It’s hard for me to write this without sounding like a miserable mum who has some kind of axe to grind, but I write because I need to make some kind of sense out of what I felt during pregnancy. If not to allow you to feel like you know me that little bit more, then to at very least explain why some of us cringe when others say ‘it can’t be that bad.’
I wanted so badly to be the woman who soldiered on working until weeks before baby was due – who did Yoga during her lunch break, snacked on rice cakes and grapes, then went home to cook a hearty meal for all. I wanted to have the all-natural birth as though becoming a mum was what I was born to do, and dreamt about gazing into my child’s eyes to feel our bond cemented. All around me new mums were blossoming and blooming and enjoying every moment as they grew closer to motherhood. People would tell them that pregnancy suited them, and they would smile through the aches and pains with that glorious twinkle in their eye.
I wasn’t that woman.
Only 5 months into pregnancy I was in so much pain that the usual breaks from my desk job to walk around and rest my eyes started to become near impossible when I realised that I couldn’t stand up. It was truly the worst pain I have ever experienced. I can only think to describe it as though someone had made a medieval torture instrument out of long pokers, broken glass and razor blades – held together with barbed wire. These hell-pokers would be heated inside a volcano for at least a week, and then used to relentlessly jab deep inside the base of my spine. I would sometimes find a change in my position gave me a minute’s relief, but that was only to allow the hell-pokers to stoke that volcano fire a while more. The searing stabbing, twisting, throbbing and burning pain attacked at every slight movement – even just with the in and out of my ribcage as I breathed.
I was signed off sick from work at a mere 6 months pregnant – probably with snide remarks and comments of shirking from my colleagues. And I understand that. Every pregnant lady around me *was* that Yoga-ball bouncing beauty. People probably thought I just wanted more time to nest and rest. But behind closed doors my agony grew worse and worse until I was unable to walk, literally. Some days I couldn’t even sit up without screaming, and that was before the depression started to set back in. The hospital prescribed me crutches so that I might be able to make it up and down the stairs once in the morning and once before bed. That was only with the help and advice from my dad, who had learned to master stairs on sticks after he was knocked off his motorbike a few years previously. I didn’t jolly up those steps swinging my legs about like I was practicing for Cirque Du Soleil. I hobbled and dragged my raw back up each one with several minutes of sobbing and desperate rubs trying to ease the pain enough to take another step.
I laugh about it now, but on days when Mike was working, I used to load a rucksack up with my laptop, snacks and water bottles, so that I could very slowly creep up the stairs (it took me around an hour each time) and not have to go back down again just because I was thirsty. Of course I had to base myself up there because that was where the toilet was. My day consisted of crawling up the stairs begging for the pain to ease, followed by several painstaking hours back and forth from the bathroom. When Mike returned from work he didn’t have a wonderful cooked meal waiting for him – he had a wife who was broken, depressed and exhausted. We ate what we could; not what was best, and my dose of pregnancy-related diabetes medicine kept increasing because my body just wasn’t coping. ‘Make sure you do some exercise’ I was told. Yeah right – perhaps I’d squeeze that in-between the fake smiles and desperate wailing.
An exaggeration you may think, but every night for months and months I went to bed crying in agony, lay awake sobbing silently in excruciating pain, and woke up feeling worse and worse as my baby bump pulled at my stupidly curved spine and crushed the nerves inside. If I needed the toilet (what pregnant woman doesn’t!) it took me almost an hour to work up the strength to make it from the bedroom to the bathroom (no – we don’t live in a mansion. We are talking about a maximum of 20 feet there and back!) By the time I made it back to bed, my wicked bladder was twinging again.
When people say ‘my back hurt too, it’s normal’ I feel crushed and confused. Now I have a pretty damn high pain threshold – you are talking to the person who (many years ago) cut a blemish out of her breast with a scalpel, just because it was irritating to look at. Yes I was self-harmer, and yes, my judgement was pretty skewed at that time. Regardless, despite what friends and family think of me, it genuinely takes a lot for me to take a pill or moan that something is hurting. If what I felt during pregnancy was ‘normal’, no-one would ever have a second child. Honestly, it was so bad that it makes me question whether I can go through it again. I’m not just selfish – I absolutely love our daughter and truly believe it would be good for her to have a brother or sister. I would do anything to make that happen, only I already know the answer means putting myself through hell. Despite this strong will, the pressure of society and rational mind, I am f****ing terrified.
I have asked myself time and time again ‘why me?’ but the answer is always the same. Yes, it’s partially because I am unfit and had some spare meat before adding on pregnancy, but I am fairly sure that the problems I are experienced are down to the natural curve in my back – the one that is so deep that I could fill it with water and create a plunge pool for tiny mice. It was only when I did actually start doing pre-pregnancy Pilates in my lunch break that I realised no-one else was in pain when they lay on their backs for certain moves. Knees bent I was fine, but with my legs out flat the arch is so high that I can easily slide not just fingers, but my hand and arm underneath!
At best, this stupid curve coupled with my love of food makes me look permanently pregnant. At worst it does things to my spine that render me utterly useless. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that I don’t want another child. I am just desperately hoping that it doesn’t have to be a repeat of the last one.