Diastasis Rectified

My journey to heal postpartum diastasis recti


10 Comments

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?

881px-Gray399.svg

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
    135465558_123402af8c_o

    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!


7 Comments

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:

Image

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)

 

 


7 Comments

Encouragement for You and Me From Debbie Beane, RES

Debbie Beane, RES

Debbie Beane, RES

Recently, as I was weighing jumping into the Restorative Exercise certification, I was becoming overwhelmed with the feeling that this mountain of information and under-functioning body parts was too intimidating to surmount. I feared that I would pull a Humpty and never get pieced back together.

Then, like a vision, the kind, understanding countenance of Debbie Beane popped up in my Skype window and she spoke knowledge, encouragement, kindness, and genuine empathy to me. She is a mother who has been down the diastasis recti / pelvic floor disorder road, who did MuTu when it was still in infancy, and found Restorative Exercise at the right moment to fall in love with it and start her own RE practice. In short, she is my role model.

Lucky for you, she has bottled some of that kind, brilliant, wise empathy and let me distribute it here to you.

Here are her words for you and for me:

So.

First of all, I offer sympathy and empathy and I-know-your-pain. It is SO HARD to have done this amazing thing (bringing a human into the world?!), and to be dealing with all of the life changes (sleep??) and then to learn that your body is more or less betraying you… it’s hard. For anyone, but especially if you considered yourself particularly healthy or fit beforehand. And then, if you were a very proactive do-everything-Right sort of pregnant person, to learn that there were things you might have done that no one told you about? It’s devastating. How are we supposed to prepare when we don’t even know the right questions to ask??

So. Now you are here, with unhappy results. Know that you are not alone, that in fact there are more people with these issues than you can imagine. But more importantly, know that there *are* things you can do, and that it can, and will, get much much better. Prepare to open your mind and be willing to try things that you don’t understand. Realize that you’re up against a big project, and you’ll spend a lot of time working on it, but that in some ways it’s actually a gift. Because you will end up so much healthier than you were before, and you might never have sought out this information without the catalyst of the injuries.

It’s a small comfort, especially at first, but it’s true. And the benefits you can reap, not only for yourself but for your whole family, are huge. You can help your kids not have to deal with this later on… and maybe you can help other moms, or future moms, by spreading the word. It is frustrating, and depressing, and more than you want to deal with sometimes. But it is what it is, and now you have found the information you need, and all that’s left is to do it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this because I’ve lost count. I need to print it and put it on my wall. I hope you love it as much as I do. Thank you, Debbie!

You can find more from Debbie over at PositivelyAligned.com.