For my first childbirth, I had a quick labor but I ended up pushing for 3 hours because the baby’s face was facing upward. During the pushing, I felt a “pop” in my lower back (which my husband later confirmed that he had heard as well) but didn’t feel the consequence of the pain until 4-5 hours afterwards. At that time, I was in the post partum room and when I attempted to get out of bed to use the bathroom the pain was so debilitating that the entire process took over an hour. I couldn’t even change my son Matthew’s diaper in the hospital because of the pain in my tailbone and low back. I would best describe the pain as paralyzing because it so painful I couldn’t move. Everyone around me was telling me that movement was the best thing but the fear of having a recurring injury prevented me from wanted to move at all.
I stayed in the hospital for 2 days and had to take pain medication to allow me to get dressed so that I could return home. When I home was I didn’t feel better. I was alternating medications to keep the pain at bay in order to feed my son (never mind go the bathroom and take a shower). On top of all that, the challenges of being a first time mom and trying to breastfeed were enormous. Along with that came the hormonal changes. Everything seemed off and at a time that was supposed to be joyous and exciting, I was miserable.
It took a couple of weeks to feel better physically, and then then the baby wasn’t gaining adequate weight. It was suggested to me that this was largely “mental” - that as result of the tailbone pain I couldn’t get comfortable nursing and I wasn’t thinking positively so the milk wasn’t coming in. For even more of a ripple effect, my pain medication was in his system (from the breast milk) and causing excessive sleepiness. It was all a viscous circle. Due to his sleepiness, feeding would take so long that I only had 15 minutes between feedings that I barely had time to even go the bathroom.
I didn’t know anyone who had experienced what I was experiencing, which was really scary and made it difficult to get support. My other friends with kids were doing great and they were out and about with their newborns. Here I was, at home, unable to even take a shower.
I was fortunate to not have to return to work right away, plus I had a lot of family support. I needed this extra time to heal and that is what helped.
At an appointment with my obstetrician, Dr. Beth Hardiman, I told her I wanted to get pregnant again. She asked me about the tailbone pain from my first delivery and coincidentally someone from Marathon Physical Therapy was present in the room who told me that if I thought about getting pregnant again she said to seriously consider having physical therapy.
Once I became pregnant with my second child, I started to get discomfort within the first couple months - specifically with rocking my 2 year old to sleep and with sitting driving in the car - and I was very fearful of debilitating pain. I mentioned this to Dr. Hardiman and she told me to call Marathon Physical Therapy right away to treatment, where I met my physical therapist, Laura. She gave me exercises and taught me proper sitting positioning, specifically with the positions that bothered me the most. She helped me find a tailbone cushion and we even made a sitting device from towels, both of which offered a lot of relief. Within a couple of months my discomfort with the tailbone was gone! I was then able to shift my focus to preventative care for the rest of my pregnancy. This was very important to me because in the back of my mind I was paranoid about having a post partum experience similar to my first. I could not envision myself going through that experience again with the addition of a toddler. In physical therapy, we worked on birthing positions and my husband accompanied me to a visit in order to have him support me during delivery. We used the external biofeedback to find the most relaxed position of my pelvic floor muscles so that I would avoid potential injury to them as well as find a good position to birth where I could avoid putting pressure on my tailbone and being flat on my back. Additionally, Laura and talked through the importance of being mobile after delivery during my stay in the hospital.
The day William was born, my husband and I got to the hospital around 11pm at which point I was 7cm dilated. From there I was able to labor, standing and walking around the room a lot. An hour later, I positioned myself on my left side and I was able to push in this position. My husband Matt was able to help support my leg in this position, I only pushed 5 times, luckily the baby was facing down, and I had my son William with no complications.
After Matthew (my first son) was born my husband needed to play a huge role in helping out immediately after delivering. However, this time my husband became sick and I was all on my own, it was so delightful! I hadn’t injured my back, so I was able to enjoy my baby! I was able to be mobile and to start breast-feeding him without back or tailbone pain. Laura was kind enough to come visit in the hospital and help me with body mechanics - getting in and out of bed, positioning, sleeping and even tried to figure out how to get the darn hospital bed down for a short woman! In general, she gave me all kinds of suggestions and knowledge that women would never think about with a new baby, but that were vital to keeping me functional. Things like the details of breast feeding mechanics or carrying a car seat, which may seem trivial and minute, but can be vital to success of a pain-free happy post partum period. After having such a negative experience with my first childbirth I am happy to say that things are definitely looking good now.
My first pregnancy really took a toll on my body. I was in labor for 23 hours and pushed for 6 hours. My daughter was stubborn and just didn’t want to come out. She would keep turning herself so that she would face upwards, which meant I had to keep changing positions to get her to face downwards. Finally when she was in position I pushed and pushed, it seemed endless. I was pushing so hard the doctor kept whispering to the nurse and I heard them say she is looking kind of blue. I thought they were talking about my baby, but they said I looked blue and needed oxygen. As my daughter crowned the tissue of my perineum tore forward toward my pubic bone, and so began my journey seeking help to deal with the pain and other new symptoms that I never expected.
Soon after my delivery I developed bladder incontinence and was using the bathroom up to 10 times a day. There were even times that I woke up in the middle of the night and had wet the bed. Embarrassing doesn’t begin to describe how this felt. My primary care physician (PCP) kept treating me for urinary tract infections (UTIs) even though the cultures were negative and I had no other symptoms. Finally she said it was normal after delivering a baby and that it was “the process of life.” A nurse that worked with the PCP showed me a pamphlet she had seen about urogynecology and other women’s health issues (featuring Dr. Eman Elkadry) and suggested I contact them. I made the appointment, was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, and was referred to Jessica at Marathon Physical Therapy.
At first I was skeptical over the whole process - how could physical therapy treatment be performed on the pelvic floor and bladder? Jessica explained everything to me as we went through the treatments and made me feel very comfortable. We talked about how the muscles can become tight and painful, yet also be weak. We talked about how release and exercises can help with all my symptoms. We worked on strengthening my pelvic floor and core. Going to physical therapy was not only physical relief it was mental relief. I had finally found healthcare providers that didn’t brush me aside and say “it’s what you have to live with.”
When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, Dr Elkadry referred me back to Jessica to help my muscles and manage my pain during pregnancy. There is no cure for Interstitial Cystitis, the meds were not working for me, and the only thing that helped was going to physical therapy. Jessica performed internal release on my pelvic floor, my psoas and my obturator. I learned a lot of new words along the way (!), as well as much more about my body, and it helped with the pain I was experiencing through pregnancy. We did exercises to help strengthen my transverse abdominals, which I learned is part of your core muscle system. As I reached the end of my pregnancy, my obstetrician and I decided that I would be induced a week early to try and prevent any more damage to my pelvic floor and bladder. Rather than 23 hours of labor I was in labor for 3 and only had to push for 8 minutes. It was fast and much easier than my first delivery, plus I had no tearing with this delivery and the recovery process was much faster. I returned to see Jessica after this childbirth birth of my son where we continued working on strengthening the muscles and pelvic floor. My incontinence was gone, I had no more accidents. It was such a relief knowing that I wouldn’t have to rush to the bathroom so much or wet the bed. I was in a much better place both emotionally and physically. I finally had the answers to all my symptoms and now know that I can achieve a normal life and not live in pain or fear.