I grew up in a small town in Southern California, raised by my single mom and sister, until my mom remarried in my teenage years. I was involved in swimming and water polo for most of my childhood and continued with water polo through college at a Division 1 University. I graduated with my degree in Kinesiology and wanted to work in corporate wellness, and did for 5 years. During this time I also worked as an assistant coach at a division 1 university, coaching water polo. I loved being surrounded by a team and being in a leadership/influencing position, but I knew that water polo and coaching in that capacity was not my end goal.
I had my son Cade in 2013 and was adamant about maintaining my identity as an athlete and level of fitness throughout my pregnancy with him.
I had competed in triathlons, CrossFit, powerlifting and Olympic lifting prior to getting pregnant. I believed that because I had so much athletic experience and coaching knowledge, that I could listen to my body, keep doing what I had always done and that I was in many ways, exempt from making significant modifications and adjustments to how I trained during pregnancy. I had planned on “natural childbirth” because the message that this was what was “right” or “best” had been ingrained into me. The sentiment “fit enough for birth” spoke to the person I identified as, and seemed like the healthy choice. It wasn’t until much later in my healing and professional development to that I realized how harmful, dogmatic and elitist that mindset was for me, and so many others.
I was completely humbled and traumatized by an emergency C-section, where I am lucky that both Cade and I are healthy. The trauma of his birth, the emotional consequences of being so adamant about the “right/best” way and continual struggles with breastfeeding spiraled into postpartum depression and anxiety. I was too stubborn to admit I needed help, blamed exhaustion and a “hard” baby for my struggles and was adamant about not supplementing with formula, because I was determined to get one thing “right.”
Along the same lines, I figured that because I was fit before, I would bounce back into shape and fitness abilities quickly. That was the message all over social media, given by coaches and other “fit moms.”
I began training at 6 weeks postpartum and committed into getting into shape, again in a quest to have normalcy and some attempt at control over ANYTHING. This began an unhealthy quest of trying to reclaim myself.
I did get back, size and fat percentage-wise, but my body had changed. Back then, there were ZERO conversations or knowledge about core or pelvic health. Diastasis recti wasn’t a trendy topic or common fear, so when I felt like my abdomen looked different (not just loose skin or stretch marks), it took a LONG time to figure out what was happening. I had a significant diastasis and hernia, even though I was very lean and had a flat stomach. I spiraled into the “something is clearly wrong with me” mindset, and while this wasn’t wrong, it was also motivated by wanting to be fixed, better, normal. A justified obsession. I was told I needed to immediately repair my hernia, because of how I liked to train. No one mentioned diastasis or the need to rehab DR before getting that surgery, but long story short, I got surgery hoping that I would be fixed and normal and could just move on.
You don’t know what you don’t know, and the same goes for medical professionals. This sentiment drove me CRAZY. I wanted to find someone who got it and got me and could provide a spectrum of info and considerations. So, I became that person in the ways I could.
I spent the next few years diving into women’s health information, research and networking with like-hearted professionals, combining that with the fundamentals of exercise science. I rehabbed, learned from multiple professionals and invested in continuing education opportunities. I shared my experiences (dot-connecting) online because this process wasn’t just about healing and improving myself, it was about paying it forward in the ways I could.
My personal experiences also influenced my coaching. I had resigned from collegiate athletics when Cade was a year old, was a stay at home mom for 2 weeks and decided I needed to still coach a few days a week as a way to stay involved and connected. I started a women’s strength and conditioning program, renting space out of a local CrossFit gym a few days a week. This program quickly grew, and my involvement with understanding the intricacies and different experiences of women in my community fueled my effort to do more, and get this help and information into more communities and to women around the world who wanted better messaging, guidance and context for training through pregnancy and postpartum.
DIASTASIS RECTI & ATHLETICISM
Step away from the confusing and often harmful mixed messages surrounding diastasis recti and download this e-book to broaden your understanding, education, and awareness on this condition.
Because my local exposure had grown so much, and because I had shared a lot of my personal story and coaching, I was receiving a tremendous amount of emails from women everywhere saying “ME TOO!” WHAT CAN I DO? CAN YOU HELP ME.” The sentiment of “why didn’t anyone tell me,” or “I wish I would have known” was so strong that I could not ignore this push to do something about it.
I created my first online course in 2016 (now re-done and known as “The Pregnant and Postpartum Athlete”), as a way to get the basics out there, to tell women what I felt they should know from a training and women’s health perspective. This combination of athlete mindset, pregnancy training, postpartum return to training and how diastasis recti and pelvic health influence these, did not exist until I created it.
Shortly after, the demand and need for more guidance grew. High-level athletes began reaching out to me, asking me to help guide their pregnancy training and postpartum process. They were taking this seriously, my voice had grown, and people began to see that “pregnant and postpartum athletes” weren’t a special population, this was the majority of women in the gym. Their training, body, mindset, and vagina actually mattered for more reasons than having a healthy pregnancy and bouncing back.
My exposure as a coach for this grew, and I knew that if I wanted to have a large impact, I needed to grow my “accidental” business in a much more deliberate way.
However, Cade has just turned 3, and I finally felt like I was maybe brave enough to consider having another baby. Until then, I had just felt very unsure and too afraid to go through all of that again. I was terrified of what another pregnancy would do to my body, especially my “functional diastasis” and the hernia repair that had been done. I was intimidated by the idea of losing the routine we had finally found, the mental health struggles I could endure again and what this would do to the business I had created from the ground up. I knew that having another baby was a risk in a multitude of ways, but that it would also be worth taking the chance - of trusting myself to practice brave.
During my second pregnancy, I adjusted everything, most importantly, my mental approach, training, and expectations of what right or best was. I had learned that best and right are relative and that my approach needed to shift, or I would risk having the same/similar experience. I also had the responsibility of knowing better, doing better and passing it on to all who were now watching (online and in-person)!
I spent my entire pregnancy creating the first edition of Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism, an online self-paced course, and certification for coaches and practitioners. I released it in June 2017 and had my second son, Chance in August of 2017. The course launched and was more successful than I could have ever anticipated, with quality feedback from colleagues and students alike.
I had a scheduled cesarean section with Chance, in a well-loved and supported environment. I controlled what I could by soliciting a great team, and tried to surrender to everything else. Chance is my miracle baby, not because of conception, but because I was almost not brave enough to have him. I did not believe that he could be a positive experience until he was placed on my chest. He has changed my perspective in many ways, improved my knowledge and grown my heart tremendously.
Over the next couple of years, hundreds of coaches or soon to be coaches around the world enrolled in Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism. It has grown into a movement and well respected and recognized designation for coaching professionals. Communities both online and in-person have support and context from fitness professionals who get it and get them. We have successfully combined women’s health considerations as it relates to pregnancy, postpartum, mindset and long term athleticism/performance.
I have created a resource that supports every aspect of Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism. There is officially an answer for the “I wish I would have known/why didn't anyone tell me”.
On the personal side of things, it’s been overwhelming to grow a business, connected to my own story, while in the trenches of motherhood. I have imperfectly tried to take care of myself during these physically and mentally vulnerable years.
My body had been through so much, with my second pregnancy taking a toll on my diastasis and damaging the mesh from the hernia repair I had done years prior.
I was able to rehab very well from my second pregnancy, even though I still had a diastasis and mesh issues, it did not cause me symptoms or significant issues. I did not experience any pelvic health symptoms and my training and body found homeostasis again. However, in early 2019 I opted to get an abdominoplasty to address the damaged mesh and repair my diastasis (8cm) at the same time.
This was a very personal decision with public feedback, opinions and repercussions and one that was not made lightly. It has been a challenging experience to decide upon and recover from, but I know that it’s another opportunity to learn and pay forward the information I gather from it.
Women need more support across the spectrum of their motherhood, function and athletic endeavors and I am determined to keep showing up for them the same way I am determined to keep showing up and evolving my own growth and efforts.
I am with you,
An online course for coaches, trainers and practitioners
Are you pregnant and everyone has you convinced that “OMG diastasis” or “just listen to your body, do what you’ve always done!” Neither are ok or are enough info.