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. 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.


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