Pregnancy tore me apart. Motherhood took me over. Pilates built me up.
"Having a baby changes everything". That phrase could not prepare me for how much I would change. My body, the way it feels and moves or doesn't. The way my brain processed the world around me, the depth of emotions I was suddenly feeling and how overwhelming, suffocating and beautiful it all was.
Before my body was my son's, it was mine and it loved Pilates. So much so that I became an instructor to share this empowering movement with others. I wasn't overly strong when I started Pilates. I was petite. I had never been overweight or needed to lose 10 pounds. I didn't know what it felt like to not be able to connect to my abdominals, or to pee a little bit when I laughed. I knew nothing of tummy rolls, stretch marks or lower back pain. My boobs never ached or leaked and I was never afraid to lay down on my chest. I never farted when I rolled like a ball, wondered where that second butt came from or felt like I couldn't do something. Not to say that I didn't have my own struggles that led me to Pilates in the first place, because I did, but that's another story. But as far as Pilates instructors go, I looked the part.
I was a Pilates Instructor. Then I was a pregnant Pilates instructor.
And all of sudden I had this little miracle of a human being that I loved with all of myself. That love also a bit suffocating. Everything was different. I was not me. My body was not what it was. I didn't seem to own much anymore, not my sleep, not my time, not my hobbies. I was a mother. That was it, and that was everything.
6 months postpartum and my body started showing me signs that it needed some gentle and healing movement. I had back pain and what I suspect was sciatica. My body ached all over. My posture was horrible, I spent so much time sitting, and rounded over nursing. I remember being in so much pain, crying and curled up on the couch. My first instinct was not to move. That made everything worse. Finally I got down on the floor and did a really gentle and slow cat stretch. As soon as I started moving I knew that's what I needed more of. My pain was greatly reduced. I watched a pilates video online the next day to try and get back into it. One move was lying on the floor and just moving the arms. I thought it would be so easy. To my dismay, I couldn't feel anything. Not that the workout was so easy I couldn't feel it, but my body was so spent that I couldn't feel or connect in my core at all. I felt like it was a mess of a workout. Looking back I'm proud of my postpartum self for slowly easing back into mindful movement that I really needed! But in the movement I felt like a pudgy failure. I cried a bit that just moving my arms around was a "hard workout".
Not long after I started teaching again at a studio nearby a few hours a week (insert all the feelings of being a slightly "soft" looking Pilates instructor and feeling like a hypocrite). Getting back on a reformer was pure bliss. I could workout and build up my strength slowly without compromising my already questionable back. I started building back up my core strength and my body started moving a bit more smoothly. Not at all like it had pre-baby, in some ways different and in some ways I felt things better because I really had to focus to feel my body! I coupled that with great nutrition and started my year and a half journey of losing all that weight I gained. Pilates and Paleo was the magic combination for my body.
More than just my body though it helped me heal mentally and emotionally. I gave myself some "me time". I gave my body some love and attention when it was most vulnerable. I surrounded myself with other moms and instructors at the studio who all knew what I had just went through and encouraged me along the way. I slowly gained confidence in myself again along with a new appreciation for my body and for the role Pilates had in my body and mind. It allowed me to embrace motherhood in a whole new way.
It's also made me a more mindful instructor. I empathize with new mothers who are tired in so many ways, who don't feel well or back to "normal" or how to find a "new normal". I remember not being able to feel a single thing in my core when I knew I needed to. I have felt all the feelings that go with a body that expands, gives life, and then heals and shrinks. It still amazes me! It is such a privilege to help guide women into connecting, moving, and building strength in their body exactly how it is that day, pregnant, not pregnant, or postpartum. Pilates is a journey for every body. Motherhood tore me apart alright and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I Pilates now, so I can mom harder later.
I would love to hear how you took care of your body after baby in the comments!