A valuable insight
(First published 6th December 2015)
I won't ever claim to know what it's like to have a permanent disability. I don't, and I hope I never will. But experiences post-birth have given me an insight into life with a newborn with limited mobility. I found it incredibly tough, but found great support in slings, hence I thought I'd share.
When Emilia was 12 days old, my leg went dead. It had been a bit achey for a few days, but I didn't think too much about it. But on the Saturday, it got steadily more and more painful. Then it began swelling and turning purple. My husband was out, so I called my dad over to watch the bigger kids as I was in so much pain that I couldn't get out of bed. I rang 111 and they sent a paramedic straight out. As he was examining my leg it was visibly getting worse and by that point was entirely numb. I couldn't feel anything from mid-thigh down to my toes.
I was taken by ambulance to A&E. As my dad was about to watch the big kids, husband followed in the car with Emilia. I was eventually diagnosed with a suspected Deep Vein Thrombosis, but as they don't have the facility to scan on the weekends (insert Jeremy Hunt gags here...) I was sent home with mega doses of blood thinners to inject daily and an appointment on Monday morning.
By this point I was entirely immobile. I couldn't walk at all. My husband had to carry me to the toilet and I struggled to even roll over in bed. I was in constant agony. On the Monday, I was taken to my scan in a wheelchair. I was able to safely transport Emilia on my front in a stretchy wrap. While I was scanned, my husband took her, but I think I'd have been able to have the scan whilst still wearing her had he not been there.
They confirmed the diagnosis and advised that I had a huge blood clot in my femoral vein. In my mind, I imagined a tiny little lump blocking the vein, but it transpired that my clot stretched all the way from my thigh to my belly button. I was admitted back to the post natal ward so that I could be treated and keep Emilia with me. I couldn't do the most basic things, even changing her bum as I couldn't sit up without causing severe pain.
After a few days of blood thinners, there was a slight improvement and I was able to move around a little. I was still surviving on a heavy schedule of painkillers though and was even still relying on propping myself up onto a midwife and peeing into a disposable bowl as a solution to going to the loo because I couldn't stand up. I'd been rejected for a new "clot busting" surgery as my clot was too near my caesarean site and could have caused a serious bleed so I was sent home with more blood thinning injections and Warfarin tablets with instructions to come back every couple of days for a blood test.
For my first couple of hospital visits, I was still essentially wheelchair bound, using crutches only for short bursts such as toilet trips. I would attend clinic with Emilia bound to my front in either a stretchy or a Connecta for ease. As I got more mobile, I was able to make my way to the clinic (a ten minute walk from the car park!) on my crutches with Emilia in a sling. Frimley Park Hospital has seemingly endless corridors but all are equipped with pull-down chairs so I was able to rest at regular, short intervals to make the long walk more manageable. The first time I managed that walk without my husband there to help me (the poor sod was still trying to park), the triumph and sheer effort made me burst into tears when I hauled myself into the waiting room. I'd been unable to walk for almost a month so the sudden leaps in improvement were overwhelming.
Once I was able to competently use the crutches, I was able to do so much more with Emilia in tow. It's amazing how you take little things for granted, but suddenly not being lifted onto a toilet was a huge achievement. I don't know how parents manage in similar situations without slings, I honestly don't. Mine literally became my arms for me. It was probably about 6 weeks all told before I regained my mobility. It's the most difficult thing I've ever had to deal with. I still can't even talk about almost having to stop breastfeeding due to my medication, the threat of having to send Emilia home without me at 2.5 weeks old, or the worry of going to bed and not waking up at all. It sounds too dramatic and feels unreal now. But from a practical point of view, my stretchy wrap and my Connecta entirely changed the course of my first few months with my newborn and gave me an independence to care for her that I otherwise would not have had. And for that I am eternally grateful.