Abby Foster started our programs six months ago and has not stopped impressing us with her hard work and “don’t give up” attitude! Months after a hard labor with her 21-month-old daughter that ended in an unexpected c-section, she realized she had a diastasis recti and wasn’t feeling like herself. As a former zookeeper and veterinary technician, Abby was used to physically demanding work, and she no longer felt strong enough to handle it. Despite some setbacks and disappointment as she tried to figure out how to heal, she has made amazing progress on her diastasis and uncovered some other things she wasn’t expecting along the way. Let’s hear more of her story!
When did you decide that you needed help with your postpartum recovery?
I found out at 7 months postpartum that I had a diastasis recti (DR). It was hard to hear because at my six-week checkup I was told my abs were coming together just fine, but my belly never went away at all. At the time I was a veterinary technician and I noticed that when I would do things I used to be able to do, like restraining animals, lifting, etc., that my belly felt like it was going to fall apart and I had no stability. So I found out on Facebook that this thing called DR existed and it sounded like what I had. I checked and I had a 4.5 finger gap, and now I understood why I felt like my insides were falling out at work.
That sounds discouraging! What did you do next?
I started by joining a Facebook group with a 30-day challenge for DR. I had some success but nothing to write home about. I then tried a full program that is advertised as “DR friendly.” I didn’t have any success with it and after learning more I realized it is not actually a DR friendly program. Then I tried another program that I had what I thought was a success with because my belly got smaller and my DR seemed to get better. After doing the program religiously for 12 weeks, I got very bad food poisoning followed by bronchitis (which made me cough a TON) and all of the progress I thought I had made with my DR was gone - 12 weeks of work gone in two. (Looking back I realize the reason my belly size went down some was due to the change in diet I made when I started that program.)
After this setback, I was rather discouraged. I even thought about just getting surgery, but couldn’t escape the thought that if I had made progress before getting sick, there must be something I was still not doing right. None of the programs I had done that were said to be for “DR healing” or “DR-friendly” took into consideration that DR is a whole body issue and just doing certain exercises instead of sit-ups isn’t going to fix you. So I set out to find a program that would fix me!
Is this when you found Sarah’s programs?
Yes, it came down to two programs that I thought could help me. I did more research in the DR support group I am a part of and saw some good reviews of Sarah’s program. I contacted someone who wrote one of those reviews for more information, and I was surer this was the program for me. Then I contacted Sarah on Facebook and asked her if she thought her program could help me. In the meantime, I signed up because I was so eager to get going despite my skepticism from recent disappointments.
I started going through the videos and within the first 10 minutes realized that when I breathed my ribs DID NOT MOVE out to the side. No other program I had done addressed that proper breathing and rib movement was so critical for healing! I messaged Sarah back and said nevermind on my question I think I answered it myself! So I committed that night in January 2018 and never looked back.
That’s a lot of ups and downs to go through! How were you feeling at this point?
When I first found out I had DR I was kind of relieved that I had an answer to why my belly was not going away, but physically my back hurt constantly, my belly felt weak and unstable with a lot of movements, and I felt like my insides were going to fall out. When I realized it wasn’t a quick fix I was annoyed and motivated because I like to get to the bottom of things. But… I am also pretty thrifty, so I tried to do it as cheaply as possible at first until I realized I needed to invest more if I wanted a quality program. When I found Sarah I was determined to fix myself. I was frustrated that I had already tried so much, and was slightly better than when I started, but definitely not healed or fully-functional, and my back still hurt.
It sounds like it was pretty frustrating to not have a quick fix. What helped you not to give up?
I had thought of surgery a few times on my journey, but I had seen stories of women who had healed and knew if they had done it I could too - I might be a little bit stubborn, LOL. I just needed to figure out the pieces I was missing.
What I learned from Sarah’s program right from the start is what no other program I tried had discussed before - that your habits matter! I was stressing my DR all day with bad breathing, bad posture, and not hip hinging, and I wondered why I couldn’t heal. I also realized I had a tight and weak pelvic floor. Not once in all my DR research had I ever heard anyone talk about your pelvic floor impacting your DR. Once I fixed my pelvic floor, my DR improved.
How long was it before you started to see and feel improvements?
I started working on my posture, breathing, hip hinging, rib flare, etc. in mid January and by the beginning of May - if not a little earlier - my pelvic floor was fixed and my DR was healed. I can now play with my daughter, work outside, lift things, and do whatever I want without feeling like I’m falling apart. Also, my back pain is gone!
That’s awesome! You are a big part of our online community on Facebook. Do you find that to be important support as you heal?
Yes, the support has been so valuable for me! In fact, through asking questions in Sarah’s private Facebook group I learned that I needed to get my c-section scar released. I went to someone just to get that done and, in the process, I got my hips put back into place that had been messed up since an injury I got working as a zookeeper in 2009. I thought I couldn’t be fixed because no one had been able to do it before, but because of the encouragement and experience of the women in the group, I sought the right help and it worked wonders. If I wouldn’t have joined Sarah’s program and FB group, I wouldn’t have known that my c-section scar tissue could impact my healing, and I wouldn’t have found the manual therapist I did (by having someone from the group refer me to someone who referred me to my therapist). The body is so fascinating in its detail and how everything is connected! It’s not directly related to Sarah’s physical therapy and exercise programs, but I couldn’t do certain activities for the last nine years without having my hips kill me for weeks afterward. When crazy things like that line up you know it was meant to be!
DR’s are considered healed at 2 fingers or less if they are firm under a load, what is yours measuring now?
When I found out I had a DR all I understood is that I had a 4.5 finger gap at my belly button, I was not aware you should measure the depth. When I started Sarah’s program my DR was three fingers at my belly button and pretty deep. Currently, my gap is a tight 2 fingers at my belly button and firm under load with a tiny bit of depth left. I also started with a tight and weak pelvic floor that had issues that came with it - issues that I had recognized before her program but never realized they were pelvic floor related because no one talks about it! My pelvic floor is no longer tight and now is getting stronger - all those issues I had before finding her program are gone.
What are you working on now?
My current goal is to be stronger than I ever have been before! I started Sarah’s MomFit progressive fitness program so that I can get stronger safely. I have said it before, and it is completely true, that I am actually grateful I had a DR postpartum because of all of the things it did for me.
(1) It showed me how persistent I can be when faced with a problem!
(2) It showed me how mentally strong I can be.
(3) Without it, I would have never taken the time to fix my whole body.
I am so thankful that I can do whatever I want pain free for the first time in a long time!
How have you been doing?
Great! My daughter turns 3 in August. I am in the best shape I have ever been in and I’m way stronger too. It is amazing to look back on my journey and think it has ALREADY been over a year that my diastasis has been healed. It is crazy how long that healing process seemed in my head, but now I have been healed longer than the time I spent working on my DR. It was a long journey that was definitely trying at times but TOTALLY, UTTERLY, COMPLETELY worth it!!
What have you been up to since the last interview?
Since the last interview, I have been working through Sarah’s MomFit program. I was in MomFit 1 during the last interview. I am currently working on MomFit 5! I am still utilizing Sarah’s amazing, private Facebook group to get form checks on my exercises to make sure I am building strength in the right way and not letting the wrong muscles cheat and take over. It is kinda fun to go to the gym and do things that make guys come over and ask where you learned such a functional and unique exercise. I do some exercises I never imagined I could before, and if I would have tried it before I had DR and started Sarah’s programs it would not have gone well *insert face plant*, haha.
Have you had any relapse of issues since the last interview?
No! My DR has actually IMPROVED since progressing to harder workouts. My width is now less than 1.5 fingers at my belly button and my depth is less than before as well. You can just feel the edges of my rectus muscles when not engaged. I have learned through Sarah’s programs that once you heal you need to safely work on progressing to harder exercise to keep challenging your linea alba. If it does not have any new challenges/stress then it is not going to heal any further, cause why would it need to? So by doing progressively harder exercise, your linea alba will continue to heal because your body is asking it to meet the demands of your workout. Obviously, this needs to be done correctly with monitoring to make sure your core is loading properly so you are not over-stressing your linea alba.
What goals are you working on currently?
Well, I am currently stronger than I have ever been, so I guess I met my previous goal! So my new goal is MomFit 12 (the highest there is currently) along with doing handstands and pull-ups (getting close). Pretty impressed with myself that I can do up-down planks (where you start on your elbows and then extend one arm then the other and start over). Those make you feel pretty [email protected]@ when you can do them with proper form, haha!