I’ve been trying to build up the energy, and concentration span to write a little bit of my post partum experience (and Hudson’s journey)/I have been avoiding writing this. I know I definitely do not have to write it but I had such a surprising (to me) experience, I wish I had been slightly better prepared for it…or at least, when things fell apart a little (read, fell out a little), I wish it had been easier to find kindred spirits who had had a similar journey. At the time, it felt pretty overwhelming and isolating, 14 months in, it’s definitely a bit less traumatic, but it was eye opening y’all. I’m not looking for pity, I threw myself enough pity parties over that season and I’m very much back in my more self confident state. Maybe this is more for the new mum not sure what’s happening with her body or her baby. Again, disclaimer, I’m letting it all hang out so, read on if you are down with that.
I think all new mums must have expectations on what life is gonna feel like once baba is born/arrives. I’m sure this is pretty normal and I imagine many of them are a wee bit more sugar coated than reality. In saying that, when I watched mums tootling around malls with newborns quietly watching around them, happily stopping for a cup of coffee and a chat, mums back running or skydiving or whatever, I did wonder was I the only mum who couldn’t quite make it out the door? In my pre-Hudson days, I imagined him and I on mummy-son dates, him cooing gently in the pram while I drank flat whites and wrote blogs on all things beautiful. I imagined strolling around the green spaces in Cape Town, maybe one of those mum and baby Pilates classes. I dunno. I knew I’d be tired, I’d prepared for that…thank you four years at university…but I did not imagine not wanting to leave the house in case I couldn’t stop him from crying while I was out, or if we were driving and I had no one to help, or if I couldn’t lift him because I was still too weak to carry him for too long, or that I would spend 2/3/4 hours pacing around my home trying to bring comfort to a little one who was not comfortable.
The thing I was told was that Hudson was a colicky baby, and that it would pass after three months…but for starters, three months is friggin long when you’re in week 3, but second…he is in pain today and you’re saying I have to just let it happen for three months?! I have mountains and mountains of things to say about life with Hudson in those first four months, questions of what kind of a mum could I be if I couldn’t even settle my own son, stretching beyond what I thought possible, seeing how love really is the strongest thing, and the story of how I fell more and more in love with him through each cry, and what he has taught me about myself and God…but that’s not for today. It does, however, set the backdrop for where I was at, emotionally, when my bladder started dropping into my vagina. There. I said it. I’m sure you might be a little uncomfortable with this chat, and it does get worse before it’s gets better – you have been warned.
Here’s a cute picture to make us all feel less uncomfortable.
It happened when I was out and about (still a newish thing for me three months in)…I was walking along Long Street touristing with a friend who had come to meet Hudson. I felt something not in the right place so we quickly set up camp at a coffee shop, ordered a juice and called my doctor, who seemed waaaaaaay calmer than I was feeling, but thank goodness for that. I was imagining ambulances or emergency intervention but she was happy for me to come see her the next day. So I waited. It was a mild bladder prolapse, not something I’d really heard of, certainly not for new mums, but there we were, I got my referral to a pelvic physio, some herbal teas to drink, and, not quite peace of mind, but a little less panic. The next few weeks weren’t especially fun, any confidence in being out and about had immediately depleted and I became very familiar with my anatomy, very quickly. I’ll not go any further there, but if this is you, get in touch, I’m so happy to talk in great detail, just not here.
I couldn’t totally understand how something that was diagnosed as mild felt so, well, not mild, and that became clearer after seeing the physio, and then a gynecologist…explicit details aside, my gut was impacting my rectum, which was also joining in the fun with my bladder. Party in Clare’s vagina! Sorry, I found humour one of my main tools in not finding this less bleak than it was. During my pregnancy I had discovered that gluten gave me reeeeeally bad heartburn, which I thought was just a pregnancy thing, so after I gave birth, I was pretty desperate for those doughnuts, and got involved with all things gluten, we were always very good friends…but as I investigated my various issues and specifically my poorly functioning gut, I realised, to my devastation, that I would need to break all soul ties with Dunkin Donuts, gluten was in fact causing the problem…the butt one at least, the bladder was an unfortunate consequence of weak connective tissue/pushing a baby out/bad luck…
As I corrected my diet (minus a few relapses), thankfully, things drastically improved and I began to feel like my body was my own again, I guess this was probably around the seven month mark, and it was here that I built more confidence in being out and about, but honestly, I’m still pretty aware of what I can or can’t do, although a big chunk of that is fear, rather than reality, but my pelvic floor is still needing a lot of love. I also had a pretty significant visit to the state hospital where my ass doctor (lols colo-rectal specialist) told me that if things were improving rather than getting worse, these issues aren’t black or white, and surgery should be a last option (although that’s not what the private sector told me, thanks for that) and then said these very non-doctory words which spoke to my spirit “you need to stop living in fear, and live your life”. At this stage I was going to the doctor looking for a miracle, that I could testify and shout from the rooftops, or a pragmatic we-can-fix-it solution…and instead what I got was peace.
I have found this road pretty isolating, not because I haven’t let people into this story with me, nor for lack of support, but really just the constant knowing in the back my mind that anything could drop at any time. What if I walk too long, too quickly, if I laugh too hard, if I worship too freely, if I have to bounce Hudson to sleep for too long? And I guess not really knowing anyone who’s had the same issues, and feeling a bit weird and a bit like less of a woman for not being able to handle childbirth (I know this is ridiculous, at least the lie of it is, but the feeling of it wasn’t).
But, the whole way through this journey, God has been talking to me a lot about surrender, about leaning back, about how I was enough, and later on, about how a drooping rectum wasn’t the end of the world. Perspective is a helpful thing, but I know he also let me roll around in my frustration and pity without judgement or trying to hurry towards peace before I was ready. But that’s me. And this is the middle of the story rather than the end, because I have recently become aware of how much fear I have in me for another baba, the fear of losing another, and the fear of losing control of more of my internals. His promise is peace, to live my life without fear, receiving perfect love…but I’m definitely in the middle, and for now, the middle is ok.