Everything was different before it all changed
I must have missed the class on the endless indignities visited upon a mother in the first few weeks after she gives birth. I can only think I must have nipped out to the loo during the session on losing all human pride. I certainly missed the bit about losing most of my friends and crying so long and so hard that even I got bored with myself.
I remember taking copious notes on every stage of labour (“I am moving into transition, this is the toughest part”, I clearly hear myself saying on my birth video). I knew how to rock and moan, how to care for the cord (dust with homeopathic Wicusun powder). I had a freezer-full of homemade organic barley juice for stamina and had drawn up a room map of where every calming lavender candle would be placed.
I had followed, to the letter, those handy lists of what to have for baby. There, hand-washed, folded and ironed were the hooded towels, the Babygro’s, beanies and blankets. But nothing for me, save six pairs of granny knickers. I had assumed that I would be looking after my new baby not that I might need to look after myself.
I REALISED, ABOUT TEN MINUTES AFTER THE BIRTH, that things might not be going to plan as I lay on my lounge floor watching my midwife's busy hands. A pool of blood spread around me. I had never seen so much blood, certainly not in my house. “Thank heavens we decided not to carpet the lounge,” I thought dreamily. A fleeting thought passed through my mind that I might be dying.
The barley juice was turfed out weeks later, untouched. I didn’t notice the lavender candles – I doubt that even a horse dart would have been effective in calming me. In fact, a full CNN news crew could have been in the room, and I would have been none the wiser. Months later, my husband turned to me with misty eyes as he hummed along to Vira: Melodic Panflute Vol II.
“This is Ruby’s song,” he said.
I looked at him blankly.
“It was playing when she was born…” he prompted.
“There was music?” I asked.
I had no notes on needing to pee every time I laughed, on bursting a vein in my eye, or on the feeling of having a fanny more bruised than the day I lost my grip on the jungle gym and landed on the crossbar. I’d had a dim vision during my day- dreams months before of looking glamorous, champagne in hand, perhaps in a stylish pink organza kimono, as my house filled with friends and flowers. Crawling on all fours for three days and hiding from relatives for fifteen minutes in the downstairs guest loo was not in my picture.
This is the part of childbirth that obstetricians gloss over with a wink during those exciting monthly visits, that midwives warmly tell you they will discuss with you“… when you are there”.
Is this a secret society or the rest of my life you forgot to mention?
Your entire life has changed in a few short hours and your body has just gone through nine months of pregnancy and a birth. Not only is your body fighting to recover, your physical state is, strangely, not the focus of your attention. You are in pain, bruised, swollen and maybe stitched. You may have had major surgery. You have lost a lot of blood. Your hormones are raging and your body is in shock. But you don’t have time to think of that as you are getting to grips with a suckling leach.
It’s a confusing time. So many things are going on that it’s difficult to tell what is normal and what is not. I am going to clear that up right away so you know what is happening to your body over the first six weeks after you give birth.