motherhood, postpartum, Self Care

Enjoy Every Minute: The Phrase That Almost Broke Me

My Journey with Postpartum Depression

“Enjoy every minute”

“You’re going to miss this!” 

“Soak it in, they’re only babies for so long!”

“Before you know it they’ll be off to college and you’ll be wishing to hold them in your arms again!”

Phrases like this are often said in passing to new or pregnant moms. They are said with the best intentions, often rolling off the tongues of older moms or grandparents looking back on the baby days with rose colored glasses. It seems they only remember the warm snuggles and coos, and forget the sometimes ceaseless crying or endless rocking or the baby that just will not sleep.

It’s phrases like this that fueled my postpartum depression for the last 6 months. 

I only just now feel like I am coming out of it. As a result, I also, only just now, feel like I am falling ‘in love’ with my daughter.

Yes, you read that right. It took me 6 months to fall in love with this baby. 

Don’t get me wrong. I loved her all along. I cared for her without a second thought and met her every need. But I was not ‘in love‘. I only now look at her and think ‘I just fucking love you so much my heart might burst’.

And it’s been fucking hard, to say the least.

So hard, that when I heard those stupid cliches above, I thought I was failing. The thoughts swirled in my head and often spiraled out of control.

“What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you enjoying this? You love babies! You should be loving this! You didn’t feel this way about your first born? Why are you failing at this? You’re doing it wrong. Everyone else loves every second they spend with their babies. Look at how cute she is? How can you not enjoy holding her what feels like 24/7? You’re a terrible mom.”

And so on, and so forth.

Lynn-Newborn-print-78

And then, when moments of clarity and happiness started to break through… The thoughts took a new, frustrating turn

“Oh wow, I just love you baby. Why haven’t I felt this all along? What’s wrong with me for not loving my baby from the second she was born? Everyone talks about that swell of love, why did it take so long? What kind of mother doesn’t love her baby?”

I would judge myself for loving my baby!

Thank fucking god she slept! That was my only saving grace.

That’s the problem with 2nd babies. They have a benchmark to live up to. Now, for some, this is a benefit. For some, their first baby was the hard one, so the second one seems like a breeze (usually resulting in a third haha). For me, it was the opposite. My son was an angel baby. Happy, carefree, easygoing. Happy to go with the flow all day long. I mean he slept like shit, but was otherwise content. I remember feeling really distraught when he cried because it happened so infrequently I didn’t have the coping skills to deal with it!

Not this baby. Nope. She was born with attitude. She knows what she wants, how she wants it, and she’s not afraid to tell you about it. Very, very loudly. Now I’m sure this will be a personality trait that will serve her well in the future, but for now, it makes my life very difficult.

She cried. A lot. Some would ask if she had colic, I have no idea. I didn’t see the point in trying to get a ‘diagnosis’ since there isn’t much to be done about colic anyway. I tried all the things, the probiotics, the swing, cutting dairy out of my diet… nothing really helped. She just wanted to be held. ALL. THE. TIME. And yes, I did wear her as much as I could, but I am also trying to heal my prolapse, so baby wearing 24/7 wasn’t the best for that, plus it made my back ache, and have you ever tried to eat a proper meal with an infant strapped to you? Not the most enjoyable.

lynn-newborn-print-69.jpg

There were days where my husband would return home from work to the toddler in his highchair eating dinner, my dinner getting cold on the table, with the baby in the carrier while I paced the house with tears in my eyes because I was just SO FUCKING HUNGRY but she wouldn’t even let me sit to eat without crying.

And then I’d hear or read some bullshit telling me to enjoy these days… And I’d lose it.

There goes the shame thought spiral.

The first 9 weeks of her life felt like an eternity.

When she was 5 weeks old, My husband had been back to work for 2 weeks and I could feel myself breaking. I texted my best friend who lives across the country:

“All this baby does is cry… it’s fucking hard”

Within an hour and a half she had a flight booked to come visit me 2 weeks later. I thoroughly believe that was the turning point for me, when she arrived. She agreed to watch the baby for a morning so I could go to therapy. That therapy session saved me. That, and, finally getting to meet her so adorable 8 month old who never stopped smiling, which gave me a bit of light at the end of the baby tunnel.

I was so thankful I had a therapist that I knew and trusted already established before this baby was born. I had seen her during pregnancy for a different reason and she just got me, and was able to help me out of the depths. She was able to make me see how irrational my thoughts were, and get me to at least catch myself when I started going down the rabbit hole of self judgement.

I believe everyone should have a counselor or therapist in their healthcare team. We have a specialized care provider for everything physical, dentists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, pharmacists, and more, why not for our mental health? Mental health is just as, if not more, important than physical health. The two go hand in hand. But we often feel stigmatized for wanting help with our mental health, I know I did. It’s often viewed as ‘weak’ to reach out for help with our mental state, when in reality it takes a lot of courage to talk to someone openly and honestly about our innermost thoughts and feelings. It is a super vulnerable place to be, but it is so important.

So if you’re a mom of a young baby, and you feel like you’re drowning and failing and are wondering what is wrong. Know that it is going to be okay. It is okay to not enjoy your baby screaming, or waking you hourly at night, or refusing to be put down.

You don’t have to enjoy that. 

But, also, if you are feeling like that, find someone to talk to. Ideally a professional, who can help you process your feelings without bias or judgement, but in the very least another mom who will understand.

No one said it was going to be easy, but it is worth it.

Enjoy Every Minute_ The Phrase That Almost Broke Me.

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pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse

Pregnancy After Prolapse – The 4th Trimester

Some of you may be thinking – ‘uh, Kirsten, you know pregnancy is only 3 trimesters right? Like… that’s where TRImester comes from?’

Yes, yes, I know. But, recently there’s been a movement to recognize the importance of the first 3 months after birth in both the development of baby and recovery of a new mom. These first 90-ish days are so so crucial when it comes to rehab and recovery from birth for mom, regardless of the mode through which her baby arrived. There is so much healing happening in the early days, it is so important that we don’t take advantage of that time.

Going into this birth I knew this and was prepared for it. I read The First Forty Days when I was pregnant and responded by filling my freezer with delicious homemade soups and easy to prepare meals, knowing those first days are so. damn. hard. I wanted to set myself up for the best possible 4th trimester I could. As Brianna Battles would say, control what you can, and I did just that. I made bone broth and froze it in individual portions and stocked up on canned goods and frozen vegetables so in those hard days i would have nutritious food that could fuel my healing and my day to day life. I also invested in placenta encapsulation, which I know doesn’t have a lot of scientific evidence to support it, but there also hasn’t really been ANY research on it. It hasn’t been proven OR disproven and I’d been told many positive anecdotal stories about it’s benefits, so I gave it a go. I think the most important thing I did to prepare was to ask for help. Early on in my pregnancy I planted the seed with my mother in law that we would like her (and my father in law too) to come and help us when the baby arrived. Of course she was ecstatic at the idea and was able to come stay with us for nearly 3 weeks. We were so lucky that baby arrived on the first night she was here!

I must admit, those first few days after birth I was nervous. I was a bit of a wreck after my son was born, both physically and mentally. I felt like I was sitting on a bleeding baseball due to all of the swelling and the expected lochia, and I was an anxious mess. I did very little self care in those early days and instead was so concerned with keeping up with my regular life in addition to having a newborn and recovering from childbirth. I pushed myself to go grocery shopping and to stores to buy nursing bras and take the baby with me and sweep the floors and clean the bathrooms… It was all too much! But I learned from that and took it with me into this postpartum period.

Even though this birth was so much easier than my first, it was still birth. Birth is physical trauma, regardless of how quick and easy it seems, and it demands respect and recovery. I was lucky to have a homebirth because after she was born, I was able to get into my bed and not leave it for 36ish hours, with the exception of going to the bathroom. All I did for the first day or two was sleep, care for baby, and text my husband downstairs to bring me food or whatever else I needed. Once I felt up to it, I started having regular epsom salt baths with postpartum healing herbs to help relieve some of the swelling in my perineum as well as regularly using frozen pads to soothe in between.

That first week, obviously, everything felt heavy & raw, but that is normal right after you squeeze an 8lb human out of you in the span of 2 hours! With my son, this heavy feeling scared the crap out of me, and I responded by constantly clenching my pelvic floor in hopes of lifting it all back up. What I didn’t realize was the heaviness was caused by all of the swelling, and no amount of clenching was going to fix that, only time and patience. Instead, I focused on keeping things relaxed (do you sense a theme here between this and birth?) and allowing my body to respond intuitively, all while limiting the demands I placed on it. I tried my very best to not pick up my 30lb toddler, especially in that first week, knowing how vulnerable everything was. I also limited the amount of time I spent on my feet, by having others do the cooking and general housework, and when I did participate in some cooking, I dragged a stool into the kitchen to sit on. None of this would have been possible without the help provided by my in-laws who stayed with us for the first few weeks.

Within a couple weeks I started feel more normal. Almost too normal. I had zero prolapse symptoms at all. Even the stress incontinence I had in pregnancy resolved! I can now understand how some women jump right back into heavy exercise right away because I totally felt ‘ready’. After my first birth, I was sore for weeks, I didn’t get this whole ‘let’s go workout right away’ thing… Now I get it! I am so glad I had the knowledge to take it easy and slow and not get too excited about exercise so early postpartum. I focused on rehab-type movement and continued with the pelvic floor exercises prescribed by my PFPT in pregnancy. Most of this was movements done while laying on the floor to minimize the strain on my core muscles while they healed and my internal organs settled back into place. I did a few weeks of this until progressing to some upright movements, still without any weights and moving really slowly to focus on form and breathing and ensuring my PF was firing with each rep.

An interesting thing that happened around 8 weeks postpartum. I was doing my PF exercises in an odd position, and I felt the front portion fire for the first time since I gave birth. It’s not that I had been working on that for weeks, I just didn’t even know it wasn’t firing, until it did. This was a major lightbulb moment for me. It took me eight weeks to reconnect with that particular portion of my core. Eight weeks. What would have happened if I had jumped back into high impact or heavy lifting before that time? Would that part of my PF have fired to respond to the task? Or would it have remained ‘turned off’ resulting in a major vulnerability in my core function? If I didn’t even know how to do proper PF contractions, as taught to me by my PFPT, how would I have even known I was missing that piece?

This is why I advocate for every woman to see a PFPT! They can assess these tissues and make sure you are connecting with them all, and ensure they are functioning well before you jump into intense exercise. I didn’t get to see my PFPT until I was nearly 10 weeks postpartum (and I booked my appointment within days of birth! She’s just that in demand!). I was feeling great going into see her, I honestly had no symptoms. She was so awesome, she kept laughing and saying ‘you’re too good for me!‘ and ‘why are you here?‘ with a smirk because everything was functioning so well. She gave me some advanced core exercises to work towards and felt confident, that though my prolapse has returned, I should be able to heal it again like I did previously.

Since then I have started up a new strength training program, and am taking things very slowly but hope to get back to a full lifting program eventually. I am in no rush. The weights and the gym will always be there, and if I do things right now, then my body will be able to support whatever I need it to do, in the future.

That is what postpartum training is all about. It’s about accepting the now, rehabbing appropriately, and building strength slowly and intentionally so that we can keep that strength and function for years to come. Because I don’t know about you, but for me? I don’t care if I can post a video of me pulling a huge deadlift, or running a marathon, or skipping 800 times in 15 minutes tomorrow if it means that I won’t be able to hold my bladder when I’m 80. I want to function just as well 40 years from now as I do today, and taking care of myself now is how it’s going to happen.

Pregnancy After Prolapse (3)

fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Pregnancy

Pregnancy is Temporary, but Your Choices Last Forever

Being avidly interested in perinatal fitness & a new mom myself, I come across a lot of advertising and social media posts about exercise in pregnancy and postpartum. I often find myself scrolling through the comments to see what the general consensus is on the latest (usually controversial) video or message is.

One comment that almost always crops up is:

“I did crossfit/ran marathons/did crunches/did what I always did when I was pregnant and my baby turned out perfectly fine”

And all I can think is you just don’t get it!

While there are definitely recommendations for exercise in pregnancy circled around maintaining baby’s health, Mom’s health is just as important!

(I know, groundbreaking stuff, right?)

When I (and many other well-educated fitness professionals) say maybe it isn’t the best idea to do crunches, or run long distances, or lift super heavy, I’m not saying this because I think you are putting your baby’s health at risk. I am saying these things because you are putting yourself, your body and your future function at risk!

Yes, you can powerlift (or sprint, or do jumping jacks, or whatever) when pregnant, and baby will probably be fine, and it might feel okay for you at the time, but should you? Probably not.

Something one of my idols in the fitness industry, Brianna Battles says regularly about exercise in pregnancy is:

Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
~Brianna Battles, Everyday Battles

It all circles back around to training with intention. When pregnant, a lot of women fear losing themselves when the baby comes (I know I did. I so did!) so they try to keep doing what they’ve always done and enjoyed through their pregnancy, as if to prove to themselves that they are the same! But, as much as you are the same, you are so not the same during (and after) pregnancy. You are growing a human! That is a big-freakin-deal! You need to respect that. You need to surrender yourself to the fact that as important your personal goals are, the priority should be keeping your body healthy and strong in this (so very short) chapter of your life.

There are so many more factors at play in the perinatal period when it comes to exercise and fitness. Hormones influence your connective tissues. A growing uterus influences center of gravity, balance and movement patterns. Diastasis recti influences core function and strength. The weight of baby on the pelvic floor influences it’s ability to respond appropriately (hello, pee sneeze – not normal!). So we need to take all of these things (and more) into account when training in pregnancy.

Yes, we can program exercise along the same lines you are used to and enjoy, they just might look a little different. The how of exercise is often more important than the exercise itself. It’s about strategy rather than just do’s and don’ts. If you follow Brianna (mentioned above) Jennifer Cambpell of Mama Lion Strong & Healthy Habits Happy Moms, or Jessie Mundell, or Julie Wiebe or Katy Bowman, they all preach ‘ribs over hips’ and keeping your ribs, spine and pelvis neutral.

[Side note: I would be literally nowhere if it wasn’t for all I have learned from following these amazing women and for their trail blazing in this field]

So, can you complete a heavy overhead press while 30 weeks pregnant? Yes. Okay, but can you do it while maintaining your ribs over hips, without your diastasis bulging, and without holding your breath? No. Then that exercise isn’t the best choice for you in this chapter of your life. If you say you are just going to do it because it feels fine to you, my next question is why? What is the value of continuing to do an exercise that maybe isn’t the best for your body at this point? Is it because you think you should be able to do it? Is it because you’ve seen other pregnant women do it and you want to look ‘badass’ like they did? Is it because you’re afraid of looking like a weakling or a failure who didn’t have the guts to go for it? Take a look inside yourself, and analyze why you feel you need to do a specific exercise or program. Is it worth the risk? Spoiler alert: putting your glory ahead of your future function is not badass and doesn’t take guts. You know what takes guts? Putting yourself first. Saying no when someone challenges you. Looking within yourself and standing up for your own values. That’s badass. That takes guts. Going with the flow because everyone is doing it, that’s cowardly. Having the courage to stand out on your own is the pinnacle of strength.

Now I’m not saying you can never do your favourite not-so-ideal-in-pregnancy exercise again. That is definitely something you can return to. However, it’s something you need to work up to, and be mindful of how your body is functioning, and be ready to maybe take two steps forward and one (or two or three) steps back along the way. It’s about checking the ego, and respecting where your body is at during this very important period and allowing yourself to surrender to it. This chapter in your life is temporary. Eventually it will end, but the choices you make within it can have lasting consequences if you aren’t smart about it. In closing, I’d like to bring it back around to another quote from Brianna;

Pregnancy is temporary, Postpartum is forever.
~Brianna Battles, Everyday Battles

Try not to forget that, because your body won’t.

having-the-courage-to-stand-out-on-your-own-is-the-pinnacle-of-strength

Birth, pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 3)

Continued from Part 1 & Part 2

After seeing Kristen, I felt so much better. I wasn’t worried about picking up and carrying Nugget around, I wasn’t worried about carrying laundry up from the basement or hauling in groceries. I was able to actually live my life.

I started doing the ab work Kristen suggested, and I was absolutely astounded at how effective they were! Who knew such tiny movements like lifting your foot off the ground could have such a dramatic effect. The first day I did the exercise for a total of 6 reps. I know, barely anything, but I wasn’t able to maintain proper technique after 6 so I stopped. The next day I was blown away by how sore I was. We went grocery shopping and I was waddling around like I was 9 months pregnant because my TA was so sore! It was a total lightbulb moment for me. It made me realize just how much your TA functions in supporting your pelvis and trunk through every day movements, like walking! It made me understand further how diastasis recti can influence your movement and why it is so important to keep it in check if you have one.

I did the PF progressions she suggested. I was surprised to hear she suggested going PF contractions with a full bladder, but if you think about it, that’s like an internal load on your PF, and it’s like adding plates to the barbell! I was able to get even more in tune with my body, and really feel how and when my PF was contracting and monitor the forces at work.

I went back to see Kristen a month after our initial appointment feeling great. I informed her that a lot of my symptoms had subsided and other were explainable by reasons besides prolapse. She laughed “well you can go home now!” she said, jokingly, but I probably could have. She reassesed my abs, alignment and PF. After she was all done she said “Well you’re boring! There isn’t much going on here! Your PF is strong and contracting reactively and is well coordinated with your TA. Your anterior wall is ‘stretchy’ but I wouldn’t say you have a prolapse!”

I wanted to cry, again. But this time tears of joy.

But I hesitated. I was worried. Nugget was my first baby and I definitely had plans of having more, and hopefully sooner rather than later. So I asked Kristen what to do. I was nervous another labour and birth would do even more damage. Should I come see her in pregnancy? How does she recommend labouring and pushing from the perspective of a PT? Can I prevent prolapse with future babies?

So many questions.

We had a lengthy discussion about labour, pushing and delivery. It was so nice to talk to someone openly about birth who was about the function and physiology of the female body, and she gave me tools to go into my next pregnancy & birth feeling strong and confident.

And that’s how I want you to feel. Strong & Confident

Not broken, or fragile, or sad or depressed.

Strong.

We are all strong, we just need to see it within ourselves.

Now if you have read this series of blogs, hoping for a how-to list of things to do to heal your prolapse, I am sorry that I didn’t deliver.

However, I will give you this one To Do.

Find a pelvic floor physiotherapist. A good one. One that supports your goals and lifestyle. Not all physios are as open and supportive as Kristen, and you don’t have to accept that. If your physio refuses to give you progressions, or only tells you your options are to swim and walk, never lift anything over 5lbs (that’s realistic) and never spread your feet wider than hip width, find a new physio. There are good ones out there. If you don’t leave your appointment feeling confident you know how to live your life without fear and anxiety, you need a new physio. They should support your goals, not crush them.

 

how-i-1

Birth, fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 2)

Continued from this post.

Luckily, I was able to score a cancellation with Kristen, otherwise I would have to wait months agonizing over my broken body. I was able to get in to see her two days later.

Now, I have never met a physio I didn’t like (true story), but there was something about Kristen. We just clicked. Our personalities were totally in sync and we had the same values and beliefs. She started the session by reassuring me, she could tell I was nervous. She said she knew many, many women who had a similar diagnosis to mine, and who live complete and normal lives, that I shouldn’t let this hold me back.

She assessed my alignment, my musculature, had me squat and stand while feeling my back and sides to assess how my muscles engaged. She had me lay down and assessed my abs and glutes, and informed me that my transverse abs aren’t as strong or coordinated as I thought, but gave me exact steps how to correct them.

She then did an internal exam (which I describe for you here), which I was most worried about. You see, the physician who had diagnosed me with prolapse had informed me that my pelvic floor (PF) muscles were extremely weak. She had rated them 1.5 on a scale of 5. She described it as barely perceptible with no endurance. The problem I had with that assessment is she didn’t allow me to coordinate my contraction with my breath, it was more “aaaand GO! NOW!” and I was a bit caught off guard. When Kristen assessed my strength, she allowed me to exhale with the contraction and take my time. She almost laughed when I told her the doctor told me my PF was weak, she rated me at a 4 out of 5!

I left the appointment feeling so much better, relieved that my PF wasn’t weak, and looking forward to moving on with my life. I booked another appointment for a month out, just to follow up with the ab work she gave me and the PF progressions she had suggested. Kristen encouraged me to call her with any questions, and unlike some professionals you speak to, with her I knew she really meant it.

The next day I had a thought. She never gave me any limitations for movement or exercise? Everything I have ever read online about prolapse is a list of don’ts. So I sent her an email, and fully expected it to take a week or two to hear from her, if at all. A few days later, she phoned me at home. The first thing she said was, stop Googling. She doesn’t consider postpartum prolapse in the same category as post-menopausal prolapse because there is so much at play postpartum. Your body has so much healing to do, and especially if you are breastfeeding, that can take a really long time, and to be patient. She told me to not limit myself at all because I have a strong PF and to trust myself, use good form and breathing and listen to my body. She suggested I do what I would normally, ease back into things, and if something exacerbates my symptoms, to maybe back off a bit next time. She didn’t see the value in restricting a young mother like myself.

This was the best thing I could hear. Instantly vanished any fear I had about carrying Nugget around, about doing daily activities, going for long hikes, or getting back into weight lifting.

I was happy again.

~Stay tuned for my progress with the exercises Kristen gave me, and how our next visit went and what she told me~

how-i

pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse, Self Care

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 1)

So I mentioned in previous posts that I was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse. This is a really common disorder in women, who have or have not had babies, though it is more common after vaginal childbirth.

I am sure mine was caused by 2+ hours of active, hard, hold your breath and bear down pushing, like I talked about in my post Hold Your Breath, Count to Ten, Push Your Baby Out and Your Uterus Too. Now, I’ll admit, I still struggle with my birth. It was not the birth I had planned for. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t the smooth, clean, athletic event in the way I had envisioned. That was all compounded 100x when I was diagnosed with prolapse.

After I left the doctors office who informed me my bladder and uterus had fallen, I cried.

You guys, I cried so hard. I couldn’t even make it to my vehicle in the parking lot. I was actively sobbing walking across pavement.

I couldn’t help it. I was thinking, how could I let this happen to myself? I knew better! (or at least I thought I did) I trusted my midwife and she let me down.

Listen, I know thoughts are illogical. But I was devastated. I felt broken. The doctor gave me absolutely no guidance as to whether or not I needed to alter my lifestyle. She told me my pelvic floor was super weak and basically told me I needed to do kegels, 10 x 10 seconds, twice a day. That’s it. I was terrified. I was scared to pick up my 21lb baby. Do you have any idea how awful it feels to be scared of picking up your infant when he needs you? I’m sure a lot of you do, and can agree, it’s fucking terrible.

I went home, drank some wine, and told my husband. We tried to move on with our lives, but it kept creeping up on me. My husband wanted me to go get tires put on some rims for my car. I had that gross, helpless, sinking feeling, as I told him he would have to put them into the car for me, since women with prolapse aren’t supposed to lift anything heavy (or so the internet told me).

Luckily, the doctor had suggested I return to physio. She gave me a list with some suggestions, she said I could try and return to Michelle, but since I (apparently) didn’t have success with her, here are some other recommendations.

I liked Michelle, but there was something missing in our relationship. She didn’t seem all that comfortable guiding me back to the types of exercise I wanted to do. I wanted to lift heavy things, sprint, jump, and do the things I loved. She didn’t have much experience in that area, and to her credit she tried her best to guide me, but she didn’t give me much confidence.

I went over the list that the doctor gave me, and found one of the physio’s was based out of a sports medicine clinic. A light bulb went off, that’s exactly what I needed! I called the clinic, found out that Kristen had a cancellation in two days, and booked myself in!

~Stay tuned for my experience with Kristen, what I learned and how I healed myself, both physically and emotionally from my prolapse~

how-i-healed-my

pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

Your Vagina Needs Therapy

It’s true.

I’ve said it time and time again. Maybe in nicer words, but I’ve said it. If you’ve had a baby (vaginal or otherwise), you need to see a physiotherapist (PT). And not for your back or your shoulder or your knee. For your vagina. More specifically, your pelvic floor (PF), or the muscles that surround your vagina and hold up your bladder, uterus and rectum. Those muscles that are *supposed* to stop you from leaking urine when you run, and are *supposed* to help you hold in a fart, and are *supposed* to relax and contract when you have sex and reach orgasm.

That’s what they are *supposed* to do.

I am putting *supposed* in between asterisks because they don’t always do these things, in all women. And that, my friend, is why your vagina needs therapy.

If you saw my previous post about PF dysfunction, and you are maybe having some issues, you’re maybe considering going to see a PF PT (first off, yay!). But maybe you’re nervous, ‘what exactly do they do at PF PT?’ you ask? Well that’s what I am here to tell you.

First off, most physio’s will have you fill out a questionnaire, so they can get a quick grip on your symptoms, your obstetrical history, and what your goals are. Most often the start off with an initial consultation, that is longer than your regular visits, so they can get to know you and do a thorough interview to assess where you are at. They want to know how many babies you’ve had, how you had them (vaginal or c-section), whether or not you’re currently having issues with leaking, discomfort with sex, and any pain or heaviness.

Then they will most likely assess your posture or alignment, movement patterns and sometimes feel the muscles on your back or sides while you move, like squatting up and down. They may also pay attention to your breathing while you move, or have you pick something up to see how you do it. They may even just assess your movement patterns without you even realizing, they are professionals and have a keen eye, and a lot of people move differently than they usually do when they know someone is watching! Then they will assess your abs, have you lay and lift your head and feel your belly to see if you have a diastasis recti (separated abs) and have you contract your transverse abs to see how well you are able to connect with them and how strong they are.

Then comes the fun part.

Okay maybe not fun, per-say, but the meat and potatoes of the visit, so to speak.

The Internal Exam.

This is probably what most women are nervous about, but I promise you, it is nothing compared to a pelvic exam by a doctor, a PAP or, hello, giving birth. I’ve been to two different PTs and both of them made me feel so comfortable, it didn’t feel awkward at all. They assess your tissues from the outside, get you to cough and bear down before they even touch you, then they touch the outside to see if there is any tension or tenderness anywhere. Then they insert a gloved, lubricated finger into the vagina and have you cough and bear down again to see if there is any prolapsing organs. Then they feel all of the muscles in your pelvic floor from the inside if your vagina, and assess them for tension or tenderness again. Then they have you do a pelvic floor contraction (or kegel) and assess how strong your muscles are and how coordinated they are with each other. They may also use their other hand to feel your abs to see if they are coordinating properly with your pelvic floor.

At this point it varies between PTs, but some may do some myofascial release, or scar tissue release or massage. Then most will work on teaching you how to do a PF contraction properly (if you don’t already, which most women don’t if they have been to PT before). Then they will work on improving your contraction, maybe positioning their hand in different orientations to assess how all of the different muscles are contracting. Depending on where you are at in your rehab, they may have you do some minor exercises (think lifting one leg up, or lifting your hips, no jumping jacks!) while laying on the table and assess how well your PF responds to the movement.

After that, they will conclude the internal,  and leave the room to give you a chance to get dressed. Then they will come back and discuss what they thought of everything, give you some exercises as homework and discuss whether or not you need to schedule another visit (or two, or more).

That’s it! It’s really not as bad as you may have thought (I hope!) but I promise you will leave with a whole new appreciation and understanding of your pelvic floor, and your body as a whole! The pelvic floor is an integral part of how your entire body functions, and supports some very important organs, I hope you plan to take care of it the same way you’d take care of any other muscle in your body if it were to go through a trauma like the PF does in bearing a child.

Don’t neglect the pelvic floor!

Birth, motherhood, pelvic health, postpartum

Don’t Put up With Leaking During Exercise

I’ve written a lot about my experience postpartum, and care I believe women should receive in the immediate postpartum period, but what about down the line?

What if you are 1, 2, 10 years out from your most recent birth?

What if I told you, once postpartum, always postpartum?

Growing a birthing a human fundamentally changes our bodies for the rest of our lives.

sneeze-and-pee

Do you relate? You would not believe how many women I’ve heard from who describe symptoms of pelvic floor (PF) dysfunction years after their last baby.

What do I mean by PF dysfunction?
Well there are varying degrees, but symptoms can include but are not limited to:

Peeing or leaking urine when you sneeze, jump, run, laugh or cough.
Feeling like you always have to pee, no matter how long it has been since you last went
Dribbling urine after you get up from the toilet.
Feeling like there is still urine in your bladder after you finished peeing.
Feeling like you have to bear down or push on your abdomen to fully empty your bladder.
Feeling like you have to push on your perineum in order to fully empty your bowel.
Pain in your perineum (the area between your vagina and your anus) with activity or prolonged standing.
Unexplained lower back pain.
Painful sex or decreased sexual pleasure.
Feeling as though the vagina is too tight or small for sexual penetration.
Feeling of laxity in the pelvic area.
Inability to consciously contract (or Kegel) or relax the pelvic floor .
Inability to distinguish between a bowel movement and passing wind.
Inability to control passing of wind or bowel contents.
Protrusion of internal organs out of the vaginal opening.

If you can relate to any (one, or more than one) of the symptoms listed above, it is possible you may be experiencing some degree of PFD.

mom-wet-pants

I know what you’re thinking; ‘But I’ve had babies, don’t all women just pee themselves after they have babies? Isn’t this normal?

The answer is a resounding NO!

If I could shout it from the rooftops, I would.

But what about all of those Poise, Always, and Depends commercials? They make it seem like it’s just something we have to accept.

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Better buy some diapers, because you’re never going to keep your pee in again.

No.

No. No. No. No. No!

While urinary incontinence (one of the most frequent symptoms of PFD) is common it is not normal!

Some of you might now be saying “Well, that’s what I thought, and I told my doctor and he/she said ‘Just do your Kegels, you’ll be fine.

There seems to be a huge disconnect in the medical/obstetrical world when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction. A lot of physicians and midwives seem to think that as long as your organs aren’t falling out, you’re doing okay.

This is not the case! There is help!

Can I get a Hallelujah?

So what can you do?

Do I really have to say it again?

I will. Because I can’t say it enough.

Pelvic Health, or Women’s Health Physiotherapy!

You’re thinking “But how? If my doctor doesn’t think anything is wrong, how can I get a referral?

Most Pelvic Health Physios don’t require a referral*!

Now you’re asking “How Do I find a physiotherapist?

Here is a list of websites that offer search within Canada to find local physiotherapists who specialize in women’s health and pelvic floor:
Pelvic Health Solutions
Pelvienne Wellness
Physio Can Help**

Once you’ve worked with a physio to determine where you are at, in addition you can work with a personal trainer who specializes in postnatal training to get your strength back! That’s what I am here for! I am now taking on a few clients to start building my personal training career and experience! Feel free to contact me for more information, either through this website, or on my Facebook page or Instagram page.

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And please, please, do not think you have to live with wet panties for the rest of your life!

*some benefits/insurance plans do require a physician’s referral to pay for the service
**General physiotherapist lookup – not specific to PF
fitness, postpartum, Self Care

My Favourite Fitness Gear – Postpartum Edition

We all know the postpartum period has it’s own set of special challenges. I am not just talking about the first few weeks, I’m talking months, because we all know postpartum is forever. After I gave birth to Nugget, there were a few things I could not live without when it came to my fitness and regaining my strength. Here is a list of my faves

lulus
#1 Lululemon Hi-Rise Wunder Under Pants
I cannot say enough good things about these pants. I bought them pregnant, wore them until I gave birth, and continued to wear them immediately postpartum and still wear them today. The high rise waist stays up nice over a pregnant belly, and feels slightly supportive on a soft postpartum belly.

 

 

VS bra
#2 The Ultimate by Victoria’s Secret Run Sport Bra
I was so happy when I found this bra! It’s so supportive, and it has clasps on the front of the straps so it can easily be undone to breastfeed. I probably wear this bra 5/7 days a week! Plus they have super cute colours and it’s relatively inexpensive.

 

 

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#3 Old Navy Fitted Rib-Knit Tank
This tank is the perfect layering tank for underneath any shirt when breastfeeding. It is extremely stretchy so you can use the two-shirt technique to breastfeed with minimal exposure. This was key for me as Nugget was a January baby and it was cold!

 
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#4 Nalgene 32 ounce Water Bottle
Those early weeks, I had a bottle of water within arms reach at all times. Between breastfeeding, night sweats, constant peeing. I was continuously parched. Having this easy to use, large bottle was a lifesaver.

 

 
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#5 Fitbit Charge HR Activity Tracker
I am a data junkie, so I loved having the Fitbit to keep track of my sleep, activity, walks and weight with. It also inadvertently helped me keep track of Nugget’s feeds because I could see how often I was awake at night with the sleep tracking technology.

 

 

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#6 Kushies Washable Cotton Breastpads
Cotton breastpads were a godsend. I found that the disposable ones made me really sweaty underneath and that did not help my already tender and chapped nipples. These cotton ones wicked sweat and milk away and allowed my breasts to stay dry between feedings and during any activity that made me sweat.

 

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#7 Mini Bands
I LOVE LOVE LOVE my mini bands! They are such an easy way to add resistance to any glute exercise! There are so many variations of their use, I could write an entire post about them!

 

 

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#8 WOSS Suspension Trainer
Another great tool for home workouts, an awesome way to increase the variability to body weight workouts, which are the best type of workouts to be doing in the early postpartum period. This trainer comes with an anchor to put through a door frame rather than having to screw it into the wall or ceiling.

 

 

I’ve used all of these products almost every single day, or at least with every workout since having Nugget. I found they made my life easier or more comfortable as it related to being a new mom. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

 

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fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

Let go of the Ego

Let me tell you a story.

Doing my personal training classroom training, included a ‘fitness class’ for one hour at the end of the weekend. Our ProTrainer had the intention of teaching us some lessons beyond ‘how to exercise’ and she certainly did.

Now to clarify, at this point I was 3 months postpartum, had only had one session with my physio and wasn’t really supposed to be doing any sort of intense exercise. However, I love intense exercise, I am supremely competitive and cannot stand the thought of others thinking I was lazy or not ‘fit’ enough.

Before the class began, we were told ‘bring something with sugar in it, like fruit or juice. Do not bend over so your head goes below your heart at any point during the class, do not let your feet stop moving, and above all do not leave the room alone’.

I knew things were about to get serious.

I was excited. I hadn’t had what I would define as a ‘real’ workout in months. We get through the majority of the class, lot’s of squats and lunges and such, nothing I couldn’t handle. Then our instructor says “If you’ve had a baby, you’re going to hate me”.

Oh shit.

I literally JUST had a baby. This isn’t going to be good.

She coaches us to skip (without the rope). Continuously. For what seemed like forever.

Now for most of the class, this was an intense physical workout, that challenged their body and fitness.

For me it was mental.

I nearly broke down in tears during the class. She had taught us earlier in the course to ‘check our ego’. To not focus our training on ‘being the best’ or comparing our clients to anyone but themselves, and train them at the level they are at, not the level we think they need to be. It took every ounce of me to listen to that message for myself during that class.

You see, physically I definitely could have kept up with the class, no problem.

At the expense of my pelvic floor.

That could have easily been one of those moments you hear about where the woman leaves with soggy underwear, or worse, my uterus getting ready to fall out. But no one in the room knew that, all they could see was that I appeared as though I wasn’t trying. From the outside it looked like I didn’t care enough to push through the class, because I definitely wasn’t tired, and it was obvious.

This killed me.

I always prided myself on at least giving it my all. Busting my ass, so at least if I didn’t ‘win’ or keep up, at least I gave it my all when it came to anything physical. But this time I was faced with limitations. I had to have a frank discussion with myself:

Is this worth it?
Is ‘pushing it’ in this class with a bunch of people you may or may never see again worth potential life long damage? 
Is it worth sacrificing your body to prove something to these people who probably don’t actually give a shit?

And the answer was, obviously, no.

But it killed me. I hated that I couldn’t push through the discomfort. That I couldn’t just ignore what my physio said and jump until my calves gave out.

Eventually one of the assistants to the instructor came over and asked me if I was okay. “Are you leaking?” she asked. She knew. I explained I wasn’t but I was in physio and not willing to risk it, she understood and showed me some modifications to help me continue to participate without risking injury. It was at this point that I realized in my own embarrassment I had slowly moved to the back of the room. I was almost against the back wall, unconsciously hoping that no one would notice that I wasn’t fully participating. Trying to shrink back into the shadows and not allow myself to be seen as ‘unfit’ or not trying.

That was the moment I vowed to never allow any of my clients to feel like this. To never let them feel like they weren’t good enough to participate, or that their level of participation was inadequate. It was a terrible feeling that I hope I never invoke in anyone I am hoping to help. It was in that moment that I learned that training isn’t about the ego. It’s about where are you are here and now. Not where you were 6 months ago, where you were before you got pregnant, not where you were when you were 18. Right now. It’s about maximizing the abilities of your current body, today, in this moment. Some days, you might be able to bang out a circuit and feel like a rock star, other days the baby may have kept you up half the night and all you’ve managed to eat is a toaster strudel and a litre of coffee, and that same circuit feels impossible.

And that’s okay.

We have to learn to accept the here and now and forget about comparisons or being good enough. We can find balance between challenging ourselves and feeling inadequate because someone else can do it better.

We are strong even in our weakest moments.
We are enough today, tomorrow and every day.

 

Let Go of the Ego