Public vomiting. Excessive drool. Sore boobs. Itchy nipples. Racehorse urinating. Muscle soreness. Bloating. Fatigue so incapacitating you fall asleep sitting up. Nausea. Weight gain. Cramps. Weight loss. And, naturally, mood swings.
Don’t worry, you’re not going through heroin withdrawal, you’re just in the first trimester of pregnancy. Fun!
I do not enjoy being pregnant. I’m just going to get that out there. I love the end result(s) which is why I do it but I pretty much complain my way to the finish line. There are women who love pregnancy – my friend R is one actually – and in a fair world she’d have all the babies and I’d still get to cuddle newborns that look like me. But any method I can think of to accomplish that is more than a little disturbing. Anyhow. All of the above symptoms are troubling but the thing I like least about pregnancy is feeling like I’ve lost myself. My body is not my own and even my personality shifts in ways that I do not like.
One thing that is a big part of who I am is exercise. I’ve talked before about the many reasons I’m so devoted to my fitness routine but a main one is it helps with my anxiety. I’m a leeettle crazy, in case you haven’t been reading here long and I’m currently unmedicated which means that exercise has become even more important to me to stabilize my mood. In addition, doctors and research agree that maintaining your fitness level during pregnancy is not only safe but quite good for you and the babe. The problem is, my body is rebelling. So, having done this trimester 6 times now, I thought I’d tell you how I work my workouts around the first-tri woes.
Before we start, the primary rule of pregnancy is this: Every woman is different and every pregnancy is different. You will never hear me saying you “should” or “shouldn’t” do anything while pregnant. It helps me to exercise and I like it so I do it. But lots of women aren’t that way and that’s okay too. My friends S & D both skipped exercise entirely for those first 13.5 weeks because they were too sick to make it off the bathroom tile much less make it out the door to the gym. And, as S put it, “I’m puking so much I’m losing two pounds a week – is it really responsible to burn extra calories at that point?” I agree with her totally. You have to do what is right for your body and your baby. Fortunately I’m lucky in that cardio seems to help my nausea and even though I do vomit (twice at the gym, even) I’m not incapacitated by it. So for those of you interested in staying in the gym zone, here are some helps.
1. Nausea/vomiting. This is usually the complaint us girls are most vocal about in the first tri. While there’s not a ton of help I can give you for the first one (although the venerable Dr. Jon e-mailed me to tell me that one teaspoon of raspberry oil and apple vinegar is something both his daughter and his patients have found relief with) except to tell you to make “this too shall pass” your mantra. Fresh ginger, saltine crackers, small sips of water – all those things the mags tell you to do never make much of a difference in my nausea. Often I find that taking a few deeps breaths and stopping what I’m doing allows the feeling to pass. But when it doesn’t, I make a mad sprint to the nearest bathroom and get it all out. This has some great comedic potential but thankfully I’ve always made it in time. Now if I were really smart I’d carry breath mints in my gym purse. If you workout outside, you’ve got lots of options – just think like a drunk!
2. Boobs. When you’re pregnant “the girls” morph into “the girls from outer space” as hormones take over. Everything gets bigger, which while that can be fun for normally very small-chested girls like myself, it is also really painful. Expect your boobs to not only ache but throb, tingle, sting and, most embarrassingly, itch. The best thing I’ve found for it is to make sure your sports bra fits properly. You’ll probably need a bigger one. And then if one doesn’t provide enough compression/support, layer those suckers. This is not the time to be bouncing ’round the gym. Also – and this can work for the men too (if there are any still reading) – try not to scratch yourself in the middle of class. Especially if you’re right in front of the mirrors.
3. Bloating. As a friend put it this weekend, “Wow, you’re looking… thick!” Regardless of whether you are losing weight or gaining weight during this tri – and either is appropriate – your waistline will start to thicken, especially if this is not your first child. It’s not the baby. That little bean really is the size of a bean. Rather it’s your body hoarding liquids like Lindsay Lohan is to Red Bulls. You will have to double your blood volume in the next few months after all. The net result is that even if you weigh the same (which I don’t – I’ve gained between 3 and 6 pounds so far depending on when I start officially counting) you will look lumpier and bumpier than your normal self. So dress accordingly. It’s not fun but it’s better than squeezing yourself into your old duds like so much silly putty. For me, I go to the thrift store and buy and handful of more forgiving tees and pair them with supportive spandex with wide waistbands. The bonus is that these same clothes will come in really handy for the fourth trimester, a.k.a. the post partum period.
4. Peeing. Oh the pee. Some day when I give my body to science, some student is going to remove my kidneys and say “Now those were some well-used organs!” And relieved from my punctured-water-balloon mortal coil, I’ll smile down with pride. If you work out in a gym or at home, this one’s easy. Pee early, pee often. If you are outside, plan your route around a few strategically placed biffies and/or some private shrubs. Plyos and air jacks are not your friend but kegels sure are!
5. Fatigue. For me this one is the most limiting pregnancy side effects. I’m so tired I feel like I’ve been knocked over the head with a chair, WWF-style. My two overruling urges in life right now are to sleep and eat, in that order – everything else is gravy. (Clean the house… wha??) The hard part about this one is that while it does get a little better in the second tri, you will continue to feel like a zombie for about the next two years or until you can get the baby to start sleeping through the night. Nothing sucks the fun out of a good, hard workout like feeling so tired that even the bacteria-infested stretching mats look like beds at the Four Seasons. I can usually make it through one solid workout but I really pay for it when I get home. Several times I’ve walked in the door from the gym, plopped the kids in front of the TV and fallen asleep on my bedroom floor only to wake up in my cold, stinky gym clothes with a lego stuck to my cheek and a puddle of drool an hour later. By the way, by “sleep” I mean “go into a coma.” And forget two-a-day workouts. Dragging myself back to the gym for a second go-round sounds as appealing as a dinner party with Somali pirates. I haven’t found a good cure for this yet except to just do the best you can. For me that means morning workouts as that is when I have the least morning sickness (go figure) and the most energy. This also means quitting if I’m just too overwhelmed. The Gym Buddies will tell you that there have been several occassions of late where I’ve done the bare minimum and then curled up on the stretching mats in the aptly named fetal position – I don’t know what it stretches per se but it sure feels good!
Any of you have good first tri workout tips? Any good puke stories? I love me a good puke story:)
PS> I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who commented, e-mailed, facebooked and otherwise so lovingly gave me your support and congratulations on this new “experiment”! It means so much to me – I’ve been rereading all the comments on that post all weekend and just smiling. You guys are the best!