Fairly recently I had my second child.
Up until 36 weeks pregnant I taught 4 pilates classes a week and until 38 weeks pregnant I taught many 1:1 client sessions.
I was very fit. Super fit.
I was very active.
I thought very naively post baby I would breeze back into my pre-pregnancy body and life would tick along just nicely.
So why for me was exercise post baby such a struggle?
One of my classes was a post natal pilates class. I taught many ladies with babies. If they could do it, so could I. I thought I could probably teach these classes with my baby along side me.
Being self employed, my return to work this time was not the cushy 9 – 12months off paid leave I got in the NHS with holiday allowance. This time round it was return to work asap to get paid!
But exercise for me post second baby was not as easy as I had envisaged.
For many reasons.
Having a new baby and a 5 year old child to look after left little time for me.
I was extremely sleep deprived from the constant newborn feeding.
I had zero energy due to the juggling of the two things above.
My wonderful plans for an active birth turned into a second c-section.
I acquired a hospital chest infection before this happened.
Feeding my baby was exquisitely painful, traumatic and completely wiped me out of all my reserve.
I lost all sense of self.
I found that I could not relate or feel my post natal body like I expected to.
I felt ashamed and a huge fraud because of this.
I felt guilty that I could not practise what I preached.
I tried after 12 weeks some Pilates 1:1 classes post natally to try and reconnect with this new post natal body. I managed a couple of sessions with a sleeping baby and then it got harder as my baby’s naps reduced.
The exercises I went back to were reformer type pilates and not matwork pilates like I taught, and I struggled. They were to HARD for my post natal pelvic floor and tummy muscles post second c-section.
I clearly remember after my fourth session coming away and crying as I had what felt like a two day “period” which wasn’t blood but fluid. I had heaviness down there and I knew that this could be a sign of pelvic organ prolapse and I panicked.
I felt ashamed.
I felt embarassed.
I felt like my body was a failure.
I stopped my 1:1 Pilates sessions.
I’m writing this as honestly as possible because I’m pretty sure if I felt like this, even with my specialist interest, knowledge and training about post natal exercise then how on Earth are other women feeling and coping?
Post baby exercise and my struggles found me asking the following questions:
Do new mummies continue exercising regardless of these signs or symptoms or do they know its time to stop?
Do they tell anyone?
Do they just put up and shut up and get on with it and accept it as the “norm” now?
Following my brief interlude with return to exercise post baby I lost all motivation, self esteem, self respect and my body image morphed into this weird shape that I couldn’t relate to. It caused me HUGE sad times.
A pressure which I magnified myself due to the social norms portrayed on social media.
I also endured a husband working abroad Monday to Friday and so had no respite from the gruelling life of juggling a newborn, an older child with school runs and my brief return to work for 7 weeks. We then moved house and countries on top of all this.
Safe to say, my self care was buried below the ground and I became pretty dysfunctional and quite robotic with my day to day chores. I did not like or recognise myself within the first 14 months of my baby’s life which is extremely sad.
I’m happy to report that I decided to speak up bravely and sought help in my new country and with small steps and lifestyle changes I am returning to firing on all cylinders.
I feel much more like my old self again and a big part of the process was making time for me.
This all coincided with me making the conscious decision to stop breastfeeding. I’ll write more about that journey in another blog post next month!
I have returned to teaching pregnancy pilates which is perfect for me and my own safe return to pilates practise. I am practising matwork pilates again which is wonderful for my post natal body. I have rekindled my joy with pilates.
It is my time now.
It took me until fifteen months post natal to once more shine like a god damn beacon that I am supposed to be.
I am putting myself back out there.
I am gaining clarity about my direction.
I am restoring my core and…
I LOVE it.
Never under estimate the struggle of returning to exercise post baby. It’s not as easy as social media makes it look!
Marie Fell Bio…
Marie Fell is the founder of The Pilates Physio in the UK who now lives and works in Luxembourg. She is a qualified physiotherapist with over 12 years NHS experience in a wide array of specialisms and her passion lies in Posture, Pilates and the Pelvic floor! She is an enthusiastic pelvic health activist and uses her blog to highlight areas of pelvic health that are lacking to others.
I am passionate about improving post natal care for all ladies through education. My mission is to empower, inspire and educate others to move freely and keep healthy and teaching Pilates with a clinician’s hat on allows me the best of both worlds.