Strong enough to be a Mom
What a wonderful time in your life! You’re pregnant! First time pregnancy or third, we can all agree each pregnancy is different. Our external stresses change and our internal anxieties realign depending on a thousand factors. Did we plan this? Can we expect support at work? Are our partners on board? No matter the logistics ahead, the physiological truth remains: there are now two of us (or more!) to keep healthy.
The first lesson in motherhood: it is no longer only about you. Now more than ever: we must keep health our priority. Someone else is counting on us. It is time to surrender our excuses. If not for our offspring, then when? Let’s align with our body with the purpose of growing a beautiful baby.
As a wellness instructor, I am often blessed as a first to know. What a joy to hear that truth whispered in my ear. Now everything shifts for the next year. We have two goals: getting you fit to give birth and strong enough to be a mom.
Even if you haven’t had a regular movement practice until the day you peed on a stick and got the good news, you can begin now. The greatest day awaits you, your baby’s birthday! Giving birth is a deeply spiritual, soul opening experience. It is also a physical feat. Let’s start training the body for the big day. Daily exercise will help you build a healthy baby and make you strong for when the baby comes out.
I love to say “Don’t eat FOR two, eat BECAUSE of two.” Make your food choices excellent. Everything you eat, you are actually feeding your baby. Self love looks like a plate full of colorful whole foods and no processed crap. Worried about pushing out a 12lb baby? Limit your processed sugar intake.
I’d like to dispel the myth that planning for a cesarean section excludes you from needing to focus on your wellness plan. In general, a cesarean section causes more difficulty, pain and longer recovery than a natural birth. A cesarean section can be a life saving option for many, but the need to prepare the body is even greater. As I recommend for any type of surgery; help a surgeon out! Managing slippery layers of visceral fat as they try to find the prize inside not only makes their job harder but puts you at greater risk. Focus on your wellness now to have a safe and joyful birthing experience months from now.
Birth focused exercises begin with long walks. The birthing process can sometimes take all day as our body opens and shifts to the purpose. We need endurance for the big day. If you have no walking history, begin by walking ten minutes from your home and back again. Do this every day for two weeks. What you may find is that if you use a timer instead of a destination, you may be naturally getting faster, able to walk farther in ten minutes than you did on day one. Now add a bit of time, make it a twelve minute walk. Continue to add two minutes every two weeks until you are out walking for a full hour. That is 30 minutes out and 30 minutes back. Feel free to run errands, talk on the phone, listen to parenting books, or commute to work. Fold it into your day.
Already have a cardio fitness routine? Super star! Keep it up. Or roll it back if it feels like it is taking energy from your main purpose: growing a baby. I’ve had clients run marathons at seven months pregnant. They were marathoners before the pregnancy and their body was not building for the event but maintaining for the event. It was also how they were managing their stress and anxiety. We aren’t trying to win any external medals during our pregnancy. Know yourself and listen to your reasons why. If you are trying to prove nothing has changed even though you’re pregnant, you’re wrong. Many things have changed. Make choices for yourself and your baby that support your big dream for your life. Keep kindness as your compass as you make all your small daily decisions. Do what feels right for you without letting yourself fall into bad habits. Practice parenting yourself.
Focus inside, listen to your body and your baby. If you feel tired, take a nap! Remember you have almost doubled the volume of blood in your body to grow this gift to humanity. This is a totally new body for a while. Tender here, tugging there. It’s all part of the process of surrender and awareness. Shift your focus from what I call punishment workouts; I ate fried chicken now I will punish the calories off my body. Instead, try self love workouts; thank you beautiful strong body for supporting the growth of a human being!
The trick? Pull out your calendar right now. Enter ‘ten minutes out and back’ into today’s all day events. Repeat for two weeks. Now go to two weeks from today. Do this now. Commit to the health of both you and your baby. Write in ‘twelve minutes out and back’ and repeat in the all day events for the next two weeks. Continue until you have added two minutes every two weeks and are taking a daily one hour walk. Keep it up, on your due date you will have toned all the muscles necessary for giving birth. Your breath will be able to support the demands of the day. You will be physically confident for the event ahead. You will know yourself and your body. You’ll have felt the joyful rolling of your child as you fed them your workout oxygenated blood.
Let’s focus our attention on getting strong enough to be a mom. Those babies get heavy!! The average baby weighs 7.5lbs at birth. And then they have one job their first years: grow!! At one year old they are about 20lbs of wiggly joy, and they love to be carried and cuddled by mom. If you only work out with 2lb weights, how are you getting ready to lift and carry your 7.5lb baby? The way I see it, my body is built to grow beautiful babies, birth beautiful babies and carry them into their early years. There is no better reason to get fit. Let’s do it for our babies.
We begin with body weight exercises. Sit down in a chair twenty times and stand up. Now step back into a lunge and step forward, switching legs every repetition twenty times. Take a plank position on the floor, either knees or toes down and hold for 30 seconds, eventually building up to a one minute hold. Add two seconds every week. Put it in your calendar. Too easy? Already have a weights program that works for you? Excellent! Continue. Remembering as the baby grows, our center of gravity shifts. The forward weight of the baby in the uterus will begin to challenge the lower back muscles in our third trimester, no matter how fit we are. Keep kindness first. Take breaks as you need them and lower weight loads to accommodate the new force on the spine.
The body begins to increase a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy. It’s purpose is just as it sounds to relax our tendons and ligaments to allow for the lovely widening of the pelvis. We make space for the baby by loosening our hold around the pelvis. However, it also can allow a greater flexibility in the pelvis while pregnant. As fun as it would be to high kick like a Rockette, we must use caution. The Rockettes have had years to build their strength to match their flexibility, keeping them safe. Relaxin gives the pelvis greater flexibility without the required stability to keep us safe at the end ranges. Bottom line? No loaded deep squats, cocktail party splits demonstrations nor jumping lunge kicks. When we are pregnant we work the exercise turn around before our deepest expression. We begin to enjoy not pushing all the way to the edge, but knowing our limits and turning around before them. Slow movements build better results and are safer during pregnancy. Keep mindful of your breath and your intention to love your body as you express your power of creation.
Find a local prenatal fitness class online. You’ll meet other moms to be, have fun getting fit and build your strength for the long haul; from birth to school age. Our kids want us to hold them, carry them, lift them up, get them down. Being a mom is a strong job. Begin now to know the power and potential in your body. You are built for this. You have been given the gift of creation for a reason. Rise to the challenge. Become your best self to be a strong mom.