Fit Follow-Up: Mary Helen Bowers
- Editors of FitBump
- Sep 22 2014
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- Name: Mary Helen Bowers
- Baby: Daughter Lumina Belle, born December 26, 2013
- Claim to Fame: Bowers, a former New York City Ballet dancer and founder of Ballet Beautiful, danced till the very end of her pregnancy last year—and got quite a bit of attention for it. (Though she admitted in an interview shortly before she gave birth that, “Even in 2013, the image of a pregnant woman embracing her figure and really putting it out there can be scary to some people.”) Based on her experience, she developed a series of pre- and postnatal workout DVDs called Ballet Baby, which debuted this fall.
In the Beginning
A lot of [the attention] really started from my social media. I’m posting photos all the time and documenting what’s going. That was how I announced my pregnancy—via Instagram and all my social media sites. I think the juxtaposition between ballet and exercise and dancing and being active and fitness is something that, for some people, is still surprising or shocking. That part was surprising because it’s just me living my life and doing what I do.
No Pregnant Pause
What I do is so physical, and I don’t know if there’s a more dramatic change your body can go through than creating a new life. I was a little bit nervous about it and that was one of the first things I talked to my doctor about. She was really onboard with exercising and continuing to work and move around. Because I am always creating new exercises and workouts, pregnancy was a really creative time for me. That was an unexpected bonus. We created a whole new workout and brand around pre- and postnatal moms and their needs because they do change.
I certainly made a lot of changes and tweaked things as I went along. You can’t just continue living your regular life when you’re pregnant—things are going to have to shift and change. That was one thing that I really tried to do: celebrate those changes that were happening in my body instead of resisting them. My attitude was, “This is amazing.” It’s such a miraculous process and I really tried to embrace that and share it with other people. I continued to do core work but it was quite different—more working through your sides and trying to build this strength through your center to help carry the baby. Carrying babies is a lot of work. I was very fortunate to have a really easy pregnancy and I felt really good the entire time. But I also worked really hard on taking care of my body and I found the more I did to take care of myself the better I felt.
A Birth Story
I had a really long labor—24 hours—and at the end of that process I ended up having a cesarean section. It wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting to happen. I had a really big baby. She was over ten pounds. I wasn’t able to actually get to the part of pushing. In the end, we had a really healthy delivery and I think that being in such good shape helped me tremendously in coming back from not only the birth, but recovering from major surgery.
Getting Back in Sync
I didn’t really start to feel connected, truly connected, to my stomach muscles again until about six months. I’ve also found that it’s really not even as much about your weight on the scale as it is about starting to rebuild your strength and muscle tone and letting the body settle down. Caring for a baby is so rewarding but it’s also very hard on your body and exhausting. And you’re not sleeping. I think the process of pregnancy prepares you for that. It’s a learning process—your body isn’t just about you anymore. Pushing it or ignoring it suddenly becomes impossible when you’re pregnant. I’m finding the same thing as a mom.
I have found that because I’m breastfeeding I have to be careful that I’m eating a lot more than I would’ve expected. After I had the baby I thought, let me get this weight off and let me have some salads. But that didn’t happen. It’s steak and protein and you definitely need your fat. I can do maybe two workouts a day, which is less for me, but they have to be spaced earlier [in the day] when my milk is higher. I really have to drink a ton of water, sleep as much as I can and make sure I’m eating and nourishing my body.
A Little Sidekick
One of the things that makes Lumina [pictured above at a few months old] happiest is when I pick her up and dance around with her. I always feel like that’s partly because I danced so much when I was pregnant and she was with me and moving with me, all day, every day. She’s a lot happier dancing with me than she is just hanging out on her mat with her toys.