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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A state of creation and contraction

I have been in a state of contraction. In this state, there is no room for creativity, creation or flow, not just for me but for everyone. I know have in this state for three months now because everything was painful, everything was hard and in a state of reaction. My inner-critic who I know was just trying to protect me hounded me saying, “You should know better”. I have finally turned to that critic, held her hand and said, “I’m ok, thank you for looking after me, I can take it from here”.

State of creation

I know I’m in flow when synchronicities start happening and popping up. When I think of something, <> and it just happens shortly after I’ve had the thought. I’ve been trying to find something in between a particular timeframe to “get away” and fly somewhere. It couldn’t have Zika and it needed to be a place where I have not been before without breaking the bank. West Jet posted a 24-hour sale for flights to Halifax for half price. I found out about it with “Next Departure”. (which anyone who is Canada should sign up for. Amazing deals to be had.) After the last month,  I was needing and itching to press the button “buy” and just go somewhere.

 

If there is anything you need to know about me, is that I’m a travel bargain shopper hound. I found out that I could fly out of Hamilton Airport (one hour outside of Toronto) for half the price instead of Toronto Airport. We are going away to the east cost. A place of amazing gentle people. I’ve heard the people in the east coast of Canada just so kind, amazing and with beautiful hearts. I’m just happy like a clown and my brain happily obliged in now searching for all things Nova Scotia. It is a quick trip, just enough to plan but also enough that I get to hit up some things I’ve wanted to see, like Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg. There is nothing like a trip to get me more in the state of flow. 

Magical Trips

I think there is always something magical about removing myself from a permanent physical space. Something mysterious happens when my brain is in the state of “explore and wonder”.

Like changing one habit a day. Instead of brushing my teeth with my right hand, I’ll brush with my left, to get my brain to think different.

We recently reflected that after being married almost 11 years, the trips we have done are a bookmark in time. I’ll say something and ponder, was that before or after Florida, or how my life went upside down after a two week trip to BC. The most life changing things have happened to me were over a plane ticket. When I think of it, it was shortly after a trip that I met my husband.

Its all a crap shoot.

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It got me thinking about how much of a crapshoot this whole fertility thing is and the fact that I got attached to an outcome, a timeframe, how it was all going to look.

A neighbour, who also went through fertility treatments told me that all the tests I am doing she did too. She did the whole IVF three time, and did a transfer of the embryo five times, getting pregnant each time, but they all resulted in a miscarriage. After taking a break, she ended up getting pregnant on her own. Crapshoot!

It could be just a small variable that doesn’t let the embryo stick that it’s like throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks. Her daughter that she just had (without fertility treatments) was her sixth pregnancy and no one could explain why her previously genetically perfect tested juicy embryos were miscarried.

All this is just crazy making and anxiety producing especially around the transfer of the embryo. This is where the state of contraction starts and where I try to control the outcome. More tests don’t always mean more control, just a control of some variables, but even then THAT is still an illusion because the variables are constantly changing.

Because everything is still up to the Universe.

This takes me to the main fears:

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  1. Having the first embryo transfer not working.
  2. My reaction if the first transfer doesn’t work, how will my mental health be?
  3. I will get pregnant but a miscarriage will happen….and then I’ll have a breakdown….because I’ve never actually had a positive test. Can you imagine how that would be?

What are my fears based on?

I realize now that those fears are based on my own expectations. I never wanted to do IVF and because I’ve done THIS MUCH……I….DESERVE…..IT….for all of this to work. But really we deserve nothing. We shouldn’t expect anything and appreciate everything.

In psychology they call this “Catosprophic idealization”. Its amazing to me that as soon as it was “named” what I had created in my head, the thoughts became less powerful and slowly started to disapate. I’m facinated how much our thoughts, really its just our constant thoughts that create our reality.

Isn’t that facinating?

Expect nothing

In the state of creation, I’m open, and things just happen.  There is no resistance in “Flow”, its simple, fluid, oh, and it feels so damn good, but as soon as I hit a bottom and contract, nothing works. Suffering happens.

I know that have Light there needs to be Darkness. There is a yin to a yang. The trouble with positive psychology is that it doesn’t want to acknowledge the negative side. While the darkness sucks horribly and I know because I did hit a wall twice in the past month, I can feel the regrouping and opening towards a new way of thinking.

The system of positive psychology does not appreciate how, through unconscious conflict in our psyche, we compulsively replay and recreate unresolved negative emotions. 

When we try to dodge or repress our psyche’s inner dynamics, we encounter inner rebellion that produces a wide variety of suffering and self-defeat. To become smarter, wiser, and more conscious, we have to understand the inner mechanisms and drives in our psyche that induce us to chase after old hurts, cling to painful regrets, and indulge in a variety of other unresolved emotions.
http://www.whywesuffer.com/the-problem-with-positive-psychology/

Being able to identify the fears and thoughts that keep me in this state of contraction helped me grow and boy I’ve grown even in the last month with so much more to let go.

When I said to The Clinic when I was overwhelmed and bleeding out it gave me room and time for reflection and to find joy and balance, as I was totally off kilter. We just completed the last round of biopsies and will be taking a month break from the clinic.

Psychology.
You’ve built a great team we just need to you join it

A few weeks back I sent an email to “my team” that included the Dr. B, all my acupuncture folks, the naturopath and person for my mental health check in to introduce all of them to each other through email. At an appointment with Dr. Julia PhD, she made a comment that made me think, she says:

“you are incredibly resourceful and have assembled a great team, but where are you on this team? You’ve intorudced everyone else but you didn’t introduce yourself, have you joined this team yet?”.

Man what a comment to get you centred. It’s like that whole taking responsibly part. I’ve assembled the team and I’m expecting them to put me together and achieve my goal, but where am I in that?

Creating a *phantom intention

*A subconscious mindset that is rooted in events that have occured or expereinces from the past that colour how we percieve current occurent events. It usually looks like an ME vs something.

What if in my head I’m creating a phantom intention?

US vs. The Clinic.

Us vs them

Us vs. the clinic

Us vs. the medical health care system

Us vs. everyone else.

Over thinking!

For now we are off to Halifax to scratch the surface to the East Coast. Can’t wait to be immursed into nature and the Atlantic Ocean.

InFertility and self-care. Sometimes I just need to stop and enjoy my coffee.

I realize that we all just need to sometimes just stop, go for coffee and laugh at the insanity of it all.  I mean, life is insanity. Honestly, don’t we all just need to stop, have a coffee, indulge in the most gluten, dairy, sugar filled pastry ever and go see people who know you better than you know yourself? I have two people like that outside of my usual support network. They happen all do acupuncture. 

Yesterday, I messaged Saviour Stephanie and asked her if she could see me. She has known me for over 8 years from the time I couldn’t walk because my sciatic nerve caused me to stop walking. I don’t think she would like the name I gave her but this is how I feel walking into her room. It’s a sanctuary on the 7th floor in the middle of downtown Toronto. A crazy, taxi, car and pedestrian-filled space. Stephanie used to be on the other side of the street, but then they started to build a condo and blast through the ground. She packed up her bags and moved across the street to an office building, but you wouldn’t know it once you enter her door. A simple massage table, her bookshelf, some relaxing music in the background and Stephanie’s welcoming smile offering the tea of the day. She is the one that saved me when I was down with such bad sciatica that I couldn’t get up and walk. She knows me. She knows more about me than I know about myself.

I wrote her that I would like to see her because I would like to come back home where I don’t associate acupuncture with it being a procedure. She, her room and the massage table bed are my home.

I deliberately kept Stephanie out of the fertility acupuncture rounds because she is my sanctuary. I go there and she just listens. She is just so in tune and knows me so well I don’t need to explain.

She sees my spirit and my soul. When she is working I can feel her sinking deeper between all the layers of my skin and connecting with my being. Can you just feel her magical presence with you right now? She advertises her herself as shiatsu and acupuncture, but that’s just the outside sign. Don’t be fooled by the cover. It took me a while to understand that she is so much more than that but when I got it, wow, was I ever grateful.

What I would really like is for the clinic to take care of me and not just my body, but the other parts of me as well. The SELF. The mental health piece. The part of me that you can’t see. That such an unrealistic expectation but I can dream, right? I need to go find my balance outside of The Clinic. I’m happy when Husband comes with me to the clinic because I think my brain sometimes goes into fight or flight mode at times, especially when I see the nurses who just follows follow directions and don’t think. Can people think for themselves?!

Saviour Stephanie put me on the table and put the needles in.

She calms my nervous system down from the fight/flight response. She just knows what to use and my body just sinks into her table. I repeat my mantra in my head. I’m safe. I’m safe. I can release and be at ease. I’m safe. On cue, my body and mind sink deeply and safely into her hands. Stephanie works diligently away, with movements so small that for someone who would be watching her, wouldn’t know she is doing work. Her Cranial Sacral work and her hands are liquid gold. A gentle soul who knows exactly what to do with every slight muscle movement she knows and understands the psycho-somatic memory my body has stored.

After Stephanie, I head to my favourite coffee shop and have a Cortada with a brownie and a view of Toronto. Today I stopped and sat in my favourite coffee shop and are grateful I have this medical leave so I can take time out as well as see Stephanie last-minute and be writing this out. How I love this view from Rooster Cafe and how much I just love these kinds of memories.

I think of all the people who I have talked to about this journey and that are reading this blog. From China, Saudi Arabia, Poland, South Africa, Kenya, Australia. A subject that crosses all international boarders. With all of this, I hope I have changed some views on IVF and fertility and redefining what a “mother” and a “woman” is. It is not just me bearing a child.

I think of my team of people who I assembled who are helping me on this journey and all of sudden everything is OK.

My personal trainer Calum Shaw says,”There is so much more to us than personal training because there is so much more to you than being out of shape”. He does more than just personal training. He knows there is more to training than working the muscles. He works on the whole being, just like Stephanie.

I put my hands on my heart and thank it for the life it gives me. I feel my breathe and thank it for the gift of life. Oh my gosh, it’s so important to stop.

Today I just needed to breathe and enjoy my coffee.

Today I’m just grateful.

All my love to anyone reading this.

xoxo