Diastasis Rectified

My journey to heal postpartum diastasis recti


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Week 5 Again, or Why I Am a Wee Bit Discouraged

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Why I’m still at Week 5

As I was in a plank position, holding onto weights, grunting loudly and drawing them up toward my chest one at a time my husband said, with some alarm, “should you be doing that? Don’t hurt yourself and make it worse, you know you’ll regret it.”

He’s so reasonable and logical, I love it and don’t love it if you know what I mean. And yes, I regretted it. And no, I’m not quite ready for the new moves.

I put down the weights and went back to the web site where, clear as day, Wendy says:

Stay on Phase 2, doing all the exercises, stretches + alignment shifts DAILY, for 2 weeks at least.

Moving on: your midline must have firmed sufficiently, the gap narrowed + reconnection must have been established to withstand the exercises. Not sure? Try them! But don’t leave Phase 2 whilst you have: 2+ finger width diastasis, with still soft / unsupported midline connective tissue and/or pelvic floor weakness (sudden urgency or any leaking when rushing to the toilet), OR if you have been doing them for less than 2 weeks!

Which led me to the question:

How accurate is self-measurement of a diastasis recti, anyway?

I was able to find two studies on this.

  • One study was from 1987, in which participants were measured by palpation (aka the hand method we all use) and by ultrasound four days postpartum.
  • The second was from 2012 and used women in varying stages of life (some postpartum, some not, all with a diastasis recti). They had two physical therapists, one with 20 years experience, one with seven years, perform measurements with their fingers (palpation). In 15 out of the 40 cases, the two physical therapists got different measurements. Still, they basically conclude that palpation is “good enough” given how expensive ultrasound is.

My Status

My own measurement, with zero years as a physical therapist, was at least a 3-finger-width diastasis around the umbilicus. I feel it’s gotten smaller above and below. This is significantly larger than it was a couple weeks ago, sadly, which I attribute to:

  1. Doing exercises I shouldn’t have
  2. Skipping a few days
  3. Not walking enough. Walking “barefoot” is as integral to the program as the exercises, so I need to get out for longer walks. I am probably averaging 4 miles a week right now, but that’s because Target is a 1mi walk and Whole Foods is a half mile walk.

 

I’m the type of person who doesn’t own a scale and doesn’t like numbers attached to her body, so I kind of hate having to worry about the width of my diastasis recti at this point. But, for safety, it looks like I’m stuck here for awhile until this magical firming takes place and I can measure at a 2-finger or smaller width.

A note about equipment

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I promised I’d update when I got new equipment in order to do the exercises. For the Intensive 2 material, I got an all-cotton yoga bolster and 5lb hand weights from Target. She says you don’t need the bolster, but it’s useful for baby blockading and other things.

If it were easy to do, doctors all over wouldn’t act like it’s impossible! So, onward I go and hope that I have some lovely ladies alongside me getting strong again, too.

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Mutu System Week 5 Progress Report

It took me 8 days, but I did make it through doing the “intensive workout 1” four times. This week I moved onto Phase 2 core, which was at least psychologically important because I felt like I was actually progressing.

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Phase 2 Abs

This week I graduated to the next level of abdominal work. The main differences were:

  • More twists
  • More load put on the TVA (for example, in “Drop Your Knees, Find Your Middle” you can’t use your hands to brace your knees anymore
  • Bigger, meatier squats
  • The addition of a toe/shin stretch (which I don’t get much out of because I have inhumanly flexible feet)
  • Modified Bridge poses. Love this since I am having serious yoga withdrawal
  • Hip strengtheners and openers (including the same exercise the physical therapist had me doing for sacroiliac joint pain in pregnancy)

I was surprised at how different the second phase was from Core Phase 1. I was thankful for her mixing things up!

Progress

Looking at the photos, I think I see a little improvement from last week! That surprises me because:

a) I haven’t been walking, and this has not been good for my mental health with a 6 month old

b) I pushed myself too hard and it wasn’t until I had my husband feel my abs during Staggered Push-Ups that I discovered my abs were separating during them. So, back to wall push-ups!

Barefoot in Winter

We don’t really have “winter” per say here in San Francisco, but we definitely get rain and wind. I’ve been wearing my Tieks into the ground, so I have been on the lookout for a pair of winter shoes. I found this fabulous post on barefoot walking boots for winter. I love Katy Bowman and I kind of want to be her when I grow up, but I have a legit case of city fashion and most of those boots look like they were designed in a darkroom (Frye, are you listening? Chop, chop!).

Thankfully, I found two that I think I could work with tights or skinny jeans.

Nepal boots by Tom's Nepal boot, by Tom’s.

I find regular Tom’s pretty uncomfortable (especially compared to Tieks), but I’m hoping these will be a totally different story.

barefoot boot by VivoBarefootRyder by VivoBarefoot

While certainly not the sexiness that was my Frye Carmen Lace Up (love you forever, RIP), these will do when I need something waterproof. Giving up heels is tough, but think of all those bunions and joint replacements I’m hopefully avoiding!

Thanks for coming along the ride with me! Please let me know if you’re in this journey, too, so we can band together and offer each other support.


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Mutu System Week 4: Photos and a Review

Mutu System Week 4 Results

The “mummy tummy” diastasis recti with transverse not engaged and then engaged

Mutu System Week 4 Results

Transverse not engaged on left, engaged on right

Although I’ve been doing this for more than four weeks, this past week was when I graduated to the Week 4 curriculum with Mutu System by Wendy Powell. This means I was doing Mutu Intensive Workout No.1 four times and Core Phase 1 seven times this week.

I’m finally feeling like I see some results and actually feel different! I’m so glad I’m taking photos because, man, I was really pooched out on Week 1! I’m not seeing a difference since last week with TVA engaged, but I definitely see and feel a difference with it not engaged. My insides feel more tightly packed, if that makes sense.

How have I been liking Mutu?

  • I love that the daily workouts do not require sound. This is GENIUS. I live in a 1 bedroom loft, so there are no interior walls and any sound is game to wake the baby.
  • I haven’t purchased any special equipment yet, which has been lovely. This is what I’ve needed:
    • Pillow or rolled up blanket instead of half bolster
    • Big exercise or kids soccer ball for ball slams and squeezing exercises
    • My therabands from prenatal physical therapy (you’d need to buy those if you don’t already have some)
  • In the videos, Wendy doesn’t do everything perfectly and I also smile with her when she wobbles (because I’m usually wobbling with her).
  • I still can’t do normal push-ups, so I have been doing wall push-ups. This prevents me from getting my heart rate up as high as the HIIT (high intensity interval training) intends.
  • Wendy, who is adorable and so likable, uses a plus sign instead of the word “and” in all of her materials. I don’t know if this is a cultural thing or what, but the grammarian/librophile in me gets pretty distracted by it because I read it in my head as “plus” not “and”Nitpicking, yes, but I can’t be the only one!

I’ve been eating clean, cleaner than I had originally intended, due to my son’s doctor taking me off of gluten and dairy. Good thing I got rid of the chocolate chip habit before she broke that news! 

I have a lot more hope about actually healing the diastasis recti at this point. I’ve been told by so many people that it’s impossible and to just give up. I really hate that the medical community has been taught that line and I wish OBs had more knowledge about biomechanics and alignment. In the mean time maybe this blog will find someone frustrated with their “mummy tummy” out there and give them some hope!


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Starting the Intensive workouts, struggling for motivation

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Wendy wrote some powerful words over the weekend and they helped me get my mind right.

I missed almost a whole week. Here’s why I was losing traction:

  1. I so badly miss group exercise. Motivating myself when at home baby-talking to a 6 month old feels like a herculean task. This is why I need your support! (I know Mutu has a Facebook group but I closed my FB account on purpose, so my loss).
  2. I’m frustrated about my insides poking through my diastasis on the EASIEST exercises. I am used to being “tough” and I am not used to feeling so weak. Weakness, vulnerability, lack of control, letting go of expectations – so many themes in my life are applicable here.
  3. “No time” (aka excuses)
  4. Negative thinking (“I’m never going to get strong” “my husband will love me anyway, so why try” “I’m a mom now, I should lessen my expectation of what fit is” “I can’t do it perfectly, so I just won’t do it at all”)
  5. During pregnancy I felt like a superwoman. I now feel like the opposite of a superwoman.

So, when I read these words by Wendy I felt a little prodded:

“Please, please, try this. Shift your mindset before you try to shift your body.  Diastasis recti is merely a symptom, one outer manifestation of pressure + mal-alignment within your body. It’s telling you your body is not quite in the right place or comfortable, which is why it doesn’t look + feel the way you want it to. It is not *the problem*. I know you feel overwhelmed  + I know you’re frustrated + searching for answers. You’re trying to change everything + fix everything all at once + you feel everything about your body is ‘wrong’ + broken.”

Wendy! You’re hitting too close to home. Ouch.

After skipping a week of Mutu my thoracic (upper) spine was popping like rubber bands being snapped on my back, my left shoulder started clicking, incontinence came back (UGH), and headaches came back. I reread Wendy’s words, had some patience with myself, and thanked my body for letting me put it through this trial so I could have this baby I love so much.

And a word about willpower

The Willpower Instinct by McGonigalI also thought about The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal at Stanford. In that book she explains that the smallest steps help build our willpower strength, just like building a muscle. So if you say no to the anxiety snack (I threw out the chocolate chips last week), you’ll be more likely to stick to your commitment to walk every day or to do six minutes of Mutu.

This morning I got up and went straight for Mutu before I could talk myself out of it. And you know what? It felt really good. I wasn’t even that hard on myself that I was doing wall pushups instead of regular ones.