I had relatively minor PGP symptoms in my first pregnancy when I had Jonathan. My midwife had said that the slight pain and clicking noise my pelvis sometimes made when I moved were probably because I had PGP. She arranged for me to see a physiotherapist and, after one session, I walked out feeling fine with a greater range of movement and didn’t think I needed any follow-ups. I enjoyed getting ready for our baby. I wasn’t in a hurry to rush back to my job of playing violin in an orchestra and remember spending a very happy period getting the house ready and starting to buy bits and pieces for the baby.
Unfortunately, the PGP symptoms got much worse after a difficult birth. Labour started normally but when I was admitted to the hospital, things started to happen quickly and it all seemed messy because there wasn’t a labour room free and the young midwife seemed out of her depth. To cut a long story short, I had a difficult birth and even though a very experienced midwife supported the one who seemed so inexperienced, my pelvis was compromised. I think this was because the team were very keen to get my baby out and the reality of my PGP was forgotten. I think that in helping me deliver Jonathan, the midwives over extended my ‘pain-free-gap’ by opening my legs too wide. I was so excited about my son’s arrival and that night all seemed well as I dozed with him in bed. However, when my husband left and I settled down for the night at the hospital, I found that I couldn’t get up to go to the toilet. My legs didn’t seem to function, my pelvis was very sore and I couldn’t walk at all.
When we brought baby Jonathan home, the first month went OK because my mum stayed with us and frankly, she ran the house and did practically everything for me and the family. I was hobbling about and while mum was staying, I found a private physiotherapist who seemed to be helping and we also got hold of a perching stool and various items of equipment so I could get about more easily at home. It was only after mum had gone that I started to feel guilty that I couldn’t function properly without her help. My husband was really patient but I felt guilty that the house was a tip and that he frequently had to finish cooking our evening meal because I was so behind and had to attend to the baby. I also started to feel miserable that I couldn’t get out and about like some of my friends who had babies and I was stuck at home.
After a while I realised that I wasn’t getting better as quickly as I had hoped. My physio was lovely but we didn’t seem to be making much progress. My sister came to stay to help out and she really didn’t understand what PGP was, and although she helped with Jonathan and cooked our meals, I felt she didn’t believe that I was in pain and couldn’t walk. She was very kind but I felt as though she couldn’t understand the PGP and thought I should be grateful that Jonathan was fit, healthy and such a gorgeous baby. She encouraged me to sleep in most mornings and I found I hadn’t the energy or the desire to get up, so I would sleep for longer and longer. Looking back, I think I was very low.
My health visitor realised I was sad and she went through some questions with me to assess whether I had postnatal depression. I started to cry and I think we both realised that I needed some help. After that (and some short term medication from the doctor), I felt less sad but it took several months before I could really see an improvement in my health. My physio asked her more experienced colleague to help with my manual therapy and I started to feel less pain and less stiff. My mobility started to improve and I was surprised that it took longer for me to feel less weepy and more like my old self. There was also a phase where I felt very angry at not being the kind of mother I wanted to be. Luckily, the whole episode didn’t drive a wedge between my husband and me and he was always there for me, as was my best friend.
My mum made frequent visits to help us and she also found me a counsellor. I had been on an NHS waiting list but mum and dad paid for me to have six sessions and that really helped. Although I was getting over the depression by then, it did help to talk to someone who was completely outside the situation and there just for me. We discussed little goals and treats that helped me keep going.
Writing all this down, I don’t think I realised how low I was until I started to recover. Now I would encourage any women with PGP to make sure their emotional needs are given as much attention as their physical symptoms. Having the Pelvic Partnership’s helpline was a real comfort because I knew I wasn’t alone and I felt real support from the email responses I got. I feel I have so much to appreciate in my own situation and I hope other women get good care and support too.
Thanks, Sylvie, for sharing the emotional aspects of having PGP.