pregnancy

"My body has been ripped apart." Four kids in four years has left Laura in constant pain.

The feature image used in this article is one of Laura Thomas' favourite photos.

Her four beautiful children, all born within the space of four years, dressed up and smiling at the camera. 

It sits proudly as the cover photo on her Facebook page, which is full of equally lovely images of the young Canberra family. 

But this is Laura's highlight reel, and behind the scenes she and husband Craig are exhausted and terrified they aren't going to meet the September 14 deadline to pay for a surgery that could help bring some normality and sanity back to their lives.

Watch: Questions about childbirth, answered. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

Not one of Laura's three births went to plan, and as a result her body has been left "ripped apart."

The 31-year-old's first two pregnancies were traumatic, full of complications, and were only 14 months apart.

Her eldest was removed in theatre with forceps and an episiotomy. Her second fell out of her while she was being carried from the bath to a hospital bed after the midwives realised she had blacked out in the water. 

Both experiences left her traumatised and anxious as she prepared to deliver twins in 2018 just two years later. 

"I am not a very big person so twins sort of ripped everything apart. They made a big tear in my hip muscles and my body hadn't been able to recover from the first two, so the twins caused my pelvis to collapse at 36 weeks," Laura told Mamamia.

"I still have a support belt that holds my hips together and my [abdominal] separation is still huge. I can push my whole fist to the back of my body to my kidneys. It's still at about 5cm," she said. 

Laura with her twins, who were born in 2018. Image: Supplied.

Laura's core doesn't function at all right now. So her back muscles are trying to take on the job, and it's leaving her in chronic, constant pain.

ADVERTISEMENT

"My back muscles try to take the load but they can't, so often my physio has to move my ribs back into place, and one of my hips rides up and gets stuck so they have to pull it down every couple of weeks so it aligns again," she told Mamamia.

Laura's physio has told her the only real solution is surgery, but functional abdominoplasty surgery is going to cost the family $23,000 – plus thousands more for the necessary physio she'll need to get afterwards to teach her muscles how to move again.

It's classified by the government as "plastic surgery" and non-essential, so there's no option to have it done in the public hospital system. It was taken off the Medical Benefits Schedule in 2016 because a review found it to be "largely cosmetic."

There have been numerous attempts by medical professionals to change that over the years, but the bills have all been knocked back by parliament. 

In 2018, the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) called for this type of surgery to be subsidised, writing in a statement, "Women should not be unfairly penalised for giving birth. There are many operations performed for relief of chronic pain and instability caused by sports injuries that are reimbursed by Medicare. Abdominoplasty should be considered in a similar light."

In the most recent attempts to get a bill before parliament, Laura has been used as the primary case study because her injuries are about as bad as the come.

"It's frustrating the government doesn't see it as important or essential," she told Mamamia. 

"It feels sexist because it's considered cosmetic and like plastic surgery and 'non-essential,' because it's just to do with women and pregnancy and it's like it's our choice. But it's not our choice that our bodies get affected this way. My body is completely non-functional and yet I have these children I have to raise."

Right now the Thomas family are putting everything they have towards raising the money they need for surgery. If they can't meet the monetary figure, they might have to give up the surgery date, but they're trying not to think about that right now.

Laura and Craig have three more weeks to raise the money they need for surgery. Image: Supplied.

Craig works full time in the lounge-room of their home amongst the chaos of the kids, because he is immune compromised and can't go back into the office due to the risk of COVID-19. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Laura parents the kids all day, and then heads off as a delivery driver for Menulog once everyone is in bed, to try to pull in some extra cash. Craig then gets stuck into the extra hours of work he lost during the day, while helping Laura wrangle the children. 

The twins are horrible sleepers, so overnight, one parent ends up in the bed with a twin while the other parent sleeps in the lounge-room with the second twin.

"We're exhausted all the time... and I think managing pain adds another level of exhaustion," Laura said.

"I feel guilty because the pain is affecting my parenting a lot because it makes me quite grumpy and short-tempered when I am not handling the pain well – and then if I take the pain medication it makes me foggy and low in energy. So the kids either get yelled at a bit more, or they get a very fazed out mum."

The couple's current reality is starting to have a roll on effect on the kids. 

Their five-year-old daughter has issues with anxiety and anger, the four-year-old is currently being tested for ADHD which they've been told might have been exacerbated by lack of attention, and the twins are only getting increasingly naughty. 

The entire family is in the trenches right now crawling towards that September surgery date. 

On top of the guilt, pain and exhaustion there's also the embarrassment. Laura is still asked all the time if she's pregnant, because that's how her body looks. 

"It feels like my body can't do what it's supposed to do and the physical sight is pretty embarrassing. It still looks like I am pregnant, and it's just not in proportion. It's hard to find clothes that fit... clothes aren't designed for this giant weird sag at the front," she told Mamamia.

Laura used to be a dance teacher. Now, she can't even sit up and it feels like it'll always be like this. With all of her pain management options exhausted, surgery really is the last option. 

"We are living on a day by day basis. I am ready to not be in pain anymore," Laura told Mamamia.

If you'd like to donate to Laura and Craig, you can find their GoFundMe here.

00:00 / ???