Diastasis Rectified

My journey to heal postpartum diastasis recti


Changing Habits for Diastasis Recti Healing

It’s rare I meet a woman with a diastasis recti who hasn’t beat herself up for “slacking off on my exercises” (I bet men would

pie chart of habits

If we can make changes in the blue and grey times, then the yellow will be more impactful!

say the same thing, but I’ve never yet met a man who realizes he has a DR. Come join the DiastasisRectified party, guys!).

The paradigm is: 1) “my body is screwed up” and 2) “I need to do exercises to get it better” and 3) “Why am I not doing my exercises?” 4) “Ugggggh.”

So this post is not about exercises, because let’s just give that a rest for a minute. This post is about habits. We’ve spent (x) number of decades forming habits of movement: how we brush teeth, lounge, carry stuff, sit, open stuff, cut things, and on and on. Maybe we spend one hour a day three or four or even more times a week doing concerted “exercise” efforts, but what about those other 23 hours each day?

Our bodies take the shape of our habits

sketch of skeletons, one with rib thrust, one without

Pelvis forward, ribs thrusted will put pressure on our tender midsection versus letting our skeletons do the work of carrying our mass around. Oops, I forgot to draw the sacrum on the right skeleton. Just imagine it’s there.

All those tens of thousands of times we do those things will create some pretty deep neural pathways. Copying what parents/caretakers did, getting all that sitting practice at school (what activity did we do more than sitting?!), and then friends, culture, environment, sports, interests (bike riding, reading, video games), and personal preference.

What likely didn’t shape our habits was what would be most beneficial for our bodies over time: protect joints, prevent injury (like diastasis recti, eh?), get blood flowing, maintain healthy muscles, stay flexible, yada yada.

Unless your parents were yogis and you lived in a furnitureless yurt in the rainforest canopy and foraged for food. If I just described your childhood, please let’s be friends.

Below are pictures of me doing a habitual body position and then trying an updated option that doesn’t add more stress to my already totally stressed out diastasis. I’m working on keeping ribs down, untucking my tailbone, and keeping the weight in my heels.

Rewriting the code of everyday movement…in pictures

Instead of this… I’m trying this
Sitting in a white Modernica clamshell, reading a book sitting on two yoga blocks, reading
Being stationary in my favorite clamshell, reading about moving Pelvis elevated above heels to allow tailbone to untuck
washing face, rounded over washing face, tailbone untucked
 Rounded spine, tailbone tucked. This actually hurt,
but I just don’t pay attention to the dull ache usually.
 Untucked pelvis, using my hammies to hold me
up, trying to keep ribs from thrusting toward counter
 sitting on the toilet  sitting on the toilet with elevated feet, pelvis untucked
Lots of strain on the old pelvic floor (esp if you hold your breath!) Tailbone not as tucked, feet elevated. Feelin’ so fly.
You could also try zees, but my husband has forbade.
 leaning against counter  standing while brushing teeth
I do this ALL THE TIME, like I am
incapable of holding my own body up
for the two minutes it takes to brush
my teeth (yes, I time it so what)
 There you go, lady. That’s better.
 Sitting in a chair  untucked pelvis in chair
 Working on my chair-shaped bottom  Sometimes life calls for chair sitting, but sitting
on the edge means I can untuck the tailbone.
 holding child on hip  holding child in arms
 The ever-popular holding child on hip
whilst contemplating something
 Using arms to hold kid instead (okay maybe there is a
little leaning but have you seen the size of that guy?!)
bending over to pick toys up squatting to pick up toys
 It feels so normal to pick stuff up this way,
but I’m putting tons of pressure on my spine
Switching it up to a squat, I feel the work in
the pelvic floor. Been trying this a lot more this
week and it is feeling more normal.
 getting out of chair  squatting to get out of chair
 Using momentum to send me out of this
chair, while knees go way over toes
 Keeping knees over toes, turning
“getting out of chair” into “hey let’s squat”
thrusting ribs when I need to reach up reaching without moving ribs
 Moving ribs up and out (like the illustration above)
in order to reach the cabinet
 Keeping ribs down (and therefore abs “on”) while
reaching up. Feeeeeeling the burn in the shoulder

Now that I’ve done these, I am thinking of so many more! How I pick up my kid, getting out of bed (remember friends, no jackknifing!), opening heavy doors, stirring a big pot of something, how I always sit on one foot, etc.

What are some things you can switch up?


It’s Been Dark Under This Rock, or an Update FAQ

Inside my study cave.

Inside my study cave.

Is there life out there? I wouldn’t know because I’ve been buried under the massive boulder of intense studying for the last six months. I could probably braid my leg hair at this point and fashion it into small animals that I could sell downtown with all the other weirdo stuff that gets peddled. Is there really that big of a market for personalized rice?

So, my Restorative Exercise Specialist certification week is in 14 DAYS and I could not be more simultaneously giddy and terrified. This has been consuming so many of my life cycles for months and months in my relentless path to body wellness and I can’t believe it’s all coming to a head so soon. I expect my dreams to get exponentially weirder and more Katy Bowman-filled than they already are.

I suspect you are wondering a few things about me and my big old diastasis like: Any progress or what, Emily?

Here are all the questions I could think of. Please let me know in the comments if you have more!

Is your DR getting better?


Yes! I feel way more “right” in my clothing now, even if it does still fluctuate. The gap seems to be about a full finger smaller, but as I’ve discussed before finger measurement (or “palpation” as it’s called in the research) has not been shown to be the most accurate. You can also still have a decent gap and be stable in your core, so that measurement isn’t an end-all be-all.

It’s noticeably less deep, though, and I feel more secure in my own core. I can’t tell you what a psychological boost this is. I feel like I have been waiting every day for almost two years to feel this way. So, there is hope ladies! And gents – let’s not forget you because guys get diastasis recti at the same incidence rate as women.

Why is your DR getting better?

Ummm because I’ve changed everything about my life. Hah! Okay maybe not everything, but it sure feels like it sometimes. Things like:

  • Only wearing 100% flat, flexible shoes
  • Trying to drop my ribs down all the time which is REALLY HARD and I have to remind myself every five seconds which is annoying.
  • Doing a bunch of the Restorative Exercise movements I need for my certification, but patently avoiding some of the stretches I need the most (psoas, buddy, I’m looking at you). I signed up for the RE-based Alignment Beach classes, too, which might be another option if you’re not into Mutu or you’re looking for something more technical.
  • Walking, though not in the “right” way most of the time. See next bullet point.
  • Carrying my kid in my arm whenever possible without deforming my body with leaning or sticking a hip out (this one is so hard)
  • Hanging on all the playground monkey bars, to my husband’s chagrin, and on our pull up bar at home. I once

    This is me writing this post right now. The transformation is pretty thorough, right? Photo cred: Chris Lott

    spontaneously started scaling a chain link fence at the playground and he just quietly ducked away so as not to be associated with the wild monkey woman.

  • Minimizing sitting on chairs and couches where my body becomes more passive and out of alignment. Except for maybe right now. Oops.
  • Squatting whenever I can, like in everyday life when getting down to the floor. Related awesome study about getting up and down from the floor and lifespan.
  • Elevating my feet when I’m on the toilet (see: Squatty Potty) so I don’t have too much downward pressure on my pelvic floor when I have to go

Have you had any setbacks?

Oh yes. I decided that I was strong enough to do pull ups because finally for the first time in my life I could get my chin above the bar. It was a big ego boost and the consequent enthusiasm drove me to keep doing it. Doing a pull up, as I found out, requires ample shoulder girdle strength and flexibility as well as arm strength. So my arms got strong lugging that baby around, but then my shoulders got ridiculously tight. This put tremendous burden on my ab muscles to try to keep my innards in place and that has been the most progress-reversing thing I’ve done. I think I could actually feel the tissue ripping apart again but that could have just been my overactive imagination.

Also, trying to do full planks did not work out in my favor. There is so much to be said for really carefully listening to your body before the ego sets in. I guess my previous exercise-intense lifestyle has set me on a default mode of wanting to feel like what I’m doing is intense. Injuring tissue is indeed intense, but not really what I was going for ultimately.

Are you still into Mutu or what?

Yes! It’s a fabulous turn-key recovery program, especially for those who are in a place where they really just need to be told what to do.

You know how Carl Sagan said that if you want to make an apple pie from scratch you must first invent the universe? So going to get certified in Restorative Exercise because you have a DR would be inventing the universe and just making the dang pie would be Mutu.

Wendy seems to be absolutely lovely and cares so much for the community of women struggling with these disorders. I think she actually just certified as a Restorative Exercise Specialist, too (but don’t quote me on that). If you’re looking for a specialized diastasis recti/pelvic floor disorder recovery program that is holistic, driven by research (for the most part, at least), and includes tons of support and community then Mutu is an excellent option.

That being said, even being faithful to the Mutu program would not guarantee healing if you’re not at a place yet to do all those dadgummed lifestyle changes. Even then I wager you’d see progress, though.

Have you been getting sleep?

Assuredly not. My craziest study time has been 2am on the bathroom floor when I had insomnia and was like “well, the kid will be up in 2.5 hours anyway.”

Did you accidentally get all your hair chopped off?

My chopped hair and that little dude I lug around to all the places

I did! Let this be your lesson to never go to the closest hair place taking walk ins because the stars aligned so that your husband is home AND your son just went down for a nap.

Okay, much more info to share once I get back from Certification Week. Wish me luck!


Do you really need to strengthen your transverse abdominis to heal diastasis recti?

Well, I did it! I am officially and anxiously signed up to become a Restorative Exercise Specialist and will be participating in a January 2015 certification week. If you’ve thought it sounds a little quiet around here, that’s because I’ve been totally overwhelmed by the firehose of information. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, you know? I’m looking forward to sharing bite-sized bits that apply to our conversation here. Thanks for coming along with me! 

The Transversalis

Look at the height on that thing!

If you’ve gotten within a stone’s throw of a diastasis recti you’ve heard the words “transverse abdominis” (TVA) being thrown around. Whole programs have cropped up around the strengthening of this deep-down ab muscle (going up on the “elevator,” anyone? Hundreds of reps daily, perhaps?). I even wrote a post about how to know if you’re actually contracting your TVA. Everybody focuses on it and maybe is hard on it (like, “get it together TVA! You have organs to restrain. Stop lollygagging. Why are you still so weak?”) Geez, I am mean. Maybe if I understood it more I would be a little more compassionate.

Can I call you by your full name?

The full structure is called the transversalis and goes all the way up near your sternum (aka breast bone) and wraps around to your spine. On the bottom side it attaches to your pubic area. In the front, like where the belly button is, there is no TVA muscle fiber – just what’s called aponeurosis. It’s the fascia, or connective tissue, that bring the transversalis full circle and let it create a waist for you. How nice of it.

If you, like me, happen to be lacking a “waist” then the transversalis is sounding pretty important to you right now. This is why it gets all the attention in the diastasis recti recovery programs.

If your waist making muscles aren’t making a waist, then you should contract them a whole bunch and get a waist already! Right? Well, as you may have guessed, it is more complex (dare I say elegant?) than that.

What do abs actually do?

As it turns out, our ab muscles weren’t created for the purpose of giving us a sculpted look. If you think about it, our skeleton goes on a vacation between the last ribs and the “hip bones.” It’s like an organs-fluids-and-food party up in there. That is probably a real theme on a college campus somewhere. Anyway, something has to help keep all those goodies in place and manage the relationship of the top of our bodies to the bottom of our bodies so we don’t just fold over into a heap.

As you might be able to make out from my scribbles (notes from class below), the obliques move your upper body laterally from your lower body. The rectus abdominis aka “six-pack” aka “never gonna see you again” bend the torso forward.

What about the transversalis? It’s job is to concentrically compress.

Illustrations of ab muscles

When you put all these together: side-to-side movement control, frontward folding movement control, and compression you have stability.

Stability while walking, while standing on a Bosu, high-fiving strangers, riding a bull at the saloon, or whatever you are into. Like, you don’t have to do a bunch of side bends to use your obliques. You do need to do that to “get” obliques that need their own bra (bralique?), but not to just have healthy “strong enough” obliques. Just put your body in positions that it needs stability for and everything turns on.

Turn that TV(a) on

Let’s do a little exercise here to demonstrate the transversalis in action. This was exciting to me, but keep in mind that I’m easily entertained. Sometimes I play with my son’s toys after he goes to bed. He’s one and a half.

dropping ribs down

The only difference in these pictures is the position of my ribs (or at least I tried really hard to keep everything I could constant. I don’t have a mirror, so I did my best!). I am not sucking in and I am not consciously contracting my abs. I am just telling my brain to drop my ribs back down because it habitually tells them to shear upward like a big, cocky rooster. Thanks, ballet, for that muscle memory.

One finger is on the bottom point of my ribs and one is on my “hip bone” (ASIS). Just putting our bodies back into this position (which is where the ribs should naturally be) activates the TVA: while we walk, bosu, bull ride, or whatever. It also maximizes the abdominals’ abilities to be strong by keeping them in the right plane of action.

Walking with our ribs down is one of the most important things we can do to help our diastasis heal and restore tone to the transversalis. Really!

Ok, but are isolated TVA contractions bad?

I don’t think so, but they are definitely not a requirement for the road to recovery. A strong transversalis is a requirement, but isolated contractions aren’t. If you feel like you want to keep it up then just make 100% sure you are not sucking in (which I still do constantly – ack!) AND aren’t overdoing it, which could make the muscle fibers too short. Tight muscles are also weak muscles. And remember, the contractions aren’t a replacement for walking or alignment and they can’t decrease your intra-abdominal pressure.

I really want to go for a walk after writing this, but I have a sleeping kid. Can anybody relate?!


We’re All In This Together: Julie’s Story of Postpartum Healing

Julie Manwaring and her little guy

My dear friend Julie and I had babies here in the big city just five months apart. Our families are both on the East Coast, our husbands commute long hours, we endured parallel sleep deprivation as our babies (and then toddlers) kept us up through the night, and we both were unpleasantly surprised by how much we did not recognize our bodies post-birth. As you can imagine, we don’t know what we’d do without each other.

It is my delight and honor to share Julie with you. She was graciously willing to let me interview her about her experience and share it with you. If we’re not in this together, then we’re going it alone and that just won’t do!

First off, Julie, when did you give birth to that squeezable little red head and at what point did you suspect something was amiss with your body?

julie and little guyThat chubby, giggling ginger was born on August 11th, 2013. It wasn’t long after his arrival that I noticed my body wasn’t right, though having never given birth before I attributed any and all pain to pushing a whole baby through some very narrow channels. I assumed everything was normal postpartum discomfort as my body healed and re-adjusted.

In the week following Ben’s birth, I took slow, cautious steps around our apartment and worked my way up to a slow, cautious stroll around the block. I vividly remember saying to my husband as he carried our newborn, “I feel like my insides are falling out.”

As my strength returned our strolls got a little longer, but my steps continued to be painfully slow and the inexplicable heaviness in my pelvic floor did not improve. At my 6 week check up I described the discomfort to my OB who, upon examining, explained that I had a prolapsed uterus. So that confirmed it – my insides were, in fact, falling out.

The doctor referred me to a pelvic floor physical therapist to rehab my nether regions and it wasn’t until meeting with her that I learned of my diastasis. My what? As I teared up, confused to hear that there was yet another thing wrong with my body, she delicately explained my 3 fingers worth of ab separation.

What were your thoughts and feelings when you realized that pregnancy/birth had damaged you in a measurable way?

I was so confused and so very sad. Blame the sleep deprivation, blame the hormones, or just blame the situation, I was simply put, very sad. How had this happened? I did everything right—the prenatal yoga! the eating healthy! the exercise! Why was my body doing this? What did I do wrong? I somehow failed, even though I tried so hard.

I assumed that after birth your body returned to its normal, albeit droopier, state. I never considered the lasting effects that would require great, very intentional work. In this last year, I’ve had to accept my sadness, confusion, and defeat. The feelings are real, but they aren’t productive. I’ve been working to readjust my perspective and appreciate that despite the prolapse and diastasis, I still grew this sweet, little person. A whole person! And that’s amazing. Straight amazing.

What was the course of action you decided to take to get better?

Knowing my personality—I follow directions very well and like being told how to get better vs researching and doing it all on my own—I developed a wonderful relationship with an incredibly understanding and encouraging pelvic floor physical therapist who has guided me through the healing process.

I met with her bi-weekly to measure my progress and adjust my exercise regimen accordingly. My goal was to do these exercises three times a day, but the reality of taking care of a newborn, meant it was more like 3 times a week. But it was something. I looked forward to my appointments, seeing any improvement and hearing her praise (I needed a cheerleader!) as my core and pelvic floor strength slowly returned.

julie and baby holding hands

If someone in a similar situation were to choose therapy, what kind of stuff should she expect they’ll do?

From my experience, first, expect to be treated with compassion and understanding. While this is all painfully new to you as you enter the office bleary eyed and defeated, know that the PT sees women like us on the hour. (That fact was so comforting, we’re not alone!)

Second, expect to be examined and presented with a course of action. The PT will take a thorough look at your core and do an internal exam to asses any pelvic floor issues and devise a plan from there—mine included exercises ranging from basic leg lifts to “advanced” kegels. (Who knew there were so many ways to kegel?)

Finally, expect to follow up. I felt very much like a part of a team during my pregnancy—there was my doctor and nurses, my doula and acupuncturist, fellow pregnant mamas, the list goes on.. There was a whole network of supporters walking along side me through those 9 months. I found that postpartum the team did not disband as I feared, but gained members, my physical therapist included. She became another caring face whom I saw on a regular basis that was coming along side, journeying with me towards healing and wholeness as a mom.

Talk to us about splinting. What’s it like to wear a splint? Did you feel it was helpful?

As I mentioned earlier, I follow directions well, so when the PT suggested I wear this velcro brace that cinched and supported my middle section, I listened. It definitely helped and we saw measurable progress. If for no other reason, though I’m sure there are others, the brace made me incredibly aware of engaging my core correctly—no more lurching out of bed to get Ben, no more mindlessly picking him up or wearing him in the front pack for long. It forced me to be intentional about my movement.

Wearing it was not long term, but it was an effective support (mentally and physically) as I began stitching my drifting abs back together.

little guy

What has been the toughest mental challenge dealing with prolapse and diastasis recti?

When I see moms running with their babies in fancy jogging strollers, I wonder why isn’t her uterus falling out with that high impact? Or when I see another story about the celebrity and her body after baby, I wonder why her abs didn’t separate and core get all wonky?

The toughest mental challenge for me has been accepting that this is part of my journey as a new mom, the prolapse and diastasis are part of Ben’s birth story. It’s not everyone’s story, and that’s okay. The jogging moms and bikini clad stars didn’t do it better or worse, they just have a different story. And that’s okay.

Has this experience changed the way you think about your body?

Yes! I am strong. My body is strong and wildly capable. It grew a baby and has sustained that baby. And, as time has passed it has shown me its immeasurable capacity to heal. If I’m patient and persistent and gentle, it will heal.

The initially unfamiliar landscape of my postpartum body is now becoming familiar ground. (Though I won’t lie, I’m finding it hard to make peace with my bizarre post-baby belly button…)

Please join me in thanking Julie for her honesty and openness. I don’t know about you, but it made me tear up! There is so much I can relate to. Thank you, Julie! 

Aside from being an all-star friend and doting mom, Julie is also an illustrator and custom hand-letterer. Check her out at http://flourishandwhim.com and just soak up all the beauty.


Looking to the research to answer my burning questions about diastasis recti

Ladies, I’ve been quiet over here because I’ve been doing some serious homework!

I love the work that women like Wendy Powell and Katy Bowman are doing to bring information to the masses. I read and study and practice it every day. Sometimes, though, I have questions that I need to find the answers to myself. That’s what this post is: information from primary research I found pertaining to my burning questions about diastasis recti and postpartum health.

I am very much not a doctor and this is not medical advice. I am just another mom in the middle of this mess trying to figure things out. I’ve included links to the studies so you can make your own decisions and hopefully find encouragement like I did!

Is my body ever going to go back to the way it was before baby?

In a word: no. In three words and a contraction: no but there’s hope!

Women who’d had babies were compared to women who’d never had babies in a study in 2008. Their abs were measured for stiffness, thickness, and for diastasis recti at 0, 1, 2 and 12 months postpartum. The women who’d grown humans inside their bodies showed improvement over the 12 month period (and markedly by the two month mark) but they never regained the characteristics of the non-baby-having control group.

My “artistic” rendition of an ultrasound from the study. It depicts what the rectus abdominis and linea alba looked like between the two groups. Muffin top vs. pancake.

My “artistic” rendition of an ultrasound from the study. It depicts what the rectus abdominis and linea alba looked like between the two groups. Muffin top vs. pancake.

Baby mamas had thinner muscles, more distance between the halves, and more lax abdominal walls. My abs are more or less flapping in the wind so this does not necessarily come as a surprise. I hold out some hope that they study stopped measuring at 12 months and maybe further improvement happens over more time.

In similar studies with stretched/thinned out muscles, the muscles’ power was significantly decreased permanently. So, it’s definitely possible that we’ll never get back the full strength of the rectus abdominis (which does NOT mean we won’t ever have a strong core). I mean, look at all these other muscles working to keep things in place:


You can see here why the transverse and obliques are called the “waist-making” muscles.

The authors of the study said that “exercises that target the return of a normal IRD (inter-recti distance), rectus abdominis width, thickness and length without loading and compressing the lumbar spine are required.” I’m pretty sure that sums up Mutu System and Restorative Exercise!

* I should note I’m not affiliated in any way with either of those companies, but I love what they do and I haven’t found anything more trustworthy and research based.

Is exercise really effective in reversing a diastasis recti or should I just do my best with it now but eventually get surgery?

If you’re up for more good news, women who did begin training (“training” in this study meant isometrically engaging the transverse abdominis, strength training, and cardio with a personal trainer) to correct a diastasis recti postpartum achieved the same reduction in diastasis as those who trained to prevent diastasis recti during pregnancy.

So, if the damage is already done – it’s not too late! And if the diastasis recti I have is present during pregnancy, I can still start doing work to prevent it worsening and then continue the regimen after birth.

Surgery to correct diastasis recti, on the other hand, had many associated complications according to a comprehensive literature review (hematomas, wound infection, dying skin, scarring) and about a 40% recurrence of the diastasis. Laparoscopic surgery had less complications than open abdominoplasty, though (aka little holes vs. the big cut).

I found out that different surgeons have different techniques (really tight folding of the connective tissue, looser folding, venetian blind folding, origami crane folding…just kidding, I made that last one up). Some techniques, like the really tight folding, are suspected to be more vulnerable to recurrence.

This same article also said that surgery to repair a diastasis recti should be considered cosmetic only, not functional like a hernia surgery. Surgery won’t restore muscle tone – that’s up to you and me to do.

Oookay, but this is more than “unsightly.” I have a bulging, lumpy, temperamental abdomen and it is a big deal, dangit!

Try this on for size: the severity of the diastasis recti is not the problem!

Laxity in the abdominal wall is the problem, and that laxity is indicated by the extent that innards poke through the abdomen. The force with which innards are pressing themselves into that lax abdominal wall has everything to do with alignment.

The biggest separation was usually around the belly button but that was not necessarily where the abdominal wall was most lax. Meaning, those pesky protrusions of innards did not necessarily happen where the biggest split was. I know this is true in my own body.

Straight from the horses’ mouths, “significant abdominal wall protrusions may occur without diastasis and flat abdomens may exhibit a diastasis. …the decision to perform diastasis repair should be influenced primarily by the evaluation of the protrusion rather than the diastasis.”

It's not just the linea alba's stretching that matters, but how lax the abdominal wall is and how much it lets poke through.

It’s not just the linea alba’s stretching that matters, but how lax the abdominal wall is and how much it lets poke through.

  • Significant abdominal wall protrusions may occur without a diastasis recti
  • Patients with a diastasis recti can have a flat tummy (Wendy told us this a long time ago!)
  • The linea alba has a maximum stretch of 1-2 inches, regardless of how big the abdomen has swollen to (I’m looking at you, fetus!)
  • Abdominal wall protrusions are caused by the stretching of the entire abdominal wall.

There are still more questions I have left unanswered. I would love to know about the nature of connective tissue and whether there is truth to the rumor that it’s more “shrinkable” in the first six months post partum. Does any one have information about this?

We’ll save the 18 pages I read about abdominal bloating for next time, so get your party hats on!


My diastasis recti recovery update, or how I hope I don’t get fitted for another bridesmaids dress anytime soon

Sometimes when I am feeling particularly deflated about my glacial progress to restore tone and function to my midsection, I do what every wallowing person does and Google magical success stories. These shining examples are always self-motivated, and fitnessy, and tan – why are they always so uniformly tan? Do they not have sub-Equatorial arms and Icelandic thighs? They pop back to strong and svelte without ever even changing their intensive exercise routine. It’s neato!

Let me tell you another story. I was getting fitted for a bridesmaids dress a couple months ago and the sweet 21 year old measuring me noted that my stomach is four sizes bigger than my hips and chest (yes, f-o-u-r). I was even sucking it in a little, shame on me. She says, “don’t worry, I get girls in here all the time who drink a little too much and I tell them it all goes to your middle!”

Fast forward to this week. I’ve been getting ready to go to Vegas for the bachelorette party. Me, the woman who in a measure of austerity – or was it exasperation? – got rid of all her pre-baby clothes except for seven (now quite ratty) nursing shirts and three jeans will be going to a place where they permit entry based on your appearance. Did you know many clubs in Vegas require women to wear high heels? And the more scantily clad, the more likely you are to get in free? It makes me feel like in Vegas woman are the commodity and men are the purchasers, but let’s save my feminist rants for never.

Also, have you ever tried to open a really heavy door with one hand? My brain is yelling, “HEY ABS! Could really use your help right now!” and my abs are like “eh, mate? Can’t quite hear you. ZZzzzzz.” And that’s how I learned my abs are Australian.

Getting my mind right

I am a person prone to frustration and black and white thinking and guilt, which means you hope you’re never invited to a picnic in my head. I have to continually remind myself of these things:

  • My body is unique. No one else has my body and no one else is responsible for my body and it’s no one else’s responsibility to love my body but me.
  • Exercise programs are great, just like weight loss program or other life improvement programs. They do not guarantee long term success, though. Often they predict the opposite.
  • 15 minutes of exercises a day can make me stronger, but it’s what I do the 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day that will determine my long range outcomes.
  • Every time I choose to sit on the floor or stretch my hamstrings or hang from a pull-up bar (side note: don’t do pull ups! just hang until you can handle pulling up) or untuck my pelvic or unthrust my ribs or do a couple squats or go for a walk – each time I do those things I am changing my trajectory. It may seem inconsequential at the time, but over time those habits will make all the difference.
  • Any time I want to hide or give up or start comparing myself to others or even to my previous selves, I can stop and give myself a little breathing room. I can ask myself what that critical part of myself is afraid might happen if it stopped doing its job (yes, I got this from counseling. Hey, it works!).
  • Listing the things I am specifically grateful for in my life and then letting specific people know that I’m thankful for them helps to give me perspective.
  • I’ve also found superbetter.com to be helpful for those days I need help building momentum. It turns your recovery into a game and you invite friends and family to be allies who support you in your Epic Quest toward regaining strength.
  • Stop measuring the diastasis recti gap

What do you do to keep a healthy perspective?


My Update

diastasis recti side view 13mo postpartum

13 months postpartum, irregularly Mutu-ing, making progress with alignment materials!

Here is my latest picture from the side. I’ve been doing a little bit of Mutu but I’ve mostly been doing exercises from The Restorative Exercise materials. Side note: I LOVE Wendy’s new MuTu videos! She has incorporated so much of what I’ve been learning from Katy Bowman’s alignment materials, and I like her revised exercises much better.

Despite my wallowing, I have been feeling stronger and more flexible, even if my middle still feels like a Jell-O mold. In fact, it feels so much like a Jell-O mold that sometimes it even looks like one:

Innards bulging out through diastasis recti gap

Innards bulging out through diastasis recti gap after a meal

Does this happen to anybody else out there?


Getting Baby Around Without Hurting Ourselves More

Recently, I was lucky enough to Katy Bowman’s workshop about child development and baby carrying that she presented at the Ancestral Health Symposium. Here is my son demonstrating how he can’t and is not interested in hanging from a bar:


Clearly he is not interested in being a poster child for natural movement.

I tried so hard to restrain myself from asking a million questions because Katy was not there to answer the questions of a bubbly new pupil. Thankfully, she covered a lot of things I was curious about in her talk and afterward.

Today I want to talk about baby carrying but I’ve included the other things I found really helpful in a list at the end of this post.

What is the best way to get our babies from point A to point B? 

Katy described in detail why they are ideally are carried in-arms, upright with one of our forearms under their pelvis. Once they can walk, they can work up to walking longer and longer distances and need less carrying.

bowl shaped kid

(my) Bowl shaped kid in his bowl shaped chair covered in bowls. 

  • The earlier babies are carried upright, the faster they can 1) get head control faster and 2) learn how to hold on. Those babies have strong grips, too.

    The more they learn to hold their own weight, the less you hold their weight. This blew my mind because I hadn’t thought of my pudgy giant baby’s ability to hold himself to me but apparently this happens in other cultures all the time.

  • Car seats and strollers encourage kids’ rapidly adapting bodies to make sitting in a “bowl” the least taxing body position. Babies and kids will default to whatever is least taxing day-to-day.

  • While carriers may help the child stay upright, they don’t let the baby change positions. Restrained babies can’t react to stimuli around them or shift when they are uncomfortable.

How do we recovering moms cope with this information when our bodies are so messed up right now?

  • Especially if we have diastasis recti, ditch the carriers if they are causing problems (this is my emphasis – Katy didn’t say this directly). She did say that carriers create a constant load on the parent, so we can’t respond to cues our body is sending that our muscles are over-taxed, e.g. “hey! this hurts!” I noticed early on that my front carrier was creating a bulge in my midsection and numbness in my upper back, so my husband did all the baby wearing. 

  • When carrying babies in-arms, try to not do these things:
    • Thrust ribs forward or up. This happens when we fatigue and want to use our rib cages to carry the weight. I constantly catch myself doing this.

    • Thrust hip out and put baby on our hips to relieve aching arms.
    • Latch the carrying wrist in our other hand to create a “sling” out of our arms. I also find myself doing this often. It gives the muscles a break at the expense of the joints.
  • Katy also didn’t cover this, but Debbie Beane mentioned that walking while pushing a stroller makes it very difficult to maintain alignment. It’s natural to start thrusting your chest while strolling. It also could change your gait and definitely prevents arm swing (which helps open up the shoulders, which are SO TIGHT, am I right? Of course, carrying a baby prevent arm swing, too.). 

Seriously? That seems impossible.

So, despite this sounding extreme (to me, at least), I took all of the above to heart and really tried carrying my baby everywhere within reason. As you may know, we’re carless, so this included grocery trips. It took about a week for me to realize that, while my baby loved it, my healing progress was reversing. Carrying groceries and the baby back made me feel very intense (yes, strangers commented on how fit I must be. Haven’t heard that in awhile!) but then oh did I pay for it.

The problem is that I would walk a half mile to run an errand and then hold him during the errand and then realize about halfway back home that I was fatigued and bulging and contorting. My body was doing whatever it could to get out of the pain. Since then, I’ve realized that it’s better to take the stroller somewhere if I can’t carry him the whole way without fatiguing to the point of injury (I realize this sounds obvious. I need things s-p-e-l-l-e-d out.). Like a workout, I need to work up to more carrying.

When I manage not to overdo it, carrying is a fun way of getting around. My little guy really is engaged with his surroundings and can help point me in the direction of things he wants to explore and I’m more tuned in to his needs, e.g. I see that grocery store hysterical breakdown coming before it’s too late.

As I write this, my back is in spasm. I have a hard time with moderation. I’m working on it. 



If you are interested, here are some of my notes from the session. The whole three hour event will be available for purchase at some point, so I didn’t mention every last detail.

My notes from Katy’s “Paleo Parenting” workshop 

  • Adaptation to physical load is the most extreme in the first five years, so variability is key to optimize their development.

  • Kids adapt most to the mechanical environment they spend the most time in. A natural position at an unnatural frequency is still no bueno for a rapidly growing body (or for adults). She pointed out that kids’ contraptions tend to be sitting-oriented and are getting more bowl-shaped over time: car seats, high chairs, carriers, bumbos, strollers, etc.
  • Hunter-gatherer cultures have daily infant movement routines and carry their children vertically most often. For example, they can lift their kid up by one arm and swing them to their back because their kids are strong enough for this. Katy carried her kids vertically in-arms from birth and her daughter had head control at three days. I thought that was awesome!
  • It doesn’t take many attempts for a restrained baby (stroller, carrier, car seat) to learn not to try to move. Sad face.


And for the adults:

  • Sitting will be the least taxing way to orient our bodies if that is how we train our tissues to adapt. 

  • We give the role of our muscular skeletal systems and metabolisms to the couch when we sit on it.
  • Using a carrier of any sort creates a constant muscular load and prevent both you and baby from shifting (certain carriers are more limiting than others)