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Pilates, Twice

April 19, 2011

Recently, I went to see my new, expensive, Russian, Madison Avenue gynecologist. As I reclined in her highly civilized exam room and looked at a Belizean beach scene looping on a flat screen, she looked at my C-section scar, which has been decreed by every doctor or nurse who has ever seen it, in a seemingly sincere way, as “beautiful!” This time, I cleared my throat and rolled my eyes at the assessment. And while she continued to examine me, she reminded me of the less-controlled sorts of trauma and tearing that a body avoids with a Caesarian, and told me that she sees a lot of the other sort.

“There is a reason you mothers deserve flowers on Mother’s Day, you know” she lilted in her starched and candy-striped Thomas Pink blouse.

If it seems like she was separating herself from the mothers of the world, it’s because she was: it’s worth an aside to say that none of the female ob-gyns I have had in my employ have decided to have children of their own.

But, back to me, and my story.

While a female belly—whether it is one of the highly muscled or more marshmellowian variety—is a canvas for subtle curves and slopes, abdominal surgery increases the likelihood of the sudden appearance of a stark sort of flap, where never a flap was seen before. It’s not large, necessary, but it is of a different shape and character than other curves, due to its flaplike nature.

My flap is a mark on a map of who I am: my son’s mother. It’s certainly not the worst thing that could have happened to me, in part because I have long put my stock in things other than my bikini body. Still, it surprised me. And when I showed it to my sister, who was a veteran mother, and asked if it would go away, she, who could no longer speak, shook her head “no,” then laughed at me. I realized then that this is something that a lot of women deal with, and yet don’t talk much about. Instead of talking about their flap, they tuck it down into their waistband.

I know, I know, some of you are reading this, and thinking, “Wha? I have 3 children, I don’t have a flap. Why doesn’t this person stop writing about beef brisket tacos and concentrate harder on the flap?”

And to that, I exhort thee to UNSUBSCRIBE! And, once that is done, go congratulate yourself, naked, in the mirror, and leave the rest of us on TEAM FLAP alone. There are a lot of us on this team, and we could kick your skinny butt.

A few months after my c-section, I found myself in a complaining conversation with an old friend about this very thing: the condition of my stomach. Our conversation was via email.

She’d had twins a few years before. She wrote me cheerfully that all she’d needed to do was “pilates, like twice,” before things were back to normal for her stomach.

So for several months I felt like whatever the unfortunate characteristics my post-partum self were, that they were due to the fact that I hadn’t been to pilates, like twice. How much of a lazy, prideless lout would someone have to be to not solve all of their problems by going to pilates twice? I’d been to yoga, twice. I’d gone to the gym, twice. I’ve been to Zumba, twice. And all of these things a lot more times than that! But pilates, which has always seemed to me like yoga with no soul, with no sacred aspects, with no pleasing rhythm, with no wisdom of the ages, I had been to exactly no times in two years, and therefore, I was stuck in the category of people whose personal failings were evidenced in the form of a small ball with no air in it lying around on their midsection.

Sooner or later, I saw that woman, the pilates advocate. She was, and is, beautiful. That is not in question. However, I was stunned. I don’t mean to knock anyone, but it did not seem like she had erased all evidence of childbirth through her two-time pilates method.

For years, I have not managed to go to Pilates. However, we are now in the era of school. And when I went to the gym the other day, I had, rather than the 40 minutes I usually have when at the gym, I had two entire hours. I spent the first one at a pilates class.

I regret to say it but I must admit that it helped.

I’ll report back after the second.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Michelle permalink
    April 19, 2011 7:22 pm

    Yea to soft bellies! And underneath them, strong muscles. Good luck with the flap.

  2. Karen permalink
    April 20, 2011 6:29 am

    As a fellow member of Team Flap, and as someone who has struggled *mightily* against all manner of debilitating conditions that essentially came along as a result of my cesarean, I would strongly recommend Pilates (specifically, Long story short, I saw 2 orthopedists and did almost a year of PT before Martina strengthened my back in 8 weeks flat and my second dr discharged me from her care for a herniated disc. The disc is still herniated, but I am SO much stronger, and I have so much less pain.

    As a martial artist and former yoga practitioner, I agree with your assessment of Pilates, but for me, it is a health-maintenance activity that also, over time, happens to improve my appearance. Plus, at Martina’s it’s a chance to connect with other moms in the hood and we chat between breaths. They are a smart & diverse group- teachers, artists, lawyers, SAHMs. The occasional f-bomb gets dropped- when kids are not present, of course.

    I also now (after a year) look only 5 months pregnant, instead of 7. My daughter will be 3 this summer. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. Go Team Flap!!!

  3. sonia permalink
    April 20, 2011 5:56 pm

    Great article!

    yoga and a holistic chiropractor saved my back after my second child was delivered via an emergency C-section.

    looking forward to reading the second installment.

  4. Lilo permalink
    April 28, 2011 9:34 pm

    My son is almost 2 (delivered by c-section) and it is only in the last couple of months that I started doing a “core strength with stayball” routine (the dvd came with the exercise ball which was originally purchased for labor) a 2-3 times a week. This is after throwing my back out over a year ago and having on and off pain in the lower and mid back and have some sort of vague sciatica thing. I hate doing strength exercises (for they are tedious and repetitive and uncomfortable and for the vain and patient), but I felt that my body was sort of falling apart. It has helped, I grudgingly yet happily admit. I feel stronger in my torso. My abs do look flatter and my waist thinner, which flatters what’s left of my once-denied vanity. It’s not Pilates twice, but it seems to be working for me.

  5. Alana permalink
    May 25, 2011 7:10 pm

    I had to come back and read this post since I have recently joined the team. I’m so not ready to accept having a flap, but when I think about that day, or rather 36 hours, it just doesn’t matter because there was no other way my child would have come out. I’ll do the exercises!

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