There’s no pretty way to say it. Childbirth can do some sad, sad things to your body. It wasn’t that no one told me, just that I didn’t believe it would happen to me. Some examples: the saggy-tummy reason for mom-jeans. Stretch marks. And the odd spot of incontinence.
After Bean was born, I thought this last particular gift of motherhood had passed me by. Then I joined a baby bootcamp and did my first set of post-baby jumping jacks. Oops. I was crushed. Mortified. Or at least I started to be, but then it became clear that I was not the only one. Every time jumping jacks were on the menu, the same look of dread and resignation came over nearly every other mum’s face. Eventually we started joking about it. And I became part of a community of occasional pants-pee-ers.
Post-birth with Monkey, my exercise regime has been a little less intense. (So far, no jumping jacks have been involved.) Recently I tried my first Pilates class. It’s a mums-and-babes class, so the babies lie on the floor beside the mums. I knew Pilates would be good for me, strengthening the core and pelvic floor and all that, but I was still hesitant to sign up – I’ve always been of the mindset that exercise equals sweat, and if I’m going to carve out an hour to work out there had better be some serious calories burned. But the mums-and-babes offerings at the local rec centre are limited; it was either Pilates or Aquafit, and I’m not quite ready to brave the pool.
The first class went well: dim lights, soft music, and a happy baby on the mat beside me. I struggled a bit to follow the instructions (pull the navel to the floor; tilt the pelvis; pull the ribs down), but overall it was good. I didn’t sweat, but the next day my core muscles were sore and I saw that as a sign of success.
The second class was a different story. Most of the babies were fussing. Monkey was on the move. And when I could hear the instructor, I could not for the life of me understand what she was talking about. It went something like this:
Instructor: Imprint the low back.
Me (thinking): Imprint… okay, I think I’ve got it, this feels right.
Monkey: (chews on my shoe)
Me: No Monkey!
Instructor: (something I can’t hear) into that nice J shape.
Me (thinking): J shape? What part of me is a J?
Babies, in general: Wah.
Instructor: Focus on your glutes for this move.
Monkey: (chews on the mat)
Me: No Monkey! Yucky!
Instructor: No glutes, take the glutes out of it.
Me (thinking): Wait, glutes or no glutes? What do I do with my butt?
Instructor: Inhale as you…
Instructor: …. on the exhale.
Me (thinking): Uh, just breathe?
Instructor: … tighten that navel down. We don’t want to do the move with the belly pushed out.
Me (thinking): Oh God, I can’t do this one unless my belly is out! What does this mean? Am I going to work my abs into the wrong shape? Am I building myself a rock-hard potbelly?!
And on it went. That was yesterday, and so far today I’m not feeling the same soreness in my core that I did after the first class. So either I’m really good at Pilates, or really bad. I think we all know what the likely answer is.