My Journey 4 days post surgery, 20 years, 8 months and 10 days post 4th baby

So many thoughts and ways to begin but you will soon find that I will write this much like I speak – as it occurs to me. But I will try to start a bit at the beginning and explain a bit of what I have learned along the way. So, I married the greatest man (my dad was already spoken for) almost 32 years ago. I have included a couple pre-baby pictures for those of you who didn’t know me then or are trying to learn about Diastasis Recti (also

 

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known as DRAM or DA or DR as I refer to it).

When we married in August of 1986, I was 5’83/4″ tall (I know 3/4″ seems silly to mention but when you are now the second shortest in your family, it matters)and weighed 134 pounds. I lifted weights and worked out for fun and I was a landscape foreman/bidder/estimator aka. laborer who lifted heavy equipment daily.

In 1987 we learned that our first baby was due in July of 1988.

pregnancy 1over due post baby 1

8 months after baby #1.

It wasn’t an easy labor and finally ended in a C-section. He weighed 9.7 pounds. I was back to playing Coed softball and running my landscape company within a week and running a home daycare for about 6 kids during the day, teaching landscape classes at night and on the weekends and selling Tupperware. I lost down to 145 pounds and was fairly pleased with my body except for this new roll above the C-section scar that wouldn’t go away no matter how hard I worked out or what type of exercise I did.

In April of 1991, we had our second baby, a girl, weighing 8.4 pounds. Her delivery was vaginal and lasted about 6 hours. After she was born I began nannying for two girls along with my own two and running my own landscape company on the weekends and evenings. We also began building our own home and clearing the acreage. Again, I lost down to the mid 140’s but still had this nagging roll over my first C-section scar. In September of 1994 our third child was born, another son, after another long labor and by C-section. He was my smallest at 8.3 pounds. By then we had started our own greenhouse retail operation and landscape company and I was still a nanny.

In May of 1995 I had what Doctors told me was a thyroid storm and nearly died. I don’t remember a lot except that I grew very weak very quickly. Before the “storm” fully hit, I was sleeping 1-3 hours a night, I lost down to 135 pounds and thought it was pretty fantastic. After the storm and they had to kill my thyroid with radioactive iodine, I gained 40 pounds in 2 weeks and had zero energy. Over time, I regained the energy and ran quite a successful greenhouse business with my husband, parents and kids.

However, I continued to gain weight and weighed almost 200 pounds when I had our 4th and last child, a girl, the largest – weighing 9.8 pounds. She was only a few days old when I was back in the greenhouse selling poinsettias and preparing for our spring season. I lead a very active lifestyle – coached 2 of our kids and others in volleyball, 2 in softball, 3 in soccer, 2 in basketball, served as a 4-H leader for 20 plus years in many different levels of the program including camp counselor, canoe trip chaperone, ambassador training… I only say all this to explain that I didn’t live sedentary lifestyle.

In September of 2003 I received the diagnosis of MS (Multiple Sclerosis), it is an auto-immune disease the causes nerve demyelination. I started injections 3 times a week of a drug called Rebif that had only recently been released by the USDA in the US and so I was truly taking it on faith, based that it would allow me to walk in all my kids weddings. The cost of the drug (our self employment insurance didn’t cover prescriptions) and the fact that I had to make an immediate career change (heat is really hard on MS patients and 100* greenhouses are hot) caused our family extreme financial hardships. Again, I only explain that so you will understand why it took me 20 years to deal with Diastasis Recti (DR).

Before I go on, I do want to say – I enjoyed working in the greenhouse business, being a well-respected landscape designer and instructor and getting to work with my family on a daily basis. But I firmly believe that God has a plan for all of us and when I changed my career to Real Estate I was scared (not only because I had a college degree to do what I had been doing and that I had just been diagnosed with a chronic disease), did not feel well yet and was so unsure. BUT, the Crown Realty family (run by the Hosack/Casey family) made my transition so seamless. 14 years later, a supervising broker for the company, I can’t imagine ever doing anything else. I LOVE what I do everyday and feel so fortunate and proud of the company I represent and genuinely care about the people I have the opportunity to work with, both clients and agents! Again, that side note is necessary to me because without gratitude we can’t enjoy life and without this lifestyle I wouldn’t be recovering from this surgery that will allow me to continue enjoying what life brings!
So finally the topic that brought me to the surgery and has nothing to do with MS except that I had to have it under control before the surgery and I am so happy to report that I haven’t had a major exacerbation in over 10 years!

Diastasis Recti or DR. Is when your two abdominal muscles split apart during pregnancy due to an excess amount of pressure on the abdominal wall.

 

DR

This leaves a “pooch” in your tummy after birth that is very hard to fix without some degree of surgical intervention, though it can be fixed with therapy if your case is mild enough.
What are some signs of DR?
• A doming or bulging ridge around the belly button.
• Two finger widths or more between the abs(if you know how to check it)

I first noticed mine when I would do sit-ups or crunches and instead of normal horizontal abs, it appeared like an alien baby was emerging vertically from my ab area.

Who’s prone to DR? These are the questions I was told by surgeons that women need to ask themselves:
• Overweight individuals carrying most of their weight in their abdomen.
• Those who perform exercises incorrectly or with bad posture (I did body building in college,I thought I was doing them correctly)
• Women who are pregnant.
• Women who gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy.(When I was pregnant I was never told weight limits and remember fondly them feeling my ab muscles and having trouble deciphering how far along I actually was)
• Women with multiple pregnancies or whose pregnancies are spaced closer together (I have been told 4 in 10 years in close together, I think one of my aunts had 6 in 5 years!)
• Women who are pregnant with more than one fetus at once (twins, triplets, etc).
• Women over the age of 35 (before they have babies???)

This simple self examines will help you decide if you have DR:
1.Lie on your back with your knees bent upward, as if you are in the starting position for a crunch exercise.
2.Place your fingers right above your belly button.
3.Raise your head and shoulders off floor as if you are performing a crunch exercise.
4.If you can feel a gap or see a bulging,then you could have a DR.

Well, my self examine sent me to see my family physician and then a general surgeon. I was told the same thing by both Doctors.
1. Insurance considered the repair of DR cosmetic and would not cover it.
2. Mine was a severe case, over 4 finger widths wide. Yes, probably due to 4 large babies, 3 C-sections, 1 hysterectomy after baby #4 and A LOT of heavy lifting over time.
3. I could try exercises to strengthen the membrane between the abdominal wall but only surgery would truly repair it AND not to do crunches, sit-ups, planks… all the exercises I was being told to do to still work on that now huge C-section belly overhang!

So what did I do?
1. Started saving money and developing a plan to pay for a surgery that would kill two birds with one stone!
My first grandson had just arrive and I wanted  to be like my favorite Grammy that I have great memories with and like my parents are with my kids.

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2. Started a serious weight loss plan thanks to a challenge from a couple of co-workers and from February 15th to June 1st,  lost 34 pounds.

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3. I also checked and rechecked with insurance companies and even though I experienced one hernia due to the DR, the insurance would only fix it. NOT the DR.
Then we got the great news that grand baby 2 would be here in September and I knew the time was now.
4. Investigated plastic surgeons and found the one I wanted to do my surgery. His consulting nurse was beyond any of my expectations. She is kind, non-judgmental, caring and so reassuring.
5. Scheduled the up to 5 hour surgery for Friday, August 10th, 2018
6. Enlisted the help of my very health conscious and exercise guru daughter to develop an exercise/weight loss plan for me for the three weeks pre-op. Where I am happy to report I lost another 10 pounds and really improved my strength so recovery is not seeming difficult.

So now I am about 5 days post surgery. I am only taking Tylenol as needed for pain. I have a drain tube/bag and will for up to 3 weeks. I am a little slow getting around and have sleep in a recliner for the past 4 nights and the surgery leaves you quit swollen BUT I can see the differences and for the first time in 20-30 years, I don’t care so much about what a scale says but that I am so much happier about what I see in the mirror. And I have so much more energy already! As you read before, I never followed the rest and take care of myself guidelines well at all and that will ALWAYS be a challenge for Type A ME but I am really trying to let this Doctors work heal as it should and I just wish that everyone in this world would stop for a minute and thank GOD for the miracles he has created in each and every one of us and remind ourselves to appreciate our inner and outer beauty, besides HE created us each in his own likeness! I also need to thank the best husband and caregiver any woman could ever have. I  love you Jim Stambaugh.

In the process, I have learned so many things I could/should have done differently so that is really why I wanted to write this. If I can help others not go through what I just did, I want to. AND, I realize my first “baby” turned 30 this summer and Doctors have learned so much, technology has improved and better care is giving to women after pregnancy. I hope this helps at least one person.

How can you prevent DR during pregnancy?

Most cases of DR begin during pregnancy so it’s wise to be aware of your physical activities during your pregnancy. There is no guarantee that you can prevent this DR from happening to you. However, you can truly reduce the chances. Even if you get Dr, there are ways to prevent it from getting worse.
DO NOT FOCUS ON YOUR ABS during pregnancy. Work on your core, strong arms, strong legs, balance, cardio, stretching, pelvic floor, lumbar… AND wear a belly support during pregnancy! It will help lift your heavy belly which will help your back, posture and even takes pressure off your bladder. After baby arrives, switch to a postpartum girdle. If you OB doesn’t provide one, get one for yourself. It works like a binder and helps hold those AB muscles together besides shrinking your uterus back down to normal. Moms with C-sections shouldn’t leave the hospital or be up and about without one on! It will save you so much money and discomfort in the long run!

Additionally, no matter you age, practice good posture. I don’t know how many times I was told “shoulders back, chin up…” but we should all be telling our kids “don’t spring out of bed, roll to your side and gently push up”, “don’t do any workouts that strain you abs, there are so many good core exercises that don’t cause pressure that cause DR”. Women and all students are so much smarter about carrying their kids, purses, backpacks, groceries… but be thoughtful on everything you lift. Lift with your legs from a squat position and center the weight you carry – no more phone and groceries in one arm and a baby on the other hip 🙂

A lot of women also believe in using Kinesio tape on their belly during the 3rd trimester of their pregnancy to prevent DR, back pain, sciatic nerve pain, bladder pressure and even hip pain. They didn’t have that when I was pregnant but I have to believe if athletes find benefits during extreme workouts from it, I don’t know how pregnant women wouldn’t.

I am pretty sure blogs are supposed to be short little thoughts so just take from mine what will help and after reading all the FB comments,I will probably be writing one on MS soon.

“Treat everyone you meet with the kindness you would show to someone you know is hurting because you have no idea how someone is hurting at any giving moment”

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