Staying Active Through Your Pregnancy - by Sarah Keeley

Mae and Sarah at Mae's first birthday party! :)

Mae and Sarah at Mae's first birthday party! :)

About 8 months ago, Erica and I started discussing the possibility of me writing a blog post about my pregnancy with Mae--flash forward to today and I’m not exactly sure where to start, what to say or how to say it.  But most of you know me and how I am, so I won’t hold anything back!  Also, as a disclaimer- I am not a doctor or certified health professional.  I am a woman that recently had her first child (I like to think of myself as a “cool mom”), and I’m here to tell you what it was like for me during and after my pregnancy, what I expected versus what I experienced, what my husband expected versus his reality (in my opinion), and hopefully, this can offer you some very basic guidance and perspective for you should you be pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, have ever been pregnant, or know someone that relates to any of the aforementioned.

Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking about baby number two (are you on board yet, Keeley?), and have started to reflect on my first pregnancy; what worked, what didn’t work and what I think I could have done better.  I think this is a good place to start our discussion.  In all honesty, Keeley and I weren’t “trying” to get pregnant, but we were blessed with the gift of our baby girl, Mae.  Some women will start eating better or begin a different diet, start working out more-just trying to be as healthy and ready as they can be beforehand. I can’t really say anything about what I did prior to becoming pregnant other than I was working out regularly (3-4 times a week) and eating relatively well.  I think this is something we should just be doing regardless of our baby expectations-it’s good for us.  We feel better. We are happier.  We are healthier. 

Keeley and I found out we were expecting when I was about four weeks pregnant.  I was feeling off, and decided to pick up a test at Rite Aid on our way to the gym for a quick Sunday morning workout.   After fueling up on some pre-workout, I had to use the facilities after our warm up and before we started on the crazy WOD Keeley had come up with.  I thought this would be a perfect time to take the test…so I wandered into the bathroom and peed on a stick.  That little double line came through, and our whole lives changed.  And we got this amazing news at the CCSC gym. How perfect is that?  So we do the workout, we go home and start freaking out.  I thought for sure that this meant Keeley would start taking it easy on me-not making me (I mean encouraging me to) go to the gym everyday and cutting me some slack on my bread and pasta obsession.  I was wrong.  So wrong.  He kicked into high gear.

I tried my best to stick to a mostly primal diet (with the occasional blueberry cake donut from Krispy Kreme).  We ate a variety of meats, vegetables and fruits as usual.  I was a big coffee and diet coke drinker.  In my first trimester, not having caffeine was a hard adjustment (yes, more difficult than booze!).  I cut it out cold turkey.  I had a lot of headaches at first-I attribute them to the lack of caffeine and all the hormones.  But I got through it with the help of a daily cup of decaf (ok, so there is a little caffeine in decaf coffee-who knew?) and root beer.  I also started drinking water.  Before I was pregnant, I would drink water during workouts, but I wasn’t the kind of person to carry around my environmentally friendly water bottle all day, every day.  I’m still not that person, but I did start to make a conscious effort to drink more water throughout my day at work, at home and when I was out and about.  As I look back on my eating habits during my pregnancy, I think I did well, but there is definitely room for improvement.  Okay, a lot of improvement. I gained about 50 pounds during my pregnancy, which was just a teensy tiny little bit over the recommended 15-25 pounds that my doctor had suggested.  It wasn’t that I was eating bad food.  I was just eating a lot of food.  I mean, I was pregnant and eating for two, right?  I learned the hard way that that was not really true.  According to americanpregnancy.org (and my doctor), pregnant women should increase their caloric intake by about 300 calories during their second and third trimesters, which didn’t exactly align with my thought of a new 3600-4000 caloric intake goal.  So as I reflect, the next go around I’ll eat better, cut out the sugary soda completely, and be more mindful of how much I’m eating.

Working out was another story.  I continued going to the gym 3-4 times a week.  But I was SO TIRED and it was hard to find the motivation to get there.  So, I’ll be honest, there were a few times I chose my warm bed over a work out (sometimes you just need sleep!), but most of the time I chose the gym, and I was glad I did.  My first few workouts were interesting, as I immediately cut out box jumps and anything upside down.  I started drinking more water during the actual workouts, and wasn’t afraid to take a rest every now and again.  As my belly got bigger, the coaches found creative ways of scaling the workouts.  I started doing lifts usually taken from the ground off of stacked weights or boxes.  Pull-ups with a band started to get awkward, so I scaled those to ring rows. My double-unders turned to singles which ultimately turned into step-ups.  Sit-ups, flutter kicks, and see-the-lights morphed into planks.  Everything that we did during that hour was scalable.  The coaches were very mindful of my limitations as well as how much they could push me, which they all did.  I felt like I was in great shape despite the 50-pound weight gain.  And now, I wonder, if I hadn’t worked out at all how easily that 50 pounds could have turned into a much higher number. 

Did working out during my pregnancy make my labor easier?  I mean, whoever said labor was easy has clearly never given birth before.  My labor started on Valentine’s Day. I went to the hospital the afternoon of February 17, and Mae was born at 5:51 AM on February 18.  I was able to give birth without an epidural; I attribute most of that to the mindset that you develop from working out at CCSC.  Learning how to breathe while your heart is racing, how to push yourself, and giving it your all because you know how excited you’ll be when it’s all over.  Those things, more than anything, I feel are what helped give me the inner strength to do it naturally.  Keeley was awesome-he coached me through every contraction (except for when he left to get some Burger King), every painful moment, every awkward moment (like when I almost drowned in the water tub as I was pushing, or when the doctor had to scoop my poop out with a fish net) and each long, hard push.  I’m so grateful to have had him there with me and can’t imagine labor without him.  Lastly, I’ll give some credit to my physical ability and my conditioning that I achieved through my almost-daily workouts at the gym.  I was strong, I had decent mobility, and I was used to aerobic and anaerobic situations.  Being strong, flexible and having a healthy heart definitely helped get me through the awesome pain of childbirth.  Did all this exercise make it “easier” for me to pop Mae out?  Who knows?  All I know is that I’ll do the same thing next time.  It worked for me and I like to stick with what works.

After Mae was born, everything changed, as did my expectations for myself.  I was back at the gym about a week later-you know, I had to participate in the CrossFit Open.  I was feeling good, and for the most part, back to normal.  I was excited to start doing things regular scaled (versus pregnant scaled), taking things from the ground again, lifting heavy weights, attempting pull-ups without a band, and trying out handstand push-ups (with three mats) again.   It took me a few classes to realize that getting back to normal wasn’t going to be an automatic thing.   I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that I basically took a nine-month hiatus. But I figured it out and learned that it was going to take some time.  Things were different.  Who knew that one tiny human could change your body so much?  I’m still not back to where I was before I had Mae.  I’m getting stronger and closer to my previously set PR’s.  I can finally do a pull-up without a band again and 20-inch box jumps are back in the picture.  I can do double-unders again, although they feel VERY different and involve more pressure than ever before. (Ladies, you know what I’m talking about.) My point here is that it takes time.  Everyone is different and everyone has his or her own “normal”.  Push yourself and let others push you. 

The other thing that I had to work on was my weight.  Honestly, I expected to lose those 50 pounds in the first 3 months after having Mae. (I think Keeley did, too).  I had heard that breast-feeding helps you burn calories and the weight just falls off.  I figured nursing coupled with working out a few times a week would help me to quickly achieve my weight loss goal.  Sadly, this didn’t happen for me.  Well, the first 25 pounds weren’t as difficult as the last 25.  But it took me almost 9 months to completely lose all of my baby weight.  And those last 10 pounds were the most stubborn!  But I did it.  I worked out frequently, mostly consistently, and ate a balanced diet.  I did my own mix of the zone and Amber’s diet guidelines toward the end, which really helped with those stubborn pounds.  I am now 8 pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight and still going for more.

I am still a work in progress.  Not just with my body, but with my time. I realize that working out is a must for me if I want to keep my sanity.  Even if that means waking up at 4:56 AM to make it to 5:15 AM class, this is my time.  I hate waking up early (I LOVE sleeping), but I need to do this.  My days are always better when I work out regularly-I’m more productive, I have more energy and I’m a nicer person to be around (according to Keeley).  I’m mindful of what I eat (most of the time), but I do indulge occasionally.   I’m back on the primal wagon, hoping to shed a few more pounds of fat, and trying my best to stick to my workout routine. 

Hopefully, this post helps any of you mothers before, during and after your pregnancies, if nothing more than to give you a few laughs. But seriously, I really do hope that a glimpse into my experience can help you get through yours.  I’m here as a resource and a sounding board for you should you need me.  Your coaches are available as well to help you through this crazy awesome life change that you are going through-use them!  Mae is fourteen months now and I’m still not back to where I was, but I’m close and feeling good about it.  Like I’ve said over and over again, everyone is different.  Figure out your normal and learn what works for you.  Set goals and work your butt off to achieve them but don’t beat yourself up about it if it’s not happening as fast for you as it happened for your friend.  Find your balance.  Make time for yourself. Find what works for you.

Ok, that’s all for now…I’ve got to go change my booger covered shirt, do some laundry, clean up from dinner and get to bed at a decent hour so that I can get up tomorrow and do this Mom thing that I’m loving so much.