Three years ago today my life was changed in so many ways. I became a mom to a beautiful boy and started a post partum recovery that rocked my world. Since the birth of my first child I’ve really struggled with the reality of my postpartum body and recovery. Promises of a speedy recovery and taking my son in a jogging stroller were shattered when I could barely walk around the block at 4 weeks postpartum. 3 years later and I still haven’t been able to run. My bike is sitting on the rack in my garage and the bike trailer to pull my kids is at my friend’s house (in hopes that she can use it since I cannot). Before kids I did a marathon, several triathlons, and two 100 mile bike rides. It might be an understatement that I love to exercise. It’s always been a part of my life and I love the feeling of my body getting stronger and achieving physically challenging things. It’s hard to describe the nightmare I went through to bring 2 beautiful children into this world. I write this not to receive your pity but in hopes that someone else who reads this might feel less alone in their struggle.
This story is not for the faint of heart but it’s my real life story in all its painful detail. I tried to not leave anything out which means that there are some pretty gross details that you may not want to read.
I had a horrible birth experience and even worse recovery that lasted 3 years (hopefully it’s over now). You need not read further if those details are sufficient. For those who want to know all the details, keep reading it gets gory fast.
I always thought that having a baby would only be hard in the moment of birth and that recovery would take 6-8 weeks and I would be up and ready for adventure. I thought that I would be able to carry on all my activities with my baby on my back, in the stroller or bike trailer. I exercised during pregnancy and walked a mile to work 4 days a week. I was informed that if I stayed fit during pregnancy that I would have a speedy recovery and things would go well.
My reality was altered when I had a 3rd degree tear during birth and then got bronchitis and slight pneumonia a few days later and coughed my way through all the stitches for the next 6 weeks. My mother and mother in law graciously came during the first 2 weeks when I couldn’t even lift my head off the pillow. My mother-in-law stayed up every night with my son and brought him to my bed when he needed to eat. She burped him, changed his diaper, soothed him, and did whatever else he needed the rest of the time. I literally felt like I was on death’s door. I got out of bed to eat, do albuterol breathing treatments and go to the bathroom. I cried uncontrollably when my mother left and told her not to leave because I just couldn’t handle it all. In the moment it seemed like just “baby blues” and the hormones talking but looking back it was much more than that. I don’t think I ever became clinically depressed but those days, weeks, and months were very dark.
Coughing with no abs, no pelvic floor muscles, a third degree tear to the rectum and a second degree tear to the urethra is indescribable. Every attempt to cough felt like I was giving birth all over again. I would cross my legs to keep everything from coming out my vagina and rectum. I would double over in hopes that I could muster enough strength to cough out the fluid in my lungs. I laid in bed while my husband pounded on my back to help move the fluid in my lungs. Then I would switch sides and he would continue to pound my lungs. I could hardly cough and mostly just wheezed for weeks and weeks.
After delivery, while in the hospital, I had my first bowel movement because they gave me Miralax. It was all over the place. My husband walked me to the bathroom on my shaky legs and held me on the toilet. Bless his heart for not saying a word while poop literally flew everywhere. It was so painful and the smell was so horrible I almost started puking from the stench. I’m not sure how he handled it and didn’t even complain. I was so swollen I felt like I had a large softball between my legs. I asked to take a sitz bath because I’d heard such great things about it’s soothing abilities. Well it was horrid! Sitting with all my insides hanging out into a bowl of water was so painful. I only lasted 30 seconds before I stood up and said, “get me off this thing!!!” I was told by the nurse that it was recommended for me to sit and soak for 15 minutes. No WAY!!!! Get me back in bed!
After the blow out poop at the hospital they switched me to stool softeners. Looking back that just wasn’t enough and they should have just kept me on a lower dose of Miralax. I immediately got constipated which is way worse. I remember going home and not having a bowel movement for days. I could feel the poop just sitting there taunting me but because of the tear, I had no muscles to functionally remove it. I resorted to using my fingers to get it out. (I know you’re view of me has probably been lowered several notches by this but it was my reality at the time). Desperate times call for desperate measures. I increased my stool softener to help the pooping process and sometimes even that just wasn’t enough. It was literally stuck! No amount of straining or changing positions would get it out. I was embarrassed by the fact that I had to scoop my own poop out of my anus but I didn’t know what else to do. I spent a lot of time crying on the toilet faced with this most disgusting and painful realities.
I had severe hemorrhoids that were just starting to heal when I developed bronchitis and got constipated. The combination made my hemorrhoids swell even larger than when I pushed out my 9 pound baby. Three weeks after birth I called my OBGYN doubled over in pain to get more pain meds. Over the counter meds just weren’t taking the edge off of the pain. I was told I had to go be seen in the office to get more meds.
This was probably one of many wake up calls that things weren’t going so well and I was having an uncommon recovery.
By this time all my help had gone home and my husband had returned to work. I’m not sure how I drove to the doctors office. I could hardly even lift my son’s car seat down the stairs of our apartment and into the doctor’s office. I ended up putting him in the stroller to wheel him across the parking lot into the doctor’s office. The doctor took one look at my perianal area and gave me a referral to the colorectal surgeon for thrombosed hemorrhoids and a new prescription of percocet. I was thankfully seen that day by the colorectal surgeon. I decided to enlist my aunt to watch my breastfed baby while I went to the second appointment. I just couldn’t bear to take him to another appointment by myself. I dropped him off with formula at my aunt’s house and went to the colorectal surgeon. He cut out 4-5 blood clots in my anus; thankfully he numbed me for the procedure. I hurried to go pick up my son because he had a feeding coming up soon. I only had time to drop off my prescription but not pick it up on the way home. I knew the clock was ticking and that the numbness from my procedure would soon wear off. I desperately needed pain relief but couldn’t just sit in the car waiting for them to fill my prescription while my son screamed in the back seat.
My friend had planned to visit me that evening and arrived a few minutes after I got home. I was white as a ghost and teary eyed from the increasing pain. My son was screaming hungry and tired and I was soon doubled over in pain. The pain was unreal!!! She quickly took action and went to pick up the prescription for me while I fed my baby. Thankfully she had experience soothing babies and took care of him when she came back with my prescription. God sent her to me in my hour of need. All the pain from coughing, ripped stitches, and thrombosed hemorrhoids that were now open wounds was more than a new mom with engorged leaky breasts could handle.
As my recovery progressed I continued to feel something hanging out of my vagina. I came to the realization after some great Google researching that I had Uterine Prolapse. Although it generally did not interfere with my daily activities it was very uncomfortable to do any sort of physical activity that made it come out more; things like sitting up, bending over, squatting, and pooping (my new favorite topic). The worst was when I got an IUD for birth control. There is a nylon string (think fishing string) that hangs out of the uterus into the vagina when you get an IUD. If your anatomy is normal then you will never feel this string. Most women can’t even reach their finger up to feel it. I on the other hand was continually poked in my perineal area by this string. It would be like having a nylon fishing string on the end of a tampon instead of a soft cotton string. It poked and pinched every movement I made. I originally was going to give it a full 2 weeks before doing anything about it but I didn’t make it that long. I only lasted a week before I pulled it out myself. When I told my friends they were shocked that I could even find it, let alone pull it out with my fingers. Another wake up call to my unusual circumstances and reality. Even the nurse was surprised when I told her at a follow up visit what I had done. Too bad my insurance paid $1,200 dollars for it to only be inside me for 1 week. I’m surprised my prolapse was not diagnosed sooner. It makes sense though because anytime you go to the doctor you lay on your back and everything sneakily goes back into place.
Needless to say, I eventually recovered from the hemorrhoids, bronchitis and the vaginal tears from birth. The only thing that never really resolved was my pooping problem. We moved states and I found a new OBGYN and a new colorectal surgeon. Knowing I was having issues but not knowing what to do we decided to go ahead and get pregnant with our second baby. During my first prenatal visit I told the doctor my pooping problems and he did an exam and told me I had a rectal prolapse (rectocele). He described it so perfectly and I knew instantly he was describing my issue. He told me that my muscle was disconnected between my vagina and rectum and only a thin piece of tissue was holding it all together. It made perfect sense to me considering my tearing from birth, coughing through stitches and his description of my pooping problem. Up until this point the colorectal surgeon had not properly diagnosed my issue. No amount of pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) were going to reconnect my muscles and I needed to have surgery. I knew this was right because I’d been doing Kegels for a long time and had not seen any progress. I was told that I should wait until I was done having kids thought before having corrective surgery. My doctor said that once it was repaired it would be very difficult to repair if torn again. Basically if I did have another child it was automatic C-section for me. All things considered we decided to wait until we had two children to do the repair rather than opting for a C-section.
Rectocele Repair and Hysterectomy
So here I sit in my bed post rectocele repair and hysterectomy. Hoping for a speedy recovery and no more scooping poop out of my anus or pushing my uterus back in after having a bowel movement. I’m writing this to help other women who may have had a less than desirable postpartum recovery. I’m writing this to remind myself why I decided to have a hysterectomy and rectocele repair. Just in case there is a day in my future that I wonder if things were really bad enough to have such a radical surgery. I’m looking forward to riding my bike and pulling my kids in the bike trailer. I’m looking forward to going on vacations without worrying if I will be able to poop. I’m looking forward to a bright future with my loving husband and two beautiful children by my side. Here’s to a better tomorrow and a heart full of compassion for others in similar circumstances.
“You never truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Thanks for walking with me.