Becoming a mother has been the most touching, transformational experience of my life as a woman and as a dance artist. Pregnancy and motherhood is a profound experience for any woman. For me, my journey of pregnancy through childbirth into motherhood was not an easy one.
In my experience there is an unspoken pressure in dance to have a slim figure, although I have never fulfilled the illusion of the ideal body shape as I’m 4 ft 11 inches tall and have a toned petite feminine form. I did wonder how pregnancy would affect my body in the long term. The whole experience gave me a new awareness of myself; it intimately changed my perspective on life and enhanced my creativity.
Pregnancy was a challenging time it was a journey of discovery from within; from learning to let go and accept my body changing to instinctively bond with the little spirit in my womb. As a dancer I have felt a desire to have control over my body, so to trust my body to take care of me and nurture my unborn child offered a deep sense of freedom.
In the beginning I was filled with joy and excitement of the idea of having a baby. I felt it was important to listen to my body, I also discussed with my doctor if I could continue to dance. I was advised I could continue however, the styles of dance I work with are physically demanding (such as hip-hop, contemporary falling, leaping and floor work) so I adapted my dance practice quite early on in my pregnancy.
The doctor and midwives explained that appropriate exercise can be beneficial during pregnancy; that it can enhance your oxygen levels can reduce your legs swelling and reduce fatigue. I trusted my intuition and continued with gentle dance activity. I was eating lots more and put weight on all over my body, about 3 stone (42 lbs or 19 kg) during my whole pregnancy increasing from a size 6 (US size 4 /EU size 34) up to a size 12 (US size 10/ EU size 40).
I felt it best to stop my dance practice after the first trimester as my joints, especially my hips, were changing dramatically, I practiced pregnancy yoga, breath work, singing and relaxation and I went swimming, I floated and bobbed about in the pool which was wonderful as the water took all the weight off my joints helping me relax.
As my pregnancy progressed my body felt unnatural, I felt incredibly grounded as my centre of gravity lowered and I was very clumsy. Overall I had a healthy pregnancy I did have some discomfort with heartburn, I was unable to sleep at night and was lightheaded in the later months. However, I formed a beautiful smooth bump, my feet didn’t swell until after I gave birth and my blood pressure was healthy throughout. As my bump grew I felt sense of overwhelming love and connection.
Giving birth was traumatic; I was two weeks overdue so I was induced. The first midwife who was monitoring me explained to me the induction caused my uterus to overreact, causing painful continuous contractions. I was moved to the delivery room and given an epidural – it helped except I was suffering great pain in my coccyx, the new midwife called it rectal pressure that they couldn’t do anything about. I was overcome by the shakes; they were very powerful.
The midwife would not let me move and she asked me to stop with the epidural so I could feel when to push, confirmed by my medical notes my last dose was two hours before giving birth. Another midwife took over, I worked very hard pushing, my whole face turned purple, it was very difficult to get our baby out – his head was stuck at an angle and he was in distress so I had an assisted delivery, I felt like my body was being ripped apart.
My son was laid on my chest and he looked straight into my eyes, he was warm, squelchy and beautiful. I was overwhelmed with love. I was stitched up, which was incredibly painful. The midwife told me I couldn’t feel it but she was shocked and her jaw dropped when I stood up as soon as my legs were free from the stirrups. I was allowed home the next day with my son.
I was advised not to exercise the first six weeks after giving birth due to the continued hormonal and physical changes that occur. I was unable to sit for over six months so I was in no condition to dance due to various complications. At this time my focus was on nurturing my son so I didn’t think about the pain I was in. There were frequent appointments with my doctor; she was ruling out every eventuality, it took over a year to be referred to an orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed me with coccydynia. The orthopedic surgeon explained it was caused by childbirth and recommended I sit on a coccyx cushion as it was still very difficult and painful to sit down.
I was referred to a physiotherapist who gave exercises to strengthen my core stability and started a course of acupuncture. This was wonderful, it was the first time I felt relief from the pain. I hadn’t realised just how much constant pain I was suffering. This realisation reminded me of all the visualisation work I give to dancers in regards to injury rehabilitation so I started to do my visualisation exercises to promote healing and goal setting to enhance my motivation and well being.
Over one year after giving birth I still retained most of my baby weight and the acupuncture treatments were giving enough pain relief so I started to walk with my son in his buggy for five minutes a day and gradually built up to about half an hour walk to improve my fitness. When my physiotherapist said I could start dancing again training was filled with renewed joy and passion for dance.
In hindsight, even though I suffered constant pain for years it was a wonderful gift because the coccydynia forced me to slowly build my fitness, strength and dance practice and I gradually lost my baby weight in a healthy way. It gave me the opportunity to see my early frustrations of wanting to dance soon after giving birth evolve into a real appreciation and respect for my body, how it has its own inner wisdom of healing.
My doctor explained to me it takes at least two years for the body to fully recover from the process of pregnancy and birth, my body’s slow transformation to health helped me to understand the power and beauty of my own body. The expereince has changed my approach to dance and life.
Becoming a mum gives you perspective suddenly you know what your priorities are, it is extremely hard work but it roots you into the earth and helps you understand what is important, other concerns become insignificant. It has also renewed my passion giving me a greater appreciation of my love for dance and has allowed me to reflect and grow emotionally, enhancing my work and giving a depth of expression.
Although I’m not fully recovered, I’m adapting my dance practice appropriately for my body. I’m continuing with the visualisation, relaxation, and massage as well as enjoying time with my son.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this web page is intended as general guidance and information only. Laura Stanyer and its authors accept no liability for any loss, injury or damage however incurred as a consequence, whether directly or indirectly, of the use this information. All advice on this web page should only be used under the supervision of a qualified dance / fitness / healthcare professional.
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