Pilates Strengthens My Core and My Purpose as a Caregiver

How this CF mom has benefited from a regular Pilates practice

Jennifer Chamberlain avatar

by Jennifer Chamberlain |

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When I was pregnant, we learned that our unborn baby likely had cystic fibrosis (CF). I immediately fell into a deep depression. I didn’t talk to friends and family. I felt like no one could possibly understand what I was going through. I became agoraphobic, only leaving my house for my two weekly doctor appointments and three weekly Pilates classes.

Yes, you read that right. I continued to go to Pilates during my pregnancy, despite isolating myself from those closest to me. During that time, it became more than a workout for me. It was a safe haven, a place I could go and not think about the uncertainty and fear that surrounded my pregnancy.

I continued my Pilates practice after Claire was born, but it took a back seat as I learned to care for a child with CF. I was prioritizing my new responsibilities over my own well-being, and after a while, it became apparent that the stress of caregiving was having a detrimental effect on my physical and mental health. I needed an outlet.

Then the pandemic hit. Most Pilates studios shut down, so I continued my practice at home. Eventually, some studios opened with outdoor classes. I began sporadically taking classes in person when I could. Getting back into class provided a bright light during a particularly traumatic period in my life. That’s when I realized I wanted to dedicate more time to my own wellness while sharing my passion with others. So after a lot of thought, I took a leap of faith and began the process of becoming a Pilates instructor.

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I was concerned about the amount of time I’d need to devote to working toward my certification while serving as Claire’s primary caregiver. I was busy enough already without adding a 500-hour certification program to my plate in the midst of a pandemic. But I knew that doing something for myself was necessary and that I deserved it. It was a healthy way to channel the emotions I was facing as a result of all the changes in my life — a coping mechanism of sorts. Pilates was stable and safe to me.

It also gave me my sense of identity back. I had been so consumed during my pregnancy and the first few years of Claire’s life with learning all I could about CF and caregiving. I felt like I had lost a bit of myself and the things that made me happy. I wanted to regain that in hopes that it would make me a better caregiver.

It wasn’t easy. It took 13 months, but I received my comprehensive Pilates certification in December 2021.

Being a Pilates instructor has allowed me to deepen my practice, which has many ulterior benefits for me. A primary tenet of Pilates is the mind-body connection. Pilates allows you to focus on the instructor’s cues, process them, and execute through body movement. It’s a form of exercise that revolves around being present and aware in both your mind and body.

For me, this usually results in the ability to take my mind off the daily worries that accompany being a cystic fibrosis parent. It may just be for a short time, but the lasting effects help me long after I’ve left the studio.

Joseph Pilates, the founder of Pilates, said, “Change happens through movement, and movement heals.” I hope that by prioritizing my health, it will instill in my children that physical and mental wellness are important. I know exercise alone won’t cure my depression and anxiety, and it definitely won’t cure Claire of CF, but it can help strengthen us on our journey toward a healthier lifestyle while weathering the curveballs CF throws our way.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


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