Thursday, March 19, 2015

Clench, hold and release

Ben's birth was blessedly straight forward & quick enough. After four hours of active labour & a second degree tear, our 7lb 6oz first son arrived. There are so many cherished memories from the days following his birth, but there is one that really stands out personally. Still now, ten years later, I can recall every sensation & the emotions that whipped through me at the time.

Ben was just over twenty four hours old & I was slowly wheeling him along in his clear plastic, hospital issue bassinet - feeling a little tender with stitches located where stitches had never been before. We had just been for a visit to the common room & I was making our way back to our private room, anticipating the arrival of lunch (& with any luck a little nap for the both of us). I had just passed by the nurses station & half way down the corridor, still another few rooms to go yet until our own, when suddenly the urge to pee came upon me with no prior warning.


Really urgently.

The shock of trying to clench those bruised, battered & swollen pelvic floor muscles, only to find that they didn't really feel like clenching much at all has haunted me through every birth that has followed over the last ten years. It is one time I genuinely feared I was going to wet myself, in public, & not just a little bit either. 

I knew the importance of doing kegels during pregnancy & in the weeks & months following birth. I'd read the little snippets of real life experiences that were included in the articles of keeping your pelvic floor tight 'n high, written in by women who found out the hard way just how necessary it was to clench - pull it all in without pulling a face. 
With tips including, but not limited too, 'If you're doing the dishes or hanging out the washing, do your pelvic floors as well.'
Or, 'When you sit to feed the baby work those muscles at the same time - clench, release & repeat.'

Some how I mostly kept my bodily fluids within my body & high tailed it in a waddling, thigh clenched gait as fast as I could while pushing Ben along, still oblivious in his bassinet back to our room. That afternoon I resumed the clench, hold, release & repeat. Just a few at a time, enough to gently locate them & check they were still in potential working order, then slowly increasing the intensity over the following days & weeks. That call to nature was just far too close for comfort...& too far from a lavatory. 

Seventeen months later & half way through Rianan's pregnancy I joined a pregnancy exercise class run by a physiotherapist. Several times through each session she would run us through our pelvic floor exercises - advocating passionately just how important it really was to do them. Beginning as soon as we felt able to, while lying down to avoid putting too much extra pressure on our vagina's that had just gone a round in the boxing ring with a three kilo battering ram - or so it may seem. 

Rianan's birth was just as good as her older brother - a water birth, just under four hours & another slight second degree tear after coming out all in the one contraction. In the wee hours of the morning as dawn illuminated the clouds, I laid on my side while gazing at our daughter, memorising her five hours old newness, & began the first gentle clenches of those hidden muscles. This time, when nature screamed a waterfall was coming, I wouldn't be caught blindsided. 

After having more than the standard quota of pregnancies & births, I know how crucial it is to keep my pelvic floor stronger than my biceps. Especially if I want my bladder to stay where it belongs, along with it's contents, while taking Ben & Jack on in a round of soccer, chasing Blake & Will around in a game of chasey or joining Rianan in a display of kart-wheels & handstands. Though they aren't as easy as it was twenty odd years ago...

Over the last ten years I'm certain I've done more kegels than I have changed nappies. They've paid off though - especially after suffering morning sickness with Clay & hugging the toilet bowl every morning, or more recently finding myself succumbing to the sneezes of hay fever. 

If you are quietly suffering incontinence, no matter how mild or severe, go & see a physiotherapist who specialises in pelvic floor. Ignoring the matter won't fix anything. 

How many times have you clenched, held & released so far today? 
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