While searching the internet for pregnancy fitness advice and reading about other runner’s experiences with pregnancy, I came across a common topic; pelvic health. Specifically, postpartum incontinence (aka peeing yourself) and diastasis recti (separated abs). These seem to be issues that many women deal with after baby and it sounds like most people just try to manage it on their own and accept it as a normal part of being a mom. Uh no. That’s not cool to me. I have some fitness goals I’m trying to accomplish in the future and I don’t want these issues to derail my plans. I’m also totally unsure that what I have been doing during this pregnancy has been safe and beneficial vs. potentially dangerous to my lose ligaments and abdomen. Through my research, I found that there are lots of educational resources out there but Women’s Health is not a topic discussed as thoroughly in the US as other countries. I found an Instagram page (@everydaybattles_scw) that is dedicated to getting the word out and listed a link to find a local pelvic health clinic in my area. http://www.womenshealthapta.org/pt-locator/ This is what lead me to set up an initial evaluation at Carolina Pelvic Health Center in Raleigh, NC.
The professional I met with has a doctorate in physical therapy and specializes in pelvic health. I believe a lot of her patients come from referrals from general practitioners and she probably only rarely gets someone like me in there who wants to be proactive before having any issues.
The first thing we did was go over my current pregnancy fitness routine. I told her that my goal was to train for the Boston Marathon which is 6 months after my due date. She immediately connected with me on this because she said she is planning to go to Boston, too, and this will be her 5th time. I was so relieved to know she could understand my goals and felt like this made a big difference in how she will help me as a patient.
She then had me perform various exercises to evaluate my form and recorded it all on my iphone which was so incredibly useful. She pointed out things with my posture that could be corrected and gave me advice on new exercises I should start incorporating into my routine.
After these exercises, she did a strength test on me to see how well I could resist pressure on my muscles or joints. This test revealed how weak my hips are (which was no surprise to me). My hips have been sore throughout this pregnancy and especially recently. She taught me an exercise to safely strengthen my hips while avoiding any strain elsewhere. She also taught me how to get out of bed safely and a technique to relax my pelvic muscles. Here are the notes she wrote down for me:
- Walking: Take slightly faster steps – Focus on “heel to toe”, pushing off the toe. Do this for a few minutes intermittently while walking longer distances or to/from somewhere nearby.
- Getting out of bed: Roll over, pressing through heel to engage glutes – makes it easier 🙂
- Squat: See video. Weight in heels, keep tailbone lifted – don’t squat quite as deeply, able to use glutes a little bit more efficiently. Keep bar in front vs behind neck/head.
- Lunges: Form looks great. Keep bar in front vs. behind neck/head.
- Wall pushups – Wider hands and more upright on the wall (see video). Focus on keeping neck/ribs/pelvis in alignment.
- Continue upper body work as previously.
- Shoulder rotation: Stand holding therapy band in both hands, thumbs up. Shoulders in neutral. Rotate one arm out to side against band. Repeat 8-10x, 1-3 sets each side as warmup.
- Arm lift/ arm extension: Stand holding band, arms in front. Exhale, bring band back with R arm. Return to start, Repeat with L. 8-10 reps, 1-3 sets.
- Hip lift: Stand tall (think: engage outer hip muscles). Maintain lift in standing leg, then bring knee up on other side. Hold on for balance as needed. 10x, 1-2 sets each side as warmup.
- Tailor pose (butterfly): Reclined on pillows OR seated modification for comfort. 5-10 minutes/day.
I thought all of her advice was so helpful and seemed to make a lot of sense. We scheduled a follow up visit in a month to see how these exercises are working out for me and to check how I’m feeling before the baby is here. I will also go back after my 6 week postpartum check-up with my regular doctor so she can give me a thorough fitness exam and clear me for training. I might also go see her periodically leading up to the Boston Marathon to make sure everything is recovering properly. I feel relieved to know I have someone to call if I have any sort of pain along the way.
I’m trying to be as smart about my fitness as possible and set myself up for success, if I can. I know once the baby is here, she will be my top priority and I will have many challenges to face when trying to get my workouts in. I don’t want pelvic and abdominal issues to add to the list and slow me down. I can’t wait until this baby is here but I also can’t wait to start working out hard, again!
I have officially begun the third trimester and I look like I’m full term! People are surprised when I tell them my due date because they expect me to say “any day now”. It is so crazy how differently people seem to develop. Some women look like they carry their baby totally within their own body frame but my little one is all out front. My belly is pulled tight, too, and the baby always feels like she is pushing outwards. (As if she didn’t have enough space, already!) So far, the doctors have not said she is measuring big, just one week ahead according to the last two monthly appointments, and they said that wasn’t really significant.
Although I can see how huge I’m getting, I am trying to keep my head on straight and ignore any negative body image thoughts that pop into my mind. I know this is just temporary and I can’t wait to ramp up my work outs again after the baby is here. (in due time) It helps that I’ve still been able to keep up a normal routine of running and weight lifting 6 days a week so I get some of those endorphins and feel like I’m still doing something good for my body even though it is low intensity. Also, people have been so kind to me regardless of how I think I look. I have gotten so many sweet compliments from total strangers throughout this pregnancy. It might seem odd for strangers to comment openly on how you look, but the kind intentions behind the comments are what feel uplifting to me. Just last weekend, a lady driving by yelled out her window, “Excuse me! You look beautiful!”. It was so completely unexpected and definitely touched me that she would say so. I definitely plan to pay it forward to other pregnant ladies in the future.
As far as the baby’s development, everything has been going well with all of my check ups. I recently took the glucose test and it came back negative for pregnancy diabetes. As much as I love my sweets, it would be surprising to find out I wasn’t processing sugar normally. I’m glad that it isn’t a concern. The baby has otherwise been growing as expected and I feel her movements getting stronger all the time. I just began to feel the difference in her limbs pushing out as opposed to her head or back. She also gets the hiccups every couple days or so. It can be distracting at work when I’m trying to concentrate and the baby is moving all around but I still love it and try to appreciate this *short* time with her in there.
Although I have a long to-do list before the baby arrives, I am feeling very impatient for her to be here. I’m just ready to have her out in the open to take care of and be part of our family. I know people say pregnancy just flies by but I don’t feel that way right now. I feel like the next couple months are going to drag by but I’m trying to appreciate this time as much as possible.
(Here’s me being dramatic at the doctor’s office.)
So back around Easter weekend, I ran around visiting family and when I got back to work the following Monday, I started getting this itchy feeling in my throat. You know the kind where you try to itch it with your tongue? This method obviously doesn’t work but I can’t resist trying anyways. So this little itchy throat turned into my first sleepless night followed by watery eyes, runny nose, what sounded like whooping cough and the voice of a life-long smoker. This wasn’t one of those colds that builds for 2 days, leading to one day of agony, and then trails off for a few more days. This was much worse. It’s like I was stuck in the “one day of agony” stage for 8 days. I had finally reached the second trimester where all the pregnancy related symptoms start to let up and then I get struck with this granddaddy of head colds. Well, you know what happens when you get sick while pregnant, right?
YOU CAN’T TAKE ANYTHING!
Well, at least that’s what everyone kept telling me. I just had to tough it out! I took a little time off work to deal with it at home but I think it’s generally frowned upon to stay home for over a week with a cold. (And who wants to waste precious maternity leave days?) So while I was at work driving my coworkers crazy with my incessant coughing and nose-blowing (and awful voice) I tried to figure out if there was anything I could actually take besides the “all natural” remedies. Here’s what I found.
The internet: Allergy medicines are safe: take Caritin
The OB: Sorry, hun, try Musinex for increased drainage
The Primary care doctor: Amoxicillin to fight off an infection (a safe antibiotic)
According to the doctor, it sounds like maybe I had some allergy symptoms in the beginning which probably weakened my immune system enough to catch some kind of virus that lead to an infection. Woo-hoo! That’s quite a lot for someone who doesn’t typically get sick at all.
So if you end up catching a cold while pregnant, here are some of the natural remedies that I thought helped a bit before I hit full-blown infection status.
Rest (duh, if you can get it)
Gargle salt water for a sore throat
Rinse salt water through each nostril (temporarily clears you out)
Drink a cup of hot water or tea with honey
Simmer a pot of water and then breath in the steam with a towel over your head
Consume many many cough drops (I think I ate two bags?)
Rub Vicks vapor rub on your chest at night
Hope my experience lends you a little guidance! But mostly, I hope you just don’t get sick while pregnant!
(1st ultrasound picture of our baby!)
Oh man, I was worried. I’m still worried, but maybe not quite as much now that I’ve made it out of the first trimester. I couldn’t help myself but my mind was always thinking about it. From the moment we saw that positive pregnancy test, I started thinking, “Don’t get too excited, you could easily have a miscarriage”. I didn’t have any reason to believe I had a higher risk than anyone else out there, but I know it is way more common than people make it seem. I have learned this based on the experiences of people I know or have heard about and all the statistics I have read. I didn’t want to be blind-sighted or naïve to think just because you get pregnant means you’ll be taking home a healthy baby in 9 months. I even made sure Grant was aware that becoming pregnant was great news but we weren’t out of the clear, yet. We talked about it a bit and I told him how often I worried about it, which was basically all the time. I tried pretty hard to concentrate on letting the worries go since there was nothing I could do about it. I knew it was probably best to just relax but that is easier said than done.
I really felt like I probably worried about it more than I should have. This was strange for me because I am normally a pretty positive person and I’m not used to having such pessimistic thoughts. I pretty much blocked out any thoughts of other baby-related planning and dreaming and only focused on the health and survival of our little growing baby. This was all I cared about and figured that nothing else would matter if our baby didn’t make it. A big relief came when we heard the heartbeat at 7 weeks. This was a huge milestone and proved to me that everything was in place for our baby to make it to this point. I had convinced myself that if the baby never reached this heartbeat stage, I could somehow cope better with the idea that it was never meant to be and that the baby never really had a chance to survive because of a chromosomal defect or something understandable like that. I’m sure those ideas would have flown out the window if we actually were faced with a miscarriage before hearing the heartbeat but that’s what I was telling myself.
(At 8 weeks 1 day, our baby resembles a gummy bear.)
Even though I felt some relief at this point, I would almost say I became even more worried because then I felt like we just had to make sure this baby survived. The baby proved it was viable so we had to make sure it would make it the rest of the way. I figured we were still in the high risk timeframe for the next 5 weeks and that just seemed like forever to me. And then I realized, even after you get out of that stage, the risks aren’t gone completely. We might still have a pre-term delivery in weeks 12-24, or a stillborn baby after that.
I don’t know if other moms-to-be worry about this as much as me, but I just can’t help myself. Maybe some people are blissfully ignorant of the risks and possibilities or are just more able to avoid thinking about it until they are faced with it. One thought that helps me is to remind myself that, either way, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I am not in control of this outcome. All I can do is send up my prayers for this precious little life and leave it up to God.
Everyone wants to know, “have you had any weird cravings??”, like this is the most interesting and bizarre aspect of pregnancy. They want to hear that I am one of those women who suddenly craves dust or paper or at least pickles in my ice cream. I think next time someone asks I might make something up like, “oh my gosh YES! It was the strangest thing but suddenly I just had to have sour cream on everything!”
But really, I don’t think I’ve craved any one thing that would be considered super weird. What has been strange is how different my diet has been in comparison to what I used to eat all of the time. I typically have a pretty high-protein diet and enjoy eating just about the same foods every day. Once I became pregnant, I suddenly didn’t particularly care for a lot of my normal foods. I wanted cereal, oatmeal, graham crackers annnddd chocolate. Lots of chocolate. I’ve never been a big candy person. I usually prefer ice cream or baked goods like cookies or cake, but for whatever reason, I found myself reaching for the pretzel m&ms or the milky ways or whatever else I saw while out shopping. I was a little ashamed of eating candy so regularly like that but I really wanted it.
In general, it seemed like I was eating a whole lot of carbs and sweets and I was afraid I was going to turn into a big pile of mush because of it. Luckily, by the time the second trimester rolled around, I felt like my taste buds were beginning to go back to normal a little bit and I was starting to clean up my crazy diet.
I did have one strange aversion, though, but that had more to do with smell than taste. I had a really strong sense of smell from weeks 6-10 and something in our refrigerator at home was driving me nuts! Every time I would open the door, I would gag from the awful, rancid smell. What IS that?? It was so frustrating. I ended up cleaning out the fridge and scrubbing it top to bottom but the smell was still there. One day, I finally figured out what it was. Turns out it was a perfectly good bottle of ranch dressing! What on earth?? It tasted fine and was not expired but for some reason I couldn’t stand the smell of it just hanging out in our fridge. Once I threw away the bottle, the smell miraculously disappeared. Go figure!
I’m curious to hear what kind of strange cravings or aversions other people had during pregnancy. I wonder if anyone else was driven nuts by their sense of smell like me. Surely I’m not the only crazy one!
If there was a pregnancy Academy Awards, I like to think I would win an Oscar for my performance in the first trimester, specifically in the category of “fake drinking”. I wouldn’t say that I’m a huge drinker in the first place, but I’m unlikely to forego the opportunity when the occasion presents itself. This was immediately an issue as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I was about to leave the next day for an annual work conference where there would be plenty of drinking going on in the evenings. I understand that consuming alcohol while pregnant is typically frowned upon by the general population so I definitely wanted to avoid it but there’s no way I wanted my coworkers finding out what was going on so soon!
I took to Google and searched all kinds of message boards on how to hide your pregnancy. It seemed like the best option would be to fool people into thinking I was drinking rather than out myself by announcing that I wasn’t drinking for some lame reason. I read that holding a dark colored beer bottle would somewhat disguise the contents of the bottle and I could possibly get away with not actually drinking out of it or pouring some beer out at inconspicuous moments. So that’s exactly what I did for the whole week, and you know what? It worked like a charm. Not without plenty of internal paranoia going on but just hanging around holding a bottle seemed to satisfy everyone that I was still participating. I banked on the fact that most people would be more interested in their own drinks than monitoring mine and it totally worked out that way. Luckily, some people were still being strict with their New Year’s diets at the time and avoiding alcohol as well so I stuck with them. When most people were heading up to the hospitality suite at the end of each day to party on, the dieters and I would turn in early for the night. No one was the wiser.
I felt extremely victorious after that first test of my acting skills but that was just the first week. I had many more weeks to go and plenty of other opportunities to blow it. The very next weekend I went to a wedding and pulled the same tricks without notice. Then there was a super bowl party, a weekend trip with friends including a brewery tour, a team dinner including wine for the whole table and a birthday party with mimosas. I did my best to pretend to drink on each occasion although we did end up telling some close friends and immediate family during the first trimester so we could relax around them. For the most part, I always accepted the drink, held it, moved it around, lifted it to my lips or smelled it, and no one seemed to notice that I wasn’t actually drinking. I convinced myself that if I could just stay calm and act relaxed, no one would catch on. It was a great tactic and totally worth it to me to protect my privacy. Plenty of people got a good laugh after I made my news public and they recalled all the times that I fooled them. I really think fake drinking was the reason I was able to hide my pregnancy until I was ready to tell.
Pre-pregnancy, I pretty much weighed the exact same amount for about 4 years. I don’t weigh myself on a regular basis, but every couple months I might check and it would be like, “yep, still the same”. I think it’s because I have really consistent eating habits and I work out regularly without much drastic variation in my routine. And when I say “consistent” I kind of mean “boring”. I like what I like and I stick with it. I eat wholesome foods during the weekdays and pizza on Fridays plus a beer or two and a few desserts thrown in. It just all balances out week after week.
Cue pregnancy and all that routine went flying out the window. At about 5 or 6 weeks, the bloating was incessant and I was starting to feel pretty nauseous. I definitely recall one night taking a bite of a chip with salsa and thinking, “oh yuck this just doesn’t taste good to me today”. I definitely acknowledged it was me, not the salsa, who had changed. So from then, on, I just ate what sounded good to me and my high protein diet quickly turned into mostly carbs.
I decided to monitor my weight in the beginning and it was kind of shocking to me to see the number creeping up. 1 pound, then 2, then 3, then 4, then 5! What! I hadn’t even seen that number on the scale in a long time and it was very strange to me. Yes, putting on just 5 pounds was crazy to me. That’s how consistent my weight is.
Besides feeling ill that first trimester, I was struggling a bit with this new feeling of fatness. None of my pants would button. Did I really not have wiggle room to accommodate 5 pounds? That hardly seemed fair. Not to mention my boobs were suddenly huge! They grew overnight in week 5 and then grew again in week 12. They were way bigger than I ever imagined. It was just totally weird for me. I couldn’t fit in most of my bras and even my stretchy sports bras were maxed out and getting uncomfortable. (TMI?)
Along with feeling fat, I felt guilty for feeling fat. I kept telling myself that I was being ungrateful for being blessed with a growing child. This amazing thing is happening and all I can think is “woe is me, I feel gross and I’m a whale”. What is wrong with me?
I know I will continue to put on more weight and I will probably laugh when I am in my last trimester reflecting back on how I felt about those first 5 pounds but it can be really confusing and uncomfortable when you feel like your body has been hijacked and you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. That might sound dramatic from an outsider’s perspective, but if you have gone through this, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about!
When we first got married, I distinctly remember Grant saying, “I don’t know if I’ll ever feel ready for kids”. I know he wanted to have kids eventually, but he wasn’t sure if his mind would flip a switch and he would know that it was time. He figured that he would just have to rely on me and would probably get on board once things started to progress. I didn’t believe him. I understood where he was coming from, but I believed that he would feel differently once the time was right. I felt sure that outward influences would sway his thinking. Just like I always believed that I would know when I had met the man who would become my future husband, I figured we would know when we were ready to start a family.
Turns out, Grant was actually ready before I was! After living in our new house for a year, we learned a bit about taking care of a home. We were by no-means pros, but we were handling things, and I finished quite a bit of updates in that first year. We also replaced Grant’s car after his 1999 Blazer bit the dust and then he got a new job with a great company. That was basically the final straw for him. We were planning a 2-year anniversary trip to Aruba and we figured this would be our last big vacation for a while before starting a family. We agreed that I would run one more marathon in the fall, and then I would take a break from training hard and we would be open to a baby.
We still had a few months to go until race day when Grant finally said those magic words, “I’m ready for a baby”. I was so excited that he felt so ready but I was also like, “Wait! Wait! Give me three more months! I’m excited but I’m not quite ready. I want to run this race!” I was a little nervous that I was now the one holding us up but that gave me more motivation to train even harder.
Ready, set, go! The race was November 8th and we became pregnant by the end of December. Whaaat? To be honest, we kind of expected it to happen quickly although, in retrospect, I’m not sure why we were so confident. Grant was convinced we would get pregnant on his birthday, December 19th, but when I tried to explain to him how the cycles work and it couldn’t possibly happen on his birthday, he was not interested. He wanted to imagine that it was like magic and could happen at any time. I let him live in fantasy world and kept the science to myself. Low and behold, he wasn’t far off with his birthday wish! On January 16th, we took 1 pregnancy test (okay 3) and it was confirmed by our doctor on January 21st. We were so excited!! Time for a baby!