Fit but Complicated Pregnancy Story
Jill with her daughter Nina and her twins boys (inside)
A few weeks ago, a woman named Jill Maxwell (who is also a personal trainer with her MS degree) contacted me and complimented the fit pregnancy blog postings I had recently put up.
However, she had posed this request to me:
"I would love to read about a woman who has experienced multiple pregnancy loss but was able to exercise throughout other healthy pregnancies where babies were delivered at or near term. It's not that I correlate exercise with miscarriage at all, just that the mental and emotional effects of it can really cause a woman to question everything she does in future pregnancies."
And, in truth, she was refering a lot to herself because she has personally gone through several miscarriages, but has one very health child and two on the way.
"Briefly, I am currently on pregnancy #4 (15 weeks with identical twins!) and unlike the pregnancy I had with my 3 1/2 year old daughter, I am exercising this time. Certainly nothing that I would consider HARD but it is what I am comfortable with at this time."
Jill is an experienced mother and exerciser, and has had her life really turned upside with the desire to grow her family, but questioning if what she was doing for exercise while pregnant was safe or not.
I'd like to share with you Jill's story and show you that in her experience, exercise does not lead to a miscarriage, but if you do have this happen to you, it can really mess with your head and your good intentions to stay fit and healthy while growing a strong and beautiful baby.
She said to me:
"..my overall message is firstly not that I feel sorry for myself or like to dwell on the losses, but more so about facing grief and coming through it stronger on the other side. The other two main things are not to feel bad if you feel you need to step back from training a bit. Even though it is really hard to do, and women may beat themselves up for not being able to stay as active as they had hoped during their pregnancy, they can still make good use of the time by focusing on other areas of themselves. Last, is that given how challenging pregnancy has been for me, it makes me even more thankful that I was really fit before I got pregnant. Even though I needed to take some time off, and scale things back a bit, my body is strong from years of training smart. It's true what they say, the best time to prepare is before you get pregnant."
Please leave your comments at the end, and send out a big thank you to Jill for sharing her experiences.
On to her story:
Pregnancy 1 - This pregnancy was unplanned, and to be honest I was a little ambivalent about the whole thing right up until the day before I miscarried at 10 weeks. It's not that I didn't want children, but I also wasn't someone who knew my whole life that I wanted to be a mother.
Although I was a bit scared to exercise, all of my education taught me it was okay, so I continued to run, teach group exercise classes (yoga, step, strength training) as normal until the miscarriage.
It really threw me for a loop because all of my life, as an athlete and then later a fitness professional I could excel at pretty much any physical challenge imposed on my body. The thought that perhaps I couldn't carry a child really affected me. Not even so much from a strong need to procreate or anything but more just from the aspect of being someone who lives very present in my physical body.
Pregnancy 2 - Planned pregnancy though natural conception, and we discovered from the start that I was carrying twins.
The doctor wanted me to take it easy for the first trimester and I wasn't really going to argue with him at this point. In my mind I thought I would just lay low for a few weeks until everything got off the ground, so to speak.
Then at 9 weeks, at an ultrasound, we discovered that one of the babies had lost the heart rate.
So now I had one baby left, and being too familiar with the loss of a few months prior, I sort of went into fear/freeze mode. At this point, I didn't care if I gained extra weight, just really wanted my baby.
Not only did I not exercise for the remainder of the pregnancy, but I wouldn't travel, avoided chemicals, and pretty much tiptoed around like a scared puppy! The good thing is I tried to eat very healthy and also worked on my mental and emotional state.
I figured that I had the knowledge and the drive to get myself back in shape after the baby was born and that I was just going to have to chill and be inactive probably for the first time in my life.
In hindsight, and even at the time, I knew it wasn't logical but fear was really winning here. However, I really did work a lot on my emotional and mental health and really prepared to become a mother. I
never would have considered myself a maternal person, and this time really helped forge that in me, so in that way I appreciate the experience. I was lucky because my doula was also a therapist and she worked with me through the whole thing. Had it not been for her I don't think I would be half the mother I am today.
In the end, my daughter was born healthy at 40 weeks, but here is where I think the inactivity got me. I was in labor for about 3 days, and to make a long story short, I ended up doing pitocin, followed by an epidural, and finally she was born via C-Section.
But I have to say I loved my birth experience. Because I had a doula, even though I did not end up birthing naturally, I at least felt that we tried as much as possible, and my needs were always respected by the medical staff, which was mainly what I wanted out of my birth experience.
My daughter did stay in the NICU for a few days due to high WBC but she was super healthy. I think they were just being extra cautious. She latched beautifully, I nursed her for two years, and though she was allergic to dairy, soy and eggs, (I followed a simlar profile as a baby so I think genetic) for the first 2 years or so, she did outgrow her allergies and is now super healthy, eats well, very smart, and fantastic motor skills. She is such a gift! She gets most of the regular illnesses that go around her school, but just plows right through them like a champ.
Also, I gained 40 pounds (I am 5'9" with a bit of a larger build) during this pregnancy, but was pumped that I did not get any stretch marks, especially since I think they are genetic and my mom got them when she was pregnant. My weight gain, even though I gained a lot, was always very steady so I think perhaps that had something to do with it? Plus I did take DHA, ate a lot of fat and protein and didn't eat a ton of processed food or refined sugars or anything. Mainly tried to just eat real food.
Pregnancy 3 - Planned pregnancy last year, exercised though not intense. Mostly walking, mild weights, and yoga. I wasn't concerned about exercise this time, I knew that my body was able to carry a child so I just went with the flow.
This pregnancy I lost at 7 weeks a few weeks before Christmas. Though not as tragic for me as the first, partly because it was earlier, and partly because I had my daughter to distract me, it had me back doubting myself again.
I remember the first thing I said to my doctor was, "What's wrong with me? Why does this keep happening?" It did take me a few months to get over, and I pretty much spent last winter, the snowiest winter in Philadelphia's history (although this year is rivaling that one!), holed up being depressed and sluggish and getting fat : ( Not my finest days!
Pregnancy 4 - Found out I was pregnant October 1st of this year.
During the spring, I had come out of my mourning/grief and started training again. I was overweight and out of shape and it was at this time that I really started lifitng heavy weights to train.
Though at this point, I wasn't sure if I wanted to try for another baby, I knew that getting back in shape was critical either way. I had become pretty weak over the last few years of less than optimal training.
So I concerted most of my efforts on getting strong. It honestly didn't matter to me a whole lot if I lost weight or looked a certain way. I just wanted to know that my body was strong and balanced.
I actually followed the NROLFW workout plan and was immensely satisfied with lifitng heavy weights. In addition I was interval training 2-3 days per weeks and teaching yoga classes 2x per week.
When I got pregnant, I continued my training as usual until about 5-6 weeks or so. I told myself that I was not going to let fear beat me this time and just decided that it was not in my power to control. I did not want to go down the same road as last time.
But then I got slammed hard core with fatigue and a bit of nausea. I would go the gym and stumble around, ultimately ending up on the bike because at least I could exercise sitting down. I would be pedaling the bike at about 60 rpm's and feeling like I had nothing in me, where normally I pedal at about 85 and don't break a sweat.
So my exercise decreased dramatically from about 6 weeks until 12 weeks when I started feeling a bit human again. It turned out that at 9 weeks we discovered I was pregnant with twins which explains the extreme symptoms.
I am currently 21 weeks pregnant and we now know that we are expecting identical twin boys!
For a couple of weeks at the beginning of my second trimester I got some good exercise time in, working out about 3-4 times per week. Of course good workouts are relative here, but I was just happy to be in the gym.
I focused on walking or riding the bike for 15-30 minutes depending on how I was feeling, and then would lift a bit. Wouldn't say heavy weights but not the barbie weights either.
I did feel great satisfaction in my body during and shortly after lifting, but my recovery was pretty rough. The last few weeks I haven't done much due to multiple nasty colds brought home from my daughter, but I am feeling well again and getting back into the gym. I have to stay I am still a little skiddish with regard to a lot of things, not just exercise, but my physical goals are to keep my circulation strong (I can definitly tell how much harder my body has to work to get all of this blood flowing to those little guys!), my back strong and my chest open, and my ankles strong since they seem to be a weak point for me due to repeated sprains as a younger athlete.
For legs I am limited to using machines, but I was doing some single leg work a bit for balance, and as it does not require as much load. I was frustrated that in the beginning they told me no squatting, lunging or deadlifiting, but lately I don't know that I could manage it anyway. My view is that I have the rest of my life to squat. If I have to suck it up on the machines for a few months I'm okay with it.
I would also like to start swimming again too, as I have heard great things about swimming while pregnant. Although in recent weeks I have started to notice the challenge in carrying two, especially starting in the early evening, I feel like I have more energy than I did with my daughter. I contribute not only the fact that I am in a better mental state now, but the fact that I am exercising, even if not at an intensity that I would normally use, to my improved appearance and vitality during this pregnancy.
As of 19 weeks I had only gained 2 pounds whereas with my daughter by this point I had gained 19 (granted I started this one a bit overweight, and lost some weight in the beginning).
This pregnancy is definitely more challenging for me physically, where the one with my daughter was more challenging mentally.
Identical twins present some additional concerns however, so the last few weeks have been a bit anxiety provoking, as they closely monitor blood flow to the babies every 2 weeks, and have to ensure monthly that one does not significantly outgrow the other. This is definitely one of those experiences that has to be taken day by day.
Some days I feel great and energetic, and others, I can sleep all night and wake up exhausted. Every time I can get into the gym to exercise though, it makes me feel great.
That is all! Thanks for reading!
THANK YOU Jill so much for this experience! And, thank you to my readers for your comments and time. This is an important story to share with others.
You can read more about Jill and her pregnancy at http://jillmaxwellfitness.wordpress.com/ (she's a GREAT writer and I think you'll enjoy her entries)