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Accepting physical limitations while pregnant

I feel naive saying this, but somehow, I underestimated how physically tough pregnancy would be. I wasn’t under the illusion that my life wasn’t going to change—I was mentally prepared to make lifestyle changes—but I guess I saw pregnant people going about their daily lives and activities as normal, and I took it for granted that I would be able to do the same.

Don’t even get me started on Instagram. There are so many posts of women going hard at the gym right up until their due dates. I thought that would be me!

Midway through my 2nd trimester, just walking my dog around the neighborhood is beyond my abilities. To catch my breath midway through a walk, I literally had to lay down by the side of the road, because the whole “leaning forward, hands-on-knees” move only made it harder to breathe. I thought I might not make it home! Even trying to take it easy, I still get winded doing ordinary things like checking the mail or pushing a grocery cart. The bathroom at the barn is up a small hill—such a slight incline that I never even noticed it before—but now, if I need to use the bathroom at the barn (which is inevitable, considering I have to go every 10 minutes), I have to give myself a pep talk and even sometimes take a break just to get there.

This all started out of nowhere. Before this week, I was walking 5 miles a day and lifting weights 3 days a week. My OB was understanding enough to order a full work up. I thought surely I’d be anemic or have silent COVID or something… but no, I’m perfectly healthy. There’s no explanation for my sudden physical limitations besides “that’s pregnancy.”

It’s hard not to feel depressed. Especially because it does seem like so many other pregnant people are perfectly active and energetic, going on hikes, runs, even riding. I have a family trip coming up in May and I’m ashamed I won’t be able to keep up with the group. I feel so fat and pathetic. Really struggling, to say the least, and wondering how others have come to terms with this feeling.

I remember feeling this way after knee surgery, too, though that was over ten years ago. I’m just not very good at coping with physical limitations. It makes me feel like they should just do whatever’s the New England equivalent of putting me on an ice berg and sending me out to sea.

Just wait until the baby is here…

Sorry, not helpful!

But some words of encouragement-- pregnancy is different for everyone. I went through something similar to what you are experiencing, especially in my third trimester. It seemed like all my friends were working out, riding, going to concerts… and all of a sudden I couldn’t even bend over to buckle my horses’ blanket straps without needing to rest. I bought tickets to a concert happening at week 37. I had asked a bunch of women if I should or shouldn’t do it and they all told me I’d feel great. Ha. Hahahaha. I didn’t have the energy to go.

There is nothing wrong with you. You are not fat and pathetic. You are a perfectly normal and healthy person whose body is being pushed to a max growing another human.

Take care of yourself!

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Growing a human is hard work. Let’s face it, only women are strong enough to do it. Baby position and how you carry can dramatically impact your experience. Try not to compare yourself to anyone else. Your experience is uniquely yours.

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When I got pregnant, I was sure I would be cycling throughout the pregnancy. I was riding long distance at the time. Ha! I tried to do a short ride near home, and couldn’t do it. I parked my bike for the duration.

Growing a human is definitely hard work. I remember being exhausted before I even knew for sure I was pregnant. I’d been doing all the right things because this was a planned pregnancy, not drinking, eating right, etc. We went boating right around the time I tested positive, and I had trouble walking up the boat ramp to go get the car.

I don’t think people who exercise hard in the gym or running while far along in pregnancy are doing themselves or their babies any favors. There’s so many additional stresses on the body, even early on, that pushing that hard is not a good idea.

Enjoy the rest of your pregnancy, give yourself permission to rest when you need to, and don’t worry about what other people do.

Rebecca

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I’m not, and never have been pregnant, so can’t speak to that specifically, BUT, 4.5 weeks ago I had a hip replacement, and like you, while I understood, logically, that life would be different for a while, hard at first, I was NOT prepared for the reality of it. I was not prepared for how exhausting it would be to lie in the recliner with ice in, get up every hour to pee and walk for 10 minutes, rinse and repeat, having hubby do ALL the things with the cats and horses, and many of my meals and water, for that first week.

Day 5 I really struggled, between lack of sleep, and total frustration at not being able to do ANY of the things I was used to doing

And in a FB group for all this, one for active people, I was seeing people who were walking without even a cane on Day 3, sleeping like the dead, no pain, and yes, it was incredibly frustrating and depressing even knowing they are not me and I’m not the next person

Healing is an energy-suck, and so is growing a human. I don’t know the size if your kiddo now, but at some point, they get big enough, and are growing fast enough, even if that’s grapefruit-sized, so take a lot your energy.

Make sure you’re eating well, and enough. And drinking enough water - even light dehydration can really do a number on your energy.

And hugs! You’re not alone in suddenly being limited. Do what you can, take the time it takes to do the required things, rest, and you’ve got this :slight_smile:

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I have nothing but empathy for you! This has been so hard and makes me worried for the distant future. It seems like some people cope so much better with being limited and needing help. Even as children, for example, I think some kids are better at being dependent and going with the flow, acquiescing to their caretakers and ceding control. Well, I was the worst at that. My mother’s been telling me all about it, how even as a literal infant I didn’t want help with anything. I feel like I haven’t changed to this day. I hate being limited and confined and dependent. I was bad as it as a kid and I’m bound to be bad at it the older I get. I hope I age like my grandmother, who is still mowing her grass and doing light farming, living alone, and will be 90 this year.

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I also want to add that my mother in law is a yoga teacher, 60 and in great physical shape, avid hiker, and had a hip replacement last year from which she’s still recovering. She hasn’t been able to practice yoga, as she can only do the prescribed exercises from her PT (which emphasize strength over flexibility, so quite a lot of yoga is off the table because of all the stretching involved). She hasn’t been able to keep up with her long walks. I remember at my SIL’s wedding last summer, we had to drop her off just outside the venue because she wasn’t even able to walk from where we’d need to park. That’s when I realized how badly off she is (she never complains), because she’s someone who ordinarily wouldn’t bat an eye at a 10 mile hike on rocky ground. I know she’s doing better now and is certainly in much less pain than before the surgery, but she’s had to take it very slow. I’m sure it’s been frustrating for her, and I probably haven’t been as empathetic as I should have been!

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Give yourself some grace.

I thought I would ride and run throughout my pregnancy. I couldn’t do either past 14/20 weeks respectively. I was tired all the time. My pelvis felt like it was being broken in half. I was moody and felt fat. I was swollen and puffy. Got less and less sleep.

I found a prenatal yoga instructor that helped a lot with the pelvic pain. And her classes were slow paced but still worked on pain points. Really recommend if you can find one. I also did the spin bike, for like 15 minutes at a time. I went from running half marathons, riding all the time, walking, hiking to very little exercise. So while I was one of those women who was still technically exercising, you never know what their original base line was.

Remember it’s temporary and try to enjoy the excuse to lay back and relax more often. It’s damn hard work growing a human. It will make you stronger in the long run.

My kiddo just turned two this past weekend and I have my very first marathon this Saturday. You will get back and realize that it was such a short period of your life. Try to embrace this season for what it is.

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I agree. I don’t say that from a place of judgement. But sometimes, especially on social media, there is a movement of toxic positivity. The whole, “our bodies are amazing, you can do anything you put your mind to, look at how I’m pushing myself despite being pregnant” garbage being spewed with good intentions. It’s not a matter of putting your mind to it; physical limitations are very real.

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Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s hard not to view it as an indictment of my physical fitness or mental toughness — and to be honest, I think when people don’t struggle the same way, they do tend to assume there is something you’re doing wrong or different that they were smart/strong/disciplined enough not to do.

That’s part of why I’m dreading an upcoming family trip. My cousin was 6 months’ pregnant when we took this similar annual trip last year and was able to join us on a long, mostly vertical hike. She’s a competitive person who means well, but I can already hear the comments and feel the judgment if I can’t operate at the same level.

The one thing I appreciate about this side of the family, at least, is that they do NOT as a rule comment on weight or body size. That’s more my dad’s family’s purview — and it’s a reason I will be avoiding them throughout the 3rd trimester (already declined a baby shower this June and that’s honestly the #1 reason).

It’s petty but I’ve also realized the drive to keep fit and exercise vigorously is largely driven by anxiety/self-disgust over weight gain. I didn’t realize I had so much baggage related to body image and weight until this experience. My dad called me recently and I told him I hadn’t been feeling well and needed to take a break from my exercise routine. Immediately, he started spitballing all these exercise classes I could try instead of walking/running, said he would buy me a peloton, and was like, “You don’t want to let yourself get out of shape. That’s the worst thing you could do.” Which, frankly, was the last thing I needed to hear in that moment. It dredged up all these memories of comments he made about my mom’s appearance and fitness after having kids, how she let herself go, and I realized that’s most likely why I have such a complex about it.

I’m trying to cut myself more slack, accept that I’m going to gain weight, that I’m going to have a “mom bod” for a while whether I can continue exercising through pregnancy or not, and that being fit and pleasant to look at isn’t a prerequisite for having any value in society. Kind of think I deeply internalized that last one, and that my despondency over not being able to exercise might be a case of orthorexia — not just rational disappointment over some new physical challenges.

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I can honestly relate so, so much to everything you’re saying. I used pregnancy and postpartum to unpack a LOT of body image issues. I’m still not perfect, but I am so much more comfortable in my skin, my food choices, and accepting myself than I was before. I put in a lot of work. It was not easy.

My FIL made a comment in my 3rd trimester about how big my cheeks had gotten and I cried the whole way home. My MIL talked about how she only had ice cream twice when she was pregnant. Lots and lots of comments like that that I had to unpack and deal with on my own. It’s a reflection of them, and not you. You are 100% correct that your physical form is the least valuable thing you have to offer.

I don’t know if you listen to podcasts or have instagram but I recommend diet.culture.rebel She’s where I started when I was pregnant.

If it makes you feel any better, I am only 5’2" and gained a full 60lbs when I was pregnant. I also lost a lot/all of it over the next year without any crazy diet or exercise. Just slowly rehabbing my body and getting back into my regular activities. I haven’t weighed myself in a long time at this point, but I am happy most days. Which is a lot more than I could say before.

Your body is telling you what it needs. Listen to it, love it, respect it. (I know all easier said than done.)

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It is so hard for a formerly very active person to adjust to life at a crawl. I was a long distance cyclist but developed rheumatoid arthritis when I was 38, when my daughter was very young. I stayed active to the best of my ability, but I’ve lost ground steadily and added more medical conditions. Two years ago, when my kidneys failed, I needed a walker to cross a room. It’s hard to accept that kind of beat down. I got back some mobility, but haven’t been able to handle being in a store for many years due to RA. At least I can move around at home now without any devices.

The best part of your situation is that it has a known time limit. The best advice I can suggest is to enjoy your pregnancy, enjoy taking it slow fo a change, and try to cherish this huge change that is building inside you. I felt being pregnant was fascinating and I enjoyed all of it, even with the inevitable small problems that crop up.

Rebecca

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Very well said!

Rebecca

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My dad was horribly judgemental about weight. He was a formerly very heavy person who took off a lot of weight after a quintuple bypass. He got much smarter about what he ate and got obsessive about running. He was always a jerk, so now he had something else to use as a weapon. I felt very beaten over the head by his attitude. I did my best to ignore it, but parents can always push our buttons like no one else in our lives.

In spite of my disability, I get out on my bike every day, as it’s the only way to preserve what mobility I do have. I don’t go super far (only five miles) and certainly not fast, but I enjoy it. After you deliver and recover, you can get back to making movement part of every day.

When my daughter was born, I was able to be home with her for three months due to maternity leave and saved vacation. I took her out in the stroller every day and walked for miles. I lived in Pasadena and always loved the old town area, so that’s where we went. I got my previous level of fitness back pretty fast. The biggest benefit was that she would only nap when we were moving when she was a newborn, so I got a nice break that way.

Rebecca

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I’m sorry, it has to be said…your dad sounds like a total a$$hole. I’m so sorry you grew up around that.

If he can’t keep his comments about weight and women, especially those who are GROWING AN ENTIRE HUMAN, he shouldn’t be able to see you…or the baby.

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Ugh and I’m sorry about YOUR dad’s toxic behavior too!

There should be mandatory screening and education classes for these types, especially when they raise daughters!!!

Kidding…sort of…

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Well, he’s been gone since 2012. He wasn’t in my life for the last ten years of his life, because he just pushed me too far. I talked to him several times when I found out he had inoperable cancer, but it was still very uncomfortable. I was bumming around Europe at the time, so I didn’t see him before he died. I don’t regret it.

Rebecca

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@dogsbody1,

I found this graphic really helpful in understanding what was happening to me during pregnancy:

image

The organ displacement can be different depending on your conformation. I am very short waisted, so I spent the third trimester with my daughter’s feet under my floating ribs. I suspect what you’re experiencing is the baby pressing on your diaphragm, making it harder to take a full breath, leading to you being easily fatigued.

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Thankfully it was just my father-in-law. My father would never say that to me!

Nobody should EVER comment on someone else’s body as it grows another entire human.

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I am sorry to say I was one of " those women"! What I couldn’t do in my 2nd & 3rd pregnancies ( like in my 1st) was ride very long. It all depends on how you are carrying the baby.

It has been a long time since I delivered my last but I would encourage you to continue to do small spurts of activity. Don’t wear yourself out but continue to be as active as you can.

You may find that you get a second wind later in pregnancy. No matter what at least you know this is a temporary condition!

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