Pregnancy and Life After Prolapse
Since Michelle Esau joined our community, we have all been encouraged by her thoughts and her strength while working through the physical, mental and emotional challenges that being diagnosed with prolapse brought into her life. She has two boys who are now 3 ½ and 14 months old. She stays home with them and runs a part-time business online with her husband. She was diagnosed with a grade 2 cystocele and a grade 1 rectocele after the birth of her first child. The physical therapists she saw helped in different ways by touching on breathing, strengthening, and her mental health, but she didn't get a strong message of prolapse being something that could be reversed. Prolapse caused severe postpartum depression, but Sarah’s programs gave Michelle tangible things she could work on and hope for her body. Let’s hear some more of her story!
Tell me about your family - how many kids, how old are they, what do you do for a living, or anything like that you are willing to share with the world?
I have two boys, 3.5 and 14 months old. I am a stay-at-home mom during the day, and my husband and I run a part-time coaching/ecommerce business. I love God, interior design, DIY projects, playing with my kids, escaping to HomeSense, driving while listening to podcasts, and I'm a bit of a health nut — I render my own beef tallow and eat beef liver every. single. morning. 🙂
When and why did you start Sarah's program? What had you already tried?
I started Sarah's program when my oldest son was about 5 months old. I had a grade 2 cystocele and grade 1 rectocele postpartum. I had seen 2 different in-person physios. One would only ever give me breathing exercises and body scan audios, which was frustrating. The other physio was critical in my healing journey and I will always be grateful for her. She lovingly held my hand through my postpartum depression, made herself available via text and email for support, and gave me some strengthening exercises. She was a pillar of strength for me and she believed I could be symptom-free and active again. Her focus was hypopressives. I added Sarah's program because I wanted to do everything I could to feel normal again, and Sarah had a lot of exercises readily available through the videos. I could process more exercises through the videos, kind of like binge-watching Netflix! Because of how obsessed I was with getting better, having access to so much content in Sarah's programs was a big blessing.
How were you feeling (physically and emotionally)?
I struggled with severe postpartum depression and was suicidal up until my son was about 8 months old. So I didn't go all-in to my exercises with Sarah, but I always found the group a source of hope and determination. The "focus" of my postpartum depression was my prolapse. I was so agonized about it that I couldn't stop scanning my pelvic floor and — not exaggerating — I thought about it 99% of the time. With every step I felt a little something in my pelvic floor, like something rubbing, or a little marble in there. I believe now that those symptoms were 80% mental. If you focus on something hard enough, your body will be hyper-aware and hyper-sensitive and I just couldn't seem to get my mind off it, and I think that created symptoms. I had grown up unathletic and stressed out, and so I had a weak core, zero glutes, and just wasn't strong.
What has helped you the most in your journey?
Overall — time, consistency and working through my mental and emotional hurdles I think is what helped me the most. Even though I don't get through content as fast as I'd like, I know that by chipping away slowly, I am improving my body bit by bit. The positivity in the group was critically helpful for me. There's a whole lot of love and support, but also a "hey, here's what you can DO to move PAST that" — and ultimately action and commitment get us to our goals.
Pregnancy after prolapse can be daunting for a lot of women. How did you prepare to get pregnant with a second child?
I think the whole journey through post partum depression and all the work I did prepared me for a second. And that we wanted kids less than 3 years apart. By the time I felt ready to have another (just from healing from ppd) I was proud of myself for feeling ready since the first go around was so hard. My prolapse wasn't yet fully asymptomatic when we conceived our second, in fact early in that pregnancy all the relaxin made it pretty low, but I was mentally and emotionally ready for another baby regardless.
Where did you start with Sarah’s programs and how did they help you through your second pregnancy?
My second pregnancy I would say I had less aches and pains - even though my physio routine was more minimal/restful, I didn't have the debilitating SI joint pain. I wouldn't say I did anything different to prepare for a second pregnancy other than being a part of the group and working through Pelvic Floor Perfect. During my second pregnancy, I did a lot of floor work (iliacus pullbacks, 90/90, untwisting series, side planks), and had way less back pain than my first pregnancy. I started submitting videos more often. But after my second son was born, I was committed to having a different postpartum experience.
What did you do differently the second time for your recovery?
I had 6 weeks of help, I journaled every day, I spoke affirmations over myself, and after a few months of rest, I started MomFit. It was amazing to have a program to focus on. I enjoyed it because it was not only about rehab, but also about moving forward and getting stronger. I love how much support there is in the group to nail form and work through troubleshooting. I have moved very slowly through MomFit, I'm almost ready to start MomFit 4, but I don't mind that I'm moving slowly. It takes time to get my form right because of the poor body mechanics I have had my whole life.
How did you feel during your second pregnancy vs your first?
In my first pregnancy, I had severe SI joint pain around 20 weeks. It eventually went away, however it was agonizing! My second pregnancy, I must have had greater core strength. Although I could feel the weakness and instability, the pain was mild and doing some floor work from Sarah's programs always helped it. My second time postpartum I had some leaking, but that has 98% resolved with the work in the program.
How are you feeling now (physically and emotionally)?
I have stronger glutes and a stronger core, and even better, I have learned what I can do to build consistency in my life. I have nailed some exercises that were incredibly hard for me to figure out, but thanks to the amazing team in the group, I have got them down! Just recently, after 8 weeks of working on my right-sided clamshell, I was able to move to a thicker band without all my cheaters coming on board immediately. I know that with those great brain-muscle connections I'll now be able to put on more muscle without hurting myself or my pelvic floor.
Do you still feel hyper-aware of your pelvic floor?
Sometime after my second was born, I began to scan my pelvic floor less. Finally I am able to get through my day without my pelvic floor taking up so much of my mental bandwidth. There wasn't one single thing that stopped the scanning, but it was giving myself time to heal from that "trauma" — working through the programs so my body knew it was getting stronger, using Gloria's drills to work through the emotional side of things, and just letting the ladies in the group be encouraging to me. There are so many examples in the group of women who were devastated by pelvic floor injuries, who were going strong and had moved on from letting their injuries define them. I wondered if I could get to that point, and after 3+ years of being in the group, I can now say that I have. The scanning of the pelvic floor was what brought me so much anguish previously, and I started to notice that my hyper vigilance was fading. It probably started fading the most when I started MomFit, because MomFit made me feel normal again. I still check in on my pelvic floor, and I still have a grade 2 cystocele and grade 1 rectocele, but they don't alarm me anymore. I tell myself, if my pelvic floor survived a second birth and my prolapse didn't get worse, I'm going to be okay. Maybe one day I'll hit an “aha” moment, build enough glutes, or have something click where my prolapses start to resolve. But until then, I know they aren't getting in the way of me having the family I want, and they aren't getting in the way of lifting weights and getting stronger. We would like a third kid, and now I know my prolapses aren't stopping me from doing that.
Speaking of goals, were you able to meet them with the program? What is your goal now?
My original goal was to feel well again. To not walk around worried that my organs were going to fall out. To have another kid. To not have nagging hip pain. I've met those goals, and will continue to work through MomFit. I am not someone who dreams of being uber athletic, I don't often look forward to exercise, so if that's you, you can still learn the habits that will get your body to a place where it is "Stronger After Baby." My goals now are to build good habits, to continue to become healthy, and to continue working through MomFit to build strength at the pace that serves my body. I am forever grateful for this program and this group, I will always be a part of it! Thank you Sarah and your amazing, loving, wise team!
Thank you, Michelle! You have worked so very hard, and we are so thankful to have you as part of the CES family!