Coping with post-delivery weight
TV newscaster, Terry Anne Chebet spoke to Emma Odaba on how she is regaining her shape after delivery.
It is very easy to gain excess weight during pregnancy and after birth. After delivery, my mother-in-law fed me on all types of foodstuffs including the traditional njahi (black peas) and porridge. For the first three months I ate a lot and gained so much weight!
Pregnancy was somewhat ‘depressing’. I used to be petite at size 8; I would even have some size 8 clothes altered to fit into them. Then I increased in size within a short time. It was a real shocker because I suddenly did not have a waistline! I loved my clothes but none would fit me anymore. To make matters worse, everyone was telling me how fat I had become because my cheeks and my whole face looked swollen. I was still reading news on television and viewers would call in and tell me to reduce my weight! These are people I did not even know! I guess the screen made me look much bigger than I really was. It’s like I became a ‘woman’ overnight and my girly looks and figure disappeared.
My baby Imani Wambui is now almost ten months: she was born on 14 April 2006. I had a Caesarean section because my pelvic bones were too small for the baby to pass through. I went for my last check up at 36 weeks. My pregnancy by then was huge, really huge. While walking on the street with my sister, a lady stopped me and told her ‘peleka huyu nyumbani: huyu mtoto amefika (take her home: the baby is due)’. My doctor got me really scared, when he said he was not very sure about my pelvic bones. When he suggested I have a C-section, I didn’t mind at all because I was also scared of labour.
Before I left the hospital, my tummy was sagging but the doctor told me that it would return to its original size with time. I was worried and asked him what that meant. He was a humorous man who told me that if In six weeks it was still big, he would ‘do something about it’. If you had seen me four weeks after delivery, you would have thought that I was four months pregnant!
My mother-in-law advised me to forget what I looked like during the first six months. Eat, so that the baby can feed well, was her advice. She treated me as my own mother who lives in Kitale would.
I took traditional uji (porridge) up to five times a day. More was preserved in a big thermos flask, which I kept in my bedroom. When I woke up to breastfeed night, I would drink some.
My Tanzanian househelp made me a thick soup they call mutori (a mixture of boiled soup and potatoes). The meal is quite fattening! I would alternate mutori with uji.
Most of my friends did not know where I lived, and when they came home to see my baby I would stand on the balcony and wave at them. They did not believe that was me waving! They flatly told me that I was too fat. I didn’t think much of it and would tell them I will lose the excess weight.
Only after I went back to work did reality hit me. My baby was by then three months old. I was initially scared of leaving her behind, but I now realise that being there does not change much. My greatest fear was my baby choking. I had heard stories where housegirls left the baby lying on the back while feeding, until the baby choked to death. I wanted to ask for a year’s off duty to be with her but mum told me; ‘No. It is God who will watch over your child’. I would call home every few minutes just to inquire if she was fine. It was only when my sister who is a mother came and stayed with us for five months that I relaxed.
I stopped taking porridge out of pressure from friends who said my tummy would never go back to its original size. I didn’t ‘tie’ my tummy because I had delivered by C-section. although I was later told that I could have tied it since I had a bikini cut. I got scared because I was given a lot of advice by so many different people—all diverse opinions. Some told me if I tied my tummy the ‘cut’ would rapture. I tried tying after three months but I guess by then it was too late.
My doctor advised me not to attempt rigorous exercise: because of the C-section. He recommended swimming as the safest option. When my daughter was almost three months I started swimming. I had to because my big appetite was scaring me: it was actually embarrassing me. I like the front crawl, butterfly and backstroke. Swimming is a hobby that doubles up as exercise. Initially I swam once a week and walked a lot. This has really helped me because swimming tones the whole body. The first time I went into the pool I swam for two hours nonstop, not because I wanted my tummy to ‘disappear’ immediately but for fear of people seeing my big stomach. Should any of my friends deliver by C-section today I would advise them to start swimming.
I have not yet gone back to my original size and shape but I am in the process of doing so. Once the wound had fairly healed I started skipping. I would skip for twenty minutes every day but I still couldn’t do sit-ups. In fact. I have never even tried doing sit-ups because I am scared of hurting myself. I am afraid I am not completely healed and I might rapture the wound. When it is very cold I feel some pain on the scar and for that reason I do not swim when it is cold or raining. It is a discomfort that does not need painkillers but it nevertheless makes you feel like ’something is not right’. My home is about ten to fifteen minutes walk from the bus stop so this also makes good exercise.
Some of my friends like my ‘new look’ but those who have known me for long tell me I need to do something.
I like my new body but I wish my tummy was more trim—my tummy and waistline distress me. I used to have a belly ring and I would wear short tops, but I removed it and I can’t even tell where I threw it. But again- now that I am a mother, I don’t think I would wear such stuff.