Erin B is the mother of two girls ages four and almost two. She has always been a very active person. She has her own dog training business, and she also has been working at a Veterinary Clinic for the last 11 years. Besides doing the work she loves, Erin likes to hike and, where she lives, that means a lot more cross country wooded trails rather than mountains. Being “fit” has always come naturally to Erin, but being diagnosed with prolapses after the birth of her first child made it more difficult to think about normal workouts or even getting pregnant again. Let’s hear some more of her story!
What point were you at in your postpartum journey when you started Sarah’s programs?
I started Sarah’s program about 20 months postpartum from my first, a couple of months after I developed a cystocele and rectocele. I had gone to the doctor for the official diagnosis where I was advised to do more kegels, and then if that didn’t seem to help we could try physical therapy. I told them we were planning to start trying for our second child soon and I would rather just start with pelvic floor PT. I wanted to get as much improvement as possible before another pregnancy!
That is great that you were able to advocate for yourself to get the help you needed! How did your first appointment go?
My first PT appointment I found interesting and discouraging. The results of the feedback per my PT was that my numbers for being able to contract and hold a kegel were where she liked to see her patients end PT with. So out of the gate, I feel like she didn’t know what she could do for me since numerically I was already where she dismissed patients from. I went for a total of three sessions I think it was, the first being the consult and feedback. I was sent home with sheets of exercises to do.
What did you think of the exercises you were given? Were they helpful?
One of the exercises included sitting on an exercise ball and doing figure eights with my hips in both directions. There was no explanation as to what this was going to do for me, no critiques on form - as long as I made the figure-eight I was doing it correctly. Another exercise included laying on my back with my feet up on the exercise ball and lowering one leg at a time off the ball and heel tapping the floor and then bringing it back up to the top of the ball. Then, of course, I was prescribed to do kegels - a variety of long holds and quick ones.
During our sessions we ran through the exercises but I was given very little feedback on what I should be feeling, where, and how it would help. I was never evaluated again on the feedback or pelvic floor strength. The PT did at one point do some visceral massage, or abdominal massage, which I thought was pretty neat but I feel like she did that because she didn’t know what else to do with me and my exercises. Discouraged, I didn’t bother to go back.
That is discouraging. So what did you do next?
I started looking online and all you read is scary stuff. Then I stumbled upon Sarah’s website. I was skeptical at first of online PT so at the time I only jumped on board with the eight-week Pelvic Floor Perfect (PFP) program. My thought was, well, it’s guaranteed so if I’m not happy at the end of the eight weeks I’ll get my money back. Now it's two, working on three, years later and I’m still here!
I am so glad you found something that helped! How were you feeling as you started PFP?
I was discouraged and ashamed of my body. Leading up to my prolapse I was doing intense at-home workouts. I was so proud of what I was able to do physically. All my life I had been small but mighty, and then to have my body fail me in a way I would never have expected destroyed me. I felt like my husband wouldn’t want to touch me. I didn’t think that I would be able to trust my body again. I believe I went through the stages of grief to some extent, spending a lot of time going back and forth between anger and acceptance of the situation.
What a great analogy, changes in our bodies so often lead to grief and mourning over what we lost. Did you have any significant "aha!" moments as you worked through PFP that motivated you to stick with it?
Actually, I realized I wasn’t really as strong as I thought I was. I was strong, but my body cheated in a lot of ways to make me think I was really strong. I was an upper abs gripper and am still working on it, but have done so much more work focusing on my lower abs. Once made aware of it, I realized how weak they really were! As soon as I started working with PFP I thought back to the exercises the in-person PT gave me and how she didn’t even look for how my abs were firing during the leg lowers and I’m sure I was gripping my upper abs to do the exercise. When I started Sarah’s PFP program I had a lot of thoughts like “this makes so much sense” during the first weeks when it’s more information than it is exercises.
Knowledge is so empowering! Was it hard not to be filled with regret for what you didn’t know earlier?
I know I said to myself, “I wish I had known all of this before my first baby! I would have done things a lot differently postpartum.” From that point on, I made a point of sharing what I was learning to try and educate others. I wanted to help keep them from making the same mistakes I did. Mistakes like rushing myself to be “cleared” for exercise after only six weeks. Thinking back that’s just insane, but our society applauds it!
How awesome that you had the experience of pregnancy and delivery before finding Sarah’s programs and one after. What differences did you notice in your first pregnancy and postpartum experience compared to your second one?
My first pregnancy was a breeze really. Other than a very large belly I didn’t have aches or pains and was really pretty comfortable up until the end. I only pushed for 15 minutes with my first daughter after being in active labor for about eight hours and tore on the left side. I hemorrhaged enough to make the midwives worry. I was slow to return to normal. It took about 10 days before I left the house feeling like I was mostly normal.
In contrast during my second pregnancy, I was uncomfortable right from the start. Sitting for long periods of time made it painful for my hips and ligaments to adjust to standing. I continued to workout with Momfit for most of my pregnancy, modifying as I went along. I think that the main benefit of my newfound knowledge during my second pregnancy was that I was much more aware of my body as far as carrying the weight with better posture, hip hinging or squatting to pick things up. I gained the same amount of weight with both pregnancies but I was just more mindful with my second, and I think that alone made a difference.
What was your second delivery like?
With my second daughter, I went from 6 cm to her being born within 30 minutes. I had to kind of push for 20 minutes to help her get into position more but in the end the pushing to delivery was 6 minutes. During my second delivery I was much more aware of listening to my body. I would only work with the contractions even though my midwife would be telling me to push at other times. I wanted to really let my body do the work and not push because I didn’t want to potentially make my prolapses worse. In the end I definitely didn’t just breathe my baby out like I would have wanted, but I do think I didn’t push as hard compared to my first.
Was the recovery smoother after your second daughter’s birth?
After her birth my body felt normal almost immediately. It was crazy the difference between the first recovery and the second. I was able to get up and move around with more ease. I do think this was because of how mindful I was during the pregnancy. I did a lot more preparing and strengthening the right muscles (and the mind) that were going to help with delivery and after the baby.
That is great to hear! We so often talk to women who are nervous about having more children after prolapse or a bad experience. It is encouraging to hear that your recovery improved with the right information. Where are you at now? What are your current goals?
I’m now 23 months postpartum with my second baby. Life is crazy with two and consistency comes in waves. I was doing really well with consistent exercise until we moved into our new house at the beginning of October and I went from working eight hours outside the home to 30 hours.
My current goals are to do MomFit three to four times a week, to add challenges (like the balloon) to the exercises that I have a grasp on, and to focus a lot more on doing the advanced PFP workouts. I really like the strength training of MomFit but if I want to reduce my prolapse grade I know I need to put my focus on those advanced workouts. I’m currently on MF 6 which is how far I got before I became pregnant with my second daughter. I look forward to continuing to progress through and reach MomFit 12.
And how is your pelvic floor recovering?
A long term goal by continuing the programs is to be able to return to daily living without being hyper-focused on my pelvic floor. I have come a long way since first being diagnosed. I trust my body a lot more now. While I do sometimes need to focus more on form and my pelvic floor when doing something new or something like lifting all the boxes when we moved, I am able to do a lot of my normal activities without many repercussions of “overdoing” it.
I love how patient you are being with your body. It sounds like you are building such a good foundation of strength!
Actually, you know what? We got a trampoline for my daughter for her birthday over the summer, and I can jump on it. I was terrified to do it, but it was fine! I don’t get carried away but I’m happy to be able to jump with my kids without leaking. My pelvic floor is definitely stronger than it was when I started the program, and I am only going to continue to build strength.