Like the majority of women who have just had a baby, I wanted to get my body back. You know, lose the jiggly bum, get rid of my love handles and most importantly, get a toned and flat tummy. I couldn’t wait to get back into a solid exercise routine. I did what I was told, “wait until you get clearance from your Doctor at your 6 week checkup”. I’ll admit, I did some gentle walking here and there during my first couple of weeks of being a new mum but it was at a very slow pace and only usually around the block.
Two days prior to childbirth | Two weeks after childbirth
My 6 week checkup came around and my Doctor gave me the all clear that I had healed well, and everything was looking A-O-K “down there”. Right! Green light… here I go! Time to get my body back!
I should touch quickly on my labour. It was quick – 3.5 hours to be exact. I experienced 2nd degree tearing which required quite a few stitches. However, my recovery was very straight forward and I experienced no complications during that initial recovery time.
I was about 8 weeks postpartum, it was a Wednesday afternoon and I had just put Millie down for sleep. I remember excitedly getting into my workout clothes, grabbing my skipping rope, exercise mat and a stop watch and heading off to do my first real workout. I felt ready. My body felt ready.
The exercise program I set for myself consisted of the following:
3 rounds of:
30 Double unders
“That should do it,” I thought. A nice full body workout right?
I set up my exercise mat for my sit ups and my skipping rope for my double unders in the back yard and got my stop watch ready to go so time how quickly I could do this workout.
3, 2, 1… GO! I set off to do my 400m run and about 20m into my run I felt a distinct “pulling” feeling in my pelvic area. I put it down to my body settling into exercising again. In hindsight, I should have stopped right there and then, but nah, I was good. I felt determined to complete this workout and use it as a benchmark to improve my fitness.
Once I had returned home it was situp time! 20 sit-ups seemed to take me 5 minutes or so. I struggled with every repetition but I kept on going. I was hurting, but I didn’t stop. Stopping seemed like a silly idea.
Next! Double unders – possibly my favourite exercise ever. I ignored that dragging feeling I was experiencing in my pelvic floor area. It was nothing, right? Well that’s what I told myself. I started on my double unders and on about my 15th rep, I felt a more-than-sweat kind of wetness. I noticed I had lost control of my bladder. I had wet myself. I shrugged it off, and as I was going to shower once I had finished my workout, I continued on to complete another round of running, sit-ups and double unders and called it day. I was angry at myself that I didn’t complete the full 3 rounds, but hey, I felt like I had put in a pretty good effort.
So I went and showered, and it was then I noticed that I had a distinct bulge coming from the entrance of my vagina. I hadn’t felt that before and I screamed for Justin. I was petrified and I jumped out of the shower and laid on the bathroom floor, sobbing, while he looked to make sure my insides hadn’t completely fallen out of my body – because that what it felt like. Initially, I thought the absolute worst and diagnosed myself with uterine prolapse, with the assistance of Dr Google, of course.
I called my GP and upon examining me, her initial thoughts were that I had experienced a Cystocele. In a nut shell, the supporting ligaments and muscles in my pelvic floor had torn and they could no longer support my bladder in it’s usual position. A cystocele is also known as a bladder prolapse.
Source: Urogynecology Centre
I was referred to see my local women’s health physiotherapist who could help me strengthen what pelvic floor muscles I could. After 3 or 4 visits, my situation wasn’t improving and she recommended that I see a Urogynaecologist to get some urodynamic testing done. We had to find out what was really happening with my pelvic floor and what treatment I needed to fix this problem.
“Urodynamic testing or Urodynamics is a study that assesses how the bladder and urethra are performing their job of storing and releasing urine.”
Ultimately, this testing would take a thorough look into my pelvic floor and provide a conclusive diagnosis. Prior to my testing day, I had to do a series of bladder strength exercises which involved drinking a certain amount of water and then jumping, walking and squatting to see if I would experience any leakage. On the actual day of the testing, I had to arrive with a full bladder and then sit on a special toilet where it would measure the rate at which urine was leaving my body. I was then taken into the room where the main part of the urodynamic testing was going to take place. The Doctor inserted a catheter via my urethra and then proceeded to fill my bladder with saline solution. This test was a measure the strength and capacity of my bladder and as it filled, I had to advise the Doctor when I started to feel the sensation of needing to urinate. Once I identified that feeling, they removed the catheter and I emptied my bladder on a similar toilet to the one I used during my first test. The third part of the test involved a small camera being inserted via my urethra to assess my pelvic floor damage. The Doctor was able to take a look at the location of my bladder and the view the condition of my “hammock” aka my pelvic floor.
Once the testing was complete, it turned out that my bladder hadn’t prolapsed. My pelvic floor ligaments and muscles were in OK shape (minor tearing) and holding my bladder in it’s place. This was the news I was hoping for. Instead, my anterior vaginal wall had pretty much collapsed and that was the “bulge” I could feel. Because I was breastfeeding, my body was producing an extremely small amount of estrogen (if any at all). Estrogen is a vital hormone that aids in the recovery process after child birth to tone and tighten muscles in the pelvic floor. Basically, my vaginal muscles were extremely lax, weak and untoned. I was prescribed with a topical oestrogen cream to apply 3 times a week (which would help with toning the muscles) and attend regular visits with my physiotherapist to work on building the strength in my core and pelvic floor.
The exercise I did that day was more than enough to cause this damage, and while my diagnosis turned out to be the *best* case scenario, I can’t believe I had put myself through all of that just for the sake of wanting to lose a couple of kilograms quickly. Looking back now, the workout I did that day consisted of the three very exercises you MUST avoid when rebuilding your core and pelvic strength. I stayed fit during my pregnancy so I automatically thought that I would “bounce back” after child birth and recommence all the exercises I once did with ease. Oh how wrong I was.
I have since welcomed another baby girl into our world in January 2015 and it’s safe to say I approached my delicate post partum recovery period in a VERY different way. My dear friend and personal trainer Jennifer Campbell from Mama Lion Strong (she specialises in pre and post natal health) developed a program for me which concentrated on breathing, posture and alignment – three very important elements in post partum recovery. To be honest, Jennifer changed my life. She introduced me to balance, moderation and self love. Jennifer is sending shock waves through the health and fitness industry and it’s so amazing to see how many women she is influencing. For more information on the work Jennifer does, please check out Healthy Habits Happy Moms. Healthy Habits Happy Moms was created by Jennifer, Annie Brees and Lauren Koski and offers an affordable 6 or 12 month subscription where you can access home workouts (including pre and postal natal workouts!), nutrition advice, habit coaching and a FREE Facebook group where you can interact and connect with like-minded women ALL around the world. No diets. No hardcore training. No quick-fixes. Its all about finding balance in our lives as busy mums. AND the team at Healthy Habits Happy Moms are offering By Melanie Kaye followers a 10% discount when you enter the code “MELANIE” at checkout if you want to become a #hhhmsister . How bloody cool is that!
In addition to the program and guidance given to me by Jennifer, I also wore my SRC recovery shorts as often as possible. I didn’t rely on them to do the work for me, but the support they provided around my belly and perineum area was amazing. I still use them today (13 months post partum) and the investment is well worth it.
Whether it be a 3.5 hour or an 18 hour labour, we must give our bodies the respect they deserve and understand that while giving birth is something us women are designed to do, we need to give ourselves plenty of time to heal and recover. As women, we are constantly pressured to “get a flat tummy” or to “lose your baby weight” whether it be through images on social media, society’s expectations or even family members. Well I’m done with that. I put so much pressure to make my body look a certain way aesthetically, but at the end of the day I need a fully functioning body that is going to enable me to be the best mother, wife, friend and daughter. My body will never be the same and I don’t want it to be. It’s proof I have created a human being. Now, how amazing is that?!
Love Melanie xo