I wish I could say I had pure motives when it came to my exercise and diet while I was pregnant with my second son, but initially, the one word that fueled my drive was ‘fear’.
Two years prior, I had my first son, and the birth and recovery were quite traumatic. It took me a long time to figure out the reason why I struggled to labour was because I was unfit, and I had put on too much weight during the pregnancy. Months on, none of my clothes fit me, and I was very unhappy. My ever supportive husband knew this, and encouraged me to do something to make myself feel better. Seven months post partum, I decided to make a change. I needed to lose the weight for me, and to be a happier and healthier mum and wife. I started researching healthy eating plans, and walking every day. The weight started to fall off, and my confidence improved. At the beginning of 2014, I met up with a mum from my mother’s group, and she looked really fit and strong. She told me she was running a lot, and it reminded me of how I tried to become a ‘runner’ a few years back, but gave up. I decided to give it another go, thinking how my brother is a national champion sprinter, so that had to mean there was something inside of me that could make me a runner as well. My first ‘run’ was 1.6km long, and it was at a pace of 9min 23sec. I ran longer than a whole kilometer without stopping for the first time ever, and it felt really good! It didn’t take long before I was itching to improve, and started to set goals. I downloaded the C25K app, and away I went. My brother very kindly gave me some coaching lessons, and improved my technique. Nothing felt like it could get in my way. I decided I could officially call myself a runner, and I imbedded this new identity into who I was. The baby weight was gone by 16 months post partum, and I was fitter than ever. I had to buy all new clothes, as nothing fit (what a shame, hey?!).
With all of this happening, I had in the back of my mind I wanted to have another child soon. My husband was excited for more kids, and he waited patiently until I felt ready. I had been introduced to Parkrun, and had done two runs there, both being pBs. By 17 months post partum, we fell pregnant again. This is when the ‘fear’ came. Was I able to have another pregnancy, but be fit throughout? Was it even possible to exercise all the way until the end? Was it possible to not gain too much weight? I decided to just be ‘focussed’ the whole pregnancy, never giving up.
I made the choice from the beginning to not run during the pregnancy. I wasn’t confident my pelvic floor would hold up, and also wasn’t confident I wouldn’t trip over! I kept my mindset of still being a ‘runner’ by staying in contact with the RMA group, and wearing my Fitbit everyday. By 15 weeks into the pregnancy I started going to the gym 3 days a week, using low impact equipment, and taking many selfies in the mirrors. I wanted to keep myself accountable on my Instagram account, and with my RMA friends. I also made a return to Parkrun, walking every week, and making many friends along the way. I felt really good, and healthy. I continued to make sure I was eating as healthy as I possibly could, keeping hydrated, and enjoying the pregnancy. I ensured I was gaining the right amount of weight, but not too much.
By the third trimester, I stopped going to the gym, and started transitioning into smaller workouts that I could continue to do with two children. I started using a fitball, foam roller, power bands, and going for walks around our suburb 3 – 6 days a week. I was slowing down, but knew it was necessary as my bump grew. I told everyone I was training ‘for a marathon’ that was going to happen in March. I needed to be mentally strong, as well as physically. I used my walks to focus on my journey, and how far I had come. I walked as much as I possibly could. I walked in the rain, I walked in the morning, and the evening. I told myself I could birth another child, I could recover, and I could run someday soon. I received a running journal for Christmas and documented all my kilometres I walked. I set weekly goals and loved achieving them. My husband was always encouraging me to go for walks, and telling me how well I was going. I went to Parkrun every week, and decided to walk Parkrun up to 37 weeks gestation. It was a fantastic day when I finished my 25th Parkrun, and I was 37 weeks, just as I had planned. My body held up, and I continued to exercise up to my due date, and beyond. My last recorded walk was at 40 weeks and 3 days.
At 40 weeks and 5 days gestation, in the evening, I had a very speedy spontaneous labour. No one was more shocked than me! I was convinced I would have another long, drawn out, induced labour. During the labour, while I was still quite fearful, I had a strength I didn’t realise existed. I was physically more able to give birth this time around, with more mental and physical endurance. All my hard work seemed to pay off. The icing on the cake was my midwife, who not only was exceptionally supportive, was a member of RMA!
I leave this pregnancy journey no longer fearful. I am a strong, confident, and capable woman. My body is so much better than what I give it credit for. I would not have been able to experience all of these positive emotions without the exercise and mental preparation I had put in. I’m thankful to be feeling really good after giving birth this time, and excited for my running journey that will begin again, once I’m allowed to by my doctor and women’s physio!