Decades of dancing carried Natalie Garay through university and all the way into her seventh month of pregnancy with twin girls, before it came to an abrupt end when she was placed on bedrest and immobilized by a C-section.
“My body completely atrophied,” she says. “I could barely stand up straight. After the surgery the doctor is like, ‘okay, get up on your feet and start moving around as soon as you can.’ I could barely get my body out of bed.”
Fortunately, Natalie rediscovered movement through a friend that taught Pilates and soon realized it was something she wanted to teach to other women. Eventually, she started helping moms through post-baby rehabilitation as part of her services as The Pilates Mama.
“Nobody talks about how to rehabilitate after having children,” she says, describing the all-too familiar scenario of being sent home in excruciating pain with a newborn (or two) to take care of on little-to-no sleep.
“For a woman to have a C-section and not be prescribed physical therapy seems absolutely ridiculous to me,” says Natalie. “It’s a major abdominal surgery, and if someone was having a shoulder surgery or knee surgery they would get prescribed physical therapy right away.”
“I knew none of this when I had my girls,” says Natalie. “Back then, I probably could have advocated for myself more but we’re kind of conditioned to just go along with what the doctors say.”
That’s especially the case with Natalie’s clients in their 50s, 60s and 70s that have endured a lifetime of shame and fear associated with accidents that happen while sneezing or jumping, and are afraid to veer too far from a restroom.
“We have generations before us that put everybody else first and we are just starting to learn that we have to take care of ourselves more so, and first, before we can take care of others,” she says.
Women Helping Women
Natalie’s noticing a generational shift in how mothers are making time to take care of ourselves and address the issues that previously lingered for decades after giving birth.
“Moms of our generation are going ‘okay I get it, I can’t do anything and everything falls apart if mom’s sick or mom’s not feeling good,” she says. “The world falls apart when mom’s not available. Nothing’s working if I’m not working.”
As a single mother, Natalie knows this firsthand. She counts on the women she’s surrounded by to help her through the ebbs and flows of motherhood–especially now that her three girls are in their teenage years.
“This is a time where you really need the village, and you really need the team and I had to call in the aunties and the village to help me navigate all of this because it’s really, really hard.”
She also carves out time in the morning to set her intentions for the day. This includes writing her “morning pages,” a practice that’s helpful for capturing all the thoughts percolating in our minds, as described in the book, The Artist’s Way.
It helps to have a little humor too. Over the holidays, Natalie’s “Calm the F*ck Down” theramist went viral after a friend posted it on Instagram.
Before reaching our boiling point, Natalie encourages moms to get educated about the options available for things like ab separation and pelvic floor rehabilitation, and advocate for ourselves.
“We can’t be as present and we can’t mother, or run our businesses, or be the community members that we want to be, when we have this constant nagging pain or lack of energy,” she says.