From Feeling Paralyzed with Fear to Cancelling Her Scheduled Prolapse Surgery
Maggie has been a member of the CES family for four years. Not only does she have a positive mindset for her own journey (and as someone who enjoys adventure sports with her whole family, it's quite a journey!) she also has it when showing up for others, which is often! Maggie has a “never give up” attitude and encourages both our veteran and new members in a way that instills hope and optimism. Her experience and outlook is so appreciated, and we are grateful to her for sharing her incredible journey with us!
Tell me about your family -- how many kids and their ages, what you do for a living, or anything like that you are willing to share with the world.
I’m a mom of two wonderful boys, ages six and eight. I have a passion for outdoor adventure sports and I taught skiing, windsurfing and combat fitness in my teens and twenties. My first date with my husband was on the ski hill, followed by a trip to Cape Hatteras for some kiteboarding. It has always been my goal to share my love for the outdoors with my kids, and my career as a diplomat has allowed us to spend quite a bit of time living abroad and taking advantage of all the natural wonders that this world has to offer -- mountains, rivers and oceans.
When did you find Core Exercise Solutions and the team? Why were you looking for help, and had you tried anything else before?
I found Core Exercise Solutions in 2017, right after learning that I had suffered an avulsion to my levator ani muscle. The injury had occurred four years earlier, in 2013, during a very difficult forceps delivery with my first son, but it had not been diagnosed by any of the doctors or physiotherapists I had seen postpartum. I’m not one to dwell on injuries so I kept pushing forward, mostly ignoring the associated bladder prolapse symptoms -- the heaviness and pressure as well as urinary urgency. I was still quite active. I was back in the water surfing at five months postpartum, and I taught both boys to ski when they were toddlers.
After giving birth to my second son, I asked my doctor for a pessary which relieved most of the symptoms. Unfortunately, it was a band-aid solution that gave me a false sense of security without addressing the root cause of the problem. When my youngest turned two, I decided it was time to get serious about increasing the intensity of my workouts and I started to hit the gym more regularly. That is when I realized that my symptoms were getting worse, and I could no longer ignore them. I went back to my physiotherapist who confirmed that my uterus was now prolapsing and referred me to a surgeon.
This news literally terrified me. I joined an online support group to try to gather more information, but found that it offered very little hope. I kept digging further, wondering why despite regular exercise, I was not able to strengthen my pelvic floor? That is when I heard about avulsions.
An avulsion occurs when the pelvic floor muscles are torn from the pelvis. I have since learned that it is quite a common birth injury, often associated with forceps, but is still not well understood by most medical professionals. In some cases it may be possible to reattach the torn muscles, but there are very few doctors who actually have the skill and willingness to do this. Unfortunately, my urogynecologist knew very little about this injury and offered a hysterectomy as my only option.
For the first time in my life, I felt paralyzed by fear, literally afraid to move. My life had been built around my physical fitness and addiction to adrenaline-pumping sports. It was my identity. It was the only way I knew how to be. The fear that I would no longer be able to do any of those activities was absolutely devastating -- particularly since it was such a big part of my relationship with my husband and the life we had envisioned for our family. That is when I came across Core Exercise Solutions.
I had read about Dr. Sarah Duvall and Core Exercise Solutions on one of the online forums. What drew me to the program was that Sarah was not only a physiotherapist, she was also an avid rock-climber and a kiteboarder. I didn’t know what to expect when I started the program, but I figured at a minimum, Sarah would understand that I needed to learn how to manage this injury not just to “get by” but to continue doing the things that I loved. I had a six-month window before my surgery date, and decided to dedicate that time to Pelvic Floor Perfect.
Did anything surprise you about the process with CES?
What surprised me the most about CES was the amount of information I would receive about the different muscle groups and how they were all connected. I learned not only about the pelvic floor but the body as a whole, and was shocked to learn that, despite my sports background, many of my muscles were not firing properly while others were compensating and causing imbalances. I also realized that seemingly simple things like proper breathing were actually a critical part of pressure management. The CES program encourages members to videotape themselves doing each exercise and seek feedback from the team of online professionals via a private Facebook group. At first, I thought that the exercises were very simple -- almost too easy -- and did not realize that I was not doing them properly until I saw my videos. About a month after starting the program, I felt confident enough to get back on the ski hill. I hadn’t resolved my injury, but I had a much better understanding of what I needed to do to get there. I kept working through the program, gaining strength and confidence. A week before my surgery, I called my doctor and cancelled.
Wow! What incredible progress, you must have been so relieved. What did you do next?
After PFP, I moved on to Happy Hips and MomFit, and three years later I’m still learning and getting stronger. What I love about the program is the technical, yet holistic approach it takes to fitness. Sarah has assembled an amazing team of female experts who address not only the physical, but also the mental and emotional aspects of recovery. The Facebook group is a safe space for women to ask questions and discuss anything from hormones and stress to exercise gear. The program’s focus on posture and meditation has even helped me recover from other injuries such as a serious concussion that I suffered a year ago while surfing.
What has helped you most in your journey?
I’m an optimist by nature, and truly believe that mindset, patience and consistency are critical to any recovery. But changing lifelong movement patterns takes time, and I have to admit that, as a busy working mom, I am definitely not a model student. I still get frustrated and do suffer setbacks, but now I approach my injury the same way I would a torn ligament or a hernia. I also believe that taking the stigma out of birth injuries is extremely important to help relieve many of the negative feelings that come with this diagnosis. I remember how desperate I was to find success stories when I first got diagnosed, and the inspirational women in this group provided such an important lifeline.
And now you have become a lifeline in the group for others! You’re back to skiing and surfing, what other goals do you have?
I joined this program for my pelvic floor, but have learned so much more along the way and strengthened so many other areas! My goals for the future are to continue to move my way up in MomFit, strengthening my glutes and legs for skiing and my upper body for surfing. Like many of the other members, I’m likely to be in this group for life, as there is simply no other place where I can get such a wide range of information, personalized feedback and exercise programs all at the tip of my fingers.
Is there anything else you would like to share that you feel would help women who are dealing with the same things? Anything that would have helped you along your journey?
I know it sounds cheesy, but my main piece of advice to women dealing with birth injuries would be to not lose HOPE. As one of the veteran members of this group, my heart often goes out to the new moms who are just joining and are feeling completely blindsided by their injuries. I remember how dark that period felt, and how easy it was to go down the rabbit hole of despair. When I first joined the program I also had very little hope that I could avoid surgery, but the progressive exercises and the support of the Facebook group gave me something positive to focus on. As I stopped obsessing over each symptom and movement, my level of discomfort eased and I was able to get out there and start enjoying life again. I truly believe that our mindset plays a huge part in our recovery, and it is up to us to choose between a vicious or a virtuous circle.
Here is an amazing video of Maggie surfing: