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How To Heal, Restore, and Strengthen Your Body Post Birth

With Bernadette Lack — Midwife, Personal Trainer and Founder of Core Floor Restore.
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and Core and Floor?

I am an endorsed midwife with a Masters in Public Health. I am a wife to my amazing lover and most favourite person, Michael and together we have two delicious boys. I am the co-host of The Great Birth Rebellion, Founder and Creator of Core and Floor Restore, a pregnancy, birth and postpartum hub and Co-Creator of Motheration, a modern village for motherhood with myself and Lael Stone. 

Core and Floor was born and developed through my own experience with incontinence from the age of 19 and prolapse after the birth of my second babe. It was originally created just for me. After a horrific pregnancy with my first babe that left me covered in urine and vomit, followed by an epic birth that left me feeling like my body could do anything, I decided I wanted to heal from my 12 year journey with incontinence. What followed has been pretty phenomenal. 

Core and Floor Restore is now a pregnancy, birth and postpartum hub. Filled with epic free resources for people to enter these stages with evidence informed information so that they can do what is right for themselves and their families. We have online core and pelvic floor programs for all life stages, genders and abilities, live online classes, one on one consultations online and face to face ranging from birth preparation chats and debriefs to postpartum and motherhood support to internal pelvic release sessions. We also offer a lot of motherhood support via our Modern Mum Village 8 week program to dive into all our stories that affect our motherhood journey from mum guilt to mum rage to how connect in with our bodies and our relationship with our mind. 

We also have a one stop online store for all your pregnancy, birth, postpartum and baby needs. 


What are some of the key concerns women experience after birth?

We know that 1:3 women experience birth trauma and 12% obstetric violence. Birth is meant to be the most empowering event of your entire life, it’s biologically designed to be but most people in our modern culture are robbed of that. It’s meant to make us feel like “Wow, I just did that, now I can do this (parenting)”, it’s meant to give us our Mother Power. Birth ignites the start of our life as a mother and we want to enter that period feeling powerful and confident because keeping a new human alive is hard enough let alone if we begin that journey with physical and emotional trauma. We often see birth as the end when it's really the beginning. 

Birth is also incredibly transformative. It has to be, you have to transform from woman to mother and that doesn’t come easily. So you have this event that is emotionally, physically and mentally the most challenging event you’ll ever go through and what that needs is some processing time. Regardless of whether someone feels it was traumatic or not, everyone’s birth story deserves to be told and heard in order for them to truly understand and make sense of it. Yet, what happens? Well most people just get thrown into the trenches that are the first couple of years or so. And then we wonder why our postnatal depression and anxiety rates are so high. Why we have so much disconnection with our partners and have high divorce rates. And why so many mothers don’t love motherhood. 

Birth exposes our deep wounds and it does this for a reason, to help us shift and grow but this kind of growth needs time to unpack, process and heal from and we don’t offer that to people in postpartum, in fact we offer bugger all. 

You see if I broke my leg, I would get follow up care that was publicly funded (through medicare) until I was healed. It would include drs apts, physio, OT and perhaps some psychology. 

When we are pregnant we have a lot of appointments, whilst they are for the person who is pregnant, they tend to focus on the wellbeing of that person in terms of the wellbeing of the baby. Once that baby is out, all focus on the person who was pregnant vanishes. 

So here we are with a person who potentially has physical and/or emotional wounds or trauma (whatever people identify with) and they have no publicly funded follow up care. The focus is simply on weight gains and immunisations. 

And then we’ve taken away the village and so this person is left with a body that requires time to heal, (research is now showing it takes up to 7 years postpartum to heal our bodies from birth) without the support for it to happen. So the body needs to heal but how does one find the time to and how can someone do that whilst also carrying around a cute but heavy weight plus all the equipment our society deems necessary for such a weight, around with them. 

Never would we expect someone healing from another surgery or injury to do all the things new mothers are expected to do. We have lost our respect and honouring of postpartum healing and that’s a new mothers biggest threat. 

And yes whilst pregnancy and birth are physiological events, they take their toll on the body. As does all the interventions that now comes with birthing in our modern culture. We don’t just magically heal from that, we don’t just fall back into place. Healing requires rest and conscious practices and support. It takes months and often years to fully heal our bodies from pregnancy, birth and postpartum yet most women don’t get the opportunity to. 

Birth so often gets the blame for our issues like prolapse and incontinence, truth is it's often pregnancy and postpartum where the injury/ies occur. Most people enter their first pregnancy with core and pelvic floor dysfunction, they just don’t know it and this is because of how we have adapted our body to move so that it caters to our modern environment.  

This is why I created my core and floor programs to be holistic. We cover the way we move, the way we poo, the way we breathe because it all impacts our core and pelvic floor. One in three women leak urine, one in ten faeces and depending on what stats you look at most women will experience some type of prolapse in their life, either symptomatic or asymptomatic. Then there is diastasis recti. 

Postpartum needs to be entered with the knowledge that weeing, pooing, farting and intimacy may feel different. That you may physically have symptoms and that these symptoms are not normal. That pain is never normal. That if your body is not functioning how it used to is not normal. And you can heal! 


Why is it important to understand your core and pelvic floor prior to birth (and pregnancy)?

So that you can move through these life stages, (pregnancy, birth and postpartum) in optimal health. So that you know how to connect to and respond to your body and honour it with what it needs. So that you can prevent injury from occurring but also so that you feel prepared and safe if you do get diagnosed with something. So often I hear from people that have absolutely freaked out over their diagnosis of prolapse or diastasis recti because they didn’t even know it existed or thought it was an “old lady issue”. What often stems from that is what I call the head fuckery, the downward spiral of what we make these conditions mean for us and well no one needs that added stress and symptoms when they are trying to heal. People would be able to heal a lot faster if they were able to go “ok this has happened to me and I now know what I need to do about it” and I’d also love if people were able to also think “and my body hasn’t failed, it’s done an epic job and it just needs some support and love to heal” because so often we make these conditions mean we have failed. 


What are your top strategies to heal, restore, and strengthen your body?

Connection, compassion, core and floor ;-) 

I always say in order to heal we need connection, in order to connect we need compassion. Our body is nothing without the mind and so healing requires a holistic approach. 

Exercise by far is my number one tool to heal and it's been proven time and time again by the research as well. Our bodies love and need movement and it far outweighs anything you can buy to “fix you”. 

Having individualised care that is tailored to your emotional and physical needs is paramount and this is where it sucks because this type of care is often expensive, not easily accessible and hard to get to if you live in rural and remote areas. Online health is helping immensely with this but this is what I’d love to dedicate my career to changing. 

Doing things you love in a supportive environment is also key to keep going with it. 

Ditching the kegels and seeing the body as a whole is imperative! 


If exercise is key, how does one know where to start?

Everyone is different and so what one person needs will be very different to another. It’s why I’m so passionate about giving all the modifications in my programs. 

I’m also incredibly passionate about driving the focus off external authority and on to internal authority. We are so conditioned to be good girls and do as we are told and so often we can find ourselves not tuning into our bodies at all. We want to be told how to do things all the time simply because we are used to this but the fact is the body holds so much wisdom and its dying to be heard. 

Exercise is not a time to tune out, it’s a time to tune in, listen to and respect your body and give it what it needs.We need to work in rather than work out! 

As women we need to be listening and tailoring each workout to what our body is saying. The fitness industry doesn’t spread this message though, it spreads the push yourself to the limit message and healing, well healing doesn’t want us to push ourselves to the limit, it wants us to listen and respect. 

I am back to bleeding now and so I cater my exercise to my cycle and also what's going on in my life. And so my workout deeply depends on how my body is feeling, how much sleep I’ve had, what thoughts and feelings I’m holding onto to and what the relationships in my life and feeling like. 

Doing you is the key ;-) 


When should you consider seeing a women’s health specialist?

When you think you need to. If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. And it’s not just in your head. If you don’t get the answer you think matches what’s going on for you, find a different health care provider. 

It’s also important to find someone whose philosophy aligns with you. If you see a Dr, they are going to recommend what they are specialised in, medications and surgery. If you see someone who practices more holistic (and some doctors do) they will prescribe things such as exercise and emotional support, body work like osteopathy to improve body alignment and healthy relationships with your environment (aka setting healthy boundaries and self care principles). 


Any final thoughts on postpartum recovery and how we can best prepare for it?

Well….. I have a new program launching called “holding the mother” created with the phenomenal TEDx speaker, Lael Stone, THIS MONTH! It’s a self-paced, online course to nurture and support you people through a connected, powerful postpartum period. It gives compassionate guidance in understanding your physical, mental & emotional transition to motherhood. It’s basically Mary Poppins in your phone screen with everything Lael and I ever wanted to know in those early days, weeks and months postpartum that we didn’t get! It’s an epic research to get in pregnancy or gift to a friend so that they can head into postpartum with the knowledge and power to care for themselves in a way our society has forgotten.