The idea of pregnancy and labour always scared me. How does that come out of there?! The older I got, the more friends had experienced challenging pregnancies: traumatic labour, IVF journeys, miscarriages. Unimaginable situations that I don't even want to put words to. I'd never tried for children before, but at the age of 34 I was already going to be considered a "geriatric mother" . I read everything to try to make sure we were successful. The right multivitamins, tracking my cycle, do I need to think about ovulation sticks? What if I stand on my head straight after? I remember saying to one of my friends "I don't get why it's so hard? They make it look so easy on Jeremy Kyle!" It can sometimes feel like a "text book pregnancy" is a lie. That it is the sole domain of science books and NCT activity games. That you have to brace yourself for the worst because textbook never happens. I would like to give you hope.
My story is boring. Textbook boring. Both my pregnancies and labour's were. I often shy away from telling people because I know many who have had harder journeys. But I would like to give you hope; textbook boring does happen. Prior to getting pregnant I wanted to ensure I was in the best physical health to respond to the challenges of being pregnant. I went to the gym, I kept an eye on what I was eating. We were lucky. I got pregnant very quickly. I remember having the conversation with my then- fiancé, now husband: "Statistically at 34, it could take us a year to conceive. So, if I have the implant taken out in October, the wedding is in June, then we will already have some time under our belt if we need to consider things like IVF...But theoretically, if I have it taken out in the October, then give it, what? 3months for the hormone to clear out my system?: November, December, January. The earliest we could get pregnant is February. Which would put me at 4.5 months pregnant for the wedding" ...so.... We got pregnant in the February..... Textbook pregnancy from there! I was sick, I was tired, I ate a lot of potato waffles. And I kept going to the gym as much as I could. Weeks 1-12 less so, as I was fairly unwell But mostly weights in the gym, Aqua aerobics, Zumba (fml, I suck at Zumba on a good day. Bouncing around looking like Mr blobby must have looked hilarious! My favourite track was Tina turner Proud Mary! Threw my whole self into that one! ) On our honeymoon we hiked, biked and paddled our way round the Alpes! It was amazing!
8 months pregnant, and only 5ft 2, I was trying to rearrange the cable machine in the gym. I couldn't get close enough and had to ask the other guy in there "I'm sorry, I can't reach...would you be able to lower the handle down for me?" He obliged and we got talking. "How far along are you?" "8 months....so, not long now" "8 months! Wow, you can still see your ankles!" Weirdly, the best compliment ever... I was sat on the sofa at 40 (+3) weeks feeling every lb of heavily pregnant, texting a friend "nope, still in there. Think he's fairly comfortable and not going anywhere yet" At 10pm my husband and I were watching Wayne's World 2 (a classic) I noticed some period style cramping. Half an hour later it was consistent enough for me to think "hmm, I'll time this now" got out my contraction app, and kept and eye out. It was already 30sec to 1minute long. 2-5minutes apart. Hmm. But it's not that intense. I'll give it a bit. By midnight they were still going but not strong enough for me to consider going into the birthing centre, but I didn't want to be complacent... "No worries, have a paracetamol, something to eat and try get some sleep, we'll see you in the morning" I spent the rest of the night slowly getting more intense. By 5am I thought "hmm, I'd like to go in now." Midwife: " have you tried a bubble bath? Sometimes that can slow things down" Ugh fine. 6am: nope...did not slow it down...I'd like to go in now. By this point I can't speak to them on the phone as they are coming intense and fairly quickly, but my waters still hadn't broken, and my mucus plug was still unseen, so... wait a bit longer...ugh We went to the birthing centre about 7am ish Midwife: Would you like a tens machine? Me: No can I get in the pool now? Midwife: No you're not there yet and there's someone in the pool Me: OK I'll have the tens machine Does nothing Me: Can I get in the pool now?.... Eventually get in the pool about 10ish (I have no concept of time at this point) Ugh! The warm water was AMAZING! As I neared towards the pushing stage the best word to describe how to manage it is to surrender. Let yourself go. Hand everything over to your body- let it do its thing! Society teaches women to fight against every aspect of our body. It is so empowering when you can say "OK. I trust you. Let's get this shit done!" To your own body. My little superstar popped out naturally at 11:45. (I say "naturally" but I still had gas and air) He was perfect! For my second...reread the above again but shorten the time period from 12 hours to 6.... we had our amazing second boy in a birthing pool at home (didn't think through the pool location vs the front door until the amazon guy knocked...but...never mind...) So textbook does happen.
The key is to have faith and confidence in your body. Treat your body like a well serviced machine.
Physical activity can't prevent every risk. But knowing you can keep doing the things you love throughout your pregnancy is a huge part of supporting your mental wellbeing.
Knowing and trusting that your body is strong and able to respond to the challenges your pregnancy will offer is incredibly empowering.
Charlotte is a mother of 2 gorgeous boys and an online personal trainer at More You Fitness, working with clients to overcome pain, injury, and fatigue and keep doing the things they love, with the people they love. (Check out her pre and postnatal programme here)