While I was bringing M into the world, my tailbone broke.
Labor and delivery and my recovery was traumatic. I have spent a lot of time processing it and trying to make sense of it all. Blogging about it all has been really helpful for me. You can read M’s Birth story on my blog – Part 1 and Part 2.
As tough was labor and delivery was, everything went exactly according to my birth plan. I had the exact birth I wanted. Except for one thing.
After I pulled M out of my and placed her on my chest, I felt a huge rush of relief and thought that the hardest thing, physically, was behind me. After stitching me up, my midwife came over to me to tell me that I had broken my tailbone. She said that she felt it happen while she was delivering M. Maybe it was the euphoria at finally holding my baby, but it didn’t seem like that big of a deal in that moment.
I didn’t get an epidural and I thought that I felt everything happening down there, but I had absolutely no idea that my tailbone broke until my midwife told me.
The first time I remember feeling pain in my tailbone was when I was in my recovery room with M and Nick. I was in so much pain just laying down or in bed. I could not get up from the bed without a lot of help. This made it pretty much impossible for me to get up to get M out of her bassinet.
Whenever she would cry, Nick would have to be the one to rush to her. Suddenly, I could not care for my newborn baby, whose responsibility for 9 months had solely been mine. It killed me to not be able to rush to her when she needed me.
I went to a midwifery group for my prenatal care and three of the midwives visited me in the hospital. They all had different takes on what happened. Between the three of them, they told me it would take between 6 weeks and 6 months to recover. What I got from all of this was that no one really knew what happened or how long it would take to recover. But they all told me there was nothing I could do about it.
Those first few days and weeks at home were brutal. It was hard to sit. Getting up from a chair was torture, especially if I was holding M.
It was difficult for me to sit in the nursing chair and nurse her or hold her while she slept because I was in so much pain. All of this prevented me from being able to truly enjoy that newborn bliss, as much as I tried.
It was really difficult for me to take care of my own baby. My entire postpartum plan was to just focus on taking care of M and not being able to do that really affected me mentally and emotionally.
Looking back, I can see how that affected our bonding in the first few weeks. I was in so much pain that I began to dread sitting in the nursing chair to feed her. Breastfeeding was hard enough but now I was adding another barrier to it.
Nick was doing so much to take care of both of us that I started to resent it. M had a better bond with him than me for the first couple of weeks. Nick knew M better than I did. This quickly changed when his two-week paternity leave ended, but at the time it was devastating. It also made me terrified for him to leave us and go back to work. My mom was coming to help me, but I had zero confidence in my ability to take care of M without Nick.
Once Nick’s paternity leave ended and it was just M and me, we started to develop our bond. When my mom came, she focused on everything else so that I could focus on M. She did all of our laundry, food shopping, cleaning, and cooking. When she saw how badly I needed help she started to visit me every other week. Nick had a lot of vacation time built up so he started taking time off whenever my mom wasn’t here. I really needed their help so that I could just focus on bonding with M and taking care of her.
For many weeks, I didn’t cook, clean, or do anything but take care of M and myself.
At my 6 week follow up appointment, my midwife told me that there wasn’t much I could do for my tailbone. She said getting an x-ray wouldn’t really do anything. I wish I had pushed for the x-ray because I want to know exactly what happened down there and now I’ll never know.
But at the time, I was so overwhelmed with breastfeeding and the immediate day-to-day (hour-by-hour, really) of taking care of M that getting to the hospital for an x-ray just was too overwhelming for me. If they said it wasn’t needed, I wasn’t going to fight them on it.
I feel like all of the issues a new mom faces were just compounded by the fact that my mobility was so limited and I was in so much pain. This lasted for months. My doula and a few of my friends also kept encouraging me to go to a pelvic floor therapist for physical therapy. But I could not fathom having to leave the house to go to physical therapy, with or without M.
But finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went back to the midwife. She encouraged me to go to a pelvic floor therapist and wrote me a referral. Looking back, I think I should have been diagnosed with postpartum depression at this point. But like many new moms, it was overlooked.
There was only one pelvic floor therapist at the hospital and her availability was extremely limited. But someone had made a cancellation right before I called. I got extremely lucky and got to see her the next day. This was in October. I was only 3 months postpartum.
She started to give me exercises to strengthen my pelvic floor and to help my tailbone. A few weeks in, I started complaining to her that my hip and back were hurting me. A lot. All of a sudden, I could barely lift up M and I was getting worried I would not be able to take care of her. My hip and back hurt from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep. Laying on my side hurt so much that it was difficult to fall asleep. My tailbone was slowly improving, but the hip and back pain were new.
She told me to sleep with pillows between my legs.
This is why it is so important to advocate for yourself in any medical situation. If I had just taken her word for it and never said anything again, I would not be doing as well as I am today.
The next week, I went back and told her that the pillows weren’t working. My right hip was hurting so bad that if M woke me up in the middle of the night, I would be in so much pain that I could not get back to sleep. Once it started to affect my sleep, I knew I had to do something.
My pelvic floor therapist referred me to another physical therapist in her office who could help me with my hip and back. By November, I started going to therapy three times per week, seeing both of them each week.
I lived in the Navy Yard at the time and I would have to travel all the way to Georgetown for these visits. I spent a good 4 hours out of the house each time. Luckily, Nick’s boss let him leave work early on the days I had PT so he could be home with M.
Because I was in so much pain from my tailbone being broken, I could not sit directly on it. Instead, I would sit on the side. Think about the many long hours that you spend with a newborn in a nursing chair – feeding, rocking. During all of this time I was sitting on one side to compensate for my tailbone hurting so much. My new physical therapist said that this is what caused my back and hip to be strained. He could tell I was in bad shape.
My new physical therapist was the one who saved me. He helped get the pain under control and helped me get stronger. Even though it was such a huge time investment, it was worth it because I was finally starting to feel better.
When I moved out of the city in January, I could no longer go to Georgetown for these appointments. After 3 months of physical therapy, I felt like I was only 50% of where I wanted to be. But there was no way I’d make it to Georgetown from my new house. My therapists consulted and referred me to someone they knew near my new house.
Unfortunately, I only got to see my new physical therapist for a few visits before covid happened. T
I have exercises to do at home and I finally started exercising and doing yoga. I really need to get back to physical therapy, but the risk of covid is not one I am willing to take right now. I think that my tailbone has fully recovered but the damage to my hip and back has not been fixed yet. I’m still in some pain, especially when I lay down and in the mornings. But it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be.
My advice to anyone in this situation would be to go to a pelvic floor therapist ASAP. I only waited 3 months, but there was already a lot of damage done. The more I learned about pelvic floor therapy, the more I realized that really anyone who gives birth can benefit from it.
Almost a year later, I am so thankful that I’m finally starting to feel like myself again.