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February 23, 2018

Road to Recovery: Healing from Childbirth

by Paden Hughes

2017 was an incredible year of growth for me. Most notably, our family grew from two to three, and Michael and I got upgraded to Dad and Mom. In all of the positive and sweet moments that created a memorable year, there certainly were some surprising changes as well.

Last year, I penned a blog series about working out throughout my pregnancy and the benefits that I experienced through that practice. All year, I’ve been intending to reprise the series with a blog post that was supposed to detail how I worked myself back into G3 workouts. In my head, I had envisioned a triumphant return to fitness. Instead, on my one year birth-anniversary, I’m writing a less triumphant, but hopefully more relatable blog post, admitting that I’m still recovering from birth.

Expectations can be a killjoy, or as someone wise once told me “expectations are just predetermined resentments.” Wow. That one still hits me. So in 2016, I expected my fit pregnancy to lay the groundwork for a quick, efficient birth and a record recovery. Not the case. My birth was a 30 hour saga, culminating in 3 hours of pushing and a painful recovery. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling resentful that I still don’t feel like I have my body back. I had expected to be done with that and back to normal, especially as a gym owner.

But being a mom athlete has been incredibly humbling for me. Instead of feeling like I’m rocking in my workouts, I have experienced how hard it is to actually walk in the door:

  1. Meeting my newest inner critic: the nagging voice I call “mom guilt”
  2. Realizing that losing your baby weight doesn’t mean you have your body back
  3. Struggling to fit in a workout between nap times
  4. Difficulty justifying paying for a nanny so that I can engage in any kind of self-care
  5. Trying to feel capable and positive while I take on even more responsibilities in the same 5 day work week
  6. The even greater need to be kind to myself and update my personal standards to “good enough”

Then, once I’m in the door, my current physical function is nothing like it used to be. Here’s how I think of it:

Pre Baby:

  • Strong upper body & lower body
  • Flat & strong core
  • Agile & quick
  • G2/3 competitive
  • Tight hip flexors (Desk sitting athlete)
  • Tight shoulders & neck (Desk sitting athlete)
  • Rarely sore
  • Confident in most athletic activities
  • Setting new goals and confident in meeting them

Post Baby:

  • Asymmetrically strong but painful upper body, weak lower body
  • Incredibly hard to feel like I’ve worked my abs or ever get sore there
  • Likely to tweak something when trying to move quickly
  • Barely able to consistently do G1 workouts without pain
  • Tighter hip flexors, adductors, quads, low back, upper back, neck, chest etc.
  • Migraines, & cannot raise left arm above head without pain
  • Sore from daily mom activities like walking, lifting etc.
  • Hesitant to try anything too active
  • Survival mode, worrying that this is my new normal

I felt that I knew motherhood would challenge me emotionally and mentally as I battled sleep deprivation and tackled a huge learning curve, but I didn’t factor in the lasting impact it could have on me physically. Those of us who work out consistently, know that movement is a gift to your energy, mindset and overall well being. So to have this go away has been incredibly hard.

On the surface, it looks like I’ve “been back” since returning to work last May. But truth be told, I’m still finding my way back. It’s been frustrating to feel like just when I’ve hit my stride of 4-5 workouts a week, something tweaks on me and I then I find myself barely able to carry or lift my little growing girl for a couple of painful days.

When I’ve shared this with other mom friends, it seems like I’m not alone. Worse, it sounds like it’s widely accepted as a cost of motherhood and that it gets worse with each baby. I’ve been warned by numerous moms that eventually I won’t be able to do any box jumps or leaps without peeing a little. I love belonging to the “Mom squad” but I secretly wish I didn’t relate to the list of embarrassing postpartum symptoms that most women experience. Ultimately, it’s sad that so many women like me are dealing with this behind the scenes. It feels like it’s the dark side of motherhood.

A couple months ago, I started to see a pattern that was disheartening. If I went more than 3 days without intentional movement, I would start to get debilitating back pain and I couldn’t hold my daughter without wanting to cry. More than the physical impacts of this dysfunction, the mental burden has been the hardest. The worst part of pain is the blame that I place on how I got here. For me, pain is taxing and emotional. I feel embarrassed that I allowed it to get this bad and that I didn’t dedicate enough time to addressing it, thus making my problem someone else’s problem. I got tired of asking for modifications every time we had to do push ups, frontal plane leaps and other movements I knew would hurt me. I don’t like feeling like I’m taking the coach’s attention away from others. But more than that, I don’t want to be a mom who can’t pick up my daughter.

Long story short, after several cycles of this, I wanted to ask for help and make a change, and ultimately overcome this. I have started dedicating more time to self-care and really putting our services and team members to the test, doing a 3D Assessment, a number of exclusive sessions, targeted soft tissue work, as well as incorporating semi-private and Melt.Mold.Move into my weekly routine. It has been eye-opening.  I now have a daily personal maintenance routine that I do during my daughter’s first nap, to fend off pain. But what I really want is to heal from the inside out and to not have to dedicate an hour each day just to achieve maintenance. Is this possible?

Through working with CJ and Michael, I have learned that one of the main reasons I am taking so long to recover is that I am one of the many women who need to rebuild my Pelvic Core Neuromuscular System. When they finally told me that I had been struggling with a common post-birth dysfunction and put a name to it, I felt relief and hope. Relief that I wasn’t crazy, and hope that something that felt “broken” could actually be fixed! It’s like getting a diagnosis after you feel like you’ve been going solo for so long, purely on trial and error.

To summarize what’s been going on, Kaleena wrote an awesome blog that details what PCNS is and how awful it is when it is compromised or not working correctly. If you’d like to read it, check it out here. Suffice it to say that everything I was frustrated with was linked to this dysfunction, and I already started to see a huge shift once I started carving out time for exclusive or semi-private sessions. But I continue to be reminded that I’m not the only one dealing with this, and while our coaches can certainly get results for these members in one on one or semi-private settings, is there a way to bring a new program to the Group athletes?

As it turns out, the silver lining in all of this is that I’ve been able to use my personal struggle to be a catalyst for some really innovative programming, offering solutions to women like me. Michael, CJ and Kaleena have been pouring themselves over content and educating themselves on what is really going on in the female chain reaction. And the more they learn, the more they feel compelled to put together a program that addresses this for all the moms who still feel like they don’t have their bodies back.

The good news is that they are now building an entire program, Female Core Conversion, that is dedicated to helping females rebuild their pelvic core neuromuscular systems so that they can spend more time enjoying their families, painfree.

Do you suffer from PCNS dysfunction? Take our quiz to evaluate your risk.

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