I seldom go to the doctor, so when I found a lump in my groin that wouldn’t retreat, I made an appointment with my gynecologist. The location of the lump seemed “vagina enough.” Okay, I am totally guilty of using my OB as a primary care doctor since I pretty much only go to the doctor when pregnant. Turns out it was my lymph node and I would need to see a general surgeon to determine the cause. I’m going to fast-forward here, as to not cause alarm, to say that a biopsy showed it was simply a swollen lymph node, and not cancer or some horrible groin-eating ameba like Google might have me believe.
My gynecologist is seriously amazing. She is an associate professor at our local university, and she is as kind as she is smart—a combination more rare in the medical field than a leprechaun at the end of the rainbow. I love her and if she weren’t overseeing my vagina care, I would want to be friends. It is kind of awkward if you ask to take your relationship next level when she is examining your crotch though. She asked if I’m back to work, and I explained that I was helping women with their nutrition and physical health. I shared my struggles with my own diastasis recti and how it has motivated me to expand my scope of work to help educate women on the condition and teach them how to strengthen their core properly.
“You just do crunches, right?” she said. It was somewhere between a question and a statement. My head began to spin and my ass cheeks started to sweat through the thin paper on the table. What the holy hell? If I wasn’t butt-naked on her table I would have busted out in some pelvic tilts right there. Instead I decided to take a deep breath, engage my core, adjust that sticky paper under my thighs, and explain the basic science of the transverse abdominis. “Well how do you get strong stomach muscles then?” she questioned. “Your rectus abdominis looks very developed.” I told her there is no need to do a goddamn crunch ever again, and I gave her the name of my pelvic floor physical therapist so she could refer future patients. I’m really hoping our ten minute meeting will help countless other women.
I left her office slightly disturbed about my mysteriously lumpy groin, but majorly disturbed by the lack of knowledge and resources for postnatal care for women. Women are rarely given any information about pelvic floor and abdominal health, and even worse, your doctor may not know more about core rehab than personal trainer Joe Schmoe over at LA Fitness. “What can I do to change this?” I asked myself while pulling out of the parking lot. What our bodies go through to carry and deliver our children is epic. Freaking EPIC. And yet…once we are no longer a vessel of life-making magic, we are cast aside like a barren carcass with our bladders dangling down to our knees. As mothers, we seldom prioritize our own health because we are so busy caring for everyone else. Our doctors, those who are supposed to guide us and be our touchstone in our journey to our healthiest selves, aren’t given the knowledge needed to inform patients. I don’t blame my gynecologist. Frankly, she probably wasn’t taught how to treat it or why it is important to refer patients to someone who can help.
Just as the disbelief from that appointment began to dissipate, I met with the general surgeon. “Hey, since I’m here and you are looking at my crotch today, do you mind looking at my belly button, too?” I asked. I knew I had an umbilical hernia to some extent, but I was curious from a surgeon’s perspective if anything needed to be done. “Oh, yeah, you have a hernia and a diastasis.” Yeah, yeah. I knew that. She continued, “There’s nothing that can be done to fix that except surgery. You’ve already tried crunches, I assume.” She gave a sympathetic shrug and a half smile.
I am not making this shit up, people. Seriously. Her bedside manner, while perfectly adequate, was not stellar like my OB, so I needed to bust out the elevator speech quick. “For one, there IS something that can be done. Have you ever heard of a pelvic floor physical therapist? And two, crunches are the worst thing ever!”
I’m sick of hearing that nothing can be done…that we should all settle in, buck up, and live with it. It’s just the price of motherhood, right? No! Sleepless nights…that’s the price of motherhood. Betting wrong on whether it is chocolate or poop–that is the price of motherhood. Picking up vomit that splattered from the top bunk. Oh, yeah, that is the price of motherhood. A shitty core? Nah. We shouldn’t have to settle on that one. Let me give the quick run-down on complications from diastasis recti. It can cause lower back pain, constipation, urine leakage, and can even make it harder to breathe and move normally. I don’t know about you, but looking four months pregnant and being asked when you are due can really suck pretty hard, too.
My story is not dissimilar to the hundreds of other women I’ve connected with recently. I was told I could do crunches at my six-week check up. It took me months to figure out what was going on with my midsection. Why was I so weak when I was working so hard with sit-ups and v-ups, toes to bar, and the likes? While Dr. Google was all wrong about that groin-eating ameba, it nailed my diastasis recti diagnosis. Dr. G for the win. Want to know how I found the help to treat it? I scoured mommy chat rooms on the topic and discovered there was such a thing as a pelvic floor physical therapist. That’s how. You moms had my back–my lower back.
I can’t go to every obstetricians office and tell them that crunches are as stupid as the Lip Gloss Diet, but I can spread the word, and so can you. Tell pregnant and postpartum women that they don’t have to piss themselves when they jump or sneeze. Their back shouldn’t hurt years after birthing a baby. That “mommy tummy,” well it might be a sign of a weak, compromised core.
Don’t settle. Advocate. It starts with us! We are the voice.
Click here to find a pelvic floor physical therapist in your area!