When Pregnancy Becomes a Pain in the... oh... Everything...

Last week I mentioned that I'm having a lot of pregnancy-related hip and back problems (time and time and time again). I don't intend to go on about it; I intend to make a marvellous, miraculous, completely full recovery and to write one very helpful blog post about how I managed that. My back up plan is to just shut up about it.

I don't just want to shut up about it because I know how dull it can be, hearing somebody go on and on about their health issues; I want to shut up about it because I am very aware of how fortunate I am to be pregnant and it seems churlish to moan about a situation I'm lucky to be in. I never - not for one moment, no matter how bad the pain gets - forget that the short term pain is a small price to pay.

But the pain is a much bigger issue than I would ever have anticipated and I want to acknowledge that; I don't believe in being all "everything in my life is sweetness and light" on my blog - I want to tell the truth. I believe that women deserve more honesty about how difficult becoming pregnant, staying pregnant and dealing with being pregnant can be - acting as though it's always easy doesn't help us to cope when things go wrong.

Plus, I'm stuck indoors and can't sit still long enough to watch a film so, you know: what else am I going to do but write about this stuff?

So... I'm twenty-three weeks pregnant now (twenty-three?! Can that be right?!) and I've been aware of pains in my hips since week ten. Around one in five women has some degree of hip or back pain in their pregnancy but week ten is unusually early for it to set in. This might be because I had clicky hip when I was born; it might be because of a leg injury several years ago; it might be because I have hypermobile joints (which, as a child who wanted to be a ballerina - and a young woman who wanted to impress the boys - I had always kind of thought of as a good thing); or it might just be bad luck. I don't suppose that matters - the point is that it's happening.

My (lovely) midwife was quite upfront with me: hip problems just get worse; I would most likely need to be signed off near the end of my pregnancy; my commute (thirty minutes by bus and thirty minutes on foot) was probably too long.

When the pain progressed from occasional to persistent, she advised me to book in to an NHS pregnancy physiotherapy session. That was a month ago. There were six pregnant women in the group and five of us were already having pains.

The class was really useful - we were shown how to move around (get in and out of bed; of cars; the bath) without causing further damage; we were taught exercises to minimise our symptoms; we were given whatever sort of support clothing the physiotherapist thought we needed. I was given a support belt to wear when standing or walking and a tubigrip to wear the rest of the time (I've found over the bump maternity jeans and tights do a better job, though!). The physiotherapist banned me from doing housework and told me I would most likely need to be signed off work for a chunk of the third trimester.

So I kept that in mind: I would most likely need to be signed off in the third trimester. I would be capable of soldiering on until at least week twenty-seven.

Except I wasn't.

Things went from bad to worse. Sitting upright for more than half an hour was so painful that I was having to leave work early at least once a week (and bear in mind: I only work five hour days). Climbing the stairs to the toilets was so difficult I would find myself sitting there, fighting back the tears. I was struggling with what seemed like ridiculously trivial things - bending to reach low door handles; twisting to tear off toilet roll; standing at bus stops for more than a couple of minutes.

On the Friday of week twenty-one I found myself sobbing all over one of the women at work. She told me straight out that it was time to get myself signed off - I had to put my health and the health of the baby ahead of anything else.

But nobody likes to admit that they can't cope. I didn't want to be the one saying, "I'm only halfway through my pregnancy and I can't keep going to work." It felt to me like everybody else manages to cope with their pregnancies; everybody else has aches and pains and keeps on going. I didn't want to be the person who uses a perfectly normal, perfectly natural, every day situation as an excuse for a great long skive.

I had the following week booked off as holiday and I decided that, when I returned, I would talk to the woman who handles our HR about working from home some of the time. That would do. I had a plan.

But on the Saturday morning I woke up in so much pain that I couldn't move without screaming. And I'm not somebody who makes needlessly dramatic noises about my health.

For four days, I couldn't stand up without Steve's help (think about the practicalities of visiting the bathroom here...); I couldn't stay in one seated position for more than ten minutes; I couldn't lie down for more than two hours (so, not much sleep, then...); I couldn't put my own clothes on or dry my own legs; I couldn't do anything on my own except whimper self-pityingly. For all the operations I've had, for all the endometriosis, I have never felt pain like it. It was staggering; it was indescribable. Painkillers didn't touch it and hot water bottles were little more than placebos.

And I was terrified that that was it. That was me for the next four months. That I had pushed myself too far past my limits and effectively crippled myself from then until the birth.

Luckily, by Wednesday - with a lot of care and a lot of stretching - things had become much more manageable. I am aware of the pain 100% of the time but I can now move around without help, sit in one position long enough to watch a TV show and squat down to stroke the cats (well, to stroke Gizmo; Polly is smart enough to jump up onto high, easily reachable surfaces if she isn't getting attention).

On Monday, I saw my GP. The surgery is, at most, a five minute walk from our flat - I expected that walk to be challenging but I was stunned by how quickly the pain kicked in and by how severe it felt; it was as though somebody was cleaving my pelvis in two, straight down the middle. I'm still waiting - hoping - for that particular pain to subside.

I've been signed off work until the middle of January but, realistically, I'm unlikely to return to the office. The best case scenario is that I am certified as fit to work from home.

And I hate this. I hate that I'm the one who can't carry on with day to day life because of something as standard as pregnancy.

This isn't how I pictured my pregnancy going. I was going to be one of those elegantly expectant women. I would have a trim bump and a big smile and drift around, getting on with being wonderful, with no more than one fleeting touch to the small of my back once or twice a day. Or, at the very least: I was going to cope.

I wanted this pregnancy so badly, I feel kind of cheated that it's turned out to be so hard.

In good moments, I feel like I'm skiving; in bad moments, I feel jealous that Steve gets to the leave the flat and do such exciting things as put the bins out and go to the shop for cat litter.

But, mostly, right now, I feel relieved that the GP took me seriously and relieved that I don't have to try to gauge my own physical limitations any more. Because clearly that's something I'm not very good at. And it's time to stop doing myself harm.

15 comments

  1. I'm so glad you've found some relief but sorry that pregnancy is physically so difficult. I had a lot of pain in my pelvis (and once sprained it which felt GREAT) and my back, and sitting upright became painful because my heavy uterus pushed on my ribs. I know what you mean about being torn between wanting to enjoy every second and also being honest about what sucks. I'm glad you're sharing all of your pregnancy, good and bad, and I hope you do the same about motherhood without guilt :)


    I bought the snoogle (a pregnancy pillow) and it totally changed my nights. I still use it. If you were looking for ideas :)

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  2. Thanks Caitlin! I do have a great long pregnancy pillow which helps me to sleep better but it's not doing as much for my hips as I had hoped. :(

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  3. I don't know what it looks like but take a look at the Snoogle! It's curved so you can pop it between your knees. It didn't do away with my hip pain but it definitely helped. I'm still using it and in love with it lol

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  4. I'm so glad you're being so honest about this. I'm sure that some women have wonderful pregnancies and I've read plenty of blogs with the "I love being pregnant" sentiment, but I think this is extremely misleading. Lots of people have difficult pregnancies (and I think "difficult" may be putting it mildly). I was grilling a pregnant friend of mine about what it was like and she admitted that she didn't think it would be as bad as it was. (From what she told me, she spent most of the first trimester with her head in a toilet.)

    Since I haven't experienced pregnancy myself I can't really weigh in, but I can sympathize with the frustration of being taken care of. I hate having to ask for help, or admitting that I can't take care of something myself. If someone is offering a little help it's one thing, but feeling helpless is wretched. I understand why you would try to push through, even when it hurts you so much to do so. I hope you find some lasting relief soon!

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  5. As much as I wish you weren't in such pain, I'm glad you've written about it. There's definitely an assumption that pregnancy 'should' be easy and that you should be glowing and flowing and all the rest, but I think its fair to say that most pregnancies have their quirks, if I can call it that, and that none are as plain-sailing as they might be portrayed. I do wonder if a lot of this is down to the fact that, as you said, its meant to be easy and its possible to almost feel like a failure if it isn't, so women don't often admit to problems.


    Either way, it sounds absolutely hideous. I would hate that so much - being bedridden with a cold is enough to make me go scatty; being stuck in the house and barely able to move without being in pain doesn't bear thinking about. It's great that your GP has been so sympathetic, and of course Steve's being very supportive, but still, I can imagine your frustration with it all. Just take things easy as best you can, and remember that it won't be forever!

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  6. Yeah, that's the same idea (just UK vs US brand) - my knees are less sore and I can sleep for about four or five hours now so I *would* recommend that other women try it, but my hips are still pretty awful.

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  7. Thank you!


    Yes, I think I was lucky to escape the head-down-the-toilet stuff and I'm not getting many of the other standard symptoms. But there ARE standard symptoms and I don't think people really know about them until after they've become pregnant - you start eagerly googling "what to expect in week XX" and get a huge list of ways in which you are likely to be feeling rotten! I don't think I know anyone who had it easy for the full nine months.


    That said, there are some good parts, too. The bump's the one bit of me which doesn't hurt. :)

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  8. Funny, I know so many people with colds and horrid viruses at the moment I've been thinking about how this compares... and I think this might actually be preferable. I'm in lots of pain but at least my head's clear enough and I'm feeling awake enough that I can read and still bash out blog posts!


    Four more months to go but at least hip problems *usually* clear up immediately after the birth. Fingers crossed!

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  9. Holy moly girl, that's not a little thing, that sounds horrible! I know you said you don't want to write about it because we wouldn't want to read it and you should be grateful but fuck that. You are going through some heavy shit (sorry I keep swearing, lol) and this is your space and we are here because we want to be your friend in a weird internet way. You tell us every day how you are doing, that's what we're here for. And your baby should know what you went through, when he or she is a teenager and being a wang because you didn't buy the right brand of socks or whatever you can show them this post and be like THIS WAS FOR YOU, JERK. haha And Sarah's kid, if you're reading this in 13 years, be nicer to your mom, she's a great lady.

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  10. I am sorry to hear how painful it has been, it must be frustrating to say the least. But I am glad you wrote this, the mythic perfect pregnancy is a prevalent misperception as you say and I am sure your experience is shared with many. I am glad you are getting the rest you need, I promise to come round and you make cups of tea and entertain you when I return!

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  11. I agree with Nova - this is all great ammunition for when the kid's a stroppy teenager! But seriously, I have a friend who has been signed off work due to pelvis problems for the past 4 months of her pregnancy (and she has a toddler at home too, so not sure how the hell she's managing): it seems to be a pretty common thing but yet this myth of the 'glowing, easy pregnancy' is so pervasive. It's really important that people put it out there that that's not always, or even often, the way things go.

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  12. Well done for being so honest! I well remember envying those women who looked so neat and tidy when they were pregnant - whereas I looked as though I had not just a cushion stuffed up my front but the whole blummin' sofa! Plus I had swollen ankles, fallen arches and a face the size and shape of the full moon. Oh, and then there was the sciatica... Other than that, all fine! ;) Hope you manage to have a comfy Christmas.
    Jane

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  13. (Yes, I am going back through and reading all your recent posts and if this makes me a blog stalker then I apologise!)

    "This isn't how I pictured my pregnancy going. I was going to be one of those elegantly expectant women. I would have a trim bump and a big smile and drift around, getting on with being wonderful, with no more than one fleeting touch to the small of my back once or twice a day. Or, at the very least: I was going to cope."

    Yeah, this was me too! I was going to to continue exercising and eat healthily. As it was, I was lucky I did not give birth to a can of full fat Coke as that was the only thing that was almost guaranteed to stay down for most of my pregnancy so I would have some so that I could take my folic acid! I don't know why and it would have been good if it was broccoli or something instead. I could barely do anything except go to work because I only managed to take in enough calories to exist, not actually live. Like you though I do feel very fortunate that that was all I had. Sorry that you are stuck indoors. Don't feel guilty though. Anyone who judges you for it has never had SPD or anything similar. I had a couple of weeks of piercing pelvic pain (I realise this is nothing compared to what you have gone through) and it was horrible.

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  14. I feel SO lucky that I've escaped the morning sickness and the wonky eating habits - I actually went right off sugar for a few weeks early on and thought, "Ooh, yeah! I'm going to be so healthy by the end of this pregnancy!" (that passed, though; I'm surviving on Lindt at the moment).


    I think I'm past the guilt now - I have good days (hip-wise) and bad days (like today) but it's pretty clear that I have no option but to take it easy right now. I feel close enough to the due date that I've stopped thinking of it as sick leave and started thinking of it as maternity leave, too. To be honest, the worst part is not being able to do any cleaning or decorating or general getting-ready-for-the-baby stuff around the house!

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