“It was nice speaking to you, Mr. Ajoh, I’m glad we have finally come to an agreement, but I really need to leave now. I have a 3-month old who needs me”.
It took me about 30 seconds to realise that no response was forthcoming from the client who had spent the best part of an hour talking himself into a discount. Was it something I had said? Did he not want to go home as well? Abi was he up to something? Whatever it was, I wasn’t having it. This conversation was over.
“Mr Ajoh…” I reiterated firmly. “I’m really sorry” came the flat response. “I lost my wife 4 weeks ago after childbirth. That just brought me memories”
A wave of guilt and despair washed over me, enveloping my irritation.
“I’m really sorry to hear that”, I responded.
“It’s ok. Well, it’s not really, but what can we do? She had an infection a week after giving birth to my daughter – who is ok, thank God. It is well.”
I knew clearly it was not. According to him, his wife had just been handed her baby at the hospital with no aftercare instructions, possibly with the expectation that the role of educator and nurse belonged to her mother, during the impending ‘omugo’ visit. This got me thinking. While our upholding of cultural values is commendable, are medical issues as basic as postpartum aftercare best left to non-medical family members?
For the rest of this entry, I’ll share 10 things I learnt from my child birthing experience in the hopes that it helps someone out there.
I understand that in some cultures, women of our erm, disposition are sent to be fattened, but what is the point if we only end up trying for years to lose the weight? See your labour and birth as an active phase – something you need to prepare for. Move as much as you can, do a lot of walking as experts believe this helps the progression of labour – which is a very laborious time to say the least.
When you’re in labour, drink plenty of water even though you don’t feel like it. I was in labour for almost 40 hours and they think this might have been because I forgot to drink.
It might be helpful to get phone numbers for midwives in your area who can come and help with a home birth because it’s too late to travel if you can feel a head poking out. I know.
If you gave birth vaginally, then you will be wondering if things will ever get back to the way they were. Sit in warm, salted water to disinfect, and reduce any swelling and bruising. Also be careful to clean from front to back to prevent any infections. The area is now an open wound and you must do all that you can to prevent infections, as these are a MAJOR cause of post partum fatalities. If you feel feverish or at all ill, it is an emergency because infections can travel to the blood (septicaemia) very very quickly. You must visit the emergency department IMMEDIATELY and request to get screened for septicaemia.
If you have had an episiotomy, you need to keep this area very clean. The wound ideally takes 6-8 weeks to heal. You will just need to be patient, and have your salt baths religiously. After you have passed urine, you need to pour warm water over the area to keep it clean, in fact you can pour warm water over the area while you are peeing and this will stop it from stinging. Also, fresh air promotes healing, so if you get a chance lie on your bed for 10 minutes a day and expose all!
Remember to do your Kegel exercises every day to try and regain the muscle tone you had pre giving birth.
Vaginal discharge, called lochia, is perfectly normal and lasts for up to two months after giving birth. It is the body’s way of getting rid of tissue from the uterus lining, blood and bacteria. The discharge will start off bright red and slowly change colour over the weeks to a white or yellow/white discharge.
It is advised to wait until 4-6 weeks after child birth to resume sexual relations. This allows time for the cervix to close, postpartum bleeding to stop, and any tears or repaired lacerations to heal. When you resume, remember that you can still conceive so remember to discuss birth control with your partner. Remember that it may be a painful experience at first, and if it is, you must share this with your partner. Perhaps it is due to vaginal dryness, which is perfectly normal after giving birth and will right itself in time as your hormones balance.
The good news is that with the weight of the baby, placenta and fluids gone, you probably lost 12 pounds immediately. By the end of the first week of being a Mom, you will probably have lost another 4 – 6 pounds due to the body ridding itself of the excess water stored in your cells during pregnancy. Remember that breastfeeding your baby uses up at least 500 calories a day – so both you and baby win. If you weren’t overweight before you became pregnant and only put on around 25 pounds then you could be back to your usual weight within 3 months.
Don’t be hard on yourself, remember that it took nine months for you to change shape, so you can’t expect to get back to your former self overnight. As soon as you feel up to it, try some gentle exercise, perhaps a walk with baby strapped on or go for a gentle swim. These are wonderful ways to gradually ease you back into an exercise routine. There are hundreds of postnatal exercise programmes out there for you to choose from.
It is normal for you to feel up one minute and down the next. Not only is your body in hormonal turmoil but you are sleep deprived and caring for your newborn. If after a few weeks you are feeling exceptionally miserable, then discuss it with a care giver or doctor, just in case you are suffering from postpartum depression.
Try and take some time for yourself to relax – read a book, watch a good movie. Don’t stress about the house work or cooking family meals – keep life simple. If you don’t want visitors, then say so. This is YOUR time to bond with your new baby. When your baby is sleeping, then take a nap.
Remember how thick your hair suddenly grew while you were pregnant? If it is falling out now, don’t worry, it will soon balance itself out. If you grew excess body hair, then the good news is that it will go within six months. If you had acne during your pregnancy, then this will slowly go now. On the other hand, if you had a lovely clear skin, then it is possible that you will experience some breakouts now. Those dark pigmentation marks will slowly begin to fade, as will the stretch marks.
One of the best ways to get through this time is to talk to other new Moms. Perhaps girls you went to antenatal classes with, or friends who have had babies recently. Everyone has the same problems and it is great to talk to people who have shared the same experience as you.