Tonight I am bummed.
I went to a physical therapist this evening. I wanted to see her for two reasons. First, I messed up my back about two months ago, and it’s not getting any better. And second, I was confused about diastasis recti, and I wanted to find out where I stood.
For those of you who haven’t heard that term before, basically your abs are supposed to be in the middle of your abdomen. Imagine someone who has a six pack – you can see them all stacked up nicely right along the center. Well for a lot of people who have had babies (especially multiple babies) those muscles stretch out and don’t quite come back to the center after birth.
The good news is that for most people it goes back to normal and there are exercises that can help with that. The bad news is that as usual, I am not one of those typical people.
See I had always heard that you can test for diastasis by positioning yourself in a certain way and seeing how many fingers you can fit in between the gap in your abs. Anything less than 2 cm isn’t much of a problem. Really bad cases, however, could present with maybe a five finger gap.
That’s where I always got confused. By the way I was testing it, you could fit a lot more than five fingers. You could practically fit a yard stick between those suckers.
But surely this wasn’t the case. That didn’t even make any sense.
So I went in and talked to the nice physical therapist, and she tested me, and she let me know that yes, that five yard gap I felt was actually my diastasis. Basically my ab muscles are in separate zip codes from each other. She said it was bad. Really, really bad. And from all I’ve read, it’s pretty much luck of the draw. Large babies can cause it, but I never had large babies. Basically they think it’s genetics.
And so after telling me that I have this abdominal void in my midsection, she went on to tell me that exercise isn’t really going to do all that much. Basically surgery is the only thing that will repair it. But insurance won’t cover it. And it’s maybe $10,000. And I can’t really do any normal ab exercises while having the separation because that will make it worse. And it will cause back pain and pain in other areas. And even though I somehow got lucky enough to survive four pregnancies without any pelvic floor issues that that doesn’t really matter and that because of this, I could develop those problems and my uterus could one day fall out.
You know. Fun stuff.
She did say a girdle of sorts could help at least stabilize them and give them a little better of a chance of coming more together. And it will help avoid more problems during exercise. So that’s awesome. I get to wear a girdle forever.
And so I’m bummed. She told me that it doesn’t really matter what I do. I could weigh 75 pounds and I would still look like I’m in my third trimester because my insides are bulging out of my stomach.
And I’m trying to take this in stride. I have four beautiful daughters. They are worth every single organ that is trying to exit my abdomen. They are worth chronic back pain and potential stomach issues and hernias. I’m a grown woman. I don’t need to be so vain. I can take it in stride. And after all, even if I had $10k laying around, I still couldn’t do anything about it now because you most definitely do not have surgery to repair your abdominal muscles when you have any possibility of having more babies grow behind said abdominal muscles. (Although I guess my uterus falling out would give me a guarantee of no more kids ha!)
But the honest truth is that I’ve spent much of the past five years trying to stop panicking about how I look to other people. I’ve tried to stop listening to the voices in my head, all of the criticisms, all of the panic, all of the hatred. I’ve tried to learn that my body belongs to me and that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it.
And honestly, I’m so much healthier physically and mentally because of it.
Because when I shut up all of the screaming voices telling me what I should look like and what I should do and what I should weigh, I can just do what’s good for me. I don’t have to panic about not living up to other people’s expectations or making people happy or comfortable. I don’t owe any part of myself to other people. My body belongs to me, and as long as I am doing my best to be a good steward of the body given to me so I can use it to serve those I love, then that’s good enough.
In other words, I can be good enough regardless of what other people think.
And maybe that includes if everyone thinks I’m 45 months pregnant.
I always thought that comfort with my body would come when it looked a certain way. Now I’m realizing that this is a lie. Comfort comes with when we learn to accept ourselves for who we are. When we just stop listening to all of the other voices. When we start treating ourselves with respect – both in how we view ourselves and how we treat our bodies.
I can lose thirty pounds and still panic about how I look. I can still be obsessed. I can still feel like I’m not good enough and like my body has to prove my worth.
Or I could take a walk around the block and eat a salad. I might not lose any weight, but I will be treating my body with respect, and that will make me healthy and strong.
And while I am finally learning that our bodies belong to ourselves, that doesn’t stop me from recognizing that the most important thing my body has ever done was grow four of my favorite people in the universe. It did that well. Very well.
And now that they are grown enough to live on the outside, my body still does more than just feed my littlest one. My relationship with my body teaching my girls how to view themselves. And so when I want to look in the mirror and lament my diastasis belly, I try to stop myself and say something positive to my girls. I’ll talk about how strong my arms are getting or how far my legs can run. And I’ll tell them that this body helped create them, and for that, it is more precious to me than any amount of gold or any now dead dreams of flat abs.
And so I’m not giving up. I’m going to do the exercises to try to improve the problem. I’ll find some kind of belly binding contraption and wear it faithfully. And if this pt can’t help, I’ll try to find one who specializes in these types of problems.
But tonight, despite all of the forced healthy thoughts (they still don’t come easily to me!) I’m still bummed. And I guess that’s okay too.
Oh well. I guess I’ll go search Amazon for some girdles. I hear women of 200 years ago loved them.