October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. We wanted to honour the moms and families that have lost their loves with a story from a very special guest, my friend, Ashley.
When I first met Ashley we talked about the emotional turmoil of this experience. In every aspect of life. If you’ve been through a loss, no doubt you can understand this.
There was another piece to the story for Ashley (and so many other moms I speak with, too). It was the return to physical activity after giving birth to her son just shy of 22 weeks.
Was she ‘pregnant enough’? Was she ‘postpartum enough’? Did the guidelines apply to her? How long should she allow her body to heal?
I’ll talk more about this at the end, but for now, here is Ashley’s story.
As a Certified Exercise Physiologist, Integrative Health Coach and physical activity advocate, you can imagine that I both value and lead an active lifestyle.
In September of last year when I found out we were expecting our first child in June, I immediately went to the experts to find out how I could maintain the strength, peace of mind, stress reduction and enjoyment that I was getting from my favourite activities while pregnant.
This is one area that I knew very little about.
Other than, there are a lot of health benefits for baby and for mama and that you shouldn’t increase the intensity or duration of your current activity levels, I was oblivious to the actual approach for prenatal exercise.
The first three months went smoothly. I continued to go to indoor cycling and yoga. I kept running and circuit training and was feeling strong.
In my second trimester, I started adapting for my changing body and doing more targeted exercises to help prepare for labour and to maintain strength for the months to come. All the while planning the nursery, reading about parenting, and preparing for the little blessing that was on his/her way.
This is where the story takes a turn.
Our sweet little boy wasn’t doing very well and instead of celebrating the flip on the calendar from 21 to 22 weeks gestation we met our little angel. Way too soon.
For those of you that have experienced infant loss at any stage or if you have been the support for someone who has, you know how hard it is to put into words the heartache and devastation when it happens.
I never expected to leave the labor and delivery ward empty handed, heart broken and yet with a sense of awe for the abundant love of our son.
I won’t get into the details of infant loss other than to thank the incredible people that provide support in these situations. What a blessing you provide in such a sad time.
What does this have to do with exercise?
As we were packing up to leave the hospital they reminded me that the 13 hours of labour and months of pregnancy was going to take some time to recover from and that I should refrain from physical activity for 4-6 weeks.
WHAT! Ah! Still in a fog at this point I agreed and we left.
Three days later, my parents and husband were downstairs in our house doing their morning workouts and I decided to join them, choosing to ignore the advice I had been given a few short days before.
I took to my yoga mat, did a few sun salutations and pulled through for a back bend/upward facing dog. As this was happening I could feel a burning sensation and pull through my abdominals. This wasn’t right.
I stopped and went upstairs feeling frustrated, sore, and upset.
At this point I had to surrender to the fact that I was going to have to treat my physical and emotional healing with a completely different mindset.
I had likely underestimated just how many physical changes had taken place and at that moment I knew healing in all aspects was going to take time.
So, I walked. And walked and walked and walked.
It was a sunny February and we took full advantage of that. My husband registered for an ultra marathon (I knew better than to join him…plus, I’m not crazy, ha!) and he and my friends greatly supported me in incrementally adding back activities that I love, when my body (and heart) were ready for them.
My lessons in all of this, and hopefully what I can leave you with is:
A). Not everyone (actually, very few people) are pre/post natal exercise specialists. Find one who is and tell your friends about him or her. There is a good chance anyone who says “get your body back quickly” or “avoid specific foods for fast results” are not experts. Avoid them at all cost.
B). As we continue to work to decrease the stigma around infant loss, let’s add into the conversation the need for physical healing and start finding ways to support women who’s bodies have changed but they are uncomfortable talking about what they need.
C). Lastly, love! Love each other, your kids, your body – as it is! Just love. Love is the greatest gift of all and experiencing the loss of our son has greatly reminded me if that.
To strength at all stages….
Ashley Fox is a passionate wellness coach, physical activity advocate and health promoter. She holds a Bachelor of Kinesiology degree in Mind Sciences and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and an Integrative Health Coach.
Ashley assists people to take action towards their optimal well-being and in creating healthy environments in which to live, work and play.
To contact Ashley send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re a mama experiencing pregnancy or infant loss, my heart is with you. Please do take your time to rest, recover, and rehab.
Your body and mind deserve it.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need any support.