Baby Girl is now the size of a papaya. Doesn't that seem HUGE to you? Along the way, someone came up with the idea of a fetal fruit chart. Every week I get an email that compares Baby Girl to a certain fruit. She started out as a poppy seed. At 12 weeks, she was a kumquat. Sometime thereafter she progressed to a tomato. She's currently a papaya. Apparently she'll be in papaya range for a few weeks until one day when she becomes a honeydew melon and finally, a watermelon. Now that is downright scary.
If you think a watermelon is scary, you will appreciate the story of Nancy Hogshead-Makar who pushed out a lot more than a mere watermelon! If you grew up swimming in the 80s, then Nancy was one of your heroes. She was on two Olympic Swimming Teams, earning 3 Golds and 1 Silver in the '84 Games. She was on the U.S. National Team for 8 years, and is now a member of 11 Halls of Fame, including the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame.
Today, Nancy is a civil rights attorney who does athlete advocacy work through the Women's Sports Foundation. She focuses on athletic participation opportunities, treatment, scholarships, sexual harassment and sexual assault in athletics, and pregnancy in athletics. Just recently, Nancy was recently named a finalist for the International Olympic Committee for Woman of the Year. She is a ROCK STAR!
Nancy is the first athlete I am profiling in an ongoing series of Athlete Belly Tales - stories of women athletes and their pregnancies. I needed to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel; that our resilient bodies will bounce back. That was my hope when I conceptualized this series. The reality is so much more compelling. It literally blows my mind. So sit back and enjoy this one - it's a doozy!
Nancy's Belly Tale in her own words
Age when delivered: 38 and 43
Amount of weight gained: 35 with a singleton and 70 with twins
Describe your general fitness regimen while pregnant, paying special attention to how your fitness routine changed or did not change while pregnant:
Singleton: I fell in love with swimming as I hadn't been in love since my true competitive days.
I wasn't comfortable pregnant – my knees, feet, back all hurt. I was awkward and fell regularly. I was tired. I felt huge and my face seemed to grow right along with my belly. People asked me regularly if I was having twins.
But when I was in the water, all that changed; I was back to being svelte, strong, moving competently.
I swam at our local YMCA, and I'd waddle over to the fast lane, standing over the lane while I put on my cap and goggles. The guys in the lane would stop, look up, and give me dirty looks as I stood there, like, "you're not really going to try to swim here are you?" Then, after a few laps, they'd find a reason to stop and strike up a conversations, reversing the earlier exasperated expressions with... "HI! Soooooo, you SWIMMMMMM." What an attitude flip!
I worked out pretty hard, right up until I delivered. You've heard of women who get the "nesting instinct"? Who organize their house over and over? My husband wished! I had the "workout instinct." I got out of my last workout at 10pm and Aaron, our son, was born at 5:00am -- at home, underwater! It was awesome, and I loved every minute of the birth. I was in love with my body, my husband and his strength, and moving through the pain gave me a glimpse into the Great Motherhood.
The best advice I got before deciding on natural delivery was that birth was something your body is meant to do, that it knows more than you can ever learn, that you should "get out of the way" and trust the process. The pain (and it does hurt, even from an Olympic athlete in a sport known for its high pain-tolerance requirement) is not something to resist, but to let it put you into a semi-trance. I was grateful to hear this. At the moment of birth, a "window" opened up to the top right of the room. My soul flew threw it, and on the other side was motherhood. The mother bond. Afterwards, when the pain was gone but the endorphins were still there, I was on a high that lasted about a week. I'd like to think that my son felt extremely welcomed into the world.
Twins: When I was pregnant with the twins, I became so tired around 5 months that I had to stop exercising. When I tipped in at over 200 pounds, I called my husband with the ugly cry. He got scared thinking that there was something wrong with the girls. "No, no, they're fine... but I'm SOOOOO FAT." He laughed right at me – hard! --which made me laugh too. (He was mostly relieved.) I wouldn't look at the scale from then on, but I got up to 220 – I swear 10 pounds in my face. I was out of 9 month maternity clothes at 6 months. I had to go into a girdle to help hold up the belly at 7 months.
I went into pre-term labor at 28 weeks. My doctor was able to stop it, but it scared the bajeeses out of us. I was on bedrest from that point onward. As you can imagine, not much fun. But I would have stood on my head, eating plain tofu and raw broccoli, juggling flaming torches for months if it would have kept the girls in there where they would grow the healthiest.
As you can see from the picture taken at just 7 months, the size of my belly was astounding. I had developed polyhydramnios, which means too much water around the babies. My resting heart-rate was 110, making me sleep in short bursts all day and night. My bottom arm kept falling asleep lying on my side. I have an 8 liter lung capacity, which my doctor attributes my abilities to keep the girls in there. (predicted for my 5'10" frame would be about 4 liters.) I had to stop twice to catch my breath on a single flight of stairs after a doctor's appointment, like a basketball player would rest during a game; grabbing her shorts, hands on knees, gasping for breath. I measured 56 weeks pregnant when my water finally broke. Yes, ouch!
I consider bringing those girls into the world safely to be one of my proudest accomplishments.
Helen Clare was born naturally in the operating room, the easiest birth. My husband is surprised when I say that – my primal scream on the last push was rather scary to him – but not to me. I had screamed much much harder/ louder in some swim practices under the water. I went through the window again, and it was just as thrilling.
Our daughter Millicent was born by emergency c-section about half-hour later. She flipped after Helen Clare was born, and was now back-presenting. I have a medical condition that makes anesthesia difficult, more like 1950s-type drugs, where the groggy haze lasts 24 hours. All aspects of recovery were much slower; I was sore every way imaginable. (and you didn't ask, but if any pregnant mom reading this has the slightest bit of choice: c-section pain, nursing/ baby interference and recovery time is incomparably more difficult than natural delivery.)
The drugs took away the high I experienced with my son, and the whole process was more difficult – getting nursing started, getting rest, getting the babies out of the house and exercising for me.
Our family carries profuse appreciation for my mother, who spent 6 out of 7 nights with me the first 4 months. Now, a lot of grandmothers love their kids and grandkids, but this was a sacrifice no one could ask for; she had never spent more than a few nights away from my dad before that. But together, we were able to respond to their cries and smiles, fuss and coo over them, and gently welcome them to the world and into our family, in a way that I never would have been able to without her.
How fast did your body "bounce back" after birth? How is your post-baby body different than your pre-baby body, if at all?
Pregnancy #1 with a singleton weighing 9 pounds after daily workouts: practically overnight. I was back in my regular jeans in less than a week – my shirts were still tight from nursing for months, but that too subsided after about 6 months. My bloated face was gone in 24 hours!
Pregnancy #2 with twins weighing 8 pounds and 7 pounds, (!!) after 7 ½ weeks of bed-rest: about a year. It didn't think it would ever bounce back, especially during those first few months, but it finally did. I still have a touch of muscle separation that you can exaggerate when I do crunches – looks really weird, like a 2" cavity in my abdomen. The bones where I sit on my bike are a little wider, but other than that not much change. I love it when people ask me if I had surgery!
Other Fun Fact: And by the way, I hold the record of the most baby-weight from my high-risk OB at 15 pounds. That's right, I had more baby than the octa-mom. Not that records are important to me or anything...
NOTE: This information is not intended to be a medical guideline for pregnant women. If you are pregnant, it is recommended that you consult your physician to determine a prenatal exercise program that is right for you.