Pregnancy is Not a Condition. It is a Superpower

Umoya Pilates Studio (Image by Leslie Liu)

By Faye Wood 

The human body is endlessly fascinating to me. I am more surprised and enthralled by the body’s capabilities than by any of its deficiencies. One of its most profound and magical achievements is how we carry, grow and birth our babies. All mammals are physically quite impressive in this arena, but part of what differentiates us is the brilliance of the collective human mind and spirit of community.  

Culturally, the narrative around pregnancy detracts from the alchemy that is a pregnancy. It takes a perfect recipe, an alignment of the stars, a miracle for a couple of cells to combine, implant and grow to become a baby. The marvel and splendour is all over and done with fairly quickly in the word “congratulations”. 

So why is it that we refer to pregnancy as a condition? Has it occurred to you that if you are moving through the mainstream health system, you are only considered a low- or high-risk pregnancy, never as generally in good health and pregnant? Even if it has been a marathon to fall pregnant, your body is in this divine and supremely perfect place to grow your baby. Have you ever noticed how the next feeling after the joy and trepidation of discovering your pregnancy is the dread of morning sickness, back pain and swollen feet? Oh, and don’t even mention “How will you get your body back after 9 months?”. Oftentimes, women wake each morning wondering which new, uncomfortable and debilitating symptom of pregnancy awaits them.  

Have you ever noticed how the next feeling after the joy and trepidation of discovering your pregnancy is the dread of morning sickness, back pain and swollen feet?

One of the most common reasons women come to our Prenatal Pilates classes is to ensure they don’t gain additional weight during pregnancy and to make getting “back into it” easier postpartum, to “bounce back”. What I want to hear is, “I’ve come to Prenatal Pilates to celebrate my body, my pregnancy and learn to lean into my newfound strengths!”. 

The words we use around pregnancy can subtly set our minds up for it to be a difficult, disempowering experience. It’s not often we are told that morning sickness is an excellent sign of robust implantation. Why not respond to a mother apologising for her fatigue and moments of mummy-brain with “That’s totally OK! Your brain is already starting to prioritise and prune itself of unimportant things so that you can start learning the new skill of being an excellent mother to your baby, which of course, is the most important thing right now”.  

There are so many good reasons for all the ‘symptoms’ experienced when pregnant – heck, why call them symptoms at all? I prefer the term enhancements! Could simply shifting the rhetoric be the key to more empowering experiences of pregnancy, birth and motherhood? Is this how we combat the rising figures of postpartum depletion, depression and anxiety? Could you find a more positive way to view your enhancements? This is where the phrase “knowledge is power” comes to mind. 

The words we use around pregnancy can subtly set our minds up for it to be a difficult, disempowering experience.

Having a better understanding of what is occurring inside your body and how that affects your mind can really make you marvel at the brilliance of the human form. 

I have taught Prenatal Pilates for longer than I care to mention; but it was only after having my own children that I was awakened to true power within the body at this time. I was also enlightened to these mixed messages and fear-based stories we put on women, cultivated by a society that doesn’t truly celebrate this metamorphosis.  

The mums who attend my classes are often torn between the request to rest, but also to “stay healthy and active” during pregnancy, and Pilates seems to offer that middle ground. There is conflicting information women are given in this regard. The list is endless. You might even have a personal favourite prenatal or maternal oxymoron.  

As a Pilates Instructor and mother, I will speak to the understanding that I have in this area.  

First off, if you trained like an athlete before your pregnancy, you have to ask yourself to what end, and if training at such intensity is necessary at this time. (Serena Williams has some beautiful things to say about this and SHE IS A WEAPON). If you’re not sure, here’s the key: most of the time, we spend our lives running around doing things. How are you? Busy, you say? Yep, I thought so.

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