Parenting

Breaking the Mould: A Fitness Expert’s Pregnancy and Postpartum Journey

By Yusra Eshaq

With two vaginal deliveries and an almost painless recovery, I thought the third time around would be just the same. We found out we were pregnant in April 2015 (after 6 months of trying and 2 back to back chemical pregnancies) and we were ecstatic even though I was very nervous as our second was only 13 months at the time. I wasn’t sure how I’d handle 2 under 2.

My pregnancies have always been very active, I always workout through them and the third time was not going to be any different. The only difference perhaps was in my training style, which was more hardcore this time.

Not many people understood this and many thought I am putting my baby at risk, but this is far from the truth. I had my doctor’s OK to continue training as I did and I listened to my body so everyone else’s opinions didn’t really matter to me.

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At 13 weeks, I was diagnosed with a low lying placenta, this worried me as the possibility of a CSEC was brought up but was told that 90% of the time it would move as the uterus grows so not to worry.

I tried not to worry..but of course, I was worried!

I was not put on bed rest but I did go a little lighter on my training and just play it by ear, again my body handled this just fine. People thought I was crazy for still continuing to be active well into my third trimester, but again, my body told me I could do it and so did my doctors, so I carried on.

I was the strongest this pregnancy than ever before, I could squat in third trimester with my 7 year old daughter on my shoulders, with no problem.

The final scan came at 37 weeks and lo and behold the placenta hadn’t moved a bit and a CSEC was scheduled!

My world fell apart, for a while. I kept thinking I wouldn’t feel my baby come out, wouldn’t feel pains of labour (my favourite part). I wondered how would I care for my baby and toddler and daughter if I am going to be bed bound for weeks.

I couldn’t imagine the immediate future. I thought how will I cope by myself as my husband was not there. All these thoughts broke me and the only thing I could do was pray, pray to ALLAH to ease our burden, it was his will for me to have CSEC and I accepted it as only He knows what’s best.

I researched, ALOT. On how to deal with CSEC recovery, on how to deal with other children, on how to accept things mentally, on the type of stitches, on the type of pain relief etc. I may not get the birth type I wanted but I wasn’t going to give birth blindly. I researched everything there was to know about CSEC. I then booked an appointment with my OB and spoke to her about what I wanted to happen during surgery and ALHAMDULLILAH she was fine with it all.

The 23rd of Dec arrived, I woke up at 5 am, prayed, cuddled my other two kids, did some squats (yes I am insane), prayed some more, cuddled them some more and said ‘see you later’ and off I went to the hospital. They prepped me and off to the OR I went at 9 am.

The birth was beautiful, i got everything i wanted as far as CSEC goes ALHAMDULLILAH. BY 10 am I was in my recovery room. I was still pain free and just over the moon to see my family and my little girl next to me.

An hour later the numbness started to go away…I knew it was painful, I read about it..but somehow I underestimated how painful it actually could be.

Pain started to kick in around 11 am, all they could give me was mild pain killers as I am allergic to A LOT of medications so they couldn’t give me their standard painkillers which are a lot more stronger and helpful.

I breathed hard, I hung in there..the pain killers made me drowsy so I was dozzing on and off.

8 hours later the OB comes in and says we need to get you up, all I thought was ‘Are you insane woman??’

She firmly told me, ‘Yusra get up, you will thank me later. Take small steps, just get up.’

I was laying flat on bed at the time, my family was there. They have seen me at my strongest but never at my weakest. Only a few hours before i could kill 200 deep squats with weights with no issues at 38 weeks pregnant so surely getting up can’t be that hard?

I turned to my side, held the bed railing and with the nurse’s help I could sit up on the bed. Painful, but I managed.

I thought to myself ‘Ok, this wasn’t too bad, I can do this!’

Next step was to get my legs off the bed, I took a deep breath as she held my legs and slowly directed them down. –  Ouch! but still not too bad.

Next step was to stand up. My sister held me on my right and nurse on my left lifting me up.. I stood up and I froze.

I was shocked, I was in pain, I was confused. What was i feeling?? Where has my midsection gone, where was my abdomen? I had never felt that much pain before and the fact that my painkillers were useless, did not help.

My whole body shook, I had no idea why I couldn’t stand..how can this be so hard.

I wasn’t crying at this point..Nurse said, ‘Okay, take your first step.’

I obliged. Took my right leg forward and that was it, I had reached my pain threshold and I broke down. This is the most painful thing ever, more painful than the 72 hours of labour I faced with my first daughter, more painful than feeling her ripping me apart as her shoulders were coming out..this was painful!

I kept telling them I can’t do it, it was impossible, I can’t do it.

My Nurse said, ‘Yes you can, one more step and you can get back on bed.’

So I did, with every ounce of energy in me, with every tear, I took one more step and that was all I could handle. It was too much. I went back on bed. Crying, because I was in pain, crying because I couldn’t understand how could I be so weak, crying because I had no idea how I was going to look after all my babies, crying because…this felt unfair.

3 hours later, I had to go shower, so they removed my catheter (ouch!). Then I had to walk to the bathroom. I had no idea how I was going to do this if I couldn’t even take 2 steps 3 hours ago. But again, the nurse came in and said I had to shower and that she would help me. She got me up, with tears rolling down my face I took the few steps to the toilet. I had never felt that helpless before, no one had ever helped me shower before, not even my mother. This can’t be happening, I kept thinking to myself…………this can’t be happening.

Day 2 came after a painful sleepless day 1, at this point i hadn’t even fully held my daughter because of the amount of pain I was in, I hadn’t changed even one diaper and breastfeeding was the most painful thing ever as I also had painful uterus contractions as well as the stitch pains. I was in agony, I felt like a bad mum, I felt weak.

I didn’t want to eat anything as I didn’t want to go to the toilet. I couldn’t imagine how painful a bowel movement would be but my OB forced me to eat, things had to start getting back into place.

I knew I had to be stronger. A couple of hours after I woke up, I was determined to get up..I had to get up..I had to walk..I had to do for myself, for my kids, for my health.

Again my family helped me up, I stood up, took my first step for the day..then the second, then the third and fourth…still in tears.

The nurse came in and asked if I wanted to shower and I said yes, she went in to the bathroom with me but I couldn’t face being given another shower again so I told her I was going to do it by myself. I wasn’t sure I could,but I was going to give it everything I have. She agreed and left but was outside in case I needed her.

Removing clothes has never been so hard..I got undressed, slowly walked under the shower and I showered..all by myself! I was in pain, I was crying, I didn’t know why this was happening to me but I knew Allah has his reasons, It was so hard BUT I was doing it..all by myself. I finished and slowly got dressed, sitting down on a chair that was in there but I couldn’t get up again by  myself so my nurse came in and helped me up.

Again I walked to my bed and dropped on bed. It felt like I had been to war, it was awful but I was so so proud of myself for being able to do it.

That day the OB came again and asked me to walk. Again I stood up…standing up was the hardest part but once I started walking it got easier. I could walk to the end of the room, without help. That night, I wanted to walk again, I got up..went all the way to the bottom floor and walked for a good 7 mins unaided..yes I counted as every extra second felt like an achievement.

Day 3, 2 days postpartum. I went outside the hospital, my aunt took me. Each step was painful but less painful than the previous step and by the time I left the hospital, I had even gone up 3 flights of stairs..all by myself..it took ages but I DID IT.

Day 4, 3 days PP and it was time to go home. I was so scared, so nervous as up till this point I had help with the baby, I hadn’t changed a single diaper or given her a bath, all i did was breastfed her, painfully.

At home, it was just me, I had to do everything (other than cooking) and I had no idea how I would do it but I kept a brave face. My sister in-law drove me home. Regardless of how slow and careful she drove, every tiny bump was painful, how was I going to take care of my baby while I am in this much pain?

We got home, my daughter gently hugged me while my son wanted to jump on me. I had to practice some interesting distraction tactics to stop him from climbing on me or wanting me to carry him. That day, my SIL slept over so she helped with the baby.

Day 5 came, 4 days PP and it was ALL me. It was time to be a mum to a newborn, it was time to be stronger. In my culture people stay in bed for 40 days to recover. As lovely as that sounds, that wasn’t me. I would go insane. Firstly because i had not much help for my other two kids. Secondly, well, I’d go insane with the lack of activity.

This is the first rule that I broke that wasn’t broken by anyone before me, people came to visit expecting me to be on bed, but that wasn’t me. I greeted them and sat with them in the sitting room like a normal person would, instead of being a show on bed with people around you staring at you.
5 days PP, I woke up at 8 am, fed Aayah. Then it was time for her bath, I bathed her, changed her first diaper. I wasn’t totally pain free but I could do it and was so happy.

My room is upstairs, so the day involved going up and down the stairs few times a day (not recommended but I had no choice). With everything I did, I called my doctor asking her if it was safe and her reply was yes. I guess she knew how strong I was better than I knew myself.

6 days PP. It got easier to do things for the kids and for myself, at this point I was off the useless painkillers, I didn’t feel too much pain although some things were painful than others but they had to be done, I just did them slowly.

7 days PP, the bandage was coming off, my scar healed beautifully Alhamdullilah and i actually absolutely LOVE IT. Its almost like the perfect memory of my daughter’s  birth.

Everyone who came to visit kept saying how I should be in bed for 40 days, etc. But people forget, everyone is different, everyone heals at a different rate, everyone has their own way of healing and while being in bed for over a month maybe well and good for others, it wasn’t for me, it would depress me and no way was I going to let ‘culture’ depress me.

I had 3 kids to look after, people’s opinions played NO PART in my recovery process.

Day 9 came, things were getting back to normal everyday. I started walking 10 mins a day other than the normal activities. Things like bending down, changing nappy etc were not painful anymore but I still LISTENED to my body. Anything that felt pain, I would stop.

Day 10, I adore my mum and everything she’s done for me and by now she understood that I was not going to spend postpartum the way ‘culture’ dictates us to and I was so relieved about that.

If I felt fine and well and pain free then I wasn’t going to make myself useless by just laying in bed all day. I knew the more active you are (within reason) the quicker you recover and I knew my body even if no one else did.

I am 1 year postpartum now and my strength is almost back to normal. Well, I can do more things, fitness wise than before BUT I am still not where I want to be.

The point of this story is to LISTEN to your body, take charge of your recovery, don’t let others dictate what you can and can’t do unless they are certified to do so (i.e. doctors but even then, do YOUR research! Don’t be led blindly).

CSECs took a toll on both your physical and mental state and for me, being physically inactive would depress me mentally and I wouldn’t be a good mother to my kids.

Do what is right FOR YOU! If it is resting for 40 days then go for it, if it is slight activities when you feel ready then go for that too. No one knows your body more than you do and just because you may do things differently than others, differently than society tells you to, it doesn’t mean you are doing them wrong.

Recovery is painful, it’s tiring, it’s mentally draining..but YOU CAN DO IT. Whichever way you decide to recover, choose a way that’s right for YOU. Mine was to remain active as I didn’t know any other way and as long as it wasn’t causing me any pain then I was fine with that and I am thankful to my doctor for encouraging me, for having faith in me because now I can enjoy every inch of my daughter the way I want to, the way I need to.  Had I listened to what I was told by many, I’d probably be struggling today.

Who knew 13 months ago I couldn’t even stand and now I do 110% of the things I could do before the OP (Headstands included 💪🏼).

Mamas, we are stronger than we could ever imagine to be so don’t give up on life, don’t give up on yourself, on your confidence, on your identity, on your self-esteem. Being a mother doesn’t mean letting go of who you are. How are we going to instill confidence, strength, strong identity, self-belief in our children if we lack them ourselves? Think about that.

Yusra Eshaq is a mother of 3 active little ones, Pre & Post Partum Corrective Exercise Specialist, Clinical Weight Loss Specialist, Exercise & Sports Nutrition Advisor, Personal Trainer & Group Fitness Instructor, BSc, Computer Science And Business Admin, MSc with Honours In Internet Computing.

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