“You’re strong-willed” is a compliment. “You’re stubborn” implies arrogance, even a propensity for self-destruction. I was most certainly the latter when I landed on my backside on my basement floor recently. Four days after my second daughter’s birth, my stubborn nature left my body bruised and my ego the same. I was weaker than I realized. Falling down the wooden stairs to our unfinished basement, fresh off a Cesarean section, I had hit a literal and figurative rock bottom. I was filled with regret and a lot of pain.
Not everyone in my household was on board with this misguided adventure. My husband questioned whether I should be going downstairs solo. I’d only gotten back on my feet two days earlier. My sister’s wedding was the next day, we were rehearsal-bound that night (what a week, right?!) and I needed those high heels out of storage. I was desperate to regain my strength and independence after a difficult pregnancy. I wanted to do things for myself. I’ll blame the mix of hormones and mild painkillers for the lapse in judgement which landed me on my rear—but not back in the hospital. I got lucky. Really lucky.
After a pair of pregnancies in less than five years, I hadn’t realized how weird things had gotten. Muscles were out of place. Ligaments were constantly aching. Is this just the way things are now? I didn’t think my situation was severe enough to require physical therapy. I didn’t know that left untreated, these complications could lead to a multitude of health issues that could arise years into the future.
By the third trimester of my second pregnancy, I could barely walk. Limping around the office or the grocery store, I drew looks of pity from colleagues and strangers. “I don’t think you’re going to make it another six weeks,” one woman told me. She was wrong. I hobbled through another month and a half all the way to delivery day. Margot was born May 28th, a happy, cuddly bundle, who is perched up against her Boppy flashing toothless grins my way as I write this.
Three months A.M. (after-Margot), things are far from “normal,” but I’m more energized than ever. Exercise is a part of my life again and so is physical therapy. After I complained about ongoing pain, my OB referred me to a physical therapist specializing in pelvic rehabilitation. In some countries, like France, six weeks of postpartum pelvic PT is just the norm. It makes sense, considering that 60 percent of women experience Diastasis Recti, a separation of the abdominal wall, which can lead to pelvic pain. Many others experience pelvic floor issues, but according to the National Institutes of Health, those complications go largely unreported.
I’ve come to learn that had I sought physical therapy after my first child, I may not have experienced such a painful and difficult pregnancy and recovery the second time around. Now, instead of facing an uphill battle to regain my body, I’m looking at a mountain. That’s fine, I like mountains. As you know, I’m stubborn but I’m also strong-willed.