A man I knew, but not too well, had cornered me at a teacher’s meeting. “You won’t be one of THOSE women, will you?” He taunted. “Those women who have Caesareans? They are just cheating the system. And it ain’t right.”
I had ignored the section on Caesarian Sections at my Lamaze Class. I was the one staring into the Parenting magazine. I didn’t need the gruesome details. On December 20, 2004, I went into labor. On December 22, 2004, I had an emergency Caesarian. After coming home, I realized I had the best aftermath of both parties, the vaginal and the Caesarian childbirth. I had an incision with stitches, torn stomach muscles, and very uncomfortable bleeding.
A lot of this time was a fog. I was caring for a baby who did not stop screaming. Ever. I was hurting and tired. Nothing I had read had given me any inclination that this was what motherhood was like – and it didn’t look like there was an end to this stage. I spiraled into a dark place, trying to care for my baby, trying to comfort my husband, trying to pretend I was fine.
After all, I wanted this baby. I should be fine.
I wasn’t fine.
My profession is a fitness professional. I had spent many years training women, and had my pre and post natal fitness certification. I spent my pregnant days teaching boot camp and Pilates, and helping other pre and post natal women.
In my post natal body, I couldn’t understand why my abdomen looked so…wrong. I compared myself to the moms in the magazines. They didn’t look like this. I asked people, “When will this tummy go down?” They looked at me with blank stares and said “I don’t know. You just had a Baby!”
I was impatient. I started doing double leg lifts with my staples still in. I started running before I was released to exercise. I was doing Pilates – what I could of it. The discomfort grew. The tactics I had learned just weren’t working. When I returned to the gym to train someone, a colleague came up to me and said “Wow, you could never tell you were pregnant – Oh, until you turned around.” I asked another trainer how long it took her to look normal again “Oh, right away!” she said. “I don’t know why yours is taking so long!”
I was embarrassed. I was a failure. I was failing as a mom. I was failing as an example for others. What was WRONG with me? Frustrated and disgusted, I went back to my trusted women’s magazines. Today’s choice: “Fit Pregnancy.” The pages were lined with beautiful pregnant and postpartum women doing all kinds of fitness and looking perfect. On the last page, there were abdominal exercises. Oh, ok. I’ll try THESE. A tiny line at the end of the page said, “In some cases, some women with a weak core may have a condition called ‘Diastasis Recti,’ a division of the rectus abdominis.”
Well, I can’t have THAT; I have the strongest core I know of. I had taught fitness for 10 years, and specialized in Core! That could NOT be me. I knew deep down that something was really wrong, and that the more I did, the more of a hole I dug for myself. I scoured the internet and found a program about Diastasis Recti, including a test for it. I laid there on the floor and stuck my hand through where my rectus abdominis was supposed to be and felt a canyon.
That was a major shift in my life and my life’s work. I was flabbergasted. The medical industry never told me. My own industry never told me. My friends and family had no idea. I had been cheated. Embarrassed and angry, I asked my doctor what he thought. “Yes, that is the worst case of Diastasis Recti I have ever seen,” he said. But if I had not asked him, he never would have checked and never would have asked. “What do you recommend?” I asked him. “I’ll have you go see the general surgeon,” he advised me. “See what he says.”
You can imagine the proceedings from there. Medicine and Surgery was all that was recommended to me. I was lost and angry. There had to have been a way to prevent this, and there has to be a way to heal it. But if core exercise makes it worse, then what?
In the years that have followed that moment, I had another child, and a year after that was ushered into surgery. The aftermath of the surgery was beyond any pain or overwhelm I had ever felt. I took me four months to stand up straight. It took me nine months to jump or jog. It took me three years to do a sit up. This is NOT the way, I had decided. And I was going to find the better way.
My patient clients went through the whole system with me at first. I found out that ⅔ women who had ever been pregnant have some Diastasis, and I found that when I gave them a few principles to follow and some Pilates-based safe movements, that their muscles were repairing.
Now, my Diastasis Recti Recovery System is changing all of this. Women all over the world have access the diagnostics and recovery help, all at their convenience through my online course. I turned my nightmare into something that could help someone, and it will continue to be my life’s work.
Never accept the shoulder shrugs when you ask, “What is wrong with this?” Never accept that surgery and pills are the only answer (though sometimes I know they are needed; I’m not anti-medicine). Be curious. Find answers. But when you do, it’s your responsibility to pass it on. Educate a woman and you educate a nation.
Carrie Harper is the Owner of CarrieFit, Creator of the Diastasis Recti Recovery System, and a PiYo Live Master Trainer. When she’s not helping people with their “Big Dreams,” she’s helping her big girls with theirs. She is a mom of two, and wife to a brilliant Real Estate Agent/Home Improvement Genius/Drummer Man. They live in their favorite city, Austin, Texas, where they run their businesses and achieve dreams all day.