Worth the weight/wait

When I first learned I was pregnant I thought it was a mistake.  After two and a half years of measuring my basal body temperature, infertility medication, acupuncture, three failed IUIs, and lots of disappointment, I had sort of “given up.”  So when I saw the two pink lines on the home test my reaction was “It’s probably a mistake I’ll take another one tomorrow.  The next day came and, lo and behold ,those two pink lines were back.

After the reality set in I was filled with happiness and excitement — and then a little bit of trepidation and concern.  What if the embryo didn’t take?  Did my PCOS make he at a higher risk for miscarriage?

And this:  Wait, I’m supposed to gain how much weight???

After years of being overweight and the struggle to lose it (about 50 lbs over four years), knowing that I’d be expected to gain 25 – 30 lbs over the course of 9 months messed with my head a little bit.  After all, a few years ago I’d spent almost the same span of time losing 25 lbs.

Try not to judge me too harshly.  It’s not that I was self-absorbed and superficial or worried about having a tight and toned body that would instantly “bounce back” after baby.  When you’ve been overweight — obese — for a significant period of time and finally overcome it and get healthy, there’s part of you that always wonders and worries “Will I go back?”  Being a healthy weight is a state of being you will always have to work to maintain.  Always.  Have you ever noticed how alcoholics don’t say “I used to be an alcoholic” but “I’ve been sober for 6 months…two years….ten years…”  The concept is sort of the same for many people, myself included, who are recovering binge eaters, food addicts, and former “fat kids.”

Add to this the fact that I’d been struggling with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) for a year and a half prior to pregnancy and had gained 10 lbs despite being on medication, doing physically demanding workouts 6-7 times a week, and obsessively watching what I ate.  The weight from the PCOS coupled with the wait to get pregnant were a heavy burden and test of faith.

So when I got pregnant I knew that how I adjusted to the next nine months would be just as much about my mental and emotional state as my physical one.  Fortunately, I’d recently started working with a holistic wellness consultant who helped me adopt a more balanced and, well, holistic, approach to wellness vs. my longstanding emphasis on calorie counting and taxing workout routines.  I’d also gotten connected to a fantastic group of women at a new church and plugged into a larger sense of purpose through the Holy Spirit.

I’m really happy to say that over the course of the last 37 weeks I’ve become truly grateful for the wait (and the weight) I had to experience to get to this sweetest time in my life.  Without it, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I might not appreciate the miracle happening within my body.  I may have been tempted to view this experience as one of the banalities of life, something to check off the list after “get married” and “buy a house”, or worse — as an inconvenience to my normal routine.

When I felt that initial nervous hesitation (I’m going to gain how much weight???) I made a conscious decision to reset my mind and look at my body through kinder, gentler eyes.  I adjusted my goals.  Not because I was lowering my expectations for being healthy or resigning myself to a 9-month period of self-induced hibernation and Haagen Das, but because I wanted to enjoy being pregnant.  I didn’t want to obsess over losing baby weight before I even held my baby in my arms.  I didn’t want to view the magical nine months I’d waited so long for as an inconvenience or impediment to my fitness goals.  I didn’t want to miss out on savoring a single moment of pregnancy because I was stressing about body fat percentage, the number on the scale, or my pre-pregnancy workout routine.  Some women I’m sure can balance pregnancy and gym-goddess status simultaneously (yeah, I’m looking at you Crossfit mom…) but as for me, I adopted the mantra “Burpees will always be there; now is the time for belly rubs.”

And so I had only three goals as far as my prenatal health and fitness journey:

  1. Try to stay within the 25-30 lb range for weight gain.
  2. Eat healthy and avoid health risks like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
  3. Keep moving and stay flexible.

I found that following a healthy diet and avoiding succumbing to food cravings in the first trimester was key for avoiding diabetes and unhealthy weight gain.  A combination of yoga (both prenatal and vinyasa), walking for 30-60 minutes a day, and using light 5 lb weights twice a week or doing body weight exercise (squats, wall sits) has been a great exercise.  The yoga keeps me supple and free of aches and pains, the walking is good for cardio and stamina, and the weights remind my muscles that there will come a time after baby when they’ll be expected to lift heavier ones.  For now I’m OK with the fact that my thighs are a little chunkier, my chiseled arms are showing more flab, I can’t do a proper chaturanga dandasana, and I get winded walking my 9-months pregnant self up two flights of stairs.

Am I a workout warrior mama?  Nope.  Am I healthy and happy?  Very much so.  I’m grateful for the wait and the weight.  Every single month and every single pound has been so worth it.

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32 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby boy who seems to love yoga and almond butter as much as his mama.