Monday, 4 June 2018

Ramadan, and Lots of Gratitude

Alhamdhulilah, today is already Day 19 of Ramadan, almost at the start of the third phase of this most blessed month.

The days are moving really fast, along with years. Just last year, on this day, I had just delivered Baby ZY. And that makes him a year old according to the Hijri (Islamic) calendar. Alhamdhulilah for all HIS blessings.

And this year, our dear ZY joins us at the Iftar table. 

Ramadan this year has very different. I should have expected this with a little one in tow, a new job that I started on during the second week of Ramadan, along with AZ’s internship that also started on the first day of Ramadan.

As with all the years, I am very thankful for our parents, especially Mum, who spends her day-time running around her grandson, and still manages to prepare Iftar meals on time for us.

Started my first day of work, in lots of anticipation of what the new environment would be like. Thankful yet again for a Boss who walked up to me, right on the first day, to tell me to find out about the HR policy that allows Muslim staff to leave for home an hour earlier if they decide to work through the lunch hour.

Even more thankful for two cosy rooms that I have been turning into prayer rooms, with my new team fully aware and receptive. And of course, for a decent washroom to make wudhu – in peace.

With blessings in these forms and beyond, I should have done so much better with worship this Ramadan, but have I? Nope, I have not. Leaving the days that I have lost behind, I still have some hopes, of being more thankful and definitely to learn to inculcate patience as part of my life and be a better Muslimah.

If you are reading this and feel the same way, don’t lose hope. Our Rabb is merciful beyond what we can imagine. Let’s open up our hearts and ask HIM for everything.
May Allah grant all our duas and accept all our deeds this Ramadan. Ameen.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

That Scar of Love

Our dear Baby ZY is about 10 months old now, Alhamdhulilah. And just weeks ago, I realised that April is Caesarean-Section (C-Section) Awareness month. I thought this would be an apt time to write about something that I have been so wanting to share with other sisters (for months now). Because the experiences from my childbirth and post-delivery has been mind-blowing and this sharing is with the intention for other sisters to be a little prepared and that bit more aware of what it can be during those crucial moments when ushering another life into this world.

Our little sweetheart...
This post is going to be about my short birth story, and the journeys of coping with a post C-Section and all those post-natal blues (or was it depression?!) that I have experienced and overcame - with the love of family and some very close sisters. 

My Brief Birth Story
So, here it goes. Bismillah. I remember it was the time of Sahur (pre-dawn meal) in Ramadan. It was the start of Day 19. And I had woken up at about two-ish in the morning having a stomach upset. After a visit to the washroom, I had assumed it must have been a brief episode of an unsettled stomach. And I remember calling AZ in (he was watching a game of soccer if I remember correctly) and told him my stomach wasn’t feeling too good. As it was too early to have Sahur yet, he advised I should spend some time in Tahajjud (night prayer). And I did. We then had the meal, and that ‘uneasiness’ in the lower stomach kept coming on.  I again dismissed it as an upset stomach (as I was still a week away from my EDD and was pretty confident Baby ZY wasn’t coming so soon.)

We both prayed Fajr (dawn prayer) and went back to sleep. Well, I tried. I was waking up very regularly with the unexplained pain in my stomach. Tossing and turning endlessly, and feeling bad that AZ deserved his much-needed sleep, at about 7am, I went to have a nap in a different room in the house. It was an attempt to see if I could get the frequent pain off my mind and get some sleep. Even at this point, I didn’t even think that those pains could be early contractions.

At 10am, was when I decided to move to the living room (and gave up on trying to catch sleep) and started a casual conversation with Mum. I didn’t exactly tell her about the pain till it was getting unbearable. I just didn’t want to alarm her if it was really just Braxton Hicks.

Up to writing to this point, I recall now that there was also the very ‘painful’ episode of getting scheduled to be induced for birth while I was at 36 weeks or so. Right to that week, I would look forward to the Saturday morning visits for our scans and check-ups. There were so full of bliss. I dreaded that week my gynae had promised to confirm if an inducing process was necessary, as she cited that Baby ZY was getting too big. AZ and I weren’t excited at that morning’s check-up and our worries were affirmed when she scheduled a date for me to be induced.

And so, that morning I have been writing about in the earlier paragraphs was still three days from my scheduled date. When Mum sensed that my pain was escalating, she quickly called an Aunt to ask on what she could do to help me ease the pain. She didn’t suspect that it could be labour pains too. That Aunt had suggested that we boil ajwain seeds in water and drink the extract. That’s apparently a traditional way of finding out if the pains were that of labour. If the pain increased after drinking, that was to be an indication. I very reluctantly broke my fast and drank a glass of that. And a second serving within an hour, and the pains only became stronger.

At this moment, I retreated to a quiet corner and decided to time the intervals that the pains were coming on. That sort of nailed it – five minutes apart. I half-screamed for AZ to get ready and had him helping me to get ready. As I was getting ready, I told myself that if these were actually contractions, I was going to ask for an epidural administration immediately! This despite, many well-meaning people who have shared on the side effects of taking one. Deep down within me, knowing my threshold for pain, I knew I would never get through labour without this.

At the hospital, the nurse confirmed that I was in labour (of course) and that my cervix had dilated about 4 cm. But this was not before the ‘trauma’ I had given her while she did the checks by screaming my head off, while the ‘laughing gas’ did enable both of us to calm down towards the later part of the check.

From here, after the epidural was administered, it was a long waiting game for about 9 to 10 hours. I kept throwing up umpteen times, running a fever and feeling shivers. At least, I was prepared for this, as some dear friends had already warned of what an epidural can bring on. While we were reaching the fifth hour mark, my gynae walked in to say that if Baby’s head wasn't moving down soon, a C-section will be the best move. My heart really sank at hearing this. I felt like I had lost the battle, even without fighting it. I was disappointed and upset, while AZ stayed very positive and I caught on his energy.

After some hours later, the midwives told me I was fully dilated. 10 cm. And I was all smiles and upbeat. My hopes were further heightened when the nurses who were checking me every now and then told me they could feel my Baby's hair and even said that he has a lot of hair!  I soon found myself surrounded by a team of most caring and encouraging nurses and midwives, cheering me on, with AZ supporting me at every moment. With the effect of the epidural, I must say I felt zero pain, which means, I was clueless as to when I should be pushing. In fact, all my pushing was orchestrated by the nurses and midwives as I didn’t feel a thing. After some time of pushing, my gynae suggested we try for a vacuum-assisted delivery. We tried and I still couldn’t push hard enough. I was very exhausted by then, and when I looked around, the people around me were equally exhausted too. AZ was visibly affected and then, shortly after, we decided we had to opt for the C-section procedure.

By now, I wasn’t feeling defeated anymore. Because I felt a sense of satisfaction that I had tried my best and the people in that critical moment had all tried their best along with me (my gynae who had given birth to her second child just two months ago, included). 

Nevertheless, there was some unexplained sadness in me. Seeing this, the chief mid-wife told me that it was really alright to have a C-section and that she added, “I asked for one too, you know!” And then, I was wheeled in, where support staff also only had words of encouragement along the way for me, and AZ.

Moments later, beautiful ZY was placed from AZ’s hands onto my chest. And that made every bit worth it. C-Section or not, I was now a Mother, with a Baby in our lives.

The Recovery
From the day of the procedure to this day, I am very glad to share that I don’t recall any feelings of pain in my body. My gynae has taken great care during my healing process and the staff at the hospital rendered excellent service in caring for us over our three-days' stay.

What was painful was my mind’s recovery from the C-section. I don’t know what I should term it. Should it be post-natal blues or was it post-natal depression I fell into? Whatever it was, I am very sure that these blues were aggravated with the challenges that came with an UNPLANNED C-section surgery.

It all began on the day I was discharged from the hospital. It was an instant reality that I was suddenly immobile, and not very ‘able’ to some extent. There were the constant reminders from the nurses and Mum that I shouldn’t bend forward, stretch too much, walk too much, all because my wounds may tear.

The blows were hard when I needed assistance for everything – from getting up from the sofa, walking from one point to another and the worst meltdown happened when I couldn’t care for Baby ZY as much as I had wanted to. There I was, getting to know this sweet little human in our lives, and with the strain of dealing with a post C-Section body at the back of my mind. On one of those days, I recall walking by the clothes line we had bought for ZY, and one of his newly-washed mittens was blown to the floor by the wind. I stood there staring at it for a long time, not being able to bend forward and pick it up, and just feeling very ‘disabled’, with so much frustration. Crying over this new ‘disability’, albeit a temporary one, for many days and nights, became quite common during those first two months after delivery.

And then, there were other issues that a C-section surgery brought. The top in my list was constipation. I battled with it for weeks before I found solutions. This was the most uncomfortable situation I had. And because I had a C-Section, my poor Mum, whose childbirth experiences were 30 odd years ago, had to scramble for advice and information from other aunts and friends. And it didn’t help that all of them gave very different tips. So, that left her and me to figure out when and what we wanted to heed. Like when I should begin taking the traditional medicine for childbirth recovery, as I was also on a whole stack of medication from my gynae. Like when I should start on my traditional body massage sessions. Like what foods were appropriate for a speedier recovery. 

To top these all up, I came home with overflowing milk. This was a happy challenge, just that I didn't perceive it that way at that time. There I was, grappling with a not very ‘mobile’ body, a delicate newborn and milk that had to be expressed out very frequently. Mum and AZ did their best to support me in everything I could. My Father and Brother supported in spirit, as they had no idea what was going on. All they knew was that a little Baby was now a part of our family.

There was another blow of sorts, when I was told that my stitches weren’t healing as they should. And that meant additional trips to the gynae’s clinic. While I was always upset in having to leave Baby in Mum’s or AZ’s care when attending the re-dressing sessions, AZ always reminded that things could have been worse if my gynae was not able to prescribe medication and rectify the infection. I could have been hopsitalised for more care, away from Baby ZY, and that would have been very difficult. Again, Alhamdhulilah, for everything.

And then, breastfeeding. Something I wished I could have done a bit better in. The additional medication that I was prescribed to clear the infection was not breastfeeding-friendly. Hence, my gynae had advised that I pump out and discard the milk for a week that I was on it. This was very, very painful to do. Yet again, she did her best to prescribe fenugreek supplements to boost milk supply. Somewhere, along this process, I lost that momentum, and as though feeling my emotions, my body reacted, producing lesser milk by the days. I cried over this, spoke at length with AZ, cried over it again and we both decided to completely switch to formula if that was going to make me a notch saner.

Getting to the most important thing I wanted to convey to anyone reading this post, these are some things we can do to make life a little bit easier for these Mothers recovering from that C-Section surgery.

1) Don’t tear us further.
It has been painful enough for most of us. Whether it was an emergency decision, or a planned decision in view of our child’s safety. So, it helps if you don’t add salt to the wounds by passing some uncalled for remarks when you actually visit. I had relatives who went from smiling to frowning when they heard that I dilated to 10 cm and still couldn’t deliver my baby naturally. And well, added on, “So wasted for you, wasn’t it?” Trust me, this is a personal journey and not a single piece of this was ‘wasted’!

2) Don’t do surprise visits.
Oh, please, please do check with the new Mother and family before popping by. That’s the least we all ask for. Imagine having clogged, painful milk ducts, very swollen feet and a constipated system and having to walk out to the living room to make small talk with guests.

3) Show concern. Supportive words make a lot of difference.
This really does make a difference, as I’ve mentioned about my dear sisters below. I remember looking around for help to bend down and get a diaper changing mat at the hospital’s pharmacy's lower- level shelf, after one of my follow-up checks. And a woman at a distance came running and bent over and picked it up for me, without me having to explain that I just had a C-Section done a week ago (and so couldn’t bend down to take the item). I was close to tears and couldn’t thank her enough.

4) Respect personal choices.
Breastfeeding included, please. We all know the facts that breastfeeding is the best for a child. At the same time, a Mother knows best and her instincts will always be genuine. So, save your breath the next time you want to cite examples of your fully-breastfed child not having caught a cold for two whole years when you know the new Mum has started formula for her own reasons.

5) Remember Dulcolax and Lactulose.
These were the two ‘life-saving’ medication that granted me the much-needed relief after weeks of discomfort – something that added on to my post-natal blues. While Dulcolax tablets were already prescribed by my gynae, I purchased Lactulose through the hospital pharmacist’s advice, and consuming the two items at the same time was the best solution for me.

Throughout this journey, I am so blessed to have had many sisters (dearest girlfriends) whom I have poured out my emotions too, and have supported me with only words that I needed to hear. Some of them had natural births, while others had C-Section births like I did. There are single sisters who also provided a listening ear and by just being there. There was no judging. No negativity. Only the purest form of heartfelt support.

There’s this Sister, Masha-Allah,we so miraculously shared a similar pregnancy journey. Both of us were at 21 weeks when we shared the happy news with each other. And we also share a very similar birth story and times of post-natal blues too. Not surprisingly, our Baby Boys were born just one day apart. I am really glad that we both have overcome that and embraced motherhood the way we had so yearned to. Alhamdhulilah.

There’s also this dear Sister who has always made duas for me and my Boy. And who pops up messages in my phone at my slightest thoughts of her. The only one of two who told me about the ‘not-so-cushy’ sides of post pregnancy, and send me things to help keep my mind sane even before I delivered. Then again, we are never always prepared, not for childbirth at least, I’ve learnt.

This Sister who kept encouraging that I would eventually come out of this momentary bubble. And reminding me of the times that I have been confident and overcome challenges. And has always been there all the time to just listen. And that, we all know, does wonders on a woman’s soul.

There is another Sister, who also pre-empted about the post-natal waves that may show up. And has always been supportive with words of care in her own ways. With her too, I share a very similar emergency C-section birth story, with our deliveries destined exactly I year apart.

There are yet Sisters who have given me the rawest feedback, frank, bold and heartfelt guidance and advice on breastfeeding, and many other aspects on so many occasions and given me the inspiration to pick myself up and live it all up.

Thank you, from my bottom of my heart, ladies. You know who you are. To many years of sisterhood and friendship.

Source: Internet

Friday, 2 February 2018

Our Heartbeat...

Waking up to the smile of pure bliss, and to the scent of milk and sweet breath. These are some of the many precious moments that Baby ZY has given us since he arrived. Alhamdhulilah.

As I write this, I only have gratitude for Allah’s (S.W.T) plans in every detail that HE has written for us.

Just about say eight months ago, my mornings were carefree, rushed, and at times, lazy.
Now, our mornings have donned a new meaning.

I don’t really have an eye on the clock anymore, all because this little human has a way of stopping me right in my tracks.

Like today. With his little hands clutched around my neck ever so tightly, sensing that I was about to leave for work with my bag over my shoulder... had me in tears as I walked out of the door.

I thank Allah for this and for many more melting moments like these.

To all the Working Mums and Stay-At-Home Mums, let’s embrace every moment that our children present us with…from the smiles, to the snot, to the sleepless nights. 

I've had the opportunity to experience what it would have been like to be a SAHM over my extended leave (on top of the mandatory four months of maternity leave we are given here).

And I'm now experiencing what it’s like to be a Working Mum. It’s sweet now, cuddling up to soulful eyes looking down on me and touching my face…but this sweetness came after some months of a storm of post-natal blues for me. (will share on them in another post soon, In-Shaa-Allah)

So, my dear Sisters, only Allah can make our days and nights easier. HE hears every prayer, every whisper of dzikir we are making. Let’s keep loving our children.