I was probably hugely naive but I was completely unprepared for what would happen to my body after having a baby. Before getting pregnant I had never had to watch what I ate and I while I was aware that I would not get my figure back the day after giving birth I definitely thought that things would get back to ‘normal’ after a month or two.
In retrospect, there were a number of warning signs I missed that should have altered me that this was not going to be the case. I did a lot of ‘resting’ and ‘eating for two’ during pregnancy and consequently I was HUGE. I went on maternity leave at 28 weeks and spent a lot of that time going out for coffee, always accompanied by a slice of cake. I had put on the recommended two stone that you are supposed to gain by the end of pregnancy by 20 weeks, and when my son arrived he weighed in at 9 pounds 11.
So I should not have been surprised when four months after having my son I was getting asked, “When’s it due?” if I went out without him. The situation became even worse after I had my daughter. I can still remember vividly the day I managed to get a rare afternoon off from my then 2 year old and 6 month old and headed to the shops full of excitement to get my holiday wardrobe sorted. As the afternoon progressed my confidence sunk lower and lower. All of the places where I used to shop only stocked bikinis, which there was no way I could contemplate. I ended up in desperation clutching a hideous miracle shape changing swimsuit two sizes bigger than I was pre-pregnancy. Then I was hit with the sinking realisation as I looked in the mirror of the changing room and saw what my body had become. It seemed to sum up all the negative feelings I had about becoming a mother; out of control, unattractive, frumpy and just not ‘me’. I sat down in the changing room and cried. As soon as my husband got home later that evening I went for my first run in three years.
Fast forward six months and I had been completely bitten by the fitness bug. I was doing circuits twice a week, spin and had signed up to doing a marathon. I felt in a much better place mentally and had got down to a healthy weight but things were still not right. Whilst the rest of my body had slimmed down my stomach stubbornly refused to budge, and actually in some ways looked worse as it was now totally out of proportion with the rest of my body. On top of this, once I started running longer distances for marathon training I started experiencing problems with my pelvic floor.
Luckily I discussed these issues with Laura and she checked me for a diastasis recti (abdominal separation) and discovered that I had a three-finger gap that was very deep in my lower abdomen. She gave me some corrective exercises and made me stay away from high impact activities until the gap had decreased. One month later I was down to two fingers and within three months it was less than one and I could feel my core was so much stronger (and as a bonus I no longer looked 3 months pregnant!).
These experiences inspired me to train as a Pilates instructor and specialise in pre and postnatal fitness. I am passionate about the importance of exercise in helping empower mums and enabling them to reconnect with their bodies. I also want to make sure that they are informed about how to exercise safely and effectively both before and after pregnancy. I know how important it is to be doing the right sort of exercise after having a baby, particularly if you are trying to get rid of the ‘mummy tummy’. If you want to find out more about diastasis recti read our blog about it here. We’ve put together an infographic with some gentle core strengthening exercises that will help you start repairing the gap. For more Pilates exercises to strengthen your core muscles and diastasis friendly fitness workouts why not check out our postnatal programme.