This blog post is by a mom who suffered from femoral nerve damage just under a year ago. Feel free to leave a positive or helpful comment below. A big thank you to Rachel F. for sharing her story. If you would like to share your applicable story or have an idea for another blog post, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nine months ago, I walked into the hospital with an air of excitement, layered with some apprehension, to deliver my daughter, Winter. Twelve hours later, I was unsure when I’d ever be able to walk again, if at all.
Post-delivery my legs were both exceptionally weak, which is normal after delivering a baby with more than 3 hours of pushing. Doctors and nurses chalked up my inability to extend my left leg to residual epidural.
They said, “Delivering a baby is like running a marathon. It’s typical for them to be weak”.
The numbness I was experiencing in my left leg, from my shin to my mid-thigh, was considered standard.
“The epidural hasn’t worn off yet. That is normal.”
My leg had ZERO ability to function while bearing any weight when the knee was even slightly bent. I fell and hurt my back on the railing of my hospital bed while trying to stand using a walker. The nurse told me that they would have to do a write-up on my fall and I was mortified that somehow it was my fault.
Deep in my heart, I knew this was NOT normal post-delivery. I mean I just grew a baby inside me for the past 9 months. I never took a single sick day and literally worked every single day up until contractions started. How was I now disabled?!
I could not accept that it was normal for me to not to be able to stand up without fear of falling straight to the floor. A woman should be able to walk herself to the bathroom, not humiliated by being transported on a Sera Stedy, a piece of medical equipment designed to move disabled people that are not ambulatory.
I was sobbing from embarrassment and fear that this was my new normal as I had to have my husband, Rusty, help me use the restroom. I relied on him to do the majority of the tasks required when caring for a newborn. It was inconceivably depressing. I was scared.
It was the most horrible and terrifying experience of my life. Doctors did not know what was wrong with me and they could not tell me when or if I would be able to walk again. I was supposed to be basking in the glow of new motherhood, soaking up every precious moment with my newborn baby girl, and instead I was panicked and distraught with fear that I’d never be able to stand and hold my daughter without fear of falling. What did the rest of my life look life? The unknown was incredibly stressful.
I was awake at 3am Googling my injury symptoms, instead of resting or enjoying of my new baby, trying to determine what was wrong with me. I knew from just a few keystrokes on my iPhone that I had Femoral Nerve Damage from childbirth, something no doctor had mentioned during my hospital stay. I was released and sent home without a directive on how to function at home with a newborn and unable to walk.
I was required to take Winter to her newborn appointment the following day. I fell in the middle of a very busy medical clinic while using my walker. My husband and another man had to both lift me off the ground. I was mortified and heartbroken.
I could not climb the stairs at my house alone. I couldn’t stand up from a chair. I couldn’t use the restroom normally. I risked injuring myself further by showering standing up with the walker wedged in the stall with me. I couldn’t have taken a bath as I never would have been able to stand up again. I could barely leave my bedroom, let alone the house.
Yet, I went to my parents during Christmas to try and feel like my life had some level of normalcy and joy. I collapsed to the floor when trying to stand from the couch (even when sitting on several levels of pillows elevating me higher). When my family tried to help me stand, I was too proud to have my husband and brother try and help me up. I crawled on my hands and knees into a bedroom and threw my body onto a bed and had to shift my center of gravity to where I could roll onto the bed. It was demoralizing and embarrassing.
A few days later, I tripped trying to navigate around Winter’s baby swing. I fell straight into the bassinet and knocked it to the ground. Luckily, Winter was not in it. Rusty rushed in to find me on the ground weeping because I very easily could have seriously injured my baby had she been in it. He told me to stop pushing myself and to ask him for help. It was extraordinarily difficult time not only me, but for him as well. He did literally everything for us. And he still did it all even when he got gout in his foot and could barely walk himself. My husband is a saint.
Once Rusty returned to work, my parents were instrumental in keeping things as normal as possible. They came over every day to help me. They would take me back to their house and helped care for Winter and for me. For that, I’m forever grateful and humble for their extreme generosity during this time.
Our friends and family members were critical to keeping us functioning. A meal train of food came pouring in from loved ones. You all mean the world to me for supporting us when we needed you most. Even people who I hadn’t seen or spoken to in person for over 20 years came to our aid.
In the following weeks, I saw physical therapists and a neurologist, who were finally able to officially diagnose me with Femoral Nerve Damage. It is an injury where you lose all functionality of your quad muscles. They couldn’t tell me how fast the nerve would heal itself, or if it even would regenerate at all. I was told I could be walking by 6 months, but they were unsure, and it was possible that some of the damage was permanent. Try wrapping your head around that when you have a newborn.
Apparently, at some point in my labor and delivery, the femoral nerve, which traverses your hip, was crushed from many contributing factors and no test could ever pinpoint and tell you why or how exactly. It could have been from the position of my legs when they were pulled back, it could have been from them being in the stirrups for almost 4 hours, it could have been the baby’s head pushing on the nerve, or even from the epidural in my spine directly injuring the nerve roots. I’ll never know.
What I did know, is that I was never more motivated in my life to heal and get back to some level of normal functionality. My physical therapist gave me exercises to perform, even if I couldn’t do them.
I would think, “What do you mean try and lift my leg? It doesn’t work. I can’t lift it. What good does this do?”
But I’d try. I was prepared to do anything. I stared at that leg willing it to move. I used a belt to manually force it go through the exercises, hoping something would happen. Until one day something did happen. My quad muscle ever so slightly twitched.
I yelled at Rusty, “Come quick! Look at my leg! Is the muscle twitching?! Can you see this? Am I imagining this?!”
He agreed that he saw it was ever so slightly constricting. At that moment, I had clarity to see that I had been healing already for several weeks. My nerves were finally able to communicate some signals from my brain to my muscles again. That changed everything.
Eventually one day or night, as you lose a sense of time when caring for a new baby, I was able to kick my leg out an inch. Previously, my leg would just dangle while sitting on the bed. Until it finally moved forward. Each day after proceeded to show minor improvement.
My recovery improved as the nerve regenerated. I could actually do the physical therapy exercises! I would record my progress each week and eventually, several weeks later, I could fully extend my leg straight. It was extremely challenging at times and it was difficult to focus on my recovery while taking care of a baby, but somehow, we got through it.
I was able to return to work at 14 weeks postpartum. I was very nervous of falling or not being able to get up from chairs, but I was able to go back and feel somewhat normal. It was really good for my mental health and well-being to be functioning as my old self again.
Fast forward to present day, approximately 9 months later, and I’m about 85% recovered. I have since been able to get off the floor by myself, stand straight up from a crouching position, climb up and down stairs, and most importantly hold and carry my precious baby anywhere I want. Occasionally, I still ask Rusty to carry Winter up the stairs when I’m tired, but for the most part I am healed enough to call things normal again. I’ve even hiked a little and rode my dirt bike!
It has taken me a long time to sit down and share my story. It was a terrible and scary experience. I never would have been able to get to my point in recovery without the help from all my family friends.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to sincerely thank you for any part you played in my recovery.