The postnatal fitness world is a web of anecdote. Story stands in for evidence. I don’t blame the story-tellers. The hard evidence is sparse. Still, testimonial is not the same as guaranteed efficacy.
But story is what we’ve got, so despite my reservations, I’ll add mine to the heap. Just remember, this is only one person’s tale. And one person’s tale is never the same as data.*
My Story, Part I:
My post-baby body is more wrecked than most. I know this because I founded a mom’s group, and the concept of too much information doesn’t exist among us. Within five minutes of meeting someone, you are telling the gory details of your birth story.
Moms have a need to narrate those moments, to make sense of the good and the bad and the I’m not sure what that was. We also have a need to make sense of these new post-baby bodies, bodies that did something profound, but have morphed into an unknown.
My overdue 9 pound 11 ounce daughter was born after two and a half days of induction and three hours of pushing. I got a 3rd degree tear, the result of a scary joint effort between me and the midwives to get her out as her shoulders got stuck.
My overdue 10 pound 7 ounce son was born 19 months later after a de je vu two days of induction, this time with less than 1 hour of pushing, but another scary shoulder dystocia, and another almost third degree tear.
Two years two months later, my 8 pound 5 ounce second son was delivered via a planned c-section at 39 weeks. My c-section was the easiest recovery. In other words, they were all hard.
Most of the damage was caused by my first pregnancy and first birth. The 10 pounder with the large Irish head didn’t help, especially because I’m not a large woman, but, honestly, it was the first trauma that did me in.
It took me about 6 weeks to realize that most moms don’t have an inflated, yet paradoxically saggy old lady’s neck somehow transplanted where their lovely taut bellies used to be. After my belly never seemed to deflate enough, I ventured onto Google where I first saw the term “diastasis recti.” Oh yes, I had a gap. A fist sized one.
When I first discovered my gulf, I cried, convinced I would look pregnant forever. Lately, no one has asked me when I’m due, a good sign, but I’m also not going to win any bikini contests, which is okay because bikini contests are weird. At my gap discovery, I probably measured around 4.5 finger-widths. Four years later, after the birth of my third child, I hover around 2, sometimes less than 2, sometimes a bit more.
I don’t like giving diastasis recti numbers because they are misleading, especially because like everyone else, I didn’t measure the space between my rectus abdominis before having kids. Maybe I always had some space but never knew it and was not bothered by it. Who knows? Learning I had something with a funny name gave me a goal. I would close the gap. The internet promised me I could.
READ MY STORY, PART 2.
*You will find a few diastasis recti programs claiming definitive science on their side. They might even link to studies. These studies are usually small, lack a control, have clear conflicts of interest, or do not show what they are claimed to show. This does not mean the program behind the studies is bunk. It just means the evidence proving efficacy isn’t that good. In general, exercise that activates the abs appropriately will help, but no one exercise has been proven as any better than another one.