Six Packs, Stretch Marks and Cellulite... Returning to aerials, post pregnancy.
So, I am just shy of 7 months postpartum, and what a ride it's been.
First here's a quick recap on my pregnancy, in one short and not so sweet sentence.
I hated it!
Yup, every bit of it! However, this blog is not about dwelling on the past. What is done is done (thank goodness!).
[If you’re curious about my pregnancy journey, you can check it out here: Flying Through Pregnancy - An Aerialist’s Encounter.]
And to all those beautiful souls that shared their wise (and mainly unwanted) words throughout my pregnancy journey, I can officially confirm the following for them:
1. I do NOT miss being pregnant, nor have I even once, these last 7 months
2. Not once have i "wished he was back in, now that he is out”.. No, No, NO!
3. I still do not believe my pregnancy was a miracle. Yes my son is amazing! Watching him grow, learn and explore is incredible and I love every minute of it... But it's not a miracle.
4. No I have not been stricken with pregnancy amnesia, and therefore forgotten my 55 hour hellish birth, and I really don't think it's possible to in the near future!
5. I still regard my own health, fitness and physique as highly important to me, despite those that say “Your priorities change, you won’t care about anything but the baby once he’s here”
Ok, so let’s get down to business! (Grab a coffee, or a wine… this may take a while!)
Whilst I was pregnant I set myself many short and long term goals as far as getting back on track with my fitness, training and performing.
Once my beautiful little boy arrived, and for the blur of months following, I realised just how naive I had been with some of these goals!
Not the goals themselves so much, more the time frame, and the lack of understanding I had of just how much damage could be done during pregnancy and child birth!
In all honesty, I seriously thought that all I had to worry about was my abs splitting. And this was a HUGE stress for me, as not only do I LOVE my abs, but obviously their strength
is kind of a necessity for me in my profession as an aerialist!
Well, my abs did split, it was inevitable… I ended up with around a three finger separation. But the good news is they are BACK! With the right rehab, rest and recovery, my abs actually came back together completely in around 4 weeks postpartum. (The next challenge was getting them to come out of hiding, which took quite a while longer!)
I quickly learnt, however, that there was more fun in store for me!
Now, bear with me on this as I dive into my recovery journey with you. It started at 2 weeks postpartum (prior to that everything is pretty much a blur of feed, change, sleep repeat!).
2 Weeks PP: I saw a reputable women’s health physio who basically told me “There is nothing I can do for you, you had a 55 hour labour 2 WEEKS AGO. Go home, look after your baby and rest! Come back and see me at 6 weeks PP and we’ll go from there”
Hmmm… not entirely what I wanted to hear! But I went home and did just that, kind of.
I walked twice a day and occasionally attempted something at my studio like one chin up, or one invert from the ground… just out of curiosity.
5 Weeks PP: I went for an appointment with another women’s health physio.
Now she had a quick feel of my abs, asked me some questions and said “Right, you’re good to go! You can get straight back into all your training!”
I questioned her on “ALL”, but that is literally what she meant! Aerials, plyometrics, running, bootcamp etc.
So, compared to Physio 1, Physio 2 was singing a TOTALLY different tune! And whilst I much preferred Physio 2’s melody, something just didn't seem right.
I went home sort of happy, but also doubtful, and decided to go for my first jog to see how it felt.
Well… I got not even 1km in and felt like my insides were literally about to fall out my baby maker and splat all over the road! Things did not feel right at all, down there. So I walked home disheartened, and made my 6 week follow up appointment with Physio 1.
Might I add that at Physio 1’s initial appointment she asked me questions and took notes regarding my pregnancy, birth, postpartum bladder/bowel control and movements and SO much more for over an hour.
Physio 2: she mainly just asked how the baby was going and how I was liking being a mother.
6 Weeks PP: Follow up appointment with Physio 1.
Brace yourselves, this is where it gets a bit more gross and personal.
However, if you’re like me and are a professional performer of years, then you kinda already have no shame anyway. Add to that having a baby in a public hospital, and you more than likely have no dignity left either!
My appointment involved a full internal examination. Yes, just when I thought having random medical professionals hands up my hooha was over… think again! Now this is only done at 6 weeks and generally no earlier, due to the swelling in the area, which I’m not going to go into further detail about here!
Physio 1 was checking for prolapses, tears and weakness to my pelvic floor. And the ONLY way to do this is by a thorough, internal examination with an experienced professional (some of the PF checks are also done with an ultrasound.).
Now I’m no expert but this I am 100% certain about… if you go to or have gone to a women’s health specialist postpartum, and they clear you to recommence your training again WITHOUT doing an internal examination, they actually have no idea whether or not your body is ready for training again at all. And therefore you have no idea how much more damage you are about to do to your body, by going back too soon.
So what’s the big deal? Well, one in three women who have a vaginal birth suffer from some degree of an organ prolapse… ONE IN THREE!!! And I guarantee you the majority of these women have no idea that this is a thing!
The repercussions of not knowing and not treating this… well, no biggy, you may just need to carry your bladder around in a hand bag next to you, by the time you’re 50!
Anyway this examination confirmed that I was in fact suffering from a grade 2 bladder prolapse. So that jog I attempted, when I felt like things were falling out… well, um yeah… turns out they were!
I was given more pelvic floor, transverse abdominis and core rehab to focus on, and other than that told to come for a follow up again in 6 weeks.
I was a good girl, for the most part. But again I did attempt some basic climbs, inverts and pull ups and whoa did I feel like an absolute beginner all over again!!! That’s when I revised my goals with my Aerial Goal Tracker and started to get a more realistic game plan sorted!
[You can download my FREE Aerial Goal Tracker and read more about my approach to training here: Free Aerial Goal Tracker]
At 4 months PP I was fitted with a cube pessary by Physio 1. as I just really needed to get back in to training properly and was going a little crazy! In short, the pessary holds my bladder up allowing me to train without further damage.
50% of woman who suffer bladder prolapse’s, post vaginal birth, eventually go back to normal. 50% don’t. In short, I may be wearing a pessary for the rest of my active life.
Want to know more about it? Google it.
But please trust me on this... DO NOT GOOGLE PROLAPSED BLADDER IMAGES! (You're totally going to aren't you? Don't say I didn't warn you!)
So, now I had my box firmly placed up, ermmm… my box… I was ready to go!
I had to start off slow, but now that I had given my body the proper time to heal and flush out most the crazy pregnancy hormones, I felt my strength and fitness start coming back swiftly.
No, no I did not “bounce” back, as some have suggested. And there was no magic pill or secret to my success. What I did (and continue to do) was work my butt off, eat well and train hard when given the green light, in order to smash my goals and achieve what I had set out to.
About a month after I started training properly, I was visibly leaning out again, and started looking and feeling more like me.
I did my first professional show back at 6 months postpartum, and it was such a rush to be back up there doing my thing!
My gorgeous little boy is 7 months old next week.
I’m feeling fit, healthy, motivated and happy. I’m not quite back to “normal”, but I know I’m not far off! And after all of the challenges and obstacles I’ve overcome these past 12 months, the long term goal is now to exceed my pre pregnancy strength and fitness!
If I could go back in time and tell myself anything regarding my postpartum journey, it would be to slow down, listen to my body and let it do the healing that it needs.
You hear a lot of people saying “It took 9 months for your body to make a baby, and it will take 9 months for it to recover.” Knowing what I do now, I can’t agree with this more!
My advice for all my aerial/pole/fitness mummy’s to be:
Find a reputable women's health professional for pre and post natal care and advice. If your training and your body mean enough to you, it’s the least you can do for it!
Don’t listen to people telling you “You’ll be fine and back to normal by 6 weeks postpartum”.
If “normal” for you is sedentary, then yes, you will be back to this in 6 weeks for sure.
Remember, what we ask our bodies to do with the training we do is pretty unique and also intense. Try to find a professional that understands your training. Take your time once your bub arrives, as much as you are itching to train again.
Enjoy every moment with your beautiful baby, and know that when your body is ready, you’ll be able to get back to it all again.
Your body will thank you later, for giving it the rest and care it needs now!
Thanks for reading!
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