So it’s been a while now since I’ve blogged, but I’m pleased to make a return and I come bearing news that my husband and I are expecting a child! My husband already has a wonderful daughter, who just turned 12, but for me, this is my first pregnancy and its surprised me in many ways.
The strange insomnia that keeps me awake for no apparent reason for hours on end, the frequent nosebleeds, the leg cramps; I’d never realised all of these were common complaints of pregnancy. I did know though that it was normal to develop some cravings.
In my first trimester I collected more aversions than cravings but as the second trimester crept up on me, so too did an intense desire for sweet foods, particularly cake. My appetite in general became extra ferocious.
If I had a dirham for every time someone said to me ‘It’s ok, you’re eating for two’, I’d probably have enough to buy myself one of those mall-bought fancy strollers (not that I don’t love Dubizzle).
It’s all a lie, I think designed to lure women to think there’s an all-you-can-eat silver lining, after all the other weird symptoms of pregnancy. And whilst people are well-meaning when they say it (I’m sure I uttered it to a pregnant friend before now at some point), it needs to stop.
Guidelines vary, but the NHS says if you’re a healthy weight, you need no additional calories in the first trimester, and only 200 extra calories a day in the third trimester (which is roughly equivalent to a small bowl of porridge). And that’s only if you are not overweight to start with, which I kind of was a little.
So given this sombre news, it’s a relief that I developed another, healthier urge.
Eight weeks ago, at 20 weeks pregnant, I resolved to go to the gym.
Now, I am not naturally a gym bunny. If have a goal, such as a commitment to a race, then I can begrudgingly make myself to work out until I hit that aim, but I have to force myself. As soon as the fear of failing publically at a timed event is gone, I can then easily go for several months without ever putting my foot into a sports shoe.
But, after having survived the unpleasant first trimester (when getting off the couch unnecessarily would have been a laughable concept), by my halfway point of pregnancy I was feeling generally a lot better. Having consulted with the professionals about how to adapt my workouts, and working with the class instructors, I signed up for my first step class.
There is all sorts of information out there that tells you how good it is to participate in activity as a pregnant woman. But for reasons beyond just the good it was doing me, I found another motivation to go back the next day, then the day after that. In fact I’m now working out 5-7 times a week – an unprecedented amount.
The weird thing is, I’ve actually found myself enjoying it?!
I’m no expert, but I think these are the reasons why I started to crave exercise:
I’m quite a tired person anyway, but the fatigue of pregnancy was more than sleepiness. It was almost crippling and I found it quite depressing to get home from work, collapse on the couch and sit there just willing the hours away to bedtime. It was an ongoing fight with my eyelids and there’s a heavy feeling that extended to my limbs in a way that made me constantly aware of them.
I’m sure in part, the alleviation of some of this came as I passed through the phases of the pregnancy, but I certainly can tell the difference when I haven’t been physically active as it creeps back in with a vengeance. It seems ridiculous to fight fatigue, which is characterised by weakness and a lack of energy, with exercise, but for me I think it’s really helped.
Feeling more ‘me’
Following on from the above, I have a lot more energy following some light exercise and feel way more like Lorna. In addition, having something that’s my own again, made me feel like a person again, and not just a pregnant person.
Not only does it increase my energy levels, it’s nice to feel like I’m achieving something between work and sleep. I sometimes manage to get a quick workout in on my lunch break which I find helps my concentration in the office.
And not least, staying in good shape has allowed me to keep up one of my favourite hobbies, camping and hiking, allowing me to enjoy the wonderful UAE winter weather to the fullest.
Back in control
There are tonnes of things going on with my body right now that are new and weird and there’s little I can do to prevent or relieve them. Then there is the idea of labour, which is huge unknown, and understandably terrifying.
Exercising is one thing I can do that I know will help myself as my stomach gets bigger and more burdensome, and hopefully make the big day easier. I’m not generally a control freak but I do like to feel like I can always pro-actively address any situation I find myself in, and this is one small way that helps me feel back in the driver’s seat.
Little and often
Previously whenever I’ve attempted a work out regime I felt like if I didn’t go hard, it wasn’t worth the effort of changing into my gym kit. I’d go for boxercise or run on the treadmill until my lungs hurt and I was dripping with sweat.
Being pregnant has forced me to take it easy. I take classes now such as Zumba, Pilates and yoga. When I go on the treadmill I just walk on an incline and I’ve taken to enjoying long walks with friends.
The unpregnant me would have secretly thought these things were a bit la di dah; no pain, no gain and all that. But of course even light to medium exercise exercise has great benefits, and for the first time I find myself looking forward to my workouts rather than dreading the muscle ache and lung burn. Perhaps this learning is something I can take with me beyond pregnancy, to make my exercise regime more sustainable. Who knows?
It’s not all been smooth sailing, I learned my lesson the first time I jumped on the treadmill, when I overexerted myself walking too fast and felt like I’d strained a lower stomach muscle, which scared the hell out of me. Or another time when I pushed myself a little too hard at Zumba and got a leg cramp, which caused unnecessary alarm for the gym staff and a lot of embarrassment for me.
So if you are pregnant and you fancy starting your own regime, just take it easy and make sure you get professional advice along the way. And enjoy!