In 2010, I had surgery on my lower back: a laminectomy, discectomy, and rhizoplasty (which is where some more bone is removed, rather than a bit of nose attached, which is the image “rhizoplasty” evokes for me). My discs had been “slipped” for most of my adult life, causing a raft of sciatic issues – it’s the reason I started practicing yoga a million years ago. But somehow one particularly slippery little bugger had edged that little bit too far, trapping a nerve and causing a problem or two for my left foot. Paralysis was one of these problems. The disc had to go.
Apart from some surgical stuff involving emergency adrenaline, which we needn’t go into here, all went ok and, although I wondered if I’d ever interpretive dance again, my post-op recovery (with painkillers employed judiciously) approached something resembling contentment. At the time, I was reviewing books for a micro-living, which is an ideal job to do supine. The dearest of friends and neighbours organized meal rosters and child logistics. I spent hours on a vintage daybed watching birds fly above my backyard. After a fortnight, I could walk down the back stairs.
I began Pilates when I was upright. I attended a studio called Pondera in Brisbane; I still go there today. It hums with post-op recoverees, fit and hearty baby boomers, and broken ballerinas. Reformer-based Pilates helped developed some core strength so that I could return my former hyper-flexible self to yoga. I would recommend it to most, and I hate exercise.
Dr Atticus says my crappy back (that was the neurosurgeon’s official pronouncement: “you have a crap back”) will be one “issue” to watch. (Stay tuned, there will be more.) With that in mind, my Pilates program has been adapted to keep as much strength around my spine as possible for as long as I can. So far, so good.
I return to my pilates studio, and try to get the attention of my physiotherapist. Rudely, I interrupt her private session next to one of the reformers. She frowns. “I’m sorry, I’ll be quick, but this is important,” I whisper. “I am a little bit pregnant. Is it still ok to do my full program?” If anyone else in the room heard, they did a good job of pretending they didn’t. It was an obviously whispered confession. Ascertaining that I have no past history of miscarriage, she assures me that I am right during this first trimester. “Come and see me at 12 weeks,” she says, “And we’ll have a look at your program.” I tell her I’ll make an appointment when I’m “out”.
Just in case, I go easy on some of the tummy stuff.