So I had just had a baby, and naturally, I felt like I’d performed a miracle. Almost 24 hours of labor where the dear folks at the hospital suspected I had a false alarm when I serenely told them my water broke. Then they decided to humor me with an examination and sure enough, I was right. They decided to induce labor pain and to cut a long story short, my son was born a Cesarean baby the next morning.
When I came to, the nurse brought my little bundle of joy and placed him next to me. Love overflowed from my breasts. Hours later, when I was allowed to get up and walk, I was shocked to find me looking … not very different from the day before.
- My tummy was still large, but looser now.
- My breasts were tender and veiny…and… leaky
- I had stretch marks everywhere I saw, and am sure where I couldn’t see, as well.
- I was of course achy all over, feeling weak and bruised, and not a little constipated
- My caesarean scar was painful and sore
And I was very afraid to sit on the toilet. When I eventually did, I felt a weird shift in my insides, as though they had realigned themselves. I hoped they were in the right place!
It isn’t like I didn’t know I’d be feeling this way, but actually experiencing it was freaking me out. Clearly I had to come to terms with these physical changes and the emotional war inside me. My gynaecologist called it classic textbook postpartum depression. Luckily I had no time to wallow in it as I had to get busy focusing on my son. The sooner I worked on recovery, the better, I thought!
I pledged to do the following.
- Love my postpartum body, since I had to live with it until it got back into some semblance of shape.
- Start maintaining a journal where I noted down questions and concerns I wanted answers to.
- Watch my diet and eat well.
- Resume all those exercises I had learned during pregnancy to strengthen my pelvic floor.
The weirdest part was the loose feeling; I just felt all stretched out. I was lucky that my doc kept insisting on specific exercises to rebuild the pelvic floor.
Why rebuild the pelvic floor
Pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor muscles thanks to the hormones and the growing baby weight. She told me that pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy could help me avoid incontinence after delivery. In fact, she also advised me to continue doing these for long-term pelvic health.
Let me blind you with some science now about the pelvic floor muscles. They:
- Support the uterus, intestines and bladder
- Maintain bladder and bowel control
- Support the spine
- Promote perineal healing
- Strengthen the vaginal muscles
- Help you enjoy intimacy
- Support the weight of the growing uterus
- Help rotate the baby’s head to the right position
Toning your pelvic muscles also helps avoid two of pregnancy’s most common and painful issues – bladder control and hemorrhoids.
So I decided to start my recovery with rebuilding and strengthening my pelvic floor muscles– because surely they had been through a lot!
The pelvic floor muscles have two types of muscle fibers: the fast ones for strength and the slow ones for stamina.
Exercises help with the healing process. If you’ve had a normal delivery, you can start doing them after 24 hours, as soon as you are comfortable. If you have stitches, make sure you start them lying down and then gradually progress to sitting. After a caesarean/ forceps delivery start after the urinary catheter is off. Do consult your doc before you start anything though, for your specific health condition.
There are easy exercises to strengthen them, but my favorite is the Kegel exercise, specific for the pelvic floor. I did them both during and after pregnancy.
How to do Kegel exercises
Locate your “Kegel” muscles. You can do this in two ways:
- If you are comfortable doing so, insert a finger into your vagina and squeeze the muscles around it and feel the pressure.
- While urinating, try and stop the flow for a couple of seconds. Don’t overdo this, though as it might prevent emptying your bladder fully.
Now that you know your pelvic floor muscles, do the following after you empty your bladder:
- Contract them for 5 to 10 seconds
- Repeat this 10 to 20 times, comfortably
- During the exercise, breathe normally
- Do it thrice a day
- When you do the Kegel, don’t move your leg, buttocks or abdominal muscles.
If you’re thinking, omg, when do I find the time to do this, here’s how – when you’re waiting at your doc’s clinic, waiting at the bank/your pharmacy/traffic lights/watching TV/after you’re done on the toilet–you get the idea.
Nobody will even know.
I also included walking in my regimen – the easiest thing to do, while taking baby out for a spin.
Considering it takes nine months before you hold your baby in your arms for the first time, it will probably take that long or a little longer to return to your pre pregnancy weight. Even then, you’re definitely going to look different. The physical and emotional changes are quite challenging. So take your time, love yourself. It is worth it. Don’t rush it. You look gorgeous anyway when you smile, you know?
So first thing in the morning, this is what I want you to do: look in the mirror and say, “I love you.” No limit to the number of times you say that!