Untold Thoughts: Ma and Pa Edition

Part I

Here goes. The mom blogger in me is coming out. What makes this blog space different; probably nothing. But for a while now I’ve been meaning to start a blog. I have finally built up the courage and dedication to express my inner thoughts. I’ve been inspired to write and learned that life is too delicate to not share our experiences.

So, here I am, a new Ma. My inspiration to start writing is my little warrior (I’ll introduce her in a little bit). Throughout the past year, she has changed me. She has made me realize SO much. She has especially made me realize that she has one awesome Pa (not that I ever had any doubts, Pa). So of course, a special shout-out goes to Pa for supporting and encouraging me to start my blog. I won’t get into why I titled my blog the “Untold Thoughts” or why I refer to my husband and I as “Pa” and “Ma” – truthfully, I haven’t figured it out yet; it sounded good so I just went with it.

For now, let’s start from the beginning…

I am Ma, Meenakshi Sharma-Vadnais, and my husband, Pa, is Mathieu Vadnais (Matt). We became Ma and Pa on January 4, 2016 – the pregnancy test was positive: “Pregnant 1-2 weeks”. WOW. We were both shocked in a VERY good way. We weren’t actively trying but we also weren’t actively taking preventative measures. Matt and I got married in March 2015. We weren’t living together before marriage, primarily because we weren’t allowed to. My background is Indian (South Asian). My parents were born in India and immigrated to Canada many years ago. Although my parents knew that within the Western society it is socially acceptable for a man and woman to live together before marriage, they weren’t ready to allow the same for their only Indian daughter. We respected their wish. To be honest, it didn’t bother me. If anything, it made me look forward to the special moments to come. That morning when I first woke up next to Matt, as my husband, was the most heart filling feeling. Every morning for the rest of my life I would be so fortunate to wake up to my best friend, my husband, my soulmate. The first thing Matt and I wanted to do as a married couple was travel, so that’s just what we did. In May 2015 we rented a car and drove to New York. In October 2015, we took a month off from work and ventured out to Dubai, Maldives, and India (one day I will sit down and write about this trip of a lifetime). Even after we found out we were pregnant, we still wanted to travel. So to celebrate our one year anniversary in March 2016, we visited Quebec City. Matt and I are very laid back; we like to have fun and be adventurous. So all that to say, we couldn’t wait to start our next biggest adventure: parenthood.

I must say, my pregnancy experience was different. In my opinion and from my research, very unorthodox. The biggest difference and lifesaver: NO MORNING SICKNESS. Instead, I developed a cherry angioma (skin growth) under my left eye, had countless nose bleeds and headaches, swollen gums, and extreme lower back pain. This is not a complaint. I loved my pregnancy and would go through it again in a heartbeat. I felt so proud and determined while carrying my baby. Right from the moment I knew I was pregnant, my little one empowered me. I continued going to the gym and joined a prenatal yoga class. This was probably the best decision I made. The yoga not only required me to stretch my muscles and joints, it kept me sane. My work days kept normal; I stayed motivated and determined to complete all of my projects (this meant lots of meetings and long ones too!). I ate good and bad (I developed a serious sweet tooth during my pregnancy). I did have a couple of scares: the first at around 17 weeks which sent us to the ER. All was fine, normal cramping. The second time was around 32 weeks, I thought my water was leaking; turned out to be a false alarm, just slightly peed myself (also very normal). Even though the pregnancy was going as per the “normal” medical standards, I was always worried. Worrying about the safety of my baby in my womb, about what I was eating, or why baby hadn’t kicked in a few hours. I guess you could say my “motherly worry syndrome” (yes I made this term up) kicked in immediately. I always tell my mom to stop worrying and she always responds back saying that she can’t help it. I get it, totally get it now, Mom. In any case, I didn’t let this feeling take over my life or anything, but it was always at the back of my head. What helped to kick the worry feeling to the curb were the moments. The unforgettable precious moments throughout my pregnancy. Like seeing the reaction on my parents and in-laws faces when we told them that they’re going to be grandparents (first time for my parents!), or finding out the gender of the baby, or feeling that first kick – these moments are unbelievable and indescribable. I’m trying to hold back tears as I write this part. Carrying a child brings so much joy to everyone around you. It’s a feel good feeling knowing you and your baby are loved so dearly by your family, friends, and co-workers (since the majority of your week days are spent at the office). I miss it.

We found out on Mother’s Day with our families that Matt and I were having a baby girl. I knew it, not because I peeked at the envelope we received from the ultrasound technician, but because it was just my gut feeling. Maybe I’m being a tad bit biased because I always wanted to bring a girl into this world. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I am a feminist. By feminist, I mean I believe in equal rights – I’ll save my political thoughts for another post. Regardless of my views, I want my girl to break barriers and climb to the top. I purposely refrain from calling her my princess (you may have noticed); she is my warrior. She will be a fighter, an achiever, and above all, a good human being like her Ma and Pa. I want her to discover this beautiful world and allow her experiences to shape the person she becomes. And more importantly, I always want her to know that Ma and Pa will be here to guide and support her throughout her life.

On September 19, 2016, our baby girl, Amia Vadnais, was born and decided it would be fun (AH it’s like she already knew Ma and Pa were fun people!) to share her birthday with Pa’s. Oh the birthing story (one of the main reasons why I’m writing this blog). Let’s talk about the birthing experience. Before even carrying a child, the thought of labour terrified me. The pain. The endless hours of pain. And then, more pain. I didn’t even know what the pain would feel like, but I was already scared. All in all, I was NOT looking forward to the labour. Serious kudos to the mama’s who truly embrace birth. I wasn’t one of them, mentally and physically I hated it.

Baby was due on September 14th. I was SO certain our little one was going to make an early appearance. I walked and walked and walked. I did squats. I ate spicy food. I tried just about anything and everything in hopes she would arrive on time. My water broke on Sunday, September 18th. At first, I didn’t even realize what was going on – I thought I was peeing myself, again. Once we arrived at the hospital they took a swab and sure enough it was amniotic fluid that was leaking (nope, there was no big splash of water). My water broke but I wasn’t contracting. The doctor told me I could be admitted at that moment and start the medication to induce me or I go back home and wait it out but return within 7 hours. Matt and I chose the latter. It was a surreal feeling. These were the last few hours of just us. So, we soaked it in. We chilled out at my parents place and at his parents place. We finally made our way back to the hospital around 7 PM. We were both waiting for this day to arrive and it was finally here. I think we were both shitting our pants but we won’t admit it to one another. We settled into our room and I remember just thinking to myself as I slipped into that nice cold hospital gown (can you sense my sarcasm?), “Here we go!” The nurses came into the room, started poking me to get the IV line through my vein, started asking me the standard questions, and finally handed me a pill to take to kick-start this labour.

After ingesting the pill twice, it wasn’t working. Finally, the nurses started me on Oxytocin. I stopped dilating at 7 cm. My epidural wore off. I needed another one. The pain, oh the pain I felt. I remember looking at Matt with tears in my eyes just sobbing and saying I couldn’t do this anymore. The helpless look on his face broke my heart. He just held my hand tighter and continuously reminded me that I could get through this. Over 24 hours later, the call was made – I needed a caesarean section. I couldn’t believe it. No really, I felt like my body just gave up on me. I promised myself I would not have a birth plan but I didn’t actually think this could happen to me. I was so overwhelmed and scared with all of the nurses and the three doctors in the room, all prepping me for surgery. I remember my parents came in and as soon as I saw my mom’s face, I just cried. I wanted my mom. I needed my mom. I didn’t want the surgery; I wanted my mom to fix this. At this point, I was very drugged up. I had the epidural put in for the second time plus the spinal freezing. I was being wheeled through the halls to the surgical room with nurses surrounding my stretcher. I cannot and will not forget one of the anesthesiologists. I am a huge believer that there is always someone watching/guiding over us – that day I saw and felt it. She talked me through every single thing that was going on as I was lying on the surgical table waiting to be cut open. Matt wasn’t in the room with me yet as he was getting ready for the surgery too. I wish I could remember the name of the anesthesiologist. I wish I could personally thank her for showing her true compassion and care. She held my hand and consistently reassured me that everything was going to be ok. Bless this lady. The curtain was placed in front of me and I waited. I waited to be sliced open. To be honest, I don’t remember when Matt entered the room. At this point, there was only one thing on my mind, my baby’s (sorry Pa!) and her well-being. I never told the nurses or the doctor’s, but I could see the entire procedure unfold in front of me through the reflection from the bright surgical light above me. So through this reflection, I anxiously waited to see my little warrior enter this world.

The first cry. I was so relieved to hear that first cry. I cried. I looked at Matt, he was in tears too. I cried more. The nurses brought our little warrior over to us and I was able to have her bare skin touch mine. With all the chaos in the room, that moment of having my baby on my chest felt serene. The nurses had to take her away after a few minutes. This hurt. I had to be put back together. I say it like this because literally that’s what the doctor’s had to do. All I wanted to do was hold my little one against my chest and feel her fresh new skin on me. Putting me back together felt like it was taking an eternity. I was finally wheeled from the surgery room to the recovery room. The nurse started working on getting my baby to latch on to my breast. I wasn’t even fully aware of what was going on, still drugged up with barely any sensation in my lower body.

I couldn’t get up after the surgery. Of course not, I just had a major abdominal surgery. This was frustrating. But I didn’t let this restriction stop me from enjoying my little one. I cuddled her and cuddled her some more. About 12 hours after the surgery, the nurse encouraged me to get out of bed and walk a little. I had to do this to avoid clotting. So, I walked. I felt fine. The next 12 hours, I was able to take a shower, eat solid food, and walk to the washroom on my own. This didn’t feel so bad. Recovery was going pretty well at this point. I was putting a lot of my attention towards grasping breastfeeding. Amia was borderline jaundice; my milk supply was not fully in, so the nurses advised us to supplement a little. We did. There’s a reason why I call Amia our little warrior; through drinking my breast milk and the formula, she gained enough weight and didn’t get jaundice. I was doing well. Baby was doing well. So, we got discharged two days later. We could’ve stayed an extra day, but by this point, Matt and I wanted to be in the comfort of our own home, so we left.

I always used to wonder about what it would be like bringing a baby home. Just think, you leave your house for the hospital as two people and arrive back home with a third little one. It was a heartwarming feeling bringing Amia home for the first time. Actually, grateful is how I felt. Grateful that everything went fine and we both left the hospital healthy.

Now the reality. Like any new baby, they’re demanding. The days and nights are mixed up. They just want to be swaddled and held. They need to be fed around the clock. This is the norm and exactly what I was expecting. What I wasn’t expecting was the post pain from my surgery. No one told me that with all the pain medication in the world (I was given Morphine when discharged from the hospital) that it would still hurt. I think it was the third or fourth night home and my parents came over. As soon as my mom hugged me, I cried. I cried because I was in excruciating pain. Matt had to walk me to my bed. That’s where I stayed most of the time. My bed. So where did baby sleep? Our bed. We started co-sleeping because it was the most convenient for us. I was still trying to get a hold on breastfeeding. The goal was to get Amia back up to her birth weight. She was (and always will be) my number one priority and my little warrior was doing great.

About a week post-surgery, I started feeling a little off. I was eating right. I was resting. But for some reason, I didn’t feel right. I started getting uncontrollable body shakes and the sweats. I thought it was just my hormones balancing themselves out. But the pain at my incision started feeling worst. Walking was painful. I went to my family doctor on Thursday, October 29th. My dad drove me to the doctor’s and I remember sitting with him in the waiting room holding back my tears. I was scared but I was trying to be strong. My doctor prescribed me antibiotics because she suspected that my incision was infected. I was scheduled to go for an ultrasound the following day. I never made it. At around 2 AM on Friday morning, we were up feeding Amia. I handed her off to Matt to burp her. I noticed a strange smell. I brushed it off thinking it was Amia’s diaper until I looked down and realized my incision was oozing of a brown/yellow liquid. I’m being too conservative – my incision was gushing. I immediately got up and stormed to the bathroom. I panicked. Matt put Amia down. She was whaling. I was crying. Absolute panic. Matt brought over towels to cover the incision. We called the hospital and were told to go in. We arrived at the hospital at 3 AM and immediately were admitted. The infection caused my incision to open due to a build up of abscess fluid. That smell. I cannot forget the horrible smell that was draining. Once again, my arms were being poked around by the nurses to hook up the IV, to take blood, and to inject me with pain killers. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and scared. Because my wound had opened, the doctor could not just re-stitch it and send me off home. The wound needed to heal from the inside out. What? So, off I went being wheeled through the hospital halls in a stretcher back to the birthing unit. I was initially put back on the birthing floor so that Amia and Matt could stay with me, but because there was an influx of women giving birth, I had to be moved to the general surgical ward. Great. During the day, Matt would visit with Amia. But we didn’t keep her at the hospital for long. My parents would visit. My brother and his girlfriend would visit. Everyone was keeping me in good spirits. But I wanted none of it. I was fed up. I wanted my Amia. I wanted to hold her, cuddle her, feed her, show her I was there for her. I felt so disappointed with myself. It wasn’t fair, this wasn’t right. I was in pain both emotionally and physically. Every 12 hours the nurse would come and pack my wound. This basically meant that pieces of sterile gauze were literally inserted into my wound so that the outside would not heal before the inside. I wish this torturous pain on no one. It was difficult to stay positive. After four courses of antibiotics, numerous trips to the doctor’s, and with a few bumps along the way (the infection came back a couple of times), we made it. My wound is finally closed. Still healing. But closed.

Fast-forward to today. I think through this entire process, I could earn a medical certification. I don’t mean to sound egotistical but I’ve researched and asked a lot of questions to try and understand what happened. To understand what went wrong. The past three months have not been easy. Not for myself. Not for Matt. Not for Amia. Not for my family. After I was discharged from the hospital the second time it felt like we were starting back from square one. We had to try and re-establish ourselves. I was determined to still breastfeed. While I was away from Amia in the hospital, I would wake up every four hours to pump in order to maintain my milk supply. I’m not exaggerating when I say it felt like we were going through hell. A nurse would come in everyday to the house to pack my wound. I dreaded it every single time. I couldn’t bend. I couldn’t lift. I couldn’t shower. I felt dirty. Emotionally, I was a wreck not just because of my hormones, but because I was deeply suffering. No one warns you about the post-partum emotions (on a side note, I’d like to create some awareness regarding post-partum recovery). I felt helpless and useless. I would cry inconsolably to Matt. Partially because I was in pain but also because I felt like I had failed. Failed as an individual and as a mother. From someone who was independent to now having to depend on people to help me with the most simple of things was frustrating. I have learned to appreciate the littlest of things like taking a warm shower to the bigger things like seeing Pa hold down the fort. Truthfully speaking, Matt kept me going. He saw me at my worst and didn’t let me fall. He picked me up when I felt the most shattered. I was drained emotionally, mentally, and physically but he kept pushing me to be strong and reminded me to stay positive. I was ready to give-up breastfeeding, but he didn’t let me because he knew it was important to me. Because out of everything that I couldn’t do like lift my daughter or get up to change her diaper, I could feed her. Breastfeeding was our time together. As much as I was frustrated (I still get this way) with the whole breastfeeding concept, there was a small part of me that enjoyed it because I could do it without anyone helping me. So Pa, thank you. Your presence and love helped me get through this difficult phase and without you it would not have been possible. You are my true soulmate.

For my first post, I think I’ve said enough so I’m going to wrap this up. A gentle disclaimer: I didn’t sit down to write this post to seek attention or words of empathy. . Maybe somewhere, someone is struggling with a similar experience OR dealing with a situation where they feel like there is no end. Patience. My patience was truly tested through this ordeal. I have learned that with time and lots of patience there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have also learned the value of family and friends. During tough times you truly realize who steps up and shows up. I have learned who my support system is and that their love and concern has also helped me heal. Amia is growing beautifully. We have our moments of frustration but we get through it. I love her. Matt loves her. And she is loved by so many. Like I said before, I intend on writing more and my inspiration to write is my little warrior. Whether it be about Ma-hood or other aspects that interest me, I will start sharing my thoughts, so stay tuned. Until then, as I sign off, I leave you all with one small task: give your mother’s a big hug the next time you seem them. They do a lot for us. I get it now, Mom and I love you.

-Ma

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