Bilateral femoral neuropathy: a journey to recovery

This story was written by Reagan S., the creator of “Nerve Damage from Childbirth.”


Writing this was harder than I expected. After having created this whole website, you’d think just sharing my experience and the reason behind creating this website, would be easy. But it wasn’t. Making the website was very factual. It wasn’t about me; it was about a health condition and a larger group of people. Writing this story is me. It’s now part of who I am. Sharing this is exposing a part of my story, a part of my heart and soul, that I generally keep tucked away.

I warn you, this post is long. I didn’t feel like I could share as much, hopefully, helpful information for those that need it by cutting it short. And I warn you, this post is real. It talks about dilating, nipples, catheters, commodes, and more. So bare with me. Hopefully it’ll be worth it in the end.

I encourage questions and comments. But please, remember, I did my best. I’m still trying to do my best. Unkindness and judgement have no place here.

Labor and Delivery

I’d consider my pregnancy pretty easy. I wasn’t one that LOVED being pregnant but I definitely didn’t mind it. I got migraines for a few weeks the first trimester. I had terrible carpal tunnel the third trimester but I quickly found that acupuncture took away 95% of the pain. I gained 23 pounds. I worked out 5 days a week – Pilates, Barre, kickboxing and boot camp – until the week before I gave birth. I only stopped going then so I could do long walks, lunging up hills, trying to induce labor. The day before I gave birth I walked over three miles. So long story short, I went into childbirth healthy, active, happy and with no real reason to think delivery wouldn’t go relatively smoothly.

At 41 weeks, 5 days my little girl was still very happy inside my belly, so I went in for an appointment with my OB, knowing it’d be my last before either munchkin came out on her own or they “made” her come out. I guess my body had hit its pregnancy limit as I had sky high blood pressure, which hadn’t been an issue previously. That afternoon I was headed straight for the hospital to be monitored before being induced the next day.

The on-call OB placed a foley bulb on a Thursday evening, saying it would be in place for 12 hours to try to ready my body to be induced. After that time period I would receive pitocin to force my body into labor. I wasn’t thrilled as I really wanted as natural of a birth as possible but I understood the risks of organ failure with my blood pressure. Fortunately my little one got the clue that it was time to come out, and a couple hours after we were admitted to the hospital, my water broke. I literally did a dance.

happydanceinlabor
My happy dance after my water broke.

About 12 hours after my water broke, I was fully effaced and dilated; I was ready to start pushing!

As with much of my labor, contractions came every minute. The nurses counted to ten for the pushes. My legs were raised high by my ears, me grabbing them along with one or two people on each side helping to hold. The contractions came fast enough I barely ever lowered my legs. After pushing for 2 hours, the on-call OB came in to suggest a c-section. “You must be getting tired,” I remember hearing her say. “Tired! Tired? I trained 10 months for this. Don’t tell me I’m getting tired. If the baby is okay and I am okay, medically, then I want to keep going,” I responded. Talking to her for those five minutes was the only time I fully extended my legs. Both the baby’s and my vitals were healthy and strong, so the OB left and said she’d be back to check on me a little later.

The baby was so close – we could see the top of her head (where in the world did that black hair come from?!). The nurses put a mirror “down there” in hopes that seeing her would give me extra motivation. Each push the nurses cheered me on saying, “You’re doing it perfectly. Let’s make it to the count of 15 this time.” And so I did. Each time thinking it would be the time she would crown.

After four hours of pushing the on-call OB came back. She examined me and the baby, concluding, “You need to have a c-section.” That was all. “I can keep going. I’m tired but I have more in me. I’d like a second opinion. I need more reason than ‘you’re tired’,” I responded. The attending OB came in, did an exam and checked all the vitals. He explained further, “The baby is still strong and healthy. But your temperature is getting very high suggesting a uterine infection. And even more importantly, after feeling your pelvis, sacrum and baby’s head, there is no way she’s coming out vaginally with everyone healthy. You could keep pushing but either her head will be permanently damaged or you will break your sacrum. We don’t know all the complications that could arise if we go this route. I know you’ve worked hard to get here and you don’t want a c-section, but we know the risks of one and they are much lower than if we continue here.” (I later found out this is called Cephalopelvic disproportion). I looked at my husband, he nodded. I whispered, as the exhaustion finally set in, “Ok, let’s do it…. now please get me a bucket I’m going to throw up.” I threw up whatever was left in me after 16 hours of labor and then dry heaved. This isn’t what I had wanted.

I pulled myself together as I wiped the bile from my mouth: we talked about this. Our biggest goal is baby and mommy are healthy and together. Whatever means necessary. I tried. I really did. God knows I tried. But it wasn’t meant to be. We can do this.

The nurses jumped right in. After working so hard with me to have a vaginal delivery, they continued to cheer me on. “Just think, you’re going to meet your little girl so soon! She’s going to be so beautiful, just like her mama!”  We joked as they got out the razor. “Sorry for the mess,” I said. “I haven’t been able to see down there in months.”

My husband was whisked away to sign a thousand pages of liability forms and to scrub in, while I headed to the OR.

Numbing agents were administered through an epidural as my stomach was cleaned and prepped. The anesthesiologist pulled out his handy pin. Poke, poke, poke, he went on my stomach: “Let me know if you can feel this.” I chuckled, “If I hadn’t just gone through labor, I would tell you that hurt.” “Ok I’ll up the dose.” Over and over this happened, though my cleverness died as I started shaking uncontrollably from the drugs. Tears streamed down my eyes. Where is my husband? Why isn’t the anesthesia working? Why is everyone talking around me, above me, and not to me. My husband walked in. We hadn’t even held hands and the anesthesiologist explained, “The drugs through the epidural line aren’t working enough to numb you and we don’t have time to redo the epidural. We have to get this baby out and you out of labor. We have to give you general, which means no non-medical personnel. Say goodbye to eachother.” A quick peck on the lips was all we got and as I watched him walk away, reaching out to me, they placed a mask on my face and everything went black.

I woke up two hours later. My mom, who flew in from two states away the afternoon I headed to the hospital, was now sitting in my room, but I don’t remember much else for a while. Finally I pieced together that my husband was trying to get it so my daughter and I could be together. So groggy from everything I said “Together? We’re not together? Why not? Where is she?”

It ends up a danger of general anesthesia is it hitting the baby through the umbilical cord before they can get the baby out. So my daughter was delivered not breathing and with a heart beat of 60 beats per minute (it should be 150). They had a team of pediatricians running from NICU to get to her to resuscitate her. It took seven minutes, at which time she was finally crying and breathing normally. She was sent to the NICU to be monitored.

babynotbreathing
My daughter unresponsive after being born.

My mom and husband knew the best thing for me at that moment (and of course the  baby) was to get us together. My husband and mom finally convinced and compromised with the powers that be to have me wheeled to the NICU so we could at least meet. I’m still not fully sure if I remember us meeting for the first time because I actually remember it or because of the pictures. But they set her on my chest and let me snuggle her for twenty minutes until my allotted time was up. They said I “had” to get to my recovery room. My husband promised he’d get our baby released as soon as was safe and be with us. My mom and nurse wheeled me away.

Six hours after my baby was born she was released from the NICU. Fortunately she was proving to be a fighter and after the original trauma she was showing great vital signs and seeming to be rebounding very well.

18 hours and 19 minutes after my water broke and I started labor, Kaelyn was born at 5:19 pm on a Friday.  We got to be officially together around midnight that night.

reunited
Reunited and it feels so good.

The Hospital Stay

After spending Saturday just trying to get our bearings (I was still groggy from the general anesthesia and not sleeping for two nights in a row), on Sunday, the nurses wanted to get me up and walking around. I told them I couldn’t feel my right leg at all nor part of the left. I didn’t think I could stand. I hadn’t mentioned it previously because I just figured it was still part of the drugs and really didn’t know any better. The nurse didn’t believe me and thought I was just being sensitive after all that had happened. I told her I would try only if she got someone to stand on both sides of me. Despite this precaution, as soon as my weight descended on to my legs, I collapsed. They fortunately believed me then.

First the anesthesiologist came in and after an exam said it wasn’t caused by any of the anesthesia they used. Next the OB came in and said they’d be sending in neurologists. I first saw two residents, who did a basic exam, and went back to their professor with the information. My right leg was completely non-functional and my left was affected between knee and ankle. I could not move nor feel anything in my right leg from my hip down. My toes couldn’t even wiggle. I had to use my arms to lift my leg up to slide it across the bed and sit up. I had no reflexes whatsoever. I couldn’t feel anything to the touch. My left leg was much better but I still couldn’t feel my knee, movement was impaired and my reflexes were diminished. We spent the rest of the day  incredibly fearful of what exactly was wrong.

On Monday, the neurology professor and a team of about 8 residents descended upon my hospital room. After another exam – lift your leg, bend your leg, wiggle your toes, can you feel this pin prick, how are your reflexes – it was explained that I had femoral nerve damage. While the team had never seen it before, the neurologist explained that “studies say” it is caused by being in the lithotomy position for too long or by too deep of a lithotomy position (legs pulled back up towards your ears, with knees bent), which fit with my labor of pushing for almost 4 hours in the lithotomy position. They recommend physical therapy and occupational therapy come by to work with me on basic exercises and how to manage getting home. I was told recovery would probably be 6 weeks to 3 months; we’d make a follow up appointment at 6 weeks.

As the nurses realized that I wasn’t standing up and walking anywhere any time soon, they brought in occupational therapy that afternoon. The primary concern is I still had my catheter in from the c-section, and while I was being pumped full of antibiotics due to the uterine infection and the surgery, they were still highly concerned about a bladder or urinary tract infection after 4 days of catheter usage. The staff brought in a portable commode and placed it directly next to my bed. Originally, the plan was to place a flat wooden board next to my bottom, angled down onto the toilet. With my arms and some help, I could wiggle my way on to the board, slide down to the toilet, where someone could help lift my gown up and my underwear down; I’d do my business, then try to pull myself back up. After a few times of this, my husband and I figured out it was easier to have him lift me from bed, set me down, and lift me back up again. I guess privacy (my first sponge bath by a nurse was while sitting on this toilet) and any sense of the romance was long gone by this point! The occupational therapist also recommended I keep the intermittent pneumatic compression device on my legs until I could start moving so I wouldn’t have issues with blood clots.

With all of the different doctors and staff, we probably had someone coming in every half hour to hour during the day and every 2 hours all night. It didn’t leave me a lot of time to bond with or have special time with my newborn, for whom I was still trying to care.

On Tuesday, I received the news that broke me the most – my milk was officially late. I was putting Kaelyn to my breast and pumping every two hours ever since we were reunited. The lactation consultants visited multiple times a day to help with latching and to try to stimulate my milk supply. Now I was told it maybe wasn’t coming at all? How was I supposed to be a mother if I couldn’t rock my baby, bounce my baby, get up to change her diaper, and now not even feed her? Four days after being born, she was loosing a substantial amount of weight and was dehydrated. We gave her sugar water just to try to get fluids in her. We finger fed her formula to get her calories. We used a nipple shield, with a syringe full of formula and a tube, to try to get her to latch and keep my breasts stimulated in hopes my milk was just late and not “not coming.” And then with so many doctors coming in and out, sometimes she was hungry and I wasn’t in a position to try to feed her, so my mom or husband would finger feed her, definitely not helping my case to get her to latch or get my milk in. But we did what we could. We tried. I tried.

Wednesday was a complete whirlwind. Physical therapy was at my room bright and early to review exercises I should try to do for recovery. I couldn’t actually do any of the exercises, since my leg literally would not move, but they said it was important to even just mentally go through the process and visualize doing the exercises. The therapist said it might help the nerves “remember” what they are supposed to be doing and repair themselves.

Occupational therapy was back with a walker. I stood up for the first time since the previous Friday. I slowly hobbled down the hallways of the maternity wing. We practiced how to get up and down some stairs, as I have to take stairs to enter my house and the therapist wanted us to be prepared for when we went home (the answer was my husband pretty much lifted/pushed me – I’ve never been so thankful he’s so much bigger than me!). When I got back to my room, I was exhausted. Having not even gotten out of bed since Friday, walking and doing stairs wore me right out. But the lactation consultant was there waiting for me and my daughter wanted to eat.

I braced myself for the emotional turmoil of once again not being able to take care of my newborn. We first attached the breast pump to try to stimulate the milk, figuring we’d then move to the nipple shield, syringe, tube, formula method of actually feeding Kaelyn. Then the best thing of my whole hospital stay happened (besides of course actually having my baby)! Milk started flowing while pumping! I wept with joy as we pulled the pump off and attempted to get Kaelyn to latch. Unfortunately, she was so used to the nipple shield she had no interest in the actual nipple. So we put the shield back on and worked to get her to suck on the breast through the shield. I didn’t care though – she was now really breastfeeding and I was able to do at least one thing almost right.

(As a side note to finish my breastfeeding story, our journey didn’t finish there but it got significantly better. My milk came in sufficiently and I was more than able to feed my little one. We saw a lactation consultant a couple times a week for about three weeks to continue to work on her latch and to get comfortable for a more sustainable breastfeeding relationship. It was hard to get to those appointments with not being able to walk, but I really wanted to breastfeed Kaelyn. After about four weeks of using the nipple shield, sometimes having to resort to finger feeding when she refused to latch, and sitting with my shirt off and strange fingers grabbing, twisting, and rubbing my breasts, we got a rhythm down! Breastfeeding has always remained uncomfortable and slightly painful for me, but ever since Kaelyn figured it out, she’s been very attached (pun intended!). She is now 21 months old and still breastfeeding multiple times a day.) 

Wednesday afternoon when the OB came to see me, she said it might look like I could go home that night. She explained that my daughter looked great after her scare and was now feeding. I was probably as mobile as I was going to be for a while and everything with the c-section seemed just fine. After six days, lying on a hospital bed, my husband sleeping on a cot, my mom driving from my house and back to the hospital after spending 14-18 hour days with us, being visited day and night every couple hours by doctors (let alone the newborn wakings!), I was ready to be in my own space and thrilled. We started packing up everything so we’d be prepared to be released.

The pediatrician did one last check up on my daughter and said she looked great. We needed to make sure she kept getting food of some sort, but we’d be back at our pediatrician in a couple days to make sure she was gaining weight and we already had appointments set up with the lactation consultant at my OB’s office. My IV was taken out, my leg compressor was taken off, and my husband picked up my pain prescriptions. Around 6pm that night the OB came back to do a final check up on me. Everything was going great until they took my blood pressure. It was sky high. We took a little break and they took it again. It was even higher – somewhere around 145/110. With tears in her eyes, the OB said “I know how badly you want to be released, but I can’t in good faith sign off on it. Chances are you’d be right back in here tonight with organ failure. It looks like you have postpartum pre-eclampsia. We’ll get meds in you right away and if we can stabilize you in 24 hours we can talk about releasing you again.”

Of course I was disappointed, but certainly knew the risks. My only request if we weren’t leaving was to then finally take a shower (and after a week, 16 hours of labor, a c-section, and formula and milk being spilled all over me, O.M.G. did it feel good!).

The next day we put a huge sign on the door “do not disturb.” My daughter was already released and I was fine except to have the nurse check my blood pressure and adjust my meds. I didn’t want the cleaning staff (as nice as they were), pediatrician nurses, o.t., p.t. neurologists, or anyone else bothering us. I was ready to bond with Kaelyn and actually rest – the number one thing they all kept telling me to do, but not actually allowing me to do!

Fortunately that evening came and my blood pressure had been under control for several hours. I was sent home with more medications and a blood pressure monitor. I had to check it every couple hours and report it back to my doctor’s office to ensure it remained within healthy levels.

We were finally able to go home!

Out I went, seven days later, in a wheel chair to my car. My husband carrying our baby. My mom in another car carrying my walker and all our belongings from the week. I once again tricep dipped and pull-up style got myself in to the car, dragging my worse leg behind me like a led weight.

I didn’t know exactly how we were going to handle being at home, but with the support of my family, I knew we’d figure it out.

The Recovery 

Stairs were tough for a long time, which we have a flight to enter my house and a flight to get to my bedroom and bathroom. For about three weeks, while my left leg was healing, my husband or mom had to essentially push/pull/carry me up the stairs. As the left knee gained sensation and function I was able to do more and more on my own, even though I still couldn’t feel my right leg at all. Fortunately, while a bit ironic, I was so happy that I’d previously had four knee surgeries as they prepared me well for how to do things with only one functioning leg, especially stairs!

We got creative with showers. My husband brought in one of our outdoor chairs and put it in our shower, which fortunately has a detachable spray head. I’d take my walker up to the lip of the shower and he’d pick me up and place me down on the chair. Then he’d wait in the bedroom until I was done, just trying to give me a few minutes of alone time, of quiet time and of feeling like I could do something myself.

Trips to the toilet were also tough for a while. With no knee or quad strength, it’s hard to sit. For a while I was hardly even steady enough to pull my own pants down. So my  mom or husband would help with each of those steps. And then pull me back up. Eventually, with the help of the walker and my arms, I was able to lower and lift myself (though I learned I had to be careful how much of that I did as I made my stitches bleed profusely about a week after being home while trying to do it myself).

For weeks, I was pretty much helped out of bed and downstairs to a chair, where I sat all day. Baby and food were brought to me, then I was helped back upstairs to bed. My butt hurt so bad from sitting that I used one of my nursing pillows to sit on (with the whole in the middle) and another to actual nurse Kaelyn.

myperchwhilerecovering
My permanent spot in the living room.

My biggest “rule” was that without the baby in my arms and with a helpful hand nearby, I would try to do everything myself at least once each day. I would try a stair on both legs each day by myself. I would try to sit by myself. I would try to take a step not holding the walker by myself. For a long time, I didn’t accomplish most of these tasks, but I had to push – there was literally a little life that depended on me getting better. Getting better wasn’t an option.

I did my exercises that physical therapy gave me in the hospital to the best of my ability. My left leg gained function and feeling quickly and by 3 weeks postpartum was pretty much back to normal. Doing the exercises on my right leg was much more of a mind exercise. I’d lay on the couch, holding my sleeping baby, thinking in my head: right leg move, right leg bend, right leg wiggle your toes. I’d scrunch my eyes, visualize it happening and start panting in concentration. For a long time, nothing happened. But then, eventually, something did.

Feeling started returning in my hip and my toes first. Then worked its way up and down, converging at my knee.

When I went in for my 6 week follow up appointment at the neurologist, like I already mentioned, my left leg was pretty much normal. My right leg had motion in my hip and foot through ankle, though very weak. I could not lift or feel my knee at all and about half my thigh and my whole shin were completely numb to touch. I remember the neurologist saying, “Okay, now kick your leg out.” Pause. Pause. Pause. “I’m not sure if you heard me – kick your leg out.” To which I responded, “I am or at least I am trying to.” The doctor recommended an EMG and nerve conduction study to confirm the full extent of the damage and the prognosis. Time would be my best and worst friend: only time can heal nerves. He said to do my best to just keep using my legs or trying to use my legs. The practice of “doing” something, even just mentally, would help retrain my nerves and hopefully get them firing again. The doctor recommended walking as much as possible and getting in to a pool if I had one available. He said physical therapy was optional and up to me. It wouldn’t actually help the nerves but it would keep my muscles from atrophying too much. I requested at-home physical therapy services and unfortunately the doctor said I wouldn’t qualify. Looking back on it now, I should have pushed this issue much harder. I could barely walk, I couldn’t drive and I had a newborn, so how was I supposed to get to the hospital, 40 minutes away, get through the maze of parking and elevators to go to the facilities, all while on a feed-every-two-hour schedule with a baby who wouldn’t take a bottle? But my mind didn’t connect all of that at the time; I was just trying to survive. So instead, I kept pushing hard at home with my exercises (again, thank goodness for knee surgeries to have me well acquainted with physical therapy leg exercises) and I walked as much as I could. Once I could walk beyond my living room, I’d wrap Kaelyn onto me, put my husband’s winter jacket over both of us and walk as far as I felt comfortable, which for a while was a block.

(As another side note, I did the EMG and nerve conduction studies a few days after it was recommended. It showed pretty much what we already knew. My new recovery time frame was three to six months. If I had to do it again, I don’t think I would do the tests. It really didn’t give me any more information and it was quite painful. Not to mention, exhausting to once again load everyone up in the car, drive to the hospital, worry about the baby’s feeding schedule, walk through the maze of a hospital, etc. But at the time I was desperate to do something that felt like figuring it all out.) 

Nine weeks postpartum I drove for the first time. I rotated my ankle back and forth between the brake and accelerator, and used my toes to push. Maybe it wasn’t the safest idea, but it was for about a mile to my first mommy and baby meeting. I didn’t want to miss it: I needed some sort of normalcy in my mommy journey. I was the only one who was late but it was the first time I left the house with baby alone, which took forever doing literally one step at a time. I had to carry the baby out, the car seat out, and the diaper bag out all separately as I couldn’t handle the weight of it all together. Then I cried the entire car ride. I was scared to death and so proud of myself all at the same time.

I joined two mommy groups – one just for mommies and babies, and another for moms, dads and babies. For weeks those two meetings were my only out of house activities. They took all my energy and strength to load up the car, get to the host’s house, sit through the meeting, then make my way back. I’d google map the house to look at pictures before I went to know if I was going to have to use stairs or what the entrance was like so I could muster up the will and strength to get in. I rarely talked about “my condition” as I wanted to focus on gaining support on the issues everyone was facing – baby not sleeping, a “wonder week,” how our lives were different, etc. The ladies would plan activities outside the group, which I declined for a while, as I just didn’t have the ability. But I remember the first walk that was planned. Now that I could (and should) do! It was the farthest walk I’d been on yet. I was anxious about falling the entire time, but I made it. I could barely get up the rest of the day, but I did it! I was recovering and thrilled.

As far as timeline of my recovery, my left leg was better in about three weeks. My right leg, I could feel my hip and foot to ankle around five weeks which allowed me to not always use my walker (I would lock my right knee). I stopped using my walker for the most part around 7 weeks. I drove for the first time at 9 weeks. At six months I could do stairs normally, most of the time. At 21 months postpartum I’d say I’m about 80-90% healed. When I’m particularly tired or have used my legs a lot, I still don’t trust my right leg and I’ll only go up or down stairs on my left. I don’t have full sensation of my skin and it is definitely weaker than my left.

I never did official physical therapy, but I did exercises nonstop at home. I did a lot of walking, though never made it to a pool. I had a newborn to take care of full time, so my recovery had to include her. I think one of the most helpful things for me was just to keep trying to use the leg and parts of leg over and over and over, regardless of if it worked or not.

My mom left about 6 weeks after I gave birth and my husband went back to work. I got creative with how to take care of Kaelyn. I pulled out my exercise ball. I could brace it between a wall and the couch, then use my walker to lower myself down on to it. This way I could do large bounces, which helped calmed my, at times, incredibly fussy daughter. I used my baby carriers constantly, so I could hold on to my walker, walls, couches, chairs, etc to get around, and have two hands in case I fell. Before my husband would leave for work, we’d make sure I had anything I could need on the main floor of the house so I didn’t have to worry about stairs. And that is where Kaelyn and I would stay most days for the first couple of months.

I fell several times during recovery. Most of the time without the baby in my arms, thank goodness. The final time I fell was about 4 months into recovery. I went to sit on a chair; my knee gave out in the process and I fell to the ground. I had Kaelyn strapped to my chest, sleeping. She never even stirred, which I was thankful for and amused by, but I was spooked. I couldn’t get a good angle to get up with my leg without waking her, so I sat there for about thirty minutes until my husband came home from work. I was tucked behind my desk where he couldn’t easily see me, so he toured most of the house looking for us until he finally saw my hand waving above the edge of the desk. He quietly helped me up and gave me a hug. When the baby woke up I said “I felt like Urkel. I’d fallen and I couldn’t get up.”

Emotionally the recovery was very hard, and as I figured out while writing this, still is. I tried to focus on getting better, doing what I could do, and enjoying the time I got to spend with my daughter. But sometimes the sadness of what I was missing and what I couldn’t do would seep in. To this day I cry over this memory anytime it comes to mind: About 5 weeks after Kaelyn was born she was crying inconsolably. She was a bit tough as newborn. She hated being put down and would scream if you even tried to use a rock ’n play. She wanted constant motion, whether awake or asleep. The only time she was happy being still was while nursing (or at least once we got that figured out). Anyway, I was holding her and she started to lose it. She didn’t want to nurse. The rocking in my arms wasn’t good enough. I once again asked for my mom’s help. She and my sister, who was also visiting at the time, turned the music up (my daughter really liked Justin Bieber’s “Baby”), and started dancing and singing to her all over the house. After a good four or five times listening to the song, she started calming down. I slowly got up out of my chair and turned the corner in to the kitchen to find my mom and sister bouncing with their knees, singing to her, and her contentedly watching them. I leaned on to my walker and started weeping. I was so blessed and thankful that I had a mom and sister that were happily willing to do major knee squatting and to sing a Bieber song over and over again for my daughter. But I was so upset that it couldn’t be me. No matter how hard I tried, or what I did, it couldn’t be me.

Several weeks after my injury occurred, worried about the prognosis, I did more research online. I then, in some ways, struggled more with it. I found out nerve damage like mine is often preventable, but most labor and delivery personnel aren’t trained in ways to avoid it. Read more here. It was tough to find out that so much of my struggles and pain could have been avoided with a little simple education. Many a night I cried myself to sleep or woke up with nightmares. Fortunately, this is also the same time I found the Facebook support group.

While I never want to go through something like this again, and my heart breaks every time I hear of another woman facing this challenge, I do think some good came out of it. I am a much more dedicated, loving, and patient mom than I think I would have been if I had not had this experience. I ended up deciding to quit work entirely and focus on being a mom, which I believe has ended up being the right decision for me and my family. At first my break from work was because I simply couldn’t work, and take care of Kaelyn, while being physically impaired and trying to recover. But then as I continued to feel like I was missing out on important moments and feel like I had part of my “mommy experience” stripped from me, I realized how much I wanted to be the one taking care of my child. I knew how it felt to be helpless when it came to my child and how it felt to not be able to take care of her. So with the full support of my husband, I made the decision to focus on being her mommy. Even on the hard days when we’re both struggling a bit and I could really use a break, I know that being with Kaelyn and taking care of her is what I really want and at the end of the day I still cherish my time with her and I cherish the fact that I can now “do it.”

My advice to anyone going through this or another recovery after a hard labor and delivery is to not give up. Look at your child every day and use him/her for motivation. Ask for help (I should have asked for more!). Talk about your issue, whether with a family member, a friend, or a therapist. What you are going through is hard and real. Be your own advocate with any and all doctors. Try your best to enjoy the time you have with your new little bundle of joy, even if every day doesn’t always feel joyful. And know, you are not alone. Many people, including myself, are always happy to listen and support you.

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Mommy and baby at 3 weeks.
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Mommy and baby at 1 year 3 weeks.

8 thoughts on “Bilateral femoral neuropathy: a journey to recovery

  1. Hi, I am so glad i found you and your story. I went through hell after my first delivery but for me it was Post-partum Depression (PPD). I too felt i was robbed of the first few weeks of my daughter’s life and my new mommy role.
    I’ve also been a labour and delivery nurse for almost 20 years and my experience with PPD has opened my eyes and I believe has made me a better nurse.
    You are correct that we do not get proper training on this particular neuropathy. Out of logic, I make sure my patients stretch their legs between pushes and will also make them pish in different positions, even on all fours, epidural or not.
    I am so humbled by your experience and I wanted you to know that I will be sharing this information with my colleagues, nurses and doctors. Some found it funny to see me sitting between my patient’s legs with her legs resting on my shoulders until it’s time for the next push 😜 but i’ll be continuing this to insure my patients can recover quickly and walk and bounce theirbaby o their knee.
    Thank you for sharing your painful journey and know that it has made a difference. God Bless.
    Vicki R.N. From Canada

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment Vicki. I’m so sorry to hear of your post partum struggles. PPD is certainly another issue that does not get the attention it deserves. All of the women in our support group truly appreciate your work to help prevent future injuries, both by helping laboring moms and by spreading the word about this website and the issue.

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  2. Hi. Thanks for sharing this.i am struggling with same problem in my left hand leg,currentlhh doing exercises that pt suggested and seeing improvement,but still c an not walk without hyperextending my knee. I am wondering when did you start walking normally without focusing on your steps. How about running?

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    1. Hi Rana,
      I am so sorry to hear you are going through this right now. I am glad to hear you are doing physical therapy exercises and are seeing improvement. Nerves take so painfully long to heal. I was able to run about 7 months post partum, but I have heard from other ladies with the same issue anywhere from 2 months to a year. Admittedly, I still have to sometimes think about my walking/steps if I’m having a “bad day”, but as a constant concern, I’d say with standard walking around 4 months and with stairs around 6-7 months. Recovery times seems to vary so much though. How far postpartum are you? Sending you so much love, strength and support.

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  3. Thanks for your response. I am just over 7 weeks postpartum. I have tried running on a treadmill yesterday with 2.5mph. It was not easy but I was able to run shortly. I felt that my body was relearning to run. I was slower than normal walking speed but it felt great and improve my motivation. For any one who is having similar problem, I would strongly recommend PT. Every time after my PT exercises( I do this at home myself, but I go to PT every week for modification based on my improvement) , I feel relieve, it is like soreness goes away and I can walk without hyperextending for a while. I also tried going down the stairs right after pt, and surely I am much better at it.

    Glad to hear that you can run again. I am so scare now to try running without holding and faster but hopeful, every week experiencing more improvement.

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  4. Thank you for this story- I am going through the same thing. I delivered 3 weeks ago and collapsed when trying to get up from the delivery bed. Both legs were affected, though my right leg is improving much more quickly.

    Like you, I was active up until delivery, able to jog until the last few weeks. I am worried I will never be able to jog/exercise/much less go up and down stairs or leave the house again. Did you feel this way? How did you gain the confidence to try these things for the first time? Could you tell when you were strong enough
    Thanks again

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    1. Hi Christine! First I’m am so sorry you’re going through this as well. Second, in a word, yes. In the back of my mind I worried that I’d never be “normal” again. But at the forefront of my mind, I never let that be an option. This injury I think takes so much mental will power. Not necessarily that the actual healing is mental but more that the journey is mental. Doctors are vague, healing time is undefined, final healing amount ranges. So staying positive that you WILL get better I think is super important (and that does not mean to discredit those that sadly have permanent damage). Are you feeling improvements in your left leg as well? Even slowly?

      I generally tried new bigger things when baby was safe and if someone could “spot” me. So stairs normally – my husband was home. Squatting, my mom was visiting from out of town. Driving I did with my husband. I did little new things like walking further and further just very slowly as I felt stronger and stronger. I could sense I could do a bit more and would try. For me it was important to push further some so as not to get stuck or feel hopeless. However it is also important to recognize when you need a little rest and that is ok too. And yes, I can now run, jump, play, squat, drive and more. I’ve had a second baby with no issues. I still have days my worse leg needs a break sooner or gets a bit tingly. But it doesn’t hold me back.

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