Motherhood Is Painful

by Sarah Burns
Originally Published: 

Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can see her. She’s standing there in her pointy shoes and neatly pressed outfit, looking pain-free and focused. Her thoughts are clear, her form is fit—she’s got free time. She is the me I used to be.

Perhaps, I’ll see her again one day… but I doubt it. Why? Because I’m a mother now.

Don’t get me wrong. My existence has changed in immeasurably wonderful ways since I’ve had my children. Everyday, my babies recharge my spirit with their unconditional love and curiosity.

Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t say my body took a hit bringing them into this world.

Sleepless nights, yes, that I was prepared for.

The complete loss of myself as a pain-free individual? That, I was not.

The simple fact is that I was not prepared for how brutally motherhood would pit me against my own body.

These days, I wake up feeling like an 80 year old—without fail, something always hurts.

It wasn’t always this way.

My journey into motherhood started smoothly enough. My pregnancy was plagued by fatigue (not a shocker since I was carrying twins). But then some unexpected plot twists began to arise.

To start, some seemingly benign itching on my palms led to a diagnosis of cholestasis (a nightmarishly rare gall bladder disease which causes your entire body to sting and swell) and then there was pre-eclampsia.

All of this while my waterlogged legs and feet began to ache and puff and my appetite evaporated (try keeping a normal stomach size against the pressure of two growing babies).

So, when I went into labor I was relieved. Believing the worst was surely behind me, I braved up.

Unfortunately, I would be the lucky winner of a ‘natural’ delivery that was anything but, thanks to a mysterious hemorrhage (which required me to receive 12 pints of blood and an 8 day ICU stay)

Other parting prizes:

A baseball-sized abdominal blood clot.

A month-long bout of incontinence so intense I’d create waterfalls upon standing.

Terrifying heart palpations that would plague me at in opportune times.

And my personal favorite: A sloppily done episiotomy cut so deeply into my muscle that I had to shuffle around and sit on pillows for six months.

Eventually, I healed from this hellish list and began taking care of my babies.

I put pain behind me — but eventually she caught up.

It only took two months for me to tear the lowest disc in my spine. A sad feat, considering I’d had a healthy back my entire pre-baby life. The burning searing pain that resulted would keep me from the little rest I could wrangle in those early months with my twins — and it lingered for seven months. Thankfully, I was so tired that I could sleep comfortably on ice packs.

Two months later and my right hip went out — a strained muscle that took a few weeks to heal.

Pain took a pass on me for a while but came back the next summer when my babies began teething.

That’s when the spinning began.

Most people don’t classify dizziness as pain. But when you constantly feel like you are on a high-speed carousel from hell — well, things become painful. You get headaches for one, you feel nauseous, you can’t watch TV or scan Facebook. My vertigo lasted five excruciating weeks. My doctor couldn’t make it stop. I suffered strongly.

Yet, the lambasting my body has taken has supercharged its strength in some unexpected ways. I see it in the eyes of amazed strangers when I swiftly scoop up and carry two tantruming toddlers out of a store alone or when I quickly collapse a double stroller with simply one hand and a foot. I get looks mingling sympathy and often sheer surprise. Shocked at my physical capabilities, perhaps–or more likely at how I cope with the chaos that now always seems to surround me.

I find this funny. Before I became a mother some may have classified me as a weakling — I avoided heavy loads like the plague yet in an ironic twist they are now a part of my daily life.

The truth is, no matter how creaky my carriage now feels, I wouldn’t trade my new body. I am now the owner of a formidable new frame, a body that brought two babies into this world at the same time and is still kicking. A body that’s doing the best it can do for me at this time — so I cut myself some slack. Its been a lot stronger than I ever thought possible — a fact I’m proud of — and if pain has to be a side affect for a while, so be it.

So, listen hard when I tell you what no one ever told me: Should you choose to do it, motherhood will be the singular, biggest physical challenge you’ll ever experience in your life.

But you know what they say, right?

No pain, no gain.

I just recently realized ‘they’ were likely mothers.

Related post: The Universal Truth of Motherhood

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