“No, I’m not Pregnant”: My Struggle with Diastasis Recti

Having two children has come with many joys and many challenges, one of which I did not anticipate. Several months after the birth of my youngest, I was at a Frozen birthday party, happily enjoying some Olaf marshmallows, when a woman I didn’t know asked me when I was due with my third. The thing is, this would have been a hard comment to deal with even if I hadn’t heard it so frequently, but it felt like everywhere I went someone was congratulating me on my pregnancy. But, as the title suggests, I wasn’t pregnant (nor I am now).

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You can see that I’m hiding my stomach in this photo. This is a strategy I’ve gotten very good at. 

I will back up and tell you that I’m blessed with a healthy metabolism, and I have never been super self-conscious about my body. I miraculously escaped body-image issues as a teen, and, suddenly, as a 33 year-old, I started having new feelings of embarrassment about my stomach. All the questions about my “pregnancy” led not only to awkwardness but also to shame. I started eating like a rabbit, researching diet fads,  and feeling guilty if I consumed half of a banana. I did ab exercises, and I became skinnier than I had ever been. However, I kept getting the dreaded question: “When are you due?”

Things really came to a head over Easter. My daughter, at this point, was 18 months old, and I had been dieting and exercising religiously. With good intentions and a smile, a friend of my parents congratulated me on my pregnancy. I walked away quickly, concealing my tears.  My well-meaning stepmother told me that she and my dad had been discussing my stomach (a sentence one never wants to hear), and they had decided that they couldn’t understand what was going on with my body either. They offered to pay for liposuction if I wanted to look into it. In a frenzy of emotions later that week, I vented to a friend. That was the turning point.

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August 1st, 2015 

My dear friend, Heidi, suggested that I look into a condition called Diastasis Recti. With a simple google search and a trip to my doctor, I found out that I had an umbilical hernia and a large ab separation (diastasis recti). If you aren’t familiar with this condition, it is a fairly common occurrence that involves a woman’s abdominal muscles separating during pregnancy. Sadly, this causes “mommy tummy.” I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of this before! What’s worse is the fact that I had been doing sit-ups and crunches: exercises that only make this condition worse!  No!!

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I went in August to have my hernia fixed, and while my surgeon was able to pull my upper abs together slightly, I didn’t elect to get the major cosmetic surgery required to fix the whole of my abdominal wall. Thus, while I was out of medical danger, I still looked pregnant and felt discouraged. I decided to give myself a year to work on my ab separation before deciding to undergo such an extensive procedure.

At that point, I discovered many helpful resources online. The most beneficial being a program called The Dia Method. This program includes a nutrition plan, instructional DVDs, and online encouragement, and it has really helped. I’ve learned how to do “everyday moves” in way that keeps my abs from bulging, and I’ve learned about how to support (rather than hinder) my progress through exercise. (I have no affiliation with the company; I just like it!)

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I’ve made some progress, but I am still working on closing my abdominal separation. My daughter is now 2.5, and while I haven’t been asked “the question” for awhile, I still see people looking at my stomach inquisitively. I still hide my belly in photos; I still have outfits I can’t wear, and I’m still working on developing and maintaining a healthy view of food and my body. And though talking to strangers and my parents about my “bump” was challenging and awkward, I thank God that all of that happened as it has been a catalyst for change. Learning about and being more comfortable with my body has really been a blessing.

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January 29th, 2016

This story, in some ways, seems irrelevant for a service website, but, here at Family Service Club, we are all about helping others, and I’m hoping that sharing my story can help. I believe that when we share our stories vulnerably and authentically, when we share what we’ve learned, when we share what we are working on, we serve others by increasing solidarity and community. Have you ever struggled with body image issues? Do you get asked if you are pregnant? Do you have friends who are working through similar issues? How do you best support them? How do you deal with these challenging issues in your own life?  I’m still on my journey, and I would love to hear about yours. Side note: please don’t ask anyone when she is due unless you know FOR SURE she is pregnant. Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love others on purpose.

 

About Kellie Van Atta

Kellie Van Atta is a wife, a mom of two, and a teacher of English. She lives in Southern California and is passionately dedicated to teaching her kids to love others.

5 comments on ““No, I’m not Pregnant”: My Struggle with Diastasis Recti

  1. Wow, Kellie. Thank you for your vulnerability. I had an umbilical hernia after Bea was born but it took over a year before a doctor noticed it. (I had heard your belly button is never the same after giving birth so just assumed it was that…) I struggled a lot with my body after Bea – people would say “nine months on, nine months off!” as a form of encouragement, but when nine months passed and I still wasn’t in my pre-pregnancy jeans, I felt like a failure. This time around, it’s been completely different – probably because running after one while wearing one is different than snuggling just one – but I still have clothes i don’t wear and pictures I won’t ever print or post. You’ve given me the courage to rethink how I view this post-pregnant body. Thank you for such wisdom! (And sorry for such a novel!)

  2. Kellie, I so admire your openness and transparency on this issue. You are courageous and wise, and this lets other women with the same issue have both hope and a solution.

    Blessings, Tim

  3. Why oh why does anyone ask about pregnancy if they don’t know for sure? I’ll never understand that! Thank you so much for your bravery in sharing, Kellie. I loathe my tummy after baby #2, but I haven’t really tried much to shrink it yet. I do have to say, the two things I’ve noticed about you when I’ve seen you lately are your beautiful smile and how slim you are! Love reading your posts.
    -Nikki

  4. Kellie, I am so sorry to hear that you have been hurting and struggling with this issue. For the record, I have never wondered if you were pregnant with your third, and think you are beautiful inside and out. I’m sure your sharing so publicly will help so many other mothers!

    -Kari

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