Hem Spotlight: Lauren Fleming - Part 2
This is Part 2 of my POP story. It starts 11 months postpartum after having my first baby, H.
What will my life look like after I have pelvic organ prolapse (POP)? How is it different from what I imagined my yourself? Will all of my insides simply fall out? Will I ever be able to walk around the block again without constantly thinking about the heaviness in your vagina? Can I have subsequent pregnancies? Will my POP get worse? These are just a few of the looming questions that raced through my brain in those early weeks and months postpartum.
I remember distinctly wondering whether I would be able to be pregnant again after I learned more about what pelvic organ prolapse was. Searching on Google did not help me. It only made things more scary. I had a great support team that helped me understand what was going on with my body and what my options were going to be.
I have written in a journal off and on over time. For this part of my story, I am including journal entries that I made since my POP began in the hopes of showing you some of the thought process I went through at various points. Anything that is in italics is from my journal.
A side note - it was a therapeutic process reading my journal to prepare this story to share with you. Regardless of whether you have POP, I would encourage you to keep a journal with short entries over time that reflect on the day to day things you encounter. At the time these things seem sort of mundane, but as I reflect back, it is these little memories that I forget and am so thankful to remember. It helps me reflect on where I have been and how far I have come. I wish I would have made more consistent journal entries. C’est la vie.
I had my annual OBGYN appointment in early April and asked about timing considerations for my next pregnancy. My doctor told me that it is good to wait some amount of time between pregnancies, but that also you never know what will happen when you try to get pregnant so she encouraged me to start trying whenever I felt ready.
April 3, 2021 (~11 months postpartum)
“It is hard to have prolapse. Sometimes I will have a great day and then see or feel the bulge at night and it weighs on me. Sometimes it feels like it will never go away, or that it will get worse with subsequent pregnancies. I know I cannot control those things and should not stress about it, but that can be hard.”
April 7, 2021
“Starting to think about the next step for kids feels overwhelming, especially still being in the pandemic.”
April 12, 2021
“I have been thinking about having more kids lately. I know that we want more kids and I don’t want to wait too long for the next one, but it also feels like a lot to take on, especially while trying to start a business and work full time. I have to keep breaking things off in bite-sized chunks and remind myself not to stress too much, which is easier said than done.”
April 30, 2021 (~12 months postpartum)
“Clint and I are talking about trying to get pregnant. I am working on getting in the right headspace. It is a lot for my mind to work through, but at the same time it isn’t. I know it will have its challenges, but it truly is a miracle that I am so thankful to experience. It is hard to believe I could love another child as much as I love H, but two loves like that would make my heart so full. I will take it one step at a time.”
My journaling reminded me how conflicted I was at the time. POP was a constant player in my daily decision making, and balancing that voice with what I had always hoped for was proving difficult. I had read varying research about the ideal time to wait between pregnancies and felt conflicted about the best time to start trying.
Here are some of the things we considered:
- It seems like the standard recommendation for the ideal time to wait after giving birth and becoming pregnant again is 18-24 months. There are various reasons for this, including (but not limited to) decreased health risks for parent and baby.
- My sister and I are 18 months apart and I really like being close in age with my sister.
- I had POP and knew that the longer I could give my body to recover and get stronger, the better positioned I would be going into the next pregnancy.
- We didn’t want to get too far away from H being out of diapers, not napping, etc. before being thrown back into the baby world.
- We timed H’s birth to coincide with Clint’s summer break because he is a teacher and we wanted to have as much time as possible with us both at home in the first few months. We wanted to try for the same timing with our second baby if possible. I do recognize that it is frustrating to need to try to time my pregnancy so the birth of my baby coincides with my husband’s summer break as a teacher so I can get the help I need. That is a conversation for another time.
- We knew there was uncertainty around how long it could take to get pregnant and we wanted to hedge on starting sooner than later.
Deciding if and when to try to get pregnant can be difficult. There are so many variables that are in conflict and that you do not control. What is best for my body? Will waiting a few months really make a difference? What is best for my family? What can I control? The answers to these questions are unique to you so it comes down to what you think is right. This is a hard decision to make and to feel like you are making the best decision for you. We kept these thoughts in our mind as we considered how to move forward.
Breastfeeding was another area that brought internal conflict. There is information to indicate the hormone change that occurs while breastfeeding can make recovering from prolapse take longer. I wanted to breastfeed H on our timeline and not have that be dictated by my POP. However, there were certainly times when I considered whether I should stop breastfeeding sooner in order to help my body recover. I ultimately decided to stay on the timeline that worked best for me and H, and not have it be dictated by my POP.
June 20, 2021 (~14 months postpartum)
“The last day I breastfed H.”
Lauren with H
Over time my POP symptoms were slowly trending in a good direction, although I still consistently had symptoms. In early June, I sent a message to my OBGYN letting her know that my symptoms had gotten better over time since having H, but there were certain days or activities that made the symptoms worsen. I thought a pessary would be a nice tool for me to have. I was able to get an appointment relatively quickly. However, I did not get to see my usual care provider who I liked and trusted.
June 22, 2021 (~14 months postpartum)
“I tried to get a pessary today. It did not go well… I feel really discouraged.”
Long story short, is that the experience did not go well. The whole setting was intimidating and I felt dismissed by the provider I saw. You can read more about this experience here. This was an unfortunate bump in the road on my POP journey and one that I think is too common. I was discouraged, but kept moving forward.
I met with my pelvic floor physical therapist in mid-August 2021 to see how everything was going with my recovery and to talk about timing between pregnancies. That conversation really helped me understand the pros and cons of the variables that I can control and feel confident to start trying when I felt ready.
August 13, 2021 (~15 months postpartum)
“We are about to start trying for another baby! It feels crazy and exciting. I do not think I will ever feel ready but I know now is a good time.”
August 29, 2021 (~16 months postpartum)
“I found out this morning that I am pregnant. It is very exciting and surreal. I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet. I am very thankful that we were able to get pregnant on our first try. I am hopeful to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery. I know this 9 months will feel like a long time and also feel like it is flying by. Clint is very excited and already so supportive.”
Clint and H
We were fortunate to get pregnant right away. I was quickly put on an unknown path starting a second pregnancy knowing that I had POP and knowing that I had no idea what the outcome would be.
If you made it this far, thank you for following along. I am sharing my story in the hopes of making POP more commonly talked about. I want people to not be surprised if they get POP. I want them to know that there are other people out there who are going through this too.
Part 3 of my POP story will cover my experience during my second pregnancy. Subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to know when it is published.
Interested in sharing your POP/pelvic health story as part of our series? We’d be honored! Get in touch here to learn more or ask any questions you may have.