I did a brave thing recently. I got a massage. I know for most people this is not a brave thing, but it is for me. It’s been over ten years, a fact that is directly tied to the tentacles of trauma. Anyone who has experienced sexual assault knows that it’s no small feat to say yes to an experience in which you give over your body to a person you probably don’t know at all … in the dark … all while you are supposed to “relax”. Yeah, um, no thanks.
BUT I did this brave thing anyway because it’s time and I’m on an adventure of healing, so here we are. And, in keeping with my tendency to just jump straight into the deep end, I decided that my first massage ought to be an intense deep tissue abdominal massage. I know. Let’s start with the tender part of the body that the human brain is basically like, do not press hard here, AND the part of my body that has been most affected by birthing and raising children.
Anyways. Start here, I did. I’ll save the details about the actual technique of this massage, about the incredible women who provided it, and the amazing clinic in which they work for a later date. I have some content planned for it, because that’s what it deserves. BUT, what I am here to share today is something that feels ooey gooey underneath it all. Like when you flip over a rock in the Spring and see an entire world of life underneath. This was that, for me.
The ooey gooey is that I haven’t done anything to really heal my body after the birth of my third kiddo three years ago. I don’t know exactly why, but as I peel it apart, it’s clear that it’s a perfect storm. I do know I had assumed that because I had been doing MommaStrong for close to a decade, that I should have had the entire thing figured out perfectly – that my body wouldn’t be affected THIS time, THAT way. I also know that the postpartum period with Wyatt was one of the hardest, most traumatic experiences of my life. I just instantly jettisoned out of the newborn world and into survival-I-got-this-keep-things-ok-for-everyone mode. I also entirely distanced myself from my body and from its needs.
That last part feels the truest. Beyond distancing – if I’m rigorously honest – I feel like I’ve been moderately self-destructive. It’s hard to admit this, but if I want to get better, I must just go to the “ugly” and say it, love it, hold it, and then lead it. I have left my body with very little resources to survive birthing and raising Wyatt, while raising two other amazing kids through all the precarious milestones of growing up, and while also trying to keep this business alive. I don’t eat enough, sleep enough, or drink enough water. I don’t sit still enough, listen to myself enough, play enough, stretch and release enough, read enough, etc. I have relied on caffeine, chocolate, and Netflix to be my main versions of self-care.
So, when these two women were working on my body – on my belly – I felt this incredibly intense and overwhelming sensation of resistance. Please do not let me feel what has been, what this belly represents. As they worked on my c-section incision and the web of scar tissue all around the area, it was like I could feel the way my incision felt four weeks after she was born and all the things that were going on at that time. I could feel the way my incision felt when my older girls were newborn too – the pain, the heaviness, the fear, the harms.
This is how I know it to be true that our bodies hold our stories until we are ready, if we are ever ready. It was bewildering to me that I had been able to ignore it for this long, but also totally obvious. I know how I feel on a day-to-day basis. I know what my body asks for, how it finds a way to keep me going even if on fumes.
It’s time. This post is here to say this. My body is not healed. My belly is a mess. My pelvic floor, affected. My spirit, waiting. And the most humbling discovery of all is that THIS is exactly why I started MommaStrong so long ago: To be the starting seed of self-discovery and body autonomy after birth, through the extension of curiosity into the landscape of daily movement. And, most importantly, to not be alone in the whole process.
In essence, MommaStrong was supposed to be the nest we all need after giving birth and while in the acute caretaking period that is postpartum – a nest that most of us in this society are pushed out of far too early. I would also suggest that acute caretaking is something that returns here, there, and everywhere throughout our lives as parents, whether we have a kid with special needs, or we are arriving at the steps of teenager-dom, or we’re in “The Sandwich” of taking care of kids and ailing parents. All these moments are moments when we need a nest, a place to come home and regroup and gather resources and rest.
Over the past few years, as I have distanced myself from my body, I have also distanced myself from this purpose of MommaStrong. I have allowed it to grow and scale, none of which is bad, but it certainly became something that was unmanageable for a small business to hold.
I can’t help but think of all the ways business owners are encouraged to “think big” and “move boldly” and how connected that is to our society’s pressure on new moms to “bounce back” after birth. I wonder what happens when we skip the nest and/or decide that the nest is too small. I can’t ignore how this has shown up in measurable ways in my own body.
As for the business, there have also been measurable effects, most of which the team and I are working on healing now. It’s been arduous, but also grounding. It’s become clear to all of us that the spirit of MommaStrong is alive and well, but just waiting for the walls around it to be right-sized. In fact, if we don’t – much like our bodies – things will start to fall apart.
I’ll be sharing more of my own personal story of healing and nesting over the next few months, with short video content from experiences I am having. But, today, I’d like to share some of the ways that we will be addressing this in our business, and I hope you know that these changes are about being a healthy business with a healed “belly”. About staying sustainable. About being true to who we are. About coming home.
Before I share a list of the upcoming changes (arriving in January and February), I want you to know that I know how hard change is right now. I hold that while also holding my leadership position here, a position that if I ignore will mean that things don’t heal. And we must. And we can. And I promise to be here, connected to you and to the change, as we get through it.
Here we go!
- Community: After a lot of conversation and thinking and problem solving, we have decided that in February we will be moving off our current community platform, Mighty Networks, and instead utilizing a community feature directly in your membership, whether you access through the web or an app. This is EXCITING because now you won’t have to visit another place to engage with other members, it is literally right there in the same place you get your workouts. It is also a vastly simpler platform, that will feel a lot like a Facebook feed. You will have access to the same support you had before, from Stephanie to other experts, and to each other. BUT YES, we will lose some fancy features that you get in Mighty Networks. We’ll be discussing these changes over the next month – you have plenty of time to prepare. This is essential for right-sizing and with that said, we know it’s change and with even positive change, there can be loss. We are here for you.
- Challenges: We are walking away from the word “Challenges” and are returning to a program we had way back in the day, called “The Hook”. The Hook will function like a monthly challenge does now. You will register and attempt individual/group goals. There will be a theme, etc. Everything will be the same, EXCEPT a couple of things:
- Our weekly podcasts will be accessible where you get your workouts and programs, in their own category, for both our app and the website. The great news in this change is that you can listen to the podcasts and turn off your phone (we will show you how to address that setting), etc.
- Once we move our community away from Mighty Networks, there will no longer be dedicated groups for challenge content. Instead, you will access everything in The Hook category in MommaStrong programs, and the accompanying community feature.
- The first week of The Hook will be focused on setting up your goals and building reasonable expectations for the month (what gets you “hooked” into showing up for yourself, beyond just being dutiful to health/wellness).
- FUEL: In February, we are going to be taking a step back from our FUEL program, but just in terms of trying to develop, sell, and market it. We are aware that many folks purchased the content to own without expiration and we will be honoring that promise by continuing to host the content and community in the current community in Mighty Networks. SO, yes, the MommaStrong general community will be leaving Mighty Networks, but the FUEL course and FUEL group will stay put.
- Squad Leader Workouts: We will be ending our “squad leader” live workouts in order to honor our attempts to right size our services. We also hope to take what we learned from this offering and build something more sustainable in the future with your incredible squad leaders. I’d also like to take a second to acknowledge each of them – Becca, Madeline, Theresa, Kelsey – and their commitments to showing up over the past many months. I am deeply inspired by them and can’t wait to direct their energy to other parts of the company.
- Workout page reorganization: In February, you will see some changes to the workout page, just namely in how we label and name the different categories. We are aware that the current set-up can be confusing for newbies and we are attempting to help the “start process” by making things more clear from the get-go. You will still have access to all of your current content, it will simply be slightly reorganized (for the better).
- Nest: To bring this back to the focus of this post, we will be working very very very hard on rebuilding the nest that MommaStrong’s mission is and how we can make sure you feel surrounded, supported, cared for during the acute caretaking period(s) of your life. My intention here is to provide a sense of “home” that we all need more than ever, so that you feel showing up has more to do with care than it does another task or to-do.
OK, whew, that is it! And now a quick blip about the upcoming January Hook: “Right Sizing Matching our promises with our capacity.” The January Hook will start on January 9th, which we know is a week later than we normally do – BUT HOLY WINTER BREAK BATMAN – life is hard right now and starting on January 2nd sounds noble and also no. So, you will have a whole week to get yourself organized. We will have tiny reminders and info about some of the changes over the next week. Basically, we are gonna nest the eff out of the start of 2023.
OH! And in case you don’t know what the heck The Hook is (formerly known as “Challenges”), basically- you register, , you listen to one short episode of our mini podcast each week, and you comment or discuss as you like in our community. OH, and you try to show up for 5-15 minutes of exercise as often as possible during the month.
If you are a current member, you can register by logging in to your account, clicking the “Challenges” link in the teal navigation menu (we’re changing that title soon, yeah tech gremlins) and following the instructions there. If you are a new member, HELLO! Simply sign up and follow those directions above.
See you next year ha omg.