This photo of Matthew and I was taken when I was 35.
I’ve had 3 babies in my 20s, 5 in my 30s and now I am pregnant with our 10th baby conceived in my mid 40s. Some of my pregnancies have been straightforward and some of them have been eclipsed by SPD, or more simply, pain and mobility issues.
At just 24 I found out I was pregnant with our first baby. It had taken a few months to conceive him and I had genuinely wondered if I would ever be able to conceive. During my teenage years I suffered with eating disorders and my periods were either absent or very irregular until I was 19. I wondered if I had damaged my body and would pay the price with my fertility. Thankfully God doesn’t delight in punishing us, but he does delight in giving us his gifts, ‘Behold, children are a gift of the LORD’. Psalm 127:3.
That first positive test was the start of the best journey of my life, a journey where God has grown me as he has encouraged me to lean into him and to trust him, even when it’s hard, to give me what he knows is best for me.
We never planned on having so many children. I had it all sorted, I would have four children with small gaps and then they could all grow up together and do the same sort of things at the same time. God had other ideas! After Christopher, which was a fairly easy pregnancy, we decided to have another and God blessed us with another boy, I was 27. I was so tired raising these 2 little men and thought I couldn’t do it again, but once I had lifted my head from the fog of sleep deprivation I thought maybe I could do it just once more.
At 29 I was pregnant again and fit and well, but with a few months I had become fairly immobile and I discovered I had a condition known as SPD (symphysis pubis disjunction). I found myself struggling to move more than a few steps without pain and spent much of the pregnancy sitting down reading stories and doing puzzles with 2 busy boys. In order for them to get exercise I would drive to the park and shuffle over to the park bench where I would sit whilst they climbed on the equipment. I asked my midwife for advice and was sent to the physio who gave me a belt to wear around my pelvis. This was of little comfort as my pelvis was so far out of alignment. At 39 weeks our first daughter came into the world with her hand by her head and the cord tight around her neck. I wondered if my misaligned pelvis caused her to settle in to a bad position, but praise God she was born safely.
At 31 we felt brave enough to try for one more baby, maybe we would be blessed with a sister for Madeleine, completing our family with 2 boys and 2 girls. After the pain of the previous pregnancy I had done some research into SPD and found that chiropractic adjustment may well be the key to a more mobile pregnancy.
Just 12 weeks into the next pregnancy I felt the pain in my bones as I pushed the pushchair to school (we were still doing the school run then). The more I pushed, the more it hurt, so I prayed. The Lord inspired a lovely neighbour to walk our boys to school each day, along with her children. I also started seeing a chiropractor and these 2 changes made a huge difference. I also used the belt I had been given in my last pregnancy and this time, with a realigned pelvis, it kept everything fairly stable. I was able to walk around the house pain free but after a couple of weeks I would find the pain would return and another adjustment was needed. The less I did physically, the less pain I would experience and so I learnt to parent from a sitting position whenever possible. I would gather the children into one room with me and sit on the sofa and read, chat, encourage, mediate disputes and play long imaginary games. Thankfully I didn’t go crazy and God’s grace got me through that season.
Elizabeth was born safely and thankfully without complication. My pelvis had been adjusted shortly before birth, allowing her to descend comfortably into an optimal birthing position. I continued to receive occasional adjustment from the chiropractor for the next year, as my pelvis still occasionally hurt, but at the end of that year I was fully recovered and we felt ready to consider opening our hearts to another blessing, but was that really a good idea?
How would my body handle another pregnancy? Were we being foolish? I just felt so convicted that God could be trusted. What was Phil thinking though? Surely he wanted to protect me from any further pain? He wrestled for some time between trusting God and trusting the wisdom of this world. He knew that, ‘the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God’, 1 Corinthians 3:19. God’s given us a mind though, shouldn’t we use it? These questions went through his head more than mine, as I tend to be fairly led by my emotions and Phil by his reasoning. I think if it had taken us months to conceive we may have both chickened out, but after an impetuous night we both found God had made up our minds for us.
After 2 pain filled pregnancies I really wondered what I had in store and I waited for the pain to kick in. And I waited and I waited. Nine months later I hadn’t felt a single twinge of discomfort and our 5th child, Matthew, was safely born without a moment of complication.
God was so kind. Matthew’s pregnancy was the first when we really trusted God and he made it so easy for us.
Stepping out again was easier this time after God had so graciously led us through our first big step of faith. Hannah’s pregnancy was a wake up call though, this was a tough one. From the moment I conceived until I gave birth I felt sick, tired and dizzy. My SPD didn’t rear it’s head again for several months, but then at 33 weeks it came on with gusto. I found myself unable to even walk to the toilet. Crawling up the stairs and using furniture to support myself, I made it round the house until I managed to get to the chiropractor’s. After the first appointment I was much better and fortnightly appointments got me through the final few weeks with minimal pain.
Now I was beginning to wonder why my body reacted so badly to some pregnancies and not to others? Was I prepared to go through that again, to take that risk? Somehow through the blurry mist of post natal anxiety, which hit me badly after Hannah’s birth, I started to see a way forward. Trusting God seemed the only path of sense. I knew that we could stop at any point, God would not condemn us, but that wasn’t the point. I wanted to go deeper, to find God in the suffering and not just avoid all pain. I didn’t delight in suffering but I knew God was using it to shape me and I felt compelled to go on discovering more of his will for my life. I was learning that God’s will is not always for my earthly comfort, but it is always for my good. If I could continue to surrender to his plans for me I might uncover the diamonds of his love, hidden in dark places. It’s often only it the darkness that we seek his light and I was beginning to understand that my weakness was the key to unlocking his strength.
So we stepped out again and God’s gift to us came in the form of Stephen, our bundle of fun and energy. Not for one day in his pregnancy did I feel unwell or in pain. At 39 weeks I danced the ceilidh, I was astounded to feel the power of God’s grace.
Michael soon followed, our 8th baby. His pregnancy was trouble free and without any SPD pain. I really didn’t know why my body was thriving, having struggled through several other pregnancies, but I was grateful for the reprieve.
Then came Katie, our ninth blessing. After an uneventful first and second trimester , the pain of SPD returned again at about 30 weeks. The chiropractor once again set me straight and helped me to stay mobile for the final few weeks. Katie arrived straight into Daddy’s arms in a beautiful speedy and unassisted home birth (the midwife didn’t make it in time).
And so, that brings us onto baby number ten. At 15 weeks I felt the first twinges of pain in my pelvis and then again and 18 weeks. By 20 weeks I decided that I needed to see a chiropractor, if I was going to stay mobile. So far so good, the pain has settled and I’m still walking, although I’m consciously taking care to treat my body with care and long walks are definitely out of the question.
It seems to be the case that up until now, all my ‘SPD pregnancies’ have been the girls. Will this be another girl? We’ll have to wait and see, as I don’t ever find until birth, it will be a surprise for us too.
Looking back it seems that the challenges I’ve had with pregnancy haven’t really been age related. I’ve had one hard pregnancy at 29, and yet an easy one at 39. It appears that my discomforts may be hormone related, as the girl pregnancies seem to have been more difficult that the boys.
At 44 I now have more willing and capable helpers and so my job is less physical than it was even 5 years ago. Now my job seems to involve more emotional support, as I learn to raise teenagers. These teens are happy to help be clean up or cook or play with a sibling, but they also need me to help them sort through their emotions and to be there as a listening ear. Thankfully I can do all that whilst pregnant, although sometimes I get overwhelmed with so many people’s feelings and I have to go and off load onto God’s broad shoulders.
Teenage emotions are still a new challenge for me, and I actively seek out the advice of other wiser people. I do though have lots of experience with SPD in pregnancy and so I have put together a few ideas for those who are suffering, as I just want to offer some hope. No two pregnancies are the same and even when pain bites there are solutions. My top tips are:
Sleep with a thin pillow between your legs.
Get in and out of bed and the car with two legs together.
See a chiropractor and then wear a support belt .
Don’t cross your legs.
Rest as much as possible.
Remember this is just for a season and your baby will soon be here and the pain will be worth it.
SPD is a fairly hidden and misunderstood pregnancy condition. I have sadly found little support from GPs or even midwives, who seem to offer paracetamol and exercise sheets, which are of little help. please don’t suffer in silence, there are solutions. Please drop me a comment if I can be of any help, even if it’s just for prayer.
I am so grateful that I didn’t stop having babies at the end of my 20s, when SPD first reared its ugly head. I’m grateful for God’s grace, the help of friends and the wise counsel of women who have walked this path before me. I also give thanks that this is not a life threatening condition, it is harmless for the baby and it will pass.
I’ll try and keep up to date on the blog and let you know a bit more about the animals and vegetables growing, not just the growing baby!
In the meantime, sending blessings to you all.
If you want to receive regular updates please subscribe to the blog or follow us on Instagram at goldbyfamilybusydays.