At the 6-week check-up after my first baby was born, my midwife examined my pelvic floor and abdomen, giving it all the golden seal of approval. Even though my belly seemed to be hanging down to my knees, she said I had “abs of steel” beneath it all, and sent me on my merry way.
But after my second baby was born, it was an entirely different story. I now had a condition called diastasis recti (separation in my abdominal wall) almost 3 fingers wide, along with something I had never heard of before called a rectocele, which is basically where your rectum prolapses so it is in the nifty position right next to your vaginal wall. There is a still a wall between your vagina and rectum, but they become very close friends, and if you are constipated or whatnot, you pretty much feel that rectal pressure right there in your vagina.
Yeah, it’s about as lovely as it sounds.
Even though my midwife recommended things like Kegels and Pilates, I will admit that I didn’t do much at the time. After all, I was now the busy mom of two young boys, and chasing them around and bending down to wipe their butts was pretty much my prime source of exercise. Plus, neither of my issues were really bothering me too much.
Flash-forward to five years later. I began developing bad back pain (which can result from a diastasis recti) and some of the symptoms of my rectocele were acting up. I will spare you all the gory details, but let’s just say that anytime I had menstrual cramps, was bloated, or was a little backed up in the poop department, it felt like my rectum was living right there, in my vagina. Sex was starting to become less comfortable too, which was not okay.
My 40th birthday was coming up, both of my kids were finally in school, and I decided: fuck this shit, I deserve to feel better.
As it happened, I had just written about my rectocele for Scary Mommy (we writers really bare our souls, errr, assholes, don’t we?) and a bunch of commenters recommended I try the Restore Your Core program. I had been looking into a couple of different programs to heal pelvic floor issues, and I’d been confused about which to try. But when I headed over to the Restore Your Core (RYC) Facebook group headed by the founder of RYC, Lauren Ohayon (pilates and yoga teacher extraordinaire), I was intrigued.
What I noticed first was the enthusiasm of all the women in the group, as well as the fact that Ohayon herself was in there, answering everyone’s many questions. There was a feeling of support and acceptance that was really comforting—something I needed if I was going to commit to something like this.
When I reviewed the program’s details, I admit I was a little intimidated at first. The program has four levels and would take me 13 weeks to finish. I soon found out that I would just need to commit to 3-4, 30-minute sessions per week, but that still felt like a big commitment. However, it seemed to me that I would have a whole lot of hand-holding and cheerleading along the way, which is what I desperately needed.
So I dove right in. But before I could start the program, I had to spend a week learning all about pelvic floor issues and proper alignment, as well as take some time to “get to know” my pelvic floor. Interestingly, Ohayon explains that while Kegels can be helpful for some women, they are not a part of the program because some women with pelvic floor issues actually have a too tight pelvic floor, and need to learn to release it. Instead, strengthening one’s core and pelvic region, as well as learning to use your core “reflexively” (as in, just as a part of everyday movement) is the main focus of the program.
Additionally (and I personally love this), Ohayon emphasizes that getting a flat belly is not the focus of this program, but rather having a healthy and functional core is. The program has a strong rehabilitative focus. And as I began the videos themselves, I really saw that. The early videos were really gentle, and all about discovering how to locate and use the muscles you need to properly engage and strengthen your core. Each exercise is taught by Ohayon herself, and you are given really clear instructions about how to do the exercises correctly.
Believe me—I am not always a visual learner, and even I got it.
At first, I thought the exercises were almost too easy. But then I began to notice something. I’d go to get the peanut butter out of the top shelf in our pantry and I’d find myself engaging my core. I’d be folding laundry, and there it was again. Over the weeks, I began changing little things, like how I bend over to pick up all my kid’s crap off the floor. It was amazing—and learning how to properly use your core throughout your long days as a mom is definitely one of the main goals of the program.
And what about my diastases and rectocele? Well, it took me a few weeks to see any changes there. I had to be patient AF. But I am now at the very end of the program, and I recently checked my diastasis. It’s about half a finger wide, and the muscles in there just feel tighter and stronger. And I don’t want to jinx it with my rectocele, but it’s about 75% better, which is pretty freaking fantastic.
Let me be clear: you have to be dedicated to a program like this to make it work. I think that is probably the case with any program that you try. And perhaps this exact program won’t be “the one” for you. But here’s the bottom line: there is hope out there for those of us with diastases and shitty (pun intended) pelvic floors. Women in the RYC Facebook group have found help for many issues, including uterine and bladder prolapses, back pain, incontinence, umbilical hernias, and more.
My only regret here is that I didn’t start this sooner. Why had I waited until my body was shouting to me that something was seriously wrong to finally take some action? I guess life and motherhood is just like that sometimes. But for real: we all deserve to feel better. And if you are dealing with any of these issues, now’s the time to start the journey to healing. You can do it, I promise.