Sproglet has landed, you’ve passed your 6-week check with semi-flying colours, and you’ve made it out of the house several times with gremlin in tow in clothes that don’t resemble pyjamas. And there you are, sauntering along the high street, feeling all smug with your nice new shiny pram when you catch your reflection in a shop window and think, “really should do something about that baby tyre”.
So quick as a flash you sign up for Mum and Baby Yoga/Pilates/Hips, Bums and Tums etc. with NO IDEA OF WHAT HORRORS AWAIT YOU. Luckily, I’ve been there and done that.
Over the last 6 months I’ve been averaging one mum & baby class a day. We did yoga, two different pilates classes, swimming, Buggy Blitz up to 3 times a week. Which now I write it down seems like waaaayyyyyyy too many. Anyway, it’s left me perfectly equipped to write you all handy guide to mum and baby exercise classes:
- Someone is always late. If you’re new, it’ll probably be you. Leaving the house is a monumental undertaking when you’re rocking a mini me. These tiny terrors always know when you have somewhere to be and will intentionally poonami, cluster feed or projectile vomit all over your outfit just before you were about to leave. The first time I went to Buggy Blitz, the love of my life, the apple of my eye, the joy in my heart, my gorgeous son posseted on my leggings and then did one of those acrobatic wees that arc up really high before waterfalling down, totally soaking my top all the way through to my nursing bra. I was late, so I just left it. Don’t tell anyone.
- Everyone is postnatal. So you might think you’re going to be the least fit, but you’ll be amazed. We’ve all spent nine months with a micro-person living in our tummies, and we’ve all had to get that person out somehow. It’s a great leveller. I’ve been exercising alongside women who used to run marathons and not felt too shoddy. Obviously, a bit shoddy, but not totally terrible…
- Just to reiterate: EVERYONE IS POSTNATAL. Your bigger concern might be that you’re going to be the podgiest or most stretch-marked, but again one of the bonuses of seeing people in their joggers, sans make-up is that you see the real them – lumps, bumps and mum-tums included. I only know one person who survived pregnancy without a wrinkle and I HATE HER (not really, she’s a freak of nature – I’m planning to hand her over for medical testing). I 100% percent promise that no-one is looking at your bingo wings, or your Kentucky fried thighs – they’re all genuinely and hormonally cooing over your sproglet, just as you’re cooing over theirs.
- Everyone wears black leggings. It’s a thing. Also to save you Googling for something that doesn’t exist, it appears active wear and breastfeeding are apparently 100% mutually exclusive (if anyone finds a nursing t-shirt that wicks sweat in any way shape or form then please let me know!). Most people either whap their bap out over their vest top or do an OUOD – or if you don’t follow breastfeeding fashion blogs (they exist!) that’s wearing two tops and pulling “one up, one down”.
- Bring lots of toys. If the class is an hour, your tiny person and their tiny brain are going to get bored shitless after about 10 minutes. Crinkly book, weird elephant with the mirror ear, dotty monkey – all urgent and required – they will buy you an extra 3 or 4 minutes whilst you downward dog with the best of them. Or you could just let them play with your water bottle, and you’ll get even longer!
- Sproggie needs somewhere to lie/sit/defecate. If it’s an indoor class, you’ll need something to put them down on the floor on (unless you want them rolling around on the sweaty gym floor). A thick knitted blanket or one of those super-large muslins should do the trick. Mums of crawlers: abandon all hope. You will spend the class chasing them down as they stick their fingers into plug sockets, the eye sockets of lesser mobile children, and the instructor’s bum crack (true story).
- Hopefully your instructor will be a bit of a geekspert in postnatal fitness. So expect a lot of focus on your pelvic floor (which your gremlin was up until recently using as a hammock whilst kicking you in your bladder) and to be prodded in the tummy to check for Diastasis or Divarication – which is when something the size of bowling ball splits apart your abdominal muscles. Your lovely abdominal muscles… that were so taut and ripped before baby… Totes.
- The solidarity of mumkind doesn’t stop at the gym door. I can guarantee that there will be one poor soul whose baby cries/feeds/poos solidly throughout the whole session. And no other mum is sitting in judgment. After six months, I can categorically state that every baby has a bad week. We have all been there, and we are all doing the Hunger Games Mockingjay fingers to the sky salute-thing in our heads. Stay strong!
- Very little actual exercising happens. In between the feeds, the gossip, the birth stories (“you had induction, forceps and a third degree tear too?”), the nappy changes, and the corralling of rogue rolling infants you might manage a few yoga poses or the odd plank. Realistically, you’re probably going to get more benefit from a long walk afterwards. BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT.
The point is, you made it out of the house, you’re seeing other humans, and you’re doing something for you. Give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself to a hot chocolate with extra marshmallows for your efforts. You’re amazing!
Heather Davies-Mahoney is a radio producer, who can’t help producing in her spare time too. So far she has produced a marriage, a mortgage, a mini-me and a mountain of possety muslins. In her NCT group she is the instigator of Boobs & Boxsets afternoons.