After the loss of Spirit B, I didn’t write or talk much about how everything was going physically for me postpartum wise, as I was way to consumed with healing my heart and learning how to be a Mama to Max. Even though I was doing a lot physically very early after my emergency c- section with the boys, it was a painful and necessary release for my mental health rather than a joyous occasion. I remember every time my heart rate would go up or my breath would become labored, I would have to stop and cry for a good few minutes.
This time around it is very different. I have had way more time to connect to my physical body with both awareness and acceptance. It has also helped that Revel is a very chill baby and loves his sleep, just like his big brother! The other day I ran into a friend after a swim workout, she asked me how I was feeling and specifically how my stomach was healing up. She specializes in teaching women how to use their core during pregnancy and post pregnancy so I felt comfortable geeking out with her. After our conversation, she asked me if I had ever written any of it down. “In a journal” I thought, but no never on my blog. So, I turned her question into a challenge of sorts. The following paragraphs are all about how I am healing up after the birth of Revel because while it is thankfully becoming more and more talked about, it is not something that is regularly shared. Mostly we see moms magically bounce “back” and we are lead to believe that it was so easy for them. Rarely are we given any insight into their journey and all of its ups and downs. So below is my best attempt at recounting my experience getting back to racing and training post the twins, my experience thus far with Revel and some advice that has really helped my thought process around the whole “getting back” phenomenon.
During my pregnancy with the twins I developed a very big diastasis recti (gap between the abdominal walls) as well as an umbilical hernia. After the birth of Max and Spirit B, I could fit four to five fingers inside my gap. Through lots of physical therapy, patience and self discipline, I was able to close my gap to a reasonable and functional two fingers over the course of 8-9 months. After a years time, I could do just about everything that I wanted to in all of my passions: Acrobatics, endurance racing, climbing and slacklining. However, that didn’t mean that I could just jump into anything cold like I used to. Instead I had to be very diligent on warming up my lower core and connecting to my breath patterns. As long as I did a few exercises before my acro sessions or a long bike ride, I was usually pain free. Appearance wise though, I had a VERY hard time accepting the new look of my stomach as I got it all: stretch marks, loose skin, a gap and a weird looking belly button. In my eyes it was an eye sore, but “at least it is a strong and functioning eyesore!” I would tell myself.
When I got pregnant with Revel, I was determined to do everything I could to not worsen my diastasis recti. Every morning I did my physical therapy, yoga and breath work which took around 15- 20 minutes if I didn’t get distracted with anything else. I also used a lot of visualization and would imagine my core hugging Revel with each exhale and giving him love and oxygen with each inhale. I remained very active through out my entire pregnancy and even biked and swam the day I delivered Revel however I stopped training acro pretty early on as it put to much stress on my core and lower back.
After the birth of Revel, I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt after the first week. Granted, with the twins I was in labor for 70 plus hours that ended in an emergency C-section where with Revel, while I was not expecting to have to have another c- section at least I didn’t have to labor at all before hand. At 24 hours post partum I walked a mile, at one week I walked two miles, at two weeks postpartum I rode my bike to the grocery store, at three weeks I swam and at 4 weeks I went on a mellow mountain bike ride. Every day starting with in hours of having Revel, I did my breath work, which I believe really helped me regain my reflexive and functional core quicker than before. My favorite at home new mama yoga and core specific videos are the Bloom Method and Restore your Core by Lauren O Haynen. Their videos are easy to follow, quick, effective and informative.
Now at three months, I have stopped using their videos and have started to adapt them into my own personal sequence, one that better suits what I am doing training wise. However, I use their breathing techniques and incorporate many of their exercises and little gems into my everyday necessary movements like picking up Revel and Max, making dinner, folding laundry and picking up toys off the floor. Overall I have become more mindful and aware of ALL of my movements. I still have a diastasis recti (which will probably never fully go away), and I can’t yet do everything that I want, but it is feeling stronger every week that passes by.
Doctors and even some physical therapists tell postpartum Mamas to hold off on ALL physical activities until 6 weeks for a vaginal birth and 8 weeks for a c- section. While I don’t completely disagree with them (mostly because I am not a doctor), I do think that as long as you are in-tune with your body you can start movement much much sooner with a little change of perspective and expectation. Many mamas, no matter when they start training again set their expectations of themselves too high and compare themselves to their “pre baby” selves or to other mamas around them (or on social media). This was a big problem for me, but I found a system that helped me not get to fixated on results.
When you are ready to start moving regularly again, set yourself a goal and go out and try it. If you fail, or feel like it was too much then you have hit your edge! First be excited that you found an edge and then take a day off. If you succeeded at your goal, up it and if you failed, bring it down a notch or try it again after a good days rest. For example, in my first week postpartum, I wanted to walk everyday. After the first 24 hours, I set a goal of a mile. I did it, but I was very sore. So the next day I only walked a half mile. That felt good, so I increased a little more the next day. I am now doing this with running, biking, swimming, acrobatics and even climbing. First I find my new edges in this new body of mine and then I do the work to get past that new found edge and then once I feel comfortable, I find the next edge.
Approaching my training in this way has really helped me become more excited and curious about what this new body of mine can do. Overall I feel stronger physically, mentally and emotionally than before kids. This is not surprising to me in the least. After all, I have seen my body grow some amazing little humans, get back into race and acro shape months after giving birth and I have seen my heart split wide open due to both unspeakable amounts of sorrow and overflowing volumes of love. No matter where you are in your postpartum journey, I hope this helps you in some way and inspires you to get out and move!