I’m in the process of deciding if I want to post a blog about self care during pregnancy but before I do, I thought I would empty my heart space on here and just give the raw truth of how things were when I first got pregnant. I find it easier to pick out the happiest moments of life and share those because it’s what people want to see or read but I feel like this side of life if also important, especially for women whose lives have changed in some way and are on a new path to growth and change. After months of telling myself I’m a shitty parent for feeling all of the things I’m about to write about, I’m ready to talk about the rougher edges of pregnancy so far and why it’s ignited the even bigger fire I have now for self care after weeks of forcing barely looking after myself.
Bit of backstory to the self care novel I’ll possibly be posting in roughly a week
When I found out I was pregnant, I wasn’t in a good place at all. I was living in another country away from my friends, family and everything I know, in a village 10kms from the nearest city which also happened to be a place not completely welcoming to outsiders or foreigners, especially ones who are in a relationship and living with a local person. I was running out of money because of my living situation, desperately lonely and feeling extremely lost. The whole point of being back in Sri Lanka this time was to be with my love and start working in diving. I wasn’t prepared for how different the culture and attitudes are in villages, how little freedom I had as a woman when I wasn’t a tourist anymore, how judged I would feel for my hair, clothing and how I carry myself and I just fell into a hole. Monsoon season is tough when there’s no ocean to go to for comfort.
All this sounds pretty ungrateful right? I had the opportunity to work in a wonderful job with wonderful people in New Zealand for 3 months, save and dedicate my life to just getting back to my boyfriend and wound up in a beautiful paradise, but I wasn’t happy. Anybody who’s been through depression will know that change can trigger a down time and being in a lonely place physically can send you to a lonely place mentally, and that’s basically what happened. I felt responsible for so many things while I was over there and being in a new place, away from familiarity and lots of people I could really talk to, I just didn’t have the mental capacity to handle the change and keep myself afloat at the same time.
My self care slipped magnificently. I did do yoga and go to the gym for a couple of weeks and really loved that freedom and physical release in the heat but that faded out for reasons I’m not ready to talk about here. For the first few weeks, Nimantha was home all day everyday so I used having no alone time as an excuse to just not do any asanas or meditation, which if you’ve been through depression, you’ll know your mind looks for any excuse not to take care of itself. Going for a nice walk in nature isn’t really a thing there because you just get stared at the whole time, your boyfriend gets phone calls to ask why his girlfriend is out alone and is she okay and it’s really hot or raining heavily in the monsoon season. I was still showering, washing my hair and eating but not eating enough and I was mentally self destructing by becoming complacent with doing nothing constructive to keep my mind alive and smiling.
After weeks of not realising all of this was happening (or just denying that it was), I found out that I was pregnant and everything just sort of fell over. Nimantha and I were arguing a lot, I had the worst fatigue of my life and wasn’t coping well with just not functioning, I lost my appetite and was trying my best but I’m so hard on myself that I told myself everyday that I was failing my child with my food choices and my mental health declined even further. It continued to roll down a hill when I realised that I was struggling with being financially responsible for two people already and had no idea how to make taking care of a child work. I didn’t know anything about the healthcare system there and felt even more lonely knowing that my mum and best friend were thousands of miles away when they’re the women in your life you need the most when you’re pregnant.
Erin (Sri Lankan bestie, genuinely gorgeous soul and beautiful human) was amazing and was my rock and whilst Nimantha’s family did their best and were great support, I think because of the massive difference in maternal care and me being vegan, I felt under fire for my food choices and weight a lot which made my mind slip even further away from where it needed to be. I never dropped below a healthy weight and remained a good BMI even after losing 8kgs in the first trimester but for some reason, it was a hot topic and I really worried that I was getting sick with eating again without realising and that made my mind even more crowded. I was a mess, anxiety was higher than it had been for over 18 months and I was slipping further into a hole.
Another area I was feeling the heat was in the marriage department. Nima and I were already engaged and had a loose plan to get married in November which all went tits up but led to us deciding to get married when we’re really ready to do it and can do it with both sides of the family there. Once we found out about the baby on the way, that all changed and the pressure to tie the knot went from small rocks being crushed to a giant volcano of lava bubbling away and waiting to explode. I was advised by a close family member that in Sri Lankan culture, if you can’t provide a marriage certificate when you register the birth of your child, the child will not have a father on their birth certificate, I would be known forever as a whore in the village making life for the child difficult in the future and that there’s a chance that the baby wouldn’t be able go home with me from the hospital. I’m not joking about any of this by the way. This is real life for women in countries where intersectional feminism has little to no awareness and it is absolutely terrifying to know that even now, women have to worry about these things. Misogyny and oppression didn’t die, they just faded from our westernised and whitewashed lives and became a ‘feminist issue’ rather than something that everybody cares about.
After a lot of thinking, tears, anxiety, panicking and just not knowing what the fuck I was supposed to do now, I made the decision to come home to New Zealand to be with my family and around healthcare and Drs that I understand. I needed to sort my finances, life, physical and mental health and I couldn’t see the light of a way to do that in Sri Lanka. It broke my heart to know Nima wouldn’t be able to come with me straight away but I needed to go and start building something for my family.
The closer home time came, the more I relaxed. I was becoming increasingly sad that I was going to be away from my better half but just knowing that I was going home for this really important time in my life made everything seem okay. I was getting more and more excited to see my parents and my best friend Kate, who had been my absolute angel from the start and knowing I was going to get a squeeze from all of them made being pregnant feel manageable. Depression can be a funny thing. It’s almost as though even when you’re in a really dark place and a really deep hole, there can be one thing that can shine a tiny light to where you need to go and everything seems like it might be okay again at some point in the future. That glimpse of deserving that you need to give you a push in a healthy direction is what I have in my friends and family in New Zealand and Sri Lanka and I’m so grateful to have them in my life.
As as soon as I landed in Hawkes Bay to my family, cooler weather, personal freedom and knew I had access to cheap oats and berries, my mental and physical health game stepped up by about 1000%. Anybody who’s been through a first trimester will know that those 12 weeks are a nightmare for being exhausted all the time and eating and I genuinely just wanted to eat bread and fruit, which isn’t a bad thing but I really needed a giant bowl of roasted vegetables and a smoothie bowl that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg to make. I was drinking a lot of smoothies to keep my vitamins and calories up over in paradise, but with fruit being one of the most expensive ingredients and having no income because I couldn’t work in diving because of pregnancy, it was becoming increasingly difficult to justify spending 3 weeks of a normal persons grocery budget over there just on a week of breakfast. I decided not to let what had put a black bag over my head for the past few months take my healthy diet down.
I think I will write that blog about pregnancy self care after all because since I’ve been home, the black cloud over my head has all but evaporated and I’ve been feeling great. Family time, seeing my kiwi midwife and being told that my weight and diet are actually fine, daily yoga, being back at work and being free to go for walks without being the talk of the town or the subject of gossip, eating more low fat and healthier foods and just being home has been such a joy and I feel so happy.
One thing I will say before I say TTFN is, being free as a woman to express your style, opinion, passions and power is so important. Coming from a country where these things are less of an issue unless you’re in the presence of a misogynist or working for a company who values how a penis does things more, I never realised just how oppressed women are in other parts of the world. It shouldn’t be strange that a woman go for a walk alone or spend time with male friends without it being a huge issue. Women shouldn’t have to give up on their dreams of a career or travel just because they want to have a family. Women shouldn’t have to want a family but know that means their life will be spent washing clothes, cooking 3 meals per day and being responsible for running an entire home. A family is a unit, a team and certainly not just one person’s responsibility to keep functioning on a daily basis.
If you’re from a country where the husband works and the wife keeps the home or even a family in the westernised world where your wife is actually your girlfriend, de-facto partner, baby mama, wife or friend you’ve decided to have children with, don’t ‘help her’ with the cleaning, bath times, school runs, getting dressed for school missions, finding childcare if they do choose to work, finding and ironing that shirt you need for a meeting, cooking and laundry. Yes in some situations the man goes to work at his paid job for X amount of hours per day, pays for the house and all the things inside it, but if you have a stay at home or part time working partner who keeps your home and family running like a machine you can’t even see working most of the time, that’s a full time job you don’t clock out from or get a day off from and it certainly doesn’t have great financial return, so be her partner and do it with her.
The above also applies to any families where the woman works full time and male partners stays at home. I do acknowledge that these families exist and deserve the same respect but for the most part, it’s the woman who is the stay at home parent and/or homemaker and it’s only in recent history that women have had the opportunity to work in jobs where they can afford to support their family financially. In some countries right now, women can only dream of going out to a paid job every day and ‘bring home the facon’ (not refusing to say bacon but I like pigs so I’m hoping one day nobody needs to bring that home, if I’m being honest). Women grow life, organise the shit out of their family life and they’re the reason most (not all, but most) family guys come home to clean children, a clean home and a hot meal at the end of the day. That’s something to be revered because that shit is fucking important.
Have a wonderful day beautiful humans. I’m sorry for the novel and the Hoop brain splurge but you know what this blog is about by now 🙂
Love and light x