Are you pregnant and planning a natural birth?
If so, Lola wants you to know about her experience, just in case the same thing might happen to you. Lola is one of several inspirational partners with whom we’ve been collaborating lately. We’ve been getting to know them and sharing their fascinating stories with you. Lola’s story charts an incredible learning that essentially changed the course of her life. It’s a learning she now works hard to share with as many women as possible.
You can follow Lola via Instagram, @behindthisfemale, or visit This Female's site.
Lola was having a natural birth, or so she thought...
Lola had always been small and slim. As a result, she never felt motivated to exercise all that much. She’d never set foot in a gym, and the idea of a workout was unnecessary hardship. Lola was the first in her friendship circle to fall pregnant, so in a sense she was without a mentor. She did all the right things - attended every necessary medical check, enrolled and participated in three ante-natal classes, ensured she ate the right nutrition for her and her growing baby. Lola was having a vaginal birth. Every video she was shown during her pregnancy journey depicted this. No other type of labour was mentioned.
When Lola’s waters broke, she and her husband went straight to hospital. The medical team tried to get a heart trace for her baby, and failed. Panic was mounting. Suddenly, the team advised she was going into surgery. Lola was too exhausted to register what that meant, but she remembers being wheeled away and seeing tears stream down her husband’s face. In the whole time she was pregnant, that was the first mention of a c-section.
After a c-section
Not only was Lola unprepared for a surgical labour, she was unprepared for everything it entailed thereafter. The experience felt like a series of knowledge gaps; one before having the c-section, one after having it and learning how to recover, and one further down the track, having recovered, but not knowing how to ‘find’ her body. Lola felt let-down by the system. She was frustrated and disappointed that nobody was proactively helping her anticipate and deal with these phases. She felt very alone.
Losing the mummy tummy
Of course, he never meant it, but it was her brother’s off-hand observation that spurred her into action. Five months after the arrival of her daughter, the fact she still seemed to ‘show’ was in the back of her mind. Why hadn’t her tummy gone down by now? In fact, why didn’t it go down straight after the delivery? The baby was out, so why did her belly suggest otherwise? This isn’t how it goes for women in the media. Their pre-bubba bodies bounce back in the time it takes to set up a full feature glossy spread photo shoot. What was wrong with Lola? These were all just naggings in her mind, until her brother innocently expressed the same question. It touched a nerve. Lola had joined an online mothers’ club and some of the women were following a 20-minute workout video specifically designed to lose their bellies. Lola subscribed. Not only did the workout regime fail, it seemed to make things worse. Her belly was somehow getting bigger. Lola researched the doming shape that was growing around her midline, and discovered the exercises were at best ineffective, at worst unsafe for her condition.
As a result of the growing dome, Lola discovered she had a condition called diastasis recti, or just diastasis for short. It occurs when the abdominal muscles that normally work together as a collective unit instead split apart, creating a gap that results in a visible doming of the belly. It is particularly common amongst women who give birth, people who experience rapid weight loss, those who exercise with heavy lifting but poor technique, and some sufferers of constipation. Good nutrition, hydration and the right type of exercise all help to minimise diastasis.
Lola was on the right track when it came to ‘eating rainbows’ (all the colours for a broad based nutrition) and drinking plenty. In fact, it was at this juncture that she discovered Edible Health. She had researched and knew that she needed collagen as part of her healing journey. She didn’t want to purchase from overseas, and came across Edible Health when searching for UK owned brands. She has been using the bovine collagen ever since, not only for her diastasis but also to help her recovery from a knee injury.
So, Lola was ticking all the right boxes when it came to what she was putting in her body. However, the crunches she was performing were only exacerbating the internal damage. Lola wasn’t just frustrated, now she was angry.
Pudding Club Fitness
Lola was convinced there were other women out there in similar situations. She couldn’t possibly be the only woman on the UK who:
- Had no idea she’d end up having a c-section
- Did not receive adequate support and information from the health services
- Was trying to do the right thing by her body, but instead making potentially dangerous mistakes
Lola became adamant she would help other women learn from her own experience. Already a part-time primary school teacher, she registered in a health and fitness course. She became a qualified fitness instructor, and then underwent advanced training in pre and post natal specific fitness and well-being management. She launched Pudding Club Fitness. At the time, the name seemed perfect. It was borrowed from an old English saying that referred to pregnant women as belonging to the ‘pudding club’. Her focus was to empower her female clients with information and knowledge, and the right training programme to get their bodies back and eliminate their mummy tummies.
Then, something unusual happened.
When the teacher learns from her students
For many women, the physical trauma of childbirth can be a great burden. Seeing their bodies change so significantly, and witnessing the impact particularly throughout the core, can be emotional. Lola experienced this first-hand, and was intent on changing it not only for herself, but her clients. For a solid two years she had tummy tunnel vision.
At some point, however, she realised a metamorphosis had occurred in her workout studio. These women who had been so core-focused, so equally intent, had become softer on themselves. It was no longer about their core. Instead, they were coming to class because of the social connections they had built with each other; because the process of moving had become more important than the outcome; because their bodies were now allowing them to do things that were previously painful or seemingly beyond the realm of possibility; because they simply enjoyed that time for themselves. It was an epiphany for Lola, as she realised the very same shift had occurred in her own mind and body. The teacher had learnt from her students.
This Female Health & Fitness
The Pudding Club had to go. It was no longer relevant. In its place, This Female was formed. The same workouts, but a different philosophy. It’s no longer pre and postnatal women who join her classes. Indeed, even her mother and mother-in-law now feel that the shift has opened a door to women like themselves; women who had their babies decades ago, but who still want to look after their bodies.
This Female in the future
Five years from now, Lola hopes to have a lot more black women working out with her. She believes the black community can have a preponderance to overprotect the pregnant woman, to wrap her in cotton wool for nine months and ensure she does as little as possible, including exercise, just in case the baby is harmed. Lola knows the opposite to be true, and wants to spread the word. A safe, bespoke, positive workout is not only a terrific tonic for the mum-to-be, but it ensures maximum oxygen to the developing little brain.
Lola also wants the business to evolve as she and her clientele do. Their babies won’t be babies for long, and perimenopause and menopause is inevitable. Lola wants to cater to this female right here, right now. Whatever point she is in during her journey as a woman, This Female will make sure she is informed, empowered and aware.
Quick-fire questions with Lola
Aside from your classes, how do you stay body-healthy?
The food on my plate almost always looks like a rainbow. My husband loves to cook and we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Most of what we eat is prepared from scratch.
What’s the best post workout snack?
Anything protein based. I usually go for wholemeal bread with almond butter and banana, or a couple of slices of apple and peanut butter.
What’s your greatest anti-stress hack?
Music and dancing - I listen to a lot of music!
What is the best music for a mega workout session when you just can’t be bothered?
Anything up-tempo and dancy. Music just helps you naturally pick up energy from the soul and before you know it, a 20-min workout is done and you’ve even enjoyed it!
What’s a great exercise for the pelvic floor when you’re on the phone?
Squats. We tend to think that the pelvic floor isn’t exercised unless we are sitting down, but in fact it is engaged during so much of what we do.
If you could train anyone post pregnancy, who would it be and why?
Any woman who has given birth through a c-section, because I have been there twice now and know it well. Any woman from the black community, to teach her that pregnancy doesn’t mean she has to bunker down for nine months to ensure her baby’s safety.
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