A year of unknown

This blog post is by a mom who suffered from nerve damage over a year ago and now is pregnant with her second child. Feel free to leave a positive or helpful comment below. A big thank you to Rufial for sharing her story. If you would like to share your applicable story or have an idea for another blog post, please email info@nervedamagefromchildbirth.com.


I had a very extensive birth plan as my anxiety about having the baby was pretty high,

It seemed to cover everything. I had a room at the hospital for my husband to stay in so he could be there to look after the baby if I was overwhelmed, I had a team of people working with me to make sure I was comfortable and not anxious in the birth and afterward. Part of the plan was to be induced at 39 weeks, to not have anyone except the midwife in the delivery room and to try avoid a C-Section.

I never actually gave any thought to how to give birth. I went in very underprepared assuming it would come naturally because women every where do it, and I figured the midwife would help me.

Labour was extremely intense because of the induction, and I managed a few hours after they broke my waters before I asked for an epidural. From that point on labour was a breeze – I was calm and pain free. I was induced at 3pm Saturday, they broke my waters at 4pm Sunday, and I was 10cm dilated at 12pm. I pushed for two hours, then the midwives came in to check my technique and said I was going good so I just assumed I was; they said they might have to use the forceps or vacuum if nothing happened soon though. So I continued to push for another hour. Mostly using the stirrups as I had to have the baby monitor on so I couldn’t move about a lot.

In that time I developed a temperature; they came in to check on the progress and took me to theatre just in case they found the baby was not going to come out. They discovered he had not progressed anywhere in that three hours so they would have to preform a c-section because I was to tired.

It was all kind of confusing. I didn’t feel tired. I felt fine – I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just keep trying. But they were the doctors and they knew best.

So at 4:44am my baby boy August was born with a full blonde mohawk, and he was perfect. He left to go be with dad while I was in recovery.

That whole day was a blur as I drifted in and out of sleep, waking up in pain and being told to keep pushing the epidural button and I’d drift back off.

They did try to get me up but every time I just fainted, probably from a mix of loosing a litre of blood and the drugs.  While I had my baby, I couldn’t do much with him because of the wound and being stuck in bed. But for now i was happy just looking at him.

Looking at his perfect features and tiny waving hands, I couldn’t get over how small he was.

Over the next few days the doctors stopped the epidural in hopes I would be more awake and able to stand. As I was starting to be awake more, there were several failed attempts in the day to get me to stand. They woke me again at 3am on the third night and I took four steps with the help of four nurses before I passed out again. It was then they noticed my left foot dragging on the floor.

The next day when they tried getting me up again I managed only four steps but now my feet were also going backwards instead of forwards.

The doctors were called in and did all the checks and concluded I had nerve damage. They ordered an MRI to see if it was a pocket of anesthesia causing it. Those tests came back clear so their conclusion was “I think it might have been the babies head pushing on a nerve”.

That was all I got.

They couldn’t even tell me why I couldn’t vaginally deliver August. Initially they said it was because his head was tilted in a funny position, then retracted that and said “no sorry that was another patient.”

So I had no idea why I couldn’t push August out or why I now couldn’t walk.

They said not to worry I’ll be walking in no time, so I wasn’t freaking out just yet. I took it in my stride. Over that week the physios came to see me and brought me in a tall walker. The small ones were too hard because not only was my left leg dragging, my feet going backwards instead of forwards, I couldn’t take many steps and my core muscles all up my spine switched off so holding myself upright and keeping my head upright was also a challenge and hard work. So I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t walk and I couldn’t sit without support around my neck and back.

It was discovered I had nerve damage on a Wednesday; by Monday the physios had retrained my brain as to how to take a step and take it forward.

I would have never realized that there were so many instructions just to take one step. But there are. Forward not back, step and lift not lift then step, heel toe not toe heel, core muscles on! And by Monday I had now made it from my bed to the door and back with people behind me incase I tipped back or fell down. This meant I could now take out the catheter and take off the compression pads. Hurray! But this also meant I had to do the slow, very exhausting and concentrated walk to the toilet at the end of my room, with help as I walked there, to get on and off the toilet and back. I don’t know what was worse.

But it meant i finally got a shower. Oh the bliss.

By this stage i had started to get frustrated at not being able to do anything for my baby. I longed to cradle him in my arms and sway him and walk round the room, or see where he goes when my husband takes him at night or while I’m sleeping. I longed to see the nurses station and see where my coffee was being made in the kitchen. I felt frustrated because I had missed out on being introduced to my newborn and shown how to wrap him or dress him or sleep him. I just saw everyone doing all these things and not knowing what, why or how they knew. I missed out on a lot because I was asleep a lot and in recovery and stuck in bed.

By week two I had finally made it out into the main part of the ward and seen the nurses station. I was still doing physio twice a day and needing to sleep after every-time, but slowly I was making it further and further before I had to turn around and go back to my bed. I had set goals like next time I’ll make it to the kitchen, to the lounge, to that exit sign. And I had started practicing picking up a soft toy and putting it in a pretend Moses basket.

Once I achieved that without losing my balance and I’d made it to the elevator I was ready to be discharged with my very own walker and shower stool. After three weeks, I couldn’t wait to go home, and that day I held my baby for the first time standing up, only for a few seconds but I did it.

The whole way through I was taking it all pretty well not being mobile. Until I got home. It was then the reality hit me. I had a physio appointment at the hospital that week. How would I get from the car to the 6th floor? I was assured the hospital had wheelchairs to transport me in but what about all my other appointments that weren’t in the hospital? How would I get to them? I had my walker but I still couldn’t walk more than 5 minutes without needing to stop and sleep to gain back my energy, and even talking could exhaust me so visitors were very seldom invited.

I soon realized I was trapped in my own home with a baby I couldn’t help all by myself. I often thought these walkers should come with a baby carrying basket so I could get him from the room to the lounge myself. I’m so lucky I had my husband and both our parents to help. My husband was full-time caregiver until he had to go back to work two days a week and work from home the rest of the time. Initially i had my mum here which was extremely helpful because I couldn’t have done it myself.

I remember around 5 weeks I just wanted to go out for coffee with my baby. Something I thought I’d be doing as a new mum. So my mum bundled me and my walker and my baby in the car. And off we went. My first outing. Luckily we got a park right outside the coffee club, but then since the warehouse was right next door I thought, “Hey, why not stop in and get the baby some desperately needed flannels.” I barely made it to the entrance. So I sat on the walker, baby on my lap and was pushed around. By the time we got home I was sick with exhaustion.

That was when I realized I needed a wheelchair the world was just too big. No longer measure-able by kitchens and signs and a bed I could safely just return to.

It was at 6 weeks my mum left as I was managing at home, able to get around with my walker and I had my husband to drive me around. My mum and his mum would come over when he had to go into work. Even though they lived an hour and a half away. Because of my injury sleep became a huge need for me to get through. So I couldn’t do the night shift with August, leaving that up to my husband who was back full time working. I felt so guilty with him doing the night shift, helping me around, taking the baby when i needed to nap, and then he’d have to catch up on work at night.

And the financial burden of hiring a wheelchair was cutting away at us. After two months we realized we were using a second hand one, so we bit the bullet and bought my own wheelchair.

It was disheartening because when the doctors said I’d be walking again in no time I thought weeks. But by now it had been months.

I’d made improvements being able to stand to do the dishes, walk around the house with August, walking for longer. But I was still reliant on everyone to do a-lot. I couldn’t even walk up my own driveway, so I couldn’t escape my own house by myself – if I did I wouldn’t have gotten very far anyway.

Never did I imagine that I would wake up with a newborn and not be able to walk. I had researched all the best parks to take a stroller. I’d imagined myself taking the baby to the mall and getting lots of strangers coo over the baby. I thought I would be an independent strong mama. Exploring the city I had only arrived in a year ago but hadn’t discovered yet. Instead home and limited scheduled trips and limited socializing was more important. To go to the store to buy hair dye you’d think no biggie – but I’d have to calculate it. What time of the day will we go? aAe we doing anything else that day? I could probably make it from the car to the isle to the checkout and back but what if there is a line? So will I need my wheelchair? Every trip is a big trip so the new city will be left unexplored.

Since we live in a different city to my friends and family it was extremely hard seeing them because they didn’t get to see first hand what it was like. There would be comments like “still got that thing?” referring to my wheelchair or “you just have to put your mind to it” or “you can just do it ya know you’re just scared.”

People didn’t quite get it. Even in the professional world. I had a therapist try and suggest it was all in my head. After all, at the hospital they didn’t conclusively know what happened and they’d never seen anything like it. So maybe it was my mind. My subconscious creating the problem for some reason or other.

With all those comments from friends and therapists I began to wonder if I was crazy at times. It was extremely unhelpful and very invalidating especially since I already felt so guilty about my injuries to begin with. It was even harder having to explain that I had an injury when I didn’t clearly know exactly what it was or how it was caused other than nerve damage.

I did have a few falls while holding my baby, and I pushed myself past exhaustion too much when I knew my injuries needed rest. But life settled down around the seven month mark. At that stage I still couldn’t walk around rocking my baby to sleep but I was managing walking casually a lot better. I would often push my wheelchair and someone would push August in his stroller; when my legs gave out I would sit in my wheelchair and wheel myself. By then I was managing to walk about 25 minute before I needed to sit. I could also drive myself down to the gym and do my exercises, get my wheelchair in and out of the car and drive home.

It was then my husband lost his job, which was actually the best thing that happened all year, aside from giving birth to August. It meant he could look after August and I could focus on recovery and rest, which was going steady but as time went by I was doubting being recovered within 12 months and this was extremely depressing.

Before the birth I was very active – a gym bunny even pregnant! I’d run up mountains and walk everywhere. So to lose exercise and the ability to do classes and dance and climb mountains has been hard. To know it might be over a year before I can do a whole Zumba class again is depressing.

But at 10 months I got pregnant again. Pregnancy has been harder this time since I’m not fully recovered from my nerve injury, but my recovery fortunately is still continuing. By 11months I reached the 1 hour mark with my walking and continued to push that mark at 12 months postpartum. So I finally sold my wheelchair and graduated from physio. I still am extremely exhausted and my legs will get wobbly if I push myself but otherwise they work.

It was a good feeling to see that wheelchair go.

But then the fear of delivery settled in for baby number 2.

How could I avoid the same thing from happening again? Especially if i didn’t know what caused it.

So I talked to a doctor and they told me that in fact the baby was in the perfect position to come out naturally but she didn’t know why it didn’t happen. Maybe my pelvis was to small? But she didn’t have any clear advice as to how to not get nerve damage again.

That is when I started researching and came across articles about women getting nerve damage from pushing too long in the frog position with stir-ups, epidurals making it more likely to get injured, and the pelvis being to small for the baby’s head. It seemed I ticked all those boxes!

And then I found the Facebook support page and this website and read story after story of women in similar boats, facing the same challenges, fears, frustrations. And I cried.

I wish I was aware of all this a year ago. I wish I knew that yes, it can take months or years to heal; yes, you’re not the only one, you’re not a freak whose legs forget which way to walk; and yes, there are reasons for the nerve damage. It would have saved me a lot of beating myself up, for thinking everything is my fault, for thinking maybe it is all in my head. It would have saved me from feeling badly when at 6 months, 9 months, a year postpartum when I’m still not better and everyone is over it, use to it, and sick of having to make exceptions for me. Whatever it is. I could have told them actually it does just take time to heal. I did physio, the gym, rest, everything I could to get back on my feet but people sometimes don’t see that. They begin to wonder are you just milking it for all it’s worth? They think why are you still not better? I had people ask me that and I didn’t know. So to not be able to give them an answer made me look like I’m perhaps making it up.

So to know there is validity in my injuries has helped me. I wish I had more information on my own injuries earlier because just knowing I’m not alone has helped.

Don’t get me wrong I had a lot of support from friends. Some offered me rides, a really good friend did my housework once a week for months despite her own child and progressing pregnancy, and other mums were sympathetic especially, but there are those that do get over it. That think maybe you’re just being weak or pretending. And there are also well meaning people, mostly other mothers, who when they hear that you get to sleep all night and nap in the day while they are up 3-4 times with their babies and they tell you you’re lucky! Or they say “yeah but all new mums are tired.” It hurts and it puts you in a tough spot when you can’t explain your injuries or recovery. A newborn and recovery is a massive load that you can’t know how much it takes out of you unless you have been through it, not to mention the emotional ride of 1. A new baby and being a new mum and the whirlwind that created. 2. The guilt of not being able to fully be the mama you expect and society expects. 3. The guilt of how your injuries now impact everyone else and how they need to help. 4. The fact you cant just go for a walk in the park with your baby, or go do the shopping, or do any of the normal things everyone else takes for granted, you’ve lost a lot of mobility and that is hard.

So all you mamas out there suffering any type of nerve damage after labour: you are incredible and I take my hat off to you because it is a really, really hard road to walk… quite literally.

I’m now 16 weeks pregnant and only had wobbly legs twice in the last month. My baby boy is 1 year and a few weeks old now and he is absolutely a delight. If I didn’t have him this recovery journey would have been unbearable, but life and fun and being able to fully take care of him one day, and now baby number 2, is what is keeping me going without sinking.

Grateful mama,

Rufial

5 thoughts on “A year of unknown

  1. You’re a strong lady Ruffi! I never heard you complain once you just keep on going and trying. I’m praying it’s far better second time around – so you can enjoy the process more (and deal better with a toddler in tow :D). Love and hugs

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  2. Hi Ruffi! I have had almost the same experience. After giving birth to my little one in December I was not feeling my legs and wasn’t able to walk. I did my first steps after 4 weeks and from then started to recovery slowly slowly. I have been told the same that my babys had pushes the nerves of my spine. It is been 8 months now and i am still not able to walk myself outdoors, I need to hang on to the pushchair. I would like to know did you fully recovered? Did you had incontinence? I have double incontinence and parts of my legs are still numb.

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    1. Hi, firstly Im sorry for your nerve damage, its a tough road. And the pushchair is a great way to walk around outdoors, keep it up! But its been 19months since the nerve damage now and im 95% better and had a little girl under general 5 weeks ago. I have yet to do a full workout at the gym or climb a mountain- if im exhausted i notice my legs are still weak and feel close to collapsing but they havent yet for 6months!! But im walking around wherever i want and managing everything fine its just a matter of continuing to strengthen the muscles and rest, so keep it up- you will get there. I didnt have inconstinancy but urine frequency that is no longer an issue though. Its scary when its been so long and you begin to wonder if ever? But slowly but surely ive gained my life back and will continue to get better

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      1. Hi, many thanks. I am glad to hear you recovered almost 95%. I hope I will do aswell. Will keep with my exercises to strenghten my legs and I hope my numbness will release aswell.

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  3. Hello i am able to walk but still have feeling that i also had nerve damage because of having sharp sbd burning plus cold sensations all over my body.how to recover?feeling helpless plus hopeless

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