Elizabeth Smith suffered a serious fracture to her tailbone and two herniated discs in her spine while giving birth to her first child.
Her son got stuck and she stayed at 9cm dilated for hours, causing the complications.
The new mum was left in agony and spent the first year of baby Sawyer’s life unable to walk or pick him up.
The 32-year-old, from Ontario in Canada, begged for 15 months to give her spinal surgery so when it finally happened, she decided to celebrate being back on her feet by walking down the aisle to marry her now husband, Kyle, 37.
She said: ‘It felt amazing to finally get to celebrate us as a couple because so much focus had been on me being ill and us being new parents.
‘We finally just got to be a normal couple who didn’t have the weight of chronic pain on our shoulders and the devastating effect that had on our family.
‘My dad walked me down the aisle. Our ceremony only had 32 guests, it was extremely intimate. I think almost every single guest had a tear at some point because everyone there felt very connected to our journey.
‘For so long after Sawyer was born, I couldn’t walk more than from my bed to my couch without crying. I was bent in half and people forgot how tall I was as I was hunched over. Normally I’m 5’11 and it felt incredible to walk tall to meet my husband.’
Elizabeth walking down the aisle (Picture: Ted Simpson Photography/Caters)
Before going into labour, Elizabeth had a pretty straightforward pregnancy – but the problems during the birth left her with the lifechanging injuries.
She added: ‘It took four attempts for doctors to give me an epidural in my spine, but I could still feel everything and I stayed at 9cm for hours.
‘Doctors truthfully don’t know exactly what happened. His head got stuck and they used a vacuum to get him out. It was a very distressing, prolonged period of time.
‘I couldn’t pick my son up, for the first year he was raised by my parents, I could barely hold him, my back wouldn’t take it so I couldn’t be alone with him, I would cry with the pain.
‘I was desperate for corrective spinal surgery where they shave the discs down so they are no longer impinging on the nerve which was causing me the most agony.’
When she asked about the operation she was told she was too young.
Elizabeth, happy and healthy at 8 months pregnant (Picture: Caters)
‘I was in an horrendous amount of pain, but I was a new mum, I didn’t know what was normal after delivery and my priority was my baby’s health,’ she said.
Initially told it was sciatica, she was told to try physiotherapy but found nothing helped.
‘I tried everything but the pain was getting worse. I felt like someone was constantly stabbing me in the spine. I asked for an operation but I was told no and I continued to ask for over a year but I was told that back surgery would ruin my life,’ she said.
Elizabeth was given medication and pain relief but it caused her to gain weight and left her struggling emotionally.
She said: ‘Some medication caused me to gain 25lbs in two weeks, it was horrible. I spent thousands of dollars on therapy but I knew the answer was surgery, I needed surgery to survive.’
Due to the pain, the children’s day care owner struggled with looking after her baby.
Elizabeth’s scar after surgery (Picture: Caters)
The pain, loss of independence and problems all impacted her mental health and left her feeling suicidal.
She said: ‘My mum would come over and get me up, get me ready, help to dress me, my parents, brother and husband would take it in turns to look after me throughout the day.
‘I honestly didn’t think I would survive it. It completely devastated me, I was a strong person but it was killing me. I just wanted to live my life, be a proper mum but I couldn’t function.
‘I was slowly losing myself. I had no life at all, I was letting him down because I couldn’t be the mum he deserved and I hated the guilt that came with that.’
Finally, 13 months after the birth, doctors agreed to put her on a waiting list for the operation.
‘I finally felt heard. It was agreed I needed emergency spine surgery.
‘I burst into tears as I was given a surgery date, it saved my life,’ she said.
After the operation Elizabeth needed to invest another year and more money into her recovery, including yoga and further physiotherapy.
Her recovery has been slow and Elizabeth said she still doesn’t have the life she did before pregnancy, but she is getting better each day.
Elizabeth, Kyle and son Sawyer on their wedding day (Picture: @Ofwilddawnphoto/Caters)
The couple decided to tie the knot in September last year. It was a small family ceremony due to Covid 19 but Elizabeth was thrilled to be able to confidently walk down the aisle – pain free.
She said: ‘We had spent so long focused on our son and my ill health we hadn’t made serious plans. We wanted to wait until I was feeling better to enjoy the day.
‘I don’t think many men would have stuck around. I couldn’t cook, clean, work or look after our son. Kyle works in HR for international defence and he is my world.
‘My dad is my biggest supporter, he is my best friend and it meant the world to both of us for him to be able to walk me down the aisle.
‘It has been amazing to be able to do it because I didn’t want to be someone who hides in the house. I didn’t see my friends because I was so embarrassed by the pain and it made me unrecognisable, family and friends could see it etched on my face.’
Now, she feels she can start moving on with her life and is excited for the future.
She said: ‘I lost the first 18 months with my first born child and that made me very depressed but I am determined to make up for it now.
‘I had to find the silver lining. We have done so much since my surgery, we have gone walking, canoeing, biking and hiking. I am so grateful I was finally listened to and I have been able to get my life back, be a mum and finally become a wife.’
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