To fully understand why I started Milly Grey Movement and became a certified pregnancy & postpartum corrective exercise specialist, I felt it was important to share my raw, unfiltered journey with pregnancy, pre- and postnatal exercise, my experience with my doctors, and my road to recovery. Please understand I’m sharing this from my heart and that this does not reflect what I think is appropriate for every pregnancy or delivery. For a fitness consultation on what’s appropriate for your pregnancy, please reach out to me here.
36 hours of labor, four hours of pushing and it ended with a beautiful baby girl…and a C-Section. Sweet Milly Grey Cuttica arrived at 7lbs, 11 oz and although I was so happy to have her in my arms, I felt like my strong body had failed me. I was so ashamed of my birth story. I couldn’t give birth. I thought to myself, “I’m Liz Cuttica, how could I not just ‘pop’ this baby out like everybody had told me?” I had done all I could to be strong in order to prepare myself for an easy delivery and a seamless recovery, but that wasn’t the case for me.
After Milly’s birth, everything hurt. I had no feeling from my belly button down to my pubic bone and no one had told me about the C-Section shelf. I couldn’t look at myself naked in the mirror; the sight of the uneven and huge scar (my incision was hip to hip) just made me feel like Frankenstein. Yet, everyone told me “Oh it’s worth it, look at how beautiful Milly is” or “It’s only your body, look what came out of it”. I felt like no one understood what I was going through and nobody told me that this alienation I was feeling inside my own body was actually normal. I felt so ashamed.
At my six week postpartum check up, my doctor cleared me for exercise. She told me to do what I was doing before. I was shocked—my body still felt broken. How could I return to my regular fitness routine when I felt so much stronger at 39 weeks pregnant than I did after my delivery? I asked her if I needed to modify or change anything and she said no. She was a doctor after all, so she knows everything about the body and movement, right? So on my way home from my appointment, I stopped to take a barre class. But my first workout was impossible, painful and defeating. I actually left there in tears.
I didn’t get it—my doctor had said I could return to my normal routine yet I couldn’t even do a plank. So I requested a script for orthopedic physical therapy (at this point I had never heard of a pelvic floor PT). I wanted my PT to do scar tissue massage on my scar, which she did and she helpfully informed me that I wasn’t strong enough for planks. And she checked me for a Diastasis Recti and she said I didn’t have one. I was so happy, “at least I didn’t get the ab-splitting-thing” I thought. Eventually she said I was ok to plank…ok, that meant I was good to go, right?
I stopped going to PT and I felt ok working out, after all I was listening to my body. However, it had been a few months and I had been feeling some pain in my abdomen. I went to get a scan and they couldn’t find anything, however I noticed a comment in the notes about a 4mm DR and hernia above my belly button. WHAT? I thought. How could that be?! I didn’t have a DR…I was listening to my body. My PT told me I didn’t have a DR. I was so confused, angry and frustrated. When I went back to OB, she again didn’t seem bothered by the fact that I had a 4 finger width DR. I asked if I could fix it and she said the stomach I have at 6 months postpartum will be the stomach I have – it won’t get any better. I had just hit 6 months…I was so frustrated. I got zero guidance from doctors and that’s when I decided I need to find out more. I immersed myself in as much information as I could and through that process realized I could get enough training to become a certified pregnancy & postpartum corrective exercise specialist.
I wish I had known what I know now. I try not to go down that spiral of all the “what ifs” because I know it’s not productive, what happened happened. Nothing is going to change that. I am, however, grateful because I have a much better understanding about the body as a whole and how it works, and how everybody is different and every pregnancy is different. My education on pregnancy and postpartum body has changed the way I teach in classes, one-on-one training, and the way I workout. Most of all, my mindset has changed. I work really hard to actually listen to my body and know what to listen for so that I can workout smarter. More is not better, better is better. I do not have the same body I had before Milly, I never will. But I have worked really, really hard and I am stronger than I ever have been and no longer have all the aches and pains I had even pre-pregnancy! I still have setbacks, but I am better equipped now with how to navigate it.