Aspen Princess: A body of work that’s not working
September 27, 2017
"Part of the problem is you're carrying all that baby weight," The Dude says to me in a casual tone, as if this is not going to throw me into a tailspin of despair.
I was there to see The Dude because I've been suffering from chronic pain in my knee since June, and he is one of many body workers of various stripes and colors who were recommended to me by all my well-intended peeps as some kind of miracle worker. But as I lie there on his leather treatment table I'm arguing with him in my head. How does he know if I've gained this so-called "baby weight" when we only just met? I wanted to scream, "This isn't 'baby weight,' you jerk, this is me! This is it!"
So now I'm not only in physical pain, I'm also in emotional distress.
The truth is I lost all the weight I'd gained in pregnancy two weeks after Levi was born. That's not to say I was thin to begin with, which is kind of the point. I am the baby weight!
This was the second body worker I'd seen, and while I'm sure it helped, it didn't alleviate my pain. I'd tried going to the chiropractor, massage, acupuncture and yoga. I'd tried the foam roller, Tiger Balm and Epsom salt baths. I've made it a habit to jump in the ice-cold river after yoga class, hoping to get the benefit of free cryotherapy even though I look like a crazy person, walking through the parking lot dripping wet with steam coming off me, footprints turning to icy puddles in my wake. I've taken ibuprofen just to get me through the night.
So this knee pain might have something to do with carrying the baby on my back hiking the steeps of Arbaney Kittle on a regular basis, trying to be a badass mom like all those women in Aspen who like, jog to the hospital to give birth and then show up at Food & Wine a week later in a body-con wrap dress. I assumed that hiking regularly with my baby would, I don't know, make me stronger, not put me into a hurt locker for the better part of the last four months.
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Or it might be related to the nerve damage I sustained in childbirth, and the fact that my right leg was numb from the knee down for almost two months after Levi was born. My knee would buckle whenever I tried to use it, so I fell down stairs and I fell upstairs and so we slept in the laundry room on the first floor.
The worst part is the conflicting advice I've been getting from different wellness practitioners. "It's definitely tendonitis," said the big, muscular one, using an instrument to "scrape" my tendons with an aggressive massage technique.
"The doctors won't tell you this because they don't want you to sue, but this is all because of the epidural," the Baby Weight Shamer said. "You should stretch the heck out of it and roll the heck out of it."
"Leave it alone," another said. "It's already inflamed so stop stretching it and aggravating it. Just let it heal."
But when I rest it, it seemed to hurt more. It got stiff, almost to the point of feeling like it was frozen. I tried biking, thinking it would be low impact but was in agony after an easy 20-mile bike ride on the Rio Grande Trail aggravated it even more.
"Remember, pain is very mental," one massage therapist said. "It has a lot to do with your attitude about it. Try to be positive."
She might as well have said, "It's all in your head, lady. Maybe a shrink can help you."
"Just imagine your knee bathed in healing light," the acupuncturist said. "Visualization can be a very powerful healing tool."
It all started to sound like code for "get over it," so I decided it was all in my head. I would push through it. I mean, what did professional athletes do when confronted by something like this? They didn't let it stop them, did they? I armed myself with a patella tendon brace, bathed my knee in enough extra strength Tiger Balm that you could smell me from a mile away, downed a near lethal dose of Advil, threw on my patella strap and plastered adhesive Salonpas up and down my leg until I looked like a bundle of bananas at the grocery store, and grabbed an old pair of ski poles, the white ones from the '80s that Ryan calls my "Susie Chapstick" poles.
The hike started out great, with Levi babbling on my back. I sang to him and gave him a giant fern leaf to play with and pretended to be an airplane, which made him giggle, his laughter rising into the crisp mountain air like bubbles in champagne. I breathed in the smell of leaves and soaked in the fall splendor.
Two hours later, I hobbled out of the woods, wincing in pain as I tried to imagine my knee bathed in warm, healing light.
Don't get me wrong, I've worked with some wonderful people who really care about my well-being and are great at what they do. That's why I've refused to give up on letting them try to help me. I still think yoga is the single best way for me to heal myself, not only with the practice but with my teacher and the community and the fact that at our lovely little Basalt studio, a river literally runs through it. But it's just not working.
The saddest part of my little sob story is I'm afraid to go to the doctor mostly because of the cost. I don't know if it's knee surgery I need or maybe just a touch of liposuction.
The Princess is thinking maybe it's time to try some edible weed. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.