A year ago today, I spent much of the day like this:
That’s me, in labor and delivery, trying relieve some of the pressure each contraction exerted on my sacrum.
With each of my labors, the intensity of the contractions was focused not on the part of the back where most women experience “back labor,” but further down in my sacrum and into my tailbone.
I actually broke my tailbone during the birth of my first child. (We got to 8cm dilation and then I got an epidural that time. Both of my subsequent labors were drug free.) But that’s an indication of how much pressure my labors exerted in that part of my body.
My wonderful doulas were flummoxed, because most of their traditional pain relief methods for women suffering from back contractions not only didn’t help, but they actually hurt worse.
After the tailbone incident with baby 1, I worked very hard with a chiropractor to open up the birthing space. That labor was a three-hour sprint that resulted in a water birth and a gorgeous baby girl.
Despite all my work, my contractions were still sacral and intense.
The chronic psoas and pelvic pain that I have mentioned many times here really manifested in the first three years of my daughter’s life. This pain led me to surgery for endometriosis as well as more and a year-and-a-half of physical therapy.
When I got pregnant again, I was bound and determined that my contractions would not be sacral. Thus began my obsession with body alignment.
Alas, as you can see from the photo, I experienced my intense contractions in the same place again. Baby A was born after an eleven hour labor on land and in the water. Blessedly, the pushing phase lasted less than five minutes.
I asked my amazing, wise midwife at my postpartum visit* why, when I had worked so hard to open up the birthing space, had my contractions remained sacral?
“The tissues have a memory, Kristine. Sometimes they hold on to the pain,” she said.
I don’t profess to have all the answers. But my three pregnancies, labors and deliveries – one medicated and two completely unmedicated – have led me to believe that we are missing some things when it comes to how we “train” women in this country.
I question the most fundamental ideas about “fitness” and what it means to be strong, now, and I suspect that if you have read this blog much, you’ve picked up on that. (Like with this post, and this post, and this post, for starters.)
I think we … and by “we” I include myself … have gotten a lot wrong and, as a result, we’ve jacked up a lot of women’s bodies. We’ve possibly even led people into chronic pain spirals where their bodies “hold on to” their pain for years, decades and even lifetimes.
All that sacral labor means I get to smoosh my face in this little blitz of lemony tufts all day long:
So, I’d do it again a zillion times over. But, I’m talking to my clients differently now. I’m looking at their bodies differently now. I’m valuing function over form, health and wellness over “fitness” and commonsense over (gasp!) “science**.”
I’m not sure where this journey will take me, but luckily, I know there are others out there asking similar kinds of questions. I hope that you’ll stay with me on this ride.
(*My midwife practice is amazing. I know I said that before, but I wanted to reiterate. One reason they are so amazing is that unlike most other practices in the area, the first “postpartum” visit is two weeks after your baby’s birth. They want to check in with mama, for emotional and social reasons as much as physical ones. I wish more practitioners worked that way.)
(**I’m not actually ditching science as far as the whole “continuous quest for knowledge” process goes. Just looking less towards the fitness study-du-jour for my information.)