Pregnant and Pushing the Limits: Exemplary or Exceptional?

“Kayaking While Pregnant.”

“Pregnant Women Take on Extreme Sports.”

“Climbing 5.11 at 9 months.”

I’m noticing a trend these days, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. And something that complicates the matter is that, in the past, I have contributed to advancing this trend. But my personal experience has shed more light on the matter, and now I feel inspired to start a dialogue.

Before I get into things I need to say what this post isn’t about because it’s bound to have some backlash otherwise. It’s not about questioning a woman’s choice to engage in strenuous or even risky activities while pregnant. It’s not meant to dictate what women should or shouldn’t aspire to when they are expecting a baby. And finally, it’s not directed at particular media sources who choose to publish these stories (heck, one of the examples I gave is from my own website, and I think Erica Lineberry is amazing). 

But, here’s why I’m writing this. For a year now I have been watching a trend emerging from outdoor and adventure media sources, and that is stories that focus on women doing extraordinary things while they are pregnant. I found myself starting to get tired of it, and wanted to pinpoint why. 

Very early on in my pregnancy I was concerned about whether or not I could keep up my active, adventurous pursuits. Photo Paul Zizka Photography.

Very early on in my pregnancy I was concerned about whether or not I could keep up my active, adventurous pursuits. Photo Paul Zizka Photography.

In my own quest to continue pursuing my passion for the outdoors as a pregnant woman I put a lot of pressure on myself to do just that. It felt good to keep my body moving and to get fresh air on a regular basis. It was important to push myself because what I really felt like doing was lying on the couch eating toast, and that wouldn’t have helped me either. I did my best and enjoyed hiking and cross-country skiing during the first two trimesters, then cut way back after a longer cross-country ski at the seven-month mark left me excruciatingly sore for a week. While I was content with my activity level through my pregnancy, focusing mostly on yoga until the very end, I couldn’t help but compare myself to women who were still running and skiing very late into pregnancy. I mostly wondered how their bodies even allowed them to do that. I felt like a whale.

Through the beginning stages of this project, I interviewed a variety of women about how active they were during their pregnancies, and which of their more adventurous sports they maintained. And while I’m still impressed by what some women achieved (I know it takes a lot of mental power and a strong will to keep pushing your limits when you’re growing a baby!), I now question my original motivations. I suppose you could say that my research has proven that women don’t need to settle for the status quo. But, what I think I’m realizing now is that whether or not a woman can continue engaging in strenuous activities no longer matters to me. If that is what she needs to do to remain happy and feel good, and it feels good doing it, then power to her. But for most of us, pregnancy is only a short ‘break’ from our usual regiment, with the exception of women like me who suffer from a longer postpartum recovery.

Plus, isn’t the goal a healthy baby in the end?

Maya on her first day in the world. Photo Paul Zizka Photography.

Maya on her first day in the world. Photo Paul Zizka Photography.

My concern is how these articles and videos about women pushing the limits while pregnant have the potential to create unattainable standards for others – like runway models who represent 2% of the female population. These women are certainly impressive, but I believe they really are the exception. When we give these stories too much attention – and by that I mean put these women on a pedestal – I think we send the wrong message to expectant mothers.

Pregnancy is an incredible transformation, and it is hard on the body. Some women have an easier time than others, but for most it is a time to treat ourselves with gentleness and kindness. That may mean cutting back from more strenuous activities during pregnancy, and that’s OK. For some women, it may even mean bedrest.

I often talk with women who are determined to stay active during pregnancy. I was one of these women. But if I was to go back and do it again, I would know to keep my expectations in check and to focus on what is really important. Any woman who carries and delivers a baby is a superstar. She has done something incredible with her body. And if she skied, kayaked, climbed or surfed her way to the delivery room, then she’ll have some great stories to tell.

What are your thoughts? Are these women who push themselves in pregnancy exemplary or exceptional?

Don’t miss this list of Resources about Being Active During Pregnancy.

Article Sources:

Kayaking While Pregnant

Pregnant Women Take on Extreme Sports

Climbing 5.11 at 9 months

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59 responses to “Pregnant and Pushing the Limits: Exemplary or Exceptional?

      • Sarah, you raise a good point (as do you Baz – The Landy). This is something I don’t go into much detail about, but it has been on my mind that I think expectant mothers aren’t set up for success when we don’t present a balanced view on pregnancy, and its effects on the body. It was shocked by my lack of mobility as I watched other pregnant girlfriends literally bouncing around on ski slopes. And I didn’t suffer from any illnesses associated with pregnancy. I wish we could all be a little more honest so that expectant mothers have a more accurate portrayal of the full spectrum of pregnancy.

          • I had the same feeling about some of the ‘symptoms’ I experienced during pregnancy and after – that I’d been tricked somehow since our culture tends to paint it as this wonderful, feel good experience. It surely is, in some regards, but not entirely!

  1. Awesome post! While I’m all for keeping active during pregnancy, we can lose sight of the fact that growing and delivering a baby is an extreme physical activity in and of itself.

    • For me it just puts too much pressure on women overall. I live in a particularly ‘active’ community (overachieving, really!) It’s up to me not to make comparisons, but it sure is hard not to do that.

  2. It feels like the pendulum has swung too far the other way…at one point women used pregnancy as an excuse to sit and be a little too rested….and now we see portrayals fo women pushing it, which i do find inspiring. And the reason there are two extremes is that one seems intent to disprove the “over-resting” pregnancy reason. Which i get. Really it is part of that greater pish that women CAN do anything….but, stories of extreme sports while pregnant in the media should also have the caveat “these women continued enjoying what they love to do which makes them happy, everyone should find something which helps their bodies to move during pregnancy BUT it should always be with an eye to the babies health, not ego claims”…. Great post.

    • Yes, I suppose we can be thankful that we’re not at the ‘other’ end of the pendulum anymore. But the media tends to swing to extremes. That is how it gets attention and keeps the boat afloat. We love stories that feature extraordinary people. But I’m concerned that we’re taking some of the magic out of the special time we experience during pregnancy. It really is sacred and obsession with ‘keeping up’ can take away from it. An interesting discussion so far!

    • I read your post alyssa and shared it with some of my mom friends. We have 14month olds and are all struggling with getting to the runs and bike rides and yoga classes we’d like to. We’re kind of coming out of the “everything stops for the baby” phase but not yet into the new “normal life” of being a mom who wants to train, exercise, get away outdoors. Your post was perfect timing for us, and interesting in relation to Meghans here.

      • You’ve identified a really interesting transition point, Lyndsey – that space between being ‘all about baby’ and finding a ‘new normal.’ I remember that awkward phase. I think it has lasted from about 14 months until even now. I’m slowly but surely finding my groove again. I have written about it a bit on this site, particularly in my “Take It Easy, Mamas” post, but could dedicate a lot more words to that part of this conversation! I hope you’ll stay in touch as you navigate that transition.

  3. I think it is important to see women being active and doing sports while pregnant because the vast majority of public response to these stories is still typically “She shouldn’t do that! She’s putting her baby at risk!!!” And this is a dangerous reaction. Some states in the US have passed laws that criminalize a woman “willfully endangering her fetus.” These laws are meant to prosecute women who take drugs or drink alcohol to excess while pregnant, but clearly could be extended to include any “risky behavior” that “endangers the fetus.” Like rock climbing. Or skiing. Or mountain biking. Or Crossfit.

    The more everyday average people see what women are capable of doing while pregnant WITHOUT endangering their babies, the more freedoms every other pregnant woman will be able to enjoy in the future.

    • An interesting perspective, Kate! My impression is that more doctors/midwives and pregnancy resources are encouraging women to stay active through pregnancy instead of slowing down and resting as it may have been recommended in the past. As you mention, it is the perceived riskier sports that may be affected by this legislation and impinge on the freedom of pregnant women to do what they like. I’m not sure that the general public needs to see these extreme stories to be encouraged to stay active. It may actually have the opposite effect and intimidate them, as it does for me. I suppose I just want media outlets to ‘glorify’ these women a little less – perhaps there’s still a way to keep featuring them without putting too much emphasis on what they are capable of while pregnant. It’s complicated! 🙂

  4. I have 3 boys. I hiked before and after all of them – and they come with me. But….I’ll be very honest, I barely hiked during the pregnancies. My oldest is 17, I had Preeclampsia with him, he was a preemie. I was sick as could be, but once he was healthy – and I as well – we got back outside. My two youngest are 2 and 4. I had severe anemia with both of them (3 iron pills a day and I couldn’t make the cut off). I hiked once during the last pregnancy. It took me 5 hours to do a 2 hour hike. I was so winded I could barely walk, my pride kept me going.

    Not every woman is healthy when pregnant. If one is medically hampered, being lazy isn’t a bad thing. The mountains waited for me and I for them.

    And personally, I kind of liked being able to justify spending all winter inside cozy and warm 😉

    PS: I should add that with little ones at home I do not take the risks I used to take – it isn’t worth it to risk leaving them mother-less. So we still get out, but I readjusted my views.

    • Thanks for sharing, Sarah. I like how you say “The mountains waited for me, and I for them.” This is a great attitude to have when you can’t always do what you’d like to be doing.

      • It really helps as well when we are walking 1 mph on a trail – and every stick is AMAZING to them 😉 OTOH, I have learned so much biology and plant nerd-ness walking slow – and I see a lot more small things that before I would have been walking fast over 🙂 And I am finding I kind of like looking at the world through their excited eyes!

  5. I’m all for continuing with outdoor activities during pregnancy, so long as it has been “okayed” by a doctor, and that the woman honours and listens to their body.
    With my first pregnancy I skied until I no longer felt comfortable or safe from others on the hill (and needed my husbands assistance getting out of my boots hahaha). Then I went onto snowshoeing. I listened to my body, and learned to be okay with not pushing myself too far. I walked/hiked, and went swimming whenever I felt like it. With my second pregnancy, like you, I focused more on yoga, and just nurturing my little one and my body. In the grand scheme of things, we are not pregnant for that very long in time, and I had set out to try and enjoy being pregnant a second time around. 🙂

  6. I would say, as long as a pregnant woman listens to her body, it is ok to do whatever feels comfortable. But shouldn’t be doing crazy stuff just to achieve admiration, that is not the best time to do things like that. She should be comfortable and 100% confident in the activity she does later in her pregnancy and not putting the baby at any risk. It is just not worth it and waiting a few months is actually not long time at all. For example, I ski toured until I was 8 months, but I worked as a ski patroller for 5 years, so I was actually more confident on skis than on my feet 🙂 And always knew my limits and would never push it too far. But for someone who didn’t know me, I might have seemed way too extreme. Just getting out into backcountry with a big belly might be too much for some people. It is all matter of perspective. I kept swimming, easy top-rope climbing and hiking until the very last day of my pregnancy, not because I wanted to be admired by other people but because it felt so good and I felt confident and never put myself and the baby at risk. But important note is that my pregnancy was very easy, I was healthy and didn’t get a lot of weight, my belly was actually very small, so I didn’t feel too awkward even when 9 months. However there were days when I felt very tired or didn’t want to do much and it was ok, I just had some rest or lay down and didn’t feel bad about it. I actually really miss those moments now 🙂 because I had time to rest. Or when a certain movement felt not right, I just didn’t do it (e.g. I had to swim only front crawl with a pull buoy between my legs, because kicking was not comfortable neither was breaststroke) and it was ok because I knew it wasn’t gonna be like that forever and enjoyed just being in the water and was grateful that I can do some stuff unlike other pregnant women. Totally agree on pushing the limits…depends what the reason is. If it feels good and baby is not at risk, ok. If she does it to become famous…maybe stupid. Totally agree with Meghan that these women set examples which other women want to follow even if they don’t feel confident in these activities. And that is very dangerous.

  7. Hi Meg looks like you have lots of passionate feedback here… I might as well add mine ;). Being pregnant was one of the greatest years of my life… I can still feel it and remember everything about it.. I think I had the glow ;).

    The truth is we all have our challenges, but mine didn’t show up during pregnancy. I had lots of energy, I never had to push myself out the door, and never did a sport that I felt uncomfortable with. In fact, I did downhill ski until 9 months and my balance was finally forward where it belonged! (probably not as good now ;). Crazily enough, every time I went to yoga I hobbled out like an old women… I think my joints were too loose and stretching really seemed to bother me.

    Anyway, all I know, is that I look back on my year of pregnancy and smile. I cherished every moment as special time with me and my baby and the adventure we were always on together.

    • I appreciate your perspective, Jolene! You and I are good examples of how women can have such different experiences during pregnancy (seeing as we had babies at the same time!) It was also a wonderful experience for me, and one that I will cherish, despite any hardship. I think it is all about doing what feels good for you, and I know you are a sensible woman and wouldn’t have been skiing if you didn’t feel safe or secure. I suppose my concern with some of these ‘media sensations’ is that outdoorsy or adventurous women will have additional pressure to try to keep up those activities when it really is more likely that they will need to cut back – just by the simple physics of the matter (ie. a human growing on your front side and many other changes in the body). I think women need to lower their expectations, while still being tapped into what feels right for them. You are a wonderful example of that!

  8. I had great expectations for my pregnancy and did a lot of reading to find out what would be safe for the baby (not raising my heart rate too much and over heating for example.) In the end though, it came down to moderation. I still did what most people would consider to be big hikes, but for me, I was seriously cutting back from 30 km days to 15 km days. And I knocked height gain down from 1500 metres to maybe 900 metres. My motto was to stick with what I had been doing before I got pregnant, and just dial it back a bit. And then as I progressed in my pregnancy, I kept shortening things further until all I was doing was walking around the block at the end. I kept doing yoga though till pretty much my son popped out.

  9. I can’t help but think of women in different times and places who have had to do incredible feats during pregnancy simply because every day life was more difficult for them than for us. It is often possible to do more during pregnancy than we think, of course, perhaps like a professional athlete, those women were used to a higher level of challenge anyway. I do think that highlighting women who do extreme sports while pregnant can create unrealistic expectations. No woman should have to feel badly about herself if she needs to cut back or be on bed rest. Pregnancy is a time to let the ego rest and focus on having a healthy baby, whatever that means for a particular woman.

  10. Hello There,

    Interesting post indeed.

    This thread reminds me the story it has been in Europe when back in 88, Alison Hargreaves soloed the North Face of Eiger being 6 months pregnant.

    As a man living in the French Alps (Yes Meghan, you’re read there ;o),
    I see often women doing amazing things and really pushing it and that’s great.

    But when I see a pregnant woman hiking or climbing in the mountains,
    I really feel unconfortable and that makes me think to someone from my family.

    This family member was 5 months pregnant, was hiking gently around 7000 ft with her husband, and to keep it short and avoid the details, she miscarried of her first child there, far from any rescue team.

    The guilt she felt related to this event never left her.

    So yes, of course exercising is a good thing for a pregnant woman, blood oxygenation and all, but saying “I know what I can do or not” sounds kinda odd to me. Because at the end, the body only decides.

    Not even mentionning that if something does go wrong,
    will the mother be able to live with the guilt?

    So as Michelle said: “Everyone should find something which helps their bodies to move during pregnancy BUT it should always be with an eye to the babies health, not ego claims”….

    Best Wishes

    Ivan

    • Thank you for your contribution, Ivan, and for tuning in from the French Alps! While it is difficult to talk about these scenarios (if something goes wrong) I think that many pregnant women have this front-of-mind. While many factors are out of our control I know of some women who cut back (myself included) because they didn’t want to feel responsible should anything have happened. For me personally, my body wouldn’t have let me do it anyway. I’m not sure if your family member can attribute the miscarriage to her hiking with absolute certainty, but it would be very difficult to escape the guilt surrounding that incident.

      Hargreaves is an interesting subject, and one that has been talked about a lot since her death on K2, leaving two small children behind. I think she is an example of ‘the exception’. I remember talking to Hilaree O’Neill about climbing Everest with two small kids at home. She told me that all was well and good, unless she died, in which case the press wouldn’t have looked upon her too favourably as a mother.

      Something I’m realizing through this discussion is that I think it’s a bit silly how much I obsessed with wanting to keep up my more strenuous activities while pregnant. While I’m all for enabling women to keep up hiking, biking, and skiing (and other activities like it) while they are pregnant, and proudly support companies, like Mountain Mama, that allow women to do those thing, I think we just need to remember the little human growing inside of us, and what is most important.

      • Alison Hargreaves story is so sad, and it has been a shame to see the best UK mountain climber of that time treated that way after her death.
        Not even talking, like you said with Katherine, about the difference of treatement between parents climbing.
        Great Father, bad mother.
        It’s so sick.

        Like the Levellers sang in one of their songs:
        “There’s only one way of life, and that’s your own, your own, your own.”

    • Interesting thoughts on fatherhood. A couple of years back 3 of my co-workers died in an avalanche near Stevens Pass, WA. It was a high risk day but they went out anyway to show an outdoor writer some amazing out of bounds runs. At least two of them were fathers. Around here they tend to be lauded for dying while doing what they loved. Would people be saying that if they had been mothers?

      • A very good question, Katherine. I remember that incident and am sorry to hear that you knew them. I don’t want people to give up adventure but taking risks as parents is a grey area (and one that I have explored a fair amount here on adventurousparents.com). I do believe there is some inequality in how women and men are viewed in terms of risk taking in the mountains. A big can of worms!!

  11. I appreciate your post. I, too, am sick of these articles. In general, I am sick of the current value that my general social circles put on being “hardcore” or “bada@#” in general. Maybe it is just my bias with social media, but so much seems to be people wanting to be known as “hardcore” so doing hardcore things. I just want people to do what they want to do, and to celebrate all the things we do, without as much judgement or social value put on it. And that goes for pregnant women. You want to run up to you give birth? Great. I did too, until I went for a run in my first trimester and came home and started bleeding profusely, not stopping for 24 hours. All was fine when I went to the dr., but I can tell you all the fun of running was gone!! I did other things, sometimes hanging out on the couch, sometimes not. But I wish there was a way to share stories about what can be done, and what is done, without seeming to place such value on the extreme versions of it. I wish a pregnant woman’s actions didn’t seem to be under such a microscope–yet I appreciate hearing the stories of what happened to other people, as there is a lack of exposure and voices out there, it seems. Blogs seem to be a much better source of exposure and information to me, than more official articles, which tend towards the more sensational voice more often.

    I love that women can, and do, do so many things. I love that we are heading out into areas (many which are strength and endurance related) that were often not the realm of women for a long time, and especially not during pregnancy. But there is no more value in me hiking 10 miles in my third trimester than another woman knitting a sweater during hers. There is no more value in me taking my kiddo on a hike than staying home and cooking dinner with him, or showing him how to paint, or having a dance party in the living room. Right now my general culture (ie, my peers/social circles/media sources etc, not ALL people) seems very focused on fitness and exercise, and while it’s all well and good, there are so many things out there to do, and I wish the balance, and the breadth of it all were more celebrated.

    That’s more of a soapbox than I intended; I hope it made sense! I’m glad some women push the limits, and for sure I’m glad that people who’s initial reactions are “You can’t do ____” are getting more exposure to what can be done. But somehow I wish I could have it all, and have all the stories get out there. Like, no doubt, the women who do extraordinary feats during pregnancy that include working multiple jobs, finding their own food and lodging when the don’t have the money for it, and who don’t have time for exercise or worrying about being hardcore.

    • Thanks for sharing, Dani! One thing I particularly appreciate that you pointed out is that we seem to praise women who do extraordinary physical feats while pregnant, but forget about women like my sister who are writing their PhDs or running a business, etc. Or the women in other parts of the world who are working the fields and raising 5 children on no income because they don’t have access to birth control. It’s not to say that anyone is better, but instead, as you mention, to make other women aware of what is possible during pregnancy (positive or negative). It’s just as important to point out the full spectrum -from the women who take a medical leave early from work, who end up on bed rest, who have an entirely ‘normal’ pregnancy or who climb The Eiger at 6 months. It’s nice to talk about these things, because on the surface we’re expected to say that everything is wonderful and exciting.

  12. My thoughts:
    Depends on the woman but for the one article, Kayaking while pregnant, I would have been more surprised if Emily stopped kayaking then continued. I think she’s an exception in the sense that most women don’t kayak at the level or the amount that she does. I whitewater kayak and reading that article didn’t make me think I could kayak while pregnant. I know my body, my limits, so I stopped. Although there are many other activities I hope to continue to do while pregnant. If I post it on social media it’s not because I want attention but because I like to use Instagram/twitter as an online photo album to store my photos. Depending how active I stay while pregnant I may do a blog post about it only because I know how many posts I have read about the topic and I may be of help to someone and if not it’s a good way to remember my pregnancy.
    So I think that these articles are both exemplary and exceptional because not all women can kayak or climb as hard as some of those ladies. I personally prefer the realistic blogs whether that’s someone saying they tried to continue but stopped. Or did it right up til labour. Or didn’t do it at all.
    That’s my two cents 🙂
    Great conversation topic.

    • Thanks for contributing! I think you’re right – it could be a bit of both (exemplary and exceptional). The point for me was to not apply any negative terms to this, but to provide readers with two different lines of thinking. Our culture tends to sensationalize these things, which can be a danger (being the mother of a little girl now I’m hyper aware of the unrealistic expectations that our society places on women!).

      It’s nice to want to be of help to others, and write about what you did while you were pregnant to encourage other women not to confine themselves to what our mainstream healthcare system says. I did, and I continue to (that’s what adventurousparents.com is all about). I suppose I just started to get concerned about the effect of too much emphasis on the ‘exceptional’.

  13. This was an amazing post and I have loved reading everyone’s comments. I really don’t have a lot to add that is new. I chose not to do the most high-risk sport that I engage in (Kiteboarding) during my two pregnancies, as I am an older mama and simply did not want to take the risk of having a bad fall. That was my choice- but I know other kiteboarders who chose differently and I don’t judge them. (They were probably much better than me!!! 😉 Even if they weren’t, I still respect that it was their choice. I most appreciate the candor of everyone’s comments and the fact that there seems to be a common thread among them: let the woman choose what makes her feel best- both physically and mentally. Let’s not judge others or hold ourselves up to and ideal that truly doesn’t exist anyway. =)

    • Thanks for contributing, Suzanne. It is interesting to see the common threads emerging in these discussions. I like how the original post is just a starting point – I almost need to go back and rewrite it with all this amazing feedback!

  14. I both agree and disagree with stories of “extreme” pregnant athletes being shared. On one hand I completely agree that it can set up new moms for unrealistic expectations. My experience was probably not too far off from your own in that I was unable to do as much as I had anticipated I would be able to. Did that suck? Yup. I wondered for a while if everyone’s body hurt as much as mine did and if so, how they suffered through it? That was what motivated me to blog about my experience and honestly share what I was able to do (which wasn’t much by the end). Some of my favourite stories to read on pregnancy are often the honest ones 🙂

    BUT I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying that “extreme” pregnant athletic feats shouldn’t be publicized. Would I want all coverage of risky activities toned down as they’re unrealistic for the general population? Not really. I do enjoy many of those films at the Banff Film Fest 🙂

    I suppose my take on this is that there needs to be moderation. Yes it’s nice to hear about women who can ski, climb, etc all the way to the end, but I think women also need to share the “regular” stories of pregnancy. Often we’re not exposed to pregnancy until we’re in that boat so we need realistic expectations to come from somwhere!

    Thanks for inspiring the thoughtful conversation!

    • I suppose we can’t blame certain media outlets for what they do best: get people talking about content, which is exactly what we’re doing now. My main goal with this article was to debunk the myth that is is even feasible for the majority of women to keep up that level of activity during pregnancy. As surgeonlady says below – it’s not always a choice. Here’s to women feeling great about doing what they can to give birth to a healthy baby. 🙂

  15. I cycled through pregnancy including easy mountain biking. It was important to me when EVERY SINGLE THING in my life was changing to hold onto a bit of “me”. On the other hand I had to stop running around week 14 as it felt uncomfortable.
    The fact that Paula Radcliffe ran a 40min 10k with a noticeable bump didn’t make me feel bad because I can easily appreciate I’m not her.
    Extremes are news or noteworthy. That’s the media and life. If women have enough love and support and self esteem we should be able to read about these exceptional examples without judging ourselves negatively or getting competitive.

  16. I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant. Up until this week I would have said I’ve had it easy. I have hiked at least 3 times a week throughout my pregnancy, road biked to work through the summer and mountain biked single-track until I was almost 7 months pregnant. I was excited to get me and my little brewing baby on my cross-country skis if we ever got snow this year in Anchorage, AK where I live.

    Today I was put on bed rest by my OB and I am devastated. I honestly feel like I’ve failed, although I know it isn’t anything I’ve done. I was congratulated for being active at every OB visit up to the point, now I’m told I can’t even take the dog for a walk. I’m sitting here mourning the loss of being able to be active. I know that now when I see these stories I will feel a twinge of envy at these women who were able to remain active. The media often treats these women as if they are simply making a choice. Not everyone has that choice.

    I applaud you for taking on this topic.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been put on bedrest. I can’t imagine how hard that is, especially because you’ve been so active up until now.

      I agree with what you said about how the media tends to treat these ‘exceptional’ women as if they had a choice. It is certainly their choice to continue these activities, but that is also because their bodies are allowing them to. I would say most don’t have that option, which is why I think it creates unattainable standards for other women.

      I hope you’ll find contentment in these last few months despite your immobility.

  17. When I as pregnant I had the worst morning sickness that no medication helped all the way till the end of my pregnancy, the day I went into labor I was still throwing up. I would have 1-3 hours in the middle of the day that I wouldn’t feel awful and during that time I would mostly recuperate and prepare myself for the long sleepless night ahead. On top of that the last three months of my pregnancy my hips started to migrate outwards and would often dislocate even while I was walking. I remember times shopping where I would have to completely freeze because I couldn’t move when my hip came out and I would be holding back tears from the pain hoping that not everyone around me was staring at me. Ughhh…. That was embarrassing when that happened haha. Anyways I tried to never complain much because I think everyone struggles in different ways, I even worked full time up to eight months and I don’t think my coworkers really new just how often I was trying to hold down puke or secretly felt like I was dying inside. Haha. I did my absolute best but in comparison to what a lot of pregnant women do I might have been called ‘lazy’. I often have got the message from media and friends that pregnant women should be able to be running and doing yoga and climbing mountains and biking. And I couldn’t, this article was really positive for me to read and I think it is a message people need to hear. Thanks so much for sharing it and sorry for going on a rant, this article just really resonated with me and my experience.

    • Thanks for sharing, Rachael. The discussion here has provided us with a real spectrum of stories, and if that is one thing it really achieved, then that is fantastic. I don’t know too many women who go into pregnancy fully knowing how awful it CAN be for the body. As much as we’re excited to be growing a little human, for some women it is a very challenging experience. And I don’t know about you, but many women are shocked when they discover this because they haven’t heard stories like yours. It’s not that we want to discourage women from going through it, nor do we want to be those people who tell the ‘horror stories’ but it’s good to at least paint a more accurate picture that not all women can keep up with strenuous activity.

  18. I admire women who are able to continue an active lifestyle during, and after pregnancy. However, I think it is important to encourage women to listen to their bodies and scale back if the pain or discomfort becomes too great.

    I stopped cycling, lifting and running by 12 weeks because it felt uncomfortable and I was so weak and rundown when I tried to workout. After 16 weeks some energy returned, so I focused on long walks and weekend hikes up to the a few days before I delivered. I do think walking regularly helped with the delivery, but I do wish I had continued weight training. During my last trimester there was some judgement from other people I would encounter on the trail, but I tried not to allow it to bother me.

    If possible, staying active is important, but if a pregnancy is difficult, women should not feel forced to be active or feel bad about not being able to exercise. Moderation is key!

    Thank you for posting this commentary, I enjoy your posts and sharing your input and experience on these topics.

    • Thanks, Bailey! I’m glad you were able to stay in tune with what your body was telling you. That is key, isn’t it? I remember totally overdoing it once because in the moment I felt OK…but we need to be careful with all those hormones in our body and how much they make things change. I developed really weak glutes on one side because I wasn’t supporting my pelvis properly through all the activity, and now I’m rehabilitating my muscles two years later. What a journey!

  19. I think being active through your pregnancy is amazing. I remained active and healthy through both of mine. I have run with women where our route circled the hospital in case that baby decided to join us mid run. But during this phase I allowed myself take the intensity down and be easier on myself mentally in regards to workouts and scheduling. I enjoyed the break and the mental shift I allowed myself to take while making my babies. My kids are 2 and 4 now and I am back to pushing myself mentally and physically. They are sleeping better, playing better and riding their bikes with me on my runs. I hope every women can enjoy their journey through pregnancy and beyond in what ever form that is for them. It is a truly amazing time.

  20. As a doula, I am seeing a common thread between the comments here and what tends to be our outlook on pregnancy and birth. What we fail to remember is that the journey to becoming a mother is cloaked in the unknown, and in unpredictability, in profound ways that most women have never experienced before becoming pregnant. Though it is counterintuitive to many women, especially those who strive to be extraordinary or exceptional, the greatest strength and power in pregnancy and mothering comes from learning to surrender. Whether that happens due to high blood pressure in early pregnancy, or when she realizes she’s not going to have time to train for a triathlon in the first year of her baby’s life, a woman’s transition to parenthood is doled out in the moments where she closes out all external influences and learns to trust herself and her body. As a mama who surfed and competed in multisport until late in my first pregnancy and who can barely eke out a downward dog during pregnancy number two, I appreciate simple honesty in women’s accounts of their pregnancy and parenting experiences. I love reading about women who continue to get out and celebrate the power of their bodies during pregnancy (and appreciated the sense of solidarity with these women when others would try to shame me for doing something that felt good to me, not dangerous), but let’s also be honest about the times that that doesn’t feel possible, or okay, or safe. In general, I think we need to shift the conversation toward trusting women and their bodies, and celebrating women making choices around pregnancy, birth and parenting that feel right for them.

    • Well said, Jessie. It’s nice to hear the perspective of a doula – of someone very close to the birthing process and transition to motherhood. I agree completely with what you have said, especially the bit about unpredictability – I think that is an important aspect for women to learn and embrace. A few have touched on it – that we can’t expect our bodies to allow us to do certain things. It’s all about doing what feels right for us, and to me, not raising any one way as better than another. Thanks for contributing!

  21. I’m a dad who spent a lot of our first pregnancy saying “are you sure you want to climb/hike/ride?”

    And from observation I think it’s as much to so with mental health as physical. My wife wanted to be sure she wasn’t about to lose her abilities. She was lead climbing till about 6 months, top roping to the end. We did a 6 hour rogaine (navigation competition) covering over 30km around the 7 month mark that really put things in perspective…
    Of course camping was much more if a challenge in the later months, and come baby number 2 it wasn’t on the agenda after the 6 month mark.

    The irony is we climb far less now than when she was pregnant and it doesn’t bother us (that much). we know we can if we want to, but we’d rather play with our kids!

    So I think the extreme mums (look at weight lifter mum!) are just showing the average people: you can still do what you want to.
    Doctors advise you keep up your typical physical routine (assuming all’s well with bub)

  22. Pingback: Finding Vitality Two Years Into Motherhood | The Adventures in Parenthood Project·

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