The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy
By Vicki Iovine
I have always thought of pregnancy as divine permission not to exercise. For that reason, this chapter is even more opinionated than the others. It will focus on some exercises that you have never even dreamed about, and it will fly in the face of all the current notions that a woman should be able to grow a baby and run a marathon simultaneously. It's my book and it's my opinion, so there! Don't get me wrong: I am not anti-exercise. In fact, I am quite keen on doing all sorts of fitness activities. When I am not pregnant, I jog, I lift weights, and I engage in whatever other fad is popular in my neighborhood, from kickboxing to pole dancing. But I am a firm believer in the maxim IF YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING WELL, GIVE IT AS MUCH ATTENTION AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN. In other words, you are trying to grow a healthy baby without also sustaining too much damage to yourself, and that deserves all the attention you can give it. Working, taking care of your other kids, and doing all the other things that constitute living your life will be distractions enough (especially when you are lugging around an extra thirty or forty pounds). If you find yourself with extra time on your hands, like my Girlfriend Shannon, who is an actress and who was unable to work once her pregnancy started showing, spend it needlepointing a Christmas stocking, organizing your photo albums, or creating new playlists for labor and delivery on your iPod. I guarantee you that you will never have time to do those things again once the baby is born.
I can just feel the controversy that will arise over these statements. Doctors, fitness gurus, and women who successfully exercised throughout their pregnancies are going to come looking for me, their water bottles poised for combat. I feel so strongly about this that I am willing to take them on. I realize that a large number of you will want to dismiss me outright, especially if you are newly pregnant. That's all right, but read this chapter anyway, if only for the enjoyment of trashing me afterward. You might just see things my way in the end.
1. You will Be Too Tired
If the brain-numbing fatigue of early pregnancy has already struck you, then I don't need to go any further. You already know what it is like to sit on the side of your bed to tie your shoes and wake up two hours later. You have already made your peace with missing the rest of the season of Lost and have promised yourself you will catch up during summer reruns or buy the DVD. You have already humiliated yourself by falling asleep during a staff meeting and awakening so suddenly and awkwardly that you nearly fell off your chair and spilled a colleague's coffee.
If you are like the rest of us during our first pregnancies, you keep telling yourself that as soon as the first three months are over, you will get back to that class that promises to build your core. Like the rest of us, you will quietly be disturbed that you are such a weakling that you let a simple thing like pregnancy get in the way of your supreme fitness. You will be certain that other women-who do pregnancy better than you-are up at dawn for a quick five-mile sprint, instead of vomiting and then eating an entire pecan loaf for breakfast. Here is the news, Girlfriend: Even those jocky girls, the ones who were born with lean, muscular legs and lungs the size of all outdoors, tend to get soft and squishy during pregnancy. If they don't, then they are either in the microscopic minority, or they are depriving their babies and themselves of extremely valuable nutrition and rest. Besides, who wants to cuddle a mommy whose body is all sharp and pointy?
Here is a novel concept for the twenty-first century: If your body is tired, you should listen to it and rest. I am the last one to judge anyone poorly for being an activity addict in the nonpregnant state, but I sound the alarm when you have a human being growing in your abdomen. Think about it. From one little egg that you have had in your body since you were born, and one little sperm that your mate manufactured on the spur of the moment, you are expected to create an entire person. I'm talking arms, legs, heart, lungs, eyelashes, and your uncle Harry's big ears. If you don't think that can be tiring, then you are a pretty invincible woman, and not someone I yearn to spend much time with. The Girlfriends' recommendation is that you sleep whenever you possibly can during your pregnancy. You will not know this freedom again for several years.
2. You Won't Look Like Yourself in the Harsh Gym Mirrors
At some point right around the three-month mark, you will probably begin to get your energy back. Not only will you get your old energy back, but you may actually feel more energetic than before you were pregnant. I call this the Wonder Woman Trimester. You probably aren't nauseous anymore. You may have regained your interest in sex (and then some, judging from the Girlfriends' reports). And you may consider taking up where you left off on the exercise regimen.
On your way out of your bedroom you catch a glimpse of yourself in your exercise attire. You do a double take. "Who is that squishy being, anyway?" Then you realize that the "squishy being" is you, and you run frantically to your bed to lie down before you faint. Even when you've sufficiently recovered to get to the gym, you may not be in the mood for the bad lighting that makes you look sallow, your eyes look baggy, and your cellulite visible through your Lycra pants.
Let's be brutally frank here. Everyone knows that skintight exercise clothes are primarily intended to show off our bodies. The manufacturers might insist that sleek Lycra is the most aerodynamic exercise fabric, and they might be right. But for the vast majority of us who haven't sprinted fifty meters since junior high school, aerodynamics are not all that crucial. We wear all that tight, stretchy stuff because we think we look good in it.
These sleek, little outfits take on a whole new identity when they are stuffed with pregnant breasts, pregnant bellies, pregnant thighs, and pregnant knees, and topped off by pregnant arms. If you don't take my word for it, rent yourself one of those home videos of exercise programs for pregnant women. I don't mean to be nasty, but the women in these videos look swollen and uncomfortable. And those are the women who looked good enough to volunteer to be on TV in their little, striped leotards in the first place! Those of us who would get dressed in absolute darkness to avoid having to inspect ourselves would rather have natural childbirth than have anyone see us in spandex at this point.
I have seen some die-hard pregnant women in the gym with their mate's T-shirt over their exercise clothes to camouflage things, and those who continue to wear their sexy workout clothes rolled under and over their curves, but I am one of those who would rather just sulk and stop exercising.
3. You Will Get Fat Anyway
I don't know about you, but I exercise in a constant effort to lose those last five pounds or to keep my derriere from resting on the backs of my thighs. Talk to me all you want to about endorphins, about restored energy, about cardiovascular fitness. I maintain that if we could all look like Kate Moss if we only lived on Red Bull and Marlboro Lights, all of the gyms in this country would close overnight, replaced by more 7-Elevens and ashtrays.