When I was pregnant with our son, the effects were completely different to when I was pregnant with our daughter. During my first pregnancy I was climbing two stories of warehouse racking like a monkey or jumping across, between and over pallets of letterhead, envelopes and leaflets – all to the exasperated cries of colleagues ‘Jamie get down before you fall, you’re pregnant!’. Not that I couldn’t have fallen at any other stage in my career, yet for some reason, when you’re pregnant people become over protective for the life you’re carrying. However, with our son it was a whole lot different. Gone were the feelings of sickness where I had to snack non stop throughout the day to stop it, whilst the new girl looked on as if I was a pig. Of course we did inform her that I was pregnant after a few days of her sitting and staring, wondering how I could eat so much and put so little weight on.
Upon my visit to the clinic at twelve weeks, unbeknownst to me, I saw the head midwife. I was asked if there were any troubles or concerns. I had one: having been pregnant before this was mainly routine, only this time I had slight aches and twinges in my groin. The midwife told me this was all a normal part of pregnancy and likely to increase as the pregnancy progressed due to the hormones relaxing the ligaments. If it became too uncomfortable I was informed paracetamol would be appropriate to use.
Stupid that I was I never said another word. As it progressed I just remembered what I was told and kept reminding myself when I needed a pillow in between my legs at night that these straining pains were all normal. However, little did I know that although some women get them, it isn’t normal and generally support, monitoring, birth planning, and possibly a girdle is required. Careful delivery is required to support the pelvis and prevent the legs opening too wide putting strain on the joints.
Similar to my first pregnancy I was overdue – I went in for a sweep but nothing! The following evening about midnight I had a slight twinge and a pop to which I jumped out of bed extremely quickly, just in time for my waters to break and gush all over the bedroom floor. Lovely! Never having attended an antenatal class before, nor dealt with my waters breaking – in fact for my first pregnancy I was asked if my waters had already broken because when they tried, almost nothing came out. Id like to think that I’d have noticed a waterfall between my legs! Anyway, I digress – not knowing anything about waters breaking, I folded a tea towel and put that between my legs to catch any excess liquid, expecting it to be constantly leaking. Yes, you may roll your eyes at my stupidity and mock.
We got our daughter out of bed and drove her to my in-laws. My mother-in-law gave me a hesitant but unexpected hug and we were back on our way. We thought going around town on the motorway would be the quickest route but manged to get stuck in traffic due to roadworks – yes at midnight; lots of traffic! The contractions were increasing and panic was setting in so we phoned for an ambulance just in case. They were also stuck a way away so informed us to let them know if we managed to turn off before they got to us so they could be rerouted. Luckily, the inside lane started to move and we managed to get off back on our way to the maternity ward.
When we arrived, I waddled up to the reception desk with the towel still between my legs and informed one of the nurses. I received a look, a condescending speech about only requiring a small pad for the odd drip where she requested I remove the towel, handed it to her and she threw it into one of their bins. ‘Well, really! Its not as if they supplied me with a birthing manual!’ I was taken to a birthing room whilst being informed the birthing pool wasn’t available as it was already in use by another mother. I was offered a large birthing ball, being told it would speed up the delivery while reducing the pressure on the pelvis. I rolled and bounced in between each contraction which came in waves with extreme pelvic pain. I was given gas and air, although how much it worked I don’t know. It hadn’t worked at all during my first pregnancy, yet I’d resorted to an epidural after being in first stage labour for over 48 hours, lack of sleep and exhaustion. When our daughter was born, I passed out after for a few minutes while they cleaned her up a little. This subsequent birth was moving much faster.
Just under four hours of a lot of “fuck, fuck, fuck, ouch, ouch, ouch, fuck…” to which one of the midwife team came in to write up notes on my progress. She told me that, “that language” wasn’t really necessary – she almost got a “fuck off!” but instead the guilty side of me sat on the ball, teeth gritted and lips pursed tightly shut until she’d left the room for a release of “fuck, fuck, ouch..you fucking sit here… fuck, fuck, ouch ouch..”
I wanted ‘my’ midwife but she was busy delivering in the next room. I was in so much pain and discomfort that I was literally screaming her name with each contraction. One of the midwife team wanted me to lie on my back so that she could check my progress and how dilated I was. When I opened my legs the pain was unimaginable. I refused to let her anywhere down there and clamped my knees shut! I then noticed her dirty hand brace and that was it – luckily hubby stood in and blatantly told her I’d said no, seeing how much pain I was in. At that point I was trying so hard to hold back tears. That made her a little angry but just at that point my midwife came in. They exclaimed I’d refused to be checked, not hiding their anger, however my midwife was lovely.
I told my midwife I needed an epidural as I couldn’t cope but up until then the anesthetist had been busy and unable to attend. I told her I was unable to relax enough to open my legs to be checked but at that stage I was getting the urge to push. Non of which I’d experienced previously due to the epidural. At the same time I was informed that the anesthetist was on his was to which I exclaimed I wanted that epidural. My midwife spoke to me calmly and explained that if I really needed it I could but with every contraction, as I push the pain would subside. ‘REALLY?!’ Shock and relief. Again, after previously having the epidural and never having received that all informative birthing manual that describes the whole process in fine detail from start to finish, I was unaware that it would be quicker and easier to push.
Eight minutes later our son was placed into my arms, me with a second degree tear and luckily, not as much pelvic pain. I waited to be sutured and after a while I was escorted into the bathroom to clean up. I was too weak to stand for long so instead of the welcoming shower the midwife had planned for I had to use the bidet to rinse, where I almost passed out. My eyes blacked out, all sounds became muffled or distant as I told the midwife I was going to faint, and I screwed up my eyes holding onto the side of the bidet in hope I wouldn’t fall off. She helped me dry, carefully escorting me back with the support from my husband, back to the bed where I found I couldn’t lift my legs on their own without using my hands. The midwife checked my vitals, then offered me a cup of sweet tea telling me it would help. I agreed. Later, on my notes, I notice she wrote “requesting a cup of sweet tea” – ‘Hello! No I didn’t, you offered and I said yes!’
It wasn’t long before they were informed a bed was available in the ward, so they wheeled me up. Luckily it was a private room – YAY! No strangers to share with or pretend aren’t looking at me. I was given a buzzer to request support getting in and out of bed due to my pelvis and when the senior midwife arrived later that morning she informed me I should have mentioned it in my clinic visits. I told her I had mentioned it to her on my first visit and was told it was all normal, to which she gave a slight ‘huh’ response and quickly moved the subject on realizing she’d made a mistake. I was informed I had SPD: Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, or DSP: Diastasis Symphysis Pubis and needed to see the physio to assess my movement before being discharged. I was therefore advised to stay in over night. That didn’t quite go to plan as the physio was off sick the following day so after a few discussions with the nursing team I was allowed to go home with a referral the following day.
I spent the next couple of weeks lifting my legs by hand until I was able to move them without as much support. However, even today during the menstrual cycle I’m unable to shift boxes or items with the sides of my feet or push a shopping trolley without receiving straining or shooting pains in my groin. Some say that if you control it, you can prevent it worsening with subsequent pregnancies, yet others say theirs has increased with each one. Bearing in mind I was unable to lift my legs at all and it hadn’t fully resolved as expected, we decided it was best not to put my body through that again – so we stopped at two.
The joys of labour!