The missing link. Spinal Surgery, spondylolisthesis, pregnancy and Infertility

Our bodies are smart.

For the last 10 years I’ve had what I would chock up to be back problems. It started in 2008 when from what seemed like one day to another I started to get a pain in my ass. I remember it exactly as I stayed over at my in-laws and it was Easter. Not that my in-laws were the pain in the ass, lol, I just felt my hip bone and that it was quite painful to sit on. That Easter start my first journey into “back pain”. I now am being sent to spinal surgery to fuse one part of my spine and we are all starting to think that my body was smarter than we gave it credit for. What if this whole infertility thing is because of my back and my body knowing I couldn’t maintain a pregnancy due to the stress on my spine?

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Sciatica

I was told that I have sciatica, a very common ailment for people who tend to sit too much and it seems that when you talk to people about it everyone has had it or heard someone have this. When I was diagnosed with this 10 years ago, I took this as the final diagnosis and didn’t think much of it. For two whole months after the diagnosis I did nothing much else but get driven to physio or to Stephanie. 

If you want to imagine the pain, I describe it like this. If you put your hand over fire and there is a point where your brain says take your hand off because you feel its burning, except you can’t take your hand off and you continue to burn your hand.

At first I couldn’t even walk up the stairs to the washroom so I went to the basement and walked up on all fours. I ended up having to sleep in the living room, I don’t remember why but thats what happened. Overall the situation wasn’t pretty but with intense treatment and lots of time I got out of it.

In the meantime I did get a referral to a Orthopaedic surgeon as the nerves on my right thigh and foot had died. Till this day I still can’t feel anything on the back of my theigh. The surgeon chalked it up to the fact that some people get their nerves back and some don’t. He said, come back if you need to but didn’t encourage me to follow up with him as I was 75% recovered. We went to Orlando and Disney land after the summer and I didn’t go on any of the rides because there was still a fear of getting hurt.

Over the last 10 years…..

I have been managing this back issue by running to acupuncture as soon as I felt any kind of pain. We always thought it was just sciatica coming back again. When it did, Hubby would say to me when I was in pain that I wasn’t doing my rehab exercises. The pain would come back during stressful situations and also randomly. Whenever we did canoeing we were always vigilant about the back stuff.

The part that is shitty is that when you say your back hurts, everybody else says their back hurts too. Nobody really recognized that it could be more.

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Spondylesthesis – with the spine shifted forward with a disc. I don’t have a disc.

Spondylolisthesis

How we think it all started.

Watching all the videos about this issue has really brought me back to the time when I fell and I fractured my tailbone, I think I was about 10. I sat down on my bum from a standing position with my hands out in front of me. I remember trying to walk up to my grandparent’s apartment and needing to do it on all fours. I was in such pain. They ended up taking me to the emergency in Poland and saw that there was a fracture. According to all the videos I’ve seen this was enough to create a breakage in one of my discs.

What is it?

Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a defect in a part of the spine causes vertebra to slip to one side of the body. Typical symptoms of spondylolisthesis include back pain and/or leg pain. This video explains the common symptoms and causes for patients with both degenerative spondylolisthesis and isthmic spondylolisthesis.

https://www.spine-health.com/video/spondylolisthesis-overview-video

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I have somewhere between a grade 2 and 3.

Symptoms

  1. persistent lower back pain.
  2. stiffness in your back and legs.
  3. lower back tenderness.
  4. thigh pain.
  5. tight hamstring and buttock muscles.

I have all of this plus the fact that I can’t walk that far or stand. If I think I’m feeling better I remember shortly after that I can’t. I tried going to Costco and walking around, forget it. I was done after a few metres. Right now it is having an affect on my life.

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The next step.

After 8 months of pain in the last year I was finally sent to emergency and then to a neurosurgeon. When the surgeon saw my MRI from 10 years ago and the new one from this year, without question he said, spinal fusion surgery. Needless to say we were pretty shocked as nobody had predicted that this was heading in this direction.

I have no disc in one spot and my spine has moved forward in the exact spot where there is the most amount of postural change during pregnancy.

I am now actually grateful that I have never been pregnant because pregnancy would have put me over the top. I wouldn’t have been able to carry and if I did I would have been in a lot of pain.

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This is how my disc looks like

What to learn from this?

Perhaps this is the missing link in the fertility journey. Maybe my body knew in the time that we were doing IVF that this was not a good idea. Who knows, right?

The surgery is pretty intense as the recovery period is about two months. Lets see where this will take us.

Maybe this is our answer?


Spondylolisthesis and Pregnancy

Exercise Before Helps Prevent Pain During Pregnancy

Question: I have grade II spondylolisthesis, but I’m not experiencing any symptoms. What would happen if I became pregnant? Would the weight and pressure of the baby worsen my condition?
—Kingston, RIWoman in silhouette thinking about having a baby, baby silhouette in cloud overheadAnswer: It’s great that you’re asking these questions now because it’s important to deal with these concerns before becoming pregnant. And fortunately, although you cannot reduce spondylolisthesis, nor prevent possible worsening, there are ways to prevent symptom progression, especially during pregnancy.

But here’s the unavoidable truth—pregnancy is hard on your back. In fact, approximately 80% of women report having back pain while pregnant, and many of those women don’t have a pre-existing spinal disorder! Posture changes, weight gain, and loss of abdominal strength all directly affect the health of your back. You can learn more in our article about back care and pregnancy. So even though your spondylolisthesis hasn’t produced any symptoms, becoming pregnant may exacerbate your condition.

So what can you do? Focus on your health before getting pregnant. Since you have mild grade II spondylolisthesis (you can learn more about the grades of spondylolisthesis here), exercise is a great place to start.

Focus on exercises that engage your core muscles. Pelvic tilts are great for working your abdominals. Swimming and water aerobics are also effective, low-impact activities that increase muscle mass. Enroll in a Pilates class at your local gym. If you need a place to start, read our article about back pain exercises and stretches.

Focusing on your abdominal strength before getting pregnant is important, but it may seem like a waste of time because pregnancy causes your abdominal muscles naturally relax and lose tone. This allows your womb to expand as your baby grows.

Abdominal strength is connected to spine strength because your abdominals support your back muscles. If you have a weak midsection, your back muscles will have to work harder to compensate.

Building a strong core before you get pregnant will stave off the muscle relaxation process. As a result, you’ll experience less pain throughout your pregnancy and your body will recover faster after you give birth.

Also, strong muscles will help prevent weight gain. Weight gain puts more pressure on the back and will likely worsen your spondylolisthesis.

Having spondylolisthesis doesn’t mean that exercise is off limits. Be proactive about your health, especially if a baby is in your future. Of course, each case of spondylolisthesis is different. Talk to your doctor about your hopes of getting pregnant. He or she will recommend the next steps for you to take to give you the most successful pregnancy possible.

https://www.spineuniverse.com/blogs/hawkinson/spondylolisthesis-pregnancy

 

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Adoption vs infertility 

I’ve put a big toe into exploring adoption, specifically, foster to adopt. I’ve talked to one person in great depths about it and what stood out is you can stop the adoption process at any time. I joke, that once you are prego, there really is not going back, while in adoption there is.

I pushed adoption aside completely when I committed myself totally towards fertility and the clinic. Since I’m in a pause moment till the next appointment at the end of September with no frosties left, I allowed myself to peek in and see, ask questions. I mean, if I can go through IVF and a mental breakdown then adoption should be a walk in the park. Lol 😂.

To be truthful I’ve always thought about adoption, but I thought about doing it after having my own first. Working in mostly the educational and social services sector, I’ve seen a lot and learned a lot about kids and met kids going through real shit situations.
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I’ve pictured adoption of an older child, because first they hardly ever get a chance (to be adopted) past baby stage and second I just really love 6 year olds. I’ve always seen myself with an older child.

Given some inspiration by my sister in law who has both adopted and foster to adopted, I have some guidance in this area, but she is in Europe. Things are a little different there.
Nearing four years on this fertility journey, with this year being the most intense, I’m looking to explore and ask questions about adoption.

Before we do more hormones, before I do more IVF, before all that, I want to explore. Perhaps the sequence of events can be different?

I never wanted adoption to be something that I did because everything else didn’t work out, I think adoption should come from a space of love, instead of lack of options.
Still though, with all the info at my finger tips and people I can ask, there is fear about adoption.  What about?

  • fear about the trauma a child may have and can we handle it
  • fear of rejection from the child
  • what if they have a disability that I don’t know how to handle
  • can we do this financially
  • plus so many more biases that I know I have that I would be willing to work through..

These are all the questions people DON’T ask when they just get pregnant and start their family.

Info about adoption in Ontario:

1. Foster to adopt. 

These are kids that landed in the system; for the sake of simplicity we can call them Children’s Aid’s kiddos (there are many agencies). I have worked with parents when kids were already placed. I have also worked intensively with one foster mom who had adopted. I helped with transitioning the kids into the foster home. I also gave parents developmental tips on what to expect with the child.

With this process, it’s a public adoption, therefore technically “free”. There can be “baggage” that comes with this type of adoption. It really depends on the situation the child is coming from. For example, a child can be put in the system because their parents died in a car accident and there is no other family in Ontario.

This type of foster to adopt model is done by Ontario because they wanted to ensure that when the kids are placed, they actually had a family and were not being moved around. From what I understand there are temporary foster homes but most of them have been converted to foster to adopt. This is great for the kids, as it gives them more stability.

In this process at all times in the drivers seat. At any point in time you say you can back out and say, “no thank you, I don’t want to be a foster to adopt parent”. The key to this is taking the PRIDE training. In that training your values believes and everything are questioned and everything is taken into account. The agency wants to make sure that that child a place with you actually fits with you.

P.R.I.D.E stands for Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education. The P.R.I.D.E Foster/Adopt Pre-Service Training Program is a training program for prospective foster and adoptive parents and is a model for the development and support of resource families.

We are exploring taking the PRIDE training because it’s valid for three years. After the training you can say to the agency I want to pause and go back to fertility treatments OR conclude that this type of adoption isn’t for you. The key with any adoption process is to start sooner than later because everything takes a really long time similar to fertility treatment.

In the public system you are basically guaranteed a child and you know you are making a difference in a child’s world. Isn’t that what parenting is all about?

Again, if we were to actually fully commit to this process, I would be looking at taking a child from 5 to 10 years old. I’m actually much more comfortable with that age group then babies or toddlers even though I worked in ECE.

2. Private adoption Ontario

Here you have two options, local and international. These are also done through an agency and cost anywhere from $20,000 -$40,000. Sounds like two rounds of IVF with a better guarantee of a child then IVF. From I understand, you need to make a profile which sits on a database. In private local, a birth mom chooses you. I’m not sure, but from what I’ve been explained, this process is a lot more passive. You don’t really have an influence as to when an adoption will come through. Please tell me if I’m wrong, again I have not talked to any agency about private adoption, this is what I’ve heard from my two hour conversation with the foster to adopt Mom.

The thing is with any adoption that they don’t want you to be doing any fertility treatments while you’re going through the process. You need to commit to that training at the time and not simultaneously be doing fertility treatments. Make sense.

Lasting impressions from the conversation with Foster to Adopt mom

Before becoming to a foster to adopt parent they were trying to get pregnant for 8 years. She said she always imagined decorating a room and having time (even for the foster kids) to give them a Pinterest room. Raise your hand if you think of a Pinterest when you think of a baby your child’s room ✋.

I think the most humbling part of the conversation was when the foster to adopt mom spoke how she had 72 hours to get her space ready for two twins and a 12-year-old. Going from zero kids to three. She (and her husband) didn’t have much for the kids when they arrived but was pumped and emotionally ready.

When the kids came, the 12-year-old slept on a mattress on the floor and the two twins had to cribs given to them by an agency. And that’s it. Someone gave them clothing for the kids. All that the children really needed and wanted was to know that they were safe.

It was such a humbling statement, that I really can’t get it out of my head. How much stuff we buy for children for that Pinterest room!

Whats next?

I think what I’ll do next is contact a private and public agency and see. The next PRIDE training is in October and costs $1300.

Believe it or not husband is very excited at the prospect of being a foster to adopt dad.
If I’m very truthful, I think I’ve always imagined myself with older children versus little ones. Maybe that is why people walking around babies or being pregnant in front of me doesn’t really affect me. I adore being around 4 year-olds and five-year-olds……..while the Littles just drive me nuts.

I’ll enter this lair of exploration and adventure and keep you updated. I still would love to do another round of IVF but I don’t know if I can stomach it. With the last transfer I had itchiness so bad that I basically wanted to scratch my crotch off and that’s an understatement. This was the effect of the hormones I had. The IVF retrieval threw me off my feet, as I had a bad reaction. Being on hormones for months definitely did a number on my body.

Fertility treatments, it’s like going to casino, inserting $20,000 and hoping to get something in return. At least in the adoption process, I know I can be making a difference in a child’s life.

I am in the process of exploring and being in the state of curiosity about adoption.