I wasn’t prepared for the pain of childbirth by any stretch of the imagination, or of the cervix.
No matter how many books you read, how many birthing classes you go to, I don’t think you can be.
A friend had described her labour to me as being “lost in my pain”, and I got lost in mine for a while, clutching on to, focusing at all costs on, the imaginary outlines of white petals that clustered inside my eyelids as I tried to push.
I don’t know where the sounds came from. They were guttural and raw.
It all felt raw and new.
The day after the birth, my nose bled for the first time since I was six. Little spots of red dropped onto my lap.
Another friend described her postpartum body as “broken”, and again, this fit.
A swollen cushion of flesh between my vagina and anus that occasionally oozed little plum-sized globules of dark blood, enough to make me panic.
The anxiety of a lump on the breast, a blocked duct. Would this lead to mastitis? Will I get sick on top of everything else – the chafed nipples, the broken sleep, the unrelenting feeding schedule?
Likewise, the ensuing physicality of motherhood was – and is – unexpected.
Tiny fingers grab and pinch at my stomach, underneath my arms, as we feed.
My lower back twinges as I spread butter on bread with one arm, a child in the other, lurching back and forward.
Shadows of tenderness come and go in my breasts around feeding time.
My legs are lined with bruises from playing crawl-chase on wooden floorboards.
And my child feels like my own skin, closer to me than I ever thought possible.