At the 500

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August 18, 2016 by 8junebugs

I’m at 20 weeks and everyone asks, but no one is more surprised than I by my answer:

How do I feel, about halfway there?

Pretty freaking awesome.

Most of the time. I mean, some days I’m tired. Some days my 3yo’s strong will grates on my last nerve before we’ve finished breakfast. (But then I get the BEST hugs and cuddles.) I have headaches sometimes and my pelvis complains occasionally if I stand up too fast. I just got about a year’s worth of split ends cut off so I can finally enjoy some glorious pregnancy hair growth.

But for the most part, I feel the way all the “What To Expect”-type advice says the average child-bearing person will probably feel in the second trimester. I have energy! (Gray would say, “enjerny.”) I like doing things! I still mostly like (most) people!

This wasn’t the case last time around. Gray’s second trimester allowed me to eat more than peanut butter sandwiches and grapes, but I was otherwise unthrilled with everything. Granted, I was ramping up for the busy season at work and we were trying to buy a house — neither of those is a factor this time.

The second most common question at this point is, “You’re still rowing? When are you going to stop?”

Rowing is responsible for my general good health, pregnant or not, as well as attitude management, so the answer is, roughly, “Yes, I am, and I’ll stop when I have to.”

Yes, it’s hella weird to feel the baby kicking and flipping around while I’m trying to get to full compression, but the baby is still smaller than a squirrel and in no danger of getting whacked with an oar handle. Yes, I sometimes get hungry halfway through practice, but the solution is 2 servings of trail mix before bedtime and an extra banana on the way to the boathouse (but sometimes I run out of trail mix because it is delicious and I should just buy two bags a week, probably). Yes, there are some things that are getting harder — the smell of the gas for the launches still bugs me, and carrying an erg on my own is fraught with peril. But that’s the thing about rowing — people aren’t kidding when they call it the ultimate team sport. EVERYONE is looking out for me, I promise, including my coach.

We’re also at the point in the year when we focus on skills, drills, and 5k aerobic fitness instead of balls-out sprint racing, which is a better fit for my increasing gravidness. And I’ve been doing this long enough to know how to modify land workouts on my own.

As well, instead of bland guidelines that haven’t advanced since we stopped forcing pregnant women to “enter their confinement,” there is actual data from one of the few studies of pregnant athletes*:

— Early study results just advocated against “physical stress.” Researchers have now learned to separate physical stress on the job from the physical stress of exercise — the effects of one are the opposite of the effects of the other. Currently, studies indicate that exercise “does not increase the incidence of either smaller-than-average babies or premature labor; and it actually may decrease the incidence of both.” The second point would be hard to prove, I imagine, but my own scans indicate that I’m not hampering this sproglet’s growth in any way.

— “Continuing regular, vigorous exercise throughout pregnancy decreases fetal fat without decreasing overall growth.” So far, this baby’s showing NO sign that he’s lacking anything he needs to develop and the “quickening” kicks feel like I’m growing an Olympic soccer star.

— Placentas in the athletes in the study who continued training through mid-pregnancy grew fully ONE-THIRD faster than those in the control group; at term, the placentas had about 15% more blood vessels and surface area.

— Relatedly, “exercising vigorously early, then stopping in the latter part of pregnancy produce[d] the biggest (8lbs, 8oz) and fattest (19%) babies of all. The reason for this appears to be that early exercise stimulates growth of the placenta. Once the woman stops exercise, this provides the baby with a marked increase in the available calories and nutrients, which stimulates continued growth.” Because, duh, exercise or no, you’re not dieting in that last trimester, and your high-functioning placenta ain’t gonna dial it back, either.

— “It appears that lots of weight-bearing exercise right until term does increase a woman’s chances of delivering shortly before her due date by 50%.” This doesn’t mean premature labor and delivery — this benefit kicked in only after 37 weeks.

— Caveat: This is not a rowing-based study. No one studies rowers except other rowers. Study participants included runners and weight lifters, mostly — there was a side focus on the impact of the foot strike and the weight amounts. But rowing provides the benefit of both of those sports without any of the impact. So.

Listen, I’m not actively trying to initiate early labor. But if you were a woman whose first child went to 42.5 weeks (and still had to be forcibly evicted) and clocked in at 8lbs, 12oz, you might consider training as long as you could manage it.

My intended final water practice is October 1; I’ve encouraged Coach to boot me sooner if I’m in the way in the run up to Wine Country or if he sees changes in my form that open me up to injury. (I’d stick around to cox, but sitting crunched in the stern is actually less comfortable than rowing; plus, making the team haul me around the Estuary seems mean.) Once I’m off the water, I’ll keep to my practice schedule but stick to the erg and the treadmill.

This may all backfire on me, anyway. At my first scan, this boy measured 4 days ahead of “schedule”; by the second scan, he was 11 days bigger than expected. If the bit about the higher-functioning placenta holds true, then I’m shooting myself in the foot no matter how long I train. They’ve already pushed my due date up to 1/5, and the doctor who delivered Grayson (and somehow remembers it) is strongly recommending that I schedule a c-section because there’s just no way this kid comes out smaller than his brother.

I’m not opposed to a c-section. My concerns are all about recovery. It’ll be easier without the 39 hours of labor first, certainly, but my body seems to require a ridiculous amount of anesthesia, the after-effect of which leaves me full of mostly impotent rage. On the other hand, scheduling a c-section makes it a lot easier to plan…

Enh. We’ll see. I’ve got 20 weeks left to decide.

But so far, so good!

Grayson is starting to get used to the idea of a teeny tiny baby brother. He pulls up my shirt and yells, “HELLO IN THERE!” He loves his new “Hello Baby” book, which is written from the point of view of a new big brother. And he will tell you that we will have a baby “after Christmas,” but he’s still pretty curious about just how the baby’s going to get out.

 

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*It’s a blog and I’m not doing APA. All findings are from Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by Catherine Cram.

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