by Lin Lee
I am a 38-year old business owner, architect and musician living in Kuala Lumpur.In February 2020, I discovered I was expecting my first child—a baby boy—and my life hasn’t been the same since.
I had a tough pregnancy.
Too often, we see the glossy photos of the cute babies, the happy families…but my account here is a documentation of a very real and poignant part of the whole journey. Common perceptions about pregnancy (that you see in the movies!):
- morning sickness
- the pregnancy glow
- the overjoyed feeling of having baby move in your belly
- that Instagram-worthy baby bump shot
What they DON’T tell you:
- Your body is pumping 50% more blood, and you will eventually be carrying up to 15kg more weight on you
- You’re gonna look like you’ve aged five years after nine months
- Your bones and joints may loosen, causing you to be extremely prone to all sorts of injuries…
They also don’t warn you that your body may break down.
I had an onset of SPD (severe pelvic pain) and spent most mornings taking more than 15 minutes to get out of bed. I was hardly able to walk in my final weeks of pregnancy. It was hard to sleep, and some nights I had to sleep sitting up as sleeping on my side could potentially ‘dislocate’ my pelvic bone while sleeping on your back is a no-no during pregnancy as it increases the risk of stillbirth. At Week 37 the doctor told me that with SPD, there was a chance that the pelvis could fracture during delivery, in which case I wouldn’t be able to walk for three or four weeks after birth. Woohoo.
Simultaneously, I also suffered from a nerve injury in my left wrist called De Quervain Syndrome. This injury is such a common occurrence pre- and post-partum that it is also known as ‘Mummy’s Thumb’. In my instance, it was caused by fluid retention coupled with a repetitive motion (playing the violin).
The injury hindered me from doing normal things like cutting an apple and opening jars, but the most heart-breaking part of it was that it affected my ability to play the violin. It was tough having to give up one of my main sources of happiness and solace at a time my body and mind were undergoing change and stress, and at a time when Covid-19 was rampant and the country was in lockdown.
So what else didn’t I know pre-pregnancy?
- Diabetes, heartburn and high blood pressure are common during pregnancy
- Getting depression or suffering from anxiety during or after pregnancy is common
- Ballooning of feet and hands due to water retention is common
- Feeling like you can’t breathe and eat because the baby is pressed against your lungs or stomach, is common.
As I struggled through my last three months of pregnancy, I thought: it has to get better, right?
It didn’t get better. My delivery was not a smooth one. I went through two failed attempts at inducing labour and ended up having to endure an emergency Caesarean-section as my cervix didn’t dilate even after hours of contractions. The good news is that the C-Sec avoided any chance of my pelvic bone fracturing. The bad news was that I now had to recover from major surgery.
Fast forward three months down the line, I’m still struggling to recover from the trauma of pregnancy/delivery and it feels like I’ve been thrown in the midst of another turbulent and truly humbling battle—motherhood.
Breastfeeding, sleep deprivation (new-borns feed every two to three hours, round the clock) and postpartum depression and anxiety are just a few things that I now have to manage, every day.
In all honesty, my mind and body still feel broken from the whole experience.
But I am blessed with a wonderful, tiny little human being who means the world to me.
Although my body and life will never be the same, it does feel like a sacrifice that was worth it— whenever I see his tiny little face smiling back at me.
But it should not be a sacrifice everyone feels *obliged to make, or that women may be readily prepared for.
That is why I am writing this. I am putting my experience out here to increase awareness—in young girls, women, men—of what to expect if this happens to you or someone you care about. The point of this is not to put you off pregnancy and motherhood, but to know what to expect before it happens. (You wouldn’t run a marathon before preparing for it, or hike up a mountain without the right equipment and trail map, right? This is kind of the same thing.)
But most importantly, it is totally OK to not want to go through what I went through, just like it’s OK to not want to run a marathon or hike up that gruelling mountain trail.
It is easy to be sucked in to social expectations and pressure. You may have close girlfriends around you starting families or there may be unspoken obligations to your partner once you’re married. And of course, there’s the issue of age—your body is a biological ticking time bomb, and you’re running out of time.
So, my message to all women out there is this: be completely in control and sure of what you want and don’t want for yourself. Plan ahead and manage the expectations of the people around you. Just know that it can be a damn tough ride, and the choice of putting your body through all of this is yours alone to make. And whatever you choose for yourself, the people who truly love you should respect that.
Oh, and If you know of anyone who is pregnant, or a first-time mummy, do be kind, be compassionate and check on them—because chances are that they are facing the toughest time of their lives!
– Zombiefied new mum signing off
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