My Perinatal Story
I have been very lucky to have had two healthy babies. I wish the story could start and end right there. I do wish it was that simple for all of us. But the truth is, growing these babies, carrying them in our bodies, birthing them, and caring for them takes a tremendous toll, even in the most idyllic circumstances. During my first pregnancy I was very nervous about this toll. Because of this I was very proactive about caring for my body. I walked regularly, pushed myself to stay strong, rolled out on my foam roller daily, and took long, relaxing baths.
After my 8lb 9oz son was born I had some severe baby blues, largely due to his colic and living on the opposite side of the country from my friends and family. I also went through a difficult transition figuring out just what motherhood should look like for me. So regular movement became my therapy. Also being very unsure of how exactly every thing would get “put back together”, I was incredibly determined and purposeful in my practice. Always being an intuitive mover and teacher, while I hadn’t yet acquired all the knowledge I now have, I had a good basis of knowledge and found my tools were enough through observation and doing the foundational, sometimes tedious work. The studio where I taught at the time was covered in floor to ceiling mirrors. I remember catching a glimpse of my posture and being mortified. So I put tons of energy into correcting my posture. I remember feeling something was out of balance and then going to work on it. I observed and did the work. I feel very lucky that I was given everything I needed to heal intuitively. Because of this, my minor diastasic recti and the leaking I experienced healed within months. And from there I can honestly say I got into the greatest shape of my life.
When my son was two I became pregnant with my daughter. We had been living in Southern California again for about six months and I had just started teaching out of my house. This second pregnancy was different. I was exhausted. I moved regularly but I didn’t prioritize the kind of work that would keep me strong like I needed to be. For someone like me who is hyper mobile, unstable joints and scoliosis (curvature of the spine) are my biggest battle. So staying strong and stable is really important and a challenge. I lost a lot of strength. During my pregnancy I could feel a lot of weight in my pelvis and heaviness in my vagina. I felt like my whole body was collapsing.
After my 9 lb 6oz daughter was born, I had new baby euphoria. The early stages of recovery felt so easy this go. But as time went on, the diligence and and persistence I had with my first wasn’t there. I had about a four finger-width diastasis recti and an undiagnosed grade 1 prolapse. So the small problems I experienced with my first pregnancy became worse (as to be expected). I moved safely and progressively. But eventually I got impatient, decided everything should be “all better” by now and I pushed myself stupidly and injured my ribs. This injury of course perpetuated my scoliosis. To protect my left side, I found myself hunching and compensating with my right. With healing Diastasis, posture is everything. So I found my progress halting. I started picking up a host of new adaptations that presented new challenges for healing a DR and feeling fit, strong, and connected like I wanted to.
At this point I was still having trouble controlling urination and was lacking sensation in my pelvic floor and lower transverses abdominals. So I found myself incredibly discouraged and I decided to seek out more help. I saw my OBGYN, a pelvic floor specialist, and a PT. The pelvic floor specialist helped me determine exactly what I needed to focus on. My PT helped with my ribs and releasing my psoas and TFL. Most importantly, they all gave me support at a time of need and got me pointed in the right direction. Quite honestly, what I needed was the encouragement to do the things that I knew I needed to do - the basic foundational work. And then I dove head-first into all the education I could find. I read, attended workshops, and got certified to be a postpartum corrective exercise specialist.
I now had all these new tools as well as new perspective to use the tools I already had in order to successfully heal my own body. Devoting a year to understanding the postpartum body afforded me a much larger picture of what was going on in my own body. I understood the toll that stress and rest had on my healing. As I learned to breathe and move my ribs, my pelvic floor and deep abdominals regained sensation and functional strength. As I learned the role of alignment in diastasis recti, my stomach became flatter, and my core got stronger and more resilient.
I’ve come an incredibly long way since then. As a yogi, my goal was to not be limited in any way in a vinyasa yoga class. I wanted to do planks, arm balances, and handstands; all requiring a strong, functional core. My once 4 finger wide, very deep DR is now a firm 1 finger width (considered “healed”). I’m not limited in my Pilates or yoga practice in any way. I don’t leak when I pick up my (now huge) kids, sneeze, or jump on a trampoline. My next goal is running. The truth is, healing can be very straight forward like it was my first time around. Simple, universal concepts may be enough. But it might be more complicated, like it was with my second. My process included healing an injury and correcting scoliosis before I could address DR and prolapse. It has been a lot. And during that time my husband bought a business, I moved to a new city, lost a family member, and started my own business in a new place (again), all while my daughter refused to sleep. I was expecting so much of myself and didn’t recognize the role that all the “real life” stuff had on my healing.
No matter how simple or complicated the path is, starting with the right foundational work is the most valuable thing you can do. I can tell you first hand, you can do it now or you can do it later. My progresss today still relies on daily practice of very basic, foundational things. That’s why I’ve created Postpartum Essentials and my soon to be available e-book with Jacquelyn Brennan (next week!). If there’s one thing my experience over the past seven years has taught me, it’s the empowerment that comes from owning the tools, understanding your body, getting the right support and doing the work.