The following is the first in a three-part blog series which chronicles the peripartum journey of Rachel Kilgore.
In April, I had my first child, a sweet and healthy baby girl. Reflecting on the last year, what a ride! I have had many of my friends, family members, patients, and acquaintances discuss the journey and challenges of motherhood with me, however, experiencing it first hand was a memorable voyage. I thought I was very prepared and knew what I was getting into, but as usual, nothing compares to first-hand knowledge and experience. From an academic standpoint, I had done my research on everything from conception, what to expect each trimester of pregnancy, and reviewed the many options for labor and delivery. I even was lucky enough to assist in the Herman and Wallace Care for the Post-Partum Patient course with Holly Tanner while I was pregnant! As a practitioner, I love treating pregnant and post-partum patients, it is one of my favorite populations to treat. I love helping these strong, motivated women with pain relief and to teach them management skills to adapt to a new lifestyle and a changed body that has unique musculoskeletal needs.
I had always had a preconceived notion that I would exercise diligently and eat super healthy through my pregnancy. After all, that was how my lifestyle was before pregnancy, why should it change? That lasted about 6 weeks, until 24-hour episodes of nausea and vomiting overwhelmed me, which continued until the start of the second trimester. I basically just tried to make it through the day without vomiting at work, and would go straight to bed whenever I had the chance. I even had to miss several days of work! I thought it was termed “morning sickness” implying that it went away after morning, but apparently it should be renamed to “forever nausea” as that is what it felt like at the time. Because of the nausea, I wanted nothing to do with food, which in turn lead to constant concern about the baby not getting enough nourishment. Of course, my regular activity levels plummeted. In addition to nausea was constant fear of miscarriage and whether my regular activities were somehow harmful to my baby. Instead of ice cream and pickles, I craved information. What should I be doing, and what should I not be doing?
When the first day of the second trimester hit, the nausea just went away. I was ecstatic! I got my energy back and was finally enjoying the pregnancy again! I was able to exercise regularly and eat healthy, two of my favorite things. Everything was going well, and it was time to start figuring out this whole baby thing. Luckily, most of my friends are mothers themselves, and they helped guide me. They directed me to great resources to satisfy my quest for knowledge about everything I needed to know for pregnancy, labor delivery, and the baby itself. They helped me decipher what all these baby products were, and what do you actually need. All the fun stuff was happening! We painted the baby’s room, ordered furniture, and planned a baby shower.
Everything that happens to my patients happens to me. Third trimester was when I started to really “feel pregnant”. Daily mobility became challenging. I never realized how many times in a workday I show patients correct lifting mechanics or how often I set things on the ground or pick up weights. I started to dread every time I had to pick up something. At work, I would drop my pen on the ground so many times, and why had I never noticed that I did it so often? Luckily, I used my “physical therapy knowledge and skills” and did things I tell my pregnant patients to do; the results were minimal problems with musculoskeletal pain. Techniques such as: Using proper mechanics throughout my day, pulling in my core, and wearing a maternity support if my back was hurting a little. I never really developed severe back pain as is the case for many pregnant women. I completed hip and trunk exercises I usually give my pregnant patients and found they were easy to do and made me feel better... shocking right? Of course I was doing my kegels too! While my musculoskeletal system was doing well, my gastrointestinal system was not. I had never really had heart burn before, but now had it constantly, and found it to be very frustrating and depressing. I love cooking and eating but neither are enjoyable when you have heartburn. The heartburn was so bad it would wake me up every night coughing and chocking on my own acid reflux. Between lack of sleep, heartburn, and reduced mobility, I was getting pretty excited to be done with pregnancy and to finally meet “Baby K” as we had begun calling her. Overall, being pregnant was a very informative experience for me as a person and as a clinician. I often hear my patients tell me of their uncomfortable symptoms during pregnancy involving their musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal systems, however, now I empathize on another level.