Excuse me, there seems to be an alien in the gym. By Stephanie Cherry @steffiecherry
You’ll need to pardon the random intro to this blog post, but let me tell you – go to a gym in London at seven months pregnant and that will be the look you’re greeted with. And it makes up the subject of my guest blog for The Mum Club today. I want to talk about exercise. But not just any exercise, but exercising in pregnancy – and trust me, while a spin class NOT pregnant is met mostly with “go you!”, when a baby bump is involved it brings on gasps of horror and mutterings of “but what about the baby?!” Well yes, he was there too, given he’s pretty attached to my womb right now.
Let me start by saying I am in no way a super-lithe, lycra- wearing, permanent trainer clad fitness freak. But, in the two years leading up to the 28 week babe slowing taking over my entire middle section I developed a love affair with HIIT. And a similar, if slightly more on/off relationship with spin. I’d “found my thing”, if you will.
It was fertility, or lack of (!) that was really the driver for this new found love. Diagnosed at 16 with PCOS – though clearly uninterested in what that meant for my baby-making skills at the time – followed by an emergency operation four years ago to remove my right ovary and fallopian tube which chose to effectively tear off from inside meant that when Mr C and I decided to start a family (pretty much the day after our wedding) I knew deep down it would be a long hard slog.
A combination of the NHS “try for a year” mantra coupled with some impatient stints going private to get things moving, it was discovered that while even my now slightly one sided reproductive system had all the right bits to do what was needed, they’d simply decided not to – and I was prescribed ovulation induction drugs to try and notch things up a gear or two. The 18 months of invasive procedures, scans and multiple hormone drugs it took to get to this
point can have a pretty negative effect on your body – especially if like me you’re also partial to a family sized pack of giant chocolate buttons when you’re feeling a bit “meh.” So it was my newfound love of HIIT coupled with one amazing trainer who gave me the motivation to say screw you infertility and develop a new kick-ass attitude that if I wasn’t going to get pregnant I was at least going to get fit. A strong body is surely a better baby growing machine than one that, well, wasn’t (and here I’d just like to thank superstar trainer and new #girlcrush Kelly Wootton (Instagram - @kelly_wootton) for kicking my ass four times a week – you rock). And then it happened. After a huge night out where I admit I drank one too many vodkas, I woke up the next morning and before I even did a test I KNEW I was pregnant. I just felt weird. And not the normal hangover weird.
Fast forward seven months and I am still in that gym knocking out a HIIT class or a ride session four times a week. I feel great for it. But what I don’t feel great about are the sneaky side-eyes from my fellow class members – looking at me like I’m some kind of alien now that there really is no hiding this bump. And it’s crazy no?! I surely have more incentive that anyone to stay in that gym and prepare my body for what I have been warned will be “the most painful experience of my life, like ever” – way to scare a first time mum by the way guys.
I’m lucky that I’ve had my amazing instructor from day one who along the way has modified the bits I can’t do... like the ab section, at this point not even the best crunches in the world are going to give me a rippling six-pack so she simply swaps it for something else. But don’t be fooled, being pregnant does not give me an easy ride in her class... quite the opposite in fact! And for that I’m grateful Kelly, honest...even when I don’t look it!
It’s the reactions when I talk about maintaining this level of exercise that really baffle me (and this is from family, friends and even strangers on the tube who have the pleasure of seeing this bump trying to break free from my lycra gym gear). Mainly along the lines of:
• What the fuck?! Surely that’s not good for the baby? – um, why not exactly?
• Are you sure you should be doing that? – no you’re
right, surely not moving and eating my body weight in cheese would probably be a better way to grow a human
• You’re crazy! – for wanting to prepare my body for
squeezing something the size of a melon out of something definitely not the size of a melon....yep, sounds crazy
But what they don’t seem to get is that I always walk out of that studio feeling amazing... Any aches and pains have gone, my ankles aren’t swollen, my skin has that pregnancy glow everyone bangs on about and the endorphins make it to the womb too. And I guess that’s what I’m saying. I bet so many women are put off exercise through fear that it’s a; not good for the baby* or b; they don’t want to be on the receiving end of those looks from people in the gym, when in fact I truly believe it can be the most empowering thing to do ahead of getting the baby out. I have no idea what it’s going to be like when it’s finally eviction day for this little boy, but with the squats, weights and cardio I’ve been doing I’m at least going into it with a strong body, but a strong mental attitude too. And there’s no way that’s a bad thing.
And besides, surely if I my waters break at the gym they’ll give me free membership for life?
*I fully appreciate that in some cases women are instructed not to exercise for medical reasons and that is totally different