By Susan Gerald
I didn’t have PGP in my first pregnancy but with my second, I seemed to have pain and difficulty walking or driving in the first few weeks after the pregnancy test told me I was expecting. I am normally quite an optimistic person and felt that I would take this challenge in my stride. Talking it through with my husband, we agreed that the best thing to do was to plan as much as I could ahead of the birth and find practical ways to help me manage. This article is about some of the things that really helped me, which I hope might be useful to other women who find they have symptoms of PGP.
An energetic job
I work for the council as a dog warden which involves a fair amount of walking in town following up sightings of stray or nuisance dogs and also driving the van to the pound. It soon became clear to my employer and to me that I couldn’t manage the hours or the tasks that used to come so easily and I was really struggling as I approached my third month of pregnancy. At first I was nervous about bringing up my PGP symptoms with my boss and discussing ways to alter my role so it was manageable. However, a particularly bad day at work, and just after a good treatment session, made me realise that I had to do something.
Talking to my boss
Actually, my boss was great and we had both thought of the same person who could cover much of the practical work but could liaise with me concerning action to be taken and the associated admin. Together with the HR department, my boss suggested that for the duration of the pregnancy, I could also take on some extra data entry work and phone interviews to keep me occupied for just under my usual amount of hours – I was working part-time as it was which helped. I worked from home most mornings and went into the office when I could. On a bad day when my mobility was particularly poor or the pain was severe, I rang in to talk to my boss and colleagues instead of driving in. Towards the end of the pregnancy, we agreed that I would work mainly from home with more calls in and a few visits from my boss.
I had a laptop from work that I put on the kitchen table and I felt very pleased that I could still work while the pregnancy progressed. I am very lucky that my husband has a good job so money wasn’t as big a problem for us as it might have been. However, all my family live in Scotland, so I was worried that living in Hull would present problems because I couldn’t easily call on my mum and sister for support.
Making some changes to suit my needs
The hardest thing for me was to decide that my son, James, who was about two and a half when I fell pregnant again, should start going to nursery during the mornings and to a childminder for two afternoons a week.
At first I felt very guilty that he wouldn’t be staying at home with me for very long. However, he had started to get very boisterous and I simply couldn’t manage to keep him busy and occupied. Thankfully, it quickly became clear that the transition suited him as much as it helped me. He seemed to love the range of activities at the nursery and wasn’t in the least bit clingy. James also settled in very quickly with the childminder who was a friend of mine and whose son was the same age as James.
Sometimes I couldn’t do much and it was a struggle to keep motivated. However, I did get into a good routine each day where I would get soup ready in a Thermos flask and sit and work at the kitchen table in the mornings and then do a few household chores or some phone calls in the afternoon. My GP had experienced PGP herself and she referred me to a physio early on and that really helped to keep me comfortable and reasonably mobile.
A real stroke of luck
I was also very lucky to have a neighbour, Jan, whose girls were both at college and who wanted to feel ‘needed’ again. Over a cup of tea at the garden centre, she had been telling me how she was lonely because her husband worked long hours and she felt at a loose end. Before I thought much about it, I found myself asking if she could help me for a few hours each day. And that’s how Jan got involved, helping on the days when I was struggling and suggesting some ways she could add value. Jan got on top of the laundry and did several evening meals a week for me.
At first it was embarrassing because she wouldn’t take any money but I managed to persuade her to agree to a basic payment by the hour as she was spending so much time in the afternoons at my house. Over time, she has helped me to get out and about, to use mobility scooters and to take my son to the park. She encouraged me to use the crutches that the hospital gave me and to see my friends rather than just concentrating on housework. Jan’s help was also invaluable when I had my baby, Abi, who is now ten months old.
Jan has really become one of the family and I don’t know how I would have managed without her. She still helps me around the house and with some cooking even though my PGP is much better. The symptoms haven’t completely gone but my physio has helped me to make real progress and I can walk much better and don’t need the crutches. When my maternity leave finished, I went back to the council but decided to move to a different role supervising data entry as my work during my pregnancy showed that I could manage. Jan has been a real support and she says that she feels useful and busy again so the whole experience has been mutually beneficial.
Finding someone like Jan isn’t going to be possible for everyone and I appreciate that not many women will be able to pay for help. However, I would strongly encourage other women who do not have family locally to seek the support of a friend or friends to help out. I know I would have found it very hard to manage without Jan’s support. I would also suggest that it is worth talking to your boss as soon as you can about PGP. I know that my department valued me and wanted to keep me on as an employee. Replacing someone can cost a company a lot of money and over the years, the employer has often invested time and training in you and other employees, so it can be very useful to both you and your employer to come up with ways to manage health issues like PGP and still get tasks done.
Thanks Susan for telling us your story. Planning and looking for realistic ways to get tasks done can help you to feel more in control when you have PGP. Paying for childcare or help around the home can be too much for many women who have no family nearby, and sometimes it requires some very creative thinking and a lot of organising to call in a wider circle of friends or acquaintances to help with small individual tasks rather than relying on one person for a large amount of help. If you have found practical ways around the problems of managing with PGP, please get in touch via our feedback form so we can share them with other women.