The Dreaded Baby Bump and Why it Just Won’t Disappear

 

 

“I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump. From now on, ladies, I will have a bump, and it will be my baby bump. It’s not going anywhere. Its name is Violet, Sam and Sera.”

-Jennifer Garner

Like Jennifer I too have a lovely baby bump. Having had nine babies there are those that will tell me it’s just part of motherhood and I should embrace it, but I don’t accept that!

Most share this message to say love your body. Of course I agree with that, but today I have a different message. It’s fine to be sad about your bump. It’s ok to wish it away. It’s normal to have your feelings hurt when people ask if you are pregnant. It’s understandable to hate the fact that none of your clothes fit right. It’s perfectly acceptable to cry about it. It’s common to wear shape wear. Ladies it is ok to do whatever you want to do so that you can walk out that door feeling confident and beautiful. You are amazing and you deserve to feel like your outside reflects what’s on the inside!

It’s especially ok to say “I’m not going to let this baby bump hang around!” Yes, we need to have realistic expectations. We need to give ourselves time, but a baby bump does not have to be permanent. A long-lasting baby bump is often the result of a condition called diastasis recti, and I’ve got good news for you, YOU CAN HEAL IT!!!

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti occurs when the left and right halves of the abdominal muscle (Rectus Abdominis) separate. You then only have a thin band of tissue connecting these two halves of the muscle which is not enough support for all of your internal organs. Your belly then bulges out because there isn’t anything strong enough to hold it in.  Diastasis Recti can also lead to other problems such as a weak pelvic floor and lower back pain.

After my 6th child I had a gap that my entire hand could fit inside. Through careful work I was able to narrow that gap down to two fingers and keep it there throughout pregnancies 7 and 8. Three months after baby #9 and I don’t have a noticeable gap at all.

Preventing Diastasis Recti

The focus of both prevention and healing is to focus on exercises that pull your core muscles in and up while avoiding exercises that cause them to push forward. For example sit-ups are absolutely horrible for diastasis recti, yet most people are regularly doing them! Pelvic tilts, on the other hand are excellent. When getting out of bed I’d be willing to bet that you sit straight up and then swing your legs over the edge of the bed; am I right? If you struggle with a baby bump try this instead, roll onto your side and then push up with your arms to avoid putting pressure on those stomach muscles.

Prenatal yoga is one of my favorite ways to strengthen my body in a safe and gentle way. It is important to maintain focus on pulling the navel in and up throughout the session. Yoga moves can easily transition from helpful to damaging if you allow your form to engage incorrectly. Be especially careful during twisting moves, as these can tend to push muscles outwards as we try to twist more than our body is ready to do correctly.

When doing other exercise programs simply be careful to focus on keeping that abdominal wall pulled in and up throughout the program. If joining an exercise class keep in mind that most instructors are not educated about the cause and risks of diastasis recti. It is best to research specific modifications on your own before attending class, so that you will know what to do.

Wearing a maternity support belt during pregnancy is another useful prevention tool. By relieving  giving extra support to your abdominal muscles you can help prevent the ligament stretching that causes a stubborn gap.

Healing Diastasis Recti

So how do you know if you have a problem? Follow the steps in this video to find out if you have diastasis recti and how big your gap is.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true when talking about diastasis recti. While many women are able to heal their gaps through a focused exercise regimen combined with belly binding there are those who need to consider surgery to repair the stretched out fascia muscles. Unfortunately this seems to have a lot more to do with luck or genetics than it does how hard you work postpartum to close the gap.

There are arguments both for and against belly wrapping as a healing tool for a large gap. Many say that it allows the ligament to retract and regain it’s tight elasticity. Others say it can squeeze your internal organs out-of-place leading to a uterine prolapse or bladder incontinence. Here’s what I think after doing a lot of research: binding is helpful, when done properly and in conjunction with an appropriate exercise regimen. Binding should be snug, but not tight. You should still be able to move and breathe easily. Binding should not be worn all day every day, your muscles need a chance to work on their own if you want them to get stronger. I use a Squeem for every-day wear under clothes. Supportive shapewear is also a good option for support without excessive squeeze. I also have an EzyFit for a little extra support without too much squeeze while working out. I do not wear my binder to bed and only wear it for a few hours each day. I would not recommend a tight corset, waist trainer, or anything that restricts your breathing or movement.

 

Binding on its own will do more harm than good. You also need a good exercise regimen. An exercise program needs to focus on strengthening the abdominals in conjunction with the pelvic floor and back. As a former Certified PErsonal Trainer I am comfortable just working out on my own at home or at the gym. You aren’t likely to find a DR friendly class at your local gym. Armed with the knowledge shared here, however, you should eb able to modify any program to work for you. If you don’t mind working out at home there are several great options.  Lindsay Brin has an excellent post natal slim down DVD if you are looking for a simple work-out. If you want a more intense program check out the MuTu system or The Dia Method. These are a bit more expensive, but are also more focused specifically on healing your diastasis recti.

Love Yourself, but Strive for Your Best Self

Now I have to add that it’s important to love your body the way it is. You have accomplished something amazing by growing and birthing a new life. Honor those tiger stripes mama; you earned them! Then go ahead and tell yourself this isn’t the best you can be and you want, no you DESERVE more!  You are of infinite worth and should be able to look in the mirror and be happy with what you see. Sometimes that just means altering our mindset, but often it means working on altering our physical appearance in a healthy manner. Most often it requires both working together. Give yourself grace to be where you are while still striving to be the best self that you know you can be.

Do you have diastasis recti? What methods have you used to heal it? Please feel free to share any additional tips or resources in the comments.

Self-Care is NOT Selfish!

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“You have to put your own oxygen mask on first” How often have you heard that phrase? I know I’ve heard it every time I fly. I’ve also heard it thrown around a lot in reference to motherhood and wifehood. What does it really mean?

Often as women we find ourselves putting everyone else first. We serve, serve, serve, until we are totally burned out. Now don’t get me wrong, selfless service is a VERY good thing, but even the best things in unhealthy amounts can be damaging. So how do you determine when you need to back off, say no, and practice some self care?

I’ll let you know when I figure it out! Seriously though here’s the difference in my mind. Self-care is putting your NEEDS above other people’s WANTS. Selfish is putting your WANTS above other people’s NEEDS.

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Usually determining this is pretty easy. I NEED to eat breakfast. My kid WANTS me to play with them. The hard part comes in when you and another person have conflicting needs. I NEED sleep. My baby NEEDS to be fed in the middle of the night. Now I have to figure out how we can both get what we need. Sometimes determining if something is a need or a want can be difficult too. We all want time off to just relax and rejuvenate. At a certain point this becomes a need. Once the need has been met it once again becomes a want. It is especially difficult in marriage to balance this seesaw between things that can at any time be a want or a need for either spouse.

5 Simple Steps to Becoming Muchier

If you read my first post you’ll already know all about muchness, if you haven’t check it out here. Are you ready to transform yourself into a “much more muchier” version of yourself? Of course the journey looks different for every person, but here are a few tips to get you started on creating your own path.

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Recognize What You Have Lost

For a long time I knew I wasn’t happy, but it took me a while to figure out why. It was so easy to blame things on my circumstances and relationships. It was much harder to look inward and take responsibility for my own happiness in life. Fact is I’ve been through some pretty hard stuff, and life is still hard. Wallowing in self pity is EXTREMELY tempting at times. How could I regain my happiness DESPITE my trials, instead of getting lost in the thinking that life had to be perfect first? I started looking back on my childhood and asked what about me has changed? What things am I doing differently? What things did I love that I have now given up? What talents have I buried instead of growing? Identifying what exactly it was about me that had changed, and whether those changes were good or bad was the first step in becoming muchier.

Identify What You Need

Ask yourself the hard question “what can I change now to be more true to myself and find peace, and even joy, in the midst of the chaos that is life?” Not what can you change about your circumstances or what do you wish others would change about themselves. Be brutally honest, what do you need/want to change about YOU? Maybe you need to speak up for yourself more. Maybe you need to pursue a talent or passion that you once had. Maybe you need to leave an abusive situation. Maybe you need to work more hours, or less. Only you know what exactly it is that you need. Ask yourself is there anything that I used to love as a kid that I no longer do? Are there any specific character traits I had as a child that I wish I hadn’t lost? Is there any knowledge that I wish I had pursued? What did I want to be when I grew up and do I still want that?

Find a Great Mentor and Support System

Change is hard for anyone, but when you are suffering from a lost of muchness you may find that your ability to change yourself has been completely eradicated. It is crucial to surround yourself with people who can support you and push you to keep going. Find someone who will ask the hard questions and not let you make excuses. You need someone who is going to give you a swift kick to the rear when needed, and not let you make excuses for yourself. Use mental health professionals, friends, online groups, life coaches, or any other resource you can. The more support you have the better.

Define Your Purpose

I believe that everyone needs to have a purpose in life. True joy is found in having and working towards a goal that really means something to you personally. I’m not talking about a goal that has a finish point, like making 15 sales or taking 10 photographs a day. I’m talking about a deep and never ending purpose that motivates you throughout your entire life. When you have a purpose you may find that so many little things in life just don’t seem to matter as much as they used to. Just as every person is unique so are our life purposes. What really helped me refine my purpose was creating a manifesto. This was something I did as a part of Christine’s Blogging Brilliantly class. She had me write down hundreds of statements in different forms and answering different questions. I then cut out all of those statements onto wordstrips and sorted them to decide what were my top thoughts and ideas that had to be included. My manifesto is below and you can read Christine’s manifesto here.

What is my purpose? I celebrate the nobility in motherhood through writing, fashion, and art as I care for my own large family. This isn’t just a one time achieve it and I’m done goal. This is a purpose that can and does drive me in everything I do.

Take Action

This is by far the hardest part of this entire process. It’s easy to know we need a change and dream about a change. It’s also very easy to come up with a million reasons why we can’t do it. It’s scary, it’s hard, and sometimes it looks near impossible. I clearly remember a phone call with Christine where she suggested I stop trying to be a full time photographer and focus on my blogging instead. WHAT?!?! You are telling me to give up on my dream? I wanted to fight back, I wanted to resist, but deep down I knew she was right. As she talked to me she had been able to hear the passion in my voice for motherhood and my large family. Caring for them was stopping me from making my business a real success. Trying to get such a time intensive a business up and running was stopping me from being the mother I wanted to be. As we talked about the possibility of focusing on the things I could do from home it all clicked into place. That didn’t make it any easier to take action even though I knew it was the right action to take. It was very hard to give up that dream of being a full time birth and family photographer. Knowing and embracing my life purpose allowed me to refocus and accept that maybe that will happen at a later season in my life. I still fear that no one will want to read what I have to write. There are days where I look at my art supplies and the thought of creating something from my heart and having it rejected is terrifying. As I become “much more…muchier” it is getting easier and easier.

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You Can Find Your Muchness

Muchness isn’t something disappears never to be seen again. It is something that we can work at and build upon every day. It is knowing that we have a purpose and that we are creating the path that will help us fulfill it. It is taking responsibility for yourself and your happiness. It is the process of shedding the pressure of living up to someone else’s standards and instead creating our own measuring posts.

Muchness is where the true happiness and joy in life are found, no matter what may be going on around you.

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What is Muchness, and Where did it Go?

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A few years ago I watched Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and absolutely loved it. As I watched, however, it took a lot to fight back the tears. It was like watching a fantastical version of my own life. Precocious imaginative child grows up to become a mere shadow of her real self. She has completely forgotten who she was. While doing her best to please everyone around her and live up to societal expectations she loses her muchness and now believes “I don’t slay, I couldn’t even if I wanted to.”

I’m not sure when exactly everything changed for me. When I stopped being the real me and started being what I thought everyone wanted from me. The result was, however, that I was a pretty empty shell of a person. My mouth smiled, but it rarely spread to my eyes. I would answer the question “how are you ?” with “Great!”, then feel sick inside because I knew it was a lie. I had a hard time sleeping, even though I was perpetually exhausted. I spent my days cooking, cleaning, booger wiping, diaper changing, and doing everything else to take care of my family. No matter how hard I worked I felt like a failure because I never got my to do list done. I often did nothing other than the necessities to keep my kids alive. Why bother busting your butt to achieve perfection when you are just going to fail anyway? I was a total mombie!

 

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I wasting my life away trying so hard to make everyone around myself happy. Now don’t get me wrong, there is great value in serving others and some of the greatest joy in life is found in service, but I wasn’t doing it the right way. I was so focused on what others wanted, not what they needed, and they all wanted different things. I would never be pretty enough, good enough, talented enough. My house would never be clean enough, or children as well-behaved as they should.  Pleasing everyone is just impossible and the more I tried the more of my muchness I lost. I completely lost sight of the importance of self-cer in my life.

Just like Alice I was lost in a world where everyone told me who I should be, and who I was. What I should be doing, and what I shouldn’t. This left me feeling empty, drained, and completely inadequate. One day, just like Alice, I finally woke up. “This is my dream…I make the path!”

I choose who I am. I choose what I value. I have a choice, and I can slay my Jabberwock. I can’t really tell you the story of the moment when everything turned around. It’s not just my story to tell. I can tell you it was with the help of one kind compassionate friend who told me “Whatever you decide I will support you 100%”.  I was set free. I was empowered to make a choice that was best for ME and follow it through knowing that if I fell it was ok. Someone was there to catch me and help me learn how to fly.

It was time for me to stop making excuses and start making changes. I was no longer willing to be a passive observer in my own life. As I started living my life with more intention and thoughtfulness things have begun to fall into place. I have been blessed to meet people and have experiences that I never imagined possible. I have learned so much about myself and who I am. I have a voice again. The precocious child who knows who she is and what she wants in life is back! I’m back. I have my muchness. I know who I am.

I am not ashamed or embarrassed by others negative thoughts on large families. I hold my head high when other women tell me that I am damaging their feminist movement by choosing to stay home. I ignore those who tell me that I am somehow hurting my kids by homeschooling them, or worse hurting the rest of the world by not having my kids in public school. I create the art that I love, without guilt for spending time on it or fear that others won’t like it. I am open and honest about my needs and desires with my spouse. I’ve put more appropriate limits on my children and taught them to be more independent. I bought new clothes for myself, at retail instead of from the thrift store, and they have the fun colors and patterns that I love. I get up, dress up, and show up for my life every day (well almost every day, every girl needs a day to veg out in their pajamas with netflix every now and again) I’m even planning to dye my hair crazy colors as I always dreamed, but was afraid was inappropriate.

And now I am ready to carry what I’ve found forward and use it to bless YOU!

If you are struggling to find your muchness don’t give up. You can do it. You are a wonderfully unique individual and the world needs your beauty! Just jump, because if you do you just may fly and if you don’t, well then pick up the pieces and move forward with your head high. Failure is nothing more than the quickest path to success.

It’s your life. YOU make the path.

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