The pooch chronicles

Pardon my pooch—it’s diastasis recti.

Don’t get me wrong—I love the shape of the pregnant belly. But when people still think you are pregnant, years after your babies were born, there’s a slight problem. For the last year or so, a trending topic around town for mamas has been the d-word: diastasis recti. It means the connective tissue of the rectus abdominus muscle separates, causing a pooch. Because of the pressure on their abdominal wall, pregnant women are particularly at risk for diastasis.

I was curious if I had the dreaded d, even though I had no telltale pooch. Somehow my very active one-year-old daughter has stripped me, finally, of my residual baby fat. I went to my split-check with the overconfidence of the lean.  To my surprise, I did have a deep split, and it was only getting worse.

The check is minimal: you lie on your back, knees bent, and slowly raise your head off the ground. The checker puts her fingers in the center of your abdomen, perpendicular to your navel. How deep she puts her fingers in, and how many fingers wide, determines the severity of the split. Not only was my split in places three fingers wide, there was actually a little ridged outline about an inch above my navel. I had never noticed it before, but De West, the certified yoga therapist who was checking me, thought it could be my internal organs becoming undone—the beginnings of a hernia.

Yikes. All of a sudden I felt raw, vulnerable, as if I had just been gored. Though there are several classes being taught around town that zero in on the mummy tummy problem—the Tupler Technique (peainthepodfitness.com) and The Pooch Class (intuitivehandspt.com), I was drawn to West and acupuncturist Kristin Savory’s (pictured above) Healing Your Core four week workshop, with the tag line a “Yoga and Chinese Medicine approach to finding your center.” I liked their holistic focus, making the goal less about tummy trimming and more about core and centering.

With an impending hernia as my catalyst, I signed up to explore the unmapped territory of my abdomen. As West says, “When we have a baby we mostly focus on that, and on being a mother. No one talks about the dark side of having a baby: hernias, pelvic pain, painful sex, bladder/anal incontinence, digestive issues, painful lower back, and uterine prolapse.” Almost all pregnant women will develop a split, and whether it heals by itself or not depends on a myriad of factors, many of which are beyond one’s control. The kind of delivery, the length of the labor, the amount of maternity leave, stress levels, diet, even the quality of our bowel movements can affect the strength of that connective tissue.

Curious about my diastasis dénouement?

Stay tuned for the next blogisode of the pooch chronicles…

Elizabeth Marglin is a freelance writer who has recently had articles published in Natural Health, Backpacker, Colorado Home & Lifestyles, and FitPregnancy. She just finished coauthoring The Mother’s Wisdom Deck, an oracle deck designed specifically for mothers, which will be published by Sterling Publishing for Mother’s Day 2012. Before she became a mother her life included travel, adventure, meditation, yoga, rock-climbing, and reading. Now diapers, whining, domestic drudgery, boogie butlering, and stain removing comprise the bulk of her day-to-day activities. Save for the rich vein of never-before-imagined love that flows through her life, keeping her merrily afloat, she would need to be talked down from the edge. She lives with her husband and has two children, Jordan Luca, age 4, and Oriah Jasmine, age 1.