Today I had my 6-week postnatal check up. This understandably brought up a lot of emotions, not helped by the inevitable waiting room full of babies and new parents. I had considered avoiding it altogether; in the aftermath of losing Orla and giving birth, my own physical health and wellbeing felt insignificant. Eating and drinking was a challenge at worst, a routine at best. I tried to walk the same distances that I had been just days before, heavily pregnant, but ended up leaning over walls and railings trying to gather the strength to manage the walk back home. I felt that I was not deserving of physical rest and recuperation, as if I should be punished for what had happened. At other times, I felt so detached from my own body that I may have been experiencing pain, but my mind wasn’t allowing it to register. I decided that I needed to give up sugar and caffeine and was almost back to my pre-pregnancy weight within two weeks. By this point I felt awful; my body ached, I had horrendous night sweats and just walking around the house left me exhausted. I’m sure that I had entered some kind of state of physical shock.
I felt an intense dislike of my body; it had let me down in the most horrendous way and I wasn’t sure I could ever trust, or even like, it again. Every time I saw myself in the shower, I was reminded of what was no longer there. I was an empty vessel. I could once again see the scars from the laparoscopy surgery I had last year for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, which had previously been hidden by my huge bump – yet another reminder of how my body had failed. I had mistakenly trusted after the first loss that my body could nurture our baby and I trusted that it could protect her, but I now felt completely betrayed. How could I ever learn to believe that it wouldn’t do something like this again?
The one thing that stopped me from showering completely in the dark, apart from a lack of blinds, was the development of a faint linea nigra following giving birth. I had hoped for this throughout my pregnancy and it had never appeared. It has always seemed to me like a mystical zip; one that gives the illusion that your stomach will just open up and your baby will magically appear when the time is right. I’m led to believe that it’s quite uncommon for this to develop post birth and this brought me a sense of comfort, as if this was Orla’s parting gift to me; something to remind me that I have had a baby, that I am a mother and to be proud of what I have achieved. Although it may seem like a small thing, it really has helped prevent a slippery slope into complete self-loathing, since I cannot possibly hate something so precious that was given to me by my daughter.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been trying to get myself back into a better state of physical health and wellbeing, as I know that this will help emotionally but also in preparation for our trip away. I have tried to eat three meals a day, to drink more water and to start taking supplements again. I have undertaken regular pelvic floor exercises, annoyingly prompted by the NHS ‘Squeezy’ app, and to walk a bit more. Some days are more successful days than others, but I can feel the benefit. However, learning that I actually deserve to nurture myself is work in progress.
The GP felt that my body had recovered well and had more or less ‘bounced back’. She gave me the go ahead to start exercising again and encouraged me to continue with supplements to get my body ready for when we want to try to conceive again. She gave lots of reassuring words about there being no reason why I couldn’t go on to have healthy live babies in the future, but I just can’t help but wonder why my body has let me down so horrifically, more than once. Its hard not to think that there must be something inherently wrong. I know that learning to trust my body again is going to be a really tough journey. I’m sure that there will be lots of support from the medical profession in the future in terms of assessment and monitoring, but I feel that the most significant challenge will be me learning to believe in myself and my body and that it can do this. I need to learn to embrace and accept the scars and marks that my two pregnancies have left and not to be scared by them. If nothing else, they show me that I have the strength to survive but also that I have experienced the most intense love in growing our beautiful daughter that she would want me to share.