Pity Party For One?

From my mid-20s, I’ve suffered from early onset osteoarthritis in my hips. It stems from Developmental Displasia of the Hip; i.e. when my hips were developing, they didn’t form quite as well as they should have.

Don’t misunderstand me, I haven’t been in constant pain for the past 20 years. At first, pain in my hips was rare (although pretty awful when it came), however, over the years, the incidences have become longer and more regular and the pain has worsened considerably.

Eventually, four years ago, at 40 years old, I had my first Total Hip Replacement surgery.

Immediately after my initial recovery period, with my surgeon’s full consent and support, my husband and I took advantage of the short window we had left and I got pregnant with, what turned out to be, our 4th and 5th children. The weight of the babies put quite a bit of pressure on my joints, as I’m sure you can imagine, so it was quite a while after their birth before I felt the real benefit of my surgery.

The ‘good times’ were short-lived, I’m afraid, and it wasn’t long till I started to feel that familiar pain in what I had called “my good hip”.

Rather than bore you to death with the details, I’ll jump straight ahead to a few weeks ago, when I agreed at a hospital appointment that the best course of action is to officially book in to have my second Total Hip Replacement. And I am terrified.

It’s so scary to make this commitment, because I’ll always wonder if this is the right time. Can I go on for longer? How much longer? Months? Years?

The answer is Yes. I could go on for longer. I don’t know how much longer, but I do know that I’d be in constant pain, with limited mobility, and an inability to be the Mum I need to be – active, fit, happy.

Dont get me wrong, I am happy. Very happy. We have a great life in this large, busy family of ours. However, I’m a grumpy, torn-faced git when the pain gets me down. I’m snappy and easily-angered. I’m tired because I can’t roll over in bed without being woken by the pain in my hips, not to mention the referred pain in my back and my knees.

I’m beginning to walk with a limp again, when I’m sore or tired, which I find very embarrassing. Last time, to help combat my limp, I was offered a walking stick or crutches (I chose the crutches because I felt it might look like I’d broken my leg, rather than having an old-lady disease, as a walking stick would probably imply).

I’m so torn about the stick issue. I know the reasons that a walking stick would benefit me. Firstly, for support when I’m sore but, also (and possibly more importantly), to help prevent my body getting used to limping, as it’s hard to walk normally once you’ve been limping a while.

I dread having to walk into the office for the first time with a walking stick. I dread the questions, but more so, I dread the looks, the whispering, the wondering, the ‘not asking’.

How can I go out on a romantic date night with my husband, to a cool cocktail bar in the city, dressed up to the nines, with a walking stick? Will the cool, sophisticated 40-somethings that frequent these bars look at me with curiosity, with pity? Will they wonder if my husband is actually my carer who’ll kindly tuck me into bed that night in my winciette pyjamas and pat my head as he turns out the light?

How can I take the kids out for fun days to the park with a walking stick? Will the other Mums think I’m the gran?

This blog is littered with question marks. But I’m afraid that I know the answers to these questions already:

  • Yes, people will whisper and wonder. Some will ask, others won’t. The ones who don’t ask will make up their own minds and there not a great deal I can do about that.
  • No, I probably won’t have the nerve to get dressed up, go out with my brilliant husband and hobble into a beautiful cocktail bar with beautiful people, wearing beautiful clothes, while I have my trusty NHS aluminium walking stick by my side which, incidentally, may as well have a neon yellow tennis ball wedged onto the end.
  • And the kids. My amazing, lovely, treasured, fantastic kids. We will still go out on all the days we’ve planned. And I’ll have as much fun as they will. They won’t care if I have a walking stick. Well, they will care because they care about me, but they won’t care about how it looks to anyone else. But every single time that I wince in pain or gasp at a sudden spasm which completely stalls me for a good 5 to 10 seconds, they’ll look at me to check I’m ok, look at each other to see what the consensus is and carry on with the cloud of Mummy’s hips hovering over them.

Pity party for one? Yes that’s me.

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