This article was originally published by Qazini, an online media platform that is seeking to drive systemic change in our societies through empowering storytelling.
Motherhood. It was definitely an experience listed on my wish list. I lived with my sister throughout her pregnancy and also put in a few years raising my nephew. These experiences gave me the idea that I had the manual for all matters pregnancy. But there are many unknowns, as I would come to learn later—the hard way.
Nothing can adequately prepare you for pregnancy. Not stories. Not research. Not even the experiences of others. Nothing. You won’t know how it plays out until you’re, well, pregnant.
There are so many things that worry you while pregnant; some rational, others ridiculous. What do people think when they stare at you? Will people always give up their seats for you? How much do you need to size up your bra? Will your water break suddenly? In a public place? These are all questions that haunted me.
In retrospect, there are a couple of things I can say I wish I knew earlier—or things I was surprised to learn. I'd love to share them with you.
More than the feeling of being sick, I hate taking medication. I hardly finish my doses regardless of how serious the illness is. I know, I know, that's not prudent behaviour. I'm trying to do better. I promise.
This behaviour was why, on my first clinic visit, I almost had a heart attack when I was told I’d be taking medicine not only throughout the pregnancy but also sometime after delivery. They said it’ll only be once a day, so I thought it was manageable. When I purchased the pregnacare tablets later that evening, I regretted being pregnant instantly.
The package was made up of two sets of huge tablets. I threw up a couple of times immediately after taking it, skipped several days, and stopped a few weeks before the delivery. Not the greatest of examples, but I tried, I really did, especially given that I was "doing it for the baby."
Up to 28 weeks of the pregnancy, you are required to visit the clinic once per month. Between 28 and 36 weeks you go after every fortnight, and beyond 36 weeks it becomes a weekly thing. I understand it's better safe than sorry, but can't it just be a monthly visit for those of us who get anxious around doctors, medicine, and hospitals in general? I wish one only went to the clinic when they are unwell. The weekly check-ups especially came when my fatigue was at its highest. You have to spend several hours at the hospital because they have to check your blood pressure and urine, run a physical examination, check your overall health…aargh!
I tend to run to Google for answers. Most of us do. A little discomfort here or there, I’ll ask Google what’s wrong with me. If I burn my food, I ask it what I can do…etcetera. So when I was pregnant and was always having challenges one after the other, I asked Google.
One time I spotted, and Google told me I had a miscarriage. And when the heartburn was threatening to kill me all it said was that it was normal. It took me asking my mum and mother-in-law for remedies. That’s how I discovered charcoal dust.
The biggest worry women have while pregnant is this: will their bodies ever return to normal? After the delivery, as I came to learn, things are different for everyone.
Some have their bodies back as soon as two weeks post-partum, some take months or even years to return to their former physical forms, some have to change their lifestyles to get there, while others never do or don’t do anything about it.
The latter just accept that it comes with the territory. However, more than what is visible, there is a lot going on with our bodies, stuff we don't talk about much. My C-Section scar itches whenever it’s cold and my back feels as though it’s 70 years old. As a result, doing anything that requires me to bend for long periods of time is a hassle.
Social media will have you believe that baby showers are just women's meet-ups where they wear matching clothes and gossip for hours unending. I have seen memes saying we should stop them and instead have business showers. My question is, why can’t we have both?
I have been to many baby showers and I thought them nice and all, but it was only until my turn came that the real importance of baby showers hit me. I know there are people who don’t fancy them for various reasons, and that is okay.
So here is why I love showers; they give you one of those days when your close friends do something for you and you even get to see them. My main reason, though, is that I never worried about diapers for almost 10 months. I also got encouragement and just felt nice being surprised and having a day for and about me.
If you have experienced labour through movies, then please sit down. Movies don't represent the actual thing. Labour is way more painful and a lot messier than what they show. It makes you a different person.
All the reputation you have built for years will certainly be dropped. You will sing, you will dance, you will speak in tongues, you will swear never to have any more children, and you will kneel and pray.
When they check you and say your dilation is at two; it will mean you will have to repeat the cycle until you get to ten. Most women experience it for hours, and some for days. But the worst case scenario, just like it was my case, is having to go through all that pain only for you to be operated on in the end.
A couple of times I left the house and was told I was glowing or was energetic. No one could tell I was pregnant unless they saw my tummy. And it’s true; pregnancy gives many women this glow they’d wish to have forever.
My face and skin were always smooth, my hair a little shinier, and the curves just blossomed. The reason could be the hormones, or God just had to find a way to balance because it can’t all be bad.
That said, the outlook doesn’t always represent what you feel on the inside. You could be glowing outwardly but inwardly the tiny human is giving some sharp and painful kicks. You might also feel nauseated most of the time or generally fatigued.