It’s true, you don’t know anything until you’ve experienced it yourself. Having a baby has really opened my eyes about how much women actually have to go through. No wonder when I became pregnant it felt like I’d just gained admission to this secret club with all mums giving me the wink and taking me under their wing, thinking she has no idea what she’s just let herself in for! It’s not just the 9 months of carrying the baby and the birth but the healing after birth. For some ladies they’re lucky to snap back into shape very quickly with just soreness whereas others experience longer recovery times whether it be from stitches or a full blown C-section (whoever said that was the easy option?!). However one thing I wasn’t aware of was ab-separation (Diastasis Recti) and just how important the pelvic floor was. You hear ‘pelvic floor’ a lot during pregnancy but kind of ignore it and take it for granted. However I’ve quickly learned that this is so crucial if you truly want to commit to getting yourself, both mind and body, back to it’s best. It was as I was looking into more about ab separation post birth and the importance of the pelvic floor that I came across a blog post by Ria Collett from Feeling the Healing. She wrote a very personal account of the trouble she faced after 2 pregnancy’s which caused her to suffer a pelvic organ prolapse. Her blog post was so honest and open and the most amazing thing is the response she received from it. I caught up with her to find more about this amazing woman, mum of 2 beautiful boys and now fitness trainer as she explains her journey back to wellbeing postnatally.
You mentioned that you’ve always been one to keep fit and active. How did this change after your first baby?
After my first baby I went straight back to exercising – desperate to get my old body and my old ‘sense of self’ back. I took up my old classes, lifted weights and ran, a lot – all the kind of stuff I used to do. What I hadn’t taken into account was just how much my body had been through, with 9 months of growing and carrying a baby, and a 2-day labour marathon! Within a few months (and several GP dismissals!) I knew everything wasn’t ‘ok’. It wasn’t until well into my second pregnancy, by which time I literally couldn’t walk for more than about 15 minutes without feeling like my insides were falling outside, that I researched it for myself and realised that I had developed a prolapse. I went to the antenatal department first thing in the morning and refused to leave until a dr checked me and sure enough it was confirmed. Life seemed to stop short. I really couldn’t believe it. I knew I was blessed that it wasn’t something life-threatening, but life as I had known it definitely seemed to be over. I was advised, without an ounce of compassionate care, that having more kids was unadvised, that surgery to fix it would be inevitable and that exercise from there on was only going to make it worse. I couldn’t reconcile what I was being told with who I felt I was. I was sporty, athletic, ‘normal’ – but more than that, I was only 30 years old!
Was this sense of shock what inspired you to write your blog post about your experience?
The consensus was pretty unanimous – prolapse wasn’t something that could be reversed; you either manage to keep it more or less the same, or it worsens. I refused to believe it and set about doing everything within my power to prove them wrong. By the time I had been given the ‘as good as new’ from my consultant, I realised that NOBODY talks about pelvic organ prolapse – like, nobody! In fact, most people, most women, don’t even know what it is (despite an alarming number of women suffering from symptoms they put down to being part parcel of the miracle that is childbirth; “sure I need to cross my legs when I sneeze but who doesn’t after giving birth?!”). In a society where talking about pretty much anything goes, NOBODY was discussing THIS. The more I talked to women, the more I understood I needed to share my experience in the hope that it might help a few others so I put my ‘big girl pants’ on and posted a blog. By the time I woke up in the morning over 2,000 women had read it and were emailing me with their questions, fears, experiences and gratitude for sharing… even now, 6 months later they still are!
Read Ria’s blog post here
Since your second pregnancy and your diagnosis of pelvic organ prolapse how has your relationship with exercise changed?
After my diagnosis I did all the research I could. I spoke to the best health professionals in the field, learnt the most effective exercises and lifestyle changes and made sure I got what I needed. I pushed for an elective c-section for my second son, and this time actually allowed myself time to heal postnatally. Then I decided it was time to kick this prolapse’s butt! It took time but I created a way of working out that got me back to my exercise ‘highs’ without compromising my pelvic floor and core health; I got strong from the inside out. Apart from being in the best shape I’d ever been in, I realised that there were so many other women who would benefit. Marry that with the fact that childcare was pricing me out of my former career, and suddenly a new journey opened up, taking my life into a new direction…
What are you up to now?
I’m now a Personal Trainer, working solely with women with a big emphasis on pelvic floor and core strength. I do a lot of mainstream PT stuff – helping my women hit their fitness and lifestyle goals through HIIT training (mostly modified for low impact), kickboxing, weight training and Barre but also incorporating a whole-body ‘holistic’ approach! I also run a really special Sunday session incorporating yoga-flow and low-impact toning, ending with meditation to recalibrate, de-stress and disconnect from all the demands that life as a woman and a mum involves.
I work out of a studio aptly called Feeling the Healing in North London, set up by an amazing couple who have a genuine and ceaseless desire to bring people back to their innate health and wellbeing through exercise and movement. I work around the childcare I have, choose my hours and clients and feel like after many, many years I’ve got my mojo back with a bang and am delighted how it’s lit up my family life too.
Being a mum and a wife is often a thankless and utterly exhausting role but the balance I’ve managed to achieve between family and career, raising my kids and helping other women, has boosted my energy and vibrancy no-end and not only helped me find the ‘old me’, but pushed me to become a whole new stronger me, body and mind!
- FunFact: I trained as a Midwife!
- One piece of advice you wish someone had said to you before becoming a mum: Being a mum, at least the first few years, feels like one endless day. There’ll be times you mess up, times you spend all day screaming at the kids or sit rocking on the bathroom floor sobbing, but that doesn’t make you a failure. Showing up, day in day out, loving your kids whole heartedly is all you need to do. The rest works itself out, or doesn’t, and that’s ok too…
- Mumhood and fashion – do they go? Any style tips? I aim for no more than 2 food/snot/sick stains on my outfit per day – does that count? ; )
- Fitness hack – how to include fitness into your every day routine for mums with limited time: find a PT or use any of the amazing videos online to find a short but kick-ass HIIT session you can do a few times a week and stay active! Make easy fitness choices like walking instead of driving, taking the stairs over the elevator, lifting a large glass of wine to your lips instead of a small one… ; )
- Favourite healthy snack & guilty pleasure: Always have a big bag of almonds and walnuts in the fridge, as well as a pot of raw tahina mixed with date syrup for when the serious sugar cravings hit. That being said, I’m an absolute sucker for an evening G&T…
- How do you start your mornings? Before going to bed I prep my nutri-bullet ready for blasting in the morning (I chuck everything in and then give to my kids and my husband to take to work too) as well as prepping a cup with loads of fresh ginger, lemon juice and a tspn of turmeric in it to add boiling water to before I begin my coffee-marathon throughout the day
- Favourite fitness clothing brand: I’m a die hard Nike wearer but love me some YogaLeggs leggins too
- What are your fave instagram accounts to follow and why? For the belly lols I love @_theblessedone & the @thechoprafoundation and @brenebrown for some good, wholesome reminders of where I want my head (and my heart) at
For anyone worried about their pelvic floor please do go and speak to your doctor and do not suffer in silence! I can totally recommend this device called ‘Elvie‘ which makes doing your pelvic floor muscles a little more fun and the best thing is it tracks your progress so you can see how you’re improving – great for the competitive streak in you!
Read more about Ria’s story here and she invites any ladies suffering or think they may be suffering with this to contact her, she’d love to hear from you! Such an inspiring woman who showed that no matter what anyone tells you, you know your own body better than anyone.
Plus read more inspiring interviews around postnatal fitness here from alexie.co