Putting ballet in the corner

Had an appointment with the midwives back in March,
This was the appointment where they ask a million questions about family history and health, like:
Do you smoke? ew, never
Do you drink?before I got pregnant, yeah, but not since
Do you wear your seat belt every time? what, are we weeding out the stupid? Of course! Duh!
Do you exercise regularly?
I was like, “Yes! Ballet twice a week and I go running about once a week, would go more but I get home after dark on weekdays, so, like, that’s right out, but I figure as I get bigger running might get kinda uncomfortable anyway, might switch over to walking…and the ballet class is not pointe or anything but it Is strenuous, I Always sweat and I’m usually a little sore the next day.”
And Midwife was like, “yeah, running will become uncomfortable, walking is great exercise during pregnancy, walking and yoga are the ideal combo for pregnancy.”
And then she was like, “So, the ballet, have you been dancing for a long time? Since you were a kid?”
And I was like, “oh heckbutt no, I just started like two years ago and got kind of totally obsessed. I love it but I’m not an Experienced Dancer or anything.”
And then she Dropped The Bomb: “Ok. The thing is, ballet is really not great exercise for pregnancy.”
And I was like, ” O_o ”
Because, dude, Gentle Reader, I’ve been hearing all these happy stories about women doing ballet right up to labor and people taking class with the pregnant ladies left and right and everything online seems to be all Whatever You Did Before You Were Pregnant, You Can Keep Doing During, with the minor exception of the big ballet jumps and leaps, and, like, probably if your thang before pregnancy was mud-wrestling alligators you should maybe stop or at least downgrade to smaller lizards,
So I totally figured I’d be That Person.
-I mean the ballet right up to labor person, not the mud-wrestling one-
And I was even totally excited and looking forward to Showing Up the Other Pregnant Girl in class because she doesn’t come very often anymore and I was gonna be a Better Pregnant Ballet Student than her.
(This is also why I’m bad at yoga: Too Competitive)
So I was like, “OMGWhy?!? Is is the jumping? Is it risk of falling?”
And she was like, “Well, no, it’s that ballet training is counter-productive to the changes you need to allow in your body during pregnancy. Ballet is all about a strong core- which is why it’s such fabulous exercise. Ballet requires you to pull up, keep your abs zipped and strong, even just standing properly in ballet… (she puts down her clip-board, stood up, took first position, pulled up her abs, dropped her shoulders, kinda like transformed into a ballerina right in front of me) …is all about keeping your core strong and engaged and in. But while you are carrying a baby, you need to allow your abdominals to relax, become flexible, allow your uterus to move upward and forward, to not be restricted.”
And I was like, “oh.”
And she was like, “in our experience as midwives, women who are dancers have abdominal muscles that are So Strong they resist the expansion that needs to happen.”
And I was like, “OH.”
Never occured to me that ab muscles could ever be too strong. For anything. Ever.
And she was like, “Tight abs can cause a lot of problems. Like, if the baby settles into a breech position before labor, it can be very difficult to turn the baby into a head-down position, and the State of California does not legally allow breech position delivery in the home. We have the knowledge, and used to perform them, but the law no longer allows for it, and that means a hospital birth and most likely a cesearean.”
And I was thinking, yeah, I can definitely take a break from class, but ugh, Smirnoff is so not going to understand.
He will be disappointed in me.
And what about the blog, I mean, ugh, the blog will be Disappoint.
And Midwife was saying, “Now, if you feel like you’re an experienced enough dancer that you can modify you ballet practice, and if your teacher is sensitive to this kind of thing and can guide you-”
And I was like, “No. No and no!” and then laughed and told her the most guidance I’ve ever seen Smirnoff give a pregnant student was to call out, “lean back my dear! Lean back!” which seems like it would just engage the abs more.
So she was like, “if ballet is something you can step away from during this time, you’re really going to have a better experience. And then go back after the baby! Get that core tightened up again! Ballet is really fabulous exercise. What I recommend while you are pregnant is that you walk for an hour every day, or hike, or do yoga.”
And I was like, “dang, an hour every day, that actually more exercise than I’m getting now. Less intense, but more consistent.”
And she was like, “yes, we find that our mothers are happier when their bottoms don’t get too big.”
And I was like, “hee hee, bottoms.”
And then I asked about belly dance and she said go for it, that’s also great exercise for pregnancy.
And I’ll be damned if I wasn’t reading Allegra Kent’s Once A Dancer… later that week and she actually said, right there in print, with no prompting from my midwives, that NYCB called her a month after she gave birth to her first baby and asked when she’d be ready to start dancing again, and she basically said, Jeez, gimme a minute here! And then said she hadn’t even started practicing yet and was still recovering because, “My muscles were so strong that they had resisted the expansion.”

About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
This entry was posted in ce n'est pas une mom blog, the Body and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Putting ballet in the corner

  1. odile53 says:

    Well, you’re not training at the level of Allegra Kent. I took class late into pregnancy, but took myself off pointe at about six months, and was able to modify barre enough to be comfortably pregnant and maintain leg and back strength. Then again, I wasn’t planning on a home delivery, but did have a normal vaginal delivery in a hospital (attended by an obstetrician.)

    One thing I’m surprised that the midwives didn’t mention is swimming. Yep, swimming. You can maintain a lot of stamina that way, stamina you’ll need during labor and delivery, and it exercises every muscle group (a lot more gently than ballet.) If you still live near where you went to college, see if they have swim times for alumni. Or call the YMCA. I took a special swim class for pregnant women that met once a week, and went to adult free swim as well.

    Maintaining physical fitness is important during pregnancy. There are far too many women who decide to pack themselves in cotton wool for the duration, and wonder why they have a rough time of it during delivery.

    Whatever you do, don’t let your body go to pot!

  2. teshawt says:

    Im a dance teacher who taught and danced right up until I was in labor..literally. The abs thing is true but also not true.. just be sure to not focus on that area and it will be fine. I teach many pregnant women in my adult class who also love it because it is can be gentle and the babies love moving with the music. Its funny when the bubs move around with the music inside.. such an awesome feeling!

  3. roriroars says:

    Oh, for goodness sake, that is the STUPIDIST thing I’ve ever heard. Your super-strong abs from your twice-weekly ballet class are going to restrict your uterus’s ability to expand? SERIOUSLY?!

    I’m not dissing your ab strength, here, AB; I’m sure you have a core to die for. However, since you are not some mega-super ballet star… or pilates star… or power-lifter… I have serious doubts that you’re posing any serious danger to your ability to expand. The preggos I’ve had in my (non-pro) dance classes have all expanded at quite a normal rate, those who have birthed have done fine, and they have had very positive things to say about dance during pregnancy. They obviously modify things as they go along and usually drop out in the third trimester because they just get too unweildy. I also (as an aside) have known some people who have run through pregnancy, including one who just reported on her run at 28 weeks (with #3).

    Your midwives will be monitoring you as you go along and if they’re seeing legit signs of danger, they’ll let you know. I love midwives, but they are prone to misinformation just as physicians are. Personally, I would get a second opinion on this matter (I’m assuming you see a group of midwives… check with another one). I would ask to see the studies that show that twice-weekly ballet is dangerous to growing fetuses. Walking and yoga are great, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t see why you should be restricted to these activities unless your exams are showing that things aren’t progressing normally.

    My philosophy is… do whatever exercise appeals to you for as long as you feel comfortable doing it. Pregnancy is not a disease and the idea that you have to give up the exercise you enjoy (unless you enjoy the aforementioned aligator-wrestling) is poppycock. Your body will tell you what’s working and what isn’t. You have no need to train at Allegra Kent levels, so I have absolute faith in your ability to self-monitor and a twice-weekly class is fine. As a former L&D nurse I would have been happy just to have had more moms who did ANY form of exercise during their pregnancy.

    Sorry for the diatribe, I get a bit passionate when I hear things like this. Should I ever find myself knocked up I plan to plié as long as possible.

  4. odile53 says:

    I second the idea of a second opinion that the former L & D nurse advised. I doubt that an adult class, twice a week, would pose any significant problem.

    BTW–cambre a devant was the first thing to go away when I was pregnant, more because I didn’t want to ingrain bad habits, like leaning backwards.

  5. Had to comment…what a bunch of bull bisquits…That wouldn’t scare me. I’d keep ballet-ing until delivery…plan to anyway.

  6. Just a thought …. (mega congrats BTW!) …. might the midwife be saying that, at least in part, to cover her back?

    Having said that, you mentioned being competitive. Being similarly competitive AND being equally obsessed with ballet AND being an adult beginner too like you (started ballet at 30 but was fit before) I know that I push myself in class. That coupled with still being on the lower part of that enormous ballet learning curve, means I’m always putting a lot of pressure on my body. I don’t know if you’re like that too…. sounds a bit like it, maybe?

    I actually think that, for an AB, being quite fit already (coupled with a strong drive to improve) can actually make you slightly more injury prone than not being so fit (and therefore being less capable of a rapid improvement, less capable of throwing yourself into each class with reckless abandon!). I guess what I’m trying to say is take care! Whether or not the whole abdomen thing is even an issue, it would just be a shame to get some annoying persistent back/ knee/ ankle injury at this time in your life! All this talk of “showing up the other pregnant ballet student” worries me!! (OK so I know it was a joke).

    As others have said, following your instincts is probably the best thing you can do – as long as you *feel good* in class I don’t see how it can be a bad thing. If it was me in your position I think I would just make a conscious decision before each class to put any thoughts about improving (pushing myself) completely on hold and instead just enjoy the movement, the music and the atmos! :)

    (anyway, it’s no longer a ‘class’ now is it ….. it’s a pas de deux – tee hee)

  7. Yvonne says:

    I think I would definitely go on with ballet. But its your decision. Do what feels best for you.

  8. Well that sucks – do however what you need to do – it’s just a few months – not years and years – rather be safe…maybe you can still be involved by taking lots and lots of ballet pictures and post it to your blog? Maybe this will open new doors for your blog?

  9. Adrienne says:

    Hm, what about a compromise, like going for one class a week and telling Smirnoff to cut you some slack on the posture? I mean, I guess he won’t give you pointers on modified pregnant posture, but maybe it’s enough if you just don’t try to go for that perfect ballet core and then you’ll figure out for yourself what works best for you… And you can walk and yoga on the other days…
    I completely understand your choice, it just seems sad for you to give up sg you love so much. I find that doing the exercise I enjoy the most is the best one cause it inspires me and then it gets me doing other stuff as well, if you see what I mean.

  10. Yea, I have to say that going twice per week probably isn’t going to render you with an Allegra Kent core…lol. I’m not saying that your mid wife is wrong or anything, but I’d always seek a second opinion! The live-in physio here says that they are a no-no if your core is so strong that your muscles can’t distend to the point they need to (ie if you are a pro ballerina who engages her core muscles pretty much all day). But if you are just a regular person who works out their core muscles 2-4 times per week and have average strength, that core exercise is good because it helps prevent back pain when you start to carry a lot of weight out front, and it also strengthens your pelvic floor muscles; helping you push out that slimy critter when the time comes! It will also help prevent extremely unpleasant after birth things like pelvic floor prolapses and other disturbing vagina unpleasantries of the like.

  11. guyenne says:

    I think it also depends on how much/soon the core changes affect how you feel during your class. Looking back, I actually knew I was pregnant because I could feel the difference in my core muscles during ballet class, and that was just before I could actually take a home test.

    I bet if you’ve been okay so far with going, and haven’t been feeling the difference that you will be okay until you start to expand late in the second trimester. And really, although prenatal yoga is modified, you’re still using similar postures.

  12. Jamie says:

    It doesn’t seem like you would have to totally give up ballet. Since it’s the zipped up core that is a concern, trying some belly dance might be a good idea. You could try adding some belly rolls ( up to down, down to up) to work on your abdominal flexibility. I would recommend checking out belly dancers such as Rachel Brice and Aubre Hill. Also, congratulations!

  13. Jill says:

    Congratulations, AB and Mr. AB! AB Jr will have the most stylin’ wardrobe :) when the time comes, would you enrol the tyke in dance?

    It’s great that you have so many readers who are happy for you, and want the best for you, and are responding with suggestions and tips. I’m also a little unsettled that *some* people feel that it’s ok to try to persuade you to do with your own body, your own family, your own time, your own money, what they think is best. (And please, I truly KNOW with all of my heart, that the kind of readers here are people who love you, who want great things for you, and who have ONLY the BEST of intentions and want to see you happy… really, I do NOT doubt that for a second). I think I have that response only because I am a feminist who is intellectually engaged in women’s rights and have just written a 20-page paper on the history of women’s right to choose re. pregnancy and birth in Canada, and maybe I’m waaaaay too sensitive to this right now, but reading *some* of the comments left me with a slight taste of unease.

    I love your blog, I love dance, I love hearing about Smirnoff and your set-backs and achievements doing what you love to do. But I can forego that for a while if you and the medical professional you trust don’t feel it’s safe. If you do decide continue on with ballet, I look forward to reading your take on how you modify your moves, how it changes your ability, and how you find maternity leos. If you don’t, I hope you’ll keep posting amazing book reviews, thoughts on the ballet world, and on your life as well. Whatever it is, I’d love to hear it.

    You have such wonderful readers, who obviously care a lot about you and your happiness :) thanks for sharing, and again, congrats!

  14. I Can’t Believe that no one has responded with, “Nobody puts Ballet in the corner!”
    Come on, I set that up so nice for you!

    Ok but wait- are you guys saying that I am not the same as Allegra Kent? Omg I had not thought of that. This Changes Everything! (please hold while Adult Beginner re-calibrates life plan)

    And on the second-opinion idea, Dudes, this is not like getting a second bid from another tile guy, these are my midwives. I found them via the only way I feel comfortable choosing a midwife: I asked friends and the friends who had home births gave these ladies 100% happy, enthusiastic, would-buy-from-again type reviews. 100%. I am not shopping around.

    Ok and on a slightly more serious note: Mr. Adult Beginner and I are of the One Is Fun school of parenting, also known as the We Have A Fighting Chance Of Maybe Sending One Kid To College school of thought. Which is kind of funny considering I only just payed off my own college education four years ago as a 30th birthday present to myself.
    Therefor, this is my only time carrying a baby. There are many things I am giving up during this time. Sushi, for example. Will the baby get toxoplasmosis if I enjoy some delicious salmon-avocado rolls? Probably not. I could probably eat sushi every day and be fine. But the pleasure of sushi is not worth wasting any of this brief and interesting time awake at night worrying about whether I’ve just harmed my baby or screwed up my chances at having a nice, smooth, intervention-free birth.
    Like wise margaritas and base jumping.
    There are enough things that I can’t do anything about that occupy my worries, and alll of these other things I can do again in a matter of months.

  15. And Dang! This is just like that time when I bought 3/4 shank pointe shoes! Errrrrbody’s upset!!!
    Ok but for realz, I think Jill put it very well: it’s an honor to have such passionate readers.

  16. Balletcat says:

    Hi AB! I’m in a similar boat, I got pregnant too and my physio (who works mainly with ballet dancers) told me it wasn’t the best idea to keep doing ballet especially in the first trimester as it can be risky to the growing baby(I guess with jumping and stuff), she didn’t mention about the abs holding in the baby like your midwife said but it makes sense. Like you I had read all the stuff about people dancing till they were going to give birth and so when my physio said that I was pretty upset. ( I was about to do my RAD exam too!!) I asked my GP and my husbands dad is a doctor and they said it would be ok to keep doing it so had really conflicting advice but at the end of the day I had to think about what I was most comfortable with.

    I think for me I decided to take a break because I don’t think I could live with it if I miscarried while keeping up the dancing. It’s not likely to be the cause but there would always be the ‘what if’ in the back of my mind I think!

    So that was the big deciding factor for me to stop ballet for now. I’ve lost the money I paid (not cheap!) for the exam and all the hard work I’ve put into it (but definitely a lot fitter so that’s a good thing) but at least I know I did the best I could trying to look after this little life. God knows, I’m also too exhausted to move after work anyways, I’m constantly glued to the couch.

    Enjoy the ride!! We can always come back to ballet later! But with babies, we we ain’t getting any younger!! :)

    • Congratulations to you, Balletcat!
      It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one In The Entire World taking a maternal leave.
      And hey, I hear the tiredness thing wears off in the second trimester! Woooo!

  17. Doesn’t have to include ballet to be interesting. Pregnant blogs are great fun. Love them:)

  18. And you wouldn’t really have to change your title either since you’re basically an “adult beginner” when it comes to gestating right? Hey, welcome to the club!! First time pushing a mini watermelon out of your vagina trumps another plie any day in my book lol

  19. guyenne says:

    I have two points I wanted to add regarding the midwife’s statement.

    1. Unless she can show you currently valid scientific studies, the statement “ballet is bad during pregancy due to its effects on the ab muscles” is an opinion, since it’s not backed by medical science.
    The points that would need to be supported by research are: ballet results in strong abs, strong abs cause problems during pregnancy, and AdultBeginner’s abs are strong enough to cause a problem.

    2. I asked a certifed prenatal yoga teacher/childbirth educator about this. She said that it’s pretty much a myth unless you started out with a 6-pack ab, at which point it may be an issue. Prenatal yoga does work on the abs, even though the postures are modified.

  20. Anony Mouse says:

    It’s obvious that you respect these midwives’ opinions and experience. I don’t know anything about being preggs or having kids so I have no comment except go with your gut/instinct haha.

    I wanted to share that there is a new BALLET DOCUMENTARY: First Position.
    -Interview with the director Bess Karrgan on KPCC (4/25/2012)
    -Movie Home Page http://www.balletdocumentary.com/
    -Los Angeles Showtimes (all others are on the site)
    Royal Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
    Town Center 5 – Encino, CA
    Playhouse 7 – Pasadena, CA

    And the Bolshoi is doing Swan Lake at the Dorothy Chandler June 7-10 ($34-125)!

    Ugh….and I really have to get back to reading Apollo’s Angels! I’m barely on page 99.

  21. Gentle Reader, if you are pregnant and deciding how or whether to continue with ballet during your pregnancy, please don’t worry about anything I’ve said here or anyone else has said- talk to Your Own Midwife or Doctor. You are in the process of forming a powerful bond of trust with your midwife/doctor: they must trust that you will take care of yourself to remain low risk, you must trust that they will guide you through this thing. Seeking and heeding your midwife or doctor’s advice is an important part of building this trust.

  22. Pingback: “The Masters Are Dead and Gone” | Adult Beginner

  23. Well, I doubt my response will be useful as I just stumbled across this blog and found a post through a link in a later post, and I’m guessing that the blogmistress was a decent bit along before she asked the midwife, which would put her now darn close to her due date.

    Anyway, I nearly fell off of my chair laughing at the idea that ballet is bad because it uses your core, but belly dancing is good. I did tribal fusion belly dance in college, and let me tell you, it is a core builder! Not in the same way as ballet, but if you want to do good undulations, you need core strength. If you want to do sharp islolations of the chest and hips, you NEED core strength to keep the rest of the torso still AND good control of the obliques to move the hips (which is helped with strength of the core).

    I am not qualified to comment on anything else, but I just wanted to say how baffled I am that she said ballet = core = bad, yet belly dancing = not core = not bad.

    And also, if you don’t mind me asking, where are you from? One of the tribal fusion women I danced with in college said that in the greater San Francisco area there has long been a common train of though in both dancers and non dancer that Calfiornian belly dancers can do no wrong.

  24. celebrianfae says:

    Strong abs throughout a pregnancy are usually more of an asset than a liability… Sure standing in a ballet position will suck your core up and in but during a pregnancy this can also help you keep the weight off your lower back. I’m sure they can be too strong but simply doing a class twice a week won’t cause that. You’re comparing yourself to someone who dances en pointe for 8+ hours a day and that isn’t reality. I second swimming and pilates. They’re both fantastic during pregnancy and not during pregnancy. Go slow and listen to your body and you’ll be fine. Those tranverse abs from balancing and standing correctly also help with birth.

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