How Pilates Brought me Back from a C-section
For 32 years I was an athlete. I was a gymnast, a soccer player, a circus artist, and I worked as a professional stunt performer - I have experienced more injuries than I care to remember and war stories to go with them. But the one that brought me down was pregnancy and a c-section!
I thought I had a wealth of knowledge about the body. I had a Kinesiology degree, I was a personal trainer, and I had coached gymnastics and circus for over 18 years. But after my c-section I could not figure out how to put myself back together. It felt like my body was in two separate halves that had no means of communication and that my body was not my own anymore. It was a frustrating and painful place to be, especially after a lifetime of making a career out of my athletic abilities. My chiropractor suggested I try some private sessions with a Pilates instructor and I have to say my entire world changed in that moment. Being a bit of a biomechanics and anatomy nerd, I was immediately fascinated with how detailed and intricate it was, but also how easy it was to get the hang of, and how quickly my body responded to a new set of cues and the mind body connection I had been missing. I was so happy with my results I signed up at Stott Pilates to become a certified instructor myself!
7 years and another c-section later, I still do the same exercises as part of my warm-up, and any client of mine is likely doing them too regardless of whether or not they’ve had a c-section! We all need to be more connected, we need to scale back movement and give our bodies a chance to stabilize before asking them to do the larger more global movements we associate with exercise. But specifically, for post C-section recovery, our bodies have literally been cut in two. Doing crunches and planks and baby boot camps is not the first place we should be looking in our road to recovery. Will you get there? Absolutely! But start small with simple knee drops – can you slowly open your right knee while keeping the left leg stabilized? Next move to leg lifts, lifting one bent leg at a time off the floor without rocking the pelvis. After a c-section it is shocking how difficult these seemingly simple tasks are. But it doesn’t take long to master it once we have a focus. Pilates provides the necessary tools to reconnect the body, correct imbalances, and modify movements to bring you back to a place of stability and strength so you can then move forward into more challenging exercises and activities.
I will leave off with a story that has always baffled me. After my first c-section I went for my 6-week post-partum check-up, I was told the scar looked healthy and everything was normal and I was cleared to “do anything”. I asked, “I can do anything? Like, I could go home and do a handstand right now?” She looked at me as if I was crazy (she clearly didn’t know me) but said, “If you want to do a handstand you can do a handstand.” I didn’t do that handstand, I was too tired from being up all night, nursing my cluster feeding infant, and not to mention my lower half wasn’t quite as small as it was before pregnancy and really couldn’t generate enough force to get off the ground! But it did leave me with a false sense of security that I was healed enough to try, and also, with a guilty feeling that I should be feeling back to normal…I felt anything but normal! The second time around I knew better and wasn’t as hard on myself. After my second go at rehabbing myself back to “normal”, I realized what they should be saying to every woman recovering from a c-section at their 6-week visit is this, “You are doing great, your recovery is normal, you will make it through this and here’s a prescription to three private Pilates sessions that will make it happen for you!” We can dream right??