Six years ago this little one’s birth changed my entire life. I know we all say that, but her birth literally shifted the trajectory of my professional life.
The nine months before she was born was a transition for me. I left a job as the head athletic trainer and teacher at a high school where I’d worked for 8 years to stay home with my son and my soon-to-be baby. It was a bit of a struggle. During that year I started teaching prenatal yoga and completed my first health coaching certification. I had taught yoga at the high school while I worked there and the prenatal fitness spin seemed like a natural progression. I had also completed my doula training shortly before I got pregnant with her, and I spent those nine months attending births as a doula and also as a midwife’s assistant. I thought I was on a path as a birth worker and maybe a midwife. But then Darcy was born.
I couldn’t have asked for a better birth. Three years before I experienced at 27-hour labor with my son that ended in a 3rd-degree tear. A tear that traveled into my vagina and tore arteries, which results in a lot of blood loss and a trip from the birth center to the hospital to get stitched up properly. Obviously, I was a bit nervous about birth #2, but I didn’t need to be. My labor was easy until the end (just intense as everyone’s is), and Darcy literally slipped out in the caul to my husband’s hands. We had done Hypnobirthing and so I breathed down and practiced passive pushing, instead of the hard pushing I’d done with my son.
Fast forward about 2 weeks. I was experiencing hemorrhoids that we so painful. I decided to get a mirror out and see exactly what was going on down there, and boy did I find a surprise. There was something at the opening of my vagina. I knew enough that it wasn’t supposed to be there and that it was a prolapse of some kind. I was devastated. I called my midwife ASAP and she was able to see me. Yes, a prolapse, but not sure what to do. I had heard Lynn Schulte speak at a doula event the year before and immediately made an appointment with her. Prolapse confirmed - and I had 3 all between grades 2-3. It was through Lynn that I was first introduced to both Katy Bowman and hypopressives. I went home with some basic exercises and of course, hit the internet to see what life held for me.
Everything was so negative. No running. No lifting. I might be wearing a pessary for the rest of my life. My active life was going to be confined to walking and water aerobics. I was a rower then, and that seemed unlikely since I have to lift a boat overhead.
I was completely devastated. My body had failed me. My butter birth and beautiful birth experience seemed all of the naught because now I was broken and nothing could fix me. I fell into a depression. I couldn’t imagine how my husband and I would ever be intimate again - how would he because to be with me when things were falling out. I was a hideous being, and no one online had any positive words to make me feel differently. Nothing in my pre and postnatal fitness training had prepared me for this, and the pelvic floor is not something covered in the athletic training curriculum.
But then I thought back to my work as an athletic trainer. The pelvic floor is simply a group of muscles. Muscles that are not performing functionally and allowing my organs to slip out of place. It wasn’t so different than rotator cuff issues, where the muscles fail during the movement of the shoulder and allow the tendons to get pinched between the bones. Or patella femoral syndrome, where alignment of the bones and weakness of some of the supporting musculature cause the patella to slip outside of its groove and track incorrectly. All of these other orthopedic muscle dysfunction issues could be fixed with rehab, so what makes the pelvic floor so different? If I can take an athlete from total knee reconstruction back to major league play, why can’t I get myself back to the recreational activities that I love so much? There wasn’t a reason that I could see, and that’s where my path changed.
I started down the road to help postpartum women reclaim their active lives. I sought out any pelvic floor courses that I could take (most were geared towards PTs, but as an ATC I was allowed to take the courses). I studied all of the different theories. Katy Bowman’s Restorative Exercise Specialist certification opened up and I signed up right away. Her teaching in biomechanics and alignment fit nicely into my establish rehab approach to other injuries, and the fact that she was so knowledgeable about the pelvic floor was a bonus. I followed Jenny Burrell and Julie Wiebe. Antony Lo got on my radar and I started listening to his work regarding Crossfit athlete with pelvic floor dysfunction. I started implementing what I learned into my own healing and it was working. And so I started sharing it with you all.
As I continued on this path I realized that pelvic floor and core issues were just part of the problem. As we get older, we struggle with these conditions for sure, but we also slow down because of back pain, and knee pain, and shoulder pain, and just being so gosh darn tight and tired. I knew that my work and experience in both sports injuries and pelvic floor conditions could benefit so many more women - especially those of us who are over 35 and are a bit terrified that the creeping pains just might take us out. Personally, I refuse to let them — I’m stubborn like that. Tell me I can’t do something, and I’ll find a way that I can, all while staying within set boundaries.
I have a new branch of the path in front of me - it’s actually a bit of a fork where both options end in the same place with different journeys. I’m deciding which I’ll take, but I know the main part of the journey will allow me to work more one-on-one and hands-on with women in pain, and help them move better and return to play.
So you can see how this day is not only the day that gave me this special girl, but how it’s also the anniversary of my discovering what I was called to do. That message hasn’t always been clear at the moment, but looking back it’s pretty obvious. There definitely was some magic in that caul Darcy was born in that must have transferred a bit to me. And just as I can’t wait to see what else my daughter has to show and teach me, I can’t wait to see where this professional path takes me as well. What I know for sure is that I just want to help you overcome those obstacles on your path. When others have told you that you can’t do an activity because of pain or dysfunction, I want to help you find the way that you can. Are you with me? I hope so. It’s going to be quite an adventure, I can guarantee it.
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