Life has changed. So have I.
My tolerance for all-things-gross has reached an all new level. In some ways, it’s not all that different than some of my running conversations (pooping, snot, and all sorts of other bodily functions), but instead of it being a part of a larger conversation, it has now graduated to a central topic of discussion. I can have an entire conversation about poop at the dinner table or go to work covered in spit-up and not be phased by it one bit.
That being said, my life as a mother has obviously impacted all areas of my life, including my life as a runner. I have found overwhelming support and information through groups on Facebook (and particularly my Oiselle ladies) but there are certain areas where I feel like the voices are lacking. I frequently see the question”when can I return to running” in my running while pregnant groups or message boards. Heck, I know I asked that question across multiple forums throughout my pregnancy. And if there are two things I have learned, they are: (1) everyone is different, and (2) what you are able to do/not able to do during pregnancy may not be the best indicator.
As I wrote about before, I had a number of unexpected issues come up during my postpartum recovery. When asking around, I learned that others have too. This has encouraged me to dedicate Mondays to the issues plaguing my fellow mother-runners.
So moving forward, I hope to make Mondays a day to discuss these issues. While it may not be every Monday (because, life right now can be a little crazy) I will try my best!
I am shocked at how little (if at all) that women are educated about the stresses of labor, giving birth, and their bodies postpartum. Having a baby is a huge physical stressor. Yet the extent of care that most women receive is a 1-2 night hospital stay and a sparse computer printout containing general discharge instructions. There are so many things that nobody talks about (probably because most of it is pretty gross and embarrassing). The only “heads up” I had was from my close friends during hushed conversations. But why? Why are we so ashamed to talk about something that so many women experience?
I was lucky. I had a short labor and minimal pushing. While I did have some scary moments during labor due to stacking contractions, the overall time that my body spent in “distress” was much shorter than most. I was certain that this meant that I would rebound fairly quickly and be back to my normal workout regimen in no time. However, that was far from reality.
When I had my hip surgery, I received very clear instructions from the surgeon as to how to prepare my body for the stresses of surgery (both before and after). I had a very intense physical therapy protocol (both home exercises and 3x a week office visits). My doctor and my physical therapist each worked with me to create a clear path to returning to my optimal activity level.
Giving birth is very different. And it shouldn’t be. I know that the issues that I am facing are not uncommon – but they are things that no doctor ever warned me about. I have a weak pelvic floor. I have abdominal separation. I have other internal issues as well. The only reason I know this is because when I tried to resume physical activity – things felt wrong. Not just “I just had a baby” wrong – but wrong wrong. My OB knew that I was a runner but never mentioned any of these warning signs or things that I may be feeling. She never mentioned the conditions that I am now receiving treatment for. I was lucky that she had no problem making a referral to a women’s PT practice – but had I not requested it I don’t know if I would ever have been referred for treatment. During my pregnancy nobody mentioned the pelvic floor or recommended that I do exercises to strengthen prior to giving birth. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case for most women. It truly is a shame.
I encourage all women to educate themselves and to learn to be their own advocates. Being in good physical shape does NOT necessarily correlate to an easy recovery. The pelvic floor is a whole separate area of fitness that I wish I had understood sooner. Certain damage is inevitable – but the extent of it can be mitigated. Why are our doctors not talking about it? Why are women not being educated about this? Why is treatment not being offered and encouraged? When so many women experience one issue or another – why aren’t we talking about it more?
Here’s to opening the conversation. Let’s talk about it.
Another long hiatus from writing, but this time for a good reason – baby is here! She arrived two weeks early (and just one day later than I predicted). As any new mama can appreciate, life has been a whirlwind of diapers, spit-up, and baby snuggles. I completely underestimated how hard (yet completely worth it) these first few weeks post-baby would be. To add another wrinkle to everything, she has been having some pretty bad tummy troubles so we have been trying to narrow down the cause (immature baby digestive system vs. allergy/sensitivity vs. structural issues). I planned on starting to try to reintroduce gluten again post-pregnancy but I am now going to hold off. I have also eliminated dairy per my doctor’s recommendations to see if that makes a difference. In an effort to try to further alleviate some of these GI issues I am planning on doing a Whole 30 in hopes that will bring some relief.
As for running – I truly thought that I would be able to jump right back into things because I stayed so active throughout my pregnancy (even running 6 miles the day before giving birth) and having a short labor/delivery. The doctors at the hospital gave me conflicting information as far as a “return to run plan” with one telling me I could resume running as soon as I felt ready and the other telling me to wait the full 6 weeks. I decided to split the difference and at 4 weeks tried a walk/run for about 10 minutes. I could immediately tell that it didn’t feel “right,” but attributed it to normal postpartum healing. I tried again a few days later and felt the same, with lots of pressure in the area below my bellybutton and above my waistline. I took a week off and tried again and the feeling continued. At my 6 week appointment the doctor told me she wanted me to hold off another 2 weeks to allow things to continue to heal.
I was incredibly frustrated following the appointment, but I begrudgingly complied. I have been through injury before and have learned that taking the extra time off upfront is worth staving off severe injury later. After I waited the additional two weeks I tried again. The pressure continued. While I wouldn’t describe it as pain, it definitely doesn’t feel right and continues to ache throughout the day after the run is finished. After crowdsourcing some running mom groups I was convinced that I needed to take care of this issue now. I called my OBGYN and asked for a referral to a Women’s PT that specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation so that I could get a full evaluation of the status of my body so that I could confidently get myself back on track for a strong 2017 racing season.
My first appointment was yesterday morning. Because there are so few PT practices that specialize in women’s issues, I had to drive to a clinic that was about 30 minutes away. The initial examination included a bunch of screening questions and an evaluation of my core and range of motion. I was diagnosed with minor case of diastase recti, which is the separation of the abdominal muscles. (This is the same issue that elite Stephanie Bruce has struggled with – read more about it here). This afternoon I go back for further examination and to start my treatment plan and will continue going for treatment 3x a week for the next 3 weeks. I have also been seeing my chiropractor again to get my body back in gear.