Nobody talks about the pain of motherhood: Pregnancy, delivery, post-delivery
We always talk about the joy of motherhood, the fulfilment that comes with being a mother that almost nobody talks about the pain of motherhood.
No doubts kids are beautiful beings. It's amazing when you have those cute little ones running around in your home. But, this doesn't erase the fact that motherhood, pregnancy, labour, delivery, child nursing comes with a whole of painful experiences for a mother.
Perhaps it's time to also talk about those pains. It's time to hear from the women, allow them to share their experiences and journey through motherhood.
I came across a post on Twitter where a woman shared some bad or rather painful experiences she had with child-birth and post-delivery. I tell you it's shocking and scary what women go through.
I went through the comment section of the Twitter post, and to my chagrin, I saw some people trying to undermine and downplay her experiences.
The poster was only sharing her experience, but then, a comment under the post read thus, "Stop discouraging people. Someone went through some stuff to bring you to the world, so would you do the same for another, for the continuity of mankind.
"It's a privilege to partake in God's power via procreation. Encourage other now that you have gone through it, not otherwise".
Really? So because it is a privilege to partake in procreation, we shouldn't talk about the experiences that come with it? We shouldn't talk about the pains as well.
I think while discussing the joy of motherhood, it is imperative to discuss the pain as well. This will help people be better prepared before time.
Mothers sharing their experiences will give aspiring mothers clues on what to expect. The idea isn't to instil fear; it's more about informing others. It's more about letting people into some of the things women go through with motherhood.
Let's talk pregnancy first
From the early to the later stage of pregnancy is filled with lots of events and experiences that are hardly pleasant for an expecting mother
The news of a pregnancy test comes out positive is always received with joy. Well, except in few cases but that isn't part of the discourse here.
As a newly pregnant mother, you will be excited; your partner too will be elated, and then the symptoms start manifesting. The pregnancy symptoms are mostly triggered by the hormones released during this period.
The two chief hormones produced are estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is produced by the ovaries and later by the placenta. It helps in the growth and maintenance of the uterine lining, triggers the development of the baby organs and also regulates other key hormones.
Progesterone is made by the ovaries and helps regulate the menstrual cycle. After ovulation, it is released to help prepare the uterine lining for implantation. Along with the relaxin hormone, it helps soften the cartilage and ligaments and loosen the joints in readiness for labour.
Other hormones that play a role during pregnancy include the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), prolactin, oxytocin, relaxin, placenta growth factor among others. All these hormones trigger a chain of reactions that makes it seem the woman is going haywire.
There is the morning sickness (which strikes both day and night anyways). This comes with nausea with or without vomiting.
You find yourself throwing up and spitting at intervals. The breasts get tender, swollen, sore and sensitive. You find out that you urinate more often. In fact, holding your pee can be a challenge at this point.
Some women feel bloated; some also have cramps during early pregnancy.
What about the mood swings? That part where the pregnant woman feels unusually weepy and emotional cannot be overlooked. Constant fatigue too is one of the symptoms pregnant women have to deal with.
You'd feel headaches on some days, and on some other days, you might experience back pain. In fact, some develop chronic and life-long back pain after pregnancy and childbirth. It is notable to add here that all symptoms mentioned could go from mild to really severe.
And God, there is the food aversions. When you are pregnant, you tend to become more sensitive to certain odours, and even your sense of taste won't be the same again. You find yourself craving weird foods, even foods you never liked.
Then as the foetus grows and develops, your body goes through a series of changes. You start gaining more weight. Your legs get swollen as well.
Because the hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy disrupt the PH balance of the vagina, yeast infections are also common during pregnancy. You might notice vaginal discharge sometimes accompanied by itching.
Also, sometimes mothers lose hearing and experience tinnitus during pregnancy. Tinnitus means 'ringing in the ears'. In most cases, this resolves after childbirth.
Labour pains cannot be overemphasized
Labour or child delivery is a very significant part of the journey to motherhood and might as well be the most painful part of this journey
Each time I think of unsung heroes, I also think of women who went into the labour room and went through the whole pains of labour to bring a beautiful cute little human into the world. Some even give birth to twins, triplets etc.
The process of fertilization, embryonic development and fetal growth is perhaps one of the biggest miracles. It's a journey with many experiences which can change a woman.
In the 9th month, a pregnant woman starts expecting contractions. The contractions are not even predictable. First, before the true labour begins, you might experience pseudo-labour contractions, also known as Braxton Hicks Contractions.
Braxton Hicks contraction is believed to start around 6 weeks of gestation. However, women usually feel it around the second and third trimesters (20th to 30th week).
Women experiencing the Braxton Hicks contraction would feel tightening and twinging of the uterine wall. Different factors have been linked to this false contraction during pregnancy, such as overworking your body, sex, and dehydration.
Unless in the case of preterm labour, the true labour contractions don't start until the 37th week. Within this period, when you are expecting the baby, you will get signs of the approaching labour.
You will likely have sensations of the baby dropping into your lower pelvic area (a process also called lightening).
You might feel pain in your lower back. Many women describe the labour contractions as strong menstrual cramps that cause great discomfort and pressure on the pelvis.
Have you also heard about your joints loosening around this period? Oh yes, a hormone called relaxin is released to loosen up the pelvic ligaments in preparation for the baby's passage. So, expect that you'd be waddling as labour gets closer.
When it is time, the water breaks signalling rupture of the amniotic membrane (the fluid sac surrounding the baby during the pregnancy). There are many cases where this happens before the woman gets to the hospital.
Some women have prolonged labour which means more pain and more contractions. It can be frustrating and very much exhausting, and in cases where the cervix doesn't dilate as quickly as expected, a cesarean section might be recommended.
What about vaginal tearing? It is starting to sound like an endless list, right? Yes, welcome to motherhood. In cases when the vaginal opening is not wide enough, the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus) will tear.
According to Dr Landry and M.D and ob-gyn and a co-host of "The Doctors", "approximately 90 per cent of women experience some degree of vaginal tearing during childbirth".
Even in the absence of vaginal tearing, your doctor might have to perform an episiotomy, which is a surgical incision carried out to enlarge the vaginal opening.
The rectum as well could tear when pushing the baby out in cases of a fourth-degree tear. This is not as common as vaginal tearing; however, it does occur and sometimes, there is nothing that can be done to prevent such. Stitching of these tears and removal of the stitches is another level of pain.
The process of child delivery is still not complete until the placenta has also been expelled from the uterus
When the woman finally pushes the baby out, one would think it's all over. But no, labour isn't complete yet. Did you forget about the placenta?
Contractions continue postpartum to enable your body to expel the placenta from the uterus. This usually happens within the first 30 minutes after childbirth.
However, there are cases where this doesn't happen automatically. This is a case of retained placenta usually caused by weak contractions, attachment of the placenta to the muscular walls of the uterus or cervix closure before the placenta is expelled.
In the case of a retained placenta, the doctor might recommend breastfeeding and medications to help relax the uterus and induce contraction in order to expel the retained placenta.
In fact, in some cases, surgery would be required to get rid of the placenta. A case like this can be life-threatening if it is not treated properly.
What we have here captures particularly vaginal delivery? What of CS? That path too isn't an easy one. It also comes with months of pain from the operation following child delivery.
The postpartum hormones and syndromes kick in
After delivery comes the postpartum events which includes hormonal fluctuations, healing processes, breastfeeding etc.
'Postpartum' means the period after delivery. After delivery, the production of the chief pregnancy hormones, progesterone and estrogen declines.
However, there will be a surge in oxytocin and prolactin following the decline of the two chief hormones. Prolactin and oxytocin are the swinging hormones chiefly responsible for the crazy postpartum emotions.
After delivery, the awful post-partum vaginal discharge known as lochialochia continues, sometimes lasting for weeks. It seems after the labour, the distress doesn't even reduce.
In fact, pushing out a baby re-arranges the anatomical structures of your body. Some mothers have said it changes the way their vagina looks and feels from the outside. It's like losing your body to gain another new one that you might not find appealing as the old one.
Do you think breastfeeding the newborn baby is all fun for the mother? Hell no! In fact, during the first week, the breasts tend to be tender and sensitive to touch. The baby suckling for that first week is usually painful for the mother.
Mothers even complain that as the baby is feeding, they experience a contraction of the womb, which is painful. Also, in situations where a mother is unable to breastfeed the baby, and the breasts get filled with breastmilk, it gets hard and painful!
Some women cannot breastfeed their baby, perhaps because the breastmilk has refused to flow, and then they start feeling like a failure for being unable to do what other mothers do for their baby.
Let me also add here that weaning the baby isn't any easier than starting the breastfeeding. Because, the mother's breast has adjusted to breastfeeding already, stopping it becomes another torturous process. You could feel the pain for up to five days.
And have you heard of postpartum depression? It is a high level of emotional distress that comes after childbirth. There is the general notion that every woman feels happy and excited after pushing out her baby -the gift from God.
But, I tell you there is no normal way to feel when pregnant and after pregnancy. At least most mothers can attest to this. You can never tell your emotion the next minute because the hormones just make you go haywire.
Asides from these changes in emotions- from joy to anxiety and fear, childbirth can come with postpartum depression (also called baby blues).
Postpartum depression could be experienced with motherhood and this comes with mood swings, intense irritability, exhaustion and difficulty bonding with the baby
Postpartum depression usually comes with crying fits, mood swings, anxiety, fear and difficulty sleeping and last from two weeks to as much as months.
In a severe form of postpartum depression known as postpartum psychosis, the mother could experience other severe signs and symptom such as delusions and hallucinations, attempts to harm self and the baby, confusion, obsessive thoughts about the baby, paranoia and excessive agitation.
Some experience this cycle where they go from hating the baby to feeling guilt for hating their baby, to resenting their baby, feeling love for their baby and then feeling grateful for having the baby.
In different parts of the world, different practices are carried out to help restore the woman's body and health to pre-pregnancy.
Most of these practices, such as dabbing the woman's body with cloth dipped in hot water, are quite painful. While they help most times the woman's body never goes back to pre-pregnancy state.
Dear Clacified Reader,
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It sounds all overwhelming right? But there is even more to the pain of motherhood. Have you thought about how sex will be for the mother first time after childbirth?
Sex might be a little discomforting if the woman hasn't healed well. But, even for some women that have fully healed, there might be the fear of the wound tearing open again.
Some women also have rectal prolapse after delivery. Rectal prolapse is a condition whereby the rectum (the last part of the large intestine) slips outside the anus. It is as a result of the weakening of the muscles that support the rectum.
According to an article on kegel8.co.uk, about half of all mothers will have prolapse symptoms at some point after delivery.
Should we talk about the internal heat that even after showering the mother still finds herself sweating, the constant sleepless nights, the challenges of taking care of the baby and yourself, especially during the early months?
We can now talk about the joy of motherhood
Motherhood is a combination of pain and joy. One can say that after the pain comes the joy.
No, motherhood isn't all joy. It's a combination of pain and joy. The journey through motherhood can be frightening and exhausting, not everyone can put up with it, and definitely, not everyone makes it through it. If you did, it's something to be grateful for.
Even as the child grows, the mother continues to trade her comfort for that of the child, making sacrifices for her young one and sharing the emotions of that child.
Remember, this post isn't to instil fear. It only talks about the reality of what women pass through. Nothing here is exaggerated. It's all based on real-life experiences and even backed by medical write-ups.
When all these pains, symptoms and series of life-threatening events are gone, we can now talk of the joy of motherhood.
I think that is the point where a mother heaves a sigh of relief, looks at her baby with joy and cherishes the cute little thing. Regardless of the pain, motherhood is an awesome experience too; almost every woman would love to experience it.
Now, I must add here that this article doesn't in any way undermine men and the roles they play in the family. Rather the article only focuses on women, and what motherhood looks like.
Perhaps, some other day, we talk about the pains of fatherhood, talk about the sacrifices fathers make too because the father figure matters too.