Flying through pregnancy - An aerialists encounter.
"How did you know you were ready for pregnancy?"
Something I've been asked numerous times in the past 10 months.
Well, whilst my pregnancy was very much planned... I don't think I will ever be ready to be pregnant!
Ready to raise a child? Yes... I think (hope!) so.
Ready to hand complete control of my body over for 10 months, plus postpartum recovery time? Nope... I don't think that' something any female, professional athlete can ever prepare themselves for (unless they’re retired?).
Many aerialists from the around the world have contacted me during my pregnancy for advice, support, or just a chat, as they have found out they too are expecting. So I thought I'd share a brief insight in to my pregnancy journey so far with you. I'm writing this today at 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant. My baby boy is due tomorrow!
Before I go any further, I just want to make it really clear that in no way am I suggesting that you approach your pregnancy in the exact same way I have. We are all vastly different, every body and pregnancy is different. What works for some, may not work (or be safe) for others. So please, make sure you are consulting your GP/Obs/Midwife to ensure you're being safe in your approach to training etc. as your pregnancy progresses. I have been a professional aerialist for 15 years, that's almost 50% of my life. Being in the air, and training the way I do, is second nature for my body... Which is why I was able to continue my training for longer than most may be able to. I’ll also make note that you may well not agree with all (or any!) of my views and opinions. And that’s ok too. Because remember, these are just my opinions, based on my personal experience.
OK... So here goes.
I found out I was pregnant on September 13th, 2015... The day before my birthday, what a fabulous birthday present! The night before, I had performed duo cube with my aerial partner, Jade, and was complaining that my boobs just weren't quite fitting in my costume properly, and I felt a little bloated and tubby... Surprise!
1st trimester was tough, I suffered from morning sickness (which should be called "All Day Sickness"!) for the whole time. Hormones ran wild, I can barely eat anything other than carbs and crackers, and I was a complete mess on several occasions. My body started to soften noticeably from around 10 weeks.
This was all happening while still performing, coaching, training AND desperately trying to hide my now D cup boobs (normally barely an A!) in my costumes and training gear. On more than one occasion I finished coaching or a corporate gig only to run outside just in time to puke in the car park before anyone saw me... Yup, classy as F**k, right?!
Of course no one besides my immediate family and closest friends new anything about the tiny human inside me, until we shared the news at around 14 weeks!
I was SO excited when my morning sickness started to clear around 15 weeks! Finally, I could eat somewhat normally again and train without wanting to throw up and pass out! I continued to perform until I was almost 5 months. With no real sign of a baby bump, I was now DD cup boobs, but sadly my abs were well and truly MIA!
My last night of shows was emotional, as I started to think "What if that's it for me? What if I can't come back from this and I never perform again?” I'm not ready to be done with performing yet!
At about 5.5 months I started experiencing horrendous pain in the front of my pelvis and down the inner side of my right thigh, I found out not long after that the pain was due to SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction). Many aerialists, dancers, pole dancers etc suffer from it, potentially due to already being flexible, prior to the hormone relaxin taking hold of our bodies. Basically the ligaments that normally keep your pelvic bone aligned, become too relaxed and stretchy too soon during pregnancy. Making the pelvic joint unstable and leading to a lot of pain and discomfort. Feels somewhat like your lady bits are going to split in half, right down the middle! (And here I was thinking I had at least another 5 months to get used to the idea of that happening!) This was really upsetting for me, as I'd just started to get my energy back to train, and now felt like I could barely do anything without extreme pain. Some days I couldn't even walk properly without a limp. My osteopath referred me to an amazing physio who specialises in treating pregnant woman and has also been dealing with elite athletes for more than 20 years. What a god send she was! The first thing she did, upon confirming it was SPD, was write a list of all the training I COULD continue to do without making the problem worse... YAY! Most medical professionals will tell you "You should just rest and take it easy." Say what?! Resting makes me anxious, training is my stress relief. I was just past half way through my pregnancy, in no way was I ready to rest and take it easy! This physio had a chat to me about my life and history and said "Please do not stop training" Music to my ears!
We also discussed my ab separation (Distasis Recti), which at that point was about 2 fingers wide. And worked out what was safe to continue with, to ensure it didn't become worse than necessary!
Here's some examples of the training I could do, and have continued with for the remainder of my pregnancy:
• Swimming: 2-2.5km, twice a week
• Long power walks: Once or twice a day, with my puppies and hubby
• Silks Climbs: A few times a week, just to keep my inner aerialist content!
• Chin Ups: A few times a week, 5-7 a set unassisted, for 3 sets. Once I reached 35 weeks I switched to 3 sets of 10 reps (assisted with a BIG strength band), as my weight was increasing rapidly. And the strain on my abs was getting a bit much.
• Gym Sessions: 2-3 times a week consisting of 30-45 mins cross trainer/cardio plus a small circuit including a variety of squats, push ups, leg press etc
Things I had to steer clear of:
• Walking up steep heels or on really uneven terrain
• Splits & most flexibility training
• I was inverting and playing on silks and Lyra until just after my maternity shoot at 33 weeks. Following this I could physically still aerial invert confidently... However I refrained from it to protect my abs from further separation
When time really slows down!
Everyone else will tell you how quickly your pregnancy has flown by at this stage... Ahhhhhhh for them maybe?!
I was doing ok until about 32 weeks. After that I was done. I wanted my body back. I wanted my physicality and functionality back. And I REALLY wanted my darn ass and thighs to stop growing at such a rapid rate!
It wasn't until I was past 7 months that I moved out of the awkward "I've had one too many good feeds" phase... Into people being able to easily identify that I was actually pregnant.
Apparently my abs weren’t giving up the fight, and were keeping my little man nice and compact in there!
I didn't buy any maternity clothes. Although I did have to regularly invest in a whole lot of new crop tops! And some longer shirts to cover the gradually growing bump.
I thought to myself that once I got to around 36-37 weeks, I would pull back on my training and take it easy until Bub was ready to come meet us. But that idea quickly bored me!
I did stop going to the gym at 37 weeks, as my morning sickness had sporadically come back... And I didn't think a heavily pregnant woman racing to the bathroom to puke, was a very good look for the other gym goers to witness!
I swam my last 2km two days ago, and continue to walk my dogs twice a day, whilst I try and be patient and await the arrival of my little man!
At this point I think I've gained about 16kg. I was 70kg prior to falling pregnant, so seeing the scales reach almost 90kg is not nice. But I know it' only temporary.
Have I enjoyed pregnancy? HELL NO!
And I've copped a whole tonne of shit, for expressing this in public. But you know what? This is my opinion, and my journey.
Here are some of the notable things I've had people throw at me in the last 10 months:
• Numerous people have told me I'm ungrateful and I should "embrace" my new "goddess like body". What the actual F**K?! Since when was a goddess swollen, bloated, covered in fat and cellulite, and waddling around, unable to move with normal function? Not my idea of a goddess! • Apparently pregnancy is a “miracle", and "magical" experience etc etc...
Well, maybe if I was a virgin, then yes, it would be a miracle. However, I am actually well aware of how this happened (and I won't go into details!). Not to metnion woman were biologically created to reproduce.
Yes, I understand not all women can conceive naturally, and therefore refer to their pregnancy as a miracle, which is totally understandable. But bear in mind I am referring to MY situation personally here.
As for the magical part, I assure you there has been zero unicorn’s flying over rainbows and farting glitter, throughout the last 10 months!
• "You're Glowing!" Come on people, the Gold Coast summer decided to last ALL through Autumn this year... That "glow" you see? It's heat stroke!
• "Eat what you want, you're pregnant!" Great! And when I'm no longer pregnant, I'd much rather just lose the baby weight I've put on. As opposed to that and an extra 20kg from sitting on my ass, being glutinous and unhealthy the whole time, for no good reason! Not what I or my growing baby needs!
• "Once he's here you will realise your purpose in life".
THIS I find so insulting! I already have a purpose in life. Several of them as a matter of fact, and I don't believe my "purpose" in life was purely to breed! I am a performer, a business owner, a mentor, a coach, a motivator, a wife, a daughter, a sister... Need I go on?
Basically, the way I see it is, just because I haven't enjoyed anything about pregnancy doesn't make me ungrateful. It doesn't make me a bad person. And it won't make me a bad mother. It just makes me honest!
I am an athlete. Having my body taken over, beyond my control, is by far one of the most traumatising experiences I have encountered.
Am I excited to meet my little boy and start the challenge of parenthood with my amazing husband? ABSOLUTELY!
However, I didn't fall pregnant, to be pregnant! I did so because I have always wanted my own, biological child, and I cannot wait to be a mummy. I also cannot wait to get back into training, and kick my own butt back to the fitness and strength I miss so much!
If you're currently pregnant or planning your pregnancy, my best advice is to go with what feels right for you and make sure your GP/Obs/Midwife understands you and your capabilities.
I was really hesitant of continuing my training and performing when I first fell pregnant. But you just have to be sensible about it and listen to your body. You'll be amazed at how much you can continue to do, whilst growing a little human at the same time!
Please feel free to comment below with any questions. And if you’d like to follow my journey into motherhood and postpartum training, follow me on Instagram! (You'll also find a tonne of my pregnancy training videos and pics there!)
For more detailed info on my training through pregnancy and beyond, stay tuned for my "Flying through Pregnancy" e-book!
I'm off to go meet my little son now... I'll be back with a postpartum training update for you, as soon as my body recovers from birth!
Happy Flying, Aerial Addicts!!!
Follow Rony on Instagram, for updates on Baby Elisara's arrival! IG: @rony_aerial_artistry