postpartum body

My Postpartum Body

“So, when are you due? I don’t normally ask, but you have the most darling little belly,” asked the woman working at the retail store in the fitting room. It was the second time I had heard that in the last weeks prior to this incident. I was so hurt internally, that in order to avoid bursting into tears and tell the truth that would embarrass us both, all I could say was, “Oh, I’m not very far along” and quickly took my stack of clothes into the dressing room. The reason I was so hurt? I wasn’t pregnant. In fact, my daughter was one year old and I was there trying to find a pair of jeans that better hide my “belly.”

I’ve had three babies in four years. With the amount of weight I have gained and lost each time, along with sustaining life inside of me and outside of me in breastfeeding, I look at my body in the mirror now in complete awe of creation. What an incredible miracle conception, pregnancy, birth, and infants are! The blessings and gravity of what I have been a part of is not lost on me. I am truly grateful.

However, it does not mean that there are not challenges. I have had relatively easy pregnancies and recoveries postpartum. And, yet, I still struggle with the changes in my body. In each of my pregnancies I have continued to stay active and eat relatively healthy. I love to walk/run around the beautiful neighborhoods of Saint Paul and take classes at Blooma. Postpartum life brings even more walks with babies, early morning runs, and yoga practices.

But after my second baby, I found that it was really hard to get rid of my “mom pooch.” I was slimming down and getting stronger everywhere else, but I could not get my belly any flatter. In the midst of diapers, toddlers, working part time, and keeping up with the house, I couldn’t find or make the time to do anything about it. I kept thinking that maybe it was the extra ten pounds I had kept on during breastfeeding, like with our first child, until I had weaned him. So, when it didn’t come off when I weaned our second, I started researching if it was something more than baby weight. That’s when I found out about diastasis recti. It’s the natural ab separation that happens when you are pregnant. However, mine, like many women, failed to knit back together postpartum. Thus, the pooching belly. There are a lot of variables how and why this happens, but it’s still there.

By the time that I truly realized that it was a problem and there was something that I could do to fix it and work on it, I was pregnant again. After having our second son this past April, I immediately started Google-ing videos and exercises that could help me work on this condition. I found a lot of different information, all promising to pull in the “mom pooch.” It wasn’t until this past week, when I went to Karin Trigg’s Abdominals: Before and After Birth Workshop at Blooma that I truly felt I received a comprehensive presentation on diastasis recti and how to help it. She went over the anatomy of the body, how and why this separation can happen, breathing and exercises on how to lessen it within our own bodies, and plenty of encouragement and empowerment that we can be our strongest selves, even after being a vessel for another human for so long. Since this workshop, I have tried to dedicate five to eight minutes a day to work on the exercises Karin gave us. Some days I have to wake up even earlier just to make sure I get the exercises in, but it’s helping. And, I can only hope that it continues to help. I strongly encourage any woman, pregnant or not, to try Karin’s class, even if only to learn more about diastasis recti and how to protect your core.

I realize that I may never look like I did when I was at my smallest, but that was before my body had given life to three other human beings. And, for those miracles, I will be happy with however my body looks, as long as I’m staying healthy and active.

Written by Shea Olson- Wife & Mama Trying to Make it All Work

Learn more about the next Abdominals Before & After Birth Workshop (October 26, 2017)

Getting to Know Your Body with the Alexander Technique

 [The Alexander Technique is an educational method used worldwide for over 100 years. It begins with the premise that the human organism is perfectly designed for an expansive range of activities. It is our own faulty postural habits that get in the way of this potential, but by teaching how to change those habits, the Alexander Technique improves mobility, posture, performance and alertness.  A student learns to use conscious control to relieve chronic pain, tension, injury and stress.]

Simply put, we are in control of our bodies.  Well, duh.  But what do we do in an Alexander Technique class?  Is it like yoga?  Is it like physical therapy?  And how does it pertain to my pregnant/new mom/experienced mom, body?

Yes and no.  Yes and no.  And just wait, I'll tell you. 

The Alexander Technique was created over one hundred years ago by a Tasmanian fellow named F.M. Alexander.  The long and short of it is, he was having throat/vocal/breathing issues and after seeing lots of doctors and specialists who couldn't help, he decided to take a looksy in the mirror at what he was doing that could be harmful.  He realized that he threw his head back and down, which contracted his spine and cut off his breath and vocal chords. He noticed himself and recognized these habits. The technique was born: 1st step, Awareness.  The 2nd principle, Inhibition - simple.  He would just stop throwing his head back and down. The 3rd idea in the process, Direction, meant that he channeled, or directed, his head to release forward and up.  His throat and breathing issues ceased and his body overall began to fare better.  Which is how your body will respond if you start to pay attention to it, inhibit its habits, and direct these habits in a different way.

We've already created bad habits in our bodies over the years without the added conditions of pregnancy, a newborn, or raising a toddler - habits like, locking your knees, extending your hips, swaying your back, or humping your shoulders.  And, it's these physical habits that can not only make daily activities rough - sitting at a desk, waiting for the bus, pushing a grocery cart, but can make it even worse, more pronounced, when you're pregnant or breastfeeding or picking up and carrying a kiddo. 

Pay attention to yourself next time you perform one of these daily activities, use Awareness and notice whether one of these takes place.  Then allow yourself to Inhibit that habit; stop yourself from doing it. Then try Directing yourself to an easeful place out of the habit with a breath.

Breath is a big part of the Alexander Technique considering it was breath that F. M. was losing.  It is a great part of all three tenets described above (Awareness, Inhibition, Direction).  If you don't understand the steps, at least understand breath in the same way F. M. did: we need it.  In the Alexander Technique Workshop, you will learn how to become aware of your breath, inhibit your habits that may constrict or hinder it, and learn to Direct your body.

Great.  Sounds good.  But wait, how is it like yoga? How is it like Physical Therapy?

There's a meditative quality to finding one's breath and the philosophy of bettering one's body is much the same as in Yoga.  Both methods want to reveal a stronger, more balanced entity.  And it's like Physical Therapy in the sense that some people come to this workshop looking to fix a particular physical issue.  But, unlike some Physical Therapy practitioners, Alexander Technique teachers don't focus on the specific area but rather the body as a whole. 

There are so many layers to the technique. These are just the very basics. Dive deep into the technique with me at my upcoming Alexander Technique Workshop at Blooma. We will focus on the three principles, feel them through our bodies, and practice them in the space. Join me!

Written by Eli Sibley, AmSAT certified Alexander Technique teacher and Certified Laban Movement Analyst (or CMA) and a mama

Eli's Alexander Workshop is Friday, May 5th in St. Paul. Learn more and sign up HERE.