My name is Amanda, and I haven’t updated you guys on the fourth trimester (ummmm, sixth trimester?) since I was 14 weeks postpartum.
Oops! Sorry not sorry, though. I mean, life happens. Ummmm, we have an active nine month old (“active” is an understatement). And a 4.75 year old. And, since I last updated you guys….I BECAME A FREAKING DANCE MOM. I mean….life is busy! Ha!
I’m going to drop you a picture of me postpartum at some point, but I can’t remember when. I’d update the picture, but it’s like 37 million degrees below zero right now in Minnesota, and to be honest, I’m lazy….and cold, so this one will suffice.
I’m still pretty much here, as the picture shows. And to be clear, I’m not showing you a postpartum belly picture for comparison purposes. This picture, given the right audience, could be something to laugh at. Or, given the right audience, it could be something to admire. I’m not sharing the picture for judgement purposes, I’m sharing the picture because it is a clear shot of a topic I’ve become very passionate about in the last few months.
It’s a picture of a body who has grown a healthy human and birthed a healthy human (almost on the side of the road, because our baby had jazz hands about coming out STAT, but….we made it to the birth center!), gone through the ringer mentally and physically a bit postpartum, and….well, is coming out on the other side full of lessons learned and the big guns to help other women.
I digress. There’s lots I’m going to talk about here. So I’m just going to get into it.
If you have been a part of my postpartum journey, you’ll remember that I was wondering if I wasn’t dealing with some sort of prolapse early on postpartum. I actually wasn’t (and still am not), but to be honest, it was the biggest mental mind game to go through. There is not lots of quality (FACTUAL) info out there on prolapse other than “have the surgery” and “don’t lift more than five pounds” and “don’t be on your feet.” Well...that’s actually not humanly possible as a mom. It’s just not. It’s shitty advice, and, now on this side of it….is absolutely untrue and GARBAGE advice for most individuals. This is gonna be “my thing” to rage about for awhile, I feel like….the complete disservice that moms receive as “postpartum care.” I will assume you can feel my blood boiling through my words.
I am ECSTATIC that I had been working through a postnatal fitness course at the tail end of my pregnancy and now throughout postpartum. It gave me the tools I needed to advocate for myself, and the tools I can share with my clients so I can be in THEIR corner when they need me.
If you remember, I was under the care of a physical therapist, specializing in pelvic floor and women’s health. You guys, this should be standard stuff for mamas. A part of recovery and “pre and postnatal care.” It’s SO IMPORTANT. During my sessions, I went through everything from posture, to resting and nursing/feeding positions, to how to use or minimize force on core and pelvic floor, how to pick up baby in certain positions, how to exhale through exertion during movements that require extra “oomph”.....if you can imagine hauling an infant carrier up into a high seat of a car to the car seat base, you probably can understand “oomph.”
Here’s the thing….even though I’m not dealing with prolapse, I’ve learned…..that about 50% of women ARE. Perhaps mild, and undetected. And many women know they have it, but don’t talk about it. Because it seems embarassing, or gross, or like….a failure of your body or something. And it’s just NOT those things, it’s really just a sign that something, somewhere, isn’t working like it should.
And here’s where it gets interesting. Upon conversation after conversation with my physical therapists (I’ve visited two now), SOMETIMES they come from pregnancy. In the pregnancy realm, they can occur because of a long labor or long pushing phase. Or because of tearing. And not healing.
They can also have NOTHING to do with pregnancy, and come from faulty mechanics of our core and pelvic floor. Our “pressure system,” if you will. They can come from a few other places too (excessive coughing, heavy lifting….again, if your pressure system is off).
After an interesting discussion, my pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms are likely not from our second daughter’s birth. They are from the FIRST daughter’s birth, almost five years ago. Long labor. Long pushing phase (4+ hours). Severe tearing (level 3, I should have been referred to a physical therapist right off the bat, but wasn’t).
On top of a core and pelvic floor that wasn’t ever properly rehabbed, I added layers upon layers to the mix - lots of direct core work and always holding tension during my lifts where I possibly didn’t need to, which resulted in holding tension in my core during everyday life as a habit. Finding myself holding my breath during certain everyday life tasks, which didn’t really help with the force and pressure in my core and pelvic floor.
And on top of all THAT, add in a second pregnancy. The weight of growing another human. And pushing that human out.
Get it? Stuff ADDS UP. It’s compounding.
Upon further work, I’m really not dealing with a super weak pelvic floor. I’m dealing with one that is ALWAYS holding tension because it’s compensating for what my core muscles AREN’T doing. And, it’s freaking exhausted, yo.
And so, with the help of my postnatal course, diving down the rabbit hole on this stuff and geeking out at book after book after book on this stuff, AND with the help of two physical therapists who have been absolutely WONDERFUL, it’s truly coming down to this.
I have been a shitty breather for most of my life. For the past few years I’ve paid attention, but not before that. And, for many, many, MANY years, I’ve been a “suck in the gut” girl. And if you think about what happens internally when you suck in your gut, you push things UP and you push things DOWN. Things that aren’t meant to work up and down, or move like that. And….that breeds dysfunction. My internal “pressure system” is off.
So for three solid months, I’ve been working on breathing. Breathing in a variety of positions. Expanding my belly AND my ribs. Working on breathing lying down on my belly and breathing into my upper back. Side lying breathing. 90/90 breathing. All fours breathing. Blowing up a balloon. Because breathing, the expansion that happens is what sets off the muscles of the core working, AND what helps pelvic floor muscles function as they need to. Proper breathing, that is. Improper breathing, well...basically just AMPLIFIES everything in the worst way.
This has been a mind game for the better part of those three months. At first, it was easy. And then, I caught myself holding my breath a lot without knowing it. And then when that got better, I felt weird and like I was “off” because my muscles were changing and my posture was changing, and….after 35 years of my body used to doing things a certain way, supporting structure and fascia and muscles, and STUFF were having to operate differently.
And of course, this has impacted workouts too! Because I’m always focusing on breathing during every exercise. And I’m exhaling during the hardest part of my lifts (blow before you go). I’m regulating my pressure system in real life, and in workouts, and….it’s been mentally draining. But physically, I can feel the good stuff coming from this.
My pelvic floor symptoms are MUCH better. Not amazing yet, but like, we are getting places. I still sometimes feel off if I’ve been on my feet all day, or had a shitty breathing day, or didn’t sleep enough or something. But most days, things are good. I’m currently in the very early stages of training for a Highland Games competition (throwing stones, tossing a caber, that sort of thing) and working on my power and explosiveness with light weight, executing my breath, so….I can PATTERN that over and over and over and when the time is right, increase the weight as I need to.
I’m still working on breathing. I’m still working on the mind muscle connection between core and pelvic floor areas. And I’m working on not holding excess tension in my core during everyday life AND during my workouts. And that, some days, feels like a full time mental job.
My last conversation with my physical therapist was a good reminder. I was pissy and frustrated because I feel SO FAR postpartum and she reminded me I’m SO EARLY postpartum yet. My body is still changing and shifting. My hormones are still out of whack. And I still have some joint laxity that I can feel. I asked her to talk me off the ledge and she didn’t….she just gave me a gentle reminder that this can take awhile to work through to get to a point where I don’t think about it all the time. How long? She says 18 months is still early postpartum. So….I’m just shutting up and getting my breathing done. And my other exercises. And being experimental and mindful when adding in new exercises to workouts and training. And I’m being mindful to “blow before I go” when lifting and exerting effort.
Here’s the lesson that I needed to learn through all this. The last nine months have been a hell of a lesson in working on the shit that matters. Everything can “look right” on the outside, but also be a hot mess underneath the hood. So, this is a good lesson for me to be learning. I’m so glad I have gone through this at the same time I’ve worked through a postnatal fitness course. I’m so glad I have gone through this to gain compassion for my clients coming back to workouts after baby.
I’m so glad I have an ever expanding toolbox to help other women.
And so, I want to invite you to join my #CoreBoss course where I give it to you straight, and help you with the basics of what I know. My learnings from my postnatal course. My learning about breath and breathing and how a “core” actually works. If you are a woman, this free course is for you. Even if you aren’t postpartum nine months. Even if you’ve never had a baby. Even if you are postpartum 30 years. I am passionate about this topic, and I want to share it with tons of women, because….it seems, we need to get the word out that stuff like this MATTERS.
Please share this post with a girlfriend who needs this info. We need to pass this on and talk about it MORE, not less. This is not “do sit-ups and hope the problem solves itself.” This is USABLE information. You will learn, and then apply, and then learn more, and learn how to assess YOURSELF along the way. And you will learn what questions to ask when it’s time to advocate for yourself.
And, when you are looking at a postpartum mama and see a belly or no belly or whatever, instead of asking her if she’s dropped the baby weight yet….maybe ask her how her body is feeling and remind her that rest is freaking important. Because, you know, the FUNCTIONING of everything inside is a big deal. What the outside looks like….well, is only one sliver of information.
And to all you ladies guilty of sucking in the gut. Please stop. Your insides will thank you.