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The Realities of Birth and Motherhood With Asthma

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This past year I gave birth to our third child. Her birth was a whirlwind; it was beautiful and empowering. But it took a lot of work. Don’t get me wrong, childbirth is hard work… that part was pretty standard. What took extra work was staying oxygenated.

With our first birth I did the usual preparatory work. We took a childbirth course and a breastfeeding class through our hospital. It was helpful, but not earth-shattering. I laid there practicing the breathing techniques, visualizing the visuals, and thinking “this seems too easy.”

I was right.

Her birth came and I had horrible back labor. I later found out I had two discs out of place in my back… this led to excruciating contractions and difficulty breathing. I nearly passed out a few times; if I weren’t having such consistent knee-jerk jolts to my spine, I probably would have.

I abandoned my natural birth plans, tried IV pain management, and I eventually got an epidural (no regrets). While pushing I became so fatigued that I was eventually given an oxygen mask. After almost two hours of pushing, my baby’s heart rate kept dropping, so I got an episiotomy and out she came.

I never really considered why I grew so fatigued. While in labor I recall asking a nurse if I was using the breathing techniques incorrectly. She smiled and told me I was doing a good job. So I asked my husband. He actually didn’t know what to suggest, because I was going through the motions they had taught us.

For a while I assumed it was just the extreme back pain that caused me such pain, leading to the breathing issues. This is part of the puzzle, yes. What I didn’t know was that I have asthma. “Exercise-induced asthma” is what it’s called; I was essentially working out really hard, and my lungs couldn’t hang.

When my second child came along I experienced prodromal labor for five weeks before her birth. I began practicing my breathing techniques and visualizations during those late night contractions, which really gave me a leg up. When I pulled some ligaments and was in significant pain late in pregnancy, I had tools to keep my breathing in check.

Which brings me back to my third child. My asthma has worsened this year. Perhaps it’s due to chasing more children, or an environmental element we haven’t found yet… but it has worsened. There are many times that I will be in the grocery store, three kids in tow, and I cannot carry the baby in the baby carrier anymore. The weight of her against my chest triggers broncho-spasms. Or times that I am at home having a dance party with my older girls and I cannot participate for very long, because I become winded and need to sit quietly to breathe with my inhaler.

It is overwhelming at times. I try to build rest into my days, but as a mom of three small children, that means asking for help. My children have struggles and unique needs of their own, and I want to give them the best childhood I possibly can. This is why getting proper help for my body has been such a huge goal of mine. I refuse to consider myself weak simply because my level of normal is not “normal;” I work very hard, as do many of you, to create systems and rhythms that work for us. We take extraordinary circumstances and create extraordinary lives. I’m honored to be in the “arena” alongside so many other chronic health gladiators. I see you.

Getty photo by YakobchukOlena

Originally published: January 6, 2018
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