I want to share with you something. My body. My tummy. My journey towards empowerment and embracement of my one-of-a-kind body for all of its parts. I want to show you real-life changes that occur with pregnancy.
Don't miss out on the video below! I'm baring all and showing you what a real life
diastasis rectus abdominis can look like. (Pssst... it's mine!)
First, a little about my pregnancies. I gained around 60 lbs with my first two pregnancies. I was screened for gestational diabetes, which was negative. I carried to term. I always knew that childbirth would not be pain-free. I was right. I was blessed that my body was effective and efficient in the labour and delivery process. I remember meeting the OB on call for a brief moment in between contractions as my midwives were anticipating a big baby. They were right. The baby was born into my husbands arms, and then after some cuddles was put on the weigh scale. I didn’t know what to expect. This was my first baby. I saw the midwife weigh our baby. She lifted him up, zeroed the scale, and weighed him again. She came over to me, looked me in the eyes and said “Laura, he weighs 11 lbs, 3 oz.” You should have seen my face. I thought and said “that’s why it hurt so much!”. I was bigger with my second pregnancy. I delivered him at home, and again was blessed with an efficient labour and delivery. When he was born, I looked at him in my arms and thought – he looks much smaller than my first (because I had gotten used to the size of my first born – now almost 3 years old). Boy, was I wrong. The midwife put him in the hanging scale and shared the news – he was 11 lbs 9 oz! Turns out some of the scales only go up to 12 lbs.
I think all women and men would agree that having a baby changes you. You are a different person, a parent, a caregiver, a guiding hand to a new life. Why is it that after a pregnancy we expect our bodies to be the exact same as they were pre-pregnancy? I am sure you can think of many reasons, most of which coming from pressures and unrealistic expectations from society and within. There are many social movements that have begun to challenge these false ideals and expectations.
Jade Beall started A Beautiful Body Project (http://www.abeautifulbodyproject.org/the-bodies-of-mothers/).
Taryn Brumfitt filmed the documentary Embrace (https://bodyimagemovement.com/embrace-the-documentary/).
In his skit “4 kids” comedian (and now father of 5) Jim Gaffigan praises the amazing power of a women’s body (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GEbZrY0G9PI) (this part is at 3:11 of the link).
Pregnancy itself puts physical strain on the body. One of the many changes include the stretching of the abdominal wall and fascia as the baby and uterus grows. After delivery, some women’s abdominal walls recover back to, or close to it’s pre-pregnancy state. Many women’s abdominal walls do not. Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA) is a very common condition that many women don't even know they have. DRA is the widening of the gap of the linea alba (the connective tissue) between the right and left rectus abdominis (Read more on this condition here). DRA changes the appearance of the abdominal wall. There is more slack in the muscular and facial system that supports and holds in abdominal organs which results in a protrusion of the belly, especially if the deep abdominal muscles/transversus abdominis have lost their tone. Read my 2019 literature review on DRA here.
Proper abdominal training can bring back muscular tone, strength and endurance. The integration of abdominal muscle function can be re-educated into tasks of daily living and general exercise. The generation of force, support and strength across the fascial system can be improved. The appearance of a protruding belly can be reduced.
Unfortunately, exercises cannot usually completely eliminate a DRA. But my counter is, should that be a goal? Does it set us up for failure? Is it realistic? How much pressure should we put on ourselves… and for what?
Many women experience some level of permanent connective tissue stretch at the abdominals or pelvic floor after a pregnancy and/or delivery. Some are so extensive that a surgical repair is necessary. Many are not. Our bodies may not be the same as they were pre-pregnancy. But, neither are we. We are mothers now. And I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t change a darn thing.
It wasn’t always so easy for me. I struggled after my second delivery. Both physically and emotionally. I was disconnected to my deep abdominals. I had a DRA, and my belly protruded because of it. Growing up, my belly was always one of the parts of me I wished I could change. Now it was worse. It’s been a journey over the years of connecting with my deep abdominals and exploring my underpinned values and beliefs, but I am grateful for it. I have found sharing my experience to be of assistance of my clients who are struggling with similar challenges.
So this is the motivation for this post. Fully exposed. In real life.