Dear Sciatica, I’m sorry

WARNING:  This post talks about my rear end.  a lot.  #sorrynotsorry

In the last five and a half years, I have gone through four pregnancies.  That’s pretty crazy, right?!  That sounds crazy in my head.

And during all four pregnancies, I have had some sort of pelvic pain.  For Will’s pregnancy I thought I was experiencing a type of round ligament pain but in actuality it felt like I was getting punched in the crotch.  The front part of my pelvic bone would just ache all the time.  Then I got pregnant with Weston and I would have these pains in my rear end….I called them ‘butt seizures’ because they actually felt like my entire rear end would seize up and I was not able to move.  Not a step.  Nothing would help but sitting down for a solid five minutes and then I would be able to get up and waddle to my destination.  I talked to my doctor who told me that it might be sciatica pain and I should go to a chiropractor.  Enter sciatica stretches and exercises.  I accounted for the pain by saying that I was carrying different….and then came the birth.  Weston was my first VBAC and I was so thankful that I could have him vaginally even though he was so big and posterior.  The hardest part of the VBAC recovery for me was that he fractured my tailbone on his way out and I couldn’t sit comfortably for a long time.  Fast forward to LJ.  My pregnancy with my little sweetie pie was hard for a different reason….it was the first time I had really been ill while pregnant.  I caught a cold and it turned into bronchitis and I had to wait till I was far enough along before I could get on really effective medication.  That was really hard because I coughed REALLY hard all the time.  I would throw up and simultaneously pee myself I was coughing so hard. (TMI Katie.)  The pain in my rear end was slightly worse than with Weston but I just blamed the coughing and the stress it put on my pelvis.  Again….blaming all pain on a pinched sciatic nerve and doing the stretches and exercises from a chiropractor for sciatica relief.

Okay…so basically the history of my butt includes pain, pain and more pain.

But it always went away after giving birth.

And I always blamed it on various things but mostly my sciatica.

So this past week, my rear end got progressively worse.  It was that same pain….but it was REALLY bad….like the worse it’s ever been.  And again, it was after I was really sick and coughing super hard.  I literally could not sleep because of the pain.  I couldn’t pick up the kids.  I couldn’t walk or bend over or even sit comfortably.  It was embarrassing and depressing and I could tell it was affecting me a lot mentally and my relationship with Jeremy because I was asking him to help me with EVERYTHING.  I hate being helpless and I hate asking for help even more.

I decided that the best thing to do was google.  I started searching everything I could find about sciatica pain that would disappear after childbirth.  The funny thing is….sciatica pain doesn’t generally disappear after birthing a child.  It should stick around.  But mine never did.  That is when I discovered PGP…..pelvic girdle pain…and it’s often confused with sciatica pain in pregnancy.  I did a ton of research and read everything I could.  Pelvic girdle pain is basically very common in pregnancy but people here in the US just don’t talk about it a lot and it’s often misdiagnosed.  It’s so common in pregnancy because that is when our bodies produce relaxin (that hormone that makes our joints loosey-goosey).  Relaxin is a good thing….but for my pelvis, it means that my bones are coming so far apart that it is producing pain.  They recommend physiotherapy and keeping your hips and pelvis and spine aligned, resting and not lifting or pushing or carrying anything heavy.  You can do manual alignment and also wear a support belt to pull everything back together.

In Will’s pregnancy, that is probably what caused the pain in front….the bones of the pelvis were coming apart right there in my crotch area.  Then during Weston’s pregnancy, the pain was in the joints in the back but concentrated on one side (deceiving, yes but that is common).   After the Weston injury, the pain got progressively worse….increased by pressure on my pelvic floor from coughing…and even more aggravated by the fact that I was doing stretches for sciatica (there is a big difference in treatment for these two things!).  Since I didn’t do the recommended healing after Weston was born (physiotherapists recommend a year of pelvic healing and proper exercises to strengthen your abs and your pelvic floor) before getting pregnant again….my problem was exacerbated.  Times two because then I got pregnant again so soon after LJ.

After talking to a therapist, I searched for a good belt and late Friday night I put on in my Amazon cart so that I could purchase it in the morning (I was in so much pain that I wasn’t about to crawl down the stairs to get my debit card).  I wish I could explain the situation fully….but the short of it is that the pain was bringing me to tears.  Not getting much sleep, not being able to walk, not being able to feel confident that I was keeping the kids safe from potential situations, having leg cramps and not being able to stretch them because I couldn’t move…it was all really bad.  I prayed really hard that night that the belt would come soon and that it would work.  The next morning, I woke up when I hear LJ stirring and I waddled slowly in to get him.  Then it hit me….years ago, our friend Dan gave me a pregnancy belt.  He was working as a medical supply rep and he gave away free samples to therapists and he had an extra one that he gave me.  It was hilarious that I remembered it.  I mean…it was six years ago….before I had any pregnancy or any pain.  I knew that I wouldn’t have thrown it away and I just took a random guess that it was in our gift wrap closet.  I know….that sounds crazy but for whatever reason, I thought….if I still have it, it’ll be in with our Christmas bags.

Low and behold, LJ and I crawled in there and I looked up and saw the box.  It was just sitting there….on top of the rolls of wrapping paper….like God had delivered a present to me.  I know this sounds like a crazy story but I opened the box and it was exactly the belt that I needed….right size and everything.  I strapped it on as tightly as I could and I could literally feel my bones getting closer together.  They even made weird popping noises.   The belt is crazy good….even though it doesn’t make the pain completely disappear, I CAN WALK.  I can sit.  I can actually do things.  I still have butt seizures if I do a twisting movement in the wrong direction, move too quickly or get my hips out of a locked position and the bad news is that my belly is itchy from the constant compression….but it’s totally worth it to have the ability to go to the bathroom, go get a drink, even just walk to the mailbox.

No Support Belt       –    With Support Belt

All that to say….I am a few weeks away from welcoming baby boy #4 and so excited to meet him and say goodbye to this PGP.  Also….I owe my sciatica an apology.  And maybe some chocolates.  And if you are an expectant gal who is experiencing discomfort down there….I hope this post helps.  If it only helps one person…it’s worth writing.  I wish I had read something like this about pelvic girdle pain a long time ago.  I very much recommend getting a support belt asap and starting on proper treatment.  Because really….as in any DIY project, prep work really helps….and I know that you mama’s need to be able to take care of yourself and your family!

As for whether or not the belt is really noticeable under clothing….not for me as much.  It could be worse.  Sometimes I wear the belt over my clothing if I am gonna be home all day because it takes some of the itch away.  I tend to be like a stuffed sausage when I am pregnant so the really only noticeable difference under clothing is that it pushes my spare tire up higher….also it flattens the top part of my bottom.  Sometimes it does feel like it’s slipping up so I will have to adjust it under my clothing….especially after sitting….because it needs to sit lower to pull those bones together.  I still practice my pelvic and ab exercises and do the proper hip alignment movements which definitely help.  I write all this just to say….I love my belt.  And dear sciatic nerve….I am really sorry you got blamed.  Off to write a long apology letter to the nerve in my bum :)

Also…if you are wondering, this is the belt I use.  Good luck ladies….may your rear end ever be in your favor :)