Fifty days after giving birth to her third child, Sharjah-based expat Beenish Umair Kapadia still needs help to get out of bed. She says she can’t walk very well yet either. And she’s terrified of a uterine prolapse.
The condition, explains US-based John Hopkins Medicine, occurs when the muscles and tissue in your pelvis weaken and allow the uterus to drop down into the vagina. Common symptoms include leakage of urine, fullness in your pelvis, bulging in your vagina, lower-back pain and constipation, it adds.
These are things Beenish has been feeling for some time – “I had similar issues with my first pregnancy too,” she says.
She’s had three tough pregnancies and attributes much of her suffering to youthful folly. “When I was young, I didn’t take care of myself, especially when it comes to eating healthy food. I would eat junk food,” the 31-year-old expat tells Gulf News. “What I have realised is if I had eaten proper food and exercised, I wouldn’t have suffered so much.”
When Beenish and Umair decided to marry about five years ago, they were living in their home country with his parents and other relatives. She was just getting used to the ways of the new house when she discovered she was expecting. “When I got married, within a week I was pregnant. It just didn’t get my [period] and then I realised I was pregnant. It was very early [in the marriage], I was not prepared mentally,” she recalls.
When she got her check-ups, she also got the news that she was severely deficient in key nutrients including calcium and iron. And the traditional ways that she was following meant that the supplements were kept to a minimum. This not only made her weak, it also made her exhausted. Then there was the pain – it came early on and got worse as the pregnancy progressed. “My kids’ heads have always been on the cervix side, so throughout my pregnancy I would feel pelvic pain. I couldn’t sit properly or stand properly, I couldn’t stand for many minutes … My legs would swell up,” she says.
“I had a lot of scares with my first child. After every 15 days I would go to the hospital and sometimes my blood pressure was low, sometimes I fainted, sometimes I would get unbearable headaches. They gave me drips and I was very cautious, trying to ensure my baby was okay. In the last month, my doctor told me the lungs of the baby were not fully developed. He’s too weak. That stressed me out,” she adds.
When it came time to deliver, Beenish says it was a nightmare – “I was induced, the pain was unbearable,” she recalls, adding that she was in labour for two days before she met her first child. (UK’s National Health Service (NHS) states, “Induced labour is usually more painful than labour that starts on its own.”)
The bounce back was painful as well. “I had a lot of stitches [for the perineal tear]; it took me two months to heal. And in that way I would breast feed my kid. Sometimes the stiches would open and I would have to go back to the doctor.” The NHS puts the number of first-time mothers who will have some sort of tear, graze or episiotomy at 9 in 10 where a vaginal birth is concerned.
Soon after she had given birth, Beenish says, “My husband came to the UAE and I was alone with my in-laws. Five months on, he called me here.”
“When I came here, just a month in, I got pregnant again. And then the journey began all over again. Again there were deficiencies, and my first one was very young. I used to need to hold him all the time.”
But, she was on supplements, meaning a healthier, happier journey. That is, until the holiday.
Return to the doctors
“We travelled in the middle of the pregnancy,” says Beenish, adding that she went alone, except for her young child, to her home country. “I was six months pregnant. And I had to carry him the entire way. The journey went well but when I came back, the doctor asked, ‘What did you do? The baby is very low.’ We were shocked. She recommended bedrest for the next two months.”
The check-up also revealed that she had gestational diabetes. Now, bedbound, alone with her very young son, Beenish needed to manage her child and her cravings while her husband worked. “Managing my young one was a really tough job, because I used to lie down on the bed and he used to cry for food and go to the toilet.”
“We called our mums in the last trimester, in the ninth month mine came and I gave birth 15 days later.”
Source: Mayo Clinic
A third child
After two rocky pregnancies, the Kapadias waited three years before deciding to have another baby. “I thought now my body would be able to endure anything. During this pregnancy, I got diabetes very early on – in the first trimester,” she says.
“The doctor gave me a diet chart. So, during the pregnancy I was dieting. I was traumatised … Whenever I would go for a check-up, my sugar levels were already high. I couldn’t indulge my cravings. And though I didn’t eat any sugary foods, that was the case.
“The doctor advised me to walk after every meal for 30 minutes. In the first half of the pregnancy I managed to do that and managed to keep my sugar down without any medication but after the second trimester, it was so difficult to manage my body, because I had severe acidity issues as well.”
This rise in bile resulted in Beenish not being able to eat supplements that she sorely needed, for once again she was found deficient in important nutrients.
“Sometimes,” she recalls, “It was so bad that I couldn’t drink water. I used to eat boiled food or fruits (limited quantity). I used to cry a lot.”
While the doctor gave her some antacid, she could only take a little of it, because of the pregnancy. “Then my thyroid levels got high – I got hypothyroidism. And I had to have medication. Then in the last trimester, my sugar got high, so the doctor told me to take medication for that too. I used to take it twice a day and it used to generate acidity. It was so bad, I told my doctor and she had no answer. She just said, ‘You have to take it’,” she says.
“By the last trimester, I hardly walked from the bed to the door and to the kitchen. And that trimester the doctor advised me to walk a lot. But I just couldn’t,” she adds, recalling the challenge of managing two children while being weak and bedridden for about ten hours a day. “No one could come during my third trimester,” she says.
Fortunately, as they got closer to delivery time, Beenish’s sister came to babysit and help her. “We [husband and her] were in the hospital for two days – she managed the kids and the house. That really helped.”
But the delivery would once again be a source of pain. “When it was labour time, I was confused, I kept wondering if they were really contractions or Braxton Hicks (false labour pains). I used to tell my husband, ‘I don’t know if I have to go early, because I’m very scared of those drips and artificial things the doctors do and they aggravate the pain.’
“But we went. When we did, I knew it was not my time, I should have waited for two days more at least … I wasn’t very dilated, so they started giving me drips [to induce]. My water hadn’t broken either, so the doctor did it. It was so painful. I had to wait for 12 hours and the doctor kept giving me injections to aggravate the pain. In the end, the bones were too weak, so when the doctor was telling me to push it wasn’t working.”
Now the baby is here. But for the first 20 to 25 days, she says, she would cry inconsolably. “Whenever I breastfed him, I would cry for no reason. And I would say, ‘I feel so much pain in my body.’ And I was feeling like I had one kid, then two, now three, and now my husband would be going to the office and I’ll be at home with them. Because I used to work before marriage and I had plans. When I moved to the UAE, I thought I’d be working. Somehow, it’s still on my pending list,” she sighs.
Even now, she says, “I have no choice but to deal. I still feel so much depression; every two to three days, I feel like crying. But my husband – whenever he comes home, he takes care of the older two and then I just need to take care of my youngest one.”
“Whenever I go and sit in the loo, I feel like something is coming out and I’m really scared. I asked my doctor, ‘What’s the bulge?’ She told me to do Kegel exercises – which I am doing, but she said it would take time. I am daily taking medications for the constipation, it’s a big concern. I can’t strain. I don’t eat anything unless I’m relaxed [about it]. But with the baby, whenever I eat warm things, his loose motions start, because he’s on breastfeed, so whatever I eat affects him.”
She says her husband’s support has helped her get through the trauma of bad childbirth experiences, and mum and wife guilt. She says: “He gives 200 per cent to make sure I stay calm.
“I think all the things I’ve been going through are very common and women sometimes, face even worse than this. But you know, the only thing [that can help] is their partner being kind and caring … the only strength you get during your pregnancy is from your partner. Not from your mother, not from your sister. And I think one should take care of themselves before the time [of pregnancy]. If I had, I may not have suffered so much.”
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