Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Post-birth bodies - we need more information, please!
I made a return to Pilates last night. Loved it - an hour that was all about me, and working on becoming stronger. Great.
In the lead-up my instructor had asked me a few questions about the birth, my recovery, how I'm feeling, and this thing called abdominal separation. I explained to her how well things are going - everything's pretty good, walking lots again, feeling strong, recovery seemed quick this time around. And as for separation - um, well, I heard the word once when a midwife pressed on my stomach a few days after the birth, and she commented that 'the separation isn't too bad'.
I had no idea what that meant; I'd never heard it the first time around. I assumed this was something that just came back together and sorted itself out as my body recovered. And because I feel 'recovered' I didn't give it another thought.
My Pilates instructor has since helped me learn more about abdominal separation. She pointed me to this website where it says 70% of women experience this after having a baby, and that it can cause instability that then impacts on back pain, and more. There are things I shouldn't be doing - and if I push too far I could do a lot of damage. More importantly, there are some things I should be doing to regain strength and help my muscles meet again. (I don't know what yet - she's going to help me over the coming weeks.)
Why didn't I know any of this before? Probably for the same reason I've been a little weirded out and slightly afraid, even, of my body post-birth. I don't really know what to do with it. It feels weak, floppy, tender and like wearing a costume over a vague semblance of myself.
Both times I've really just waited it out, avoiding it as much as I can, until it feels normal-ish and then breathed a sigh of relief and continued on with life.
I know I could have sought more information. But I didn't know the questions to ask. I don't know what's happened, what's considered 'normal' in comparison to my former self or others. A quick question of "Feeling okay?" from a midwife or maternal health nurse leaves me saying, "Um, yep, all good I guess" but I'm not really sure if they mean my body or my mind or what 'okay' even is after having a baby.
And if I question it, am I talking about weird, gross things? Am I breaking some kind of code of secrecy?
Secret women's business, even between women.
I hear about how to deal with labour, lots about looking after the baby and feeding. Plenty about contraception. All these things involve others so it's okay to talk about them.
We hear lots about how it's great to fit back into your pre-baby clothes. And that's pretty much it about post-birth 'health': you look good. And as long as you look good, then everything's surely okay and we can forget about the whole thing and you can just be a normal member of society again. Deal?
Actually, no. Can we talk about this stuff? Can we be given information about how to look after our bodies after having a baby? Can we learn about regaining strength? Can we have less about what size we're wearing and more education? Can we please hear about what to expect and what to question?
More information, please!
Posted at 11:20 AM