• Welcome to my blog

    Welcome to my blog

When people ask if I am back to running again postpartum I usually say something like:

‘Taking it slowly still!’

‘Still have some recovering to do!’

‘Jogging a little bit, but not like before!’

‘It will take a while…’

‘Things have changed since I had my baby..!’

I have always been honest with the fact of not running so much nowadays, but I have rarely been honest about Why. As most of you know it’s not because I haven’t had time or interest in going running anymore. Of course time is more limited when you have a child that depends on you, and of course it would be a little more complicated to do late night track sessions on the other side of town like I used to – but with my determination I would always be able to find some time to train even if it’s just from home. I’ve been going for spin classes in the mornings before family is up, surely those session could be runs instead.

If it was only about not having enough Time.

On some occasions I have given the real answer. It is usually to female friends, and more often than not to women who have had children themselves. But most of the time I have not told the whole story. Is it because it is too personal? Because I am embarrassed? Do I want to protect non-mothers from the reality that I faced following childbirth, in case they want to have children themselves in the future? Or because mothers are more likely to have come across the problem and potentially can relate to it more, as most women I have told have never heard about it before. Because it might seem like I exaggerate, or because people won’t understand?  Do I avoid telling male friends about it because you simply don’t talk about issues ‘down there’? Because they probably didn’t expect that answer, and probably don’t want to hear about it?

It should be said though that many I have opened up to have been pretty supportive. Also, a couple of male friends were genuinely interested in hearing about my problems. And they thought this blog was an excellent idea in order to reach out about it. These friends have encouraged me!

And why shouldn’t I talk about this? Why is it taboo to talk about birth related injuries, when if I had a hip injury stopping me from running I wouldn’t hesitate to go into detail about it. At the end of the day this is something that has massively impacted my life, when it comes to running but also in my everyday living. And it is something loads of women actually suffer from! And we feel we should hide it from the people around us.

What are Your thoughts on this? Should I spare non-mothers from details to avoid making them scared of having children on their own? Should I explain the issue to the males who ask why I’m not running, also as a way to inform a little bit about what women may go through when having children – or let them believe that the female body bounces back automatically after childbirth?

My personal opinion – and obviously the whole reason why I started this blog – is that we should be able to to be open about this! It is something I feel very strongly about….

So how come I still find it hard to give people the real answer?

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Some days I question myself. Should I have just ignored the problem and pushed through, right from the beginning? Was it silly to take it so slowly and progressively with the running? Have I wasted time by being too cautious? When I think those thoughts I go into panic mode for a moment and blame myself for not being a bit more wild and crazy. Maybe it would have worked out fine, and I would be running loads by now, and have done lots of things (running wise still) I wanted to already over these past two years postpartum.

It’s a daunting thought and image….

But the sensible me always wins. I believe too strongly in that listening to your body and not doing too much too soon is the right thing to do. I am actually pretty confident that the way I have done it has been the best for me and my recovering and that it has put my body in the best possible position for the future.

For future running, and for any future potential pregnancy. For my future everyday life.

But that’s me. Now reaching out to you, my readers. What do You think?

 

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How do I remember – or more accurately how do I push myself to do pelvic floor training, every day? Several times per day…

Because the reality is that it is incredibly boring.

First of all (as I have been on about already) I cannot enough stress the importance of seeking professional help with pelvic floor training. Anyone recovering from childbirth – with or without injuries – but we should all do this type of training afterwards to prepare ourselves for the future as parents and for potential further pregnancies and births. (Of course even better to start before pregnancy!)

But it needs do be done right.

I naively thought I knew how to do it, but my women’s health physiotherapist very quickly identified what I was doing wrong and she coached me how to do the exercises properly. It is awkward, sometimes uncomfortable, and you feel vulnerable when you have an internal examination to check the strength of the muscles ‘down there’, but for your long term benefit it is worth it.

There are endurance type of contractions which are long, and should be kept for ten seconds – or longer. And then there are the short type of contractions which are aimed to be a quick squeeze, and then a quick relax. I was told to do my long squeeze and my quick squeeze ten times. At least. And then repeat it three times a day. At least.

Personally, I find it very difficult to relax the pelvic floor. So I need to not only do my ‘squeezing’, but I also need to focus extremely hard on the ‘letting go’ in between.

All this takes time. It requires me to focus. A lot.

The good thing is that you theoretically can do pelvic floor training anywhere, even when you are out and about and know one will be able to tell when you are doing it. At least if it is done correctly, as then no other muscles should be tensing up at all. This is all very good, but I find I still need my 10minutes or so of complete focus for the training to be effective. Even if I am sitting on the bus with my son for half an hour it is hard to get those minutes in, as there is always something going on when you are out with a toddler. And at home! If I lie down on my exercise mat to do my squeezing I can be sure to soon have my son sitting on top of me.

And on the topic that things are usually pretty ‘full on’ when you take care of a child, it is very easy to simply forget about the pelvic floor training.

So I have come up with a few cues to help me remember. For example. Every time I have a coffee I need to do one set of exercises. This is a good one because I like my coffee, and in this way I push myself to ‘earn’ it. I usually have 2 or 3 coffees a day and some of the training sets are sorted.

Another cue is that every time my son falls asleep, it is time to do some squeezing. He now sleeps once a day so I am sure to get one set done in the middle of the day. When he then falls asleep for the night it is time for another.

Lastly when I stand at a bus stop waiting for the bus, and especially if I have a good few minutes until it arrives (and my son is not too bored) then I do some more squeezing.

I won’t pretend that the above works exactly all the time and every day. It doesn’t. But it is a way to keep it in my mind and never forget about that it has to be done. I may miss it for one coffee but when I remember it I force myself to do more next time. But to be frank – even if I didn’t have the cues I have come to a point where the pelvic floor subject is hard for me to overlook. It may sound depressing but it is often the last thing I think about before I fall asleep at night… Although it could simply be because I sometimes end up trying to do my last squeezes for the day before I go to sleep but it usually doesn’t work when I am too tired. Again, I need that focus or it won’t be successful!

I kind of hate that it is on my mind so much and that I have to do this training – but I do have to do it – and I have had to come to terms with this idea. I cannot escape the fact that I need to take care of my pelvic floor, and not just for now but for the rest of my life.

 

 

 

 

 

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A small blue cube made of silicone.

This little thing suddenly became as essential in my life as breathing. The Cube is in fact a vaginal pessary, which basically is a removable device that is worn inside the vagina. It is designed to add pelvic floor support when these muscles are weak and to support any pelvic organs that have prolapsed. There are LOADS of different types of pessaries out there. My specialist nurse suggested to try this when she understood how important it was to me to try and go back to running despite my newfound ‘dear’ prolapse.

I tried various types (and sizes) of pessaries before finding one that actually worked, the ring shaped ones I started off with kept falling out. Therefore I was almost sceptical to the idea, and I definitely didn’t want to get my hopes up too much. But I was also open-minded about trying if there was something that could potentially help, even if it was just a tiny bit. I was already sick of the feeling of everything falling out of me so anything that could improve it, anything really….

I really didn’t expect it would make such a difference. But now when I have used it pretty much every day for 1.5 – nearly 2 years, I realise that I have become completely dependent on it. It works the way it should by supporting / lifting up the prolapsed structures and as a result makes my day so much more comfortable. It doesn’t remove it completely, and some days are better and some worse, even if I have it. But it generally improves the prolapse when worn. The only time I don’t use the cube is at night time and when I have my period, or sometimes when I only stay at home all day not doing much (although as a mother of a toddler those days are becoming rare!) But when not using the cube I can really tell the difference. I can more clearly than ever feel what activities aggravate the prolapse and what things I need to be cautios with doing. These are things like walking too much, lifting my son, hoovering the floor, blowing up a balloon, sneezing or laughing when standing….

And on days not equipped with the cube, I could definitely not go running.

My journey back to some sort of running (i.e. jogging) has definitely been saved by my cube pessary. I don’t think I would have been able to run (jog) at all without it. I may be wrong. But it would definitely have been an even longer journey than it has already been, this I am certain about. And I am forever grateful that I had this chance.

However. Has the cube made my pelvic floor Lazy?? Is it a bad thing that I have become so dependent on it  – am I just masking the problem by using it all the time? I am not sure. It has been discussed on various occassions with professionals and I have the impression it shouldn’t be a problem that I use it pretty much forever if I need to (or until a potential surgery in the future?!) if it in the meantime does the job. But I still keep thinking the thought. Am I doing my body – or more specifically my pelvic floor –  a disservice (long term) by letting it get used to the cube pessary?

It would be amazing to hear from others who may have experience of using pessaries, and what your thoughts on them are. How has a pessary worked for you if you use one and how you look at the future  – with or without it?

I know I have a few followers on the blog now, and would really love to hear from you!

 

 

 

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Who knew that you can get physiotherapy for the coccyx?!

I sure didn’t, but it turns out possible with a specialist Physio. In my case it was the same Women’s Health Physio I saw before giving birth. She was the one to later also confirm I had sustained a prolapse and I did lots of pelvic floor training with her, but the treatments she gave me were mainly to help with my coccyx issue.

I would not have been where I am today with that if it wasn’t for this physio. I went for sessions with her quite frequently in the first few months post-partum and they were often very awkward and very uncomfortable but the exercises, massage, manual therapy combined with my own homework eventually brought me to a point where the pain became manageable. It was a long and slow process, and maybe it was partly Time that ran its course in the injury healing, but I strongly believe I would not have gotten where I did without physiotherapy.

I also wish I had had the same opportunity when I first injured the coccyx 10 years earlier, as back then I was only told there was nothing to do about it, that I just had to live with it. Well, it is likely I still have to live with some degree of pain and now almost two years post-birth I still struggle to sit down for too long, it is still difficult to be comfortable on a sofa and I cannot lay down flat on my back or do certain abs exercises whilst seated/lying on the floor. I also cannot live without my dear pillow. I use it on my everyday chair at home and it comes with me when I go travelling and anytime I know I will be sitting a lot without many chances of changing position.

Socially awkward again – yes sometimes it is, but the pillow does a good job for me and I prefer to stay as comfortable as I can, especially as I now have a son now who depends on me. I am just so thankful that the initial agony I was in the first few months after giving birth eased off, as it would have been tough to cope with that for much longer.

And my lesson learnt is to not suffer in silence – there is often help to get and it can make a massive difference if you make sure to get it!

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So I struggled quite lot in the beginning. I couldn’t physically sit down at all initially after the birth, as the pain in my coccyx was so intense. It was stressful as I had my little baby to care for and all I wanted to do was to sit back on the sofa with him in my arms and cuddle. This was out of the question. To breastfeed him I had to lie down, which on its own wasn’t too bad, especially at first. We stayed home anyway most of the time, as neither could I sit but nor could I walk too much (vicious circle oh yes!) so I took the time to get to know my baby in the relaxed environment of home. When I look back at those first few weeks I see myself lying on the sofa, cuddling or feeding my son. E had two weeks of paternity leave. (Actually, who am I kidding, he had 3 days of paid leave and the rest were holidays. But all that belongs in a different discussion…).

He did so much for us though. When I got up in the morning he had prepared me breakfast, usually a fruit salad – my favourite! When he came home from work he would take over the care for the baby and he cooked dinner. Although the eating itself was enjoyable I always feared the moment I had to move over to the table, as I knew how painful it would be to sit down on the chair.

For my relationship with the baby it didn’t matter too much that I could only lie down. I enjoyed his company and he enjoyed being fed, in a way it was a win-win situation going on! But when it came to socialising it became a bit of a struggle, how could I go out if I had to lie down every time I had to feed my baby?! I soon became that really awkward mum who either didn’t come out at all or when I did it had to be brief so I could get back home again in time to feed my little one. And with feeds every 90min that lasted for at least half an hour each? Well, there wasn’t really time left for much else. And further, when I did come out I had to bring my super specialised  – and essential  – pillow to sit on as there were no chances in the world I could sit on a chair without it. Heaven was when I could visit someone else’s home where I could use a bed or sofa to lie down on to breastfeed. Sometimes I breastfed standing up in a baby sling when we where out, me and my son developed a certain technique where this was possible. Anything to avoid sitting down.

Sounds awkward doesn’t it?

It was.

Some might wonder why I just didn’t endure it and sat down to feed him anyway. But the truth is that the first couple of months post birth the pain was simply too intense. I couldn’t! In that pain I also wouldn’t be holding my baby safely throughout the feed and it was simply out of the question. Some also wondered how I didn’t give up the breastfeeding and started bottle instead when it was such a problem, but when I thought about this option I soon realised that also with bottle feeding I wouldn’t get away from the part of Sitting with the baby.

The sight of a chair sometimes made me panic. It was absurd that a thing that in reality was so normal i.e. to sit on a chair, could affect me so much. My realistic me said that of course it would get better, but I didn’t know how much better it could get? Was it temporary, or was my life going to be like that from now on, and forever?

But more than anything it made me feel like a horrible mum. When I looked at other mothers I felt I stung of jealousy as I just wanted to be able to sit like a normal person and enjoy cuddles my newborn. Whenever I tried I lasted for a few seconds but the agony was always too intense and I had to give up. What a failure.

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I was on a ski holiday with friends and at the end of the last day I did that thing you are not supposed to do. I took the ski lift up the mountain again and went downhill for that ‘last one’. I was tired, the slopes were icy, with bulky patches of snow around. And I fell. I fell and landed very badly on my bum. I had done this millions of times since starting snowboarding, but I felt that this time it was different. I knew it was bad.

To make a long story short I have since then always struggled with tailbone/coccyx pain. The first 6 months post-injury were almost unbearable, the first year horrible and then it got to a point where I could start live with it but it affected my life quite a lot. I struggled sitting down for too long, cinema was something to endure rather than enjoy and travelling in a car or an aeroplane was a mission, and I would never be particularly comfortable in a sofa or an armchair.

So when I got pregnant 10 years later this whole thing of giving birth concerned me a little. Could the coccyx injury affect the process? Could the pain get worse by a vaginal birth?

I saw my Women’s Health Physiotherapist a few weeks before the due date to discuss the issue, and she gave me exercises to carry out in preparation for the birth and we discussed birth positions. As I usually found it painful to lie flat on my back, I soon understood that this position was not going to be an option for me in any part of the labour process. I would need to give birth for example on all fours, standing up or any other way as long as I wouldn’t put pressure on the tailbone. That obviously didn’t happen. 

My prolonged labour and complex birth aggravated the tailbone pain to an unbelievable extent. When the effect of my epidural wore off I quickly realised that it was something that would affect mine – affect our life massively. I had experienced that coccyx pain a decade earlier so I just knew this wouldn’t be easy to recover from, and even worse was that this time the pain was on a totally different level.

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So there are good days and bad days when it comes to my motivation. On the good days I try to forget about the negatives and almost pretend I physically am like pre-pregnancy. I just get on with the training, it is usually a spin class or a strength workout either at home or down at the gym. I close myself in the moment and just go for it. I happily set the alarm to get up in the early hours before my family wakes up, just to make the most of the day and to get my training sessions in. I innocently fantasise that I am doing intervals on a track or running a half-marathon – yes it’s almost as if I pretend in front of myself that this is what I am actually training for. I do enjoy a good spin class and all respect for that also those sessions can give me an adrenaline kick, but in reality the only thing I wish I was doing all the time, is running. I have built my jogs up slowly and have reached a distance of about 5-6K as a maximum so far, and I generally feel ok when I am out there. In terms of fitness level I could do more, it is the sensible part of me that stops me from running any further (yet). And on those good days, I pretend that ‘these are just early days’ and I am just building my running up from here. That I will run properly again!

There are the bad days though. That’s when it feels like there is no point in doing all this. Of course training and keeping fit will always ’do me good’, and if anyone knows that it’s me! But motivation fails me when I start analysing the possibility that this might be all I ever will be able to do. Spin classes and the odd 5K jog – that is not the runner I want to be, not the runner I am supposed to be, is it?! Sure, the prolapse usually feels ok when I do my little run but I have learnt that when I jog in the morning and then also walk quite a lot during the rest of the day then it will be so much worse in the evening. I have also learnt that I cannot run in the evening. The pelvic floor muscles are tired from the day and they don’t cope with the running impact if I wait until the evening to go out. I have always liked running in the morning so in a way I don’t mind, but it has come to a point where if I don’t get it done in the beginning of the day, it is not like in the past and I have a chance later on to do it. Run in the morning, or don’t do it at all, basically.

So if I have overdone things a bit (by a jog in the morning and then lots of walking during the day) and when I later that evening sense that heaviness and chafing down there just by walking around at home it is hard not letting the bad thoughts take over, and feel disheartened. When these periods come I loose myself in a bad spiral. I miss one training session and the next day my thoughts go along the lines: What difference will it make if I miss another one? I’m not a runner anymore anyway. Not really doing a half-marathon or a steeplechase race in this life again am I? So why bother. One session missed, two sessions missed, three sessions missed. So? It won’t change anything. Whatever.

This is not ok. And it’s so unlike me! I have never before in my life felt like giving up would be an option when it comes to exercise and training, and I hate myself for that I now let it happen.

The good days come back though and when they do I recognise myself again – and the good periods are when I generally feel at my best, also in other aspects of life.

I just need to hold on to those days, day after day…

 

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