When you can’t feel your legs.

I was in the fifth grade, it was a gorgeous day while I was playing outside with my cousin on our pool deck. In a split moment, I happened to fall right off the side of it, landing flat on my back, smack into a rigid bush stump. I laid there, screaming for help while my cousin nervously ran inside to get my dad.

I’ll never forget those few moments, staring up at the blue sky and realizing I could not feel my legs.

My dad came out, helped me up, and carried me into the house. I ended up hunched over in the bathroom holding desperately onto the towel bar, unable to straighten my back and stand up, while my dad checked to for any visible damage after calling 911.

My hands burned at the weight of holding my body up. My mom and aunt had just arrived home from a few hours out shopping as the ambulance pulled up.

The stretcher arrived, they lowered me down, took me out, turned the sirens on and off we went. My first ride in an ambulance (I’d always been in the ER for various injuries, but usually my parents drove me).

I kept telling them: I can’t feel my legs, I can’t feel anything. I was wheeled into the ER and stayed there for another six or more hours, laying there, trying to move my lower body, wondering what was going to happen. Over time, I counted the speckles on the ceiling, and just waited for tests to be done.

After a few hours, I was able to start feeling a bit more of my legs and toes, but unable to move or switch positions. They hoisted, pushed and pulled me to get me onto the machines. Eventually, they said, where the stump hit was just centimeters off of my spine where I could’ve been paralyzed. The trauma was severe enough to cause the lack of feeling sensation, but with a lot of rest and no added weight, I would be okay.

For another week after, I laid on the couch, only to get up to use the bathroom. After a week, I went back to school, with someone carrying my book bag for several additional weeks. Over time, it felt better, but what it felt like never left me. Lower back issues have crept up on me over the years, but I’ve been keenly aware of that area of my back and know what I need to do to keep it strong and healthy.

More then a decade later, I was in my college dorm. It was the middle of the night. Up to use the bathroom, I fell straight out of bed. I couldn’t feel my legs. I dragged myself into the other room, took care of business and made my way back to bed. I cried, alone in my dorm room, unsure of what to do. I thought maybe my legs just fell asleep, but that familiar sensation was there again – I couldn’t feel my legs.

I tried to rest thinking it would just go away. When I got up in the morning, my one leg barely worked, but the other leg and arm were useless and hung there. I had a massive headache and slurred my speech trying to get dressed; it was strange, very strange. I barely made it out the door when I asked (mumbled or mouthed) campus police to take me to the hospital.

I had the campus police call my parents to let them know, but they were too far to come do anything to help – so I was on my own this time in the ER for the first time ever.

I’ll never forget trying to tell the woman my name and address. My mouth wouldn’t work; it was like I had a mouth full of marbles. I had a headache that pounded so loudly. Finally, I struggled to get my license out and she took down my information.

For hours upon hours, I laid in a bed, doubled over in pain in my head. I couldn’t tell them what was wrong, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t ask for help, I couldn’t move half my body, and they took forever to give me anything for the pain. After a simple test or two, they let me lay there for awhile and then had campus police pick me up. Back to my dorm, I went, with a bundle of pain meds and no answer.

Looking back at that experience, the symptoms, reading other’s stories and what happened, maybe it was a mini-stroke. I never got an explanation from various doctors, nor extensive MRI tests to look for anything. All I know is that my head hurt beyond belief, half my body stopped working, I couldn’t speak, and I felt again what it was like to have no lower body feeling.

It was terrifying. I spent the following weeks going to doctors and seeing a chiropractor, eventually feeling normal again.
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Those were two times in my life where I could not feel my legs. And those times are what made me strongly desire to give birth without an epidural the first time, and this time if all goes accordingly.

While I don’t have anything against pain medication, I have a huge fear of that sensation of complete numbness in my lower body. Considering how my first labor went, obviously, my fear of that is far higher than my pain tolerance (and what I am probably going to go through again, may be the same or worse).

I don’t like epidurals for the popular reasons most people think; I just want to feel my legs.

I just thought I’d share that with you because I don’t think I’m better than anyone else for natural un-medicated childbirth after four insane days of prodromal labor (though it does make me feel like I’ll easily be able to run ultras later in the future – Yahoo!).

I wanted to see if I could do it, wasn’t sure if I could do it, but mostly…

I want to feel my legs.

As I gear up for another whirlwind of a delivery, no matter how it goes, I’d like to try to do it again (maybe for far fewer days…) just like the first time.

Any type of childbirth is no joke; natural, medicated, surgical, and I’d say even adoption launches a new mom into a huge new stratosphere each and every time. Each person’s choice (or lack thereof at times) doesn’t diminish the hard work that goes along with bringing life into the world and giving it your all in their care.

I just want to feel my legs.

– kate –