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My Birth Story

Have you ever done everything right but the wrong thing happened anyway?

This is how I feel about my birth experience.

I had practiced yoga for fifteen years. I knew my body well. I had spent many years dedicated to unraveling negative patterns and overcoming trauma through psychotherapy and yoga practice. During my pregnancy, I ate well, went for walk and swims (I even lived on a tropical island).  I had a homebirth with a midwife, the kind of environment I had always imagined I wanted. I was happy. And yet I still ended up with a major tear!

My experience trying to put myself back together again is the inspiration for my post-partum work.

Just to give you an idea of my situation post-partum… I had low milk supply(my guess because of the stress of the tearing and ensuing discomfort as well as other stressful factors, like construction that began the day after my daughter was born in the apartment above me, as well as finding out we were in an illegal sublet, which is a crime here in Brazil, and all furniture being reclaimed two days after the birth).  I could not sit comfortably over 2 months.  I had fecal incontinence, which means that I would poop in my pants without knowing it. I had burning searing pain during intercourse. Air came in and out of my vagina just bending over. I had constant lower back and SI pain and hemorrhoids.

I felt groundless, unsure of myself and confused.

When I looked on the internet for information on post-partum recovery, all I found was information on post-partum depression- as a doctor or woman, when do you know medication is needed? I found nothing useful about alternative ways to work with my symptoms. Nor did I find anything at all about WHY so many women might be depressed.  There was nothing at all about recovering from pelvic floor tears or how scar tissue could affect recovery.

I was feeling so out of control and so bad that…

I decided to see a doctor. Before I even got through with my list of symptoms, she said I needed a full pelvic floor reconstruction. If I chose that option, I would not be able to have any more children naturally. Being a bodyworker (a Rolfer) and having studied anatomy extensively, I could not imagine how exactly they were going to make me a new pelvic floor. What would it be made out of? Where would they take the tissue from? My understanding of the body includes a knowledge that all parts of me are interconnected, so what other problems might be created in order to address the ones I already had? I was worried. I started to doubt that the information and models that I knew would be able to address problems so serious.

“Full pelvic floor reconstruction” just did not sound good at all.

Now what?

I realized that after a year of exclusively caring for my daughter, I need to take care of myself.

There had to be a better way.

I moved back to the US from Brazil. I realized that the 5% of Portuguese that I could not understand was 5% too much with regards to my health. In the US, I had more resources. I knew a Physical Therapist, a Pelvic Health Specialist who is also a yoga teacher, Michele Kreisberg. After Michele examined me, she assured me that it was not the worse case she had ever seen (which was my fear.)

With this bit of positive encouragement, I made a pact with myself to find out as much as I could about how to heal myself. The healing process included meditation and prayer- connecting to receive guidance about what I needed. It included carving out time for myself to explore a yoga practice. For a year I could not do anything that looked like a yoga practice. I had to start from less than zero. Whenever I did anything more intense, I would experience more pain.

I felt like a doll– the kind whose strings you pull in the center and their limbs fly up. I could not get my internal and external muscles coordinating at the same time. So even though my body could make the yoga shapes, I got no satisfaction from it—the juiciness of the exchange hydraulic energy by moving energy through the internal channels was inaccessible to me.

I went to teach a yoga teacher training in Thailand, where bodywork is affordable and informed. So I received weekly bodywork sessions.

During this time, I also met Ellen Heed, a bodywork expert, who drew my attention to the role of scar tissue in the healing process. Through her guidance, I began to break up the scar tissue in my pelvic floor.

The combination of movement practice, with conscious slow exercise, regular bodywork and breaking up the scar tissue made a huge difference. I began to feel my creative energy return.  I was able to work on projects and look towards the future. I had perspective again.

During my recovery process, I scoured every resource possible. I traveled to Thailand, Malaysia, and Brazil collecting informal information regarding views of birth and recovery.  I began talking to women, whenever I could about how their bodies and lives changes after having children.

When I returned to the US after my travels, my daughter was just over two years old. I was able to receive three sessions from Ellen Heed. During these sessions, my linea alba reconnected, my scar which had a distinct pull loosened, and I was able to return to a vigorous yoga practice.

Three years later, I have almost recovered fully. I still have to take great care in how I use my body, but I am no longer in pain and feel that my vitality has returned and that I have a sense of center that was missing before.

Out of this difficulty has arisen a lot of beauty.

I am more aware than I even would have been of the diverse needs and complexities of the post-partum period. I have been able to combine my Rolfing and yoga skills as well as my passion for women’s health to offer women effective post-partum recovery tools.

Did you know in Europe every woman receives six weeks of personalized physical therapy as part of recovery?

It makes so much sense.

Whether you had a natural birth or a Cesarean, you will need help “getting your body back,” to feel more connected to yourself, your strength and your core.

Kimberly Johnson, is an American woman in love with Brazil.

Yogini nomad, international yoga teacher trainer, and post-partum care revolutionary.

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