Pregnancy, Parenthood & Pilates... The things I’ve learned.
Updated: Mar 4
My first daughter’s birth was fast and explosive. I was thrilled to have quick labor but couldn't understand at 3 weeks postpartum how other women could actually walk around. I still felt like my pelvis would fall open when standing. My second daughter practically fell out. At my 6 week appointment my midwife said to me “Thank god you are a Pilates teacher, because you have one of the weakest pelvic floors I’ve seen.” This was not surprising considering the dancing my little ballerina did on my pelvic floor. I wasn’t discouraged but determined. LESSON 1: Be open to all the changes and challenges parenthood brings.
There is not an accelerated plan to postpartum renewal. No amount of Pilates immediately postpartum could prevent me from a sudden accident while changing my daughter’s diaper or holding my pubic bone during allergy season to prevent leakage. Just as parenthood brings us an opportunity to be more patient, flexible, and present our relationship with our body must follow the same path. Lesson 2: I would need to work easy as opposed to hard
Learning to understand how my body is different postpartum would be key to regaining my strength. The hormone Relaxin, which helps open our pelvis for delivery remains in our body post delivery and throughout breastfeeding. This means our pelvis is more susceptible to instability. It also presents a “blank slate” for the pelvis to find a new formation, like a rubik's cube changing it’s organization. The important thing is to land in a place of balance and stability versus an alignment that leads to pain and dysfunction. While running the She Is Beautiful race, finishing hard to keep up with my gazelle of a daughter, I sprinted to the end line but not without frustration that my pelvic floor couldn’t keep up. It had been 6 years since my last delivery and my pelvic floor was considerably stronger. I could now make it through a dance class without running to the bathroom in dire need. As I ran to the end line, I thought about how many other women amongst the crowd of pink were experiencing the same thing. In this instance it wasn’t because of my strength but my alignment. I was overdue to giving attention to my alignment and my pelvic floor could not respond. Think of a warped trampoline whose springs don’t create a circle. The trampoline won’t react in the correct manner. If the bones of your pelvis don’t create a balanced frame it is difficult for the trampoline of your pelvis to connect. Unfortunately there is nothing quite like a cocktail of pregnancy, labor and relaxin to throw your pelvis out of whack! Lesson 3: All the strengthening in the world won’t save you if you don't learn about and care for your alignment.
Speaking of trampolines.. aren’t they the devil. On a family trip to the trampoline park last summer, I was happy to discover a new strategy to play on trampolines without misfortune. We do want to be playful with our children, right! I now teach this in my Women’s Wellness Mat Class. The confidence inspired me to see if I could still do a flip. The answer was yes, but it pushed me past my limit of dynamic strength. LESSON 4: How to increase pelvic floor strength while jumping AND still bring a pair of extra undies!
As a Pilates teacher I have many conversations while teaching or socializing about the Pelvic floor. It is a fascinating subject and one I could talk about endlessly. I share my stories of challenge because the stigma of being “A Pilates teacher” often comes with the expectation that our cores are solid. In truth there is no perfect destination of being fit. Our bodies and lives are dynamic. We need to appreciate and maintain the activities we can do today and strive for more tomorrow. When a particular day is challenging it doesn’t have to be because you are weak or getting old. Maybe your body just needs a little extra love and organization… allowing your trampoline to have more spring and zest. LESSON 5: Understand your body, what it needs and how to continuously care for yourself. This is the key to being youthful.
The Pelvic floor with all the pleasure and frustration it brings is often left out of general conversation. Ownership of our bodies comes with knowledge. And with knowledge comes the ability to discover a deep and inner strength; the strength that enables us to play and empowers us to be an awesome role model for our children.