Friday, October 21, 2016

"I Don't Know How You Do It"

   I hear this all. The. Time. That's a fact, not tooting my own horn. My answer is always the same, regardless of what the statement pertains to: I do it because I have to. Aside from knitting and reading books, there's really just about nothing on my plate that isn't a necessity, so I just summon the will and throw myself through- hopefully with a smile. For today, that pertains to exercise.
   I explained to a friend on Sunday that there's little I've done to make a huge change in my life without first having an "Aha!" moment in the form of a real, life-altering experience which spurred me to the change. In the area of self-care, that was the pregnancy and birth of my youngest. My sixth baby, my rainbow, my Peaceful Light From God. Aside from varying degrees of awful morning sickness, I have always loved being pregnant. My body just does pregnancy and childbirth very well, with no credit to me. My body just does it, and I am so grateful. Things started to change, though, when I had my second. After my first, I found an odd 'hole' around my belly button, but mama friends said it was normal. My second was a massive 10.5 lbs and my bump showed it. I was left with pretty severe Diastasis Recti(A separation of the abdominal muscles that your internal organs can and often do herniate through)- or DR. I tried so hard to get back into shape after he was born- running 5k's and doing pilates and ab workouts by the hundreds- but my body wasn't having it. I had no idea what DR was, nor how it was affecting my body. With my third, that core instability led to very painful  Symphasis Pubis Dysfunction(trouble with the ligaments and alignment in the pelvis and hips), which thankfully did not complicate delivery, and resolved itself after her birth. I walked with my babies in the huge stroller, and crunch-crunch-crunched to try and re-strengthen my core. I had no idea why it was not getting better. With my fourth, aside from severe morning sickness for 25 weeks in the form of serious Hyperemesis Gravidarum and a resulting scare with IUGR, the pregnancy went well, but after an 18-hour posterior labor and delivery(hard work, extra painful, but in the realm of "normal" and safe) because my stubborn nugget wouldn't turn, That extra work and hard pushing combined with my already unstable and weak core resulted in my internal organs settling a bit lower than ideal, because I lacked the tone in a very specific set of muscles to hold things in place. The technical term for that is Pelvic Organ Prolapse- POP. Exercise experts basically all had the same message: No more high-impact exercise again. Walk. Walk until your feet bleed. Because anything more jarring can worsen the POP and require surgical repair. Oh- an Diastasis Recti? All those crunches by the thousands and hours of Pilates and ab work to strengthen my core? It was making the DR worse. Nothing but surgical repair for that.
   I resigned myself to being out of shape. In conversations on the matter I'd say, "Well, I have a pretty serious Diastasis and only surgery will fix it so I'll always look 5 months pregnant until I'm officially done having kids and get that all fixed." I walked with my kids whenever possible, but my "postpartum/extra lumpy transition" wardrobe became my wardrobe. Then I lost Asher, and his surgical birth made the POP I'd been dealing with for years instantly exponentially worse. At a post-op appointment in April that year, my midwife recommended a program called Hab-It Pelvic Floor Exercises, which is a physical therapy program created by a PT specialist in pelvic floor issues, Tasha Mulligan. I bought the DVD on Amazon and set to work. I was amazed at how 20 minutes a day 4 days a week started to make changes on my body. I even started to notice that my DR was improving. Could it be? No one had ever mentioned a correlation between DR and POP to me. I was supposed to work hard at the PT program for 3 months, and(unless I was having trouble with ANYTHING else sooner) come back in 12 weeks. Well, the 12 weeks came and I wasn't feeling well(it was nearing Asher's original due date and I was very emotional) so I put it off. Three weeks later:

No, four tests is not overkill. It's necessary.
   So back to the midwife I headed for an entirely different reason. I was a higher weight than I had ever started a pregnancy, so I continued my PT program, walking-walking-walking, and a rigidly healthy, clean(preservative-free) diet throughout the pregnancy, but still my body revolted. High blood pressure for seemingly no reason, physical pain from head to toe, months of no weight gain, then 10 lbs spike in a week with no change in my diet or exercise. I was a bit of a mess. Then came my guy's delivery- my first in an actual hospital setting(I had placenta previa that had moved but was still close so I risked out of a birth center or homebirth). There were emotions at play, a malpositioned little(or 9.5-lb) guy, a lot of extra amniotic fluid, and a very intense fear-tension-pain cycle I let overpower me, and I ended up with a 13-hour battle that ended with an epidural so I could shut my brain off and go to sleep until he literally slid out just after I woke up with a "weird feeling."
   That pregnancy and delivery- the struggles, the way my always-capable, strong body just couldn't do it anymore- was my wake-up call. I needed to do SOMETHING. I started research DR more. The very experienced, trained EMT turned aromatherapist-herbalist-holistic health adviser who is the woman behind Blessed Mama Services(No, no relation to my Blessed Journey Birth Services. See What's In A Name for my Why) said she was doing an online info session on Diastasis Recti and related issues. It was during that discussion that I heard about Fit2B. Supposedly this program was made for moms. Supposedly she could help heal all these core and pelvic floor issues by helping you strengthen the right muscles. Supposedly once you're healed and know how to move properly for your body you can do anything. I say supposedly because I was told this was only ever repairable by surgery, and that my POP would prevent me from ever running again. Plus it cost money and I don't part with money easily. Everybody asking for money has some ulterior motive besides the good of the buyer: money. I "liked" their Facebook page, followed along with the information that was posted there. Then, the day before my 8-week postpartum check up with my midwife, they posted that they had a free 30-day trial. I read it over, three times, searching for the loop holes. Nothing? Really? Alright. When my midwife released me for light activity as I felt well enough, I went home and ordered the free trial. I figured I'd give it a go for 30 days. Workouts and such were all completely digital- either through their website, streaming on your phone, or on their own app on Roku. For 30 days I'd give it a try to see if it hurt like my other workouts did due to POP and DR, if it fit in my life with short chunks as I had a moment without a baby in my arms and kids asleep, and if it actually did anything positive for my body. It was free(actually, $1 card processing fee. but I can do $1), so I had nothing to lose(except the dollar). This was the picture I took of myself, nuzzling my "tiny" guy, before my postpartum checkup: 

That's good posture, standing upright, holding my belly in, 8 weeks postpartum. That day, I started 20 minutes of exercise daily, however I could fit it in. I alternated my Hab-It DVD and workouts(15-30 minutes) from Fit2B. This is me three weeks later:

I was down 3 pounds. THREE! That's not significant weight loss for the way my waistline was shrinking. I was so impressed by Fit2B. Beth(the founder, trained in physical therapy and an exercise
professional) asked everyone to start with their Foundational Five. Let me tell you- you THINK you have good posture, you THINK the chiro is what keeps you properly aligned(I LOVE my chiro- no dings there!), you THINK you're bending, reaching, babywearing, etc, properly, until you do the F5 for a couple weeks and learn how to engage certain muscles to move differently- more healthily for your body. Oh. My. I was stronger every day, moving differently in things as simple as bending to unload the dishwasher or change a diaper, or SQUATTING, things I'd been doing for a decade in wys that didn't support my body or strengthen my core. AND IT DIDN'T HURT! None of it hurt. At all. Ever. Throughout Beth's videos, she is teaching, talking as she moves, giving you "bone cues" on what you should be feeling to properly engage a muscle, reach a tiny muscle group, and more. She is sweet, happy, encouraging, and teaching you how to move, live, and care for your body in the long run of life. She's not creating a dependent consumer, she's educating, strengthening, and healing you so you can move on stronger and healthier for life! There's the added bonus of an online member forum(Facebook group) where Beth herself and other trusted "wise women" and professionals in their own fields answer questions, and all the members chat, talk life, encourage one another, and work through challenges together.
   Now before you get all, "Workouts at home and online 'groups'? Sounds like Beachbody, etc, etc," on me, let me tell you: in case you haven't figured it out already from my description, this is NOTHING like Beachbody or anything I've ever found. This is real life, real women who have lives, families, jobs, and more who just want to help you heal and life healthy. They don't live to workout and post their selfies on Instagram. They live life on their own terms and are getting healthy on their own terms. That's not to say Fit2B is only a beginners game. There are simple programs like F5, but it goes so much further, so much harder- as hard as you want to take it. Just this week Beth did a workout routine in Weightlifting 101 to help mamas discover the health benefits of lifting so they can keep getting stronger and building muscle mass(if that's the direction they want to go), while protecting a healed or healing DR and more. Very few of these workouts require special equipment and all can be done right in your living room.
   When my 30 days expired I GLADLY signed up for a monthly subscription- and that's saying something if you know how much I dislike spending money on non-essentials besides yarn and fabric. But this was obviously essential. $14.99/month is very affordable for most(a yearly subscription breaks down to less per month, but I haven't saved up for the lump sum yet), and so worth it. I'm not dropping pounds like crazy- I'm breastfeeding and I don't like to lose more than a pound a week until they're over a year- but I am getting so strong, more energetic, and losing inches purely due to long-ago damaged and neglected muscles healing and toning up. Remember those pics above(I know, this has gotten long)? This is me now, after 10 more weeks of Fit2B and Hab-It:

   I have not been this flat in a decade. Literally. The other milestone: I'm running again. I haven't been able to run without pain in my midsection due to DR and POP for 8 years, but here I am running, pain-free, stronger than ever despite being 50 lbs more than I was when I was last running. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I do 20-30 minutes of Fit2B at some point during the day, whether that's 5:30am before everyone else is up, during nap time, or after the kids are tucked in, and a Hab-It workout(12-18 minutes) before bed. Tuesdays and Thursdays I get up at 4:45am to meet a mama friend at the local high school so we can run for 30-45 minutes and get back home by 6am when everyone else is waking so I can quickly shower then start our day as usual. Before No. 6 was born, I would never have spent money on me, nor made time for me like this during my insanely busy days, but that pregnancy was my body screaming for intervention, and his delivery was my body declaring its mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. Duly noted, bag o' bones. I'm worth being healthy. I'm worth feeling good about myself. Surgery isn't the only option. And for the first time in 7 years, I signed up for a 5k. The Saturday after Thanksgiving. I'm not even dreading it. I'm excited. Because I am strong. I am capable. I am healing. I am worth it. 


  1. Wow thanks for sharing your story. I feel honored that you would share it with the world, with the fit2b community. thanks again <3

  2. I needed this. As a boost of motivation that I can do this. This is so similar to my story - Except 1 loss, 4 rainbow babies, 1 loss, 1 rainbow baby, and another loss just months ago. My body is very done and I'm very concerned about POP and my DR. I've been melding in Fit2B for too long and need to get serious because I now see this can work for ME! Thank you!!