Although I have been there every single step of the way I cannot, in any way, shape or form, take the credit for carrying or delivering our beautiful baby boy.
That award goes to my amazing wife.
The birth allowed me a window through which I saw my wife with very different eyes. I have the utmost respect (even more than I did before) for the woman I chose to spend the rest of my life with. She was monumental during the birth! What she was able to put herself through, the energy reserves she was able to draw upon, the sheer blood, sweat, tears and utter determination to push our 8 Lb 10 ounce little boy out naturally was staggering.
We (the royal we! But again, I cannot take credit here) had a comparatively (totally subjective I know) easy birth – 6 hours of active labour, gas and air and only a small anterior (front) and posterior (rear) tear. I know there are many, many more mums out there who have far more drawn out and protracted labours, with multiple complications. To you dear ladies I also tip my hat.
This blog is not about the labour or the birth, this blog is about what happens afterwards and why as a new mummy it is so important to get yourself MOT'd!
Did you know that:
- 45% of women have urinary incontinence at 7 weeks post birth (Wilson et al 2002)
- 60% of women have diastasis recti (the separation of the abdominal muscles along the midline) at 6 weeks post birth (Sperstad et al 2016)
- 50% of women have symptomatic or asymptomatic pelvic organ prolapse post birth (Hagen et al 2004)
- 20-25% of women have pelvic girdle pain post birth (Ostgaard et al 1991, Albert et al 2002, Wu et al 2004)
My wife's primary symptoms were perineal pain in sitting, standing and only slight relief on lying. Because she was struggling to feed well in the early weeks (our boy was tongue tied and wasn't latching on properly), she could spend up to 90 minutes in a sitting or slightly reclined position trying to feed and because our boy was put on a feeding plan to get his weight back up, this was happening every 3 hours.
It was like ground hog day! She said she felt like everything was just going to fall out all the time. She also felt pressure and dragging behind her pubic bone, where the pelvic floor muscles attach. She was suffering with urinary leakage – laughing, sneezing, coughing, getting up, sitting down and generally all movements. She said she felt like she had little, if any control. This combined with piles and very painful bowel movements meant that my poor wife was not a happy bunny.
Your main focus in the early days is your baby, ensuring they're getting enough food, sleep, warmth, comfort etc. It is very natural to place yourself second in the pecking order. However, as the weeks went on, the pain and symptoms had a greater day to day, hour to hour impact.
We (not even the royal we, this time it was all 3 of us!) visited Maria Elliot (women's health physio and founder of the Mummy MOT) and Sarah Marsh (specialist women's health physio and clinical yoga instructor) at 6 weeks plus 5 days post birth for our Mummy MOT.
So, what is the Mummy MOT?
Good question. Well it is:
- A 1-hour specialised postnatal assessment with a specialist postnatal
- Suitable any time from 6 weeks to 6 years post birth (vaginal or C-section delivery)
- A physical assessment of any physical problems arising from pregnancy and/or birth including pelvic floor strength and tummy gap (diastasis recti) check.
- A bespoke postnatal recovery programme, looking at posture, breathing, and core activation to ensure mums can return to functional activities safely, including – bending, lifting, twisting, squatting.
Maria and Sarah were lovely. Both highly professional they put Nicole, myself and Bodhi (our son) at ease immediately. All aspects of Nicole's health were covered from the pregnancy to the birth, breastfeeding, sleep, anxiety and stressors, support (family and friends) and sex – we currently sleep in separate bedrooms so there is no tussling between the bed sheets for us – plus, as Nicole said 'there is no way I am sticking anything up there just yet!").
Every aspect of the MOT was explained prior to any assessment taking place (internal and external). It certainly helped to put our minds at ease and know we were in safe hands. Based on their findings Maria and Sarah drew up a personalised rehab program. It was nice to be treated as an individual, instead of a statistic (which can often happen in overstretched NHS practices) and be given our own bespoke program instead of an off the shelf cookie-cutter approach.
Nicole was given some simple, progressive pelvic floor contract and relax techniques to be used in combination with abdominal breathing, and provided with specific yoga poses to improve core control and stability all of which she is able to fit easily around Bodhi. We have a follow up in 4 weeks time where Nicole will be assessed once again and her program progressed as and where necessary
As a dad, I found the whole experience incredibly beneficial. Understanding why Nicole was experiencing her symptoms and why they weren't being given an opportunity to heal was very important. I wanted to be there to support my wife and to look after our little boy during the session. Nicole said she found my presence helpful in terms of answering Maria and Sarah's questions during the consultation, including how things were before, during and after the birth (looking back retrospectively it is amazing what you forget about those times!) It also gave us a chance to have a cracking lunch along the river Thames in Chiswick afterward, but that is another story!
So, all in all, I cannot recommend the Mummy MOT enough.
For mums… it is so nice to be listened to and given practical solutions that can be easily implemented into everyday activity. It is so important to feel that you are moving forward with your pelvic and abdominal health instead of just feeling at a loss as to what to do about the pain and urinary symptoms.
For Dads… it was great to have a clearer understanding of my wife's health and what can be done to assist in her recovery. It has made me feel part of the process, not just a helpless passenger (which can often be the case for dads in those early stages after a baby is born)