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When I found out I was expecting a baby in the fall of 2008, I remember feeling so thrilled and terrified at the same time. I was beginning the Traditional Authentic Pilates (TAP) certification program and was now faced with a difficult and unique set of problems: How would I complete such a physically and mentally intensive program with a pregnancy? How would I stay connected to my own body enough to dictate movements to clients? I remember confiding in my boss, Mary Ann, telling her “Please don’t be upset with me…I’m pregnant.”
She looked at me as if I had two heads and said “Why on earth would I be upset with you?” She listened as I proceeded to tell her my fear of not being able to get certified and then she gave me some wonderful advice. She said to be patient and learn about how my body would change so I could work with my body rather than against it.
As I thought about what Mary Ann said, I began to realize that pregnancy for me was going to not only be a huge physical change but an enormous mental one as well. I had spent the better part of my life trying to work against my body; trying to lose weight here, to trim this, get rid of that, to look better there. To be honest, my body and I weren’t the best of friends. In fact, it is safe to say we were enemies.
Pregnancy forced me to embrace changes in my body I never would have condoned before. As I watched my belly grow, my hips widen and my feet swell, I continued to teach and practice Pilates. We modified and created movements to accommodate my body. I learned that strengthening my pelvic floor was an investment in the future…especially if I wanted to laugh uncontrollably or jump rope again! Although my abdominal muscles had opened laterally across my belly to make room for the life inside me, I could still do things to strengthen my oblique abdominals. I strengthened my arms, my inner thighs, my behind, and practiced walking without pronating. All the while I was still getting bigger (and bigger) and for the first time in my life I was able to embrace it! Gaining weight didn’t make me want to cut the calories, instead it made me smile and think about how my baby must be eating really well.
After I had my baby girl, I began exercising slowly. Once I received permission from my doctor, I started strengthening my abdominals gradually with the tiniest movements. Then I began taking a class at my studio again. I will never forget my first class back. It was one of our beginner classes and I thought I would breeze through it… man, was I wrong. Needless to say, I was humbled. But I stuck with it, and before I knew it, I was back to where I started before my pregnancy and felt even better than I had before. I completed my certification in the spring of 2010, nine months after I had Grace.
The thing is, I learned that my body was capable of something amazing. I gained respect for what I was naturally given and learned to embrace change that I couldn’t control. I learned that to be “connected” could be taken literally in the sense that you “connect” your abs while you do your Hundreds (a Pilates practice), but also figuratively in my daily life. I believe the lesson of working with your body rather than against it is perhaps the most important thing to remember while practicing Pilates, and applies equally to pregnancy and birth. I feel so fortunate to have had the tandem experience of pregnancy and Pilates because it taught me something priceless: work with what you have to make your body healthy and strong. Now my body and I are close. I might even call my body my best friend. Unless I eat too much cheese…then, unfortunately, we are at odds.
With all we are going through in the world, we need to remember some very important qualities of life. We are given one body, one brain, one heart, one soul. It is our job to take care of it. If we neglect our body, we are not true to our inner self. The SELF that makes us… us. Be true to you, take care of you and connect your mind to your body.
Giving Birth with Confidence, the online community created by Lamaze International, provides articles and tips written for and by real women (and men) on a variety of topics related to pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting. Their goal is to help women achieve healthy pregnancies and safe, satisfying births by offering a meeting ground to obtain information and support from other women, Lamaze-Certified Childbirth Educators and knowledgeable experts.