Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christian? Why do you only have One Child?

This is a question that we get often asked. 

Being a Christian is almost synonymous with having multiple children, so many Christians find it very difficult to understand & accept that we have made a decision to have just one child.

When Nick I first met & went through pre-marital counselling, we were both completely sold on having at least 2 children. So you may be asking, what changed?

Nick & I were married 3 years when I got pregnant. The pregnancy was going sort of smoothly (awful morning sickness for 9 months) until I reached around 26 weeks. I suddenly started getting nagging stinging pains in my groin. At first I ignored the pain, putting it down to normal pregnancy problems. Then one day I was taking my dog for an excursion to the local pet shop - I put on her lead at the front door and started walking down the stairs towards our garage. The dog, out of the blue, yanked me down the stairs. Thankfully I didn't fall, but I got a good physical jolt. By the time I had driven to the pet shop I knew something was seriously wrong as I could barely walk without being in pain. Serious pain!

After a week of being in pain & unable to really walk I decided to visit the midwife. To cut a very long story short - it turned out I was suffering from a bad case of 'Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction' or 'Pelvic Girdle Pain'.  It is apparently caused by an unstable pelvis - which could have been caused by some a physically traumatic accident prior to getting pregnant. When you get pregnant, there is an increase of the hormone, relaxin - which causes the body to become more relaxed/loose.  In this case an already unstable pelvis becomes very loose & unstable, causing a lot of pain.  I do not have any knowledge of any physical damage done in my life.  Physio after physio would tell me that I must have had some accident as a child - perhaps falling off a horse. There was nothing that happened to me like this.

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) cannot be "fixed". It gets worse as the pregnancy progresses. Many women end up in wheelchairs & unable to physically do any movement (as your pelvis is a core part of almost every movement the body does). I ended up switching to a doctor from a midwife to try and get extra support & find the "cure" to the suffering I was going through. It didn't happen. By the time I reached 37 weeks I could only manage minimal walking, I was experiencing excruciating pain with every turning movement I made with the pelvis (turning my body in general). Turning over in bed was a nightmare (literally) & lifting my legs (getting in and out of cars), (going up stairs) was just as bad.  Every time I went out I was in fear of someone bumping into me and causing more permanent damage.

The best way to describe, without the pain, what I was going through 24/7 was like walking on ice. Anyone how has tried to walk on ice will understand the feeling of complete immobility & instablity. Without the pain this is what I also experiencing day after day.  But I did have pain - a lot of it & due to the extent of this pain  the doctor granted me a "get of jail free card" & allowed me to be induced at 38 weeks. I was lucky as my body was extremely sensitive to hormones and I was already showing signs of labour.

Most women who suffer from SPD generally become completely "fixed" and pain-free straight after birth. This was not the case for me. I was in the small, small percentage of women that do not recover fully from SPD.

Everyday I experienced immobility, pain & the emotional stress of no longer having my body the way it used to be and I had a beautiful newborn baby to cope with.  I mourned the loss of activities like running, skating, jumping, swimming, dancing etc. My life would never be the same again. The most difficult thing to endure was the fact that I was not able to look after my baby properly and do the things I wanted to with her. Just getting on the floor to sit with her was almost impossible. The movement involved with getting up off the floor was the scariest thing! Nick had to help out with so many normal tasks. He was champion.

Our life was in for huge changes! We lived in a 2 story/level house.  This quickly became a major problem for us. I was not able to get back up the stairs once I was down. The baby's bedroom was upstairs and the living area downstairs. We had to sell our house & move to single level living urgently. Our savings were quickly being spent on countless visits to doctors, physios & could help me.   My life & my body was falling to pieces & I was only 26 years old.  People would come to visit the baby, but no-one would really know that behind the scenes I was barely holding things together.

Once we moved into a new house on a single level, things started getting slightly better. The biggest improvement came when I stopped breastfeeding at 7 months. It was around this time that I had to slowly learn how to walk again.  With the help of a women's physio I had to learn this walking movement from scratch.

Fast forward 5 years...

I have recovered quite considerably. I've travelled around the world to see specialists in Canada & England. It is still very much a unknown problem - there is little research on SPD and most medical personnel have no clue at all about it & do not give it any real consideration.  It is still not an "official" medical problem so those of us that have suffered serious disability cannot qualify for any help or assistance. For some women serious disability remains - I know of many, many women who are not able to walk again & live in constant pain. These women are not able to run a household, let alone look after their children - their lives are shattered, but still SPD remains "unofficial" & "undiagnosable" and therefore no-one with SPD qualifies for disability help.  

I am still not able to do many things that a "normal" person would physically be able to do. I am not able to do any serious physical activity. Around my monthly cycle I have to be very careful with my body as the hormones increase at this time & everything "relaxes" again.  I run the risk of damage by any serious physical activity at this time. Over the years I have experienced serious disability again around my monthly cycle. My pelvis become unstable & the pain in the groin returns.   I do not have the 'figure' I would like to have, but I am very blessed & lucky that I have been able to recover much of my basic movements again & I do not live in pain. I have regular exercises I must do to retain strength in the pelvic area & maintain a pain-free existence. Through my journey I have come to appreciate things in life I never would have before & I have learned to relax a little about life & not have such high physical expectations of myself.

I have lived through depression & I am a survivor. I understand deeply that being a Christian does not mean God will rescue me from my problems, it also doesn't mean I have some grave sin still in my life causing this disability to continue. It is just the way it is.

The Bible says in Matthew 5:45, 'That you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the on the unjust.' 

I have asked God many times to heal me & remove this burden from my life, but for the time being it is here to stay. I am at peace with God about this now. How I choose to respond to my difficulty is really what matters. 

Do I still have difficult days - Yes!
Do I still mourn the loss of wanting my body to things it can't - Yes!
Do I still dream of running & winning races, like I did in my youth - Yes!
Do I wish I could exercise and have a flat tummy again? - Yes!
Do I get on my knees some nights and cry out to God for release - Yes!

Through this there is one thing I know like nothing else.

That no matter how difficult I think my problems are & not matter how tough life gets I will continue to praise my God & worship Him all my days! He is King and Lord of all & always worthy of my praise & honour.

Through this, Nick & I, made the decision that we would not have another child. We believe God has given us a brain to make intelligent and smart decisions about our family. We both believe that it would insane, reckless & stupid to get pregnant again. The risk is high that I will suffer from extreme symptoms of SPD again, normally women who have suffered from SPD before get symptoms much, much earlier & then they become worse. I have read countless horror stories of women who have had SPD before, needing a wheelchair as early as 6 weeks in to their pregnancy. Then there are the countless numbers of women who never regain the ability to walk again & live in constant pain.

We choose not to go down this track again. We do not feel that this qualifies us as "pessimists" and people of "no faith". Instead we believe we are smart, Godly parents, that are doing the very best for the one child that God has already given us. 

Do we get frustrated when people ask us about not having another baby? Yes.
Do I sometimes feel 'down' about not having another child? Yes.
Will I regret not taking the chance? Probably.

But I do know that when we stand before God one day we will feel 100% confident that God will know that we did the best job as parents that we could in every decision we made.

For more information about SPD in New Zealand

For information about SPD in the UK

A great Osteopath in Auckland (East) -  Bruce Jones

Another great Osteopath in Auckland (North) - Jil Headifen

World Renown Specialist Physio - White Rock, Vancouver, Canada - Diane Lee

Leading UK Physio in SPD - Lucy Walmsley

Each of the people mentioned above has helped me in my recovery from SPD. Each has a different technique in dealing with it. Please contact me if you want more information about SPD.