Fixing my Body After 3 Babies – Pelvic Floor Physio, Mindsets and Empowerment.

On my last blog post, I began to talk about the journey I have taken on my third maternity leave to rebuild my body.  One of the first things that I did was take stock of my body.  I talked about free writing, or journalling, to understand not only your areas of discomfort and pain, but also to gain some insight into your dialogue around that pain.

When you let yourself feel your back pain, or your pelvic prolapse, what internal chatter begins?  What messaging is in there?   This is what a good free writing session, or a coach can help you access.

Taking stock of our bodies and acknowledging our discomfort is an important first step, and it takes courage.  It can be overwhelming and tiring realizing that in addition to a new baby, you have a body that needs nurturing, too.

What were some of my projects on this third mat leave?

  • -70 lbs of weight to lose that I had accumulated in three pregnancies.
  • -Chronic back pain and the question of a possible auto-immune disease and associated symptoms.
  • -Nerve pain in my foot.
  • -Multiple pelvic organ prolapse and abdominal separation.
  • -Huge breasts interfering with physical activity.

I felt overwhelmed by this list.  These were all big projects!

But you know what?  You need to hang out in this place of frustration and suffering for a bit.  Some need to hang out in it for a long time.  Some need to experience more intense symptoms or heightened suffering. By going through the above aches and pains, and really acknowledging them, you are given a gift.  That gift is the determination to find a new “why” and a new way of looking at the above issues, because the old way of looking at them, has not fixed any of them.

Pain produces clarity and determination.  These are two things you need when you have an important goal (and a busy new mama life that can easily distract you.)

Back in my 20s, it used to be easy, accessing a “why.” I could literally pull them out of my back pocket and achieve my goals.  But life in my 20s was much less busy and simpler – in all senses of the word. Physically, emotionally and mentally.  Now I have multiple layers of emotion, I’m more complex and my life has many more layers to it, including 4 humans who demand my time, love and attention.  Self limiting thinking and beliefs have had time to settle in and grow deep roots, even if they are not helpful. That my friends, has been the work of my 30s.  Pulling up all of those deep roots and letting go of the ones that no longer serve.

This time around, after journalling about the excess weight and exploring my fears, and going down the “what if” tunnel in my free writing, I realized that my fears around being in the slightly obese category were related to being to keep up with my children and enjoying activity with them. I didn’t want to sit out on my children’s lives.  I could feel aching well up in my chest just going down that thinking road.  My back pain and weight activated this type of crappy messaging that made me feel sad, and disempowered and unmotivated. I was looking at each of these projects in a way that was deepening my stress.

I decided that I had to begin to separate my back pain from all of this internal messaging and fear projecting.  It was simply pain, indicating I needed to get imaging, and explore the issue further.  I let go of the fears around being able to help my kids and run my household from the equation, because that was getting me nowhere. They’d still come up but I’d acknowledge them and push them aside.  As soon as they took up less room, it gave my brain some freedom to access more powerful thoughts and beliefs.

I was able to connect with a new, and much more powerful “why” to lose weight:  Because I want the physical energy and ability to keep up with my toddlers and share their active life with them, and participate in the same activities.

When I got rid of the messaging of “I am afraid of this” I made room for “I want this” and coming from a place of desire, is much easier than coming from a place of avoidance.

Over the year I reframed pain and hot spots in my body.  I think of it as little flashing lights indicating areas of growth.  Each one of those projects I listed above has immeasurably improved my life and I’ve been able to stay motivated in each of them.

I began to look at pain not as something to be stomped out, but to be examined with curiosity and empathy and a way to open up new opportunities in my life.

Pelvic floor rehab opened the door to a passion for pilates and appreciation for low impact movement. It really enhanced my trail running, too.  My back pain led to more imaging, which is beginning to shine a light on some other issues I’ve struggled with, and may provide me with some great answers and has given me powerful motivation to manage nutrition.

We all have a laundry list of things to work on.  Rather than list them off and just set goals, we should examine how we think about it, and what it means to us.  When we are able to step back and see our own dialogues, and beliefs at work, we can decide whether they help us, or harm us (and need to be let go and replaced with more useful thoughts.) That is the key to true motivation and lasting change.

I am now 10 months out from creating this list of maternity leave projects, and here’s where I am at.

  • -70 lbs of weight to lose that I had accumulated in three pregnancies.
    • 40lb lost and 30lb to go
  • -Chronic back pain and the question of a possible auto-immune disease and associated symptoms.
    • The world “auto immune” led me to research nutritional and lifestyle approaches which have helped my pain (and weight) immensely.  Rheumatology appointment coming up.  
  • -Nerve pain in my foot.
    • Surgery booked to fix it. Simple as that.  Doesn’t need to be made more complex than it is, right? Even though our minds want to do otherwise. 
  • -Multiple pelvic organ prolapse and abdominal separation.
    • Huge improvement in diastasis recti (abdominal separation) with pilates, physio and hypopressives.  Symptoms of prolapse minimized and pessary installed for high impact activity – my lifestyle didn’t have to change! Learnt so much about pelvic floor health and came away with exercises that allow me to manage symptoms. Feel empowered and confident to manage this myself. 
  • -Huge breasts interfering with physical activity.
    • Had the courage to go ahead and pursue a referral, go to the appointments, advocate for myself and do the surgery.  Sitting here 2 days out of surgery with a new chest, a sense of freedom and way less pain. I am over the moon! 

 

 

Could I have achieved these things on mat leave with my old thinking patterns?  Maybe, but by constantly engaging in stressful, fear-based scenarios I think it would have done more harm than good. There is a major connection between chronic pain and illness, and our psyche.  I dont doubt for a moment that sub-optimal mindsets create sub-optimal conditions in the body.

By examining my old approaches and the dialogue activated by pain, and then shifting that dialogue by asking powerful questions, I was able to develop a new dialogue of curiosity, learning and growth and frame these projects in that way. I am no longer disempowered or “broken” after babies (yup, we’ve heard everyone say that at least once)

I am empowered and improved!

A great example is the prolapse situation.  I was truly freaked out one day on a run when it felt like my insides were going to fall out.  When I thought about my bladder, uterus and rectum all hanging low, all sorts of future projections and catastrophizing happened. All sorts of fearful dialogue and disempowering thoughts were running through my head.  There’s no fix.  This is permanent. You’re done.  You’re wearing a diaper and pads for the next while.  It will get worse, and so on.

With work and practice, I was able to move to a place of “hey, this is going to be such a cool learning experience about the pelvic floor.  I’m going to get a great core out of this *and* be able to advocate pelvic floor health post partum and potentially help others, and damn right I am going to improve my symptoms!”

I signed up for a pelvic floor assessment to take stock of the prolapse, condition of my pelvic floor and ab separation.  I then began taking hypopressive breathing classes, pelvic floor pilates and got a pessary fitted for higher impact activities at the pelvic floor clinic. 6 months later, all of my symptoms are under control.
In those six months I had to go to SO many appointments, pilates twice a week and have the discipline to do home exercises.  I had to book childcare and defend my monday and wednesday mornings when I would way rather have done other (more fun) things.

Had I held onto my old thinking patterns of fear, disempowerment and “what ifs,” I probably would have skipped classes, become demotivated and adopted negative thinking patterns.  I would have been working only from a limited resevoir of sheer willpower, rather than a genuinely motivated place. I wouldn’ t have stuck it out.

I truly knew nothing about my pelvic floor before this entire process, and it led me to being in awe of the human body, and I became so much more capable of managing my own symptoms.  I went from a frightened, disempowered patient waiting for help, to an empowered owner of my own health, working hand in hand with professionals as partners, rather than relying on them.

That in itself is a powerful shift in mindset and ownership of health.  I walked out of my doctor’s office initially with “help me!” written all over my face.

I now walk into my doctor’s office with “I’ve got this” written all over my face.

You are so worth you.  When you are ready, take stock of your body and all of the fun projects that you will be undertaking to nuture it, and return it to a place of vitality.  Be brave and dig deep.  Uncover the deeper fears and thinking patterns/beliefs that don’t serve you, and will disempower you.  Decide that you don’t have to hold on to them, that you can find more empowering beliefs, you can take ownership of your health, and see this as an enjoyable, satisfying journey back to health,

not because you have to, but because you want to. 

 

xo
Carina

 

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