Notes on motherhood #1

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It was summer during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I spent those days resting, my hands too swollen to type; my feet too swollen to walk. My favourite spot was the living area. I used to open the balcony door and let the cool air – and the mosquitoes – in. There I contemplated the robust tree that provided some much needed shade to my place.

At the time, the leaves were perfect green. I pictured the sap running through the tree, nourishing its trunk, branches and leaves, much as my blood travelled through my body to found its way to the placenta to nourish my boy.

When my little person arrived the seasons started changing. Autumn came and went, leaving those beautiful orange and red leaves that always warm my heart. My hands and feet weren’t swollen anymore, but my breasts were full and dripping milk.

Suddenly my skin was a bit looser, my hair started to turn grey, my nails became brittle, and my eyebrows started to thin. My lips seem to be less full, perhaps less defined, my chin now sports a black hair I had never seen before, and I have a scar above my pubis –  a reminder of how my boy decided to enter the world. My body feels like autumn too.

Now that the tree has run out of leaves and is getting ready for spring, I wonder if my body will do the same. Will I be a bit more mobile once the sun comes out again? Will I drip less milk? Will my hair ever come back? Will I be able to be fertile soil and fall pregnant again?

Only summer will tell, but in the meantime, I rejoice in my newly found sense of womanhood and hold my child a bit closer to me every night, as every day he grows a bit more.

Bring it on

Canwest News Service/Wikipedia
Canwest News Service/Wikipedia

During the past seven months, I’ve read heaps about pregnancy. What to expect when you are expecting has become my bedside companion. I’ve read every page and still go back to the bits that explain what happens every week. I also spent many hours reading Essential Baby blogs and forums, Fit Pregnancy articles, Marie Mongan’s Hypnobirthing books, and other resources. All this is preparation for my big date with whom is already the centre of my world.

But I think that all those hours reading about pregnancy and birthing haven’t done anything to prepare me for the imminent arrival of the tiny person who won’t be able to tell me what he needs or wants. So off I went to the bookshops. This is what I’ve learnt:

For the past 32 weeks, my baby has been quite comfy in my uterus. He’s all cosy in there, protected from extremely loud noises and other nasty things. There are no pungent smells or people pinching what I picture as the most adorable cheeks in the world. But in six or seven weeks, things will change. Soon his movements won’t be confined by the size of my body, and the rhythmic pumping or my heart – which occasionally misses a bit – won’t be his sole companion. He’ll be scared.

My voice won’t be muffled, and he will finally hear his dad’s voice clearly. Chirping birds or the TV might scare him, and the bright lights may hurt his developing eyes. He will see and hear the world, but all will be new and a potential source of stress. My arms will be his comfort and I can’t wait to carry him around and kiss his perfect head. He will need to hear my heartbeat to feel safe, and I’ll make sure I hold him close to my chest.

He won’t have a constant supply of food and will be VERY hungry. I have to make sure I feed him constantly and when he wants to. If right now I need to eat every three or four hours to make sure we don’t get dizzy, chances are it’ll be the same once he’s outside.

Although babies are resilient, I’ll have to be extra careful. Any false movement and my little one will feel that he’s about to fall or that he’s in danger. I’ll have to be gentle.

He needs to sleep, but he needs to be comfy and monitored. I’ve found amazing resources here.

I can’t remember what life was like for me when I was a baby. Mrs M says that I was a horrible baby because I cried all day long. She also says that the only thing that would keep me calm were my father’s arms – there are pictures in which he’s holding me so tight to his chest that I’m sure it was his heartbeat what I wanted to hear to feel safe. She also says I wouldn’t eat at set hours, which I think is normal as babies don’t have an agenda; they just cry when they need food and that can be at midday or at 3pm.

I have stopped dreading the sleepless night, the sore nipples, and the pain that my body will feel once the little guy is out and everything needs to shrink back to its normal size. I know I’ll do everything in my power to make my little person feel loved and safe. He’s so loved, and we have been waiting him for so long, that I would be silly to think that the lack of sleep will make me or my husband love the baby less. If a few weeks of almost madness are the price to pay for having a family, bring it on. We’re ready

Who is this little person?

I look like my father. I have his eyes, his hands and his ample forehead. My arms look like my aunt’s. My teeth are as crooked as my mum’s . My nose looks just like my grandma’s. I’m my father’s daughter because I look and behave like him, because we use to like the same things.

When my niece was born, I could tell we were two peas in a pod. Same chubby cheeks, same brow shape, same mouth. No one said anything, though. I found it weird, but then she is her father’s clone.

But in February this year, I found out that all the above is a lie. I’m not a carbon copy of my beloved father and my beautiful niece can’t look like me because we don’t share the same genes.

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24

For most women, making it to week 12 is reassuring enough, but not for me. Although it’s true that once you hit the 12-week mark, you are out of the risk-of-miscarriage zone and enter the joyful second trimester, things can still go wrong.

Image: endarrt/wikipedia
Image: endarrt/wikipedia

After week 13, pregnancy feels like the real thing. Chances are you’ve seen your baby and heard its heartbeat. If you had a CVS or NIT, you may already know if you’re having a boy or a girl. You may have chosen a name, and then, one day, you’ll wake up and realise your belly has popped; a few days later you’ll also notice how it moves — your baby’s way of saying hi.

Sadly enough, there is no guarantee that your precious little one will be fine, but his chances of survival increase once you reach the 24th week of pregnancy.

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Stop telling me what to do

For the past few months, I’ve heard the words “don’t” and “shouldn’t” so many times that they actually give me nightmares. Doctors, midwives, acupuncturists, and friends have told me that I shouldn’t do a bunch of things. “Don’t walk so much. Don’t bent over, you’ll hurt the baby. Don’t wear that. Don’t eat pineapple, it causes contractions. Wait, don’t drink that, are you sure it’s pasteurised? Are you sure you can have coffee? Shouldn’t you stop drinking green tea? I heard it’s bad for the baby…” and the list goes on and on. 

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Fertility journeys

You, yes, you. The smug woman who got pregnant without even trying and therefore thinks that it’s that way for everyone. You, the one who had twins naturally and complains all the time. And you, the one who thinks that not having kids is a blessing. All of you shut up.

Image: Gideon/flickr
Image: Gideon/flickr

As much as I may value your opinion, as much as may respect you, I don’t want to listen to you. I don’t wanna see you. For months and months, my heart broke every time I saw a woman proudly carrying her baby bump or pushing a pram. I cried. I wailed. I cursed. I felt broken, useless, less of a woman, a cockroach… a failure. I was grieving for the child that I carried in my womb for 12 weeks, the one that I’ll never meet and seeing other pregnant women made me feel ill.  While some of you made everything look so easy and shared your stories of easy-conception, I struggled. I went to an IVF specialist, drank traditional Chinese Medicine concoctions, took royal jelly capsules, started to eat a pregnancy-friendly diet, visited the GP more times than I would have wished for, enrolled in a yoga for fertility class, and even prayed. I tried not to obsesses, but I couldn’t. After all, there was just one question looming in my head — was my reproductive system defective? You, yes, you, the smug woman with kids –friend or stranger– I hated you every time you told me I needed to take it easy. “Oh, you’re only 35, you’re young, just relax; it’ll happen for you too”. Would you have liked to hear that had you had a miscarriage? Others would say “It’s your fault for waiting so long” or, even worse, “Well, you can always adopt or get a pet”. Who puts adoption and pets in the same category?! Who?! After a few months, many tears, and lots of acupuncture sessions, a little person is growing inside me. I’m over the moon, but I don’t share my joy with everyone. I’ve seen people look at my belly with envy, and that’s OK, I was that woman just a few months ago. I’ve seen others nod in approval and others in disapproval, and that’s OK too. I’ve made my friends cry, and I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to be the smug pregnant lady, but sometimes I really want to talk about my little person. I just promise you, I’ll never tell you to take it easy… or get a pet. A few years ago, before I embarked on my own fertility journey, I thought the word ‘journey’ didn’t really described pregnancy. I was mistaken. Trying to conceive is indeed “an often long and difficult process of personal change and development“. You won’t be the same person after having sex every single day for three months, peeing every 30 days on a stick, getting a negative result, and then having a period — a painful one, the kind of period that reminds you that another month went by and you’re not pregnant. You won’t be the same person after crying yourself to sleep every night for a month or two or more; after accusing your husband of treason because his sperm count is either too good to be true or too low; after hearing your boss say “Wish you were in a different stage of your life?” and not having the guts to reply, “So do I idiot, I just lost a child and am trying to get pregnant again”. Conceiving is a journey, an isolating and solitary one. It could be nice and smooth, turbulent, bumpy, dangerous, even life-threatening… and you shouldn’t let anyone ruin it for you. Have the guts to walk away whenever someone says something that may make you feel like shit — and if it’s me, please forgive me.

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My father the gynecologist

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GPs and specialists alike usually commend me on my grasp of medical terminology. They find it hard to understand that a ‘commoner’ can ask them about karyotypes, talk about genes, and show concern about the length of the cervix during the second trimester of pregnancy.

The mere fact that I can utter the word ‘vagina’ and ‘penis’ without blushing is sometimes weird for them. I guess they assume most pregnant women won’t say those words… but how do they expect women to talk about their health and that of their offspring if they can’t even use the correct terminology?

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