth to him naturally and now I couldn’t even pick him up when he needed. Feeding him was so painful too, but I was adamant not to give up. “Let us take him to the nursery, you can get some rest.” I couldn’t do it though. I couldn’t leave him. On Thursday morning, my catheter was removed and I was finally allowed to stand up. My husband slowly carried me out of bed. I had been in bed from Monday, my legs felt like jelly. Holly, a student midwife stood over us as my husband put his arms around my waist and slowly walked with me towards the bathroom door. He started talking to me, making me laugh as he held me gently against him. “Please, don’t make me laugh! Everything hurts!” It felt amazing to be held by him again. He reassured me that he didn’t care that he was about to take me to the toilet, he just wanted to look after me. We had left my son in his plastic cot, fully fed and swaddled. We were sure he’d be fine. However, a few minutes in and there was a knock on the door from the couple next door. “Excuse me, your baby is crying.” My husband started to shake his head as I let out a giggle. “He’s just like you, he wants constant attention! Constantly wants to be cuddled!” This is what it was going to be like at home I thought. I couldn’t wait to get home. Everything would be fine at home, I would feel way better.
That afternoon, the couple next door went home and I was moved into a separate room by myself. My husband seemed the most pleased, and so proud of me. “We’ll take it a step at a time, you’re doing so well, I’m so proud of you.” Again I kept thinking about how I couldn’t wait to get home. Holly came to check up on us again and told me I could shower. I have no idea why but I was so afraid! She took me into the bathroom and helped me remove my bandage from my wound. She also convinced me to look at it properly. I was expecting to see untidy threads coming out of the stitches but to my surprise it just looked like a pencil line. Wow. After showering and washing my hair, I began to feel a bit more human again. I was still getting people coming in to visit me. I remember some of the comments – “you still look pregnant” and “you still look so swollen” – yes, the old me who would fit into size 4 and size 6 dresses was gone. But I never actually realised how swollen I was until I caught a glimpse of myself from afar mirror. I actually had to look twice – was that really me? Wow! I had changed. My stomach looked huge. As did my face. And legs. My legs felt incredibly swollen. So swollen and tight that at one point I actually was worried I had a clot. But no, just post op swelling.
That night was my first night completely alone with my son. No one to talk to once all the visitors went. I left the door of my room slightly ajar so I could at least see the midwives walking past from time to time. My antibiotic drip like usual was changed throughout the night. I was now in a situation where I had to visit the toilet but also had my drip attached to me wherever I went. My family and close friends will be able to tell anyone about my ‘toilet OCD’ – I hate using public loos and even will try my best for some reason not to use the toilets at any of my friends or relatives houses. (V strange, I know!) I wasn’t going to write about this, but it was one of my awful and low moments. I remember how I had got myself into a tangle with my drip and after four days of not needing to visit the bathroom, I suddenly had the urge to go for a wee. Unfortunately, by the time I managed to put my baby down, untangle my drip and get to the bathroom, I had a little accident. Just a small one, but an accident nonetheless. How?! The feeling of controlling your bladder when you needed to go to the bathroom was gone. It was now just – ‘you have to go.’ Embarrassed, upset, ashamed, I picked up my phone and messaged my husband. Oh how I just wanted to be home! How things in my life had changed I thought. But once again, the midwives, lovely as ever, reassuring me that it’s ok and these things happen. I will never forget the kindness I received from practically all of the staff on that ward. I will never be able to thank them enough for the way they made me feel at a time when I was so so low.
I was still kept in hospital for the next few days, my temperature still high (above 38°C) and on the Friday of that week I was told my baby had jaundice. Seeing him being stripped off and put in an incubator all day with a mask to cover his eyes was heart breaking. No, it wasn’t a nice feeling at all. But again, my husband kept reminding me that we were one step closer to being home. And it could’ve been worse. I recall that Friday as being a really tough day, I needed another blood transfusion that day and of course I was still on antibiotics. Whilst changing my antibiotic drip a doctor needed to be called as no one could seem to find any veins in my arm which they could poke a needle in to. I sat in the bed whilst a doctor poked around both my arms and told me she’d have to no choice but to place the needle in an awkward place, right in the corner of my arm. I will never forget that awful feeling of having a cold solution being flushed through my veins before the antibiotic was put in. Every single time. It’s not something you can get used to. Tears streaming down my face as I looked at my baby who was being given a cup feed of milk to fill his stomach up so he could stay in the incubator for longer periods of time. I could only think of one thing – home. I would be fine at home. Everything would be ok at home. The next day, a whole week later, we were finally told that we could go home if we wanted. If we wanted?! “Why are you crying? Aren’t you happy? We’re finally going home!” Yes, we were going home. I just couldn’t believe the week we’d had. I couldn’t stop looking around the little room I spent the past few days in. So many feelings and emotions. “We usually only discharge once your temperature is down for 24 hours, it’s been less than that for you. Sepsis is no joke. Any time you feel unwell you need to come straight back to hospital,” said Morag, one of the midwives who’d looked after me on the ward. She handed me my medication for the next few days. It seemed like this moment had taken forever, it was already nearly 10pm. As my husband put my baby in the car seat and carried him out, I tagged along behind them, walking slowly due to the pain of my stitches and wiping the tears from my eyes at the same time. It had only been a week, but I couldn’t wait to feel the fresh air on my face again. We had previously decided that I would stay with my mum for a few weeks so she could look after me and my husband would go to work and take his two week paternity when I was back home. However, one week paternity had already been taken due to me being in hospital. I wanted to show my son our home first though before we took him to my mum’s and decided to have a shower at home too. My second shower in one week, what a crazy thought!
As we walked up the stairs to our apartment I randomly remembered the day I walked up as a bride. And now, another life changing situation in our lives. We stepped into our home and I took a deep breath in to smell my homely scent. I was finally home, with my baby. Do I even need to say that my tears started again? Had they even stopped?! As my husband put his arms around me and held me close, I looked down at my son who was in his car seat. I couldn't believe we were home, with our baby! First stop - shower! As I took my cardigan off, I realised to my surprise that the cannula which had been attached to me all week was still inside my arm. What! How did I miss it? How did they miss it?! "There's no WAY I'm going back to the hospital right now to get this removed!" I panicked. I didn't ever want to go back there, not that soon anyway! We decided we'd leave it for the midwife to remove when she visited me at my mum's the next day. It was no ones fault. Yes, the staff were busy. But I was never neglected. I didn’t want anyone to get into trouble because of me. I had received the best care possible and met the most kindest people. As I stood in the shower, I looked down at my stomach which was still really huge. I really did still look pregnant. My legs, now covered with stretch marks due to all the water retention post op. All that money I spent on bottles of bio oil gone down the drain! I remember putting my hands on my face and actually feeling the dirt being washed away. I could've stood there all night. As I stepped out into my bedroom, I looked at my bed, my home, my clothes. How I just wanted to get into my pjs and dive into my own bed. But I could barely move from the pain of stitches. "Mum's house was still obviously home," I thought to myself. My husband had to go back to work on Monday so I really had no choice. As we drove to my mum's house, I winced from the pain every time we went over speed bumps. How extremely sensitive I was. By the time we got there, it was nearly midnight. I was okay. Even as I said goodbye to my husband, I was fine. I had a quick bite and we made our way to bed. My son, in the Moses basket next to my mum who would hand him over every time he needed a feed. I was exhausted. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep. I was home and everything was ok now. I woke up suddenly, not sure if it was from a bad dream, with my heart beating fast. I had been asleep for a couple of hours. I looked around, my mum and son still asleep. I couldn't shake the feeling I was getting. I felt as though I couldn't breathe. Heart attack? Nope. I was having a panic attack. I sat up, trying to take deep breaths in from my nose and out of my mouth. It wasn't working. It seemed as though every minute was dragging. I remember thinking I'll be ok in the morning.
I couldn't wait for day light. 3am. 4am. I took my phone and called my husband. He answered after a few rings, asking me what the matter was. "I can't take it, I feel as though I can't breathe. I'm scared. I don't know what's happening to me." My mum was now awake too, "What's the matter? Let him sleep, he needs to rest, YOU need to rest! Talk to me, tell me what's wrong." But I didn’t want to talk. I felt as though I had gone through this major event with my husband and for some reason all I wanted was him. I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I stood up and sat on the chair watching my perfect little boy. I waited for him to wake so I could hold him and feed him. It was now approaching 6am. I remembered how badly I wanted to come home and now that I was home, away from those hospital walls, I still wasn’t at ease. I also remembered what people had told me about feeling really down after giving birth. Post natal depression? I couldn’t understand it at the time. Why would you feel so low after being given the best thing ever? I still don’t understand why my body was feeling that way. I had been dreaming of having my own baby since I was a young girl! So why this feeling? As the morning finally approached, a midwife came to see how we were doing. All she had to ask was “are you okay?” for me to have a breakdown. She told me it was perfectly normal considering everything I had been through for me to be feeling like this. She was lovely, but I wished it would’ve been Doreen who would’ve visited me on that Sunday morning. She assured me that Doreen would come and see me soon, in fact she said she’d have a midwife come to see me every day. They needed to keep a close eye on me. Why? Because post natal depression was very common and very easy to slip into if you weren’t careful. My husband was soon by my side later on that day.
Close family came to visit in dribs and drabs and it felt nice to see everyone. I remember how my husband knelt down to put my post op socks on my feet. I remember how I felt as my family looked at him, so happy with the way he was looking after me. He’s always been my best friend, but after that week, I felt something a lot more stronger for him. As the evening approached I started to feel that glum feeling again. That dull ache. My husband had work the next morning. “Please, don’t go,” I cried in his arms. My family always joke about the day I got married and left my home to go to live with my husband. Traditionally, the bride cries (a lot) but I shed a few tears and was mostly happy and laughing as I left my home. My mum came to the door. “You didn’t even cry like this on your wedding day! Why are you crying? I’m your mum, don’t you think I will look after you?” Of course I did. I love my mum, I wanted to be with my mum but I also wanted my husband to stay. How unfair was this system. Two weeks paternity for dad’s vs a year of maternity for mum’s. How crazy and unjust. Tomorrow would be my first full day without him. “Don’t you feel as though your heart is about to burst every time you look at your baby?” asked my sister in law who was messaging me that night. I felt guilty for not feeling this way. I looked at my son. I was in love with him. He was all mine. But at that moment in time I was in incredible amounts of pain. And I think my system was in a huge shock.
“Oh my dear, I’m so so sorry that happened to you,” said Doreen who came to see me on Tuesday. She hugged me tight and talked to me. It felt good, so good to see her. She was a big part of my pregnancy. We’d laugh and joke at my appointment, even she knew about my OCD issues. She’d call me ‘the bag lady’ as I would wrap my urine sample (you had to take one to each appointment) in around ten bags. She promised to come and visit again. The next few days were the same, the days were okay, the nights were difficult. Really difficult. It was the same story, fine during the day, tears at night, especially when having to say bye to my husband. But I was getting better. It wasn’t as bad as day one. I guess.
We had to take my son to the hospital for his jaundice check up. I remember feeling a sudden onset of pain that day. I felt as though I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand. I felt a throbbing, burning, sharp sensation. The nurse at the hospital must’ve noticed I was in pain. “I think it’s piles,” I said to her. She was lovely and said the usual things – hot bath, salty water etc. I couldn’t bare it. My pharmacist brother in law got me a ring to sit on, to ease the pain. It didn’t feel normal. It was excruciating. I decided to visit the doctor the next day. “I need to check, it could be something else.” I remember thinking after labour you have absolutely no dignity left but even then I was hesitant to let her check me. “You have a fissure.” A what? I’d never heard of one in my life. It was basically a tear which was very difficult to heal due its location. She gave me some medication and that was that. “Phew! Some relief!” I thought. But I was wrong. Nothing changed. A day went by. Two days. I waited for the medication to kick in. It didn’t. I was in unbearable amounts of pain. I couldn’t sit. I had to nurse my son by lying down on my side or on my knees. I cried and cried. I researched. I read forums online. Words such as ‘knives’ and ‘razors’ were being used to describe the pain from others who had written about their experiences. I still hadn’t recovered from my c-section stitches or my other stitches. And now this. I felt as though I was going crazy. I didn’t want to say ‘why me’ but seriously, “why me?” I thought. I knew recovery was hard post labour but I wasn’t expecting this. Guilt coursed through me too. Was I being ungrateful? People had been through worse. Women had been through worse. I had my baby. Of course the pain was all worth it for him. He’s my perfect little boy. I was so grateful that he was a healthy baby and that it was me suffering and not him. But I wanted to enjoy him. And I couldn’t.
I remember after my sister had her baby and came to stay with us when I was still living at my mum’s. I would not let go of my niece. I would sit with her on me all day and night. I would mark books with her in my lap. I couldn’t wait to do that with my own child. But I couldn’t, because I was in too much pain. After nursing him I would be forced to eventually put him down, because I couldn’t sit with him on me. And the days when I did, it was unbearable. I felt as though I was constantly crying. My family were incredibly worried about me by now and were forcing me to give my son a formula feed, particularly before bed. But I couldn’t. “You’re too stubborn.” “He’s not getting enough from you.” “He’s a hungry baby.” All comments I recall. I know they were doing it for my best. But I didn’t want to stop or even cut down on nursing my son. It was a feeling like no other, even though it was so painful. Looking back, was I too unkind to myself? Would I do it differently if I could? I don’t think I would now that I think about it. I cried at night in bed, my mum, looking over me, so worried. “Please, I know he’s your baby but you’re my baby. Do you think I want to see you like this?” No. I wasn’t giving up nursing my son. I already felt like some sort of failure of a mother for some reason. I was back at the doctors, only to be told that I wasn’t allowed stronger medication due to nursing my son. “I’m sorry. I know women who’ve suffered from this post labour for years. It will take a minimum of six months for you to heal from it. At least. Sit on a bag of frozen peas for some relief.” I didn’t want relief. I wanted it to disappear. I was always on my phone, reading what people would be saying on forums about this awful situation I was in. It made me feel better in a weird way. So many people experiencing the same thing. Everyone describing it as the worst feeling ever. I remember relating to so many of the comments. “It’s taken over my life.” “It’s all I can think about.” “It’s affecting my relationships.” “I just want to enjoy my newborn baby and my new life.” Exactly how I was feeling.
I was back home by now, trying to get into some sort of routine. My husband had one week paternity to take and also a week of half term was approaching so we got to spend two weeks together until I was left alone with my son. I remember before having him, I used to always tell myself to be the kind of mum who’d go out all the time and not just be stuck at home. So I did. I started to take him out and it felt good. I took him to sensory classes. I went shopping with him. I took him to town. Not always alone, but it gave us something to do. But the pain was always there. It wasn’t the type of pain which would subside. It would be there, for hours on end. Constantly throbbing. I remember one night falling asleep on the sofa and realising that with the pain of the fissure, it was actually easier for me to nurse my son on the sofa – sleeping on my side whilst leaning on the corner of the sofa. Something I couldn’t do in bed. So I started to sleep on the sofa during the night. I missed my husband so much. But I wasn’t myself during that period of my life. Even on the nights when I did manage to put my son down in the rocker and go and lie down in bed for a while with the monitor on, I wouldn’t want to be held by him. Very unusual for me. I’m not ashamed to say it, I’m the clingy type. I’m the type who runs to the door and jumps on the poor soul when he comes back from work. But at that time, I wanted to be alone. “What’s wrong, talk to me. You’ve changed.” Yep, pain changes you. I felt like I was saying the same thing over and over again but nobody understood me. I felt helpless. I felt alone. I cried. I looked at my son. My poor baby, I was scared with me being so sad all the time, would it affect him? Would he be sad? I hugged him tightly as I sobbed. He looked at me with his beautiful eyes. I wondered what he was thinking. “I’ve never heard you cry like that before,” my husband said to me. I was fed up. Constant visits to the doctor. I begged. “Please, do something. I can’t deal with this pain anymore.” I was put on stronger medication. I was warned that I would get a headache as soon as I took the medication. It might’ve given my son a headache, so I started to express some feeds for him. Yes, it gave me a headache. But it made no difference to the pain. Nothing!
Weeks went by again. I started to look into different treatment methods. Surgery? I would’ve done anything to get rid of this pain. I spoke to the doctor again. We’d tried everything, so now I had to be referred to the hospital. The consultant would decide whether I needed surgery. I couldn’t believe it. “When will I feel normal again?” I asked my friend who is also a midwife. I felt as though I had accepted that this pain would be with me forever. I had to be stronger and deal with it. I would never be me again. I would never feel normal again. This was it. I happened to speak to an old school friend who’d had a baby not long before me. I couldn’t believe what she told me, she’d also been suffering from a fissure. Finally, someone to speak to who actually understood what the pain was like. She told me about the medication she was using and it was actually making a difference to her. The next day I was back at the doctors. “I don’t think this medication will work for you, but we’ve tried everything now so no harm in trying this.” A day went by. Nothing. Two days. Nothing. On the third day, I felt a small difference. Was it working? Fourth, fifth, sixth day went by. I started to feel better. The pain wasn’t as intense. What!! I called the doctor. “It’s working!!! Can I have more!” It was working. The pain was slowly but surely disappearing. My son was now three months. I could hold my baby properly without wincing. Without crying. Without needing to put him back down. I was back in my bed. After three months. I clung onto my husband. I was able to nurse my son properly. I looked into his eyes. The little love of my life. My hospital letter came through. I cancelled. “If you cancel now, you won’t be able to rebook again. You’ll be back on the waiting list.” I cancelled. I knew I hadn’t fully healed but it was happening. There really are no words to describe how happy I felt. And guess what? I started to feel normal again. I started to feel more like me. Me with a baby. The best gift I’ve ever received. I know some women have been through worse than this. I know some women have been through the process and come back home without their baby. I am so grateful that I have him with me. I remember what people said to me after. “Don’t worry, you’ll soon forget.” Will I? No. I’ll never forget. But I am over it. Because it’s so so worth it. Do I want more kids? Yes!!!!
As I sit here writing this, I look at my nearly 8 month old son who is fast asleep in his rocker. I now understand why everything happened the way it did. My prayers were answered, I had the best gift ever. My baby boy. Was my heart bursting? No. It was exploding. I can’t believe he is mine. Waking up next to him. His smile when he sees me. His giggle. His toes! My favourite. His cot is now attached to my bed. “You must get him used to sleeping in his cot.” But sometimes, after I finish nursing him and he falls asleep in my arms, I hold on to him for the rest of the night. Why? Because I can. Because it’s the best feeling in the world. Because when my husband then comes to bed and puts his arms around both of us, I know I have everything I could possibly ever want. All my wishes, dreams, prayers, everything I had ever wanted was with me. My beautiful baby boy. I would do it for you a million times again if I had to.
So there it is, a real life experience of labour and post-labour. How amazing is Hajra for writing this and sharing it with so many others? Now don't let this story scare you, that wasn't the intent of the post. Not all labours will be like this, not very many are smooth sailing mind, but this was an extreme traumatic case. It's unfortunate that Hajra had this happen to her, but look how positive she is at the end, and how much she loves her baby boy! Just remember, whatever you go through, whatever you may have already been through, you are not alone! Women are incredible, our bodies are incredible, we've got this!!
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© All images provided by Hajra Ghanchi
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