Pregnancy creates some unknown residuals. The women in my life are thankfully brutally honest about the challenges pregnancy can sometimes create; hardcore exhaustion, weight gain in places you didn’t know could swell, calcium deficiency, teeth decay — you name it.
Such like-mindedness creates a sense of community and understanding. Very much a, “Girrrl, I know how you feel” and a warm blanket feeling without feeling judged.
But there was one post-partem side effect no one warned me about: Diastasis Recti.
After giving birth to my second baby, who is now seven months, I noticed my tummy hadn’t retracted the way it did after giving birth the first time. Four months after Eli’s birth, I still saw myself looking down at my non-deflating tummy.
I began judging myself.
CREDIT: Yolanda Lopez
I would look at myself in the mirror, assess my progress, wonder why my stomach hadn’t deflated and I would pick it apart like a game of Operation.
It is my genes? Generations of women on both sides of my parents are not “thin” and certainly don’t stem from a clean-eating diet. Is it my hormones? Isn’t nursing is supposed to aide in losing weight at a faster pace? I’m Latina, I’m curvy, so I tried to convince myself that it’d take a while. I forced myself to accept that I am not supposed to “bounce back” in weeks like celebrities do — with the help of trainers and chefs, of course.
Rather than visit my gynecologist right away, I rationalized all the reasons why my tummy was still rock-hard and inflated after four months. Honestly, I was also worried that she, too, would cast judgment on me and tell me “it’s normal” or that I was just being vain.
I began eating lighter, smaller portioned meals because I thought shifting my eating habits would prove successful and my stomach would return to normalcy. I was looking to be able to say that my stretch marks and small kangaroo pouch would be the worst of my post-partem look and my “looks like you still have a baby, mommy” bulge would dissipate.
I waited another month but when the dull pain became more intense, I finally went to see my doctor. I lifted my blouse and surveyed her reaction.
“Diastasis recti and possible hernia,” my doctor said.
I had no idea what that meant.
Diastasis recti is a medical term that basically means separation of the abdominal muscles. This is common in 2/3 of women who have been pregnant, apparently. If left untreated after eight weeks, the core is severely affected and all muscles in the ab areas are compromised; this lack of stability and protection affects the whole body functionally. As for my hernia, it was an umbilical hernia to be exact. There was also a possibility that my previous C-section stitches came undone.
I was both relieved for finally knowing the traumas are repairable, but upset that I hadn’t listened to my intuition and gone to see my doctor sooner. Early detection and a simple two-second measurement test would have indicated muscle damage. A few weeks of physical therapy could have corrected the muscle damage. I could have avoided surgery and not interrupt the nursing routine I now have with my baby. But because I waited for some time, my doctor suggested surgery since I’m confident I’m not having any more children.
Even after I found relief in knowing there was something to be done to get rid or the pain, the judgment continues.
I casually told an acquaintance (and someone who I thought might relate because she’s also a mom), about it all and she snidely quipped, “Oh, that’s a tummy tuck.”
Damn. Can a woman catch a break?
I’m not sure why I felt the need to defend myself by clarifying it was medical. And it’s painful. So painful sometimes that I can’t carry my baby and have to sit down with him.
Still, my warm-blanket friends understand and fully support me. “Heck, if I were you I’d get a tummy tuck. They’re already going to open you up.” I laugh at the thought but simultaneously know I’d be judged for the silver lining.
Rather than dwell in my disappointment, I accepted what I cannot change and embrace health and what is. I remind myself that I just had a baby because positive affirmation helps. So does surgery.