Assalam alaykum my beautiful people.
I pray you are all doing well and most importantly are keeping safe; the omicron variant is not playing at all.
My son’s first birthday is in a couple of days (most likely the day after this post will be published on my blog) and I’m feeling a lot nostalgic and emotional but more than anything, I feel immense gratitude to my Rabb. I can’t help but reminisce about the past year and the period I carried him in my womb and how far we’ve come.
Before I immerse myself into this writing, I’d like to dedicate this post to all my beautiful mothers and expecting mums out there. Also, for every woman that is yearning and praying for the fruit of the womb, I pray God answers your prayers sooner than later and you get to experience the unparalleled joy of carrying your child in your arms and witnessing them grow before your eyes. Ameen.
A couple of months ago, I received a request to share my pregnancy and childbirth experience but I was not mentally ready to discuss the details of my pregnancy. As you can glimpse from the title of this post, today I am ready to dish out all the fine and gory details of my pregnancy. My childbirth experience is something I might discuss in another post on some other day but today if you are keen or would like to learn more about what I went through during pregnancy, I’ll advice you get a nice cup of tea to keep you company before you settle into this wild read.
To begin with, I’d like to mention that similar to sex education, our mothers and elders don’t sufficiently educate and prep young girls and women on what to expect during pregnancy. I feel the more women are honest and are open to discuss their individual experiences, the better informed and well prepared others will be. I understand that for some experiences, one would simply have to go through them in order to properly understand what it’s like (i.e childbirth). However, it doesn’t hurt to share some information about the common risks, symptoms and challenges most women face during pregnancy.
I believe you all appreciated how candid I was in my previous blog post ‘what to expect when you save yourself for marriage’. So I promise to maintain the same honesty and bluntness with this post. Nothing will be sugarcoated and nothing will be exaggerated…I’m simply going to tell my experience as it was. I’d also like to put a disclaimer out there that this was my personal experience and not every woman will go through the same thing I did. So shall we begin?
To be honest, I’m not really certain where to begin but I guess a good place to start is to inform those of you who didn’t know that Ayman (my son) is my first child but he was not my first pregnancy. That’s right…he is my beautiful rainbow baby. A ‘rainbow baby’ is a name coined for a baby born after miscarriage, infant loss, stillbirth or neonatal death. Before anyone thinks of throwing a pity party on my behalf, I want to emphasis that this is a wholesome and hopefully educative post. I am highly privileged to be able to share my pregnancy experience with you guys, so I don’t want anybody to feel pity for me or to dwell on this personal information I just wilfully disclosed. You’d be surprised to learn that miscarriages are relatively common (about 1 in 4 recognised pregnancies results in a miscarriage) but that doesn’t make the experience any easier. Perhaps I might share in another post in the future; how to deal with a miscarriage to support other women that have been through the painful ordeal.
When I found out I was pregnant with Ayman, I experienced a cocktail of emotions. I was excited, scared, relieved, hopeful and pessimistic all at once. If the saying ‘once bitten twice shy’ was a person….I am that person. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much and risk being heartbroken in case I experienced another miscarriage, so I suppressed my emotions for the first few days of learning the news of my pregnancy. Instead, I entrusted my affairs into Allah’s hands and trusted Him to grant me the best outcome. There’s a Yoruba word called ‘kashamawo‘, which means ‘let’s just be watching’ and that was literally my mindset all through the first trimester. I was mostly concerned about one thing and that was getting through my first trimester (most miscarriages take place within the first trimester and it explains why most people refrain from sharing the news of their pregnancy until they’ve crossed the major milestone of reaching their second or third trimester.
After learning I was pregnant, I contemplated for a few days whether I should share the good news with my family or wait till I reached my second trimester; I didn’t want them to experience the same grieve and have them feeling sorry for me (If I were to experience another miscarriage). What one doesn’t know doesn’t hurt them right? However, after a week (I was about three weeks pregnant), I decided to break the news to my family. I asked myself what is life if we don’t celebrate the highs and the lows with our loved ones? We cannot live or enjoy life if we constantly live in the fear of ‘what could happen’? I reminded myself I had no control over the situation and everything that has taken place in my life happened by Allah’s will and I have to trust Him and accept whatever happens because He will always have my best interest at heart.
‘Tawakkul Altiné, Tawakkul!’ I kept reminding myself. A few days before I broke the news to my family, I sat my husband down and discussed my fears and emotions with him and he played an instrumental role in me arriving at the decision to no longer live in fear or deny myself of experiencing the euphoric emotions of being pregnant. Although I never vocalised it or expressly prayed for it or even admitted it to myself, deep down I wanted to have a child and Allah made it happen for me sooner than I anticipated or even planned with my spouse.
Everything was smooth sailing until I turned 5 weeks pregnant. My first trimester was an absolute nightmare and is one of those experiences I pray to never relive again. I practically lived in the hospital the whole period; I had a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (a severe type of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy). I was vomiting literally every 15 – 30 minutes. I lost appetite for food and couldn’t eat anything because nothing could stay in my stomach as I was vomiting at every chance. A lot of people recommended I try eating crackers, dry toast, nuts…but none of it helped. I was deeply worried about the baby and feared he/she wasn’t getting enough nutrients. Everything that went into my mouth came spilling out the very next minute, so I had to be admitted at the hospital and was on drip for several days.
My OB-GYN prescribed a few drugs, which were separate from the antenatal drugs I was taking (which I loathed by the way). I was on promethazine (a drug used to treat nausea during pregnancy) and progesterone suppositories (a medicine used to prevent miscarriages) among other pills I’m unable to recall at the moment. I lost a lot of weight for the first few months as a result of my poor diet. I don’t mean to paint a horrid image in your mind but just so you really understand how bad my hyperemesis gravidarum was, I was vomiting blood and my yellow stomach juices/bile (which is the nastiest thing I’ve ever tasted in my life). It was an extremely unpleasant experience and one that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. There were so many times I felt like giving up and would be crying on the floor of my bathroom but then I would instantly remember my child and would try to stay strong and keep a positive mindset and fight on.
I’ve always experienced terrible motion sickness as a child and even as an adult and I had no idea it had some correlation or could impact my pregnancy. It was later brought to my attention that women with this condition often tend to experience severe hyperemisis gravidarum during pregnancy.
Hyperemisis gravidarum was one of the tough symptoms I battled during pregnancy. The second worst experience was my heightened sense of smell. Oh Lord. Till date I can no longer tolerate certain smells because it triggers some of the worst memories during my pregnancy and I start to feel nauseous all over again.
When I was pregnant I couldn’t stand most smells because it triggered my nausea. Besides myself, my partner was the one that bore the cost of this symptom the most. He literally could not come near me. His body soap, lotion, deodorant, hair oil, and perfume they all made my stomach churn. It was like I was allergic to him. He had no choice but to stay at least 6 feet away from me. Our sleeping arrangement was no longer feasible and so I had to leave our bedroom and move into the guest room. The whole house had a particular turaren wuta/bakhoor smell that I couldn’t tolerate and it later drove me to move in with my sister for a month. When I was away from my home, my sister in-law tried to get rid of the smell in my house. The smell of the incense we had frequently burnt in the house had attached itself to the walls of my home. Everywhere my face turned I was hit with waves of the smell and I would be throwing up immediately after. It was awful. My ribs and stomach walls were tender and sore because my vomits were always so violent. My sister in law (may Allah reward her) worked really hard to get rid of the smell in the house. She had every corner of the house packed with baking soda and lemon slices (because I also couldn’t tolerate air freshners). She ensured the windows and curtains were always left wide open to allow room for cross ventilation but all of her efforts proved futile because I could still smell the unpleasant scents and it triggered my nausea badly. I had no choice but to tie a thick scarf around my nose like a bedouin.
My partner deserves all the accolades because he was extremely supportive and patient throughout my pregnancy. I honestly do not know how I would have managed to cope without his support. I remember the time I was living with my sister (this was during the COVID lockdown), he would drive everyday to her house, which is an extremely far distance from our house to come pay me a visit even though he knew I was in good hands. He committed to seeing me everyday despite him knowing I couldn’t bear him coming too close to me because like our home, his oud perfumes and body scented products had also found a way to attach to his skin. Each time he visited, he would swear he wasn’t wearing any cologne/spray and that he did not apply any scented lotion but each time he would come near me I would find myself bending and retching in the toilet a few seconds later. It was traumatic. I can still vividly recall the iron taste of the blood in my mouth. Heck as I recall these memories, I’m already starting to feel nauseous. I have a very vivid memory and highly functioning senses; a thought, smell or taste of something can literally cause me to relive and feel certain emotions and experiences from the past.
One of the most dramatic nights we had was the time Yusuf thought I would be returning home after spending two weeks with my sister. He promised our house was no longer smelling like incense/bakhoor. To be honest I didn’t have much faith in his promise…I was already deeply scarred by the smell and knew how pungent it was so I had little hope the smell had truly disappeared at such a short period of time. On this particular day, he closed off from work and he came to pick me up from my sisters place all excited and we didn’t leave my sisters home until around 11pm. When we arrived at our home, I literally took one step into the house and the smell hit me like a wall of bricks. I couldn’t even make it past the anteroom…I ran into the nearest toilet and vomited what felt like my whole gut. The promethazine pills the doctor prescribed for me did very little to keep the nausea at bay.
We decided to wait and see if the vomiting would die down, but within the space of one hour I had vomited more than 15 times. I started to vomit blood and was feeling faint so he had to take me back to my sisters home that night. It was already past 1 am and way past the lockdown curfew so we had to get a civil defence officer in our estate to escort us back to my sisters place. I had a polyester bag with me in the car (and like I previously mentioned I have terrible motion sickness) the rough car ride back to my sisters place was the worst. The bag was filled with blood and other disgusting liquid. It was horrendous. I just kept weeping. My sister and her husband were waiting outside their home to warmly receive me…again. I felt terribly bad for my partner. He had been so eager for me to return home but my condition wasn’t improving. At that time it was either I continued staying with my sister or we continued racking up bills at the hospital…staying at home wasn’t an option. The only highlight of my first trimester was when I dreamt about my son. I dreamt about the sex of my child and had a vision of what he looked like. I still have a vivid image of the dream. I was changing his nappy and noticed his penis and in the dream I thought to myself ‘oh so you are a boy’, he was fair skinned and was a pretty baby that could pass for either a girl or a boy. The nappy change dispelled all doubt about his sex. I also remember throwing him up in the air and playing with him and he had the brightest and most beautiful smile and was constantly smiling ear to ear whenever he looked at me. Now that I reflect back it feels like de ja vu. God really did show me my son in my dream. When I woke up from my dream that day I was elated and told my husband I knew the sex of our child and told him he would be beautiful. Alhamdulilah all I dreamt came to past.
My second trimester was not any easier.
I was deeply looking forward to my hyperemesis gravidarum reducing; majority of women only experience it during their first trimester but I unfortunately experienced mine for the three trimesters. When I eventually moved back into my house, the vomiting never stopped but my diet did improve thankfully. I had the weirdest cravings. I would crave moi moi that was not fresh…I literally would only eat moi-moi if it was 2-3 days old and stored in the fridge. Pregnancy will humble you guys. Other things I could eat well was plain, watery noddles that was hard (you would literally have to cook it for less than a minute before I could eat it. Snapple iced tea and iced water were my companions during my second and third trimester. I remember my husband searched and bought all the Snapple drinks he could locate in abuja and when they all ran out, my parents and good friend oluwatobi ordered and sent cartons of Snapple ice tea from Lagos (may God reward them all). I couldn’t dare drink room temperature water or water that was simply chilled. My drink and water had to have broken ice pieces in them and have a slushy type of consistency before I could drink it.
Another major symptom I experienced during pregnancy was heart burn and nose bleeds. I experienced a lot of nose bleeds during my second trimester. I would often have to recline my head backwards to prevent the blood from streaking down my nose. My doctor reassured me it was a common experience for some women. As some of you can tell pregnancy is a wild experience…a lot of these things came as a rude shock to me but the good news is that everyone’s experience is different. My intention is not to discourage anyone so it’s important I also mention that not all my symptoms were bad. Amidst the chaos, my skin was thriving. My face had a lovely glow and my partner would often make some side jokes and comment that perhaps I should always be pregnant if it means my face would be looking like that. My nails were a nail technician’s dream; they grew long and strong and my hair experienced some rapid growth even though I didn’t get the chance to properly care for it.
My third trimester was the most bearable even though I still experienced hyperemesis gravidarum. I believe it was more bearable because I had the loving company of my dear cousin Ramat. She kept me and Ayman company and helped to distract me from my struggles. I could tell Ayman loved and was excited around Ramat because she would always speak to him through my tummy and he would always eagerly respond with a kick. Lord knows I unlocked a new level of faith when I was pregnant. I couldn’t fully wrap my head around the miracle that was taking place inside me. How could anyone not believe in God? His power and Might? I was HUMBLED like never before. I was just a vessel and God was moulding my child inside of me. The feeling you get when they stir and move inside you is absolutely breathtaking. I always joked that my son would be a professional footballer…he was super duper active and would constantly kick me and it also felt like our minds were in sync. For example whenever he was napping and I didn’t feel him move for a while and I start to worry that perhaps something had happen to him, he would instantly move and kick me to reassure me he was good. It’s truly an indescribable and beautiful feeling the bond a mother and child shares in the womb.
Towards the end of my pregnancy I started to feel the heavy weight of my son. The groin pain and the lower back pain started to settle in. Walking and praying was a lot more daunting. The struggle to put on your clothes, shower and shave is comical. Let’s not talk about the frequent visit to the loo during the night and day because your bladder feels like the size of a peanut.
So many dramatic things happened during my pregnancy but I’d share just one more (in order to not stretch this post for much longer than it already is). This particular incident unfolded in the hospital and I’m super grateful that it did. I was at home and feeling terribly weak so Yusuf took me to the hospital. When we arrived at the hospital, the nurse that was tasked to check my vitals requested that I climb the weighing scale and I cooperated. Just as I was about to climb down from the scale my legs gave up from underneath me and my asthma attack was triggered.
My windpipe started to constrict and I started to gasp for air and was mouthing to Yusuf that I couldn’t breathe…I kept trying to gasp for air through my mouth and my nose but it felt like my windpipe had been tied shut and it wasn’t letting room for air to pass through. Yusuf caught me in his arms just before I landed on the floor…I can’t help but laugh now because it feels like a scene from a movie but this really happened to us. I’ve not had an asthma attack in years but I was responsible enough to carry an inhaler in my bag wherever I went. I kept pointing to my bag and Yusuf was shouting ‘Her bag! Her inhaler, it’s in her bag! Where is the Doctor?!’
The nurse was still searching frantically for the inhaler in my bag…and it felt like a year had passed before they could find it. I heard the muffled screams of other nurses requesting for an inhaler to be brought immediately from the pharmacy. I looked up and I could see the fear in Yusuf’s eyes…and some moments later tears started to stream from my eyes because I legit thought it was the end for me and at that moment all I could think about was my baby. At that moment I experienced for the first time the innate and primary instinct a mother feels to protect her child.
An asthma attack is one of the worst things to go through.. it literally feels like you are being strangled and you’re slowly suffocating to death. I don’t know what triggered my asthma but I felt extremely weak so I didn’t have much strength to catch and control my breathing. They eventually found my inhaler and I latched on to it as you would with any dear lifeline. I was wheeled into the emergency room and as soon as I was transferred into the bed…I had another episode but this time around they had the nebuliser so I was stabilised much quicker.
As crazy as my experience was, I wouldn’t change it for anything. If there is anything life keeps teaching me its that nothing good comes easy. I went through a lot but after I laid eyes on my son it was all worth it…and I would go through it all a million times and more to have him. Indeed with every hardship comes ease. If there is any advice I’d give to any mother or expecting mum, I’d say never stop praying. I cannot over emphasis the importance and power of dua. I cried out and supplicated to Allah countless times during the day. During the darkest times when it felt like the experience will never end, I cried out to Him and used the opportunity to pray for my child. I also remembered to call out to him and supplicate to him during the moments I felt some ease and relief. Make lots and lots of dua for your children.
May Allah bless and reward all mothers and may we all raise righteous children that will be the coolness of our eyes.
If you made it this far, I’m grateful for your time. May Jannatul Firdaus be our eternal abode.