I, like most people - was always under the impression that for a caterpillar to transform into a butterfly they simply encase themselves in a cocoon, sprout wings and poof! They are now a butterfly. The reality is much more gruesome…caterpillars completely liquify in that cocoon. Their cells melt, then reassemble…and build a butterfly from scratch. It is a complete physical metamorphosis, though they retain memory of their former caterpillar self.
I can think of no better metaphor for motherhood.
Being pregnant is hard. Physically it feels like carrying a sack of heavy groceries around with you 24/7. Weird things happen to your body…I was vomiting from acid reflux and had extreme carpal tunnel in my hands until the day I delivered. Pregnancy is hard…but in a tangible “I have a big bump bc I am carrying a tiny human who has displaced my organs” kind of way. It’s cute. People smile at you, and you feel special.
And..then baby comes out and you realize the smiles were at the unborn baby, not you. The baby comes out in an explosion…contractions literally are like that. A focusing of pain and energy in the core of your being, that climaxes in your own personal Big Bang. A new world is created, and the pieces of you you have spent your life putting together - your sense of self and identity, your sense of order, how you eat, how you walk, how your day starts and ends - explode. It is both physical and emotional, this explosion. A Mother emerges from the cocoon, alongside the baby.
Your job as a Mother is now to try to pick up the old pieces of yourself and put them back together into your new incarnation…and carry a baby while you do it.
Physically, I thought I knew my body. I delivered Leo at 41. I had never had cellulite. I had awesome abs. I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight. But now my body is completely different. And the most confusing and mysterious part of this puzzle is what happens to my pelvic floor.
For two years I have felt “loose’, and confused as to what has happened to my insides. I have a mummy tummy crunches won’t fix. I have had lower back pain, neck pain…full body pain. I pee myself a bit about ten times a day. I visited various doctors in the beginning of this postpartum journey, and was told I have mild prolapse…this means my pelvic floor and transverse abdominus have been so stretched out that now my guts rest in a pile in my pelvis creating downward pressure. “Do Kegels!” I am told…”Youtube it!” And I do. But no progress…I resign myself to this is the way life is now. I will always feel something is off.
I was finally directed by a yoga teacher friend to ourfitfamilylife.com for a postpartum program. Another great program is by mutumamas.com . In 10 to 20 min a day you can fix prolapse over time…but honestly, just the visual explanations provided by these programs were enough for me to get 50% improvement in my back pain in a week. Just having it clearly explained to me what had happened, and given a few exercises has allowed me to make more progress in fixing my issue in 6 weeks than I had in 2 years.
Why this information is not printed on a page and handed to you when you leave the hospital with your baby literally boggles my mind. The fact that millions - probably billions - of women are out there with their insides sloshing around needlessly is a tragedy, in that it could be easily fixed with just a bit of support.
And yet…even taking 15 minutes a day for myself now seems impossible. The Mom Guilt owns me…somehow now biologically I am programmed to put myself last. And society supports this idea that motherhood = sacrificing yourself constantly…that it “comes with the territory”. The people who decided that are not mothers, and don’t know what it’s like. So do yourself a favor and ignore those constraints.
So, if I have two bits of advice for Moms and aspiring Moms out there it would be:
1. Invest in a good pelvic floor rehab program or therapist pre and post baby. You can not fix what happens to your body without this so don’t waste your time trying.
2. Make time to take care of yourself and guard it with your life…and do NOT feel guilty about it.
Easier said than done I know. I struggle with Mom Guilt every moment of every day. But just taking fifteen minutes a day to fix my prolapse with pelvic floor exercises has made me feel exponentially better. Looking good matters…feeling good matters. Guard that space with your life. It will take a lot of effort to do so. We all know what the pandemic has done to us. How we have held it together…only a mother could understand. You deserve to make a bit of space and time to fix yourself, don’t let anyone make you think otherwise…especially yourself.
Mothers run the world. It is a new dimension to existence…look to other mothers for support and understanding. Wishing all the moms out there an amazing day, a day to celebrate for ourselves that metamorphosis into Mother.