The Open Wound You Cannot See
As someone who has practiced sports medicine for several years,I have seen my fair share of sprained ankles, dislocated shoulders, and ruptured ACLs. And one thing is for sure, no matter how those sprains occurred or the degree of stress placed on the tissue, I know how to get them from injured to back to the field quickly and safely. In particular, I know the rehabilitation protocols post-surgery for these injuries (or at least where to find the protocols). And even though no two injuries or rehabs are alike, I still have an idea, a basic outline, of the injury healing process so I know what types of exercises to do, when to push it, and when to back off. Sadly this cannot be said for women who have just birthed a baby and the postpartum period.
There is no outline, no cookie cutter protocol to base healing and rehabilitation off of to get women who have just had a baby to get back to feeling like themselves. There’s no support, no one standing by your side cheering you on and coaching you through this new time. And didn’t these women just go through a major athletic event that left a wound – sometimes both internally and externally?
We talked about a lot of things at the BIRTHFIT Summit, but one thing that really struck me was when Dr. Lindsey Mathews spoke about when she tore her ACL (a ligament in the knee). She said she knew what to expect prior to surgery, during surgery, and post surgery – everything was explained to her clearly and specifically. Her DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) had a clear outline of her rehab to get her back to normal function, which to her meant playing soccer and other highly skilled athletic activities. The same thing happened to me when I tore my ACL. I got a full anatomy lesson of the knee, videos of the surgery, and walked through what my rehab would be like to get me back to athletics. Hell I even did what is called “Pre-hab” or specific and intentional exercises to prepare me for surgery so I would hopefully bounce back quicker. But after I delivered my son via C-Section, I was left in the dark with no clue and no support of how to heal properly physically, mentally, and spiritually. Not to mention I had no guidance other than Dr. Google and hearsay of how to get me back to being physically active again.
The only information I received day 4 post major abdominal surgery and severe sleep deprivation (not to mention all the anxiety of being a new mother) was not to lift anything over 25lbs and to avoid walking up stairs. That’s it. No specifics of how long not to do these things and how to avoid further injury – or really the extent of my injury and why I should avoid these things. No one walked me through or acknowledged what had occurred to my entire body physically, physiologically, emotionally, or spiritually. And sadly I’ve never heard anyone talk to my birth doula clients about how to heal after their births, whether surgically or vaginally.
Dr. Alyssa Berlin, PsyD, gave the perfect analogy: If you had a friend with a large, open, bleeding wound on their thigh you would bend over backwards for them and insist they do nothing but rest so they can heal. But because we cannot see the large, bleeding wound within the uterus post-birth, we do very little for new moms and place incredible pressure on them to “bounce back”, lose the baby weight, and get back to their “normal”. When heard this way, does it not sound insanely ridiculous what we are are doing to new moms? We as a country cannot continue down this path any longer. We cannot keep abusing our mothers, physically and emotionally. (And we wonder why Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders are on the rise)
BIRTHFIT is our call to action. We say we’re a movement and we mean it with all our hearts. We want to change the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum world through full education and shine beautiful light of what real nurturing, rehabilitation, love, connection, nourishment, and guidance of women looks like. Specifically, in our Prenatal Series we discuss what proper nutrition looks like during pregnancy to set women up for healing. And in our Postpartum Series we spend a lot of time discussing connection, mindfulness, breathing, and being with yourself and baby. We talk about pre-hab and rehabilitation, we set mamas and their partners up with a plan so everyone feels supported in their own ways.
-Chelsea Craig MK, ATC, LATBIRTHFIT Regional Director