“DISABLED” isn’t a word associated with pregnancy but a label I’ve put on myself. At 36 weeks gestation, lower left hip and pelvic Sacro-Illiac (SI) joint pains have plagued my body for over half of my current pregnancy. Pre-pregnancy, I lived a busy life as a mother of an energetic 3 year old boy, a daughter, wife, hula dancer, and full-time occupational therapist treating patients with disabilities. This active lifestyle significantly changed 6 months into my pregnancy when my doctor urged me to stop working. Unable to comprehend this, I had my first breakdown, crying embarrassingly, feeling like a failed professional because I was abandoning my patients prematurely when I’d hoped to work until my scheduled maternity leave – like my colleagues. I too became the visibly disabled. I eventually accepted that my body couldn’t withstand my job’s physical demands and left work hoping to gain relief but the SI joint pains only intensified.
The relaxin hormone, that is responsible for widening child-bearing hips for delivery, came at me with full vengeance. It destabilized my SI joints while it weakened my hip muscles and misaligned my body, resulting in substantial piercing back pain whenever I would walk, sit, stand, or lay down for prolonged periods. If not for my chiropractic, acupuncture, pelvic floor physiotherapy, and massage therapy treatments (which I intend to continue after the baby is born), I wouldn’t be able to muster up the energy to take a shower or bring my son to the park. A cane, SI belt, kinesiology tape and exercise ball have all been my true “saviours”, granting me the sanity to get through my days.
Initially, I felt ashamed as people would stare with confusion or judgement when seeing me walk with a cane, stepping out of the driver’s seat in a wheelchair accessible parking spot, or using an electric shopping cart, given my healthy appearance and looking younger than my age – an atypical representation of a pregnant woman. So whenever I saw an able-bodied expectant mother, briskly walking with no difficulties, a loathing wave of jealousy swept over me. Why wasn’t she suffering like me? I’m sure she could pick up and carry a basket of laundry, a task I never struggled with before but can’t perform now.
Let’s not get caught up in the glorified illusion that motherhood is perfect because I guarantee every mother can share at least one “horror” story that doesn’t fit this perfect image. We may think it’s irrelevant to talk about our challenges in fear of being perceived as incompetent mothers, but if we don’t express ourselves openly and honestly, we’ll never realize it’s a normal part of motherhood.
I look forward to the day when I won’t have to crawl into bed on all fours to get into a sleeping position; and wince, moan and groan when rolling in bed to eventually stand up from a sitting position – actions requiring minutes rather than seconds. I also won’t miss dragging my feet along the ground because it’s too painful to lift them up to walk to the bathroom situated only two feet away. Finally, I look forward to returning to doing my toilet hygiene from the rear because the pain when shifting my hips to wipe has only taught me one thing…to clean from the front.
I’m hoping that by sharing the following lessons I’ve learned and implemented throughout my second pregnancy, it will help other mothers through their own challenges. Without these lessons, I wouldn’t be coping as well as I am today.
1) Do whatever treatments you can during and after pregnancy
There’s no monetary value that can be placed on your personal health. A functioning body promotes a healthy mind and it’s critical to take care of yourself first in order to care for others. The infamous penguin waddle doesn’t have to be tolerated with the right attention given to your body. That’s why I highly recommend treatments DURING pregnancy to address any issues. My treatments have helped control my pain and prepare my body for a non-complicated delivery to term. My post-pregnancy goals are to walk pain free and carry my newborn – things I’d taken for granted.
2) Ask for help and be open to receiving it
I still recall coming home from one of my treatments in the most excruciating pain and feeling helpless. In that moment of despair, I called and asked my parents to pick up my son from daycare and to help take care of him. Asking for help is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn to accept and do. As mothers, many of us have this self-expectation of being superwomen who do everything. However, I’ve come to the realization that I can’t manage alone. Being home full time, I appreciate when my husband is home from work to help with the simple things, like giving our son his night-time bath.
3) Shift your mindset
Accept all consequences of the physical struggles. If my dishes aren’t clean or my son is getting more screen time than usual, I accept that it’s okay. Yes, pregnancy can be disabling. Know your limits and don’t judge yourself if you need a break. Be mindful of your internal and external dialogue because, what we think, we create and manifest. I refrain from dwelling on the negative when asked how I’m doing even when I’m not feeling my best.
4) Practice gratitude
Most importantly, I focus on all things I am grateful for. This, I believe, requires no further explanation as it speaks for itself.
I want to lead by example and send the message that motherhood can also look like me, a pregnant woman who walks proudly with a cane. Let’s not get caught up in the glorified illusion that motherhood is perfect because I guarantee every mother can share at least one “horror” story that doesn’t fit this perfect image. We may think it’s irrelevant to talk about our challenges in fear of being perceived as incompetent mothers, but if we don’t express ourselves openly and honestly, we’ll never realize it’s a normal part of motherhood. Take my experience as your permission to celebrate and embrace ALL parts of it!
Now, I prefer to think of myself as “enabled” rather than “disabled”. My story is a testament that when life doesn’t go as planned, and it looks and feels completely different than expected, there’s always a choice…and I choose to be an empowered woman regardless of my physical challenges.
What’s your story?…