Battle scars

I used to be a runner. I’ve written about it here, talking about how running became hard for me physically and emotionally at the end of pregnancy. I was proud of how far along I was when I went for my last run – 31 weeks. I would go for a run (ok, ok a very slow jog), usually before work 3-5 times per week, getting my 3 miles done in 35 minutes or so.

When I was hospitalized at 34 weeks, I had to be on the monitor 23 hours a day and wasn’t supposed to leave the hospital, so I was limited in my exercise ability. I settled for a mini-bootcamp with an exercise band and medicine ball I had gotten as gifts.

After Mabel was born, I knew I needed exercise. We commonly tell patients, no real exercise until 6 weeks postpartum. I used to tell my patients that they could do some light exercise, like walking, when their bleeding stopped. I did not take my own advice. I was doing yoga at 10 days postpartum and back at bootcamp (with modifications and accompanied by my midwife) at 2.5 weeks. I will now counsel patients differently.

But even before I started back at bootcamp, I would walk. Chris and I would hit up the local “rail trail” (and old railroad track converted into a paved path frequented by walkers and cyclists). It was winter and our area had been hit by an enormous amount of snowfall, so rather than brave the sidewalk-less streets in our country-living town, we would bundle up and head to the rail trail nearby. Our town plowed a mile and a half of it in the winter, so it was a safe place to walk and get fresh air. At first the walking was slow going, but as the days progressed, I could do more faster. I was limited mostly by my pelvis. There is a bone- the symphasis pubis- in the front part of the pelvis (the pubic bone in more common terms) that has a joint in it. In pregnancy, the body makes a hormone called relaxin, which, as its name implies, relaxes the joints in the body. Its main target is the pelvis, loosening the hinges to make more room for a baby to pass through. Many pregnant women speak of loose joints that sometimes can be painful and that’s due to the relaxin, which works on all the joints- not just the pelvis.

My body made plenty of relaxin. As pregnancy progressed, I would be sore after a run. I’d feel it in my pelvis, my symphasis mostly. I remember vowing the day after the Thanksgiving turkey trot we ran that I was done running- my pelvis ached! I’d need a little assistance getting off the couch and climbing stairs would smart. I’d ice, stretch and see the chiropractor, but nothing really helped. So eventually I gave up running and moved on to bootcamp. After Mabel was born and we were walking I felt that familiar burning, lingering pain in my symphasis. I wasn’t worried; it can take time to heal. I eventually worked myself up from walking to interval jogging to my usual three-mile stint at a slow pace. Week after week I’d keep at it, slow and steady as I regained my stamina. Though I gave it time, my pelvis seemed stationary in its healing process. I continued the stretching, ice and the chiropractor but found myself running less and going to bootcamp more. I think I’ve run once in the past two months.

I finally made an appointment with physical therapy to try to get some help, but part of me realizes that my jogging days might be over. I am well past a reasonable recovery time and have come to accept that this might be one of my battle scars. I was fortunate to never get a stretchmark in pregnancy- the only few I have developed on my breasts during the rapid and impressive engorgement I experienced a few days after birth. The shape of them have changed too. Other than that, I have few physical reminders that my body once bore a baby.

Part of me hates the loss of running due to my invisible battle wound on my pelvis, but part of me thinks of it fondly. Just like the milk that came in so insistently after Mabel was born, my painful pelvis is a reminder that though there is no baby, there was a baby.

What about you- what are your battle scars? Are they public or invisible? How do you feel about them?

 

*************

Today is a special day, a little girl named Calla was born two years ago today. I’ve never met her.  I didn’t know her mom or her dad or her two big brothers when she was born.  I only know them now because Calla Pearl was born sleeping.  Though I wish that weren’t the case and she were a lively two year old sapping her mom’s energy, I am grateful that I have met Calla’s mom and her family.  Today I tried to picture what I think she would have looked like as a two year old.  I base my vision on the precious photo her mom showed me and how her two older brothers look.  But I know she is and ever will be the baby born too soon and too silent.  I think of Calla being a friend to Mabel, showing her how to be a baby separated from her mother, in the way Calla’s mom is helping show me how to be a mother separated from her baby.

Happy Birthday, Calla Pearl.

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16 thoughts on “Battle scars

  1. Battle scars… i could probably write a whole post about them. Some deep invisible scars but also some visible ones. So many lines (a c-section scar, and many many stretch marks), several stubborn pounds, a few grey hair… But i am also amazed at how well my body has recovered.

    I want to like these signs of Paul’s growth in me. I want to love them. I am not there yet but i am working on it.

    I am thinking of Calla and Mabel tonight.

    • yes, write a whole post about them! I’d read it 🙂 Its funny you mentioned gray hair. I always felt inappropriately smug that I didnt really have any (inappropriate because we have no control over the gray hairs we get!). But after Mabel came and went, I noticed a couple big patches of them. So much so I googled whether stress can really cause gray hair (answer: if you’re genetically prone to early graying- and I probably am if you consider my father’s white hair as a guidelines- stress can increase it) So I think you’re right, she gave me a few gray hairs too 🙂

      loving the scars will always come with a challenge, I think. My saggy breasts make me sad for what they are not- the perky things my pre-baby self had, the saggy things a mother who has breastfed has- but they are some of the few things that remind me that, yes, I had a baby. a real one.

    • the c-section scar must be a big one (in the figurative sense)- the scar that saved your life and brought you the fighter that was Hugo, but also the reminder of how Hugo isnt here. I hard one. (and yes, sooo many emotional scars)

  2. Dear Meghan, I’ve read your whole blog from beginning to end, and now I am compelled to comment. My heart aches for you. I am always so sad to hear of good loving people struggling with infertility or losing their precious babies. I am at a loss for words on what I can say to a kind hearted, funny, intelligent, and loving woman such as yourself who has lost her baby. I am sad. And I am sorry. Mabel would have had such a treasured life with you and your husband. Life can be so unfair…. I truly hope that your heart is healing. There is so much heartache in this life. I hope that you and Chris – and all the other sweet baby mums who visit and comment on your blog – will all find love and joy with your partners, your living children, your future children, your beloved memories of your lost children, and yourself. Life is beautiful too. I hope my sincere words bring a smile to all your faces. Your children were special, they are still special. They have enabled strangers to come together and wish each other peace. They have enabled us to share in our sufferings with each other . And they have enabled us to embrace each other with a special grace…. Thinking of you all..

    • Elizabeth, thank you for such kind words and reading about my baby (and reading of others’ babies as well). It means the world to me that you are reading and bearing witness to my daughter and my grief. thank you!

  3. I love the beautiful memorial tribute to Calla at the end of this post. It is so kind of you to remember her and her family. Wishing Calla a very happy birthday and loving memories of her to all who have been touched by her.

  4. Thanks for sharing your personal and professional perspective. I started doing yoga again the day after I came back from the hospital – very gently, and as my twins were born at 20w this doesn’t compare to a full-term delivery, but I think I needed to do something. To feel at home again in this body that seemed to have betrayed my babies. My pelvic floor, which doesn’t feel comfortable with pregnancy, bounced back to much better within days (except when I cough or sneeze, but it’s been that way since I had surgery many years ago). Most of my scars, I think, are invisible and emotional.

    • Twenty weeks with twins is the physical equivalant of being further along with a singleton pregnancy. I’m sure your children took a tool on your body- I’m so glad you were able to find something to help strengthen it. I did a little yoga postpartum (aside from walking, it was the first exercise i did). It was challenging and good mentally. It was a good start physically, though all the warrior poses caused extra stress on my pubic bone, so eventually it fell by the wayside for me.

      Most of out scars are invisible- I’m happy to talk about my pelvic floor to anyone who asks, but not surprising, people dont!

  5. My doctor said I was supposed to lose 20 pounds after giving birth. I gained 20 pounds and can’t get rid of them instead. (She was very unhappy with me, because as it was I wasn’t supposed to gain ANY weight while I was pregnant since I am “obese” and I gained 30 pounds, so gaining the extra 20 afterwards made me a big disappointment.) I hate that I can barely fit the clothes I wore when I was pregnant. I feel self-conscious about it so much that I feel it counts as a “battle scar.” I almost feel like I have to explain to people that I’m not just a mindless eating machine. I just can’t lose the weight.

    Aside from that, back pain. I thought Seraphim bruised part of my back with his head, but since it’s still tender, I’m not sure it’s just a bruise any more.

    • Ugh! Baby and grief weight certainly counts as a battle scar! It would have been different if Seraphim had lived. And it’s such an outward scar- one that you want to announce to the world. It reminds me of when I was at the tailor 4 weeks postpartum and she asked if I was pregnant. I wanted to justify my body. What I had just been through! If we could only wear a sign that says- I’m like this because my baby died!

      your back and my pelvis are quite similar. I wonder if the lack of fluid did it- our babies couldnt move or shift very much so constant pressure on the same spot surely did it. hope you heal soon!

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