I am a human being first, a woman second, and a mother third. In that order. And yet, according to research, I will be judged (unfairly) and be valued less in society because of that last identity: being a mother.
The reality is I will be paid less than a woman without children. I will be paid even less than a man; and even less than a father, who ironically is more likely to get a raise and be seen as more stable when he has children. Research also shows I will be taken less seriously, be given less opportunity, less promotions, and be considered less competent after becoming a mother. I will also be expected to work under this discrimination while raising children with the least supportive work environment in the developed world. Oh, and to do it all without complaining about these inequities. (I know this to be true because each time I post about seeking equality between the sexes the male trolls come out in full force to beat me down and tell me how good I have it.) Those are all facts.
And yet, I am here. Persisting.
If you are a woman or mother reading this post, please take a moment to pat yourself on the back. We all have to survive (and thrive!) under discrimination. And for those suffering in poverty (as I also did), you have even farther to go and harder work to do in order to provide for your families and yourself.
So from one mother to another, I want to tell you this: You are doing an amazing job moms; working, caregiving for your families, maintaining your households; and you are doing it with little to no support compared to women in other developed nations.
Want to see some statistics about discrimination against women and mothers? Catch them here: Part I on Using Your Big Voice.
Getting Your Queen On, Part II
Part I was a more comprehensive look at Getting Your Queen On. In this post, I want to break down the practice and make it easier to digest.
My Short Story
Girls growing up are (still) taught to be quiet, polite, and not to make waves. We are taught to get along with everyone (even to the detriment of our own well-being), to defer to men (not as overt as in previous generations, but I still see this happen frequently professionally and personally), to serve in a supporting role; in short, girls are often taught to be no more than a helpmeet to help men accomplish their dreams.
This sad reality was made clear to me when I became a mother. I wanted to lean in, figured if I had the gumption to work hard enough, I could be a mother and succeed in the corporate world. But what happened was far from that.
All of a sudden, from a social perspective, my husband’s career became paramount. He was encouraged to get to the office and excel. While for me, it was assumed my job (growing a fledgling corporation and physical therapy practice) was going to be put on hold. Instantly, what I had spent a lifetime achieving was less important and less valued. Instantly, I was supposed to set all that aside and clean house and care for children while my husband, now a respected father in the workplace, continued on his upward trajectory career path entirely uninterrupted.
Once again, the reality was – I had to raise these children and keep the house and take on the emotional labor of the family and figure out how to (still) excel at my career as a therapist and CEO.
Now mind you, my husband has grown to be a wonderful, supportive feminist, in large part because he saw just how hard people pushed back against female leadership and ambition – against me – in and outside the home. He knows that I accomplished a great deal while pregnant, while postpartum, and now as a three-time mom, in spite of the circumstances handed to me by society and government. Keep in mind that meanwhile, mothers in every other developed nation have more support and their countries are wealthier and happier than ours for it.
So that old cliché, “If Momma ain’t happy, then ain’t nobody happy.” is very true. Mothers are the backbone of a nation. So goes mothers’ health, so goes a nation’s health. And right now, America is in the saddest state of affairs for our health and mother’s health than ever before in history.
I shared my short story to emphasize this: I understand what you are up against as a mother, as a woman. I have a deep passion to help you through whatever circumstances that are holding you back or down. I didn’t overcome all my trials and tribulations to ignore other women’s suffering, or to boast about having overcome them. I endured them to be able to speak up now and say, “Hey, I made it through, and you can too.”
Getting to the Point
As a pelvic physical therapist specializing in women’s health, I teach women how to get their voice back and rehab their pelvic floor, spine, and pelvis in general. As a woman who happens to also be a singer and an older mother three times over, I had to learn how to do get my voice and pelvic health back many times over, from the pain and trauma of multiple births to that of multiple surgeries. So here are a few tips on how to use your big voice, literally and figuratively.
What does using your BIG VOICE have to do with better pelvic health?
Intersectionality. Everything is connected. Neurologically, musculoskeletal, endocrine. What you think and feel can manifest itself in your body physically – and vice versa. Women are regularly disempowered during the birth process, just during regular physical exams and medical care. This is WELL proven. Here is one post that cites the facts about discrimination against women and mothers.
If we give women the tools to claim their power – to give them their voice – we will infinitely improve the status of women’s health everywhere.
There are two key areas to focus on here – the vagus nerve & the fascia (muscles are also important but fascial health dictates muscular health). The two are intimately involved in your ability to create sound – to have a voice – and to also have a voice & satisfaction – in the bedroom.
The key to optimizing both is feeling safe. You must feel safe to be able to have sexual and pelvic health – and to use your voice.
Connecting the dots: Improving Pelvic and Sexual Health
To feel safe, you need what’s called a positive vagal response. This means not having a fight, flight, or freeze response to everyday, non-threatening situations. One prime example of the difference between being comfortable in a situation and not – is found in your smile.
I’ve taken many a picture of my three sons and exclaimed, “Smile! Say cheese!” And you know what happens, right? They tightly pull back the corners of their cute little mouths in an attempt to follow my direction. What is produced is a forced smile, not a real one.
That’s the difference between feeling at ease or not. I always want my boys to give me a hearty grin, but more often than not, they grimace in place of smiling. I have plenty of elementary school pictures where I did the same. It’s a common phenomenon, but my point is, in order to be have the relaxation response we need to speak or have sex, we need to be able to source the origins of that real smile. The real you.
Explore Your Pelvic Floor
To start, try to lift your pelvic floor (a kegel), which feels like trying to stop the flow of urine if you were sitting on the toilet going to the bathroom or trying to hold back passing gas. (I don’t want you to do either of those things, but this gives you the feeling of what a kegel is). You should feel a smooth internal lifting of the pelvic floor up toward your belly button. If you were to insert one finger into the vagina, if you are doing a kegel properly, you would feel the pelvic floor grip around and pull your finger in gently. You should also be able to completely relax that pelvic floor contraction and have no tightness or gripping or pain in the pelvic floor.
If you don’t, it’s time to see your local friendly women’s health physical therapist. But if you can do that without pain and you don’t have any leakage with coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting, then explore this next:
Try gripping your jaw and clenching your teeth. Then try to do another kegel (engaging the pelvic floor). It’s hard isn’t it? Almost impossible to control the pelvic floor the way you need to when there’s tension in the throat and vocal area.
That’s what we are trying to accomplish – to have no resting tension in the vocal, neck and throat area, which will allow you to more fully control your pelvic floor (and what happens to it).
When you clench your jaw and teeth together, you have less control of sexual function AND your voice. The first step in using your BIG VOICE is to learn how to relax! Release tension in the throat, neck, and facial muscles, and you’ll have a stronger voice and better control over your sexual health and pelvic floor.
Tips for Improving Pelvic & Sexual Health
Work on your three diaphragms by doing the following:
- Gain awareness of the pelvic floor – an intimate knowledge of what’s going on down there. Anxiety, fear can increase tension and diminish functioning and lessen your control of the pelvic floor. Vice-versa – birth trauma or sexual trauma or injury can increase tension in the pelvic floor and could lead to more global pain or anxiety.
- Work on your voice. Learn the basics of breathing and sound creation. Maybe even go sing in your local community choir! And if not that, get comfy enough with your voice to at least sing in the shower!
- Improve your relaxation response (better stress management).
- Don’t ignore pain in the throat or neck area or pain with sex or attempted sex.
- Know this: Although it may be common but it is NOT normal to have pain in these areas. You don’t have to settle.
- Your posture can affect sexual songbird function, as well as low back and core strength.
- Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.
- Cultivate self-awareness and a sense of play! Both are supported to decrease your chance of developing mental health illness.
- See the Resources Section below to start working on all of these things!
How can you tell if you are working your pelvic floor correctly?
- You will have a strong voice and no recurrent laryngitis or weak, cracking voice or vocal fry.
- You will be able to perform AD & TATD breath.
- You can perform The NAP Meditation under stressful circumstances, like doing a difficult yoga pose, while giving a speech, or experiencing a stressful situation. If you can NAP while you are doing difficult things, you are on the right track!
- See the Resources Section below to start working on all of these things!
Lastly, if you have problems doing any of these tasks, seek out a women’s health physical therapist. Pelvic physical therapy is very beneficial for addressing pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, and even vocal issues!
The first thing you can do is learn about insurance coverage for physical therapy. Other countries do a MUCH better job of taking care of its mothers and providing physical therapy and mental health services. US does the WORST job at it. You’ll have to be a strong, outspoken advocate to get the care you need. And please reach out to me – I am happy to help you find the therapy or services you need.
- Practice with me for FREE! Find me on You Tube and Vimeo or sign up for FREE access at www.medicaltherapeuticyoga.com.
- What Self-Care Looks Like for Busy Moms
- Yogic Breath Practice for Women’s Health – Includes AD & TATD Breath and The NAP Meditation
About the Author
Ginger has spent 20+ years helping people (mostly moms!) with chronic pain as a physical therapist, athletic trainer, and professional yoga therapist. Ginger is the author of Medical Therapeutic Yoga, now in its 4th foreign translation, founder of ProYogaTherapy Institute, codirector of Living Well Yoga in Healthcare, and most recently ran for State Senate in NC.
This and all blog posts related to yoga and/or physical therapy on www.gingergarner.com are not a substitute for medical advice and are not a prescription or program for individualized physical therapy. You must seek the advice of your health care provider and, only after a thorough physical examination and clearance, participate in any movement or exercise program.
All photos: ©2019. Ginger Garner. All rights reserved.