Having now had they joy of being pregnant twice I can, hand on heart say that I love being pregnant. However, both pregnancies- first with the Twins and most recently Bubs- have ended up with me being on crutches. With Bubs it was so much worse and I literally could not leave the house for the final few months.
I had a condition called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) or otherwise called Pelvic Girdle Pain in Pregnancy (PGPP). This is basically where the muscles and ligament inbetween the pelvic joint become very relaxed and unstable, resulting in horrendous pain. The only way I can describe it is this (it’s not pretty I warn you…) imagine your lady parts as an oyster shell or muscle shell, being forced apart, unwillingly. And at the same time having something blunt jab right up inside you.
I first noticed it with the Twin pregnancy when I was about 4 months and moving house. I pushed a box full of belongings with the inside edge of my foot and literally couldn’t breathe or move, the pain was excrutiating. It gradually worsened and so I made an appointment with the Midwife and the Dr. They both confirmed SPD and got me on the list to receive some physio at the local hospital. Here they gave me a support band to wear around my hips in an attempt to stabalise the joint and also treated me with accupunture. As the Twin bump got heavier, walking was becoming a real issue and by 7 months I was given crutches. There were concerns that if I gave birth ‘naturally’ I may damage this joint beyond repair and worse case scenario was that I could need a wheel chair. This was such a worrying time not only for my babies and my body but mentally and emotionally for me, particularly as my job was so physical – leacturing in dance and performing arts.
We met with many consultants at the hospital and even though the physio’s were insistent that I should have a C-section the Consultants still weren’t convinced. One even said to me and Hubs, that they could deliver one ‘naturally’ and then the other one by C-section (as he was breach at that moment in time). Once again….filled with dread. This was not the birth I had planned – I’d intended a drug free as far as possible birth. Eventually they agreed that a C-section was in order and the Twins were born at 37 weeks. We needed 5 days in SCBU but the day after their birth the SPD was gone. No pain whatsoever, no need for support bands or crutches! Incredible!
So this time round naturally I was concerned about the condition returning. And by just 3 months in it was bad. So much so that I was signed off work and on crutches immediately. Knowing that this was going to be for the long term Hubs purchased some hockey stick padded grip and I ‘pimped my crutches’! – oh yes, that’s a thing!
I still had the support band and had been using that since 2 months. The conclusion that I was given by the many medical people I saw was that it was likely to get worse given my previous history; a combination of having loose flexible muscles and ligaments in general anyway (useful as a dancer but not as an expectant mother it would seem!), the pregnancy hormone Relaxin, plus having suffered with the condition before and the fact that now my body was 10 years older. I ended up being signed off work right up to when my maternity leave began. Not what I had planned…again. The ideal situation was to work up to the Easter Holidays, not October Half term! Bubs was born at the start of April…that’s a long time to be off work! With the Twins I had worked up to the end of the Christmas Term and they were born at the end of January. I had managed to still drive and teach that time round but this time things escalated incredibly quickly and extremely painfully. By Christmas I had stopped driving due to the discomfort but also the worry of should I need to perform an emergency stop the damage I could do to the joint by the sudden movement.
At first being home, not feeling ‘ill’ felt very odd. I’m the type of person who can only be off work when there’s something drastically wrong. Looking back now I can appreciate that actually, yes, it was best to be a home pottering around but at the time it felt so wrong. I enjoyed a few school runs but instead if the 5 minute walk each way they should have been, it was turning into a 20 minute each way battle. Over the months I got slower and slower and the pain got worse and worse. At the very final stages even just tackling the stairs took an age. One stair at a time, mostly on my backside using my arms to heave up myself up or gingerly let myself down. I tried so hard to stay mobile even if it was just to walk to the post office or get the Twins form school – all aided by the crutches of course- but by February it was just not possible. Advice, once again, from the Physio was to not let my knees drop beyond parallel, meaning that they had to be hip width apart at all times. Any movement even slightly beyond this range caused huge agony. The pain, the fatigue all took its toll on me and I resigned myself to the fact that I would be doing very little in the way of moving and housework. I couldn’t push the vacuum – it caused the pain to spike. I couldn’t lift anything, couldn’t bend to reach things on the floor and couldn’t even lift the kettle and hold it under the tap to fill it up, the stress and discomfort once my core muscles had weakened meant that there was even less stability at this point. I had my little jug which I could fill 3 times in a row and that would fill the kettle! Needless to say that with not moving and growing a baby I put on some additional pregnancy weight!!
On occasions when I needed to get out and go anywhere we had carrier bags on the car seat to enable a nifty ‘swivvel’ action to get my legs in or out of the car! Visits to the midwife and getting onto and off of the couch involved lots of rolling onto the side, walking my hands towards my hip to sit me up and then having a great deal of support from Hubs or Midwife to get me down to the floor.
By Christmas with my Bubs pregnancy the physio was of no further benefit. If he treated the back it aggravated the front and vice versa. The acupuncture seemed to help for a day on some occasions bit on others created an even worse pain. I invested in a heat pad which helped a smidge and was prescribed codeine; something I was loathed to take and as such only took one when I was in tears of agony. I was very aware that the baby could become dependent on it if I took it regularly and if this happened then I would have to stop taking it 2 weeks before the due date. But I worried. What if things started happening before I’d come off the codeine? So I took it on an as needed basis.
A C-section had been the plan from the get-go with pregnancy number 2 and so I felt calm, having experienced this procedure before. I planned out our birthing music (quite a collection but that’s for another post!) almost down to the exact time that Bubs would emerge (it’s the dance teacher element…even choreographing a baby’s birth!) We were booked in for 39 weeks and actually for the week prior to that I had been experiencing some Braxton Hicks and then from the afternoon before our birth-day I had been having contractions. This was a whole new experience for me having not felt this with the Twins! When the surgeon actually opened up my tummy to deliver Bubs he commented on how engaged the head was! When we’d arrived at the hospital that morning at 7am the contractions were about 20 mins apart!! EEEESHK!!
Codeine free and a healthy baby born the delivery had gone well. We stayed one night in Hospital and then came home the next day. I needed my crutches for that second day but then as if by new motherhood magic…the SPD thankfully, so amazingly thankfully (just as it did with the Twins) disappeared soon after the birth. The worry of permanent damage and possibly even the need for a wheelchair was over. I could walk! Unaided! The pain and discomfort of the C-section recovery was nothing compared to the SPD pain. As a very active person the prospect of not fully recovering had been very scary – what if I could never run and play with my children again, what if I couldn’t teach dance again, what if I became this enormous burden on my family? Now though I need not worry. I still feel the odd twinge and that’s ok, it just reminds me to slow down and take things easier. Recently joining the gym and starting my own fitness recovery programme I am very aware of my limitations and am more than happy to reach my fitness goals sensibly and in the right amount of time.
The Aloha Mummy