• Janet Sibanda

Ain’ no shame in suffering when you're pregnant honey!

I’m sitting on the bathroom seat, watching the home pregnancy kit, anxious as ever! Single or double line? One can only hope. You see the first line appear, and eagerly wait for a second to follow.

Any woman who has ever hoped to have a child can relate to the anxiety and bipolar emotions she goes through to see those beautiful double lines on her home pregnancy test. She jumps for joy and sings all praises when she sees that gorgeous second line so gracious present itself on your test. I’m sure her partner too breathes a sigh of relief knowing that the scheduled, almost forced intimacy spell is over. Well, only over until the next baby-making season.

At this point our mommy to be, becomes largely expectant to see her skin glow and become radiant. She expects to comfortably eat for two without fear, and literally breeze through her pregnancy smoothly floating on air.

Wait a minute, ‘ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt this daydream to inform you that there is going to be more than a slight bit of turbulence. Please fasten your seatbelt as we are entering a thunderstorm of an experience’.

Suddenly, my favourite Raja garlic curry seasoning that added some extra yummy goodness to my cooking smelt like a burst sewer pipe. How did that happen? Suddenly, I have to call in a friend to come and cook for me while I wait outside because I can’t stand the smell of food being cooked. It gets worse, I can no longer eat hot food because it smells like it's still being cooked. Then to seal the deal, after eating that flavourless plate of cold food, I have to pass it on into the toilet bowl. Alas, the joy growing in my belly has no taste for that particular meal. This is a pattern that would be on repeat all the way up to my 8th month of pregnancy.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to set the record straight. Not all pregnancies are a joy and there is no shame in admitting so. My experience taught me, I can literally starve in a home full of food. I learnt morning sickness is a fairy tale sold to give the illusion of marginal discomfort in pregnancy. I became the master of ‘all day’ sickness. I can almost stand by the possibility that, I could tone my back, shoulder blades, and abs from a sufficient amount of vomiting. It taught me, my baby who was probably the size of a pea, could later sit on my intestines and cause severe constipation. I learnt, that pumpkin leaves boiled in water and salt served with sadza, were a meal prepared by the gods just for me to eat for 3 months straight and enjoy. Guess what, there is no shame in that. I learnt that crawling was a means of transporting my body from one room to the next because my body simply could not cope with the ‘intensity’ of standing up. I am boldly here to tell you ladies, THERE IS NO SHAME IN THAT!! And yet, despite all my struggles, I had the sexual appetite of a hormonally charged rabbit in heat. Neither am I ashamed of that. I may actually be quite proud of that last one!

I finally had to accept that my body was out on lease to the worst type of tenants, and I had absolutely no say in its administration. My bundle of joy; who soon turned to be my bundle of misery decided what did or did not happen to my body. My healthcare providers, spouse, and everyone else with enough sense of entitlement knew what was best for me more than I did. I was at everyone’s mercy except for myself. I distinctly recall spending Christmas in a hospital ward because of acute dehydration. I endured six, 30-minute interval injections to assess how my body processed glucose, in case I had gestational diabetes. I took promethazine (also known as Phenergan) three times daily for 8 months of my pregnancy to block the vomit centres in my brain.

Amidst all my challenges, I tried to focus on the positives with a smile. I would tell myself that soon I would be holding my little monster, I mean baby. Soon I will not be pregnant and will eat whatever I wanted. Then others would tell me, you are a cry baby. Pregnancy is not an illness. You just want to be pampered. Well of course I wanted to be pampered, I was suffering. The insults are worse said in the vernacular; ‘unoyema , unozviitisa or unenungo’. Remarks from fellow women, ones who clearly never walked the same journey. I was most amazed by clueless men, with no lived experience of a single day in the life of a pregnant woman. To you all, I graciously bow, twirl, and walk away as I flip me fro at you. Who knows what else I am flipping in your direction!

There is no rule book for pregnancy. You can never copy and paste someone else’s experience. Each pregnancy is unique and personal. This I say to every woman that ever felt imprisoned in her body, you’re not wrong to feel imprisoned, you were probably a prisoner, there is no shame in feeling that way. To every woman who felt like giving up when carrying that baby got tough, yes it was tough, and there is no shame in admitting so. To every woman who thinks she lost her senses during her pregnancy, you probably did, and there is no shame in that too. To you, the one who had to eat out and in people’s homes because your baby hated your cooking, rest easy as there is nothing to be ashamed of. If you investigate sufficiently, you’ll discover, you weren’t the only one. Cyber hugs to those women who didn’t immediately fall in love with their babies, sometimes it takes a little longer to kick in. which is alright because there is no judgment in this space. A closer, tighter embrace to those women fell into despair because it was all too much. Honey, truth is, it was too much, so you’re alright. The shame lies with those who think it’s their place to own your physical and emotional being.

I take my hat, wig, and lashes off to all those women, who lost their sense of smell, who rocked the bullfrog couture; zits and all, who blew off rooftops with their excess wind power, who slew dragons with bad breath because toothpaste felt like acid on their tongue and a whole lot more. To my friends who accessorized with spit bottles, you are giants among men. I applaud women who screamed through labour and made it to the other side. I pay my deepest respects to those who painfully lost their lives or their little ones in labour. I applaud women, who embraced near-death experiences through c-sections they didn’t know they would live through or not. I raise my glass to all the mothers who persevered through breastfeeding pain, tears, and struggles. My glass goes even higher to those that were strong enough to admit that breastfeeding wasn’t for them.

I’m going to go a step further, and stretch out my hand to all the men who stayed the course. The men who endured the whirlwinds and dutch ovens of flatulence. The men who haunted the midnight streets searching for those zinger wings or my personal favourite; dunked wings, because the spirit would not rest that night. My man knew the only way to my bladder, was fluids from tinned fruits; I had so many, the producers began to see me as a critical link in their supply chain. Hats off to the men who were hated, and or loved too much. Chest pounds to the men whose greatest fear was falling short as a good father and partner, because his family deserved the best of him. Bravo, to the man who stuck through it and become a father. Even more respect to the brother who wasn’t bothered by a little doo doo innocently deposited in a diaper. My personal heroes are the men who braved the web of fear and stood right there with us in the Labour ward. I salute you. There is unequivocally no shame in being the wonderful men that you are.

Above all, here’s to the love so pure, so perfect and so natural that only a mother can give. There is absolutely no shame in that. Respect to the women who used this small window of 274 days to speak her absolute truth.

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