When people ask me if the effects of my diastasis symphysis pubis hurt more than labor the answer is obvious. YES. To me, labor didn’t hurt until I felt that awful tearing burning sensation that was my pelvis separating. Up to that point labor didn’t hurt even the way breaking my nose hurt. It was a lot of work and I had to dig down into my soul to find the strength for the work. But it wasn’t painful.
Thank you adrenaline, endorphins and whatever else in my body was at work during those hours.
I am certain that those brain chemicals and the post-delivery greatest-runner’s-high-in-the-world feeling are what enabled me to get to the bathroom at the birth center without crumbling into a heap on the floor. Without question, those naturally produced chemicals along with my husband and father-in-law (each bracing one of my arms) are the only reason I made it up the 27 stairs to our apartment that first night, too.
While the pain of walking – of moving in any way, actually – was excruciating, it never entered my mind that I couldn’t walk. I was going home to take care of my son.
When I first started researching “separated pelvis from childbirth” online, I found forums where women discussed not being able to walk for several days. I remember thinking: “I must not be that bad off then.” It took more time and attention to how I took each step up I could “do what I have to do,” unless it meant carrying my son while walking. That was physically impossible because I couldn’t pick my legs up while standing unless I was braced against something and able to lean slightly forward. I put him in a Moby wrap when I absolutely needed to get around with him.
The more days passed, the more pain I felt. And “what I have to do” became only using the bathroom. Everything else was done from my bed. Looking back, those endorphins and adrenaline were wearing off and I was left with a new reality. Everything I imagined about those precious two weeks with no work commitments* had flown out the window. There would be no family runs with the baby in the racing stroller with miniature snow tires. There couldn’t even be strolls in the crisp January air. It was all I could do to prop myself up enough to feed the little guy.
To complicate matters, my son’s bilirubin kept climbing. We had to make daily trips to the hospital to get him checked out. After two visits, my husband started taking him on his own so I could rest. The little guy was admitted to the hospital at five days old. That meant more adrenaline for me. And a reclining chair that I didn’t leave for three days, except to use the bathroom.
For two days I couldn’t touch my son. Not even to feed him or hug him or give him a kiss. He needed to be in the incubator constantly so his tiny body could soak up the rays and break down the dead red blood cells that were making him sick.
Visitors could put their hands in through the port holes on the side of the incubator, but not me. I couldn’t stand there long enough to do it. I watched him, talked to him, sent every ounce of energy I had his way. I can’t tell you how many times I broke down crying from the stress, the pain and the fear. I cried so much that a hospital social worker came to talk to me. She told me it was OK to take my pain medication. That I had to take care of myself in order to take care of my son.
Slowly, he got better. His bilirubin peaked at 27 that first night. He narrowly avoided a blood exchange transfusion and became famous on the pediatrics floor for having the highest bilirubin any of the nurses could recall. When his bilirubin got to 13 I was able to hold him, and nurse him. (That’s when I met Deb from the breastfeeding clinic.) When it reached 11 they let us go home, with orders to have it checked for the next several days at the breastfeeding clinic.
The relief of knowing he would be alright was incredible. But soon after, all of the adrenaline that was pushing me forward abandoned me. The pain medication helped some, but it didn’t make me feel whole. In a battle of pain vs. adrenaline, eventually, pain will win.
*I started my job while pregnant so I didn’t qualify for paid maternity leave. I had two weeks of sick time and personal time saved up. After those first two weeks, I started working from home four hours per day. I returned to campus on Thursday, March 1, to ensure a full paycheck for the month. My son was five weeks and five days old, too young to start day care. My boss is wonderful and allowed him to come with me. He slept on my chest in the Moby for two days. He started daycare at six weeks and one day old.