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Full Term Pregnancy Glow and Pelvic Arthropathy

Current status: 37 weeks, 4 days. What I would like to be writing is that in this beautiful weather I have been spending care-free time with my family basking in full term pregnancy glow. We even have gorgeous pregnancy photos which would suggest this….

But this is not the whole truth. I have been really struggling at the tail end of pregnancy and in wanting to keep up with the ‘super mum’ act have kept rather quite about it. However, a big part of my business is sharing authentically some of the realities of motherhood and for me there has been another side to the third trimester.

Please do not think I am just going to launch into a tirade of complaints about the negative aspects of pregnancy. I feel incredibly privileged to have such problems. We wanted this baby so badly, experienced the devastation of a miscarriage and went through the first stage of assisted reproductive therapy to conceive our miracle baby. All along this journey, even now, we have experienced the pure joy that pregnancy brings. A couple of nights ago lying on the couch my husband watched in awe as my tummy moved and morphed around. Our Little Bean kicking and pushing and generally telling the world they are nearly ready – it was like a scene from the movies. Our 2 year old son is constantly fascinated by my tummy and wants to see it, touch it, kiss it all the time – such precious, priceless memories.

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It really is that the media portrays such an image we should be happily pregnant ALL the time. What photos and videos do not show is some of the physical complications that can occur and most definitely do not show the huge emotional (hormone driven) thoughts that can make you feel like you are indeed losing your marbles.

As some of you know I have been experiencing considerable pelvic pain from about week 30 of my second pregnancy. I now know that this is called ‘Pelvic Arthropathy. Which is a medical term to cover a range of pelvic related pain during pregnancy. In my case, the combination of my pelvic alignment (made significantly worse by constantly carrying a toddler), the hormone relaxin moving the pelvic bones and public symphysis and just a dose of bad luck (by that I mean it is just the card I was dealt with) has meant my pelvic bones have been grating together – and yes it truly is as painful as it sounds.

Since week 35 this pain has stepped up considerably for me – to the point where pain is there constantly and when I ‘do’ something like stand up, get out of bed, put on a pair of pants, pick up our toddler, walk about the distance to the end of our driveway – pain just radiates through my entire nervous system. It has become incredibly debilitating and I have battled to stay positive. The impact on my family has been well beyond what we were prepared for.

I now cannot look after our son on my own. Not even for an hour. He is a VERY active, and not being able to pick him up, take him to the park or change a nappy has become heart breaking. I have of course attempted these things (and still do) however, the end result has been curling into a ball, almost foetal position with ice between my legs, gritting my teeth and praying the waves of pain will end.

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What has been the hardest part is not knowing how long we have to cope with this, as full term is from 37-42 weeks. At 35 weeks this meant knowing I could have another 7 weeks of this – with a new-born baby to cope with at the end. Not quite how I imagined things to look. I thought it would be like the movies. Walking around the park hand-in-hand with my husband while my son runs off and plays with our puppy……

Ironically working is one thing I CAN DO. Simply because it involves sitting, not having to move too much. The wonders of technology today!!! Given our significant career goals this year this has really helped. I have contemplated having ‘time-off’ but to be honest that is not in my nature and work has given me a sense of purpose, achievement and fulfilment (and to be quite frank I never see my work as separate from ‘life’). It has also helped to take my mind off the challenges we have faced.

When I saw my midwife at 35 weeks I just broke down in the office and said I was just exhausted – mentally battling with the pain each day was so draining and at night the pain was often at its worst. But I questioned if it was just in my head. My midwife was incredibly understanding and said it was very real, some women end up in a wheel-chair. This thought horrified me. I was resolved to toughen up, and hopefully be able to keep going….a week later I knew this was not the case.

I thought back to when Arjun was a new-born and I did not seek help soon enough with my mastitis - and I promptly rang my midwife. She did not hesitate and booked me to see an obstetrician at the hospital on the 31st of December - it was a 10 day count down until then – all mini goals to keep us going. Both my husband and I have struggled with the change in roles. Not being able to physically do something really gets me down. And it has been difficult to see my husband doing tasks that I would normally do with Arjun. Or even being able to tag team like we would – I generally would have taken Arjun to the park in the morning and given hubby a much needed sleep in (I am better in the mornings, he is better in the evenings). In the face of all this he has been absolutely amazing, hands down and has taken extended time off work.

The obstetrician appointment finally came around. She did not even hesitate but said unless Little Bean decides to come early on their own accord, they will induce me at 38 weeks as there is potentially going to be further complications from being so immobile.

I have experienced a wave of emotions since this, as it will mean delivering without my usual mid-wife who is on holiday until the 16th. It also means – WHOLLY MOLLY we are having a baby very soon!!!!! I guess in my mind I still had until the 20th. I am still questioning if this is the ‘right’ plan. Will there be an effect on our baby delivering early. Will they have trouble breathing, latching, developing? Will there be complications at birth? I had a totally natural birth with Arjun, will I in fact need pain relief? Does this make me less of a women that I have not ‘coped’ until the very end of pregnancy? Should I just keep trying to hold on to this baby until they are fully ready?

I am also slightly excited – the time has come, we are going to meet our Little Bean finally!!! We also have a deadline which fits so well with my personality and ability to organise and plan (….quickly followed by the thought is this wrong?). Ahhhh darn emotional irrational thoughts.

The ice pack, the swiss ball, and smiley belt have become part of everyday life now – to the point that now when Arjun falls over he asks for the "ice pack mummy" as that is what you do when you are sore!! He also ‘helps’ me up the stairs from the car “help mummy, Arjun help mummy” giving me his little hand. Unbelievable what a 2 year old can pick up and take on!

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This is going to be a big week for us, trying to prepare for everything….can you ever truly prepare for a baby though?

This blog is not suggesting that every women who has pelvic arthopathy will experience the same symptoms. Nor is it intended to give medical advice. Any concerns must be directed at your lead maternity carer. I do hope however, it may help some one who, like me experiences both the incredible joy of pregnancy as well as some challenges - and that it is human to not be happy all of the time.

xx Dr Julie

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