If I told you that this is a picture of me hanging out at my parents' house with my daughter a few months after her birth in 2011, that would be accurate. But it wouldn't be the whole truth. At the time, I was struggling physically and emotionally. I wanted to feel "normal" and confident, but I didn't. My pelvic floor was a wreck. My abs were not holding in my guts. And my knees, shoulders, and hips hurt all the time. Walking hurt. Carrying my baby hurt. Sitting at work hurt. Sex hurt. I was depressed. This was supposed to be a time to savor, but I wasn't feeling it, to put it mildly.
I felt really, really alone. And scared. And it really kind of sucked to begin to pick up the pieces and figure out, day by day, what to do to feel better in my body, and to open myself to my new role as a mom.
The ironic thing is that now I work with women like past me all the time, and I know more than anything that so many other women share a similar experience. So many!
There is still so often that sense of alone-ness. There is still a deficit of useful information and support for women facing these common issues. Women are navigating surprise, sadness, anger and frustration in response to the physical dysfunction and changes that they experience after giving birth or as they get older, and they can feel isolated in their struggle. Pelvic floor problems (stress incontinence, prolapse), diastasis recti (overly separated abdominal muscles), feeling at odds with and disconnected from their body, and postpartum depression are some of the big contenders.
Women are inundated with pressure to "bounce back" after childbirth, but more times than not, these are short-term approaches that can end up working against your long-term health. Or they make you feel "less-than" because your body doesn't look a or behave a certain way. So often we aren't aware we can restore function to our bodies without resorting to self-punishing work out regimes or programs that pay little regard to how our bodies actually work. What our bodies need.
The themes that come up when I'm listening to my clients are very familiar to me:
- "Why didn't anyone TELL ME?"
- "What could I have done to prevent this? I thought I was taking care of myself!"
- "My doctor/OB/midwife/mom told me this is normal and just should get used it and get surgery when it gets really bad. I just can't accept that."
- "What can I do now to heal? I've already tried XYZ and it didn't work."
- "I feel so alone."
I completely relate because I felt the same way. In fact, I think these thoughts were on a constant loop in my brain for the first year and half of my kid's life.
By the time a woman comes to my office, or attends one of my workshops, or connects with another women's health practitioner, or finally gets a babysitter so she can meet up with a friend and talk, she's on the path to feeling less alone. To reconnecting with what her body can do. To finding function and balance. But sometimes it takes months, days, YEARS to get to that point. To ask for help. To do some research. To take time for yourself. You may have had your bab(ies) years, even decades ago, and this rings true for you now.
If I could talk to my past self, I would say, "Ask for help. It's never too early. It's never too late. Make the time. Ask for help in order to make the time."
Being compassionate to yourself and attending to what your body and mind needs can be hard. Those first steps are sometimes the hardest. But you can do it.
If you have any questions, comments, or stories about your own experience, share them below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions about booking a private session in my Montpelier office, via Skype, or attending a workshop, let me know!