I’ve been trying for a week to figure out how to write this post. At first, I was too scared and tired to write it. Then I was just tired. Now I’m just not sure how to explain what’s happened over the past week and what it means.
So I’ll start at the beginning:
Last week, on Labor Day, I went for a long walk. It was beautiful out and I remember marveling at how much I could still do. I don’t run anymore, true, but I can take these long and vigorous walks. I can get home and do yoga with Nico on the floor of our living room. I may need a nap after that, but then the rest of the day I can run errands and visit friends and do things just like a normal person–even with these 20 extra pounds hanging from my midsection.
When I woke up from my nap, though, I noticed a slight pain in my upper thigh. I thought I’d pulled something while walking that morning and figured it would get better. But at the grocery store later that day it got worse and had extended to my groin and both thighs. It was starting to really hurt, but still I thought it was an exercising injury.
I mentioned it to Marta when I got home, and she looked up the symptoms and immediately got lots of entries for something called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, an awful and unpronounceable sounding condition in which relaxin, the hormone released during pregnancy to help the body stretch and expand during pregnancy, works a little too well and over-expands the pelvis, sometimes separating the symphysis pubis, which is the point where the two sides of the pelvis meet.
Well shit, I thought. Though I didn’t at that point realize how shitty it was going to get.
I took Nico to see her best friend Frankie and while I was there the pain got worse. Soon it hurt to sit. By the time Marta joined us, I told her I needed to go home and rest. By the next day, I couldn’t walk on my own. I hobbled into my already scheduled doctor’s appointment and my obstetrician (who I love) decided to do an exam. She said I was already dilated a centimeter and she worried the pain could put me into labor. So she sent me to the hospital to be monitored for 24 hours.
My mom flew out to take care of Nico and Marta took me to labor and deliver. I was given a quiet room with a really comfortable bed on the same floor where the newly delivered moms are. I ate bad hospital food and they ran several tests, all of which indicated I was not, in fact, going into preterm labor (such a relief) but that I was in a lot of pain.
Eventually they got me a walker and they got me on tylenol. Both of those, along with 24 hours of rest, helped. So did going to a chiropractor, which I’ve started to do twice a week. I’ll go to physical therapy tomorrow as well. But I’m still in a lot of pain. I have to sleep propped up on my back. Trying to lie on my side is excruciating. Walking, even with the walker, hurts. And certain movements, like separating my legs too much while standing up or twisting open my legs, can make me scream.
This is not what I had been expecting from late pregnancy. I imagined myself being one of those active big pregnant ladies, running around, looking cheerful, feeling cheerful, etc. Instead, I’m the little old pregnant grandma hobbling into the natural birth class and having everyone stare at me. I’m the pregnant woman spending most of her day in bed. And at first it was really hard to accept that. I felt like I’d failed somehow.
But also I worried (and still do sometimes) that I’ll be like this forever. I realized I’ve taken for granted being able-bodied. Now I watch people walking or–even worse–running and I lust for their freedom of movement. Most of the studies of SPD (or as Europe calls it “Pregnancy-related Pelvic Girdle Pain) indicate that women recover soon after having birth. But some don’t. Some have pain for a year or longer. Some (very few) get worse. I worry that I’ll be one of those people. I imagine trying to carry an infant while also using a walker and then I start to cry.
But most of the time I am trying to be proactive. I read lots of forums about this, which were not that helpful, but have also begun to read some scientific studies, which have been helpful. This one indicates that chiropractic work can help and this meta-study has given me some advice as to how to labor so as not to exacerbate the pain.
There is still not that much known about this condition. As one study explains, “SPD has been long recognized as an obstetrical condition in the literature but, until recently, there has been a lack of clinical interest.” This is, sadly, typical of a number of pregnancy-related conditions or issues. Apparently many women with SPD are told that their pain is normal, just a typical part of pregnancy, and they never end up getting much help.
So I’m glad I have a helpful doctor and that I’ve found a good chiropractor (who smells like lavender) and that Nico helped me decorate my walker, who we’ve named Walkie. I’m also pretty lucky to have such a great partner. Marta’s had to take on a lot more work because of this, but she’s been so sweet and supportive through it all. At night she puts Nico in her bath and then, after Nico gets out, she helps me into the bath. She’s making all the food and doing all the cleaning. I fold laundry in bed when I can and play with Nico so that she can rest, but there’s a limit to how much I can help.
It is, in other words, difficult. But we’ll survive. And, as I keep trying to remember, there will be a new baby at the end of all this. I feel her moving around inside me all day long now. And going to the hospital meant that I got to hear her heartbeat for almost 24 hours. I fell asleep to it, which was pretty amazing.
And, so, that’s the story I was trying to tell. I think I hoped to find some humor in it so as not to make this post all about misery, but there’s not a lot that I find funny yet. Nico has begun examining me regularly with her little doctor’s kit, which is pretty funny. And I was examined by an old doctor in the hospital who told me that he was “OK” with me being a lesbian, which was also somewhat amusing. When I referred to Marta as my wife, he said, “Oh, is what what you call her?”
I also suppose that there’s also something funny about how none of this–this meaning my two pregnancies: the miscarriage and now this one–has gone as I thought it would (or, more honestly, as I had “planned”). That’s kind of true of parenting in general. You are sure it will develop in one way or affect you in a particular manner, and it rarely does.