Barre with a C-section scar: My body may be different—but it’s stronger than ever

Group of women standing by the barre at pilates class

I park the car and sit with the engine running. It’s bitterly cold outside and I’m about 20 minutes early to my workout class. Gone are the days of breezing inside last minute and grabbing a spot in the front row, confident and carefree. Now, I’m 20 minutes early—watching other cars arrive and women hop out, breaths puffing in the frosty air.

It’s time to go in. I remind the nice girl at the front desk who I am. I put my belongings in a cubby, let my bare feet squish into the slightly soft floor of the barre studio. I find a spot in the back row. I check my heart rate: still normal. Could have fooled me.

The teacher asks me my name; she remembers me from before. I answer, smile and nod—yes, trying to get back into it! Reminding myself I don’t need to be ashamed of the years that have passed since I last walked through these doors.

I sit and wait for the class to begin; women file in. Old friends, new friends, the experts, the beginners, the chatters and the silent ones. It’s Saturday morning at the barre, and these ladies are here to work.

That’s when I really look at myself in the mirror stretching the length of the studio. If I blink quickly, it’s 2016 and a different version of me stares back in the mirror. Long hair, size small leggings, toned arms. Ah, another life! I was a boss babe, a barre babe, a baby myself, in so many ways.

Another blink and I’m back in the here and now. My hair is the shortest it’s been in years. My body is different. Not the biggest it’s ever been; a far cry from the smallest. My leggings are not size small, my arms are soft. I’ve swapped the stress of 9 pm in the newsroom booth with the sweetness of 9 pm in my daughter’s room, the harsh realities of the world far, far away from her pink pillow and ocean sound machine.

The young woman next to me says I saw you here last week! She gives me a pep talk—the one you give a first timer. Showing up is half the battle! You’ll get the hang of it! It will get easier! When is a good time to tell her I used to give this same pep talk? I learn she’s an executive; she works and travels a lot; and if she’s going to see results, she’s absolutely showing up to the barre no less than 5 times a week. Forget a mirror to the past; she’s right next to me.

Class begins. My muscles scream and sigh all at once. My body remembers. I don’t miss a beat. I modify a few moves. I realize, with a sense of pride, not only do I know this body of mine, but I respect it, too. I know when to push. I know when to rest. I check my heart rate; higher, but still normal. I’m shaking. I’m doing it. I’m different. I’m the same.

Anyone who has taken a barre, yoga or pilates class knows the collective groan that takes place when you hear the phrase “tuck your abs” and soon, we’re at that point in class. I wonder if that is still possible when a C-section scar runs hip to hip. Turns out, it is—and I’m proud. I feel like I’m back where I started, but oh-so-far from the beginning.

There are no bounds to my strength. I may not be the most toned woman in the room or have the most stickers on the attendance chart, but strength? I’ve got it in spades. And it’s not just my body, reminding me once again of all it’s capable of; it’s my heart, too. Beating in this room, at this barre; beating a few miles away, where my daughter and husband spend a slow morning together; and beating the steady, constant hum of grief: Of things past, of a child I’ll never get to hold, of how very much has changed, of the things that have broken my heart and the things that have slowly stitched it back together. Not the same; brand new.

A 50-minute class feels much longer when you’re shaking, sweating and stretching. It feels like eternity as my journey in the mirror comes full circle. The woman I was, replaced by the woman I am. Time has changed her job, her home, her body and most of all, her heart. The mirror: Giving us glimpses into our past; showing us in the present what is; and gifting us by refusing to show us what’s to come.

I look at myself once more as class wraps up, as women roll up their mats and say their goodbyes. I give myself a smile and nod in the mirror. I tell the girl next to me goodbye; it’s likely she will take four more barre classes before we see each other again next week. She’s happy with the version of herself in the mirror today. I’m happy for her too.

And I’m equally happy to give my (short) hair a flip in the mirror, head to the car and return home to the best reflection of myself I could possibly imagine: my daughter.