Biomechanics of Being a Mom
I'm writing this blog after nearly six days of spending time with my family over the holiday. Thanksgiving with my mom's family, hosted my in-laws over the weekend and a last-minute dinner with some cousins last night made for a busy, yet much-needed week.
My sweet 7-month-old niece visited over the weekend and it was so exciting watching her sit up (unsupported) and start taking a few strides crawling on the ground. It had been almost four months since I'd last seen her and the physical therapist in me was impressed by how much she'd grown and all the new things she was able to do. She could hold objects (bottle) and was more awake and expressive than the last time I saw her.
While my family was visiting, my sister-in-law mentioned that since they lowered my niece's mattress in the crib, she'd experienced more low-back pain from lifting my niece from the lower surface. I looked at her posture and pelvic asymmetry, then instructed her in a few stretches she could do as well as some lifting strategies to minimize the stress on her low back. As of today, she has been feeling better and able to reduce her symptoms.
The day after I saw my niece, I literally couldn't believe how sore my biceps were from carrying and holding her throughout the day. I mean, she was definitely heavier than the last time I saw her, but I didn't hold her that much. And, I lift weights. I run. I'm fit. How could this little smiling tot make my arms so sore?
These two ideas together -- my sister-in-law's back and my ailing arms -- made me think about all the physical demands an infant requires. There's a lot more lifting than I would have predicted, and I cannot imagine the parents who are deconditioned for those physical responsibilities. I wonder if birthing classes or parenting books educate soon-to-be-parents on the importance of exercise or correct lifting techniques. This seems like an area with high ergonomic needs -- for all those car-seat handles and crib heights.
I'm not even considering the physical therapy aspect of the pelvic floor following childbirth, which is clearly a whole different discussion, yet an important one in the role physical therapy can have for mothers. What do you think? Do you think new mothers and fathers understand the physical demands of having a child? Are you a pediatric therapist who is often impressed by your patients' growth and development? For the parents who read this blog, what is your firsthand experience of caring for a young child?