After 20 years of Pilates experience I’ve learned a lot about my core. Two C-sections can really humble a Pilates teacher. It took a lot of unlearning and relearning to bring myself back to a place where I can physically and emotionally do the advanced Pilates exercises that I love. There is a lot of fear behind moving a muscle that has undergone trauma. Whether a prolapse, a C-Section or birth without lasting repercussions, the body has undergone a major physical task. Mothers need to rest. The muscle needs to heal. The “bounce back” culture is toxic and as a pre/postnatal professional, I felt that pressure. The pressure to be athletic. The pressure to be “natural.” The pressure to make it picture-perfect. To maintain my huge smile when everything felt like it was going to fall apart. Luckily I process my feelings through Pilates. From my clinical experience, I knew a lot of bed exercises for post organ transplants that I knew would be ideal for my body post-surgery.
It is major abdominal surgery. There are things we can do to support recovery. But normally a physiotherapist doesn’t come for a session in the birth recovery room. Mothers are told to come back in six weeks and not to lift anything heavier than their baby. When we get home we are given pain medication. We feel okay. We might even walk up and down the stairs. Or maybe we reach over to pick the baby up out of the crib and tear the incision as I did. That’s not something you want to share on Instagram.
There are strategies for getting out of bed safely. There are exercises that can encourage healing. We just need to know what the exercises are. After a muscle has experienced trauma it can be scary to use it again. Especially when we have minimal guidelines to follow and very personal symptoms that we don’t always want to talk about.
There are many safe and simple exercises (see C-section/Birth Trauma Series). Possibly the most important being how to let go of the abdominals. In Pilates, we train our brain to activate the core for every movement. To climb stairs or roll up out of bed. We practice “Hugging the baby” throughout pregnancy. To brace the traversus abdominis. Can you imagine how much tension that places on a muscle that is trying to heal? But unlearning is hard. Learning to move without the core and better ergonomics is hard! It takes a lot of body awareness. It also allows the body to build a stronger foundation. It empowers a new mom to take some sort of control.
Five minutes of gentle movement, breath, and abdominal release promotes flushing of fluids in the body. It helps to prevent muscle atrophy. It doesn’t seem like very exciting work sometimes. It really calls out the ego. But five minutes of bed exercises could be the difference between a very good day and a bad day. Especially when you want to be one of the moms who “bounces back.”
Our bodies are amazing organisms that heal and thrive with slow and consistent work. With the knowledge to move safely, we can feel empowered and reduce fear.
Birth is a physical and emotional journey. The physical part reaches into your emotional center and it changes you forever. Or at least it feels that way (ask me again in 40 years).