I remember looking in the mirror one day at my postpartum body. Jackson, our youngest was about 3 years old at the time and I thought- “Seriously? How do I still look like I am 3 months pregnant?”
Fast forward to now, I have a 9, 7 and 5 year old and I am finally starting to see that post-partum “baby bump” lessen in appearance and lessen it’s impact on my self esteem. The “round ligament pain” that has endured since I was pregnant with our first in 2011, has FINALLY begun to diminish. For those of you who have experienced round ligament pain, you can celebrate with me when I tell you I can finally sit straight up from lying down instead of having to roll on my side first.
Why do I share about this very specific and for some, very personal detail? Well, it is January 2021 and I just completed a 12-week program called Mutu. A program that I randomly heard about from a complete stranger while temporarily living in Thailand a year and a half ago. It’s amazing how sometimes, you can get personal, immediately with a new friend. All you need is the right time and the right place. At this moment in time I was thirsty for connection. We happened to be staying at a housing complex for expats that was filled with families just like ours. There were so many moms in one room, all fighting the same meal time battles in the communal dining hall. So many moms in one room, that had moved to another country with their young children and knew exactly how I felt. I just wanted to get to know every single one of them, hear their story, ask them how they are and ask them how they do it! How do they care for themself, their family, live cross-culturally and still laugh and smile.
In this particular conversation with my new mom friend, we navigated through many topics, but settled in on the topic of Diastasis Recti. If you are reading this and have no idea what that means, that is totally OK. If those words are flashing bright in recognition to you, then I say, “Cheers!” I am so glad to commiserate with you. Google searches will pull up information telling us that Diastasis Recti is the partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis and is common during and following pregnancy.For some, the separation may heal on it’s own, others may require therapy or surgery. The experience that goes along with it varies between moms as well. The reason that this topic connected my new mom friend and I is because we both had it. We both experienced the “bulge” that can result (aka the appearance of a “3 month baby bump”), the annoying questions from others asking us if we were pregnant, (when we definitely were not) and the unwanted pain and weakness that can result.
The difference between this mom and I was that she was standing in a place then, that I finally am now.
She shared with me about how frustrated she had become trying to bring herself through pelvic floor exercises on her own, scrolling youtube videos. The Mutu System came to her attention after accepting the fact that pelvic floor therapy with a professional was just too expensive. I never forgot our conversation and wrote down the name Mutu in my notes on my phone.
I was all too familiar with how expensive therapy was and how frustrating finding the right routines on youtube could be. It took me 3 years after our youngest was born to finally be fed up with the pain and the weakness that resulted from pregnancy and talk to my doctor about it. I told her that I was struggling with round ligament pain, that I was tired of looking pregnant and was frustrated with my inability to make progress in any workout regimen. Any strength exercise I attempted caused flare ups in my back, and I just felt as if my core could not handle the efforts I was making. My history of back pain did not help matters either.
Prior to being pregnant with our first back in 2011, I experienced roughly a decade of severe chronic back pain that stretched from my neck to my tailbone. Over the course of that decade, despite the intervention of physical therapists, chiropractors, and injections, I began to lose more and more mobility and core strength. And I was a former college athlete and current fitness trainer! The pain was so controlling that I became afraid to move. It wasn’t until I began medically treating my anxiety in 2018 that my body was willing to “try.” It was as if my anxiety was literally trapped inside my muscles, waiting for them to flex and spill over into spasm. Without proper core strength my muscles were not firing appropriately either. There was so much compensation happening, that nothing was working as it should.
So there I was, at the doctor-admitting once again that I needed some help, (just like when I finally sought out a doctor’s input about my anxiety.) At the end of the visit, she told me that it was very important that I begin pelvic floor therapy. The following week I had started seeing a specialist and for $100 a visit I learned just how weak my core and my pelvic floor was and how out of whack everything was functioning. A phenomenal therapist and a great experience, but who can afford that??? So of course, I took what I learned and tried to apply it on my own.
I think I lasted about 3 weeks doing those exercises on my own.
Why is it so hard to ask for help? To admit it when we cannot progress further on our own! Or why is it that sometimes we finally ask for help, and then when we get it- we act is if the mere act of asking for/receiving help means we are fixed when in reality, the transaction is just the beginning.
Well, I guess I can be grateful for that initial transaction because once I knew the truth (that I had an extremely weak core and that without addressing it I would be subject to pain, weakness and inability) I knew that I would have to prioritize healing. I made the decision to do just that this past Fall.
I remembered the mom friend and her recommendation of Mutu. The note was even still in my notes on my phone. I committed to the 12 week program and am so grateful for all that I have learned, the ways that my core has healed, the ways that my body has changed, but most importantly- the knowledge and discipline that I gained.
There’s nothing like a “core” repair program to create incredible parallels to life in general.
The Mutu program and each exercise maintains a focus on learning how and when to inhale and exhale, relax and engage the core. However simple it sounds, without it, I would not have learned that I was never truly relaxing my core. Somehow, my body had gotten into a motor pattern where my core was trying to remain flexed constantly……and was exhausted in the process! Imagine a bicep muscle always flexed. When it comes time that the arm needs the bicep to flex to move, it may not be able to. This was my core. Operating incorrectly, inefficiently, causing pain and weakness. What was even more mind-blowing to me, was that I had always thought I truly DID know how to engage my core the CORRECT way.
Imagine going all this time, thinking you had been doing something correctly, only to find out you were doing the exact opposite? And with something so important, so central to the operation of the entire body. Finding out that I was never letting my core relax and the damage that it was causing my body was eye-opening, liberating and healing.
But before the healing was pain, wasted efforts, lack of progress, misguided direction. Sometimes it takes all the yuck to bring us to our knees. Sometimes it takes humility to admit our ways are not working. To confess that we need help. To try another way.
I wanted to exercise the way I used to in college. I wanted to be able to sweat, burn a lot of calories and see results fast. Choosing a corrective exercise program was an investment of time and patience. Deep down I knew that going this route, choosing to do it the slow and steady WAY (not the way I had always known) would lead to healing. But over the years I tricked myself into believing that I could figure it out on my own. I could have it all. I could be careful and attend to my weak core but still do the things that made me feel like I had a “good workout.” But my body was literally crumbling under the effort. Every part of the body is important, but I am pretty sure when it comes to the core, it should be done right.
Isn’t it the same with our hearts, our minds and our souls? I wonder how many people out there in the world are truly aware of what their heart needs. I can imagine most people believe they know, based on their feelings. “My heart needs affection, my mind needs numbing, my soul needs…. to not be discussed because it is taboo.”
Our culture spends significant time gaining knowledge of the latest clean-eating diet, the most current exercise fad, the latest season of a hit TV series and of course, politics. We feed our mental/emotional “core” with whatever we “feel” we need. But how fleeting feelings can be. How quickly they can change. We fill ourselves up with the cheap and temporary, the fleeting and superficial. We feast on “the bread of distraction.”
What if we were to feast on the bread that does not change, no matter the political climate, no matter the era, no matter the chaos. If what we eat and how we train our body has such significant impacts on our lives, doesn’t what we read, watch, listen to or say?
I was reminded the other day about the story of the Samaritan woman. I cannot summarize it and do it justice, so instead please read the story….soak it up.
Jesus talks with a Samaritan Woman (John 4:4-26)
“Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a]) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
If there was ever a time to be humble, ever an age to stop and seek, now is that time.
When I look for an example of humility, I look no further than the one who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross.” Phillipians 2:8
The one “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” Phil2:6-7
The one who said, “Do nothing out of vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Phil 2:3
My heart aches for our nation. My heart aches daily for those who suffer, for those who grieve. We will not find the solace we are looking for from this world, from whatever president we have, whatever political party is in control. There is only One who can provide that peace.
May we find Him, when we stop and consider that we do not know it all, that we are not without sin, that we have not done it all right.