Maya Borthwick is a working mum of 20-month old twin girls. She’s overcome severe abdominal separation and the demands of motherhood (x2!) to become one of the newest members of the Tough Mums team. With two races already under her belt this year, the sky’s the limit for this fast and fierce competitor. We talk to her about her busy life, her rehabilitation and her two gorgeous girls.
Tell us what it is like being mum to twins:
Busy! Gosh where do I start? The hardest bit was definitely the early months. I remember spending the first few days in the hospital bubble and feeling like I was totally coping, then we were let out and the real fun began.
I was totally clueless about babies in general and remember feeling totally out of my depth. It took me an hour to feed each one of them and then another half hour to hour to settle them. That meant at the start I got about an hour’s sleep every three or so hours. But that all settled down fairly quickly and I got them into a routine of sorts. The worst days were when they got out of sync and I had one baby awake all day. Oh, and the constant stopping on the street by well meaning strangers who want to talk all things twin, (“Are they good sleepers, eaters?” etc.). I normally try to take as a compliment, but on the days I’m tired it can get the better of me.
As they get older the benefits are accruing and it’s getting more and more fun having two the same age. They have a funny little relationship and while they don’t have a ‘special’ language or seemingly any of that other mystical stuff that they say identical twins have, they are amazingly tolerant of each other. Livvy is the dominator at the moment and steals everything that Zara has, and for the most part we don’t have massive meltdowns over that. In the morning I hear them chatting to each other in their bedroom and it’s like two best friends having a gossip.
The other thing that’s truly incredible is watching them develop into two quite individual people. I always believed that people are totally a product of their environment and upbringing. The one thing that having identical twins has made me realise is that there is something innate about personality. That’s the only thing that could explain how two little people who share the same DNA and upbringing could develop into quite distinct personalities.
Tell us about your postnatal experience. You suffered abdominal separation and returned to running quite quickly?
I had my check up with the obstetrician at eight weeks postnatal and he told me to do whatever I felt like doing as long as it didn’t hurt. I had no idea that I had abdominal separation, only that I had a little belly that continued to poke out for months after everything else had mostly gone back to normal. I was a very keen runner before I got pregnant and ran up until I was 25 weeks’ pregnant. I desperately wanted to get back into it because I’d missed it so much. The babies wouldn’t settle in their cots in the day so I was pushing them around and around Centennial Park anyway. I just started running while pushing them oblivious to the fact that I was making my abdominal separation worse. When I finally went to a physio, after Jen recommended that I get my separation checked, I was told that the separation was 25 cms long and 10 cm wide. We talked all sorts of options, including surgery, which scared me into action.
We hear it was hard to convince you not to run so much – how did working with Body Beyond Baby change your approach?
One of the reasons I was running was because it was one of the few exercises I could do with the babies in tow. It was also pretty idiot proof, I just had to get up and run. I’ve only ever done boot camp type classes and running, so I had no idea where to start with other sorts of exercise. When I started with Body Beyond Baby I could leave the girls with the nannies while I focused on doing the classes. Jen also convinced me (mostly!) to cut down the longer runs and try to rehabilitate my core and focus on strength, as well as cardio. I learnt a lot about my body postnatally that I had no idea about before I started doing the classes, including recruiting my transverse abdominis muscles when doing exercises, which I didn’t even know existed before Body Beyond Baby.
What work did you do, guidelines did you follow to help to correct your separation?
I’ve been seeing a physiotherapist intermittently since I joined Body Beyond Baby and she has given me exercises to do, which I try to do at least three times a week. In terms of guidelines, at the start I let Jen and the other excellent trainers at Body Beyond Baby guide me regarding what to do and what not to do. I also had to adapt a lot of the exercises as they weren’t suitable for someone with such severe abdominal separation. Now I have enough self-awareness about how certain exercises affect my stomach/separation that I can mostly monitor myself and adapt exercises where necessary.
What aspect of your post baby fitness have you found hardest?
I still find it incredibly frustrating to have to reign in my training and concentrate on rehabilitation. I’ve never been really sick and recovered pretty quickly from carrying the babies and the birth. It had never occurred to me that 20 months later I would still not be able to do everything I feel capable of. The other thing that was difficult to accept was that I had such a healthy pregnancy and kept fit both during and after, which I thought was doing the right thing, but according to the physio this may actually have exacerbated the separation.
You recently joined Tough Mums, how did you know you were ready for that?
Joining Tough Mums was very much an evolution in my training. I got to the stage where the regular Body Beyond Baby classes weren’t challenging me as much, and I felt that I was ready to step up my training. I also returned to work and so needed to start training in the early mornings, which is when the Tough Mums training is held. Through Tough Mum training I’ve met a great bunch of like-minded individuals. We have fun training but we also push each other, which is great for someone who is a little bit competitive, like me.
What advice can you give to other mums of twins?
Ha ha! I don’t think I’m qualified to give anyone advice about babies, twins or otherwise. I think that if I had my time again I wouldn’t have stressed so much about all of the tiny details of the sleeping, feeding and other stuff that babies all do. I met regularly with the other girls in my twins antenatal classes throughout the first year and the ones who coped the best were able to go with the flow a bit more. And I guess that other thing is that even the days that are hideous always end and you move on to the next one.
The best piece of advice that I can give to other mums is to make sure that you make time to get out of the house everyday and interact with other people in a fun environment. Starting Body Beyond Baby gave me that opportunity and it was great way to connect with other mums, start feeling a bit normal again and to have something apart from just being a ‘mum. ’
I know we are all wondering…. will you have any more?
Someone said to me once that you should never say ‘never again’, but I feel pretty sure that this is it for me. I couldn’t be happier with two little girls and couldn’t imagine any more kids or how that would fit with the two I have now.
How do you juggle work, training, children and family life?
I am an early riser by nature, which helps in terms of getting myself out of bed early to do exercise. I make sure that I get my exercise done first thing in the morning. It works best for me and it also means that I feel good and on top of the day before I get to work. I work four days a week at the moment so keeping on top of the rest of it is really just a constant effort. I do washing at night and on my day off, and on the weekend I make frozen meals for us. It really never ends though (as most mums will know).
What keeps you motivated?
In terms of motivation to do exercise, that’s rarely a problem. If anything, I’ve got a tendency to go overboard. I’ve been sporty my whole life and doing physical activity is a really important part of my everyday life. It keeps me sane. Entering events like road races and, more recently, obstacle races is a great way to focus my training for a while and give me motivation to do the sorts of exercise that I don’t like as much like pure weights sessions. In terms of motivation for the rest of life, well, I guess I’m pretty competitive in lots of things that I do so that keeps me going, and I like the sense of achievement that comes with doing things that I didn’t think possible. For the record I’m the world’s least motivated person when it comes to diet, I’ve never been able to or resist temptation or cut down on things I love like chocolate.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
Hmm… I can’t remember what it feels like to have spare time. Before I had kids I always used to get bored on the weekends unless I was busy all the time. Now I’d just like to have one day where I didn’t have to do anything at all.