January 27, 2015

How I healed my Diastasis Recti

Dude, if you know what those two words mean I feel your pain. Those cute squishy babies all moving our insides around and stuff - pushing our intestines here, our bladder (oh the bladder) there, and SPLITTING OUR ALREADY SORRY MOMMY "ABS" IN TWO.

If you don't know what diastasis recti is or to check to see if you have it (yes, even men get it), click here for more information. 

You see, I never knew I had diastasis recti until Levi was 18 months old. I was at a PT appointment for all my running stuff when my (awesome - Erik check him out here, shout out shout out!) PT said, "It looks like you have a separation in your abdominal muscles."

What?! And sure enough. When I laid down and tested it all out, my finger width was almost 4 fingers. And, unbeknownst to me, I had been making it worse.

Diastasis recti (DR for short) can cause a whole wad of issues other than just the "mummy tummy." Yes, it's the culprit for the stomach that won't go back into place no matter what you do. Yes, it's the culprit for everyone asking you if you're pregnant when your child is actually potty trained and in the time out stage. Ahem, I could've counted on 17 hands how many times I was "congratulated" hahaha.) But DR can also cause digestive issues, core imbalances (hence a lot of the reason I saw a PT for running), back pain, incontinence, prolapse, and hernias. So we're not just talking about abs and I'm not all advocating we all need to work on a 6-pack or something. Fixing DR (in my experience) is more about healing the body and restoring balance/strength/all that jazz than it is about rocking' a bikini. So there.

Enough talk. Onto how I actually healed my DR and brought my poor little abdominal walls back together. I mean, they missed each other. And now that they've reunited they're all happy and in love again. Before I go into the how and give some better resources other than my ramblings, here are some key points to remember/start doing now:

**STOP DOING AB EXERCISES. The End. Planks, crunches, ANYTHING PILATES, anything related to outward exertion (careful with push ups) with the abdominal muscles - stop doing those now. YOU ARE MAKING IT WORSE. My DR got worse and worse as time went on after having Levi and it's because I was trying to work out my abs. Healing DR is a combination of breathing exercises, training yourself in core support, and to an extent, diet.

**IT TAKES TIME. No, your DR will not be healed overnight. You're looking at probably 6-8 weeks to see initial improvement but once things click in progress will zip along. Don't get discouraged. It's worth it. And I'm living proof that you can go from literally no abdominal support to a tighter (more helpful in life) core.

From the moment I found out I had DR I started researching and stumbled upon the Tuppler Technique (TT for short). Not wanting to shell out money for the program I actually found an article on how to do the TT and started right away. I only got a month or so into it before I got pregnant with Lola but I continued with the TT during pregnancy and afterwards noticed that I had actually closed  the gap by a couple finger widths. (2 finger widths is considered "normal" ab separation). I fluctuated as everything was healing postpartum and now I'm back to within normal range.

So, I guess in order to make sense, here's a checklist bullet point thing of what I did to heal my DR:

-As listed above, I stopped all planks, crunches, etc until I was healed and even now I still do my TT exercises and am super careful with my breathing during weight lifting sessions and with everything else...

-Did the Tuppler Technique breaths 300-500 times a day. You can get the book here, or HERE is a great article explaining the technique. I was able to learn it without the book or DVD. Main points: breath in through the nose and when exhaling, breath out through the mouth and pull the transverse abdominals into the spine NEVER OUTWARDS. I learned to do it by breating out/counting as I pulled my abdominal muscles to my spine - blowing a breath with each count, working up to 100 breaths a time a few times a day. Takes a bit to get used to it but I'm actually doing it now as I type this. During my workouts I would sit in my chair do them in place of what I would usually do "ab" wise. I did them in the car. I did them standing doing dishes (although less effective standing)

-I CONSTANTLY HELD IN MY CORE. "Belly button to the spine" replayed over and over into my head. No, it's not like holding your breath. But by constantly holding in my core and not splaying my abdominal muscles out even more I was able to provide support to my (growing belly). I paid special attention while running, getting up out of bed or off the couch (again, any outward exertion makes it worse), picking up kids, lifting weights, getting groceries, you name it. And by holding/supporting my core I had ZERO back or pelvic pain during pregnancy. I think it's the main reason I was able to keep running and the reason I felt so good at the end.

-NOTE: The hardest part is just remembering. But over time you'll train yourself to constantly hold the abdominals in and breath correctly and it'll become second nature.

-Special note about pregnancy: since the abdominals are already weak be extra careful when you use the bathroom (TMI? not when it comes to the mummy tummy lol) and when you push during labor. You could go your whole pregnancy without DR and split those babies open (no pun intended) during the pushing stage of labor. I can't remember where I found it but I researched the correct way to push (breathing wise) and not only does it pop that baby out faster and more effectively but by breathing correctly the force will go to get the baby out and not to splitting the abs open. I also tried to splint during the pushing stage (mostly with my hands - holding the abdominals together - which actually helped me push correctly) but I didn't do it all the way right because well, I was swearing up a storm or something.

-After the birth of Lola I used a splint. I researched the CRAP outta 17,000 different splints, tried a couple, and THIS IS THE ONE I LOVED - it's called the Squeem. Make sure to measure yourself where it tells you. After birth I was a medium, now I'm down to a small. No, the splint won't fix everything for you however it does do two important things: 1) it holds the abdominal muscles in the correct place as everything is healing postpartum and 2) it is a constant reminder to do the breathing exercises and hold your core. I wore mine from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed for the first 6 weeks (OK, a lot of days I forgot or didn't care) and I still throw it on a couple days a week to keep reminding myself to breathe correctly and hold in my core.

-The TT and breathing exercises can help anyone - not just people with DR. My trainer actually sent me a video on breathing exercises to make sure that I'm doing and it is very similar to the TT breathing.

OK, I hope that helped! There are a ton of great articles out there but really, if you do the breathing exercises consistently (it'll feel weird and ineffective at first), stop everything that's making it worse (if you take an exercise class sit out during the ABS part - I actually do ZERO specific ab work other than planks however my core has never been this tight), and learn to hold in your core at all time (especially when exerting any effort) you will be on your way to closing the gap.

Up next....Pregnancy 4.0 2.0 where I talk about the new things I did after having Lola, during the newborn period, to feel good, keep my postpartum depression at bay, and recover well. Until then, time to go comfort a teething babe........

January 22, 2015

Pregnancy 4.0

It has been 6 months and 5 days since I've been pregnant. (Not that I'm rejoicing in denim again or anything…liar liar jeans on fire) And it has been during this time I was able to reflect on the pregnancy journey the fourth time around.

Well, technically the fifth. We lost a little one during the first trimester between Avila and Max. Our little "Gabriel" as we call him. Yes it was hard. But it is also beautiful knowing we did our job: to get our child to heaven. 'Cause that's all we're really asked to do. And every time I refer to anything about our family - we have 4 kids, there are 6 of us - Avila always corrects me. NO mom, there are 5 kids. NO mom, there are 7 of us. They love their brother and pray for him every night. They ask what he looks like and can't wait to meet him. And neither can we. I didn't mean to make this a weird side note, but if Avila were reading the blog she would be on my case. Plus, Gabriel needs a shout out every now and then.

And so, I guess the fifth time around you would think I finally have this bun in the oven thing figured out. Maybe I do and maybe I don't but I did learn/try some things this time around that made a world of difference.

Before I go on, you should read this. It's awesome...
Hey American, Pregnancy: You're doing it all wrong.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming: listening to me opine about bellies and babies. Cute, squishy, babies.

And only somewhat cute, very squishy bellies.

You see, my pregnancy with Lola wasn't necessarily easy by all means but the decisions I made and the attitude I was determined to have made a huge difference. Yes, I had nausea until 20 weeks. Yes, I felt like a house at times. Yes, there were many days I did NOT want to be pregnant and I did NOT want to choose the right things. But I powered on in the effort to at least live my "normal" life and not throw away 9 months with excuses.

If I were to sum up my pregnancy with Lola it would go something like this:
Listen to my body but pretend I'm not pregnant.

#1: Listening to my body: Well, that's a given. If I was hungry, I ate (more on what in a minute). If I was tired (like death tired) I would let go of everything non-important and try to fit a nap in. If I was only kind of tired I sucked it up. I pushed myself pretty far in this pregnancy (running, boarding) but at the end of the day, baby always came first. Hence the reason I was on the cheering squad for the Tacoma City Marathon and not with my peeps.

#2: Pretend I wasn't pregnant: This doesn't mean I wasn't careful but I never let pregnancy be an excuse for giving up. If I have a crappy non-pregnant day it's not like I can blame it on something so pregnancy wasn't a cop out for me to be a blob (most days) or for me to over-indulge in bad habits "just because" I was pregnant. If anything, I took extra care to make sure I was eating clean, working out, staying happy, being normal because well, hello: life inside of me! I also didn't really change a whole lot of my normal routine because (as Kendra writes in the article above) pregnancy isn't a disease: I still drank coffee and ate shrimp. I went on water slides. I drank a glass of wine every week. I still ran marathons (4 to be exact). No, I wasn't careless, but I listened to science and reason and I don't believe that life should be stopped living. Pregnancy is beautiful and wonderful and normal and I don't think God meant for us to throw in the towel for 9 months.

Marathon/Ultra #12 for me. #1 for Lola.

Marathon #2 for Lola. I was 8 weeks. And wanted to die. But I wore a tutu so that helped.

Marathon #3 for Lola. Where she officially became a Marathon Maniac

And now for some details. I honestly believe that staying active and eating as clean as possible were two of the biggest keys to having a great pregnancy.

**A disclaimer: listen to your body (duh like above) and check with your doc. But my doc was weird about the marathons and I ran them anyway (my body said it was OK) so I might not be the best person to ask for advice, bahahaha. PLUS, I was running marathons BEFORE I got pregnant so it's not like I was doing something new. My body was actually going through withdrawals from the LESS RUNNING during the first parts of my pregnancy so in order to not feel EXTRA crappy I had to keep up most of what I was doing before. OK, the end.**

Here's a little breakdown of what I did, trimester by trimester:

TRI 1 (weeks 1-13): Ate lots of protein. Never ever let myself get hungry (makes nausea worse). Tried to eat only whole foods (fruits, veggies, nothing processed) but sometimes cereal was where it was at. Gave myself a little hall pass for not being too stringent but at the same time knowing that the healthier I was the better I would feel. Probably a bonus I have every food allergy in the world and can't eat that Big Mac I really really wanted. I also ran/worked out as much as I could which totally helped the nausea. But I also took this time to "be selfish" and do more of what felt good instead of what I "should have been" doing. Although I did run three marathons in my first trimester. Nothing like nausea at mile 18.....

TRI 2 (weeks 14-38): Yes, I know the second trimester ends at 28 weeks or something like that. But most people hit that third trimester and kick their feet back and then crap sits in and it's WEEKS (WEEKS PEOPLE) of misery. So I always kept the notion that I had a looong way to go. With my other pregnancies I would think "Ooooo, only 6 more weeks!" but with this one I would say "2 more months, gotta step it up a notch!" Totally helped mentally.

While I did get 2nd trimester bursts of energy I was also the most tired at this stage. Like, I napped a couple times a week. Crazy I tell you. It was in the second trimester that I remained the most disciplined and never ever tried to let my brain trick my body into giving up. I used to run every night (before pregnancy) but I would be dog tired at that point so I switched to the mornings. Up at 5AM, FOR AN HOUR, SIX DAYS A WEEK. No matter if I felt like it or not. I ran Monday/Wednesday/Friday (on an old treadmill we have in the garage), lifted weights at home on Tuesdays/Thursdays and did Boot Camp on Saturday mornings. Sometimes I would even sleep in my workout clothes and tell myself: just make it through the warm-up...... Sundays were for resting or (when the weather was awesome) paddle boarding. Pregnant lady bump in the middle of the sound is guaranteed to get you weird/awesome looks. Hey, it gives a new meaning to water birth right?! I also ran a marathon (OK, 25K but it was up and down mountains and took as long as a marathon) and that race was awesome 'cause I didn't want people passing the pregnant lady and getting any sort of joy outta it, hahaha

My motto for eating was this: not too much, mostly plants. My diet consisted of lean protein, fruit, lots of veggies, eggs, nuts, very little grains. I don't buy into the "eating for two" and I wanted to keep my weight gain within a healthy yet reasonable amount. In total I gained 17 lbs and still had a healthy 7lb 11oz baby girl. (First pregnancy, 25lbs, second pregnancy 20lbs, third 18lbs.) Knowing how my body handles weight during pregnancy I didn't really gain anything the first trimester, the second I kept it at about 1/2 pound a week, and the third trimester is where I usually pack it on - a pound a week the last 5-6 weeks. I never was fixated on the number because all I cared about was a healthy baby but I pretty much just ate (clean) when I was hungry and knew my body would grow this baby nice and fine. I did allow myself treats every now and then but I also knew that it would be easier to keep any extra weight gain at bay NOW vs trying to lose it WHEN TAKING CARE OF A NEWBORN AND 3 OTHER KIDS.

(I'm totally not knocking anyone and their pregnancy journey - I'm just trying to outline what I personally did to try and turn a potentially crappy time into a potentially good-feeling one. I got a lot of "you are so lucky you have easy pregnancy" comments but in actuality I put in the freaking hard work to make sure I felt good. Just trying to help a mother (or two) out, Cheers!)

TRI 3 (Weeks 38-42): Yes, I delivered at 42 weeks. OK, more like 41 weeks and 5 flipping days. I totally thought she would fall out on the treadmill or on my paddle board or something but she had to get kicked out. (Full birth story here, if you're into that thing.) But honestly I felt so good even being overdue that I could've gone another 2 weeks. I did Boot Camp and boarded the day before she came. She must've been all cozy. Or stuck. Waiting for mama to slow down....I had never been induced before and it was a longer-ish labor but my endurance remained (almost) and I was thanking my lucky stars (and the dreadmill) for keeping my spirits high.

This was two days before Lola was born. 2.5 miles like a snail.

And the day before she was kicked out. Glorious sun for a soon-to-be glorious babe.

Post-Partum: OK, this is where I noticed the BIGGEST difference in keeping active/eating clean during pregnancy. But this post has gone on long enough so I shall name it Pregnancy 4.0 1.0...Part 2.0 will come next where I talk about the few key things I did to recover well, stave of Post-Partum Depression (of which I've had), and feel great during the newborn crappy time. OH, and I'll share HOW I HEALED MY DIASTASIS RECTI DURING and POST PREGNANCY. You know, that Ab separation thing that makes non-pregnant ladies look pregnant. Yup had it BAD. Like, "are you pregnant" when your baby was 18 months old bad. But it can be healed! I promise I won't leave you hanging too long on that one. It's just that my fingers are tired. And I have kids to feed or something.

But you're welcome for obligatory baby picture. Buh Bye. For now.

January 20, 2015

Costco: 4 kids. 5 hours. 7 glasses of wine.

 Dude. Costco is an event. And I'm not talking black tie. I'm talking 5 hours from start to finish. Literally.

OK, let me back up a little. But not with the cart - that thing is too heavy...I must say I have Costco down. Like I run out of everything at the same time and go every two weeks to restock it back up. (And the off weeks I hit up the market for the few random things I can't get at Costco.) Never mind that everyone always asks if I'm stocking up for the month. (Have you seen Levi's cheeks? They have to come from somewhere...) 

Don't let Lola fool you. She's not asleep. She's too busy pulling my hair. You think I'd explore something called the PONYTAIL. But no. Apparently I like to live on the edge.

Anyway, Costco usually goes something like this. Actually, it pretty much goes exactly like this because, in order to succeed (or not die) with anything in my current state of life I need to have a process. A process that I can move through without having to think so I can spend my time thinking about the toddler who wants to keep secretly reaching to the back of the cart and smoosh ALL THE THINGS.

10:45 am: The big kids (and me) all ready. Clothes/socks/shoes/hair done. House picked up (mostly). Because I hate coming back from Costco and having to unload while tripping over cars and legos.

11 am: Feed the baby. And pray the baby nurses well so she won't want food in the middle of aisle 17.

11:15 am: Big kids sit on stairs (with coats on) while I load Lola and my bag into the car. Then big kids put on shoes (NOT RAIN BOOTS. Do you know what a personal H - E - Double Hockey Stick it is trying to get a kid into and out of a cart with boots on that get stuck?????) and get into the car. Usually I bring a Kombucha or bottle of sparkling water as a my treat to look forward to on the way home. But I don't drink it on the way there because more worse than having a baby who wants to eat while being worn is having to pee an hour out from when I could actually do so.

11:30 am: Arrive. Park in the way back, next to the cart return. MAKE SURE TO REMEMBER TO BRING IN REUSABLE BAGS so I don't have to deal with boxes when we get home. Hashtag annoying.

11:30 - 12:15 pm: I can usually get our run, in the store, done in about 45 minutes. That is if I don't get distracted BY THE MIDDLE AISLES. Oh Costco, you get me every time. I go counter-clockwise and pretty much know the list in my head. To keep the kids corralled the boys are in the cart, Avila walks (her reward is holding the receipt. If you're a parent you know how valuable that receipt is...) and I wear Lola in a backpack or wrap. I alternate between bribing, threatening, and having fun with the kids. Bribes usually come in the form of a lollipop when we get home. Threatens come in the form of a loss of limb (nothing like toddler-man yelling out in the chip aisle: NO I DON'T WANNA SPANKIN') and the fun comes when we find a space with no one in it and I push the cart down the aisle and let it go. Easy to entertain boys, I tell you. I send Avila to get things I can't reach and I pray I can fit everything in the cart, like a little jigsaw puzzle. Not easy when the run calls for every single piece of produce in the store, 3 large 24 counts of eggs, lots of meat, two sets of diapers, baby wipes, TP and Paper Towels, plus the boxes of milk, plus the other things on the list. Usually I have to leave something out. Or shove it all in and pray it doesn't fall over in the parking lot. Or pray the toddler doesn't ruin the orchid. 

Not pictured. The three bags in the trunk already.

However there are two events that are pretty much guaranteed to trip up my time in the store: the samples and the people wanting to come touch the baby. Sample people, really? Do you have to be on the end of the aisles causing California like traffic jams with people who park their cart at the entrance blocking any sort of passageway? And regular people, really? Do you have to come up and touch my baby's face with your germy sample-filled hands? I know she's cute, but I'm on edge already and my pink lipstick can only hold a smile for so long. 

12:15-12:30 pm (if I'm lucky):  Check out line. Actually this is the time I usually exhale. I chit chat with the kids. Try to be patient 'cause I don't have control over anything. And muster the energy to face the tough part of the whole deal: the LOADING and UNLOADING. And if it's raining outside I say an extra little prayer. But checking out generally goes smoothly (except for the paying part - I usually choke) and people are pretty helpful if I need it.

12:30-12:45 pm: loading the car. This part is like a well choreographed dance. First I throw my purse on my back - all backpack like. Because it is. That way no one can jack it if it's in the cart or in the open trunk. Then I load the big kids. Then I load the baby. Then I load the goods. Then I enjoy my beverage of choice before throwing on some awesome music and heading home. 

Here is where stuff gets real....

1:00 - 4:00 pm. Yes three hours. I timed it...
  • nurse baby and put her down for a nap
  • throw freezer stuff in the freezer
  • get big kids lunch
  • unload the rest into a big pile in the kitchen
  • break up big kid fighting
  • get myself lunch
  • dishes from lunch
  • start organizing crap into piles
  • put Levi down for a nap
  • get Avila and Max set up with puzzles or school
  • put away kitchen stuff
  • help with school
  • put away garage stuff
  • baby wakes up: nurse again
  • Levi is poopy - change diaper and yell at him for messing with the lamp
  • more school
  • put away closet/upstairs stuff
  • say "screw it" to the rest of school and put on a show
  • put the kitchen back together after 3 hours of chaos

OK, I'm tired from typing now. Or am I tired from reliving Costco in my brain on a non-Costco day? I actually went last Friday BY MYSELF which was awesome because no one was there but NOT AWESOME because the trunk was full. Hashtag stupid Goodwill stuff.

January 19, 2015

Silly babies, GO HAWKS, and an OOTW

Apparently I'm only inspired to write while standing up. Because right now I'm sitting in a comfy chair and despite the fact that I have the house to myself (big kids are with daddy and Lola is napping) I can't seem to write worth crap. Or maybe it's the long weekend throwing me off. Or maybe it's that I have 7,000 things on my TO DO list and it's easier to stare at a blank screen than do any of them.

Oh well.

At least the Hawks are going to the Superbowl!

And at least Lola ended her nursing strike! Kind of.

Silly stupid girl. I should've expected it to come since her cheeks have been red from teething but it always seems to catch me off guard - I go to sit down during our feeding sesh and have my "me" time away from the world and she decides to blow bubbles or get mad. Not fun and not fun. And then she decides to make up for it at night when she's all passed out and can't think straight (and I'm all passed out and can't think straight).

Apparently the only way she will nurse now is only on her right side and only if I sing "Blackbird" by the Beatles. I was super annoyed for like a day but then realized that I will probably remember staring into her eyes whilst singing more than I'll remember all the random crap I searched for on my phone. Silly stupid babies. Always teaching me things. Always making me forget about myself or whatever and actually do something valuable with my time. Dang it. Wink Wink.

Anyway, with a Hawks win and date night, we had a great weekend. Michael and I went to see American Sniper (awesome movie you HAVE to see it) and since it was my "cheat meal day" I totally wore something with a NON WAISTBAND so I could eat ALL THE POPCORN. Hence the overalls….

Jacket Nordstrom BP old - similar here // Tshirt James Perse //  Overalls Current Elliot // Shoes thrifted Calvin Klein - similar here // Necklaces Stella and Dot and Kate Spade // Watch  Daniel Wellington // Lipstick MAC Matte Embrace - similar here

AND my new favorite shoes!! Scored these bad boys at a local consignment shop and I'm wearing them into the ground already. TIP: only buy something if you need it, love it, or it speaks to you. I'm so not good at keeping my own commands but these did speak to me so, you know. Plus they are totally running-around-after-kids approved. Hashtag gotta love a good platform.

And for Church. Channeling the Seahawks??

Sweater Velvet by Graham and Spencer - similar here // Pants JBrand // Lipstick MAC Matte Embrace

OK, so I now have a list a mile long from all of your awesome post suggestions and I'll be ticking them off one-by-one. Tick tock tick tock. Oh man, I just realized January is almost over. Seriously?! Hashtag what the hawk?

January 16, 2015

Whatchu want? Baby I got it.

Dude, I had all these Quick Takes ready to roll off my brain - actually I wrote them down on a scratch piece of paper because haha good luck to me remembering anything other than how many pistachios Levi can shove down a heater vent.

But instead of those I want to do a little Q&A sesh.

Things are about to sniffle sniffle (in a good way) change around these parts. (And by parts I mean blog. I can't handle too much change in any other area as of this moment. I'm still adjusting to the fact that my baby is all big like. OK, no more parentheses tangents...) I don't want to give too much away but a big reboot is coming soon! Like new face, new name, new everything except my silly little words. In the meantime, as I plan this moving forwardness, I would love to know what you would love to know.

There will always be an element to this blog that remains organic. (hippy dippy trippy) Sometimes I plan out the topics for the day and sometimes I let the juice flow from ma brain to ma fingertips (by means of the coffee. Hashtag all the coffee) But whatever it is that comes out here I want it to be real, to be authentic, and to be, well, helpful. I don't know what category I fit into (um, in life either): mom blog? faith and family blog? lifestyle blog? complaining/rejoicing about life blog? Ah, who cares. Labels are boring. I'm just here. For y'all.

So, after all that shpeel, here is what I have on the docket:

-embracing minimalism in all areas (at least our attempts to)

-clean eating/healthy living 

-homeschool stuff



-our adventures

-mom style

-how to's: like how I do laundry in an hour a week. How I grocery shop with kids and for crazy food allergies, how I taught Lola to poop on command (no I didn't forget about this one!), baby sleep crap I've figured out, etc

-random stuff: AKA whatever leaves my head at 6:00am

OK, so that probably wasn't too helpful since, in moving forward, a lot of me will remain the same. But here is where YOU come in: what do you want to hear about? What sort of topics (general or specific) would you like posted on? I have a list already going from people who have emailed or commented (and, Rebecca so sorry you can't comment here! hopefully that'll get fixed soon. I did get your email and am planning to answer all your questions!) but I would love to know whatever else you all want here.

So, leave a comment. Drop me a FB message. Head on over to Instagram (@xokristinenicole) and shoot me a line there. 'Cause if you don't I might just keep on posting about how much I love things like this soup. This cauliflower, spinach, avocado soup that (is this the meal plan talking?) is the bomb.


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