Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Late Pregnancy Workout

When should you stop working out if you are pregnant?  Since labor and delivery is a very intense physical event, I would say it is smart to continue working out up until the end if possible, to keep your stamina up (one exception being if you are told by your practitioner to rest, of course :) ). Even a couple weeks of skipping workouts can have a big effect on your stamina.  However, I do think that workouts can and should look a bit different towards the end of pregnancy than at other times.

About midway through my pregnancy, I decided to plan to start tapering my work outs starting around 36 weeks.  Even a couple weeks before that mark, I pretty much had to make them easier because I simply did not have the energy I previously did.  Around that time, I also came across a number of stretches that I started to incorporate in my workout (normally I spend little to no time during a workout stretching).  It worked out well because the stretches provided for more downtime during the workout, but were also productive towards my goal of getting my body ready for birth.

My last workout (which was actually just about 6 hours before I went into labor) I remember thinking to myself, "How long can I keep up exercising?! I just wanna quit!".  I was battling so much fatigue that workouts were feeling like a huge chore (normally I enjoy them).  I decided that night that I would keep up my 3 day a week workout schedule, knowing that I would be happy in the end that I was consistent with getting my body ready for delivery.  Little did I know that would be my very last workout before little man came!

I wanted to share with you a sample of the type of workout I was doing towards the end of my pregnancy.  As I have mentioned before, I am not a medical professional, and this might not be the right workout for you, so talk to your medical professional.  Certainly, I would not advocate starting this kind of workout if you haven't worked out your whole pregnancy and are now at the 8th or 9th month.  However, this could be a jumping off point for you if you need some inspiration and have already done similar workouts in your pregnancy so far.  If you are looking to learn more, these are some resources that helped my refine my workouts towards the end of pregnancy: here are 3 exercises recommended for a strong birth and here are recommended daily stretches to help the body prepare for birth.  Overall, this is similar to what I normally do for a workout, but it has more stretches, focuses more on core and cardio (almost no strength component) and avoids core exercises that put too much strain on the rectus abdominus, which can encourage the formation of diastasis recti (a split in the ab muscles that is common in pregnant women which can lead to a host of other health issues).

'Stretching for pregnant women' photo (c) 2012, A Healthier Michigan - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Pelvic rocking feels amazing on an achy back!
My Sample Late-Pregnancy Workout (I started this around 34 or 35 weeks)
This workout involved some equipment you might not have at home (I was working out at a gym), but can be modified for a home-based workout.  This workout took me almost an hour to do, with more rest times between sets than I normally take

10 fast walk on the treadmill

Wall sits (60 sec), side planks (45 sec each side), bridge (60 sec), pelvic rocking [aka pelvic tilts] (60 sec) - repeat 3 times

Lunges with weights (20 reps), squats with weights (15 reps),  transverse tightening (20 reps) - repeat 3 times

Leg adductor machine (10 reps with a heavy weight), air squats (20 reps) - repeat 3 times

Jump rope (90 jumps), side planks (30 sec ea side), psoas release (60-90 seconds) - repeat 4 times

8 minutes on the Stairmaster, moderately fast pace (According to my personal trainer certified hubby, the stairmaster is one of the best workouts for your body.  I can attest its also easily one of the hardest!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Thoughts on a Hospital Birth, Revisited

After Esther was born, I wrote out some of the positives and negatives that I took away from having from a hospital birth.  Now that we've experienced a second birth at a second hospital, I want to revisit the subject.

Once again, because of insurance purposes, we went with a hospital birth because it was significantly less expensive than a home birth.  A birthing center wasn't an option this time, as there are no birthing centers in our town.  In the past few months, I have been told by many people that our local hospital is very natural birth friendly, and that it is even a certified Baby-Friendly hospital, a distinguished designation that stems from a UNICEF/WHO initiative to encourage/support breastfeeding from the moment a baby is born.  This certification requires a lot of training for hospital staff and often involves big changes in standard hospital procedures, so very few maternity wards in America are certified Baby-Friendly.

Even hearing these good things about the hospital, and having a midwife that I really like, I figured my experience would be pretty similar to our last one.  Boy, was I wrong.  In a good way.

I can easily say that I loved the hospital birth experience this time around.  I actually can't even think of a single negative thing to say about it.

As soon as we walked into the hospital, it felt very different.  I couldn't believe how nice my labor and delivery room was: a huge window looking out over the town, homey feeling wooden cabinets and very well kept.  It barely felt like the sterile hospital environment our previous hospital, it felt like a place I wanted to be. It helps that the birth was relatively easy and that I had better support this time, not only from doulas, but also from the nurses.  At the other hospital I delivered at, I didn't feel like the nurses were 100% supportive of my choice to give birth naturally, but this time I felt completely comfortable with my choice.  While I was in labor they only did electronic fetal monitoring for some of the contractions, and didn't require that I be hooked up the whole time.

After the birth, I didn't have any bleeding-out-over-the-whole-floor-while-attempting-to-go-to-the-bathroom-issues, not only because I learned my lesson but because the nurse actually (nicely) told me this time to call her for help the first two times I needed to go.  They didn't tell me this last time, which makes me realize that they were really neglecting some of their duties in caring for me.

I also appreciated that they did immediate skin to skin contact and waited a long time to do his weight and such (probably an hour or so after he was born, though I don't remember exactly).  At our last hospital they did encourage skin to skin right after birth, but it was probably only for 10 minutes or so before they want to weigh and measure her. 

Once again, I enjoyed the up/down bed and meals being provided and care from the nurses. The food wasn't much better this time around, but I can't imagine that any hospital has great food.  All of my post-partum nurses were incredibly nice, always asking if I needed anything more, but not being overbearing in any way.  I got the sense from each one of them that they really loved their job and were eager to do whatever needed to be done.  Another positive that I mentioned last time that proved true again was the immediate medical care for the baby.  With Esther, we benefited from a quick diagnosis of her congenital hypothyroidism.  This time it was the fact that they detected a dangerously low temp in Hudson a few hours after birth and were able to treat it immediately.  We ended up staying an extra day in the hospital to keep an eye on him, but everything was fine after they treated it.

This hospital had a rooming-in policy (our previous hospital had a nursery), so we were only separated from Hudson for a few hours in the whole 2 1/2 days we spent there.  Almost all of his vital signs check ups and medical procedures were done in the room where we stayed.  When his ped came to check up on him, he also came to the room, so I was able to ask him questions and feel involved with Hudson's care.  I loved the rooming in, and didn't find it overwhelming for him to be with us the whole time like I thought I might feel.

Looking over what I wrote about my last birth, every single thing from the "con" list was better this time around: I wasn't forced to get an IV and we didn't feel pressure to get eye goop (we did refuse Vit K at first time around, but after speaking with our ped and doing more research we changed our minds and decided to get it).  Driving to the hospital and knowing when to leave wasn't really an issue since it is 1 mile away on the same street we live.  Though all hospitals are quite germy, this one at least felt more clean and homey, so I didn't think about MRSA and the other megabugs that hospitals tend to harbor.  In fact, on our second morning there, when our ped asked us to stay another 24 hours for monitoring little man's temp, I was actually happy that he talked me into another day of up/down bed luxury, hot moderately warm meals and a bathroom 3 feet from my bedside.

So will we do a hospital birth again next time?  I don't know.  It depends on a number of factors, part of which is what kind of insurance we have next time around (we are looking into getting Samaritan Ministries, which covers home births at 100%).  But I do know that I really enjoyed our hospital birth experience this time and would definitely be open to it again, especially as long as we are still living here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Our Cloth Napkins: Before and After

One thing I did manage to accomplish before Hudson's slightly-earlier-than-expected birth: making a new set of cloth napkins!

For months now, we have been wiping our mouths with these rags well-used napkins:

Believe it or not these are just a few years old!  But between kiddos and a few kitchen mishaps, they have seen better days.

I did some research and decided on a double-sided napkin: one side made of quilter's flannel (soft and absorbent for wiping your mouth, dark to hide stains) and the other side regular cotton print (for the aesthetic appeal of the napkin).  I just have to point out that I am very utilitatian, so the fact that these napkins (literally) have an aesthetic side and functional side is quite a bit of progress in my homemaking. :)

I was originally going to make two sets of napkins: 10"x10" kid's napkins and 16"x16" adult napkins.  After I made the kids napkins, I felt that 10"x10" was plenty big enough for adults, so I made all the napkins that size.  Which also meant that we ended up with 36 napkins because I had bought enough material for bigger napkins.  Oh well, hopefully they will last us for years!

The green napkins with multi-colored polka dots were originally meant to be the kids napkins but now they just seem out of place amidst the other prints since they are the same size as the other napkins.  I might use these for a different purpose, like burp cloths or something.

This project took way longer than I expected (probably about 2 weeks worth of sewing for most afternoons) but I am happy with the result!