These words are directly written and willingly shared by a Fit PT patient. A new and first time mother who underwent physical therapy care during pregnancy and postpartum and is now THRIVING! Her body is healthy, strong and pain free in her first year postpartum. She is able to care for herself and her family with ease and happiness. Please read and enjoy her story of perseverance, accomplishment, faith and beautiful journey into motherhood.
“It feels impossible to put into words the journey of the last year of life, but here I go. Fifteen months ago my husband and I screamed as we saw the positive pregnancy test, all of the sudden a new life was forming right inside of me. I will still never be able to wrap my mind around this. I still cannot believe what my body has done and has shown to be capable of. “I want my body back”, we hear after giving birth: this breaks my heart to think of now. Our bodies haven’t gone anywhere; they have been quite busy participating in miracles. Let me share a bit of my own little miracle with you.
Historically I am a long distance runner, and more recently I am a triathlete. I love endurance, I love to challenge my body, and I love pursuing health and fitness. I knew pregnancy and birth would be a challenge for me as I embraced new limits and experienced rapid changes in my body. For the first time in awhile, I was no longer going to be training for a triathlon or a road running race, but I was now training for labor, birth, delivery, and motherhood.
Dr. Kaitlin was a welcome coach along the way. I had worked with Dr. Kaitlin extensively already after a recent hip surgery: she was the absolute best physical therapist I had encountered, and I new she would be an excellent support in my new journey of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. She has and continues to provide excellent physical support, and also much-welcomed emotional support along this exciting new journey. I honestly would not be as healthy, as in touch with my body, and recovered as I am without Dr. Kaitlin’s support. (Note: Kaitlin did NOT tell me to include any kind of positive review of her work in this blog post, she simply wanted me to write my story to encourage other women, but you guys, she is the best).
I continued to swim, run and bike throughout my pregnancy with Kaitlin’s help navigating my rapidly changing body. Around six months in, I had to put away my running shoes due to some pubic bone pain. I continued to bike on my bike trainer up until I gave birth, and was able to do strength training and walking. I only had to stop swimming around month seven due to the gym being closed due to COVID (oh right… the pandemic happened… minor bump in the road).I was in awe of the babe growing inside of me, and proud of all that my body was able to do, it was accommodating a whole new person! I would be lying if I said there weren’t moments of stepping on the scale or seeing a less flattering photo that sent me spinning into past negative messaging for a bit, but overall, I found pregnancy to be a redemptive experience for my relationship with my body.
Once a week I did a challenging workout on my bike trainer: I decided that this workout would also become my labor and delivery training. There were ten one-minute explosive intervals with a few minutes easy in between. These intervals were HARD, and during them I practiced my breathing and all my mental tricks. My husband and I took a mindful birthing class where we learned different ways of being present with pain. I focused hard on the pain-almost breathing into it and being really curious about the pain, I focused on calm parts of my body, I counted my breaths, I repeated mantras (“Yes!”, “New Life”, “Be strong and courageous”, “I can do this, I am strong”, I can do hard things”), and I even pictured my husband holding our baby (this one REALLY worked!). I tried really hard to just focus on the next interval. I would tell myself: “Don’t worry about the whole workout, just ask yourself, can you do the next interval?” The answer was always yes. All of these methods were very helpful in helping me get through those explosive intervals, and would soon be very helpful in getting me through labor and delivery.
Early June, my “race day” had finally come. “You can do hard things! I have seen you do hard things!” my husband said to me over and over again with each contraction. The pain was so intense I thought I was going to pass out, but hearing my husband’s voice, knowing the strength in my body, I went on, one contraction at a time. I thought of the new little life I would soon meet. “Just focus on the next contraction”, my husband would say. Again I would tell myself: “Don’t focus on the whole labor and delivery, just ask yourself if you can just get through this contraction right here.” My husband was absolutely key in helping me access all of these skills I had built up. When they told me it was getting closer and it was time to push, I was so ready. Up until the time to push, I was at the mercy of the contractions, however, when it is was time to push, I got to PUSH, and the harder pushed, the quicker I would meet my new son! So believe me, I PUSHED. I think I made very loud animal-like noises. I don’t even know. Labor and delivery was an absolute miracle. It was the hardest and most rewarding endurance challenge I have ever experienced. No triathlon or marathon will ever compare. I heard my husband say, “I can see his head!” and I just laughed. I laughed the most joyful, euphoric, and relieved laugh I have ever laughed. Then they placed him on my chest, and I continued to just laugh. I had thought maybe I would burst into beautiful new motherhood tears, but nope, I laughed. (This little babe continues to make me laugh every day). Complete joy, complete relief. He is here! I did it! He is real! What in the world!? So amazing.
My postpartum journey continues to amaze me. Little (well, not so little…he is 7 months and 23 lbs!) Howie Hawkins is a complete wonder, and I get to watch him grow and discover each day. Early on, and occasionally still, there are hard days, days with tears, days of feeling bored, days of longing for some independence, but you know what? More than that, there has been indescribable JOY. There have been days of being triggered and discouraged after stepping on the scale, there have been shame spirals after seeing a recent photo of myself, but more than that, there has been gentleness with myself, there has been surprise at how much my body is capable of, and almost a newfound resilience in my body after giving birth. I can do hard things- I gave birth!
A triathlon seems somewhat easy in comparison. In late August I had my first race back, and I had a blast! I completed a half-Ironman aqua bike race and was proud of my results. Towards the end of my race, I remembered my labor and delivery, I remembered the pain, the magic, the miracle of it all, and I biked as hard as I could: tapping into my new mama strength. I rode on all that passion, I worshipped God on my bike, thanking God, praising God for the wonder and gift of it all. I found strength in me at the end of the bike I didn’t know was there, just like I found strength in me in my labor and delivery that I didn’t know was there. Finishing the race felt like a celebration of the journey of the last fifteen months and also a celebration of motherhood. Yes my body is different: it is stronger than ever. It has held new life. It has pushed out this new life, and now sustains and nourishes this new life. I am about seven months postpartum now and I feel great in my body and am fully into my triathlon training looking forward to (hopefully!) crushing it summer 2021 in competitions.
This strength is not all mine: I have had a positive postpartum experience because I have had incredible support, and I have learned from the many stories of other women who have gone before me. Dr. Kaitlin has helped me by giving me challenge and also telling me when to slow down and put on the breaks. She continues to encourage me and help me navigate training postpartum. I am so grateful for this journey and all who have helped along the way.”