The Strength of a Woman's Body
By now, all of you know that on March 23rd I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was 9 lbs 3 oz and 22 1/2 inches long—needless to say, a big girl.
I wrote a post recently about my postpartum recovery experience and was surprised by the response to my transparency. I realized after reading these and getting private messages that so many women feel uncomfortable talking about their experiences, and I was surprised to learn how little we know as women about the actual experience of being pregnant and giving birth. It’s not talked about and it truly feels like we’re walking into the unknown. So if sharing my full experience can give any future mothers a bit of ease or future fathers and friends some insight, then I’m happy to be transparent in this moment.
I’ll never forget the morning I found out I was pregnant. It was July 8th, the weekend after a fun 4th of July where I spent most of the weekend exhausted and in bed for no reason. I of course thought I just needed rest since my life was so consistently active. I later found out why I was so exhausted. It was also the weekend after I posted on social media saying I was taking a step back from music to discover who I was outside of it. Little did I know that in making that post, God had already started something miraculous that was going to force me to discover a new identity anyway. God truly does work in mysterious ways. I wanted to tell my husband in a cute way—surprise him with a flashmob, have a scavenger hunt, bake a cake... but I couldn’t contain myself.
I texted him.
I know, I know. But when you’ve been with someone for a decade and share every single thing with them it’s impossible to hold anything in. So I immediately texted him and he was bursting with joy. I then proceeded to take 3 more tests. Don’t ask why, but I had to make sure. All were positive… I was going to be a mom. What did that mean? Was I even ready? Had we as a couple gotten to a place financially and emotionally where we were ready to take care of another human? Were we ready to have our lives change completely? At that moment I couldn’t answer any of those questions, but I knew that I would positively embrace this life change and blessing with every fiber of my being.
The following morning I called my OB so I could make an appointment and know exactly what the next steps were. They congratulated me but then the first question they asked was if I was happy. I found it odd, but then realized there are probably so many women who are scared, not ready and don’t know how they got pregnant. I immediately felt grateful that this decision was made by myself and my husband because we wanted to start a family. I was grateful that I wasn’t alone in this moment, that I not only had a life partner but I had both of our families. I was simply grateful. I told them yes and they made an appoint for 8 weeks later.
I’m sorry 8 weeks? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO UNTIL THEN?
Basically I had to take care of myself and not do anything stupid. So, like any newly pregnant mom, I resorted to Google.
It’s a bit of a harrowing feeling to have to figure everything out on your own before you even see your doctor. Prenantal vitamins, exercise, diet, etc. I especially wanted to know if I needed to make any changes since I had been vegan for almost 14 years. But my husband and I did our research, took deep breaths often, and knew we could tackle anything I was physically about to face, together.
Within a few weeks, my exhaustion and fatigue set in. I couldn’t believe how unspeakably tired I was. But I didn’t want to let anyone close to me (outside of our families) know about my pregnancy until after my appointment, so trying to hide my exhaustion took some serious acting.
By the time 8 weeks hit and I went to my first appointment, I felt I had a grasp on things. But of course I was inundated with more information than I thought possible. A list of do’s and don’ts and questions and answers. It was overwhelming to say the least, but seeing the ultrasound of what looked nothing bigger than a peanut inside of me made everything that much more real.
My first trimester wasn’t difficult at all. I never had morning sickness, I never felt nausea, I was just tired. ALL the time. It was a level of tired I had never known before in any capacity, but I had to remain active, because I didn’t want to go crazy. At the time I was still finishing up gigs and leading worship at my church. Although I made a promise to myself to take a step back from music for awhile, I had to finish my commitments until the end of the year.
By the time I got to my second trimester, I had a surge of energy and appetite. I was thriving. I didn’t even feel pregnant! We announced in October to the world that we were expecting and in that moment it became so real. It wasn’t until the end of my second trimester when we took our baby moon to Hawaii that all the pain and uncomfortable feelings started to take over my body. I distinctly remember working out at our hotel gym and the next day waking up to intense pain and pressure in my pelvic area. I wrote my OB and she said it was normal but for me to not overdo exercising. From that moment on, I ended up basically living in a bathtub until baby girl was born.
During my third trimester, I suffered from extreme pelvic and lower back pain. It felt like a bowling ball was not only hanging in front of me, but hanging from my pelvic area making it difficult to walk. In my case, the pregnant waddle was very real. I could only sleep on my left side because sleeping on my back or on my right side made me feel like I was suffocating. I continued to lead worship up until two weeks before her due date, but my precious daughter decided to stay inside of me for an extra week causing the pain to be even more severe. I truly felt like my body was breaking.
Even before my husband and I started trying, I heard many horror stories about pregnancy and giving birth. And one thing I didn’t want was to be induced. I truly wanted the dramatic TV show experience of having my water break, rushing to the hospital, and 15 minutes later I had a crying baby in my arms. Needless to say, it didn’t happen like that and with my darling daughter nestling comfortably inside of me, I had to be induced.
My induction was scheduled for March 23rd at 2am. When we arrived at the hospital we weren’t sure what the scene would be like since restrictions due to COVID-19 had already gone into effect. I was very lucky that my husband was able to be with me because I truly don’t think I could’ve gone through labor and delivery alone. Labor is a difficult process. It’s painful. It’s unpredictable. And even the strongest of women feel like they aren’t going to make it. It test your limits beyond belief and it challenges you. My original method of induction had changed since I was already having contractions once I arrived to the hospital, and I ended up having to get a Foley balloon. It may sound cute and adorable, but it is the devil. To be frank, it was by far one of the most painful experiences of my life. I was offered pain killers prior to having the Foley balloon inserted, but the the resident doctor said that because I handled the cervix exam so well, I should be fine.
When I tell you that she lied, I mean it.
I should have taken the drugs. And that’s my first note to all future mothers. Don’t be a hero. Take the drugs.
(Of course to each their own, but let me tell you… this was only the beginning.)
Once the Foley balloon was inserted the painful contractions began. It was unlike any pain I had ever known. And for some reason my contractions were incredibly long. I wanted the epidural, and I wanted it IMMEDIATELY. After about 2 hours of contractions, I was finally able to get an epidural and when they say you don’t feel anything… they mean it. I felt nothing, and quite honestly it was glorious. That was until I continuously peed and poo’d on myself. There’s nothing more humbling than having complete strangers constantly pick and prod at your body for hours on end and having absolutely no control over what your body does. In addition to the Foley balloon I was put on Pitocin to help encourage more contractions, because how much more could my body take, right? Every three hours or so, my nurse (who I loved by the way, shoutout to Anna at Cedar Sinai) would come in and rotate me on a peanut pillow. This was to help speed up the actual delivery process. It was hard to rotate my body on a pillow when I couldn’t feel anything below my waist, so having her and my husband help me was crucial. While the epidural took away the pain, it was such a vulnerable feeling not being able to properly function. My labor continued for what seemed like an eternity until finally at 10pm they said I was ready. I still had to wait be prepared for delivery and for my OB to show up. I finally started to push at 11:04pm and by 11:24pm my daughter made her entrance into the world. Nine months of pregnancy, 18 hours of labor, 20 minutes of pushing and it was all worth it.
Now here I am almost six weeks postpartum, still healing but getting stronger day by day. I’m amazed at what my body was able to handle and how resilient I truly have been. Women are strong. We are remarkable. But even in that strength so many women are afraid or even shamed into not talking about their entire journeys.
Pregnancy was hard but postpartum recovery is at times even more difficult. I know that depression is very real for a lot of women but I’m grateful that it hasn’t been my story. Emotionally and spiritually I have never been better. In fact, parenting with my husband has been such a joyous ride. I find myself laughing and smiling more than I ever have. Physically, I still feel broken and know it will take weeks to even begin to feel like myself again. When you give birth, you have a huge risk of tearing your perineum, and I wasn’t spared from that happening. I had a third degree tear that has made recovery take a long time. At times it hurts to sit, and in the beginning going to the bathroom was not fun, but every day it gets easier.
One aspect of postpartum that I was NOT prepared for was fluid retention and carpal tunnel. Because I was given so many fluids while on the epidural, my body retained lots of water the first week and my legs and feet were extremely swollen. I never once had swollen feet or ankles during pregnancy, so it was very difficult to walk. I got compression socks and continued to drink about a gallon of water a day and now THANKFULLY my legs are back to normal. The one thing I’m still dealing with is pain in my hands. At night my fingers and hands will become numb and tingly and I realized I developed carpal tunnel. So I now have a wrist brace that’s helping, and hopefully my symptoms will go away soon!
I still have the weight to lose, I still have to work up to feeling like myself again, but I couldn’t imagine going through any of this alone. It’s scary to feel like you don’t have control over your body and you are always going to be in pain, but if you are a new mom, don’t be afraid to talk about what you are feeling. If you are friends with a new mom, ask how her baby is doing but also check in on her.
This journey is unpredictable, it’s painful, and at times you feel like it’s never ending but I’m so amazed at myself and what women are capable of doing everyday.
Malynda Hale is a recording artist, actress, business owner and activist. With her roots in music and theatre, Malynda has always been connected to the arts. The singer/songwriter uses both her music and involvement in social justice issues to start important conversations. Her passion for using her voice to effect change on multiple platforms social justice, female empowerment, LGBTQ+ rights, veganism, and the Black Lives Matter movement is how #WeNeedToTalk came to be.
She’s the former co-host of the femme empowerment “Boss, Please” podcast, which shines a light on female execs and all-around girl bosses, and the current host of the #WeNeedToTalk Podcast that releases new episodes every Monday. She currently serves as a worship leader at Harmony Toluca Lake where she leads a bi-monthly discussion group called "Courageous Conversations" that focuses on social justice topics from a Christian perspective. She is an avid promoter of a lifestyle centered around a plant-based diet and has been a vegan for over a decade. Malynda has already touched the lives of many people and will continue to do so with her music and actions.