Tag Archives: pregnancy

The Idiot’s Guide to the Pregnancy From Hell

Pregnancy From Hell

A few days ago I posted this – Having Children: 50 Reasons Not To!

For some time, I’d wanted to talk about the nightmare that was my pregnancy, but I was unsure how to go about it. I didn’t really want to describe the horrific experience in details – not least because I didn’t care to re-examine it that closely as I am about to embark on round 2. The other reasons were because it’s not a story I usually share with women who intend to, but have not yet had, children, due to its horrific nature.

No joke…
When my friend shared a post with me, a tongue in cheek reasons not to have children, and I joked I could find 50 reasons before pregnancy even ended, I thought I had the answer – I could do my own slightly light-hearted, slightly serious list. The list included some obviously funny items, and some far more serious ones. 

Many people took the list in the way it was intended – light-heartedly highlighting the fact that pregnancy is not as glowingly glamorous as some books would have us believe, that for some of us, mere inconveniences pale by comparison, and it is, indeed, a cruel, hard slog, and comes with some serious, sometimes life-threatening, and sometimes life-changing, side-effects. 

One person, however, apparently taking the title literally, declared the post ‘idiotic’. For those who don’t know, blog titles serve two purposes – to elicit interest, and for SEO. For these reasons, they can’t always be taken at face value, and sometimes have only a tenuous connection to the post. 

I confess I found this declaration distressing – my pregnancy was the most horrific experience of my life. For those of you who read my guest post for @RachelintheOC, you know I survived an emotionally torturous divorce from my first husband, who suffered from multiple personalities, so to say my pregnancy topped that is, well, saying something! 

This person stated to me that ‘none of those reasons is sufficient to not have children’. To clarify – I wasn’t suggesting any one of them was enough to deter me. To be clear – I had all these symptoms. Some of them are mere inconveniences – except when lumped on top of the deadly 1-2 combo of symphisis pubis dysfunction and pregnancy related carpal tunnel syndrome. Then they become extra straws loaded on the camel’s back after that final straw that already broke it’s back. It’s amazing how distressing it can be that one can’t wear one’s favourite heels when one is already borderline pre-natal depression. It might seem silly to the balanced mind – indeed it seems silly now – but at the time it wasn’t. I even made my husband take our wedding photos down because I ‘didn’t know that woman’ in them.

Secondly, this person stated she wouldn’t give up her child for anything. I’m not suggesting I would give up my daughter – because what is the only thing worse than suffering through the pregnancy from hell for a child?

Suffering through the pregnancy from hell – for nothing.

That may sound insensitive, but I say that in all emotional seriousness. My mental state was so bad towards the end of my pregnancy that I was afraid the baby would be stillborn or suffer some other deadly complication. I had suffered through so much, endured the unendurable because there was no alternative, and was at incredibly high risk of pre-natal depression, and therefore also post-nataldepression, that the idea was insufferable. I also suffered from a condition that meant I had a lot of amniotic fluid – so while books were telling me I should feel the baby move at every specified interval, I could go days without feeling the baby move. No wonder I was anxious. If it had happened, I don’t know I would have had the strength to try again. 

What my pregnancy did do, though, was make my husband and I seriously reconsider whether we wanted anymore children. My husband wanted 3, maybe 4, children – until about halfway through my pregnancy when he revised down to 1. It is no exaggeration to say my pregnancy put so much strain on my marriage that divorce was not outside the realms of possibility. My first pregnancy was horrific – how could we survive a second one – knowing what was coming?

You can say ‘every pregnancy is different’, but the reality is, some pregnancy conditions, once you have them once, are more likely to recur the second time. Symphisis pubis dysfunction (SPD) is one – my OB informed me I would almost certainly get it again, and earlier. The more pregnancies I have, the greater the probability the problems will become permanent. I might as well take this opportunity to announce I am pregnant – I’m 11 weeks pregnant, due 22ndMarch, and I already have early symptoms of SPD. I didn’t have this condition until 18 weeks last time, and this morning I felt the first touch of despair as I contemplated the next 29 weeks ahead of me.

You probably don’t know what SPD is or what it means in real terms, so I will explain now, in more detail, the crippling, debilitating nature of my pregnancy. If you are a childless woman planning to have children in the future, you might like to stop reading now. If you are a childless woman never intending to have children, you might like to keep reading – there’s probably something in here you can use as vindication to the people who question your decision!

Sufferers of SPD experience pain in the lower back, hips, groin, lower abdomen, and legs. The severity of the pain can range from mild discomfort to extreme and prolonged suffering, and I was at the extreme and prolonged end of this scale. It becomes difficult to climb stairs because of the severity of the pain – it’s not pain you can push through. The body responds defensively, and either recoils from the pain, or the hips just collapse under the pressure. Either way, you’re likely to fall, and once you start falling, you can’t recover, because the hips can’t respond. Our house was only accessible by stairs and some days I couldn’t leave the house if my husband wasn’t there to help me. SPD sufferers also have pain when carrying out weight bearing activities (think about that in the context of pregnancy…), difficulties carrying out everyday activities, and difficulties standing. In a nutshell, it hurts to stand, sit, lie and walk. It hurts a lot.

She looks like her back sure hurts…
Now think about how you get out of bed – you tend to roll, pushing with one leg. Forget. It. If you have SPD, attempting this will leave you sobbing in a heap. For a while, I used my hands to drag myself out of bed. Since I was sleeping with 5 pillows – one between the knees, one under the belly, one under my head, and two behind my back – to keep my pelvis neutral, this was a somewhat difficult exercise. Sure hubby would help, but I couldn’t wake him up every 2.5 hours to do so. Because I would sleep 1.5 hours, wake with a numb hip and needing the toilet. It was then a 1 hour exercise to get up, go to the toilet, rearrange the pillows so I could turn over, get back in bed, and fall back asleep. I kid you not.

The SPD was bad enough, but then I developed pregnancy-related carpal tunnel. Essentially I had excessive fluid retention (my total weight increased by 50% of my pre-pregnancy weight), including in my arms, which put pressure on my carpal tunnel nerve, producing carpal tunnel syndrome. This creates numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers, sometimes pain, and general weakness. I couldn’t feel my thumb or forefinger, and I had persistent pain in my last two fingers. I lacked strength – I couldn’t even cut meat, turn a doorknob, or carry a glass of water one handed. Or, you guessed it, haul myself out of bed using my hands. I no longer recall how I did get out of bed. Sometimes I didn’t; I was stuck there until my husband could help me.  

I worked through my entire pregnancy. I didn’t have a choice. I am the primary breadwinner for my family. If I didn’t work, we’d have nowhere to live. It’s crippling enough for our finances that I must take 6 months off work following the birth of the baby; there’s no way I could contemplate stopping work early. Quite apart from that, by the time I did go on maternity leave, 3 weeks before my due date, I was in such bad shape, physically, that literally all I could do was watch TV – and work. Thanks to my unorthodox typing style, typing was the one thing that made my hands feel better (although the mouse was a bitch). I couldn’t read, because the fixed position of holding a book open caused my hands to cramp and seize painfully. I could write (by typing) but didn’t because of my near-depression. 

By the last quarter of my pregnancy, it is almost fair to say if I wasn’t shouting and angry, I was crying. For every second of every minute of every hour of every day for at least 6 months I was in severe to extreme pain and discomfort from which there was no relief. 

So that’s my pregnancy, summarised. There is more, of course – reflux, and preeclampsia, and suspected deep vein thrombosis, and anything else I listed in the last post (and probably more I’ve forgotten) but those issues merely added misery on top of an impossibly high pile of misery.

Unless you’ve suffered through a pregnancy like mine, you have no idea what I suffered. The exceptions are if you watched a very close loved one suffer it (a wife, a daughter), or if you fell pregnant after fertility treatments, because that is its own brand of physical and emotional hell, or perhaps if you are a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy. That may sound dramatic, but in all seriousness, the only person I met during my last pregnancy who could relate to how I felt was a chemotherapy patient. That should be some indication of just how debilitating the pregnancy was. 

The people who watched me soldier through that pregnancy often said ‘I don’t know how you do it’ and the short answer was ‘Because I have no choice’. Quite apart from the fact that I would never have aborted a baby for any of the reasons listed in my last post, I was well past the time when that was a choice anyway.  

Those same people are now saying to me ‘I can’t believe you are doing it again, you are so brave’.

Well, there’s always another possibility.

I may just be stupid.

Not so stupid that I’ll be doing this a third time. 

If you missed it, check out my post on the mythical origins of werewolves.

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The Miranda Kerr Controversy – Drug Free Births

Drug free birth

So this is my rant of the week. Apparently Miranda Kerr stated she was proud to have had a drug-free birth to give her baby the best possible start in life.

How. Dare. She. Can you believe her audacity?

Or at least, some mothers seem to think it’s totally outrageous and unbelievable for her to make such a statement about her labour. Some mothers think she is criticising mothers who didn’t have drug free births. Some mothers apparently think it’s OK to choose drugs, but not to notchoose drugs. 

The most appalling comment I saw was from an Australian mother on an online forum, who stated ‘Perhaps Miranda Kerr should stick to what she knows, and limit her opinions to modelling’. 

Uh… excuse me?

So, being a model qualifies her to have an opinion on modelling… but being a mother doesn’t qualify her to have an opinion on mothering?

I don’t know if this was the result of ‘tall-poppy syndrome’, stupidity (OK, my favourite explanation for just about anything), or just insecurity. 

I support a mother’s right to choose her birth, and all too often in Western countries in particular, mothers are not sufficiently informed or involved in their own labour to exercise real choice. Often what is needed most is empowerment, and this kind of reaction from women is undermining our own efforts to empower our births. 

I wanted a drug-free birth. I didn’t get it, due to factors outside my control. I was induced (also not my choice) and my labour assessed as three times worse than the usual labour. I had overlapping contractions – that means no break between contractions, and I wasn’t even in what the medical profession considers ‘established labour’.  9 hours of incredible effort and unrelenting pain achieved pretty much nothing. 

I asked for pethidine (a mistake on my part, but by that point I wasn’t thinking clearly), fell asleep, and while I was asleep, they cranked the drip inducing my labour, which meant I pretty much woke screaming. I then asked for an epidural – which I didn’t get, because no anaesthetist was available. In the end, I had an emergency c-section with spinal block. I was so exhausted and drugged up when my baby was born I barely even noticed when my husband left to have her weighed. 

Is that the birthing experience I wanted? No. Was it the start in life I wanted for my baby? No. Is there any shame for me in it? No – because I knew what I wanted, what was best for all involved, and I tried. The things that happened were simply the natural result of the way my labour progressed. 

Miranda Kerr chose a drug-free birth for the same reasons I wanted one – she was just lucky enough to get it. I don’t think there is any criticism of women who don’t have drug-free births in stating the reasons you chose to have a drug-free birth. The point is choice. Women need to be empowered to make informed choices, as far as their labour permits (emergencies, of course, deprive us all of choices). 

And to make a choice, one needs to be informed

So to all the women vigorously defending their right to have births with drugs – yes, you have that right, but there is some information you should know when you make that choice. This is not to say drugs may not be an appropriate choice for you (as they unfortunately ended up being for me) but the choice needs to be made in the context of all the relevant information. 

So here are the valid reasons Miranda Kerr chose to have a drug-free birth:
  • Breast-feeding may be affected by the use of drugs during labour – here is an article that talks about the limited studies available in this area, and the difficulties in interpreting data. More research is needed.
  • The use of drugs during labour can prolong the labour and have other adverse effects on the mother – this article lists them, and it’s a significantly long list 
  • There are no long-term studies into the effects of drugs on babies, but animal studies don’t show promising results. I always find it astounding that we use drugs when we don’t know what they do to us or our children! Even recent studies on the effects of newborns are unreliable because they compare epidural babies with opiate babies. Uh, hello, shouldn’t we be comparing babies from drug labours with babies from non-drug labours, not two different kinds of drugs? You can read more here 
  • The fact is there is no maternally administered drug that has been proven safe for the foetus. WTH?? Read more here
  • The cascade of intervention – the more interventions you have, the more likely you are to need more. So having an epidural increase the risk of a forceps or vacuum delivery (greater risk for the baby), episiotomy (long-term bladder control problems for mother) and c-section (greater risk for mother and baby). More information here.
diagramI had ALL seven of the outcomes listed on the first three levels as resulting from induction.
So, I’ve used drugs. I didn’t want to, but it was just the way my labour went, and I used them knowing the above because I felt I had little other choice. An induction is, itself, an intervention which starts the cascade of intervention, and mine cascaded badly. I knew that, but I didn’t choose the induction. It was the reason I didn’t want an induction. But that choice was taken from me. 

But I support women who want drug-free births, because they have good reason to want them. And to women who want to shout them down, belittle them, and grind them under the heel of their collective boot – I say, do your research. Find out why they want drug-free births. Then think about if maybe you do, too.