I went running today. Yup- 31 weeks and 1 day. Ok, so maybe most people wouldn’t call it “running.” But I think it can be classified as a slow jog, especially if I moved my arms back and forth fast enough. I had been running (I’ll use that term loosely now) since the beginning of pregnancy. I was never fast. I took up running a few years ago out of a sort of laziness- it felt like too much work to go to the gym and running I could do anywhere. I both loved it and hated it. I hated how hard it was. I loved how much of a workout it was, how it made me feel physically and how it helped with my anxiety. I ran in the light and the dark (with lights); the cold and the heat. Before our wedding last year my husband and I ran a 20k. To give you an idea of how “fast” I am, nonpregnant I run about a 10 minute mile, 9:30 on a good short race day. Since being pregnant I’ve seen that number creep up to a 12-minute mile. I’m no superstar.
Side note: I want those who haven’t met me to know- I’m not a crazy exercise buff. I’ve never had a six-pack. I’m not that lady who plans to run a marathon at 37 weeks, nor publish photos of myself weight lifting huge amounts. In fact I started this pregnancy a smidgen overweight. This post is about being active, no matter your size or condition. It’s a mindset, not a look. Staying active also gives me a huge mental health benefit. I have had diagnosed anxiety for years- controlled mostly with a great therapist, some low dose meds and exercise. Plus if I exercise more, I feel less guilty about how much ice cream I eat (a lot).
I had signed up with Chris and two friends to do a triathalon in September. It would have been my first (Chris’s second). We trained- swam, biked, ran. When I found out I was pregnant I continued training. Race was set for when I’d be 13 weeks. I joked I’d be the fastest pregnant woman there. I was nervous- mostly for the swim because though I’m a decent swimmer, I don’t like swimming in the ocean and with so many people around. But I had paid my money and announced I was doing it, which made me motivated enough. We ended up having our CVS the day before, which then restricted me from exercise that whole weekend. I was secretly a little relieved, especially because it turned out to be 40 degrees the morning of the race. I was also sad, because I still have yet to run one. My sister also did a triathalon recently while newly pregnant and she did an Olympic (read: double the distance of the one I signed up for. Read: kind of awesome). I was jealous.
Once I was off exercise restrictions (one whole weekend), I resumed my running routine- about 3 miles, usually before work 3-5 times per week. There was a study recently publicized about how exercise in pregnancy can help boost brain development in later life for the child. Heck yeah, I was going to do anything I could to help my baby’s brain development. I started taking a choline supplement too (reported to help with neuro development in a mouse model study of mice pregnant with down syndrome-equivalent mice babies). The benefits to my baby helped motivate me.
As I got more pregnant, it became a little more uncomfortable, mostly after I ran. I saw a chiropractor to help with the tailbone and pubic bone pain the running seemed to exacerbate.
At 25 weeks, I ran a turkey trot 5k. I had my pregnancy-best time! (10min 15sec mile). I was so sore and tired after, I vowed that was my last run. I would switch to the elliptical and training bike. I have had it relatively easy physically throughout pregnancy- minimal nausea in the beginning . I moved around easily. I could go all night without peeing. And I would listen to pregnant woman all day at work with many physical complaints (that I’m sure were real- I don’t mean to minimize). After that turkey trot, I wondered if that was how other pregnant women feel all the time. Maybe the physical ease was my trade-off for the emotional hardships I had faced. Or maybe my mind was too busy focusing on the worry surrounding Down Syndrome, that it didn’t have time to focus on the physical issues of pregnancy. Maybe I just wasn’t far enough along to really feel how hard pregnancy was on the body (still could be true). The soreness after running gave me a taste.- though it only lasted that day.
When I was hospitalized in mid-December I was on bed rest for a couple days as we tried to figure out why I had low fluid. Being on bedrest made me realize as much as exercise seemed like a chore at times, I needed it. Once discharged and my doctors and midwives made it clear I wasn’t on bedrest, I got back into the swing of things, elliptical and bike. And one day shortly after, we had a 60 degree day in December in Connecticut. So I put on my running shorts (yup, shorts in December) and gave running another shot. I was slow, but it felt good to be outside. And then I was super sore the rest of the day.
That, and as I was running I couldn’t help think about my little baby in there, bouncing up and down with so little fluid. Pregnant woman often worry about certain activities harming their baby, and I assure them that it’s really hard to hurt a baby on the inside. Babies have this super tough water balloon with lots of cushion that they’re swimming around in. Babies don’t mind most activities one bit. But that reassurance didn’t help me. My baby had so little cushion that I worried a bit while I ran. And then when I got home I spent some quality time trying to feel fetal movement. When some time went by and I wasn’t feeling any, Chris brought me some chocolate and tall glass of water. I got a little teary eyed as I waited for movement, thinking my selfishness wanting to run might have led to me killing my baby. I know that may sound dramatic, but first of all- I am pregnant and so totally emotional. And second, I think I get a little leeway as far as emotional status with all the new complications. Chris tried to reason with me- our baby is more of an evening and nighttime mover, so of course s/he’s not moving much mid afternoon. I was having nothing of it. At the end of the story, the baby moved. All was well. But the soreness and the emotional strain was enough for me to stick to my last time running vow.
Until today. Another warm day in Connecticut. They are few and far between, especially on a weekend in the winter while its light enough to go outside. Plus, our elliptical has been broken (that’s another story), the training bike is uncomfortable in different ways and I can only take so much Jillian Michaels in her exercise videos. So I decided if I run slow, I’d be ok. You’d think I’d learn. Now 31 weeks, it’s harder to run- things hurt more; I had to stop once; I felt like I had to pee the whole time. And that worry about the baby in low fluid crept back. I came home and laid on the floor waiting for movement. Baby eventually moved- but I don’t think I can take it anymore. Now that I have no fluid, what’s cushioning my little baby now? It’s enough pressure having to make sure the baby moves everyday (it doesn’t help that baby is most active at night and that now that I’m back at work and seeing patients, I’m so busy I barely think of it during the day). The thought of my running causing extra stress (imaginary or not) on my baby is more than I can handle right now.
So today I vow (publically) that this was my last day of running. The elliptical repairman came and supposedly fixed it. My midwife has convinced me to try this somewhat cult-like bootcamp that all the other OB people go to. I’ll be trying that this week, if I can keep up my nerve (Don’t worry, both my midwife and my MFM doc both attend, plus a myriad of other midwives and labor and birth nurses- so I’ll be in good hands). Another friend introduced me to a pretty heart pumping 7-minute workout online. So I have options.
It seems like yet one more unfair thing this pregnancy- all these complications not only cause me extra anxiety, but also limit my exercise which is one of the things that helps manage that anxiety. But, I will stay active and try not to feel guilty about it. I will help boost my baby’s brain power without worrying about squishing his/her cord. Exercise is good, right?