Day One: Perhaps it was the post-partum depression (does it really kick in so soon?) or perhaps it’s just the blinding pain. But that evening, I looked at my mum sitting beside me, asking, “Why so glum, dear?” and cried. And cried and cried and cried.
“It hurts, mummy. It hurts too much. There’s too much pain…”
It was pain of the kind that steadily chokes, not the waves and spasms that you can drown in screams. Pain that everyone had promised would be long gone.
On hindsight, it wasn’t just the pain. It was the images and the memory of pain, too.
I’d seen in movies where heroines had nightmare and their eyes would open in a horrified flash. Breaking news: it happens in real life too.
Every time I tried to close my eyes and get some rest, the entire labour room complete with doctors’ faces would swim before my eyes, ending in the SNAP! of me being cut open. The intolerable, unbelievable agony of that moment. And my eyes would fly open in horror. This is not a literary description or an exaggeration. Every time I closed my eyes I would see exactly this and my eyes would snap open.
It would be weeks before I could even think—forget talk— about the entire childbirth episode without getting all panicky and horrified.
Oh, and I promised more on toilet-terrors, didn’t I? Well, here’s me keeping my word:
My usual toilet exercise begins with someone rolling up the bed so I’m in a sitting position. Why? Because I have absolutely no strength in my back and hip muscles and I cannot sit up on my own. When I am safely inclined, I slowly drag my legs to a dangling position by the bedside. Then either my mom or my husband—they were both there with me— help me stand on my feet. They then hold my weight and support me all the way to the toilet which is just about ten normal steps from my bed. And then, when I’m in the toilet, someone has to physically bear my entire weight just so I can go from standing to sitting position. Left to my own legs, I might just collapse. Afterwards, of course, I have to be completely lifted up again, to enable me to stand. All of this while I purse my lips till they turn white and threaten to bleed, just so I can contain the real pain…and the crazy, ever present terror of ripping apart at the seams…
It’s when you’re in mortal fear of your own body… ever mindful of taking a step too big and stretching your legs too far apart…
When you touch yourself and feel like bursting into tears…. “Good Lord!! What has happened to my body!! I’m completely deformed! Am I permanently deformed? Will it always be like this?”
When you feel the stitches and get a weird sort of light-headed feeling… giddy and nauseated like a merry-go-round ride gone awry… like you’re terrified of your own body…
And on top of all this, of course, comes that little thing without which you won’t truly know you’re a parent:
It’s been exactly 24 hours since I even stole a wink. And before you start pooh-poohing this, thinking, “So what, I’ve stayed up this long many times,” puh-leez consider the deathly exhausting nature of those 24 hours for any person. And then the hours turn into days… and then months…. And more months…. And there comes a stage where you’d give anything just to get more than three hours of sleep a day….
Day two: Three hours of sleep after 24 hours of torture is pitiful compensation, but beggars can’t be choosers. However, there’s one thing that brightens me up: the food! One of the great blessings of having a normal delivery is that you get to eat real food right away. I remember that vegetable sandwich right in the labour room, my first bite of anything edible post childbirth. And I remember those lip-smacking, mouth-watering breakfasts; the chocolate milk and the poha and the noodles and more sandwiches….ahhh…. Made me wanna spend some more time at the hospital !!
The pain is still there, but it’s got a blunt edge. When I have visitors I forget it. I’m chatting and laughing like my usual self, particularly when Shruti and Ankur, my gang of gals from office, enter with a smile and a hug (they were not allowed to bring the flowers in.) But whenever someone asks me “So, how was the experience?” this is my standard reply: “I DO NOT want to talk about it!”
Day three: If someone were to tell you there’ll be a day in your life when your breasts feel like chunk loads of lead, you probably won’t believe them. Well, start believing now.
I wake up in the morning with a feeling of rocks being loaded onto my chest. Discomfort does not come close to defining it; it’s sheer agony. Turns out the third day is when the “real milk” is produced, as opposed to the yellowy colostrum flowing out earlier. This is a great ‘mother’ thing, but as far the ‘person’ inside the ‘mother’ is concerned….
I am reminded of a Russian fairytale I read in childhood where the heroine is dumped into a river with a load of rocks tied to her chest. Of course, unlike the story, you can’t be rescued. You just get used to being drowned with rocks crushing the breath out of you… I remember crying desperately a few days later, sobbing into my husband’s chest because I couldn’t get any rest…. Everytime I tried to turn on my side the solid lead bore into my flesh, causing searing pain to flash through my body. So much for pain ending with the baby being born.
Anyway, it’s the third day and time to leave the hospital. I get dressed, bidding farewell to the green and white striped nighties I’d been donning for the past three days. Just the act of getting dressed feels like normalcy is being restored. However, walking from the room to the car erases any such ideas …
With shaking baby steps (pun unintended) I get into the car. The ride, as I was well aware, had just begun.