This is the story of how Western medicine diagnosed me as anal retentive. This diagnosis was not surprising to my family.
I was at my OB-GYN and she said, “We have a urogynecologist on staff now. Do you want to see her?”
You never know how long you’re going to have primo insurance in the U.S., so I said, “Sure.” After three kids, a urogynecologist seems wise. Because… leakage. Also, when I did pilates last year I got a muffin top instead of a tight core. I thought maybe my abdominal and pelvic muscles had switched locations. Mostly, I thought, “When I’m shopping for adult diapers in thirty years, I’ll wish I’d said yes to that urogynecologist.”
Honestly, I was hoping never to be saying these things. After two kids and tons of Baby Boot Camp, everything was working as it should and wasn’t all that stretched out. It’s nice to take the lucky things in your life and ascribe them to good choices and fortitude. The Fairy Pig—fulfilling her purpose in my life—destroyed that hubris. Last week K-Pants came up to my tummy. “Are you growing another baby in there?”
I was going to be that mom of two with tight abs, a cute outfit, and a light dusting of makeup every day. Instead, my goal for this school year was, “Wear less athleisure.” This was a stupid goal. I walk my kids to school, then I get to work, then I cook some stuff, and sometimes I go outside and chop some other stuff with my saw. This routine has athleisure written all over it. “I know,” you say, “but you just….” Shove it.
So there I am at the urogynecologist, undressed from the waist down, relaxing. And the urogyn is pushing around on all my inside muscles, asking me to tense and let go, and asking if there’s pain. “You’re strong,” she says, “but your muscles don’t know how to relax.”
“Yes!” I wanted to scream. “I AM STRONG! AND I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO RELAX!”
She continued, “That means your muscles are always constricted and they can’t do their job of stopping fluids as well.”
She gave me a referral for physical therapy.
Physical therapy seemed like a good idea because it would make me show up and do the work. But I wasn’t expecting to have my mind blown.
Did you know that when you do a Kegel you’re supposed to breathe in and release your pelvic muscles, then breathe out and tighten your pelvic muscles?
Breathe in, relax pelvic muscles.
Breathe out, tighten pelvic muscles.
Breathe in, relax.
Breathe out, tighten.
And it’s supposed to be fast, not the elongated, 5-second Buddhist nirvana breathing I was doing.
And when you’re sitting around typing you should be letting your pelvis and abs be fully relaxed, instead of holding them in as if you were willing them to hold their form.
Besides this revolution in Kegel-work, I’ve also learned that deep breaths that engage the sympathetic nervous system should basically be done all day long to relax your muscles.
Thank you, pelvic physical therapist.
That’s it. We’re done. This concludes my public/pubic service announcement.
Epilogue: I also would like to say that I think I’ve got a rockin’ bod. I’ve been lucky to have a great relationship with my body and not want to ever own a weight scale. And it’s been a challenge to make sure that that relationship remains robust after three kids, because we get all these messages about how our abs should be flat and our legs should touch in three places and all that other bullshit. We get fed this stuff and then we feed it back to other women. I like to feel strong, but I haven’t felt very strong after the Fairy Pig, so I’m working on that. Otherwise, I shave when I’m feeling like it. I don’t pluck or wax my eyebrows. If it makes me feel good, I do it. So if you’d rather spend that waxing dime on gas money to escape town, do that. I’ll see you on the road.
Featured image by Jeff Boothe