I don’t know about you, but from the moment you find out you’re pregnant all the ‘preparation’ that you are told about, explore, look up seems to centre on most of these topics – how your pregnancy will develop, how the baby grows, things you need to be aware of at birth, what to remember at birth, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, what changes the baby goes through and much more. What isn’t spoken about enough or made aware to mums enough is the reality of how you and your body feels physically post birth.
When I had my daughter, this was the bit I struggled with the most, since then I’ve spoken with many mums about how they actually felt post birth and it’s shocking. It’s the one thing they weren’t prepared for, hadn’t been told or heard about, and it’s the thing that had one of the greatest impacts on them as they came to grips with being a new mum.
I want to share with you two things – my post birth pain story and how you can help yourself to get out moving after birth that will aid healing in the right way. I recognise everyone’s story is different, and for some mums, they may be the lucky few that experience a positive birth, with minimal visible damage and easy movement after. But sadly, there are a lot of mums that don’t get that.
The birth of my first child wasn’t what I pictured it would be. To start with she was 10 days late! I was in slow labour, with sporadic contractions for 5 days. My waters broke but I didn’t have any regular contractions and I was scheduled to be induced. A high-powered walk eventually shifted things into regularity. However, in the final pushing stages it all went wrong… very quickly, and I ended up in theatre with an episiotomy, forceps and a baby not breathing, after 6 very long minutes we heard our baby. Thank you, God.
In the hours after the birth I eventually managed to get up, although I could walk, albeit very slowly, I could not sit. What followed as I attempted to recover, navigate a very painful breastfeeding journey (a story for another time), go through all the new mum, baby, family processes. Was the realisation that whilst I was prepared to ‘become a mum’, I most definitely was not prepared (nor had I read anywhere) for the immense pain, immovability and recovery of my body. The hardest part was transitions, once standing, or sitting in a fixed place I was okay, but moving from one to the other, turning over in bed, getting baby in the night to do feeds, was excruciating, it was at least 4 weeks if not longer before I could sit comfortably and transition between standing and sitting comfortably.
Mentally I really struggled with this. I’m a doer, some one who likes to keep busy, and realising that I still needed to be on a ‘go slow’ a lot longer than I thought, I struggled with. It was around 4 months post-partum that my friend invited me to try out Buggyfit. What a God send! By this point I had worked out that sleep and my daughter didn’t mix. But the outdoors and buggy produced a small amount of sleep, hallelujah! Over the next 3 or 4 months with Helena at Buggyfit Farnham, I learnt a lot more about our post-partum bodies and rehabbing them in the right way. Plus, the importance of knowing if we have diastasis recti (tummy gap), and how strong our pelvic floor is (let’s be honest, we all mean to do the exercises, but the reality of actually doing them…?!).
I took a lot longer to recover than I thought I would, in fact it hadn’t crossed my mind that it would take long to recover – I mean nothing is said in any of the magazines. But think about it, you’ve taken 9 months to grow your baby, allow it time to recoup, recover and regrow as needed.
Fast forward to now, I’ve been a Buggyfit instructor for 3 years running classes in Odiham, Hook and Alton (more info here), I love it. I’m passionate about ensuring mum’s get moving in a safe, supportive and fun environment and I love being able to encourage them not only in their fitness journey, but also in being a mum.
So what can you do to help your movement post birth? Here’s 3 things that I would make a priority –
Slow and steady wins the race – giving birth is equivalent to doing a marathon, not only pace yourself during your labour, but also after it. No consistent* running, high impact, jumping, HiiT, Boxercise or similar until you are 5-6 months. This sounds like you must wait an eternity, but although you might look and feel great on the outside, there are many layers of muscles and healing that need to take place deep down. Follow the advice of your postnatal trainer but depending on your recovery some of these can be started sooner. Walking is the best place to start.
Little and often – get out for a walk every day. This might mean on day one, you walk to the end of the driveway or garden and back and that’s it. But firstly, you’ve moved and secondly you got outside, win win! Fresh air helps you to regroup, blow away a little bit of tiredness and help you feel like you’ve done something. Moving, wakes up your muscles to help them to start contracting back to where they should normally be. Each time you walk, walk as fast as you can, this might be like a snail to start with, but you will get quicker!
Remember your breathing – just like during labour, breathing is your lifeline. Taking several lots of deep breaths, a day will not only send more oxygen round the body to your muscles, but also help rebuild your pelvic floor and tummy gap.
If you’re keen to get out and get moving soon after birth, then I’d recommend heading to a local Buggyfit class where you can get your outside fresh air fix, baby can go to and all the instructors are postnatally trained, so you will be in the safest of hands to get your body moving and active post birth.
When looking for classes postnatally, it is really important that you check (ask to see certificates if need be), that your class instructor is qualified to teach postnatally. You will do more damage to your body if you go back into exercise and begin throwing weights around, doing sit ups, running sprints and more. There are many other exercises that work more effectively to rebuild your core, tone your muscles and build strength.
Put your body first, let it recover, know that it might be painful and accept you might need to watch a little more tv whilst you recover!
Check out where you local Buggyfit class is here – http://buggyfit.co.uk/
Interested in classes in Odiham, Hook or Alton check the info here – https://ucgrace.co.uk/joinus/buggyfit.html
*Running for short bursts within for example, a set of circuits can be fine, but isn’t recommended before 12 weeks, at the discretion of the instructor depending on the mum’s recovery.