A few months ago, I noticed a small bump on my belly along the midline above my belly button. At first I thought, “cool, a seventh ab.” And then after the busyness of Boston, I asked my husband what he thought. Maybe a vein? (I have big veins, especially post-baby.) My husband suggested that I get a physical to make sure all was healthy, so two Fridays ago, I saw my general practitioner. He told me that my seventh ab was in fact a small hernia, and that the only way to fix a hernia is through surgery. I wasn’t very familiar with hernias, but the idea of surgery and recovery did not make me very happy after all of my work to get into post partum shape. I love to run. Everyday. And do push-ups and planks and very active things. No!!!!
I’m being dramatic, but any runner with an injury knows that it is more than just an injury. It messes with identity. (There is a whole other lesson there.) The GP told me that my hernia was very small and the best thing to do would be to watch it and wait to see if it ever grew or gave me pain. Some hernias never grow, but most do end up requiring surgery. I have a ventral hernia, so there is a small tear in the fascia between my abs, and most likely it will grow, especially given my activity level. I asked all three doctors if I had caused the hernia due to running/exercising through pregnancy and running/exercising post partum, and they all assured me that I did not do this. Sedentary individuals get hernias just as commonly. When I was pregnant, my belly stretched, and organs shifted so that they put pressure on the fascia. (I mention ab separation here.)
I wasn’t satisfied with my GP’s answer to wait until the hernia became more complicated (I hate weakness in my body, and this felt like a ticking time bomb), so I called my OB and asked for a referral to a general surgeon. Both my OB and the general surgeon agreed that I am a good candidate to have surgery before the hernia grows, as it most likely will grow given my activity level. It is also good to take care of it before we decide to get pregnant again. By having surgery now, I will only need a few stitches as an outpatient procedure, while the common procedure for repair is to stitch a mesh across the fascia.
My surgeon has told me that I will be restricted to only lift 20 pounds until I am cleared at my post-op visit (Cadence is only 14.5 pounds, so this was a relief). I am also only allowed to get on the bike or walk until I am given the green light. The timing for a break is probably as good as it is going to get. My body could use the rest, and I am about to ramp up my training for a 100 mile race at the end of September. I’ll follow the doctor’s orders, but no athlete likes to scale back training. This will be character building (or more likely my husband will discover a whole new character in me once he sees what I’m like without my endorphin fix).
When I first found out about the hernia, I prayed for God to take it away. (I know, why waste a miracle on something so insignificant. But running is important to me.) Then I realized how much God had already answered. He protected me physically during rigorous training for Boston at a time when I was not getting nearly enough sleep. He protected my mind from worrying about the hernia during the Boston race, so I was able to fully enjoy that great moment in running. I raced at a sustained physical effort for the entire Boston Marathon, and the hernia didn’t get any bigger. I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor if my husband hadn’t encouraged it, and I am so thankful that I will get this all resolved while the hernia is still small and my recovery will be speedy. This rest period seems to be just what I might have needed.
I debated whether or not to go into details about the procedure, but I’ve benefited from hearing other momma’s stories online, and maybe my write-up will help someone else who noticed a seventh ab too. 🙂 If you want to read the follow-up after surgery, you can find that here.
Anyone else sacrifice a part of their body to pregnancy?
What are some coping mechanisms for having to rest? I’m going to focus on better nutrition.