Diastasis Recti: Shame in the Middle

Diastasis Recti: a separation of your outermost abdominal muscles. The job of these muscles (called rectus abdominis), is to support your back and your organs.

Umbilical hernia: a sac (pouch) formed from the inner lining of your belly (abdominal cavity) that pushes through a hole in the abdominal wall at the belly button.

Shame: a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute

Me: all of the above

diastasis

Five months ago, my sweet Miriam Jane was born.  She was actually my smallest baby, born at just 6lbs, 14oz.

miribirth

Many of you may remember my complaint towards the end of this fourth full-term pregnancy that my upper mid-section was burning all day, every day, without rest.  I went on to find out that I had developed diastasis recti, an abdominal separation that is common among women of short stature and having multiple pregnancies (or multiple babies in a single pregnancy).  This pic is me at 38 weeks.  Miriam Jane made her debut just four days later.

miribelly

During my quick check in the hospital after delivering, one of the doctors advised that I have my abdomen checked well at my six-week postpartum appointment, and until that point, take it easy.  When I went in, they recommended that I continue to wear a belly band and forgo all exercise for an additional eight weeks.  That’s fourteen weeks postpartum of no exercise.  They also informed me that, in addition to having at least a 3 cm separation, I had an umbilical hernia.  My doctor suggested I see a surgeon and warned me against doing any core exercise that could exacerbate the issues.

I left my appointment feeling so discouraged.  Not only did I find it sickening that a part of my body that was supposed to stay intact on the inside was oozing through to the outside, but the thought of surgical repair scared me to death.  Realize, I have had four natural births, zero epidurals, no c-sections…  The closest I’ve ever gotten to a real surgery was a D&C after losing EJ, and, other than anesthesia, I would consider it a pretty easy/non-life-threatening procedure.  I don’t do surgery, friends.  I am terrified.

A friend of a friend recently messaged me a detailed description of her surgery.  I had to open it about six times to make it all the way through.  I kept getting queasy just reading about it.  As much as I’d love a nip and a tuck to heal and flatten this pooch out…I can’t.

So, like any chicken would do, I vowed to watch it just heal and melt away. Amen.

Yep.  Not happening.

Granted, my diet lately hasn’t helped (way too many sweets), and I am pretty sure that I’m one of those breastfeeding moms whose body hangs onto weight rather than burns it away, because I am still 25 lbs heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight, and it hasn’t budged by even a pound in four months.

I never had any problems like this before.  Just my natural activity had done wonders after my previous deliveries.  Between running around after the kids and good eating habits, I could always get back to my normal weight/shape fairly easily.

This is me just five months after having Eden Grace.  No tricks, no diet programs, gym memberships, belly bands, or workout videos.  This is just how my body bounced back before.  I call it the “I am a busy mom of three” regimen.  You know the one…you have coffee for breakfast, get to eat a handful of blueberries for lunch, devour a healthy dinner in 45.7 seconds, and you never sit down…

meande

Notice, my “mommy tummy” was relatively small, especially in comparison to my stomach now.  The “I am an even busier mom of four” regimen isn’t working, and according to what I’ve read on diastasis recti…it’s never going to.  I have to be more intentional this time, more focused.

Those closest to me already knew about my stomach’s condition, so they’ve never said anything in naivete.  Unlike strangers, they’ve never judged me as lazy, pregnant, large, or alcoholic.

Yep.  Alcoholic.

That was a new one for me.

Enter shame.

We went to visit my brother and his family in WV this past weekend and ended up having to take one of our daughters to MedExpress for a suspected UTI.  We left Ava and Eden with my sister-in-law, and hubs and I took Isla and Miriam with us to see the doctor.  Hubs dropped the three of us off and ran some errands, expecting to be back before we were even called into the room.

If you’ve been to a MedExpress, then you know that you check in, sit and wait, and then you go to another window to verify information, sign a couple of forms and pay your co-pay.  We had already been waiting for some time when we were finally called to the billing window.  The only other people in the waiting area consisted of a woman (by herself) and a married couple (probably in their late 70s).  It was quiet and peaceful.  I had just had a nice, heartfelt conversation with the staff member at the billing window, and I returned to our seats feeling totally at peace with the moment.  Isla, before returning to coloring a picture of Elsa that I had brought along, stopped to coo over Miriam, who was pleasantly hanging out in her carseat.

The elderly woman made a comment to me across the rows noting how much Isla loves her baby sister.  “Yes,” I replied.  “She’s one of four, and she’s by far the most nurturing.”  Then, I sat down next to Isla, who had returned to her artwork.

That’s when I heard the man’s whispers.  Apparently, he didn’t know how to whisper very well.

She must drink a lot of beer.  (brief pause)  Why else would she have a belly like that?

His wife in quiet rebuttal:

She did say she had four kids.

And when I heard the wife’s response, I knew it was me.  Initially, I just thought he was talking about someone else.  A friend, a family member…  I just thought they were resuming a conversation that was taking place while I was at the window.  I was wrong, of course, and when it clicked, something snapped in my spirit.  I felt it.  It was a dead-emptiness that suddenly took over all of my thoughts, and I felt such…shame.

I never, ever felt that way before.

Beer belly?  I never even drink.  Like never.  It’s kind of a joke between one of my friends and I that she’s going to find me a wine that I can drink, because I honestly hate the taste of alcohol.

I know, you might be thinking: What’s the big deal?  If I were you, I would’ve turned around and said x,y,z…  Who cares, right?

I tried thinking those things too.  I almost turned around and explained my condition, but I didn’t.  I just sat there, in my cloud of shame and hurt feelings.

My husband walked in just as the nurse called Isla back to see the doctor.

When I told him about the whispers later on, I broke down into tears.

After consoling me, he joked, “You should’ve told them that you drink a case a day and you were drunk right then.  How else can you stay sane with all of those kids?”  I told him that I’d be dealing with a whole other can of worms, but I appreciated his humor.

Fast-forward to two days later.  Isla had her follow-up with her regular pediatrician, and then I took her fabric shopping with me in a fun, upscale neighborhood nearby.  Since I was pricing fabric for an upcoming wedding, I spent a great deal of time speaking with the shop employee.  She was so kind and helpful, so our conversation eventually turned personal with her telling me about her daughter just having a baby boy.  Then it came.  The naive and innocent dagger.

Looking directly at Isla, she said:

It looks like your mommy is going to have a baby too!

And the automatic response came quickly:

No, I just had one.

Just had one…  How long can that possibly work?  Five months, eight months, a year?  Just is reserved for newbies.  I am quickly crossing that imaginary line, if I haven’t crossed it already.

So, I did what I do.  Left the shop with a smile and a “thank you”, and took Isla to the local coffee shop, where I drowned my hurt in a blended caramel latte and a double chocolate biscotti.  Counter-productive, huh?  I know.

Since then, I’ve had a few more cries, I’ve googled a lot, I’ve called my ob/gyne doctor, and I’ve decided to buckle down and take care of this problem.  I’m still trying to avoid surgery, and luckily, my hernia is umbilical, so bringing my abdominal muscles back together should also remedy the hernia.

I have created a Pinterest board to keep all of the information I find in one place.  I am also looking into the Tupler Technique (aff. link).  I’ll keep you posted on that.  The burning pain is less noticeable, but still present, so I am going to be more diligent in wearing a belly band and remaining aware of my posture throughout the day.

As far as the shame part, I’d just appreciate your prayers.  I know that until I am able to flatten up, the comments and questions are probably going to keep coming.  Please, be kind to those moms you see out there whose postpartum bellies are still hanging around.  They just might be facing the mother of all tummy troubles too.

 

 

 

Comments

    • Laura says

      I had the exact same diagnosis and went through the same shameful experiences, cried my heart out and drs here in uk only wanted to fix my hernia but not tighten my muscles. Anyways long story short, I went for surgery, i was terrified, cried for a month but once i had booked everything i found courage and my dr. was amazing, now, 9 weeks post surgery i have the flattest of stomachs and I feel absolutely amazing, inside and out, my depression has totally lifted and i am so happy, my 3 small children are happy and my husband also. Go for the surgery and get your life back, i wasnt prepared to go through more of those experiences of shame and feeling horrible everytime i had to get dressed, trying to cover my tummy, not drinking too much water or whatever just because the hernia will pop out and make stomach look even bigger apart from burnubg sensation, I SURE DONT WANT TO LIVE THE REST OF MY LIGE LIKE THAT and you shouldnt either, you owe it to yourself, your husband and kids to look and feel great and healthy. 3 weeks after my tummy op i also decided my breast were habging too much since i breastfed all my children up to and over a year old, so I got them uplifted in another quick op, and you know what? I wasnt even afraid that second time! I am feeling amazing and i just want you to feel the same, i dont know u but i know exactly how you feel and i had researched it extensively and tried for 2 and half years to get rid of it with exercise and healthy diet, surgery was the only way left and i dobt regret it. Go for it girl!!!

  1. says

    Yes! Look at fit2b.com….total game changer for me…I have healed an 8+ diastasis thanks to Beth’s work and encouragement and knowledge…..info and blogs on my website too…www.claffs.com plus a coupon code for joining too ! Tell me if you want more info, I love sharing this info with others cause it has so changed my life!

  2. says

    I also had a DR after my 3rd child but didn’t know what it was until after my 4th when my midwife educated me about it. Mine is healed!! But it was a LONG road, my muscles are still weak but coming along. You can do it! If you want more info about how I healed mine check my post about it: foodsofourlives.com/2015/01/how-i-healed-my-diastasis-recti/

  3. says

    It’s amazing how much shame people can push into moms who have done so many wonderful things with their bodies. I just recently had my third and fourth children (twins), and am struggling with the after baby shame as well… Although in reality it’s just the normal “after baby” belly.
    You look great mama!

  4. Shannon says

    After seven full-term births, I have found myself exactly where you are. I tried so many things, including the Tupler Technique (which worked temporarily until I quit, then it all fell apart again- I just can’t do thousand of pulses a day for the rest of my life- just not doable). Then I found fit2b.com and I am finally healing and have a much flatter tummy. I can even wear fitted shirts again without fearing that someone will ask when I’m due or telling me I have a cute belly. Yes, that really happened! 😉 Fit2b is more about re-training yourself to have proper alignment and core control which you carry into every area of your life. I highly recommend looking into their program! Hugs from a mama who completely understands!

  5. zainab says

    Doing fit2b is what I’m doing!!! No hernia here though… Just a diastasis, but I am sure you will be able to benefit as well.

  6. Natasha says

    I wish I could give you a big hug! I know exactly how you feel. I have 5 kids and the youngest is 18 months. People always think I’m pregnant. I have been dealing with a diastasis for so long (9 years) and it sometimes feels hopeless. None of my mommy friends have this issue so for me it’s a lonely place. I highly recommend Fit2be. Beth is so knowledgeable and encouraging and it helps to know I’m not alone. I can see such improvement in my core when I make it a priority to wear my splint and do the videos. Beth’s nurturing sweet spirit is such a comfort!

  7. Jamie says

    Thank you for sharing!! I’m so sorry you had to endure hurtful comments. I have had 3 precious babies-all c-sections-and am realizing too that my diastasis recti is not going to fix itself. My “baby” is almost 5 now…I have no excuse.
    Hearing your story and journey gives me encouragement to “get going” with my own journey towards healing and health.
    I have been a member of Fit2B for awhile now but think I need to make Beth’s program a daily ritual.
    Blessings to you fellow mama!

  8. Tibeca says

    I’ve been where you are. 3 pregnancies, include a 9+ lb baby on a 5’1″ frame ripped me apart. Going through ab rehab with The Tummy Team and then following Fit 2 Be and I am a new person. A new amazing, STRONG person with a tummy fit for a bikini. You can be too. Good luck!

  9. Joy says

    I have the same issues. I’m currently pregnant with #4 and at the recommendation of Beth Learn who runs the fit2B website, I am doing the prenatal core rehab from The Tummy Team. Good for you learning more about DR and working to regain abdominal strength. I too am hoping to avoid surgery. Blessings for your healing journey!

  10. Ann Charlotte says

    Wow, I can’t believe some people!?!

    I’ve never been pregnant but I do have a DR. I’ve tried Fit2b.us and with a bit more self-discipline it would have worked wonders. But I decided that I need more help so I’ve just started a Core Rehab program through thetummyteam.com and I love it. Yes it costs a bit of money but it’s so worth it.

    Whatever program you decide to try out I wish you the best of luck. And remember; a loving mama is always beautiful <3

  11. Kirstin says

    Hi, Thank you for sharing your story. I had diastasis recti after carrying twins to 35+3 weeks (I am 5ft 2inches and petite). I was so conscious of my stomach for months afterwards as it took a lot longer to “deflate” than with my first. The advice I got in the UK was to give it time and that only if it was remaining at >3 finger-breadths would they consider surgery. My twins are nearly two now and my tummy is much better than it was. I lost the last of my pregnancy weight around 1 year post-partum (partly stopping breastfeeding and partly returning to work). I now just have a gap of about 1 finger-breadth. I still have a bit of a pouch, but I think this is mainly due to the C-section I needed with twin 2. I did do some core muscle exercises but mainly concentrated on doing these when lifting the boys and not regularly. Time may be all that’s needed. K x

  12. Greg Macdonald says

    One of my daughters in law had the same problem after the birth of our latest grandson. His head was so big that he couldn’t be delivered vaginally and she had to have a C-section. Her pregnant pictures looked just like yours.
    She subsequently had the surgery and after a few uncomfortable weeks of recovery she’s doing spectacularly. If you don’t do the repair you can expect trouble down the road with posture, stooping, etc. The abs are really important to your overall health. At least go see a good surgeon and get the facts in making your judgement. Good luck. Greg

  13. marse says

    Hi! I can totally relate to your story. I have diastasis as well and finally found fit2b and the tummy team. You should check them both out. It has truly changed my life! Went from an 8 desperation at my belly to a 2. Still have work to do but I do not need surgery now 🙂

  14. says

    I second comments above about Fit2B Studio. I also highly recommend The Tummy Team online abdominal rehab. Kelly Dean is great. The programs can work well when done together (The Tummy Team being physical therapy and Fit2B focus on fitness). I’ve done extensive blog series on both and am currently working through The Tummy Team prenatal program. These programs have been life changing for so many women.

  15. says

    Yes! I’m so glad you posted about this. You know…I had a DR for so long, and had no idea. NO IDEA!
    I also stumbled upon Fit2B, and from there, found my way to The Tummy Team. I took the Tummy Team’s Core Foundations course about a year and a half ago, and I have to tell you, it honestly changed our lives. I say “our” because it affected our whole family. My back used to go out constantly because my core was about as strong as a wet paper towel (but I didn’t know it). I was so shocked when I checked and found out that I could put my whole hand between the separation in my belly.
    I actually closed my DR with the Tummy Team course. Not all during the 8 weeks of the course, but there was significant progress, and then it kept closing after.

    …and…. there is currently a 25% off sale. In case you’re interested.

    It’s really amazing. I wish everyone knew about Diastasis Recti, and I really wish I’d known about it sooner…instead of not until I looked 6 months pregnant 7 months after giving birth to our 3rd baby.

    <3

  16. Elizabeth says

    Please check out http://www.thetummyteam.com or search in your area for a physical therapist who specializes in core rehab like Kelly Dean, the owner of The Tummy Team, does. They have an online program and run sales from time to time. I am in your same boat with the DR and umbilical hernia. As a busy mom I don’t know how I am going to find the moments of time to actually do the re-hab, but I was very encouraged to know that so many people have had success without surgery!

  17. Sarah says

    DR with an umbilical hernia. Sounds familiar! I don’t have umbilical issues when I’m not pregnant, so I only think of it when I am. (Which is now:) ) After having my 8th, I heard about healing a DR. I did the TummyTeam online course and couldn’t believe the difference! I was strong in my abdomen for the first time in a long time! I felt more in control of my body’s movements. They are even having a sale right now, so I’d check them out! I’m debating on the Prenatal course since that’s where I am right now. Blessings to you!

  18. Becki Neuman says

    Ugh…people do not even think these days!! You look amazing!! I hope you will continue to feed and nourish yourself with good food and care. I am impressed that you knew about splinting your tummy! I definitely recommend the Tummy Team at https://thetummyteam.com/?ref=28 (aff link) as I had that little pooch hanging after my twins…something I’d never experienced before!! It’s mortifying!! I’ve been doing the online Core Foundations, and I’m very impressed with the holistic approach. Healing is not linear. There are emotions involved as well as the body, and Kelly addresses all of that in her videos. There is a sale that just started. Here is the promo code: SUMMERSALE for 25% off!!

    Take care and give yourself a pat on the back!

  19. Kelli says

    My “baby” is 9 and up to a couple
    Months ago I never heard about this and I have endlessly for years heard, “when are you due!” I started research how to fix the problem and need to jump on board. I have gone to personal trainers and I would lose weight but always looked pregnant! They always said your that’s the trouble spot the last place you will lose. Thanks for bringing this to awareness!

  20. mel says

    I have both I just had my 3rd child it seems worse now. Everything is skinny but my stomach. It was the 11 lbs fault. I was thinking next year to fix everything and have a mini tummy tuck I really don’t think I can flatten it on my own. I don’t want like super flat I just don’t want others to think I am pregnant all the time. Best of luck to all of you ladies really not a fun thing to have.

  21. Andrea says

    I had my 4th baby (and biggest at 9 lb 15oz) about 7 months ago. My abs aren’t as serious as yours but I do have a separation of about 2.5-3 finger widths and the weight is just not dropping off like it did with my others. I get the comments most from my grandma. She will pay my tummy and talk about the new baby on the way (I don’t correct her because of memory issues.) she isn’t being rude but it hurts. I’m torn between feeling ugly and feeling like I shouldn’t care because it’s shallow and its hopefully temporary. But I feel very self conscious this time around and its not fun. :-/

  22. says

    I’m so sorry this has to be part of anyone’s life, or that others assume they know what’s happening. I so appreciate your honesty and your willingness to share this post. Well done. Who knows how anyone else would handle it but it sounds like you’re doing well figuring out what’s best for you.

  23. Annie says

    I had both diastasis and an umbilical hernia after my third. Even though I lost all the baby weight, my tummy pouched out like it didn’t before especially when using my abdominal muscles to sit up or lean back. I had hernia surgery in November which took care of both those problems and my “outtie” belly button that stayed with my after the birth of my third. Surgery was no fun but it was nice to lie around for a few days and then take it easy for a week or so as we all know that type of rest is hard to come by! My doctor went in through the belly button so no scaring. Good luck to you and thanks for your post. It’s nice to know I am not alone with these issues!

  24. Narelle says

    Its 2 and a half years since my little girl was born. As an older mum of 4 children,18,15,13 and 2, I couldn’t understand why I still look 6 months pregnant. Not to mention the large sausage like growth between my rib cage which extends to just above my belly button. I have tried very diet, even tried diet pills from my doctor and nothing helped. I have been on multiple medications due to a medical condition and have just put it down to weight gain due to my meds.
    You can imagine my surprise when I saw this post and it was my story. I followed this up the following day with my doctor who agreed that yes I have a hernia and separation of the abdominal wall (4 fingers wide).
    I’m still in the process of waiting for an ultrasound to be done, so we know where to go from here.
    I would like to thank you so much for sharing your story as I had no idea that this even existed. As to whether I have surgery to repair the abdominal wall is something I’m not sure that I want to do. Just knowing that there is a medical reason for this has helped me feel a little less like a failure. Thanks again

  25. says

    I greatly enjoyed this post! I can tell you really care about what you are writing about, which is a rare thing these days. I see a lot of authors just putting up quick junk, which is unfortunate. Thank you for bringing this information out, it’s much appreciated!

  26. says

    Your story touched me SO very deeply!! I am a mom, a nurse, and Diastasis Recti correction has become my PASSION!!!! This affects 30% of women and they dont realize exercise only makes a diastasis WORSE…. Shame on those people for shaming you!!!
    Please PLEASE check out my website before you consider another route of treatment! I have created and Trademarked my program, called the Tuff Chick Tummy Tuck. It is a 4 week program, ALL online, and I am treating womem from all across the world!!! From Barbados to Africa to Scotland and ALL over the U.S. The results are amazing and long term…. No crunches, no sweating, and I not only tighten everything up but help you HEAL the damaged linea alba tissues in your abdomen.
    Please reach out… http://www.tuffchick.com
    Warmest regards and much love,
    Marianne Nehls, LPN
    Core Rehab Specialist/Nutritional Coach
    Owner, Tuff Chick Fitness LLC

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