FIT TO BIRTH
“You can’t be driving!” Janice’s concerned aunt adamantly informed her.
“What do you mean I can’t be driving! I have to go to work!”
“You can’t be doing that!”
But Janice is a ‘today’s’ woman; she does all that and more. As VP/ Sr. Client Manager at City National Bank in NY, Janice Alcivar just can’t and won’t sit still. She’s seven months into her first pregnancy and is stereo-typically glowing as she generously shares her stories and anecdotes with me. Janice does admit that there’s definitely a lot of concern on both sides of the family. The expected mother knows that there are people that are genuinely concerned about her well being and their intentions are pure, including auntie (despite auntie’s ‘old-school’ mentality). They all insist that she needs to take it easy and slow down- God forbid something happens. But there’s no indication of annoyance in her statement. Janice seems both proud and amused by the level of worry expressed by those who know her and love her.
Yet her face changes to one of complete gratitude and delight when she talks about the level of support she receives from daddy-to-be. She almost seems to be blushing, chuckling and briefly sharing stories about midnight drives around the neighborhood in an effort to pinpoint what she (and baby) is in the mood to eat. Antoine Duvert, proud father-to-be (and my cousin) attentively assists Janice with her meal choices, ice packs when needed, cooking and even Valentine’s Day breakfast in bed…. (Puke provoking, right?) “He’s very supportive,” Janice humbly boasts. “He makes sure I eat right and drinking plenty of water.” (Very sweet. Yep, I’m puking.)
Something else you need to know about this fierce Diva…. Yeah, she’s 7 months pregnant, she drives to work, runs errands, she’s a working professional, an entrepreneur (J&J Elite Entertainment) and yet, she still hits the gym like the beast-babe she’s always been- at least 4 times a week! Although now, her #exercisegoals are a completely different set of #gains.
The big, silky curls that frame her face barely move out of place as she proudly tells me that her body craves the workouts she powers through. And her face shines when she tells me now that she’s pregnant, she’s become more aware of everything going on in her changing body from the expected fatigue to a very random locked jaw. Locked jaw? A woman’s body goes through so many hormonal changes during pregnancy and manifests differently for each individual. Every woman and every pregnancy is often very, very different; each comes with different challenges and realizations.
Now, being 35 and pregnant, Janice’s pregnancy is automatically labeled as high risk. “I hate those terms: high risk, geriatric pregnancy,” Janice proclaims. “I’m the type to flip the finger to those stereotypes.” (Um, yeah. And by the way, this is the only time I see any type of resentment expressed in her glowing face… badass.)
Janice is the pregnant beauty and fierce badass that I’m proud to call family. She tells me her thoughts and ideas about her pregnancy in complete confidence, like a woman who has not only done her research, but has clearly kept open communication with her doctor and nurse practitioner. But most importantly, Janice knows, listens to, and pays attention to her body. She’s rocking pregnancy and preparing both her mind and her body for what may happen in the delivery room from a place of empowerment. With the upcoming birth experience, there may be little Janice will have the ability to control. Her training, her strength and her mind- she can control. We are so accustomed to hearing about athletes training for a race, a game, some type of competition…. But Janice, she’s literally training to be fit to birth.
When I saw pics of my fabulous pregnant cousin at the gym, I immediately reached out to her in an excited frenzy. I was eager to discuss her decision to not only continue her workouts, but to do so in a badass way. Being no stranger to the gym and heavy, vigorous exercise, we both chuckle when she comically refers to the kettle bells as ‘baby bells.’ You have to understand, the girl can press over 200lbs! But now, her focus is to protect and strengthen her body to better care for the expected precious cargo.
How does such a strong woman make herself stronger during pregnancy? Well, I truly believe that a woman is at her strongest during pregnancy. A woman’s body helps prepare for birth in glorious and miraculous ways. Amongst these ways are the assistance of hormones that signals the organs, muscles and joints to literally shift, strengthen and loosen. But this lovely fitness enthusiast knows that she plays an important role in consciously contributing to that preparation as well. She briefly tells me that the full body exercises she implements to keep her workouts both safe and effective include stretches, balance exercises, squats, dead lifts, pull downs, rows and treadmill inclines. “I can still touch my toes… My body and my baby appreciate it.” Beast.
So why did Janice decide to continue exercising? Those around her encourage her to take it easy and she can just as easily do so being that pregnant women are non-judgmentally given ‘permission’ use it as a reason (dare I say, excuse) to cease their exercise routine. But not Janice… (did I mention she’s a bad-ass?)
“I’m healthy and fit,” she asserts. “Working out has become a huge part of who I am. Exercise makes me feel so much more confident and I wanted to keep that same feeling throughout my pregnancy” (a girl after my own heart). In fact, that was the first thing she asked her doctor: ‘Is it OK that I continue to work out?’ Janice went on to tell him exactly what she was doing and what her workouts entailed and he confidently encouraged her: ‘Yeah, don’t stop.’
“I haven’t had any back pain,” she reports with little to no surprise. Being quite ‘blessed’ up top (if you know what I mean, wink), Janice expected to experience some back pain discomfort at this stage in her pregnancy, but to the contrary, nothing. So she concludes, “I know for a fact it’s because I’ve been working out.” She knows that these exercises not only play a huge part in keeping her comfortable and will be worth it postpartum, but is also essential in baby’s development and upcoming birth.
During our conversation, my cousin and I spoke nothing of ‘myths’, however, as I prepared this article to bring to you, I came across 4 myths with relevance to pregnancy and exercise and I was struck with the outstanding revelation that Janice actually debunks each of these by mere living example- no preaching, no pointing fingers, and no judgments. She’s merely going through her pregnancy the only way she knows how- by paying attention to her body and keeping open and honest lines of communication with herself, her partner and her doctors (and that, of course is no ‘mere’ feat).
Beyond the Myths
So here they are, 4 Pregnancy Myths debunked by Janice’s words, experiences and examples:
Myth 1: Say Bye-Bye to That Pre-pregnancy Bod! Janice knows that because she kept a regular exercise routine during her pregnancy, she’s got a better shot at getting back to her pre-pregnancy body and she’ll probably get there much faster than the average. “If you workout during pregnancy,” she confidently acclaims, “You’ll have an easier time getting back postpartum.”
John Hopkins Medicine says: “Exercise is a huge component of postpartum weight loss. But the true value of exercise during and after pregnancy is the other incredible health benefits.”
WebMD says: Dedication and patience are key to losing postpartum baby weight and looking like your pre-baby self again. Experts say [exercise] can not only help you get your body back, but also increase energy and may even reduce risks of postpartum depression.
Myth 2: You’re Eating for Two! “Absolutely not!” The self-declared ‘foodie’ protests, still pleasantly smiling, “I’m not eating for two! I’m eating for one person and she benefits from the nutrients that I give her!”
Women’s Health Issues says: “In truth, only an additional 300 calories a day are needed to achieve the 25-35 pound weight gain recommended for normal weight women.”
That’s it? 300 calories? That’s just a couple of healthy snacks like fruit, a berry smoothie or a couple of hard-boiled eggs. And although it’s true that pregnant women should increase their caloric intake, they should also consciously refrain from overeating. (I know, I know… sometimes it’s easier said than done!)
Baby Center says: “Your body becomes more efficient during pregnancy and is able to absorb more of the nutrients you eat. So consuming twice as much doesn’t double your chances of having a healthy baby – instead, it’s likely to mean excessive weight gain for you, which can put you at risk for pregnancy complications.”
Myth 3: Don’t Start a Workout Routine Now! “You’re body is a magnificent machine,” says Janice. “It’s capable of so much! I do it with more of an emphasis so [pregnant women] know it’s okay to workout… [There are] studies that show it helps with the physical and mental.”
John Hopkins Medicine says: “This myth has proliferated for many years, but pregnancy is actually an ideal time to start an exercise program — even if you’ve never really exercised before. Public health guidelines for pregnant women recommend moderate exercise or activity for approximately 150 minutes per week (or 30 minutes per day, five days a week).”
Mayo Clinic says: “If you haven’t been exercising regularly, use pregnancy as your motivation to begin.”
Myth 4: Stop Physical Activity! Janice believes that her pregnancy is a reason to continue physical activity, including exercise. She reveals that there was a week that she stayed away and everything in her body started to hurt! Janice concluded that it was her body that was screaming that she get back to work. The mommy-to-be has lessened the amount of weights and reps she does as she gets on in her pregnancy but the intensity is stronger than ever. “Of course in the beginning, I was able do a lot more; now, I’ve slowed down a little bit. But I just keep my body moving. So as I’m getting heavier, I feel it- even going up the stairs! But I embrace it.”
Mayo Clinic says: “Pregnancy might seem like the perfect time to sit back and relax. You likely feel more tired than usual, and your back might ache from carrying extra weight. But unless you’re experiencing complications, sitting around won’t help. In fact, pregnancy can be a great time to get active — even if you haven’t exercised in a while.”
Glamour says: “The truth is, exercising during pregnancy is highly beneficial for both mom and baby, according to a wide body of research. Regular exercise has been shown to prevent gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preeclampsia; it is beneficial for psychological well-being; it may even help your baby develop a healthy heart and reduce their risk of developing chronic disease later in life.”
Studies continue to show that exercise boosts energy levels and makes for an easier labor, delivery and postpartum recovery.
I asked our strong mom-to-be if she wanted to deliver some parting words of encouragement, advice or reassurance to new mommies that are coming along. Her beautifully lined and shadowed eyes roll around as she carefully chooses her words: “One thing that I recommend,” she honestly implores, “Keep moving. Do what your body allows you to do; listen to your body- as long as your doctor says you’re okay. You don’t have to go aggressive. If you can, just walk; move around with light weights; it helps so much. Being pregnant is not an excuse, it’s a reason.”
Back pains are common during pregnancy. Baby weight and natural weight gain can take its toll. Exercise will often decrease muscle spasms and help protect and support spinal function, resulting in decreased pain.
Photos by: Jeffrey Alcivar