If you're just joining us, this post will make a lot more sense if you read Part 1 first.
Our instructor offered more low-impact options for those of us who were pregnant or just beginning their fitness journeys, but I never took them. I took an enormous amount of pride in still doing jump squats, burpees, and suicides, even at 20+ weeks pregnant.
(Are you wincing? I hope you're wincing.)
At the time I was studying to become a group fitness instructor myself, because we were planning a move to Knoxville, TN, and my biggest dream was to start a mom-and-baby fitness class of my own. The guidelines for working with pregnant and postnatal women was (and is), well, let's just say it: woefully inadequate. A very slim chapter of my textbook was devoted to "special populations," and of that only a few pages was spent on the specific needs of the perinatal woman.
Most of the current fitness advice for pregnant women boils down to "you can continue what you were doing before you got pregnant; just listen to your body." And this is good advice to a point. Listening to your body is always a good thing.
But sometimes your body is SHOUTING at you and you don't realize it, because everything else you've been told about working out while pregnant or after having a baby is misguided or flat-out wrong.
One day in class while I was about 16 weeks pregnant we were doing a circuit of exercises. I was at the jumprope station and I was killing it. Valedictorian of fit pregnant ladies, remember?
And then I peed myself.
I don't think anyone knew what happened, but still, to say I was mortified is a bit of an understatement. I rushed to the bathroom, cleaned myself up, and then finished the rest of class while I attempted to hold a kegel pretty much continuously.
Juumping rope was clearly off the table for me. Sneezing became problematic. But peeing yourself while you're pregnant is just what happens, right? A sad and unfortunate but completely unpreventable part of having children, right?
So I started wearing a thin pad to every class. It never happened to me quite like that again, but I'm certain I was leaking at least a little. I continued running and doing burpees, but eased off the jump squats and jumping jacks. Unless I was feeling particularly great that day, in which case I still did them. Because I am strong! I am fit! No need to let pregnancy slow me down! I will be an excellent example for all pregnant ladies everywhere. Look at me and be motivated! ...but let me change my pad first.
We moved to Knoxville in April 2015. Without my workout group I felt lost, but I continued studying and passed my group fitness instructor certification test later that month. I ran a few times (with a pad, of course), but by then I was in my third trimester and running had become really uncomfortable, so I quit and focused mainly on my strength training. My dad had a weight bench and a barbell, so I spent my time doing back squats, presses, pushups, and planks.
I finally stopped planking when my belly touched the floor.
The weather grew hotter and my bump grew bigger and my motivation waned. I stopped lifting weights and just did simple bodyweight workouts a few times a week, then maybe once a week, then didn't do much at all except walk in the final few weeks of my pregnancy. My main focus was on practicing my Hypnobirthing excercises and on dropping into a set of squats whenever I felt the tightening of a contraction.
My daughter, Olivia, was born four days before her due date in a very, very quick labor. I was up and walking around within a couple hours of her being placed on my chest, and while I followed the guidelines my midwife had given me about rolling to the side before I sat up, swinging both legs off the bed together at the same time, etc., I was still VERY mobile in the early weeks after Olivia's birth.
A photo posted by Alexis Helmrath (@alexishelmrath) on Jul 7, 2015 at 1:50pm PDT
I didn't feel like I had a choice. My husband had a limited amount of paternity leave (read: none, except for the handful of vacation days he'd accrued since starting his new job), and I had a two year old at home. She still needed her diaper changed and she still napped in a crib, and I wasn't about to teach her how to climb in and out by herself. I avoided lifting her for as long as I could, as per the midwife's advice. That turned out to be about a week, and then I was on my own for most of the time with a newborn and a toddler.
It's ok, I told myself. I'm strong and I'm fit and I'm careful about how I lift her. It will be ok.
I was so proud of how capable I was, of how much more I was able to do this time around compared to after Natalie's birth. Physically I felt much better the second time around. Less achy, especially in my back, less pain from the delivery, and very little of the excruciating breastfeeding pain I experienced with Natalie as she and I attempted to learn together how to do it.
I really saw this as my chance at redemption. After Natalie was born and my husband, Will, went back to work, I felt so helpless. I didn't know what to do with this tiny creature who felt like she was destroying my chest every time she needed to eat, which felt like every hour around the clock. I cried a lot. I hurt a lot.
I didn't want to feel like that again. This newborn thing was now old hat, and I was determined to show myself and everyone else how awesome a mom I had become, to prove how much I'd grown in between my first baby and my second.
Continue reading the final installment in Part 3.