Pregnancy and babies can be hell on the back. These moms have been there.
If I had to choose between spending money on a new winter coat or paying for my Pilates classes, I’d not hesitate in choosing the latter. The simple reason for this is pain. Or rather the near absence of it when I am rigorous about keeping mobile with a combination of clinical Pilates and swimming.
You see, I’ve had two back operations in the past 12 years. Throw in a shoulder operation after a car accident whilst pregnant and you have a body that takes sitting too long in front of a computer, as the signal for shards of pain to run down my neck, my back and, sometimes right into my foot.
I know this sounds dramatic but believe me, when you are trying to cook a meal, while doing spelling with one child, helping another with a project and fielding calls from a skateboarding mad boy to come and see his latest trick, even the slightest ache can equal the kind of needless grumpiness families just don’t need.
I fell pregnant with my fourth child soon after my full disc replacement six years ago – an operation that sees surgeons go through the front and replace the dud disc (in my case, it kept slipping) with a titanium seashell-like object. My surgeon’s only golden rule? “Never ever pick up anything heavier than 7kgs.”
Admittedly, that’s not easy when your babies nudge over the 4kg mark at birth – something my friend Lizelle discovered too. Like me, just after her op she fell pregnant and six months ago gave birth to a baby girl who clocked in at 4,3kgs and is growing in the 97th percentile!
“I see exactly where having core strength from Pilates comes in, as a new mother,” she says, adding that she carries her baby as little as possible and uses the first opportunity to rest her on a surface if she is. It’s not all bad though: having to be hyper-aware about not compromising her already vulnerable back means Lizelle devotes time every afternoon after work to lying on a blanket under a tree, kissing and cuddling her daughter.
“I really wish I had taken care of my back before it became buggered,” says Ann, a mother-of-two who had a back operation several years ago. She admits it’s sometimes hard to not let back issues intrude on parenting. “You have to let your children know from a young age that you have to do things a bit differently. So instead of lifting them onto a trampoline, let them use their body weight to spring up off a chair, and make a game of it. My girls are pretty sensitive to what it takes to keep my back healthy.”
And that’s the key to a better family life when one parent has back issues. Communicate to your children and partner about the help you need and rules to stick to and let them know when you are feeling especially drained. But play your role too: as tempting as lying back and moaning is, it’s up to you to get moving, preferably in a pool or a clinical Pilates class.
As Lizelle puts it, “I want my daughter to know that you can have a lifelong health challenge but you can also take charge of it and put in the work needed to minimise it.”Have you had back pain issues? How have you dealt with them?