Jul 08 2014

Climbing With Kids: Recovery Mode

When it comes to learning about the whole pregnancy experience, all you hear about are the months of anticipation, the growing pains you should enjoy along the way, and what to expect during the actual labor. It’s like it’s all designed to get you ready for that one great miracle moment of life. But funnily enough, right after that magical moment is over, it’s like, “You’re on your own, best of luck!”


The whole recovery experience afterward is not something I was really prepared for, nor was it something that I had much information about. The next morning it was everything I could do to walk from the hospital bed to the bathroom. My pelvis hurt, my insides hurt, I was bleeding a ton and I could barely walk. But it didn’t matter. I was still in such a euphoric state and in awe of this little human being that we had created.


Yet as the days and weeks progressed, I was still all but crippled by the birth. It began to feel as if I was not like most of the women I had interviewed for this blog, who were out climbing, running, skiing, etc., within a matter weeks after birth. Instead I was in bed with chapped, bleeding nipples and a great amount of pain and pressure in my groin. It literally felt like my insides were about to fall out of me under the pain and pressure I was experiencing. I began to wonder what was wrong with me. I am a professional athlete after all, why wasn’t I charging like everyone else?


I’ve had two stints of mastitis for of a number of reasons. The first time around, the lactation consultant was shocked that I endured three whole weeks of bleeding nipples, but I just figured that this was normal. Labor was painful, I thought perhaps this was supposed to be painful at first as well.


In my last blog post I mentioned that I actually do pretty good with pain if it is supposed to be there. In labor, it’s supposed to be there. However, if the pain indicates something is wrong or harmful, I have found I am absolutely terrible with it. Pretty much the biggest pansy ever. I worry, I am super tender with myself, and I take every setback as it’s injuring me further. So, when we found out that the pelvic pressure/pain turned out to be my loose joints/ligaments coming into play again with a slight prolapse, I tried to lay as flat as possible (sort of hard with a baby), for fear that my insides were actually going to fall out.


Jaime encouraged me to be as gentle as possible with myself, but the professional athlete side came out in me thinking that I should be strong and fast like the other women athletes I interviewed. And I actually wanted to be out doing stuff with Theo, not just laying in bed. I emailed and texted around to other women in my circle. Turned out a lot of women also don’t bounce back right away—their experience, it seems, is just something you don’t typically hear about. I guess that makes sense. No one boasts about a slow recovery. 🙂 And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I am a slow healer. So, for all of you out there that are pregnant, just know that a slow recovery can be totally normal. I’ve heard from lots of women who still feel the effects a year later. Don’t push it and listen to your body. If you are one of the lucky ones that is climbing in the gym with your ten-day-old baby, that’s awesome! But if you are like me, and can’t walk from the bathroom to the kitchen without feeling like your insides are going to fall out, just take it easy. I wish I had information on the recovery like this when I was reading about pregnancy, I wouldn’t have felt so bad about my state, or so much personal pressure to be active. It took 9 months to have our bodies change and create this little human, so for some, it’ll take more than 10 days to get back.


In my research, I learned that in some Korean families, women stay around the house for 30 days to recover. Jaime also said she likes to see women be as gentle as possible with themselves. I was chomping at the bit to just walk around the block, but decided instead to channel my inner Korean (OK, not really) and lay low as much as I could.


By week 5 postpartum, Randy saw the look on my face and came by to console me. ”I know it’s really hard not to go out and do stuff with Theo,” he said. “But think about it this way, you’ll never have this intimate time where you are in bed with him most of every day. Try to enjoy it, and savor it.”

It’s always so nice when your husband says exactly the right thing that you need to hear! I think that his comment speaks to the larger theme of my experience through this pregnancy in general. To try to enjoy each moment as much as possible. Yes, it’s really easy for women (myself included) to complain about how big they are, how nauseas they feel, etc. But it’s a finite time. It doesn’t last forever.


I remember one friend mentioning to me how much she loved not being pregnant anymore because she got her body back, and I thought to myself,”I’d kill for my pregnant body back right now, even my 9 month pregnant body. At least I could walk, be out of bed, etc.”


But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that all forms are always changing, evolving and growing. It’s the nature of life. Instead of fighting this reality, it’s much better to accept it, even appreciate it. I try to remind myself of this, but it’s hard, I can be quite stubborn. I know I’ll be hiking and climbing with Theo before I know it, even though I often wish that time was now.


When I actually take a step back and look at this whole experience, it’s freaking amazing. We created a tiny human being. Literally we created him! I look at him each day, squirming and squiggling, trying to figure out his body and movements, and think about our first ultrasound. When the OB said,”You see that tiny fluttering down in the corner? That’s the heartbeat,” it was barley noticeable. It’s hard to even comprehend how that that little fluttering became this adorable little boy that we are with each day now. It’s pretty wild.


And while I wish more than anything that I could be out and about showing him the world, the mountains, the trees, I am trying to savor the time I spend with him right now.


For all those pregnant mamas out there, and moms who just had kiddos, remember that you can’t change change, only your perception of it. There is tons of stress, doubt, not knowing, pain and discomfort—but that’s okay. Change and growth are always on the way. I need this reminder every day 😉

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  • I'm right there with you, I'm still not fully recovered 18 weeks post labour, I had a 36 hour labour, forceps delivery, episiotomy, and birthed a 9lb baby, I had a fever of 103 with infectious mastitis and couldn't physically care for the baby, it was awful. I do however get out and about with friends now and it's helped my mood tremendously. I've started working out again but I'll work out for a week or two and then I have another tear and can't exercise for a while, it seems to be a never ending cycle, I loved your blog post and honesty 🙂 I also write blogs about the true experience I've been through for others to see that it's not always a blissful experience 🙂

    July 8, 2014 at 7:15 pm
  • Dear Beth.
    THANK YOU for this post!
    I´m happy to hear that you are taking your time to heal, lay in bed and bond with your baby.
    Since the beginning of my pregnancy (month 8 now) I realized that there´s lot´s of info on pregnancy, birth and newborns but not much on postpartum recovery. I have been digging, asking uncomfortable questions and learning as much as possible.
    To my surprise many active, strong outdoorsy mamas with older kids I have talked to, have admitted that sometimes they pee in their pants when they run, have never healed from a diastasis, had a prolapse months later because they pushed it too soon, etc…
    I think in our society there is a pressure on new moms on doing too much, too soon. By taking care of yourself and staying in bed as long as you need, doing your pelvic floor rehab, etc… you are being a role model to other pregnant athletes who feel pressured to be back to it asap.
    I´m sure it´s worth taking it slow and easy now since that will ensure you will be strong once you start climbing again.
    I am already announcing my intention to not leave the bed for at least 3 weeks (or longer, who knows?) after the birth!
    Sending you lot´s of patience and healing energy, Evelyne.

    July 8, 2014 at 7:35 pm
  • Hi Beth,
    I've enjoyed reading your posts over the past year, and as a physical therapist and a climber, I wanted to reach out in response to this post. There are many physical therapists who specialize in the area of women's health. They are trained in treating pelvic floor dysfunction. This includes post partum pelvic pain and incontinence. In fact, I would recommend any new mom go see a women's health PT just to make sure the muscles of the pelvic floor are functioning properly, as pregnancy is hard on these muscles and you might not even be aware that you aren't using your muscles correctly. Many women live with incontinence and pelvic pain long after giving birth and this is not normal, and can be successfully treated. PTs can also help with diastasis recti. Check with your doctor or midwife before scheduling an appointment, often patients should wait until about 6 weeks or longer after birth before seeing a PT. Also, make sure you see a PT who does internal exams. This isn't nearly as scary as it sounds and there are no stirrups or speculums involved. A well respected training program for pelvic floor disfunction is through Herman & Wallace and you can find a local PT trained through them here: http://hermanwallace.com/practitioner-directory There's so much more to treating the pelvic floor than doing Kegels, and many people are performing Kegels incorrectly. Also, female athletes who have not had a baby may experience incontinence or pelvic pain as well and they can get treated for this. Athletic women are often prone to problems with their pelvic floor muscles asthey are so strong elsewhere and the pelvic floor ends up being the weak link in the chain. Just wanted to spread the word that there is help out there. Keep up the awesome blog posts, and congrats on your little man, Theo!


    July 9, 2014 at 7:42 am
  • Enjoy the baby. You'll climb the next 40 – 50 years; you'll only have your son with you another 18 – 20, until he leaves for college. I climbed with my boy from when he was 7 months old until he was in college, but now I often don't see him for many months, and we climb only rarely.

    July 9, 2014 at 2:16 pm
  • Beth, Congratulations! I was eager to get climbing after my twins' birth, too, but it took time. I was more energetic and comfortable the two months before their birth than the two following. The good news is that when your strength and energy comes back you'll appreciate it more than ever! Good luck.

    July 9, 2014 at 2:38 pm
  • Thank you so much for your comment Tatiana, I am so sorry to hear about your recovery. It's rough! And the infectious mastitis is so uncomfortable! That's what I've had each time, high fever, etc, ugh. It reassuring to hear that you are able to get out and do stuff now, even if it is short lived. I hope that your trend still continues upward. And thanks again for sharing, it is nice to hear from other women experiencing similar things.

    July 9, 2014 at 3:44 pm
  • Hi Evelyne! How are you feeling??? Getting closer now 🙂
    Yes, definitely do take it easy on yourself after your birth. I don't know if you need to stay in bed for a pre-set period of time, but just listen to your body. The hardest part for me was wanting to badly to be up and doing other stuff, and then when I tried, having it hurt so badly. For me it was the disappointment. I think if I had known that perhaps I was in for a slow recovery when I tried and it hurt, then I would have been more accepting. But, when it didn't hurt, then I listened to my body and continued to be up and make progress.
    Can't wait to hear how it goes for you! Please keep me updated!
    Big hugs!

    July 9, 2014 at 3:47 pm
  • Thank you so much for your comment and information Leslie! Really appreciate it. Funny enough I just finished reading an article about how in France, postpartum care automatically includes pelvic PT visits! Isn't that awesome!?
    I'm definitely going to look into it and hope that it helps rehab my pelvic floor and work on the pain/pressure I am feeling.
    Thanks again!

    July 9, 2014 at 3:49 pm
  • Thanks for the wonderful reminder! Climbing will always be there 🙂 Definitely enjoying Theo so so much right now! It's pretty amazing.
    Thanks again!

    July 9, 2014 at 3:50 pm
  • Thanks Kim! That's great to hear 🙂 Enjoying Theo every way I can right now 🙂
    Hope you are doing great!

    July 9, 2014 at 3:51 pm
  • Oh my can I ever relate to this. Especially to the part where you talk about not feeling like the women you interviewed for your website, who seemed to bounce back after pregnancy and birth. 20 months after the birth of my daughter, I still feel like I'm in recovery mode. For me it's about accepting a new normal – at least for now – and being gentle with myself. Gradually I am finding my groove again. If I push too hard, though, I quickly regress. I wish you all the best, Beth! Thanks for writing so honestly. Meghan

    November 6, 2014 at 1:52 am
  • Thanks for your message and encouragement Meghan! I really appreciate it! I think I'm in your same boat – going to be in recovery mode for a while. My new thing is my abs haven't healed yet, so having to take it easy on those.
    And you make such a good point of accepting the new normal and being gentle with ourselves. Whenever I start to get down on myself, I try to just remember to take baby steps.
    I hope you and your daughter are doing great, and thanks again for reaching out!
    All my best!

    November 12, 2014 at 6:35 pm