Before I write further, I feel I should explain the title of this blog that seems to suggest (like many women’s magazine) that there is an easy retrieval system for your ‘pre-baby’ body. The truth is, having a baby changes everything irrevocably – including your body. I am annoyed and suspect of anything that tells me there is a magic pill or formula for achieving a fantasy because I don’t think life works that way. Wisdom and results are often hard-won and some things are worth their cost –for example, it is 100% worth it to me that I now have smaller and less perky breasts because I gave birth to an incredible human who breast-fed for two years. While I can’t retrieve the body I once had, what I can do is take care of the body I have NOW while being gentle with my heart and mind as I continue to go through the great metamorphosis that is being a mother, on top of the already monumental task of being a human.
One thing I will say about having a baby vaginally, is that it made me worlds more aware of my pelvic floor and its functions in ways that I had up until that point taken for granted. Going to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist shed a light on an area that was likely already weak and under-active, even though I was/am a very active person. Because I am not interested in having prolapse or continence issues as I get older, I was naturally motivated to do muscle stimulation therapy to connect to sensation and strength where I felt disconnected. I was also interested in making a connection physically to a place I knew a lot about, theoretically; I’m a yoga instructor and understand the concept of Mula Bandha (engaging the pelvic floor to increase the pranic (upward-rising) flow of energy) that supports good posture, organ function and overall vitality. However, I assumed (incorrectly) that because I do yoga I was strong there, when likely that pelvic floor weakness on top of hyper-mobility was at the root of my back and knee issues.
I first went to a pelvic floor physiotherapist on the advice of another long-time PT who had been helping me with my knees issues years earlier. She herself had just had a baby and strongly recommended I see someone. I remember going to the office of this new therapist and smugly thinking that I would not have to do much rehab as I had not had any tearing in my natural birth. You can imagine how humbled I was to learn that on a scale of 0-5 I was maybe a .5 or a 1 in pelvic floor strength. To give you an idea of what those numbers mean, this therapist had suggested that exercises like running should only be attempted when the pelvic floor is at least at a 3.5 or 4. Interestingly, though I continued to work with muscle stimulation, I plateaued doing this therapy and never gained strength beyond a 2 or 2.5. It was only when I supplemented these sessions with some one-on-one therapeutic Pilates with a good friend and incredible Pilates teacher, Kearsten Lyon, that my physiotherapist really started to take note of my progress. When I left our sessions she said, whatever you’re doing (in reference to the new Pilates sessions) it’s working. I took that encouragement and ran with it.
Along with working with my Pilates teacher, I started doing more group Pilates classes and came to love the strong, connected feeling I would walk away with that left my muscles and nervous system buzzing with new information and clarity. Completely inspired by this new way of working so mindfully with the body, a year and a half later, I decided to become a certified Pilates instructor and did my training with Body Harmonics. Along with yoga, it has become an integral part of my physical practice and something I am now honored to share with my students.
Though my body is not the same as it was before I had a child, I actually think it is a stronger, more connected body. It’s certainly a body I have come to appreciate much more for all its countless functions and capacities. Never again will I see it as merely a shape. I recognize it now as the awe-inspiring vessel that gave birth to my son and sustained life. That seems like a small/fair trade-off for this weathered body or as Fleur Adcock says so beautifully, “what my soul may wear over its new complexion.”
Here is her transcendent poem, Weathering, in its entirety:
Literally thin-skinned, I suppose, my face
catches the wind off the snow-line and flushes
with a flush that will never wholly settle. Well:
that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young for ever, to pass.
I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
nor anything but pretty enough to satisfy
men who need to be seen with passable women.
But now that I am in love with a place
which doesn’t care how I look, or if I’m happy,
happy is how I look, and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake, my waist thicken,
and the years work all their usual changes.
If my face is to be weather-beaten as well
that’s little enough lost, a fair bargain
for a year among the lakes and fells, when simply
to look out of my window at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors and to what
my soul may wear over its new complexion.
Jessica Lemon is a certified yoga and Pilates instructor who has over a decade of studio and private teaching experience. She lives in Toronto with her partner, David, their son Gabriel and her other furry son (cat), Toby Lemon. When she isn’t teaching, she most enjoys traveling, reading, writing and eating wonderful meals. Her website is www.jessicalemon.com where you can find her writing and teaching schedule.