FIVE Postpartum Things I Learned From My Personal Trainer

woman chats with her personal trainer online

My postpartum journey has been going on for four years now. I struggled in my new body to rediscover what kind of exercise and movement was best for me. Prior to my pregnancy I had been an avid runner and gym-goer. But those former workouts were no longer working out for me.

I walked outside a bit and kept most of the weight off from nursing. But once the weening process began, with another round of hormonal havoc, along with low activity during the pandemic, I had packed on some pounds. Worse, I didn’t feel strong in my body. I felt broken. My postpartum injuries and pain were fully felt.

In the summer of my child’s second year I was visiting family and my cousin asked me if I wanted to join her for a thirty-minute workout with her personal trainer. It was a rewarding workout on her wrap-around porch and it made an impression on me. I wanted the convenience, ease, expertise and personal attention of a personal trainer, too!

I had looked for months, to no avail. I specifically wanted to find a female personal trainer out in wine country who would come to my house. Eventually I was able to manifest what I put out for the universe to work into place for me. I was on LinkedIn looking up something business related when I found Katie. I was looking for a personal assistant, at the time, but, for some reason (a-hem – the universe working its magic!) a personal trainer also came up in my search. Curious, I messaged Katie and she got right back to me. I quickly learned that while she lived in Oregon, too, we would workout virtually – which was even better for me! Further, I could actually afford the transaction.

Three and a half years after giving birth I started my first session with Katie. And it has been a life changing, mutually beneficial relationship. We have become friends and allies. Katie continues to help me on this journey of reclaiming my body, my strength, my balance, my endurance and my confidence. Along the way, she made some profound observations regarding my postpartum health and wellness, specifically with my hip pain, diastasis recti, and pelvic floor weakness – things completely ignored by my postpartum and family medicine healthcare providers. She helped me to finally recover and thrive.

Here are five amazing things I learned from my personal trainer that helped me to finally enjoy a full recovery from postpartum injury and trauma.

Brace your core, that is. My trainer advised that I not only brace my core when engaged in our workouts, but, to use this practice through out my day – walking up and down the stairs, doing laundry, washing the dishes, making dinner, in the shower, in the care, in line at the grocery store – anytime. For those new to this concept, bracing your core is mostly associated with the practice of contracting the muscles around the spine to created a tight midsection often engaged when bending your knees to lift something heavy. This prevents back injury. But bracing your core is also a great engagement during your workouts to build the abdominal muscles while in yoga positions or other functional training. This creates stability around your spine. After growing a baby, your core gets moved around and your abdominal muscles relax. Part of the recovery from childbirth is your organs and muscles eventually fall back into place. But this doesn’t always happen perfectly. Strengthening the core should be a part of every postpartum woman’s eventual workout regimen (when cleared by healthcare provider). Bracing the core supplements all core training and really supports all of the spots a postpartum woman needs to focus on – including pelvic floor and diaphragm.

When you are in your third term of pregnancy your breathing changes. Your baby is taking up more real estate, your diaphragm and lungs are not in the same space for deep, whole core breathing. Your body naturally adapts – and the crazy part? You don’t even realize your breathing has changed to compensate for your baby’s growth. The way you breathe starts higher up, and you often lift your shoulders up to pull in a “deep” inhale. Your exhale is short. Women tend to carry on breathing this way long after baby has been born. One day, I mentioned to my personal trainer that I often felt discomfort whenever I had to do forward bends. Not pain. Just a weird feeling as I folded over the top of my belly under my breasts. It was my postpartum bump that never fully went away. She paused for a moment and told me she believed it had to do with how I was breathing. She said it was my diaphragm that was causing the discomfort. And then I learned about diaphragmatic breathing. This became a deeply emotional recovery because I carried on breathing the wrong way for over four years. I was breathing wrong during horrible head colds and even when I was sick from Covid-19. I often felt like I was suffocating whenever I was congested and sick. Diaphragmatic breathing was so foreign to my body that I had to totally re-learn how to breathe in expanding my tummy like a balloon, a movement that engages your entire core and pelvic muscles. The exhale is long, slow and works its way all the way back up your core. It’s an exercise in itself! I wrote about the importance of diaphragmatic breathing and how it’s the most important practice for postpartum healing – which you can read all about here.

You don’t have to follow astrology or understand it completely to receive the benefits of what the universe is energetically delivering for us. I happen to have a personal trainer who is deeply engaged in astrology and I am very interested in metaphysics and certainly the greater impacts around us that can work for us – and sometimes against us. But, my trainer taught me that customizing our workouts to the rhythms of the universe – especially lunar cycles – can really have an impact on outcome. Full moon? New moon? She can create a bespoke workout to address my needs. She knows my birth chart and considers sweeping cosmic changes that are going on for me when she considers what type of workout would be best. I may need more of a restful workout with deep stretching. Or, I may need to get my heart rate going and double down on strength training. I can feel a difference when my workouts are in synch with greater energies of the cosmos versus when I would throw down a workout that poorly coincided with astrological activity – symptoms of feeling drained, over-tired, challenged with recovery, or not feeling like I got enough from my workout – all of these things have happened when I wasn’t working out with metaphysical rhythms. It’s amazing and not so surprising, if you think about it. There is a certain grace that can be experienced when one is in tune with the shifting energies around us. I also consider my water intake during and following workouts in response to the lunar cycle. We know how deep the water/moon connection is – and what this means for flushing out our kidneys, etc. Traditional Chinese Medicine holds an ancient, deep philosophical and medical understanding of the connection of astrology and physical well being that fully supports this practice.

Many women fall victim to the assumption and pressure that they must rid themselves of the baby bump and baby weight as soon as possible. There’s shame around the changed body of a new mother and baby weight is often regarded as fat. This is horrible on so many levels. Healing is often disregarded in exchange for body dysmorphia. Postpartum hormones can dangerously play into the negative self talk. Body acceptance is so critically important. And beyond that acceptance, a newfound appreciation, awe, and gratitude for creating and growing another human being are necessary for self love. I’m so relieved that I never cared about the aftermath of my postpartum body. I mean, I was deep in the process of needing to heal. There was no time or energy to worry about how I looked. Instead of trying to implement the over the top workouts that were part of my pre-pregnancy routine – running, working out at the gym and regular yoga classes – I let go of the virtues of hard core. I look at movement differently – how I get it, where and when I get it. Instead of hitting the pavement or treadmill hard, opt for long walks outside or nature hikes to get in some forest bathing. I make it a priority to engage in movement that I enjoy. Part of my movement routine includes two thirty-minute workout sessions a week with my personal trainer and we mostly cover functional strength training aiming to heal and strengthen my core, pelvic floor and hips. We get a lot in during those sessions, with exercises that typically are two-for-one, meaning they engage core and get my heart rate going or they stretch my hips while adding a little strength training for my arms, and so on. I’m getting the most holistic workouts and I’m not putting in the same frenetic energy as I once did, and I’m still getting great results!

Hips are getting a lot of attention in the fitness and physical therapy world. It’s not just pregnant and postpartum mamas needing extra care there. There’s all kinds of information out there about the somatic relationship of pain, trauma and our emotions being stored in our hips. Which means our hips are also a great wellspring for offering deep, emotional healing. In my case, I experienced birth trauma and a hip injury during labor. In addition to the normal pressure pregnancy puts on our hips, I was carrying the weight of a lot more trauma and emotional stress that got stored into my hips. The good news is yoga instructors and certain personal trainers can gently address the hip pain and somatic tension, pressure and blockage. My personal trainer has been a champion in the area of healing for me. We have worked on various stretches that have put me in poses that immediately released pain – not just physically but emotionally. I would often get tears in my eyes for no reason while holding certain positions that opened up my hip joints. Whether engaged in dead bug, airplanes, hula hoop circles – my trainer has an endless list of moves that strengthen, stretch and relieve the hips. It’s been incredibly therapeutic. Plus, when I brace my core and practice diaphragmatic breathing while holding these hip positions it’s like the heavens have opened up and filled me up with the most intense, beautifully healing and strengthening light and energy offering deep healing through and through.

The important thing to point out here is that I would not have come to many of these conclusions on my own. I didn’t know what I needed – even though I’m a former athlete and coach. Postpartum recovery isn’t always intuitive and in most cases we don’t know what we don’t know! I highly recommend finding a personal trainer or yoga class that expertly works with postpartum women to recover, heal and find new strength in a new and glorious body.


Women’s History Month – Part 1

Navigating Burnout: A Look at What Has Happened To Working Moms

Exhausted mother trying to work from home

I have been doing a deep dive into subjects that I relate to as a working mom and mompreneur. I used to hate that term, but, nothing else sufficiently defines owning a business in the midst of motherhood.

Since becoming a mother in 2019, followed by barely running my business in a postpartum fog followed by the blind-sided devastation of the pandemic, and now a pseudo aftermath, because let’s face it, we’re still in the pandemic’s trenches, there is an evermore cycle of doom burgeoning each season of this heavy, existential American life: from gripping financial stress and potential crisis, to ominous murmurs beating a world war drum, to new and emerging dangerous diseases and ongoing viral variants, and even the constant doomsday analysis on Covid-19, like the research findings on long Covid mingling with heart disease and strokes, and, and, and …

Our tender hearts are in peril and what kind of repercussion is this having on our collective soul?

Parents of young children were taken on a bleak journey in the winter of 2022, just before the holidays, with three viruses that could send your babies to the emergency room: new Covid-19 variants, the flu, and RSV.

I keep asking myself – when will this stop? When can we release ourselves from chronic fight or flight mode? When can we breathe again and settle into a less threatening reality?

If you follow astrology, you might feel compelled to claim having an answer to this paradox. I’m sure there’s plenty written in the stars that align with all of this chaos – energetically speaking.

As a mother, navigating through life with all of this is painful, scary and overwhelming. It’s hard enough to bring a child into the world and have to put your heart, duty and every last effort toward raising good humans. But, everything about the pandemic and trying to manage life beyond it has put all kinds of burdens and obstacles in the way of everyone, but especially on working moms. Data supports this, as an unprecedented number of working moms fled the workforce to support the fragile family household system with little to no choice due to the patriarchal structure that has never truly supported working moms. Worse is the emotional toil all of this has placed on mothers.

The reality is that far too many working mothers have devolved into a burnout crisis.

It’s interesting to take a look back on the past couple of years, well into the pandemic, to examine what has happened to working mothers. I think this is an important exercise because as we cycle through another Women’s History Month, I can’t help but to ask how are we doing? How are we really doing?

According to Pew Research Center, the coronavirus pandemic has created new challenges and reinforced existing ones for many working mothers in the United States.

According to a Pew Research Center October 2020 survey, “among working parents with children under age 18 at home, mothers were generally more likely than fathers to say that, since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, they faced a variety of professional challenges.”

“Earlier this year, about half of working parents said the coronavirus outbreak had made it difficult to handle child care responsibilities, and moms were especially likely to report this problem. Around six-in-ten moms (58%) said this had been at least somewhat difficult in recent weeks, compared with 43% of working dads, according to a February 2022 survey of working parents with children younger than 12 at home.” (Pew Research Center).

 According to Rutgers Today, “In 2020, women with school-age children definitely experienced a ‘COVID motherhood penalty,’ said Rutgers-New Brunswick professor Yana Rodgers, as evidenced by growing gender gaps in employment/population ratios and working hours.”

The trends continued to be unfavorable for working moms.

“Working mothers have suffered greatly during this pandemic. Many left the workforce or put advancements on hold while educating/caring for remote students or struggling to find childcare. According to new research by the National Women’s Law Center, post-pandemic job recovery has been slower for women, with over a million men joining the labor force last month compared to only 39,000 women.” (Rutgers Today).

While Rogers predicted last year that, ultimately, “COVID-19 may shift social mores and workplace policies that positively impact working women in the long run,” the imbalances for working mom had serious effects, namely burnout.

Based on a report by McKinsey & Company, “… while the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all in innumerable ways, the impact has been especially acute for women. Mothers of young children experienced burnout more often, for instance, and were more likely to have considered leaving their careers compared to fathers of young children. They also assumed more of the household responsibilities during the pandemic period.”

Earlier in that year, The McKinsey Podcast reported on the state of burnout for working women. Senior partners and leaders Alexis Krivkovich and Lareina Yee joined host Lucia Rahilly, global editorial director, to discuss some of the startling and hopeful results recently released in the Women in the Workplace 2021 report.  As part of their research, their team interviewed a variety of women across corporate America on the topic of burnout. This podcast is not just a great assessment about working mothers, but for intersectional women, including women of color and LGBTQ+ women.

The research shows that the burnout gap between women and men has almost doubled since last year’s report. Why are so many women so tired?

According to Yee, “Women are hanging on. And that is probably the most blunt and simple way to put it. Forty-two percent of women report being burned out. So a little under half of your population of women are burned out. And that’s where we stand today.” 

“One in three women, and 60 percent of mothers with young children … spend five or more hours a day on housework and caregiving. Five hours a day is at least another half-time job. And COVID-19 sort of stripped bare for us what was already under the surface and well understood by every working woman I know, which is how imbalanced those responsibilities outside the workplace are. Because these imbalances are not well recognized, and historically companies have not played a role in feeling a responsibility for that.” (The McKinsey Podcast).

The impact of the pandemic on working mothers has had such a profound effect, it’s a topic with long lists of journalism titles from a simple Google search. Now that American companies are trying to return to life before the pandemic, as if it never happened, there are harsh repercussions on mothers who have figured out balancing work and family in the couple years of remote work.

This year, Time Magazine reported, As People Return to Offices, It’s Back to Misery for America’s Working Moms” with an ominous prediction: “Evidence suggests that the increase in companies enforcing return-to-office mandates may drive American mothers out of the workforce at a crucial moment.”

Think about this:

“I’ve talked to women who could hide their pregnant bellies from their coworkers, who wondered if their promotions might not have happened had bosses known sooner that they’d be out for maternity leave. Women who had morning sickness and could puke in the comfort of their own bathrooms. Women who didn’t have to decline meetings that began at 4:30, worried about the complicated math of train times and daycare pickup. Working from home, in short, allowed them to hide the evidence of the competing priority that is motherhood, which of course was good for their careers.” (Time Magazine).

The intensity of burnout is being felt now more than ever.

From an article published by Best Colleges, “burnout specialist Dr. Jaqueline Kerr identifies four chronic stressors that contribute to Working Mom Burnout and offers some actionable solutions. Working moms are dealing with four chronic stressors: parenting burnout, occupational burnout, barrier burnout, and crisis fatigue.

“Kerr has made it her mission to save other working moms from the ravages of burnout.” There’s a lot to unpack in this article.

“According to the 2021 Women in the Workplace Report, the “burnout gap” between men and women has nearly doubled since 2020… with working moms are 28% more likely to experience burnout than working dads.” (Best Colleges).

“The Melbourne Institute discovered that working parents have experienced more mental distress since the start of COVID-19 than working professionals without children.” (Best Colleges).

“Women have always done a disproportionate amount of the unpaid labor at home,” said Kerr. “It starts from the very beginning, especially if the mother takes time off from work to be with the baby and the father doesn’t. She becomes the default manager of all the things: doctor’s appointments, childcare, schools, camps, playdates, medications, sleep, and eating schedules. Even if her partner shares responsibilities, it isn’t the same as managing that mental load. It’s a full-time job.” (Best Colleges).

“Mothers also bear the lion’s share of the family emotional load — a burden that got even heavier during the pandemic… The kids were distressed; normal boundaries went out the window. Working moms had to be emotionally present for struggling kids while simultaneously managing their own mental health and trying to excel in their jobs. Moms are exhausted.” (Best Colleges).

“Overwork, lack of autonomy, and lack of recognition contribute massively to burnout. Anyone can experience these things, but working moms are more likely to because they aren’t moving up the ranks,” accordion to Kerr.

“Companies often fail to value the unique skills mothers bring to the table. A really good example of that occurred during the pandemic, when women did a much better job of looking after the well-being of their teams. Employee well-being affects the bottom line, but only about 25% of companies reward that kind of work. Women are spending a lot of energy doing crucial but undervalued and under-rewarded work.”

Then, consider this:

“Childless women are 8.2 times more likely to be recommended for promotion than equally qualified mothers. … Mothers are recommended to start at significantly lower salaries than childless women, childless men, and fathers. … Mothers are perceived to be 12% less committed to their jobs and 10% less competent at those jobs than childless women. (By contrast, fathers are perceived to be 5% more committed to their jobs than childless men.”

Finally, and here’s the real clincher for me: with crisis fatigue on mothers, sending kids into a scary world produces perhaps the worst burnout.

  • “It’s always been tough to send our kids out into the world. But since March 2020, it’s been excruciating: Waiting to understand how the pandemic would impact children, waiting for them to get access to vaccines, and waiting to learn what long-term effects a COVID-19 infection might have on their developing bodies. There’s still so much we don’t know.”
  • “Pandemic stress has been chronic,” said Kerr. “We’ve undergone constantly changing recommendations, constantly changing norms. Uncertainty is something human beings cope with very poorly. Uncertainty about threats to our children is a major source of fear and stress.”
  • On top of the invisible but ever-present danger of COVID-19, we are also coping with a school shooting epidemic. “As a result, ‘out there’ — away from Mom’s watchful eye — has become more threatening than ever. Moms are tasked with determining what precautions will keep their families safe in a scary world — an impossible burden,” said Kerr.
  • “It’s important to realize that as a white mother, I have a certain level of fear for my children. It’s constant; it’s distracting. But that intense surge of fear that we all experienced in the aftermath of Uvalde is very real at all times for Black mothers. Statistically, the chances that their children will be victims of gun violence are much higher. Crisis fatigue is a daily reality for those moms even in ‘normal times’ — an added layer of emotional exhaustion, a terrible strain.”

Crisis fatigue is the worst cause for burnout because there is no control over the outcomes and there is no fix or solution.

“Some things we can’t just fix without collective action, collective political will. But empathy can be very powerful, so take a moment to recognize that people you know are living this reality all the time,” said Kerr. “Being seen means a lot.”

So, what exactly is burnout and what does it effect your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing?

Psychology Today defines burnout as “a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. Though it’s most often caused by problems at work, it can also appear in other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking, or romantic relationships.”

The root of burnout, according to Psychology Today, is “the cynicism, depression, and lethargy that are characteristic of burnout most often occur when a person is not in control of how a job is carried out, at work or at home, or is asked to complete tasks that conflict with their sense of self. … Equally pressing is working toward a goal that doesn’t resonate, or when a person lacks support. If a person doesn’t tailor responsibilities to match a true calling, or at least take a break once in a while, they could face burnout—as well as the mountain of mental and physical health problems that often come along with it, including headaches, fatigue, heartburn, and other gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as increased potential for alcohol, drug, or food misuse.”

How can you tell if you’re burned out? According to Psychology Today:

“Physical and mental exhaustion, a sense of dread about work, and frequent feelings of cynicism, anger, or irritability are key signs of burnout. Those in helping professions (such as doctors) may notice dwindling compassion toward those in their care. Feeling like you can no longer do your job effectively may also signal burnout.”

And how do you tell the difference between burnout and stress? Psychology Today differentiates the two:

“By definition, burnout is an extended period of stress that feels as though it cannot be ameliorated. If stress is short-lived or tied to a specific goal, it is most likely not harmful. If the stress feels never-ending and comes with feelings of emptiness, apathy, and hopelessness, it may be indicative of burnout.”

As we have learned from the pandemic, jobs are clearly not the only source for burnout. Psychology Today addresses non-work related burnout:

  • “Parents, partners, and non-professional caregivers can also experience endless exhaustion, feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, or secretly believe that they have failed at their role. These forms of burnout are referred to as parental burnout, relationship burnout, and caregiver burnout respectively.”
  • “Non-work burnout, however, is less well-known than that caused by career stress. Stereotypes and stigma—particularly related to parenting—can make those suffering from non-work-related burnout feel as if they are to blame for their challenges. As a result, they often hide their struggles from others.” 
  • “But burnout, in any form, can have severe consequences if left untreated. Discussing it openly—either with a spouse, family members, friends, or a therapist—is often the first step to addressing its symptoms, getting needed help, and avoiding negative outcomes.”

Burnout is a scary thing to sit with, as it can have harmful outcomes. But the overwhelming feeling of helplessness is what is seemingly impossible to resolve without taking drastic measures.

As I navigate my own burnout, I am constantly dealing with a heavier anxiety on top of my usual health and wellness challenges, including managing autoimmune diseases and hormonal imbalance. I have had stress from my bout with Covid-19 last year, including strange abdominal cramping and pain, sending me to the hospital, and worry around heart health, with unusual symptoms that were likely stomach related – issues I had never had before the pandemic. The constant worry for my child’s safety is ongoing (see crisis fatigue above).

While the world continues to move forward and attempt to return to the quality of normalcy prior to the pandemic, I am stunned by the regression. I thought events like a global pandemic would change people and society for the better. But, remember when World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars. How naive – or, worse, what a misguided and dangerous campaign slogan for war. I am looking at all of this through a lens of my own burnout, so it goes without saying that I don’t harbor a sensibility of much hope. Instead, I see the world through dark glasses: one that simply cannot and will not learn from history or its mistakes and tragedies. Humans are flawed, for certain. But, perhaps the worst flaw is our collective inability to truly grow and change. History repeats itself over and over again. Cynical, sure. But, when well-intentioned, peace loving people have no control over what’s at stake, say, as what is going on in Ukraine and what’s bubbling in the South China Sea, it’s pointless to have faith in humanity at all.

The burden of burnout rests on all of us. It’s a collective illness we all share in some way, we are all responsible for it. Ignoring harm done to others is the basis of burnout onto others. We blame institutions, corporate greed. political opposition for what’s wrong with society. But, people are what’s wrong with society. People. Those perceived as good and bad. All people. We are all contributing to the out-of-balance destruction of humans and humanity. Until the collective consciousness evolves to another level of compassion and human connection – a we are all in this together consciousness – life on earth, the human experience, will continue to churn out pain, suffering, anger, resentment, jealousy, greed, and so on. You can’t point your finger at the ones you desire to blame. Pointing your finger points equally to yourself.

Women’s History Month. It’s kind of sham. It’s fine to take a moment to reflect on women in history. The truth is that women have always held a far more important role in human history than they were ever credited for, so, it’s imbalanced to simply highlight the work of some distinguished and revered contributors to society like Marie Curie, Harriet Tubman and Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The work of women goes deeper than those who have excelled in accomplished vocations. What about valuing the work of women at home? What about taking on greater consideration for women’s healthcare and wellbeing? What about applauding women for driving ideals like compassion, collaboration and community in our society? We don’t have to clap hands for women who have made history, but elevate women for having always contributed to the human story.

We have a lot of work to do to appropriately appreciate and better care for women. One way to elevate women this month is to address this dangerous burnout issue for working moms. It may not seem like much to childless individuals or top male executives or our political leaders – anyone who’s not a working mom. But everyone is touched by this burnout crisis. Raising good humans is a critically important job; giving women the space to succeed at work and at home is not asking for much. And yet it may be one of the most critically important issues facing humanity today.


+ “Working moms in the U.S. have faced challenges on multiple fronts during the pandemic” by Katherine Schaeffer for Pew Research Center, May 6, 2022.

+ “”COVID Motherhood Penalty” Set Working Moms Back” by Lisa Intrabartola for Rutgers Today, February 14, 2022.

+ “Parent, employee, all of the above? Eight working mothers on the realities of post-pandemic life” edited by Justine Jablonska for McKinsey & Company, May 6, 2022.

+ “The state of burnout for women in the workplace” from The McKinsey Podcast with host Lucia Rahilly, January 4, 2022.

+ “As People Return to Offices, It’s Back to Misery for America’s Working Moms” by Alana Semuels for Time Magazine, February 2, 2023.

+ “Working Moms Have a Burnout Problem” by Meg Embry for Best Colleges, June 29, 2022.

+ “Burnout” according to Psychology Today

Why I Could Not “Fix” My Body After Pregnancy… Until Four Years Later

I have written quite a bit about my pregnancy and postpartum experiences.

I was very slow to get in any real movement following the whole child birthing experience. Even a couple of years after giving birth, I was still nowhere near having the body I had before my pregnancy. I didn’t get how some women would even try to “bounce back” with vigorous workouts and unfaltering determination to lose that “baby belly”. Weren’t they still healing, too?

I was an older mom giving birth for the first time. I didn’t care about how long the baby bump would linger. I just wanted to feel strong again, and recovered. Having a c-section certainly changed any post game workout plans I had. I walked a little. And that was pretty much it. For me, movement included chores around the house. But, I wasn’t up for yoga or the likes of Peloton. I gave myself a long break.

Nursing prevented me from gaining any extra weight. But, still, I felt… broken.

For me, childbirth left me with painful, sticky hips, no feeling in my pelvic region, and diastasis recti – abdominal separation leaving a gaping space where my abs should have reconnected. It has been nearly impossible to recovery my core.

Fast forward to the present – four years postpartum. I now have a personal trainer and for more than six months we’ve been working on recovering my core, pelvic floor, and toning up, in general. While I do feel stronger, I can’t really see any difference in the tone or shape of my body. My hips still hurt on the regular.

One day, a few weeks ago, I had bent over abruptly and felt discomfort in the space that would have been the top of my baby bump, under my breasts, at center – my core. Basically, I described the discomfort to my personal trainer from folding over on top of that space that held my former baby bump. It wasn’t painful, just a jarring discomfort that took my breath away. After a long pause, she said she believed it had to do with my diaphragm. And diastasis recti. But, really she was concerned with my diaphragm and how I was breathing.

I wasn’t sure what my diaphragm had to do with it. But, she said it would benefit me to continue working on bracing my core throughout the day. She said we would dig deeper the following week.

I took it upon my self to research the diaphragm and the postpartum body. What I learned brought me to tears. Not happy ones. But, tears of frustration. So much of my postpartum pain and suffering and discomfort could have been avoided had a healthcare practitioner told me that I needed to work on diaphragmatic breathing immediately following childbirth.

What I didn’t know cost me time and energy and extended pain and discomfort.

When I left the hospital after giving birth, I was forgotten. Lots of trips to the pediatrician to check in on my son. But, me? Nah, the hospital could care less. Other entities provided information online about the importance of diaphragmatic breathing – but, not the hospitals, not the healthcare providers. Do they not know this? Why would they withhold this key practice and rehab? You have to find your postpartum recovery and rehab wellness from yoga instructors and other professionals who seem to care more about the postpartum woman than doctors, nurses and hospitals.

So, what is diaphragmatic breathing and why is it so important to a postpartum woman?

When a woman is in her third trimester, after her organs have shifted around to make room for her growing baby, there is a great deal of pressure on the diaphragm and lungs, and the mother’s breathing eventually shifts from deep breaths lowering and expanding the diaphragm like a balloon to shallow breaths getting pushed upward, as if the shoulders are lifting the breath from the lungs. It happens without noticing it. The interesting thing is that many women continue to breathe like this long after the baby is born – like years after the baby is born.

This shallow, shorter breath starting from the chest, lifting the shoulders, gives you less oxygen and doesn’t work the core, so it keeps the weakened spots weak. This is a problem for many reasons, but, from a postpartum recovery standpoint, not breathing from the diaphragm will not help to recover a weakened core and pelvic floor, which then creates all kinds of compensations – including weak glutes, tight hips and sore back.

So, I struggled, even with a personal trainer, to see a significant change in my core, pelvic floor, glutes and hips. And, getting your breath to work properly again will restore the muscular balance to your body. This breathing will also prevent and heal postpartum issues like diastasis recti, incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

There is lots of great information about diaphragmatic breathing online. I found great therapeutic help here:

brb Yoga: core strength for life – How To “Fix” Your Body After Pregnancy

Browse the brb Yoga site for all kinds of postpartum healing resources.

I also learned more about diaphragmatic breathing here: – “The answer to postpartum recovery may be how you breathe…”

The big take away for me is that it’s never too late to recover your breathing. I started doing diaphragmatic breathing exercises and techniques so that after a weekend of practice, my breathing was improved. I still have to work at it to get my natural breathing fully back, but, I am no longer doing the weird, short breaths that had started in my third trimester.

When I think about living through horrible colds and Covid-19 over the past couple of years – it’s no wonder I had suffered so badly! I wasn’t breathing right to begin with!

Had I not brought up the weird sensation in my belly to my personal trainer, I would have never arrived at this therapeutic postpartum rehab – that is the most essential technique that all women should do immediately after birth. Who knows if I would have ever returned to normal breathing. This is serious rehab that gets completely missed from hospitals and minimal OB-GYN postpartum care. How is it that postpartum women are not given this important instruction following birth?

As Brooke Cates, author of the Motherly article states, “correct breathing lays the foundation for healing and restrengthening your inner core. With breath, you begin the healing process postpartum by simultaneously rehabbing both the deep core and the pelvic floor.”

Cates explains once you’re breathing from your diaphragm again, you will have a calm, natural breathing sensation versus a stressed and more forced breathing action. I felt this shift 100%!

So, fast forward to exercise and movement to regain strength in your core, pelvic floor, and so on – “once your breath is re-wired you can progress with deep core-based activations, functional movements and smart core-based exercises.”

While I lamented that I could have felt so much more support, empowerment and strength just weeks postpartum, I allowed myself to mourn that absence of rehab for the past four years and move on. I finally have hope regarding these key issues of not feeling supported, empowered or strong. I had written in my journal for the past two years that I felt physically powerless and weak. And no more. One weekend of diaphragmatic breathing has already made a difference. I am excited to reap more benefits of this incredible rehab and finally reclaim my health and my body after four years of struggle.

It’s never too late to correct your breath. It’s never too late to heal your postpartum body. And I just want to share this with every woman I know who has had a baby or is about to have a baby. No one should suffer from the lack of support, empowerment and strength that is a given with the right postpartum rehab. If hospitals won’t share this with new mothers, then I suppose it’s up to mothers to pass this along.

Who Takes Care of the Mamas When the Mamas Take Care of Everyone Else?

I never really thought about this until I was caring for my sick nearly three-year-old little boy and I inevitably got sick, myself.

Before I became a mother, there was nothing I hated more than getting sick – specifically getting congested. I don’t do well with congestion. I have a deviated septum and whenever I find myself unable to breathe, well, I get anxious.

I’ve been in the most relaxing situations – massage therapy appointments – where the simple tweaking of my lymphatic system would lead to immediate heavy congestion that would not only ruin my appointment, but, the anxiety I would get about not being able to breathe would force me to have to get up, request extra pillows to elevate my head, or leave. Acupuncture appointments were even worse because I’d be stuck, pun intended, with needles in me while dealing with an anxiety attack from treatment induced congestion. At least the congestion would immediately clear up as soon as I’d get off the treatment table.

Luckily, I didn’t get sick all that often. But, when I did it was like a short unintentional vacation in Hell. I love to elaborate on this because it’s really that awful for me. For the first two days of a virus or allergy attack I struggle to breathe out of my nose and out of mouth, and the only way I can catch some relief to breathe is by getting better and getting spotty relief from an over-the-counter decongestant.

Either way, when I lived by myself I learned how to manage my congestion and the hell that came with the anxiety of not being able to breathe. I would sometimes go into survival mode and work through totally sleepless nights of trying to cleanse and open up my clogged sinuses. This often left me feeling like Sisyphus. Luckily, I rarely got sick and mostly suffered through occasional seasonal allergies.

Things took a crazy turn after I had my little boy. We were blessed to have a healthy baby who never got sick during his first two years. But by the time he was nearing three, he had two back-to-back colds in October and then again in November. He wasn’t even in daycare. This was a particularly stressful time because of the pandemic. Both times he got sick, I got sick. And, if I was anxious about getting congested before Covid-19, my anxiety certainly piqued with cold and flu season, pre-flu shot and Covid booster shot.

I had decided to extend nursing during the pandemic so that my little one could benefit from my two Covid-19 vaccines and the follow up booster shot. Antibodies are passed on through breastmilk. The nearness and closeness left mama more vulnerable to whatever viruses he would pick up.

Of course, kiddos in daycare pick up and bring home all kinds of germs. Parents would always say that’s the key to building a child’s healthy immune system. But let’s be clear about something. Catching these colds doesn’t just mean boosting his immune system. It also means taking down mama. I know some dads and other family members might share in the sickness cycle. But, mama is always the target when it comes to sick little ones.

This isn’t a post about why it’s harder to be a mom than it is to be a dad. Someone else can debate that. But there is a difference here. My husband never gets sick. Is it because his immune system is stronger than mine? I already mentioned before having my son I rarely got sick – so dad’s immune system shouldn’t be stronger than mine! We both endured sleep deprivation during the first couple years, but, I continued to have interrupted sleep while I continued nursing. So, aside from differences in sleep hygiene, could it be that I’m in closer proximity to my child and, therefore, I’m more vulnerable to his sneezing and coughing getting me sick? Maybe.

But, I think there’s something else going on.

I don’t have scientific evidence to support this very speculative statement I’m about to make. It just makes sense to me. I believe the process of enduring pregnancy and labor makes a mother more vulnerable in her postpartum existence for years to come. I know this isn’t true for everyone. But, I suspect a lot of mamas would agree. Your body has been through so much. By the time your child is in the virus cycle, probably depending on when daycare or preschool happens, you may have not fully recovered or even healed from the experience. For some women it can take years to fully recover and heal from pregnancy and labor. And it takes years to get passed the exhaustion that comes with growing a baby, delivering and baby and recovering from that delivery. While dealing with the exhaustion that comes from your pregnancy, birthing and healing experience, there’s even more exhaustion coming at you from now taking care of your baby with a sleep deprivation period that just feels impossible to withstand. For many mothers that sleep deprivation continues through the toddler and pre-school phase. There are many reasons for this, depending on what’s going on at home with sleep training, whether or not you’re still nursing, and just how your body is recovering from a long period of interrupted sleep rhythms.

But, I want to back up before the exhaustion part and continue with the postpartum recovery part. While it takes just six weeks for your uterus to shrink back to its normal size, your body had other things to reconcile – like when it moved your organs around to fit your baby. The abdominal muscles and connective tissue have a long way to go to heal completely. I was one of those lucky mothers with abs that never fully recovered resulting in what’s called diastasis recti, which is a condition where there’s a big gap between ab muscles that should have realigned after separating during gestation. It gets even better – around this gap you get a pooch in your belly with fat and excess skin hanging out. Physical therapy can help, and some moms might opt for cosmetic surgery. But there is no cure for this condition. Three years postpartum, I hired a personal trainer to help me build my abs back up, recondition my pelvic floor and try to tighten things as much as possible.

Moms who have had a traumatic birth experience, birth injury, emergency c-section, etc., are likely to have a longer recovery time. I had a c-section after 40 hours of labor, and 4 hours of pushing. Trauma is relative to each mother; I definitely experienced trauma during the c-section. It added an extra heavy load on an already painful recovery experience.

Good nutrition is often more challenging for new moms – not just food choices, but how often you eat and whether you overeat or undereat.

So your body is at work for a long time rebuilding and recovering from so many things. And moms are often bad with self care during the first few years of bringing up baby.

These physiological conditions certainly affect a mother’s ability to ward of viruses that come her way.

As for the start of my child’s cold/flu virus cycle last year, I found myself miserably sick with his first two colds, and then significantly worse with the third cold in November. We took several Covid tests that came out negative. It was just par for the toddler/preschooler course. Not for my husband, though. He was healthy the whole time.

By February last year, my little guy got Covid from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, and, I of course got it, too. My husband did not.

Since then it has been a long season of viruses and allergies coming in and out of our lives. In November of 2022, we were facing an uptick in Covid cases and new variants, a terrible flu season ahead and the rapidly spreading RSV pathogen sending many children and elderly adults into hospitals. It’s been exhausting. It’s one thing to have to deal with normal cold and flu viruses that are expected to infect your young child every other week. The emerging dangerous viruses that were coursing through our communities were scary. And it is taxing trying to navigate symptoms that are all so similar. It has been stressful wondering if the latest symptoms are the run of the mill colds that little kids must go through, or if it’s one of the more sinister viruses lurking around.

With this very steady, continuous cycle of sickness in our home, I find myself more exhausted. I continue to pick up whatever my child has, and my anxiety is in overdrive from not wanting to get sick and deal with what feels like collapsed breathing over and over again, to real worries about my child’s safety and what’s infecting us each time.

My husband is great. He helps take care of our little guy whenever he’s sick. I get most of the duty when he’s home sick during the workday; I’m an entrepreneur and can put my work on hold most days in a way that my husband cannot. But, when I get sick, there’s not much to be done for me. I’m usually still caring for our little guy and then I suffer through the nights. I cannot sleep when I’m congested. So, I recline on the sofa downstairs, sip on hot herbal tea and honey all through the night, and try to manage my anxiety and read or write. Eventually, I might doze off for a couple hours.

All of this is to pause for a moment and put a spotlight on moms during a challenging time of parenting. I know there are dads and other caregivers who do the same and endure getting sick, as well. But I want to take a moment to acknowledge how difficult it is for moms who find themselves postpartum two or three years and still struggling.

No one tells you about how often you will get sick once you have a baby, and for how many years. No one tells you exactly how long it will likely take to fully recover from pregnancy and childbirth because it’s different for everyone. No one tells you that your body will never be the same, that clothes will never fit you the same (I finally purged all of my stylish clothes pre-baby), or that you will never feel the same in your body. Some of your joints, like your hips, will forever feel stiff or sticky; your abs might never re-align; your pelvic floor might be a broken mess for years to come.

And no one tells you that you’ll be exhausted for so many years. I don’t know any moms of toddlers/preschoolers who are fully rested with excellent sleep hygiene, who really look refreshed.

I look around and I feel connected to these women who are in this same season of motherhood. We dress the same. We have the same look in our tired but bright eyes. There is a fullness that doesn’t go away after having a baby. All the exercise in the world cannot erase that fullness in the face, in the hips and belly.

When you fall ill to the latest virus, you go through a kind of battle because you’re having to armor up and care for your child no matter how you feel. You care for your child with the fierce attention of a mama bear, even when you are about to collapse. And you wonder if your immune system will ever protect you again.

When You Work with Your Hands & Suddenly Cannot: The Agony of Dyshidrotic Eczema (Pompholyx)

The dry, flaky, inflamed skin on hand known as Dyshidrotic Eczema or Pompholyx

One of the things I love most about my job as a winemaker is working with my hands. Because I make small lots of wine, I can truly say I’m making hand crafted wines. And a hands-on approach is truly appreciated by wine enthusiasts because it implies a level of attention to detail and care that might not get transferred through mechanics.

In my work, I hand sort all the grapes that come into the cellar; I do manual punchdowns throughout fermentations; I work with my hands to test the sugar levels of fermentations; make yeast inoculates and nutrient additions; as well as manage all other aspects of cellar operations, which requires using your hands for cleaning and sanitizing things, rolling and mobilizing barrels, and supporting, lifting and mobilizing equipment, and so on.

Last year, for the first time in my career, my hands were not able to perform these key tasks, and actually kept me from most of the winemaking duties. I completely relied on a hired cellar worker to be my hands for me.

Right before the first grapes of the season were picked and arrived to the winery by truck, I noticed some strange dry patches on the palms of my hands between my thumbs and pointer finger. Tiny blisters would emerge with an itch that was so intense I had to scratch constantly, opening up the blisters. The skin cracked open and produced several small wounds like paper cuts. The pain was intense and not just on the surface, at the wound level, but ached deeper into my hands, deep into the muscle. The pain became so debilitating that I would hold my hands in closed fists. The wounds would heal, the skin turned into leather consistency with peeling skin on the outer dermis, and then the process would start all over again with new blisters, horrible itching, scratching, wounds, and deep pain.

I struggled though the harvest season quietly. Nothing would relieve the constant cycle of itching and pain. I tried everything – low prescription topicals, over the counter Cortisone, traditional eczema creams, all-natural creams, a salve made by my acupuncturist/herbalist. The inflammation, or “flare up” as the dermatologist called it, was chronic and lasted for over eight months.

Finding myself in this predicament of discomfort and difficulty using my hands only intensified my already barely managed anxiety. It was affecting my ability to work, to mother my toddler, and to take care of myself. The smallest tasks, like opening a jar, had become challenging.

I learned that the origin of this type of eczema is often tied to trauma.

Years ago, I had studied holistic nutrition. Holism teaches you to examine the source of health issues, not simply care for and treat symptoms. Specialization often misses the cause for what ails us. We too often bandaid our health problems and never enjoy true healing, wellness and homeostasis.

In my case, the surface healing wasn’t happening. I was stuck on topical treatments, trying to put a bandaid on the condition. Of course, this failed.

In therapy, I mentioned my research about trauma and this type of inflammation. We addressed the sources of trauma and PTSD that could benefit from deeper work. I also discussed the need for addressing trauma in my acupuncture sessions – we worked with needles, moxibustion and herbs to address both the trauma and inflammation.

I’m not hiding behind my trauma – I’ve written about it extensively. My experiences with postpartum depression and PTSD, then the pandemic in all of its mayhem – and ultimately getting Covid and the strange heath issues that followed – were enough to cause the flare up.

I returned to my doctor to try a new topical ointment to heal the inflammation while utilizing other therapeutic resources.

I also decided to do some much needed work on myself, digging deep into my trauma, my pain and inner turmoil, my fears and anxiety, and flipped the script to seek out opportunities to bring joy to my life, doing things just for me for no other reason than to fill up my own cup.

I took a remarkable figure drawing class at the local cultural center at the beginning of the year. That sparked a practice of using time with my toddler to dig deeper into art therapy.

I also picked up some great books. I started a tiny book club with a couple of friends to feed my love of reading. It also promised connection with other women, something that I had neglected once I became a mother. I just didn’t have the energy and mind space to cultivate and nurture friendships.

Most importantly, I made time for writing in my journal and contemplating the metaphysical stuff that fuels my curiosity and awe. I finally hired a personal trainer to help me bring regular movement and fitness back into my life. I think the vitamin D from the summer months also helped. And, we took two separate vacations this summer, which I think proved to be intensely therapeutic. Both trips brought us together with long-distanced family and the new change of scenery helped elevate spirit.

As we get ready for a new harvest to commence, I am not able to take on the work load per previous vintages. My hands, while improved, are still vulnerable and the skin is not completely healed. I don’t know how long flare ups will be a part of my life, so I will need to be proactive and have help in the cellar to carry me through each vintage until my hands can handle the work. But, this condition may also be a signal from the universe telling me it is time to have help carry out my work orders here on out so that I am more hands off. I am open to that in this season of my life as I navigate possibly home schooling our child so we can travel and, ultimately, shift from struggling with the constant attention my business requires from me, along with the stress and anxiety it delivers, and moving towards enjoyment, getting more centered and living my life with more purpose.

I’ve got to hand it to the universe. We are pushed to discomfort in order to grow, to shift, and to move forward on our journey. I am seeing possibilities for my life and new ways of doing things because of this health issue. As painful as it has been, I am grateful for it. It has pushed me to reconsider how I do my work, how I will continue to do my work, how I can change some things, and how I can change the way I work and do business.