Introduction

IntroductionWhy did you choose the Motherfigure Program?

Part of you wants me to make promises, to tell you 15 pounds will melt away, your diastasis will close, your belly will flatten, or your body image will skyrocket. In other words, you want your pre-baby body back — or a version of your body you never even had. You want change.

We all want THE ANSWER. I know I do.

But I can’t have it. And neither can you.

THE FIX doesn’t exist.

A lot of other programs promise you the moon. They say, if you wear this splint, walk that way, squat this way, squeeze that way, relax this way, release that way, strengthen this way, move “right,” breathe “right,” drink this shake, avoid that food, do exactly as you are told… then you will be fixed. Easy peasy.

What happens if you aren’t fixed? You must have done something wrong.

Bodies aren’t that simple. Neither are solutions.

Sure, with the right habits, you MAY lose weight. You MAY narrow a diastasis recti, MAY stop the progression of organ prolapse, and MAY flatten your belly. Much of the Motherfigure Program is about all of that.

But I will not promise what I can’t. The academic scientific research is so scant on the issue of the postpartum body that any guru who claims to provide all the answers is misleading you about the evidence, either willfully or naively.

Habit is Hope

Does this mean I’m taking away your hope? On the contrary, hope is as hope does.

You may not control your being, but you can control your doing. This is why the Program is structured to help create habit.

What will you get?

What Will You Get?

The Program is virtual, so you will need to bookmark the Motherfigure Program Hub.

What will you need?

Time

You don’t need much to complete the Motherfigure Program.

  • Mostly, you’ll need time.
  • You’ll also need resistance bands or free weights. I recommend the Black Mountain Resistance Bands because they come with different levels and comfy handles. However, any brand will do. You don’t need anything fancy. A simple sheet band is fine as well. If you own free weights, you can use those instead of the bands. I chose exercises that don’t require much equipment.
  • A timer will be helpful during the CIRCUITS. Interval apps for smartphones are the most convenient (e.g. seconds or bit timer), but a gymboss will also work. The brand doesn’t matter, as long as you can keep time.
  • You might also want a folder to store the pdf sheets. The Program is accessed virtually, but I do link to printable pdf checklists, scales, and audits. Therefore, I recommend storing these sheets in a nifty back to school folder or small binder. You can download all printable forms at once, or you can access each sheet individually.
  • Many moms with diastasis recti wonder if the Program includes a splint. It does not. However, I am not universally against splinting. You can experiment with one as long as it doesn’t push your viscera up and down or restrict breathing. Again, a splint is NOT necessary, but neither is it contra-indicated. Read more in Should You Splint Diastasis Recti? Also, if you want more information about diastasis recti, make sure to read these posts before embarking on the Program

How to do the Motherfigure Program

Start with Week 1, Day 1. Each day has a checklist. I ask you to print the checklists. I prefer a tangible copy, but some women don’t like clutter. You can also write them out on a planner, or simply save them to your desktop and reference throughout the day. I have fantasies about making a clickable app, but that’s only a dream for now.

Additionally, I ask you to look at the items on the checklist and write in a planner, either paper or digital, the times of day you will do each activity. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. The literature on change, as well as common sense, says intent to do an activity matters less than a plan to do that activity. I said habit is hope. Hope is also organization.

If you don’t get to an activity on the specified day, do it when you can. If you find yourself missing entire days, don’t plunge ahead in the Program. Instead, start where you left off. If this means the 16 Week Program takes you 17 weeks or 18 weeks or 30 weeks, then so be it.

The checklists might seem comically specific. For example, an item on the checklist is “print off checklist.” Frankly, our mom brains are juggling a lot. I’ve tried to make the program incredibly comprehensive AND easy to follow.

Note: If you are less than 6-8 weeks postpartum, some parts of the Program may be inappropriate. Make sure you have medical clearance for exercise. Here is the obligatory disclaimer. 

Also, since I can’t see you in person, email me if an exercise hurts or aggravates your abdomen and/or pelvic floor. I provide levels of progression, but all bodies are different, and you may need more specific and individualized regressions.  

The Motherfigure Approach to Body Image:

The Body Image components of the Program may feel new to you, especially if you have tried other postpartum solutions for diastasis recti or prolapse or weight loss. Therefore, I’ll explain my rationale for including Body Image Readings (BIR) and Body Image Exercises (BIE).

First, remember, body image is not a state, but rather a process. Bodies are always changing. You will not reach a certain acceptable body, and you will not reach a perfect body image. The goal is better enough.

If you think your body image is pretty good, try the Body Image Exercises anyway. I collect some of the answers, and your answers may help other moms.

The Broken Body

Coming to terms with the postpartum body can be especially hard for women (ahem, me) who didn’t even know pregnancy and childbirth could result in excess skin, diastasis recti, and prolapsed organs. I honestly thought stretch marks were the worst that could happen (you can read more about my story here).

For years I approached the broken body from a place of needing to find the fix for x, y, and z, without realizing I could find evidence based ways to alter my mindset, even as I tried to heal physical traumas.

Much of my body DID improve, but I never “got my body back.” After the zillionth program failed to make me look like what I thought I needed to look like, I decided to add a different goal to my planner: Work on my body image.

Dehumanization

Sadly, my body image woes weren’t a motherly exception. The psychological literature refers to generalized body scorn as a normative discontent. In other words, most of us are screwed up.

After having babies, women don’t talk about getting their body images back. Body image is implicitly predicated upon first fixing the body. Postnatal women talk a lot about getting a waist back, losing the baby weight, and reclaiming lost mojo, all fine thoughts, but I consider them subheadings to a much larger goal: Being able to live in the body you have right now without dehumanizing that body, without connecting your self-worth to your body.

I have always been bothered by the visual and verbal dissonance of the postnatal exercise world. We women are aware of this normative body discontent, so we place a lot of emphasis on “loving our bodies.”

But, often the advice to love our bodies is part of a fitspiration meme attached to a picture of a ridiculously thin and fit woman. Not only is this “love yourself” talk confusing because of the contradiction between the message and the image, but the advice lacks teeth.

Exactly HOW does one learn to love a body? Just by going to the gym? Losing weight? Lifting weights? Striving for that fitspiration image? Or, perhaps the approach should be more zen, maybe by meditating on our earned tiger stripes?

Sigh. Memes don’t give much body image direction.

I’m not ANTI-positive body image. However, stand alone “be positive” or “love yourself” phrases never worked for me.

Philosophical Underpinnings

The Motherfigure approach to body image is based upon an amalgam of proven therapeutic philosophies.

I found the most help in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, specifically Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, as well as the more recent Solutions Focused Brief Therapy. This Program’s body image exercises are all focused on exploring behavioral and mental solutions, not on plumbing the depths of your past body image, nor on promoting ungrounded positive thinking.

These approaches focus on how you think and ways to change your thinking as you change your behavior. The Program places less emphasis on emptying the mind via body based meditation than it does on cognitive meditation, but there is some cross over.

Instead of platitudes or inspirational memes, you will focus on activities and specific, appropriate goals.

You will make incremental changes and acknowledge your movement towards solutions.

You will see that emotions are not separate physical entities, but exist as part of your relationship with others, with yourself, and with your body. Therefore, emotions can change only if behavior changes.

Disclaimer: I am not a therapist. Repeat, I am not a therapist! Rather, I have been influenced by psychological literature when coming up with my own self-care plan, one I believe can help other moms. BUT, if you think you are suffering from clinical depression or an eating disorder or any other disorder you do not feel equipped to handle, go see a professional psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. Like, right now. Stop reading and make an appointment.

What is a “good body image”?

What does a good body image look like? This is a surprisingly hard question to answer, and your answer will differ from other moms’. Although a “good body image” is highly individual, here are some commonalities:

  • Having a “good body image” doesn’t mean always thinking positively about your body, but it does mean you don’t spend all day “checking” or letting thoughts about your body manifest themselves as crankiness, depression, or an inability to enjoy your life.
  • It means not obsessing about your weight or the size of your diastasis or the state of your pelvic floor.
  • It means accepting what is present, but also striving for change. Acceptance is not resignation or complacency. It is acknowledging that the body is always changing.

Even as you make reasonable changes to how you use your body, you can make changes to how you view your body.

Are you ready?

Good. Head to Week 1.

Postscript

After much internal deliberation, I decided to include some photos of my belly at the end of this Introduction. Since the Program started as a personal search, I am self-referential in some posts. I don’t think how my body looks is all that relevant to the content of the Program. Nevertheless, I know you might be curious. The following pictures aren’t “Before and Afters.” However, you can see that consistent exercise over years has helped. You can also see that my extra skin and stretch marks are here to stay, which I’ve accepted.

  • “Before” pictures I took for a different Program 9 months after my 2nd child (He was 10 pounds 7 ounces)
Before
Approximately 9 months after my 2nd child.
  • Selfies I took after a workout (approximately 18 months after my third child). No makeup, no contacts, and no splint. Clearly, I’m not the master of the selfie, but you get the point. I weighed about the same in each picture, perhaps a couple pounds more in the bottom picture. As my diastasis narrowed, my skin got saggier, but my stabilizers got stronger.
After
18 months after third child

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