Not Settling For Less After Prolapse
Natasha is an amazing member of our online community. She is very strong, dedicated, and is so uplifting to the other members! Seeing where she is now, you would never know how hard she had to fight to get there — but it is no surprise that she would not settle for feeling anything less than strong and great in her body. Let’s hear more about her story.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm married with 4 children, ages 20, 19, 17 and 15. We live in a rural community where I've been a stay-at-home mom and managed our small farm with big gardens, chickens, goats and cows over the years. I love the outdoors and enjoy swimming, hiking, skiing, walking in all weather, and working with the animals and in the gardens.
When did your pelvic floor journey start?
In the winter of 2018, I was doing the daily animal chores, lifting and carrying heavy buckets and hay bales. I was also regularly doing P90X3 workouts with my husband to try and stay fit and strong for all of the work that I loved (not understanding good form). I was noticing more and more cases of “sneeze pee” as I called it, and feeling like I couldn't have complete bowel movements. I did not know that straining was bad!
One day, as I carried the heavy milker indoors, something gave out in my lower abdomen and I felt a downward pressure and a profound weakness when I would try to lift anything. I started googling all my symptoms and of course I freaked out! I had never heard of prolapse happening except with animals (which is usually a complete prolapse, and then that animal is culled!) Nobody had ever taught me anything about pelvic floor health, not even after labor and delivery! The only advice my midwife had given me was to do kegels “for the rest of my life”. I assumed that was for a good sex life.
It is so unfortunate that women are not usually given better information! Where did you turn first for help?
I saw a GP in order to get a referral to a PFPT. He said there was nothing unusual for having had 4 babies, but referred me to a PT. She also didn't think there was much amiss, but believed me that I was feeling something different. She did some release work, gave me a 5 minute tutorial on breathing, and surprise....told me to do kegels! In 1-2 months I would be completely better! When I still wasn't better, she checked me in standing position and confirmed I still had a stage 2 cystocele and said 1-2 more months of kegels would fix it, I didn't need to keep seeing her.
How were you feeling at this point?
I had all this work to do, and was delegating everything to unwilling teenagers while feeling symptoms (tampon feeling, pressure) just from cooking dinner. It was awful! I stopped living life. I lay in bed as much as possible so that I wouldn't feel things. I grew anxious and depressed. I felt like I was living a nightmare. All the things I love doing seemed impossible.
You are not alone in not receiving good care upon first asking for help. Where did you turn next?
I looked briefly into another online program, but was turned off by the price and the whole ideology. From there I heard of another program, which I started right away. Her attitude gave me hope and I did feel some improvement. At least I got out of bed and started moving more. But I was taught shallow chest breathing and to never breathe down into the pelvic floor. Also, to always sit on the edge of chairs in APT to keep things lengthened and in place. I took it very seriously and became rigid and stiff in my posture, holding tension in my PF and TVAs continually! I developed constant low back and tailbone pain. My periods were painful and heavy. I wasn't sleeping well, and I had anxiety and depression. I was still having trouble with constipation and was splinting regularly. Sex was painful for the first time ever. I felt swollen and sore constantly. Sitting for any length of time was a killer!
You were putting in so much effort and not finding any relief, how frustrating! What was your next step?
In January 2019, almost a year after my first doctor visit, I started over with another GP in order to get a referral to a myofascial release therapist, an ob/gyn, and another PFPT.
The myofascial therapist could not believe how tight my back and tailbone area were. She thought my tailbone/PF issues likely started 4 years previously after I'd had a severe tailbone injury. I had never connected the two in my mind. She also pointed out my stiff posture and told me to sit back into chairs. A few sessions with her helped, but she told me to quit all exercise for a couple of months and emotionally I could not handle that thought.
The ob/gyn was abrupt and unsympathetic. Matter of factly, she told me I had a grade 2 cystocele that was also pulling down my uterus. Nothing to be done about it. Never lift anything heavy again, and when it gets too bad, have surgery. I also had an ultrasound at that time which showed adenomyosis, which explained my difficult periods. They offered hormonal implants or hysterectomy, which I declined.
Less than encouraging! How were you feeling emotionally during all of this?
I was at an all-time low! (Little did I know, I was also rather anemic through all of this, which did not help my energy and emotional capacity. And why did no one suggest testing my iron levels when they all heard how heavy my periods were, and had been for months?) I remember one Saturday morning pouring it all out to my dad, of all people, and having him sit on the couch with his arm around me just listening and comforting me and trying to brainstorm with me.
I started seeing a counselor (huge hurdle to make the first appointment, but THE best thing I did). I joined a POP support group online where someone mentioned CES with Sarah. I bought her PFP course and joined her FB community in March of 2019. I had very little hope in the beginning, but I followed the steps and gradually began to see improvement. I was so glad I only had one home-schooled student that winter and I had time to watch and digest so much information. It seriously felt like I was in school myself! I spent 1-2 hours a DAY watching, taking notes and practicing.
Support is such an important component in healing. As you started the program, what were the key things you learned that you could apply right away?
The BIGGEST missing piece up to this point had been how to deal with tension and tightness. It felt scary to let go and stop clenching. Even when I wanted to, it had become such a habit. It took a lot of time, and I still am working on being aware.
It's common to be overwhelmed in the beginning of this journey, what kept you going? What helped the most?
I gained so much confidence and encouragement through Sarah's realistic but positive approach. Knowing she'd been down the same road and healed meant so much. I was willing to do the work, but I had not been given the right tools until now! Also, being able to see the success of so many women in the FB community was powerful for me.
Which programs have you worked in, and most importantly, how are you feeling now emotionally and physically?
I've worked through PFP, HH, PP and am now in MomFit! I've been able to walk long distances, play volleyball, enjoy sex again, sit when and for how long I want to, keep up on hikes with my husband and 4 grown children, ride my bike, garden, and be symptom-free 99% of the time. My pottying is regular and easy again as well. I have hope!
You’ve accomplished so much over the nearly 2 years since finding CES! What plans do you have for the future?
Our family is changing rapidly. We have two who are ready to leave the nest for good this fall. One more year of home-school and then PSEO for the last two. We've decided to stop farming and lighten my load. I'm already enjoying being free to come and go without being tied down with chores. My husband and I are planning to go camping more regularly and find a new, slower pace in life.
What advice would you give to women who are just starting out on their journey?
My advice is to carve out a specific time each day and show up ready to work on SOMETHING. Whether it’s watching a video and practicing one thing, doing a full workout, or taking videos to post to the fab group. Each step will build on to the day before and you will be making forward progress. Even when you’re not sure you’re doing it right, eventually something clicks and it starts to feel right. Also, posting videos for feedback is essential.
Is there anything else you did in addition to CES that you feel was helpful?
I continue to see my counselor every 6 weeks. I've taken iron pills and gotten my hemoglobin up. That has been huge in giving me more energy physically and emotionally. My physical healing and strengthening has also helped lift the anxiety and depression. I'm sleeping better than ever before, and my periods have improved some as well.
Now that you are back to feeling good, what goals do you have?
My goals are to continue through MomFit three days a week. When things slow down this fall, I want to go through Shoulder Solutions and revisit some the basics in Happy Hips and the advanced PF workouts. I've also toyed with the return to running program. I am not a runner, but I'd like to be able to run short distances confidently. I mainly want to continue gaining strength and knowledge, and learn how to pass on the information to those who want it. I would love to be able share what I've learned with my sisters, nieces and daughters if the opportunity ever arises.
I am just so, so grateful to Sarah, her programs, her team and the wonderfully supportive FB group. It has literally changed my life!
We are so grateful to have you as part of the CES family, Natasha! You embody strength, and are such an encouragement to all of us! Thank you for sharing your story!