Erin has motivated us since she started working on Sarah’s programs. Her thoughtfulness and consistency are inspiring! She is married and has two daughters, ages 3 years old and 4 months old. She is also in graduate school studying to become a Certified Nurse Midwife. She does school work part-time and is out and about with the girls during the rest of her time. They are a very active family and love camping, backpacking, and just generally spending time outdoors. Erin found Sarah’s programs while recovering from her first pregnancy and so had the chance to approach her second pregnancy with a lot more knowledge about her body. Let’s hear some more of her story!
What led you to seek out help with your recovery from childbirth?
About three or four weeks after my first daughter was born, I learned that I had a three finger diastasis. I had a lot of experience working in the world of childbirth as a nurse, doula, and childbirth educator, but I had never really learned about diastasis recti. I was pretty shocked that I knew so little about such a common postpartum occurrence! I was frustrated and upset that I wasn’t going to be able to jump right back into running like I had originally intended, but I was very motivated to heal my DR.
I started doing a ton of research and learning about postpartum recovery through the experts, and later I tried going through a well-known postpartum workout program. Nothing really helped, and my DR would not close despite all of the exercises that I tried. And throughout all of my research and the programs that I encountered, nothing really talked about pelvic floor health. If anything, all that I read (or at least my interpretation of what I was reading) was that kegels were bad and that I needed to stop trying to engage my pelvic floor.
Were you experiencing any pelvic floor symptoms postpartum?
I wasn’t leaking pee, so even though I often had pelvic floor heaviness and was having pain with sex, I assumed that my pelvic floor was fine. I just focused on getting my ribs down and my DR closed which was probably putting a ton of pressure on my pelvic floor. Around 10 months postpartum, after a weekend backpacking trip, I was on a walk with my baby in a carrier and felt a ton of heaviness in my pelvic floor. I reached inside and immediately realized that I had a prolapse. I FREAKED out.
I bet that was so discouraging! What did you do next?
I immediately got an appointment with a nurse practitioner who fitted me for a pessary, told me that physical therapy could help, and also mentioned surgery as an option after I had finished having kids. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. So much of my core identity was that of an active, outdoors person. I wanted to be running, hiking, backpacking, and carrying my baby. Now I was terrified to even pick her up or go for a walk. It was shortly after this that I found Sarah’s program through an Internet search.
How were you feeling at this point?
Absolutely devastated. My body had failed me. I had been so healthy and active in pregnancy and had been working so hard to heal my DR before getting back into running. I felt like I had done everything right, and couldn’t understand how I, of all people, now had grade 2 prolapses (cystocele and rectocele) and still had a diastasis, almost one year postpartum! So many of my mom friends were out running 5Ks and I felt irreparably broken.
All of this being said, I also felt very determined. If it was possible to heal my body I was going to do it, because I was not willing to be sedentary for the rest of my life.
It is so hard not to compare our own recovery to others! What was your next step?
I started with Sarah’s Pelvic Floor Perfect program and within a few weeks of PFP and occasional sessions of in-person pelvic floor physical therapy, my DR closed to less than a finger width and my prolapse felt noticeably higher. I had to re-learn how to stop bearing down with each new exercise and had to learn how to relax and release my pelvic floor.
It sounds like a lot of mental work in the beginning. Did you feel like you progressed quickly?
It was a constant back-and-forth of progression and relapses, but I was finally moving in the right direction overall. I would make progress; have a setback; realize that I was cheating with some muscle, bearing down, or getting a tight pelvic floor again; and then back off to work on that problem area until I could progress again. It was a ton of work and I really missed just turning off my brain and going on a run, but I finally had hope and that was huge for me.
Did you feel any different going through your second pregnancy armed with all of this new awareness and knowledge?
You know, I honestly felt really healthy in my first pregnancy. In retrospect, I wish that I hadn’t run up until 28 weeks and that I wasn’t doing so many forward leaning yoga moves. I didn’t know about DR so I didn’t know what I needed to do to minimize pressure on my linea alba because I honestly felt fine at the time.
The fact that I even decided to become pregnant again is proof of how much healing occurred for me through Sarah’s program. I got to the point of having a closed and firm DR, my prolapses were asymptomatic, and I had gotten back into hiking, cycling, and backpacking with our family. I had regained confidence in my body and knew that if I had been able to heal my body once, I could do it again.
That is wonderful! Did you make any different choices going through your recent pregnancy?
During this most recent pregnancy, I worked really hard to maintain back-body and side-body expansion and followed the pregnancy workout in Sarah’s program. I was diligent about not doing activities that would cause doming, and I was really careful when getting up from a seated or lying down position to avoid any pressure on my linea alba. Also, my prolapses stayed high and asymptomatic for the whole pregnancy!
That must have been so encouraging, but still I imagine you were nervous about how you would feel postpartum. How did you approach your recovery this time?
After my daughter’s birth I stayed in bed for two weeks and then very, very slowly started to do more and more. I followed Sarah’s Stronger After Baby program and just those four weeks of gentle movement got my DR to the point that it was basically closed! My DR wasn’t as closed after baby #1 for over a year.
My prolapses have also been feeling really good. I have days (usually if I have to carry the baby around for a significant amount of time) when it feels a bit heavy and I occasionally use my pessary if I’m going to be babywearing for a large portion of the day, but I have a feeling that I won’t need it anymore within the next month or two.
I love how patient you have been in your recovery. Knowing what to expect helps so much! What are you working on now?
I’m in month two of MomFit and feeling really great. After my first pregnancy, every time that I attempted MomFit I would have to back off because I would start to dome out of my DR or start bearing down on my pelvic floor. It probably took me a year of Sarah’s program before I was strong enough for MomFit. This time around I can see and feel myself progressing. I feel strong. It honestly feels amazing.
I love hearing that! Did you have any significant "aha!" moments throughout this journey?
I used to let any physical setback completely destroy my emotional state of mind. If my pelvic floor felt heavy or my belly was pooching out, I would feel grumpy and snappy all day. Each time I had a setback I questioned if I had done irreparable damage. Today, I know that setbacks are normal. They’re still annoying, but they are also an opportunity to find areas of weakness and address them so that I can ultimately become unstoppable. Having to go through this process has taught me to be much more present with myself and to give myself grace to mess up and try again. I believe in my body’s ability not only to heal, but to become stronger than it ever was before.
You worked through so much to get to this point - your positivity is inspiring! What are your current goals?
I’m four months postpartum. I’m in MomFit 2 and pretty soon I’ll be progressing to month 3. I don’t want to rush through the program, but instead make sure that I’m doing each exercise correctly and not cheating. I want to be unstoppable. I want to trail run again, but I’m completely fine with waiting until my body is strong and I’m no longer breastfeeding before attempting to run again.
In the meantime, I want to get to MomFit 10 and beyond! I want to get back into rock climbing. I want to start mountain biking again. I know that all of these goals are attainable, but I’m okay with taking things one baby step at a time.
It sounds like the knowledge you have gained through Sarah’s programs has given you so much hope, would you agree?
These programs have changed my life. That’s not an exaggeration. When I first developed my prolapses I thought that my life as an outdoorsy, active person was over, and that I would never have another baby. Today, I’m a mom of two and I firmly believe in the strength and resiliency of my body.