Some time back, I, among other mums, was featured in the Daily Nation’s Healthy Nation pullout talking about our experiences in and after the delivery room.
Many people who read that, especially men, and women who are not yet mothers, said that I had painted too grim a picture of the journey into motherhood and that I should have given some positives along with the horror that is childbirth.
This is the positive; you are bringing into the world a brand new person.
Everyone knows that labour and birth are painful, it’s portrayed as such in every movie. But what the films show is a mother cuddling her newborn and the worst is over. We are never shown that having a baby is messy and gross and full of bodily fluids, mother’s and baby’s. There’s bleeding after one gives birth, a lot.
When I first had my daughter, at the hospital a nurse came in and brought me four packs of pads. I wondered what I would do with all those. They didn’t even last me two weeks.
Then there’s breast milk. When it finally comes in all its glory, a new mother is not only swept with relief for the ability to feed her child, but with a constant leaking. One soaks through their clothes and beddings and anything else that touches their chest, including the baby. I had to sleep with a towel folded underneath me to keep my mattress from getting wet overnight.
Bowel movements are another strange thing you’ll have to worry about once you’re called mum. Yours and the baby’s number twos will become very important, all of a sudden. For you, just the mere thought of answering nature’s call will be terrifying, especially after a Caesarean section.
And your newborn’s poopy diapers will look like something from a horror movie. It’s black and sticky but surprisingly not smelly. It is very hard to clean it off that tiny bottom. And after it clears, your concerns will shift to how often your baby poops and if it’s really supposed to be that runny.
Poop is just one of the three Ps that will become a constant mess from your baby to clean up, the other two are: puke and pee. Your clothes will always have stains or smells from one, two or all three.
Washing a newborn is scary. They are small and slippery and delicate-looking and they have a grey thing sticking out of their navels. Oh, and their heads are soft. Cleaning the umbilical stump is very disturbing and before their belly button looks like yours, you will have to stomach wiping the area with surgical spirit and cotton wool and making sure it stays dry, all the while inspecting it for signs of infection. Not even my own mother helped me out with this. It’s a burden, as a mum, you’ll most likely bear alone.
After all the grossness, comes the pain. Did you know that it hurts to have your uterus shrink back into its original shape and size? No? Well, it does.
What took nine months to grow takes about six weeks to go back to normal. And feels just like period cramps, only much, much worse. And it happens when you breastfeed. Which brings us to another painful thing you’ll experience.
For the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding does not come naturally to most first timers. It hurts when milk comes in, when baby doesn’t latch on properly, when the breasts are too full of milk, when the nipples are sore and cracked and when one unfortunately gets an infection, such as mastitis.
Having a baby is expensive. It may not hurt you physically but your wallet sure will feel it (and it’s a pain that dad too can experience). From medical expenses – mother’s and child’s – to shopping for maternity and baby clothes and utterly useless baby accessories you’ll only use once and hiring help to watch your baby when you go back to work.
Once you’ve become a mother, you will have to resign yourself to the fact that your body will never be the same again. Please do not look at the likes of Beyoncé, who, despite having recently given birth to twins, already has her beach body back. You are not Beyoncé. You will most likely have stretch marks for days, a flabby tummy, gigantic boobs and scars from invasive things done to you to get the baby out.
When you finally hold your tiny infant in your arms, I promise you, the pain, discomfort and stress is totally worth it.