We recently met with Brooke Tompkins of BirthFit South Tampa and learned all about their great programs. We asked Brooke to write a post for our readers regarding postpartum recovery and we are happy to share this with you now. – Christie
You hear it all the time. “Get your pre-baby body back”…
“Lose your mummy tummy”… “How to bounce back after childbirth”… “Lose your baby weight”… “mommy boot camp”… It’s all around us, deeply ingrained as a societal expectation to just forget all the physical and physiological changes your body just endured through 40-ish weeks of growing a baby, and then childbirth (no matter what your birth story is), and return to being what you were before.
Here’s the thing: You will never return to that person you once were because you have transformed into someone SO MUCH MORE than her.
When I was 19 I had my first child. I was so young and uninformed. I trusted all the time-honored wisdom around me. I didn’t do much to educate myself about what my body was going through and how I could navigate these changes so that I could have an optimal birth experience and postpartum recovery. I remember during pregnancy being told to “take it easy”. “Don’t lift that”. “Don’t let your heart rate get too high”. I was encouraged to be sedentary. I did nothing to physically prepare for birth.
I was induced one day after my due date because the baby was “too big”. After 2 hours of coached pushing I was threatened that I’d need a cesarean. I remember the doctor cutting me as he was informing me he was giving me an episiotomy. After successfully delivering my baby I had 4th degree lacerations. This was my birth; I had no idea that I had options.
I also had no idea what postpartum healing would look like for me.
Yes, I was very young. I was back into my “pre-baby” jeans 2 weeks postpartum. I was praised for “bouncing back”. I wasn’t told that peeing my pants every time that I sneezed was not normal. I wasn’t told that I could see a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. I wasn’t told that crunches and other ab exercises would slow down the healing process of my core. As a matter of fact, I was told I had Diastasis Rectus Abdominus, and was told to do “mini-crunches” by my provider to bring my muscles back together.
What I’m trying to say is that we have it all so backwards! We are not fragile butterflies during pregnancy, and we need to pump the brakes when getting back to activities postpartum.
Although this was 16 years ago, nothing is telling me that much has changed. Luckily I’ve had some pretty empowering second and third birth experiences and I’m now extremely passionate about educating and supporting women through the motherhood transition.
Not only is society placing unrealistic expectations on women, but we are also not getting nearly as much information as we need in order to pick up the pieces after childbirth and rehab our postpartum bodies in a safe, effective way.
It seems that there’s this magical 6 week mark where we get the stamp of approval to just return to fitness and sex with not much direction at all. What’s interesting to me is that during pregnancy you are told not to lift more than 20 pounds, as if you are delicate and fragile with some sort of condition or disease. Then just forty days after the biggest athletic event of your life (labor and delivery), which you likely didn’t prepare for because you were told to “take it easy”, you are set free to return to whatever it is you were doing pre-pregnancy. I’m not pointing fingers at providers. Their job is so much bigger than educating us about our bodies. What I would like more of is awareness. Also, give yourself more credit. If something feels off, there’s probably a reason. You know your body more than anyone. Ask questions and get answers.
So what do I mean by “preparing for birth”?
If you break up the process of labor you find that it’s not much different from an athletic event. There are high intense moments, longer anaerobic type moments, and rest periods to recover and prepare for the next wave. It takes strength, endurance, stamina, and flexibility/mobility to get through the process.
On top of all that, there are physiological changes that happen to the body. For example, changes in the pelvis and spine can cause lower back pain and compensatory movement patterns, which can even lead to a malpositioned baby, if you aren’t specifically working on adapting to these changes by strengthening the surrounding areas. You also need to be mentally prepared to get through transition, that moment when you just can’t go any farther. I know there are moments in fitness training where we feel this exact same way. Think about it.
I am the Regional Director for BIRTHFIT in the South Tampa area.
BIRTHFIT has a fitness program called the BIRTHFIT Postpartum Series where we help women approach recovery with education and hands on coaching. In a group setting we teach them how to move in their new bodies so that they can come out on the other side even stronger than before. It’s a great way to connect with other moms in the area that are in the same season of life and honor your postpartum bodies. There is time for discussion on all things motherhood and time for sharing stories. We breathe, we move, we sweat. We laugh and we usually cry. It is our goal to provide a mom with the space to heal her mind, body, and soul.
If you are wondering about training for birth, or simply joining a group of moms for some quality movement, I am also launching a group fitness class at Primal Empowerment in South Tampa this summer. This class will have a size cap so that I can personalize the programming for each mom, depending on where she is within the motherhood transition. Please connect with me if you have any questions at all about BIRTHFIT South Tampa.