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healing

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Diastasis Challenge Update

For the month of September I attempted a 30 day exercise challenge to heal my diastasis recti. I generally stink at making exercise a priority in my day, and thought the challenge would be a good way to start making it a daily habit. The exercises were gentle, and slowly built up in number of repetitions.

 

Most days I did them as soon as I got up in the morning, and I literally got it out of the way in a matter of minutes. Some days I needed to handle something with the kids, and put it off until bed time. A few times I forgot until I was climbing into bed. I got down on the floor and got it done!

 

About halfway through the challenge my belly started hurting. Not in a way that was telling me I was just exercising muscles that hadn’t worked in a while, but that something was still strained.

 

I’m back to the drawing board. Healing doesn’t happen overnight, as much as I’d like to will my body to. For now, I’m working on posture, walking and hiking more. When I can I’m doing low rep gentle exercises for the pelvic floor and transverse abdominal. Some of these include heal slides, toe taps, and bridges.

 

The former 20-something gym rat in me is rolling her eyes. But in reality, this body is not the same.

One step at a time. 

One step at a time. 

 

I’m treating it gently this time around.

 

What are your goals? How do you heal, patiently?

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When Postpartum Recovery is Hard: 4 Ways to Get Healing Back on Track

Postpartum is one of the hardest periods of life in my opinion. My body felt like I had been hit by a truck, I had stitches in tender places, and I hadn’t slept in days (sleeping in the hospital was impossible for me). 

I felt so depleted. The tears flowed easily as I tried to figure out my newborn, motherhood, and healing. 

Sometimes we begin to heal and experience set backs, like new bleeding, mastitis, and depression. 

What can we do when recovery is hard and overwhelming?

 

1)      Get in bed. And stay there.

One of our biggest issues with postpartum healing is doing too much too soon. We do chores, lift toddlers, or entertain well meaning guests. The best thing you could do is get into bed with baby, nurse, and sleep. Have your partner bring food, take away dishes, and maintain the household outside of your bedroom. 

Keep supplies for baby, as well as yourself (think nursing pads, medications, tissues, diapers, wipes, and onesies. A waste basket can be kept handy. Set up Netflix or your favorite book series on kindle. If you feel the need to leave your room, go lay on the couch. 

Keep in mind you have a 9” wound in your uterus from where your placenta detached. That's the size of a dinner plate. If you had a visible wound that size, you wouldn’t be vacuuming. Some births may have been by cesarean, causing even further healing time. Be gentle on yourself!

Stay horizontal, and rest. Your uterus with thank you. 

Stay horizontal, and rest. Your uterus with thank you. 

2)      Stay hydrated and nourished. 

When our hands are full juggling a baby and all their needs, we can neglect common things like feeding ourselves and making sure we are drinking fluids. 

Once partners return to work and moms are alone with baby, we can quickly bypass our own needs to our detriment. 

With my first daughter, I’d get stuck underneath her, either nursing or napping, for hours. I remember days I wouldn’t get breakfast until 3pm. I’d make myself a massive plate and inhale it. Skipping meals and not getting enough fluids not only makes you feel awful, but can negatively affect milk supply. 

Keep water bottles and easy open snacks all around the house, but especially in your main resting area.

Eat and drink, Repeat. You need fuel for healing and making milk. 

Eat and drink, Repeat. You need fuel for healing and making milk. 

 

3)      Check in with your care provider.

After your baby is born, your next appointment isn’t for six weeks.  The postpartum check up is sorely lacking. It’s usually a wam-bam-your-cervix-is-closed-you’re-healed-you-can-have-sex-now appointment. Take time with your provider to really address your healing. As consumers, we should be demanding more. 

If you’re having abnormal bleeding, clots larger than a golf ball, or you are not feeling well physically or emotionally, check in with your provider. Don’t feel you have to suffer until your six week check up. 

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          4)      Ask for help.

This may be the most difficult. Sometimes we don’t have family nearby. Friends offer to help with the usual,” Let me know if you need anything.”

Sometimes we aren’t even sure what we need to begin with, or we feel guilty asking. There’s the looming pressure to know what we are doing, and to be able to handle it all. 

Yet we see, hear and read about the need for, “the village,” that our current generation is lacking. For the village to exist, we must start utilizing what support system we have. This may mean sharing our vulnerabilities with friends, reaching out to strangers on Facebook groups, or joining the next Le Leche League meeting. 

Take this time for yourself and your family. You don't have to do it all, and you shouldn't. 

Take this time for yourself and your family. You don't have to do it all, and you shouldn't. 

Ask for meals to be brought. For someone to walk the dog. Ask friends to take an older sibling to the park to play. If someone comes to visit, ask them to bring some extra witch hazel. 

It’s okay to need help. Set aside any expectations that don’t include healing and bonding with your new baby.

 

What helped during your postpartum healing? What would you have done differently? Share your stories with us in the comments. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Diastasis Recti: Things to try and Resources

So back in March I had strained my stomach muscles while carrying in my daughter from the car. I had ignored my diastasis recti (DR, separation of abdominal muscles) and weakened core muscles from my pregnancies, and paid the price.

 

That injury set me back a lot. I couldn’t baby wear my toddler. I had difficulty cleaning my house, specifically vacuuming. I had to slow down physically which is extremely difficult for me. (Please don’t make me ask for help!)

Nope, I'm good really. I got it...

Nope, I'm good really. I got it...

 

I had started looking online for help when my care provider couldn’t offer me any answers. Here are my three favorites:

·         Sarah Elis Duvall of www.coreexercisesolutions.com

She has great workout programs and free workshops with in-depth information. Her newsletters have great tips on postures and simple solutions to build up your pelvic floor and core strength.

 

·         Beyond fit mom (beyondfitmom.com) has several blogs and workouts geared towards correcting DR. Also included is information on pelvic floor issues, because unfortunately the two can go hand in hand. If the pelvic floor is weak you need to take extra care in building that first. The site includes a 30 day diastasis recti challenge to help kickstart healing. You can find it here:

       http://beyondfitmom.com/how-to-heal-your-diastasis-recti/

·         Diastasis Recti: The Whole -Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation by Katy Bowman.

Written by a biomechanist, this book gives great insight into how the body develops DR, and how we can heal from this condition without surgery and spot treatments. By correcting our misalignments, changing how we move, and exercises specific for correcting a host of issues alongside DR (weak pelvic floor, lower back pain, hip flexor tightness, etc.).

 

 

Initially after my injury I began wearing a belly support band. It seemed to help with posture and keeping my core engaged. However, it was constantly rising, shifting around, and being generally a nuisance to wear. I wore it faithfully for a month, before relegating it to only when I was doing something strenuous like vacuuming (it’s so sad for me to type this) or days where I was picking up and holding my toddler alot. I had to ease back into my normal activities, and often I was sore afterwards.

 

Whenever I had over exerted myself or was just having an extra painful day, I treated myself with arnica (topically and internally) and lemongrass essential oil. Arnica is a homeopathic medicine for trauma, bruising, and swelling. Lemongrass essential oil is known for helping with inflamed tendons. I also would ice my stomach or take ibuprofen on rough days.

 

I have had to learn my new limits with this injury, and go slow with my recovery.

 

I returned to somewhat normal functionality around five months later. I can now haul my vacuum up and down the stairs without being in pain.

 

My gap was close to three fingers, and is now reduced to two. I think posture, belly breathing, and the belly band has been the start to healing my DR. I struggle with making exercise a priority, and am hoping to correct that.

Definitely not me. I'd be in pain. And probably on the side of the road catching my breath. A girl can dream though right? She looks so calm. She's owning this road. I need to own my body again. 

Definitely not me. I'd be in pain. And probably on the side of the road catching my breath. A girl can dream though right? She looks so calm. She's owning this road. I need to own my body again. 

 

 I will be completing the 30-day challenge from Beyond Fit Mom starting September 1. I’m hoping that having a short daily regimen will help me get into a routine. I’ll keep you posted!

 

Are you healing postpartum? Share with us!

 

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Self-Care: A Case for Taking Care of Mom

It was a Thursday, and everyone in my house woke up on the wrong side of the bed. My oldest was whining, the baby was throwing herself on the floor in epic fashion. I was just done. I wasn't about to try to muddle through the mess that day. I texted a friend and we made plans to head to the aquarium in Baltimore for the day. (We had a membership; a thoughtful present from the grandparents!)

 

Our escape plan turned our day around. No more tantrums. No more whining. Just fun with friends and fish.

When in doubt, get out of the house!

When in doubt, get out of the house!

 

Both girls fell asleep on the car ride home. I pulled up to our house and began to unload the car. I picked up my sleeping four-year-old, thinking, "How did this girl get so dang heavy?!" and didn't think anything of it. I laid her on the couch, and went back for her sister. The rest of our evening was normal.

 

And then I woke up the next morning with a painful and swollen stomach. What did I do?!

 

I had ignored a big problem, that's what I did. After my second baby was born, I was sure I had a wide diastasis recti (gap in the abdominal muscles, DR) and was very weak in my back and core. I would struggle to sit up from a laying position. Any abdominal muscle strength I had was gone. I had asked my OB to check my stomach at my six-week appointment, and all he could tell me was that I didn't have a hernia. No guidance on what to do for the gap in my muscles, regaining any strength in my core, and recovery for my pelvic floor.

 

I knew I needed to exercise. I needed to heal this body that was battered by my pregnancies. But where was the time? Kids had to come first. Then errands. Who else would clean our house? I needed to get work done towards certification. I was too tired by the time the kids were in bed.

 

 I continually added to the forever growing list of reasons to put off dealing with me.

 

Until I hurt myself.

 

I couldn’t pick up my 18-month old. I couldn’t vacuum. I needed to rest until I could get in to make sure I hadn’t given myself a hernia. I hid in my bedroom for the weekend and rested. It felt so odd, but so good. I hadn’t been sleeping well for months, and the extra rest paid dividends. I added some arnica and essential oils in to my recovery. Ordered an abdominal brace in the hopes it'd be helpful.

My four year old snapped this while playing on my phone. I was resting on the couch, and couldn't help clutching my stomach. I hurt. Badly.

My four year old snapped this while playing on my phone. I was resting on the couch, and couldn't help clutching my stomach. I hurt. Badly.

 

Jump ahead: two doctor visits and an ultrasound later there was no detectable hernia. But they also couldn’t tell me why I was in so much pain and why I looked 5 months pregnant.  I also couldn’t get in to the physical therapy I was hoping for unless I did more testing. The results would determine if I could get in or not. I may have normal test results, which would exclude me from the therapy, even with the issues I had. Dude, totally lame.

 

I have taken matters into my own capable hands, and started finding tons of moms like me who have healed their bodies. They are on YouTube with awesome videos for healing diastasis recti and strengthening weak pelvic floors. I do my best to get in gentle and DR safe yoga every day. Even if it means the kids are crawling on me and dishes are undone. It makes my inner OCD twitchy, but I must keep in mind that my self-care needs to be a priority. If I am broken and hurting, I cannot serve my family. If I am exhausted and run down, my family feels that too.

What you want exercise with your kids to be like...

What you want exercise with your kids to be like...

What exercise with your kids actually looks like. Blurry cell phone photo, messy living room, and I am attempting to do pelvic floor exercises with my kids around. Mom on the floor = jungle gym.

What exercise with your kids actually looks like. Blurry cell phone photo, messy living room, and I am attempting to do pelvic floor exercises with my kids around. Mom on the floor = jungle gym.

I have been neglecting my own care, and have been trying to rectify that, even beyond the injury. Even just keeping in mind things like, have you washed your face? Read a book? Used essential oils today? All things that keep me grounded and take care of the introvert in me.

 

I’ll be writing and sharing more about healing my belly in the weeks to come. How do you take care of you, while caring for others?

 

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A Postpartum Checklist: Planning Ahead for a Better Recovery

There's a thing about birth that other moms don't tell you about. Recovery can be hard. You're sore and possibly torn in your most sensitive spots, your organs are rearranging themselves after pregnancy, and odds are pretty good that you haven't had more than a few hours sleep at a time for days. Not to mention nursing, trying to maintain your household and take care of any older siblings too. This period can be really hard, and we don't always have family and friends around to help out.

Planning and preparing for post postpartum in the last months of pregnancy can make a huge difference in the time spent resting and healing versus stressing over the to do list.

Here are my favorite tips:

Food:

  • Stock your freezer with extra meals that can be thrown in the crock pot or oven. (Ask friends to set up a meal train or have people bring freezer meals as a part of your baby shower!)
  • Stock snacks that are shelf stable and nutritious. (Trail mix, protein bars, granola bars, muffins.) Bonus points if it can be eaten with one hand.
  • Bottles of water or good cups with straws for easy access during nursing. Keep them stashed around the house!

Healing items for mama:

  •  Rice bag or heating pad for after pains. (And its true what they say, after pains get stronger after each baby!)
  • Witch hazel (Add to your Peri bottle to soothe angry tissue and stitches. You can use to make your own cooling pads, or you can purchase Tucks.)
  • Lavender essential oil. Add to the Peri bottle when you rinse, and the oil will help to heal any tears and help prevent infection.
  • Aloe, straight from an aloe plant! Will help sooth stitches. (Can you tell I've dealt with some nasty tearing?)
  • A boppy  pillow or hemorrhoid ring, because sitting on your sore bottom can be torture. As often as you can, lay down. Nurse on your side lying down or reclined. If you need to sit up for visits, don't be afraid to keep them short.
  • Earth Mama Angel Baby has a great line of products, including Happy Bottom spray, Postpartum Bath Herbs, and nipple cream. I loved them with my second baby! The bottom spray was heaven on stitches, and  the bath herbs can pull double duty. Save the liquid for your Peri bottle and use the herbal pack as a warm or cold compress, or use as a typical sitz bath.
  •  Padsicles! Ice packs feel awesome in those first swollen days and a padsicle can help with both swelling and irritation. Check out this recipe here: http://just-making-noise.com/pregnancy-notes-soothing-postpartum-pads-recipe/
  • If you had your placenta encapsulated, break those babies out! They'll start to help with healing and replacing lost nutrients.
  • Have extra large granny panties, in dark colors, because leaks are bound to happen. I suggest having a larger size to accommodate the large pads and ice packs in the early days after birth.
  • Have super comfy jammies. I had no shame and bought extra large sweat pants. I just needed comfort and room to heal; I really didn't care about being cute. (I may still have some of these in my drawer. A girl has to hold on to some things for a Maryland winter.)

Nursing:

  • Have some nursing tanks on hand, but in my humble opinion hold off on buying nursing bras until baby is born and nursing is established. I was shocked by how much my breasts changed. We are talking three cup sizes! Wait and see what your milk does before you go to the trouble of buying bras.
  • Have a good breast pump and parts ready to roll. You don't want to be sterilizing parts while engorged. (Ask me how I know.) if you're using a pump from a previous baby, ask for new parts from your hospital. My lactation consultant gave me a bag with new tubing, flanges, etc. for free! This is also a good time to make sure bottles, nipples and pacifiers are cleaned and ready for use.
  • This is where all the food prep will come in handy! Eat and a drink a ton, more than you think you might need to. Your body is doing a lot of work in repairing and also making milk for baby.

For Baby:

  • Besides all the usual items for baby, I suggest having a carrier or wrap for those newborn days. I love the maya wrap or a ring sling to help keep them snuggled while you keep your hands free.
  • Sleeping arrangements for baby to be close by, whether in a co-sleeper, bassinet, or pack n play, keep baby in the room with you. Everyone will sleep easier.

For the home:

  • Netflix. If you don't have it already, do it. There will be days where you will be nursing the baby non-stop on the couch. Binge watch and rest!
  •  Set up baby station baskets around the house. Any where you'll be spending time with baby, but also in places like your bedroom. Include a change of clothes, diapers, wipes, easy open  snacks, bottle of water, breast pads, toy/book to entertain an older sibling, and a magazine or book for you. I often found myself, “stuck”, under a nursing and napping baby while starving and thirsty. Having these in reach made things very easy. I felt like I had anything I could need within easy reach, without having to go up and down stairs for items. I seriously just used whatever baskets I had on hand around the house.

What was helpful for your family in the weeks following birth?

 

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