A few years ago, my friend from high school posted a video on Facebook of her teaching Zumba at 9 months pregnant. It was the most incredible (and admittedly bizarre) thing to watch, and I was incredibly impressed not only with her commitment to staying fit and active, but dang she’s got moves! I remember at the time thinking, “I wish I could do that,” and I remember reflecting on it when I found out I was pregnant, thinking, “I am going to do that!”
But you know what they say about the best laid plans…
Many moons ago, I was a young, first-time expectant mom with absolutely zero clue what I was doing. My vast experience in prenatal health consisted mostly of “say no to drugs” and popular TV/movie jokes about pregnant moms eating whatever they wanted. The “What to Expect” diet was so far from what I was used to eating that I blew it off and went with my gut (pun always intended): bring on the Oreos and Toaster Streudels!
Sixty-five naive pounds later, I gave birth to an extremely healthy 9 lb. 15 oz. baby girl and kept eating whatever I wanted while nursing because that’s supposed to make you skinny, right?? I was shocked and devastated that I hung on to every one of those pounds, less the actual weight of the baby. Add in 2 more kids over the next 3 years, and I was one overweight, unhappy mama.
After my 3rd child was born, I decided to stop hating my body for what it didn’t look like and start loving it for what it could do. I ate nutritious foods and swore off sweets and sodas. I hit the gym hard 5-6 days a week. Over the next 2 years, I lost nearly 75 lbs. and looked and felt better than when I was 16.
I kept up the workouts and kept off the weight through post-partum depression, a challenging year of personal/family issues, and two miscarriages. When I finally got pregnant again, I was determined to not repeat the mistakes of my past. I would eat right, drink tons of water, and work out every day. I would be… FIT MOM.
…Then reality hit. I was sick all the time. Of all things, water and coffee made me extra nauseous. I had terrible insomnia and went weeks without sleeping more than an hour or two at night (often not at all). I was diagnosed with a clotting condition that gave me a “high-risk” label for the first time ever and earned me the glorious duty of administering shots in my belly every day. I had more joint pain than when I was carrying a 10-pound baby. This pregnancy was just HARD.
I kept up my 6am gym habit for a while, because I was up all night anyway, so I may as well work out, right? Not so much. Every step on the treadmill, every weight lifting rep, every single squat made me want to cry. I was exhausted, miserable, and malnourished. Remember that healthy diet I was going to eat? I couldn’t stomach it. Literally the only things I could hold down in that first trimester were bread and Gatorade.
When the 2nd trimester burst of energy never hit, I gave up on daily workouts. I could barely stand, much less be a good wife and mother to my family. And it certainly wasn’t doing much good for my weight goals – I gained 11 lbs. in the first trimester! So I cut back to yoga twice a week. Not much as far as calorie burning, but it was all I could manage, and I still struggled. At least I would have those strong back and core muscles to help in the 3rd trimester, right?
As the nausea subsided, my diet improved, but again, that made no difference toward my fit mom goals. I kept gaining weight, a pound or more a week, throughout my pregnancy. In fact, the weeks that I got frustrated and just ate whatever I wanted, I tended to gain less!
I kept up the yoga until around 34 weeks, when I found myself resting in table pose for the majority of class time. Even at that, I was exhausted after class and desperately needed a nap. My kids, however, were less desperate for sleep, which led to a very tired, stressed, unhappy me. Oh and those strong muscles to help in the 3rd trimester? I guess I can’t say they don’t help at all, because I don’t know what it would be like without them. But I do know this is the most pain I have had during pregnancy and the least mobile I have ever been. I certainly don’t regret going to yoga, but I have had to accept the fact that my body isn’t responding the way I expected.
Why am I telling you this, my pitiful un-fit sob story? Because I know someone else out there feels this way too. You’ve tried. You have done all you could. You stuck to the plan even when you hated it. So where are your results? The truth is, your body is just that: YOUR body. Generally speaking, the best advice still goes: eat well, be active, and take care of yourself for a fit, healthy pregnancy. But sometimes taking care of yourself means listening to your body, even when it doesn’t fit the standard.
I’m not telling anyone she shouldn’t eat right or exercise during pregnancy. I am only giving you permission to be different if you need to be. Before I got pregnant, I was very fit, strong, active, and healthy. I did everything I could to make this fitness thing happen, and as I prepare to have my baby this week (eek!), I have gained over 50 lbs. But you know what? Whatever. My baby is healthy, I am healthy, and I’ve lost the weight before, so I’ll just do it again.
When it comes to pregnancy and child-rearing, everybody’s got an opinion. Everyone has their story of how it went for them and how it will go for you, if you do everything just right. But the truth is that doesn’t always happen, and that’s okay. (Don’t get me started on breastfeeding!) Do your best, and know that your best is enough. If things don’t go according to plan, change the plan. If you care enough to care whether or not you are doing the right thing, guess what?