The question I get asked the most is how did I get started? Since the answer tends to take up a lot of time during workshops, I thought I would tell my story here. (it may be a long one!)
I started my professional career as a dancer in London, travelling through Europe and Africa with various dance companies. I loved the life I led. Class every morning, rehearsals, shows. My dream come true.
I left all that to join my husband in America where he had been offered a job he couldn’t refuse. We settled in a VERY small town in Connecticut which was a world away,literally, from London.It took me quite a few deep breaths to stave off the panic I felt at such a change in my environment. However, I did what I had to do and made a life that included dancing with The New England Dance Theater and becoming a Professor of Dance at the Hartford Conservatory of Music and Dance. In the meantime, because I could, I trained as a group exercise instructor and Aquatics instructor. I could never move enough.
Then I became pregnant… and my life changed dramatically in every way.
In the hours that it took to give birth to my first daugther, I went from being a relatively calm, happy,innocent young girl to an angry, betrayed, violated woman. Strong words but then again, they do not do justice to the experience of the birth.
The birth of my daugther was taken away from me in every possible way. I had no voice, no choice. I need not have even been there. You can read about this birth in my book – The Pilates Way to Birth.
This experience opened my eyes to the fact that birth has been taken away from women and put into the hands of the medical profession. While I believe that there is a need for medical interference in the case of high risk pregnancies, I do also strongly believe that in normal healthy low risk pregnancies, there should be minimal interference.
I refused all medical interference with the birth of my second daughter. I let my body take over and had an experience worth all the pain and discomfort. I also realised then that there could actually be minimal pain and discomfort if we prepared for it! The light bulb went off.
From this birth came the first steps to designing an exercise routine that would prepare the pregnant body for successful natural birthing.It took years to perfect. I spent a lot of time with the lay midwives in Ann Arbor talking and learning. They were very generous with their knowledge. In fact they were so inspirational that I decided to become a birth doula. Doula means “with woman” and as a birth doula I got to be with my client from the start of her labour until the baby was born. This has been without a doubt, the most profound work I have ever done.But it also made me aware of exactly HOW we needed to move our bodies to be able to do what I call “the Dance of Birth”. I went back to the drawing board and while I did not change the exercises much, I changed the intention of them.
Over time and with picking the brains of all I came into contact with, I have continually refined the program. The message though will always remain the same. We CAN give birth all by ourselves if we are given the CORRECT tools to deal with it. Our bodies know what to do, we just have to get out of our own way.
As women, we need to take control over our own bodies. We have to research, educate, listen and then make informed choices not just about our births but for everything in our lives. Listening and being still long enough to listen will open up a whole new world for you. Women have been blessed with intuition but most of us have chosen to ignore that niggly feeling that tells us something is wrong. Even as mothers, we sometimes decide that the doctor must be right when he/she says nothing is wrong with your child when you KNOW something is.
It is this subliminal (my teachers will tell you that it is NOT subliminal) message that I try to convey during my workshops. I try to get each and every one of you fired up to take control of your lives. If I can reach just one person this way, then I have done what I came here to do. I also believe that as Pilates Instructors you have so much more potential to change women’s lives than you realise.
When I first started teaching pregnant women, my thought was to get them to take this message to their doctors and get the doctors to change the way these women gave birth. Well that failed miserably. The doctors had neither the time nor the inclination to do this. Then I decided to educate my clients and this seemed to work well. However, it was only when I started training instructors that the real change began to happen. I could reach so many more women through these wonderful,dedicated instructors who took my trainings. Ever since those early days (1998 onwards) I have watched with joy the increase of awareness around having babies naturaly. There are now so many different organisations that educate women to do just this. It is truly wonderful.
Please check out some of these websites
Read this fabulous book: Birth Reborn by Dr Michel Odent.
There are many more resources out there but these should keep you going.
And then sign up for a workshop, you’ll be so glad you did!