This post is in response to a request from another Momaroo reader who wanted to know more about my personal experience with diastasis recti (a.k.a. the Mama belly). I want to start off by saying that I am afraid people will read this as an advertisement for a product and that is in no way what I intend. I am simply telling you my experience and I have nothing to gain in it at all. Except the hope that someone will read this who needs to know *it can be done without surgery* and without killing yourself with exercises and dieting (I believe in moderation and in being healthy in general).
I'm scared to put myself out there but here we go.
First the facts, simply put. My first child was born by cesarean (after induction) at almost 42 weeks, and my second was a VBAC around 38 weeks. I did not gain crazy amounts of weight, but being small framed, pregnancy took a toll on my abs. I worked my butt off after that cesarean (when it was safe and when it wasn't too painful anymore which took a while) and never ever saw results that I wanted. Then 2 years later, I became pregnant again. I showed almost immediately. I know why now. I had a diastasis recti.
Here is a picture demonstration of what that is:
For those of you who are paying attention to shape, notice the sides of that left torso. I know that is how I looked. Pretty much straight up and down on the sides, no definition. Shapeless. Unless you looked at my belly which was round and protruded.
Before I began my rehabilitation process, I researched like you wouldn't believe. I am a skeptic by nature. I needed something that made sense medically and scientifically. My research made me mad. I was mad at the medical world for not addressing this issue from a non-surgical standpoint. I was mad at the amount of scams out there that prey on insecure new Moms. Not on that, but bottom line, it did not make sense to me that the only muscle in the body that you couldn't rehabilitate were the abs. I refused to accept my Dr's suggestion that I needed a referral to a surgeon.
I found the Tupler rehabilitation program. It is a physical therapy sort of rehab. I had an 8 finger separation between my abdominal muscles (which is on the more severe side - I could fit 8 fingers into that "hole" between my abs). Here's a picture of what I looked like at the beginning of my rehabilitation (although this is not technically me, it is exactly what I looked like but I didn't have the courage or hope or confidence to take a picture).
Scary, right? But also reality. That is what I looked like if I let loose. I'm pretty sure a lot of you are familiar with this. By the end of the first day or so, I was making the connection to my lower abdominal muscles during my isometric squeezes (those are the specific exercises you do while wearing a diastasis recti splint to try and put the muscles back toward the middle where they belong). That was a big deal to me, because it was the first time I had been able to feel my lower abdominal muscles since my cesarean. I blogged about the beginning stages of this here at Momaroo. http://www.momaroo.com/744201684/diastasis-and-my-mommy-belly/
The majority of the Tupler rehabilitation program is an easy 6 week course. Here I am (really me) 2 weeks into the program:
I had already significantly improved. And 2 inches had already come off my belly measurement. Mind you, there was no weight loss (weight loss is a separate issue from diastasis recti entirely).
Here I was 4 weeks into the program (still no weight loss, just rehabilitation of my diastasis):
I had such a significant improvement that, sadly, I lost my motivation at that point to keep going. Life happened, things got busy, we were buying our first house, blah blah blah, my rehab was put on the back burner. My separation had improved to 4 fingers (from 8). I was stoked! Everyone was noticing that I looked smaller. I felt better about myself.
So that's my story. I hope it can provide you with hope and me with motivation to finish. It's been 6 months since that last picture and I look the same. I know i need to finish closing that gap though, not only for aesthetic reasons but also for medical reasons. It is not healthy to have a diastasis recti. It easily leads to umbilical hernias (as we can imagine) and back pain is common. But is also an issue that the medical community has by and large ignored and women have lamented their bodies in secret.
Three things I learned:
1. My pouch was/is reversible without surgery.
2. Crunches make a diastasis recti worse!
3. it wasn't belly fat, it was my abdominal contents being (un)supported by my abdominal muscles.
I hope this is something that was helpful for at least one of you to read. If you want to know more about the Tupler rehabilitation program, a quick google will take you there. I'm not trying to sell anything, so I'm not linking for that reason. But there is hope for your mama's belly. You don't have to wait until you decide not to have any more children, you don't need to kill yourself in the gym, you don't need to starve yourself, and most of all *you* don't need surgery.