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Getting outside during a hard pregnancy

With my first pregnancy I was the poster child of an active pregnant woman. I recall tele-skiing, hiking, climbing, biking and exercising right up until I gave birth at 41 weeks. I still had leg muscles.  It was fabulous.

I followed a similar course with my second pregnancy.  It was harder to stay active while also taking care of a 2 year old, but I managed to do pretty good until I hit 32 weeks. At that time I started showing signs of pre-term labor and was put on bed rest until my second son was born at 38 weeks.

Then there was this pregnancy…

I spent the first 24 weeks feeling incredibly nauseous; all food sounded terrible and I didn’t sleep well. Consequently there was not a lot of extra energy to go around. I tried to keep exercising a few times a week, as exercise was the only thing that helped with my nausea, but most days it took what little energy I had just to take care of my kids.

When I finally got over the nausea, I had two really great weeks.  I celebrated with an awesome November bike ride. Alas, at 26 weeks I (again) started showing signs of pre-term labor. I was put on “low mobility”. This means walking at a snail’s pace, and as infrequently as possible.  No hiking, no biking, no jogging, no cavorting, no anything vigorous, exciting, or otherwise resembling ‘fun’.  I felt like I’d been grounded for bad behavior.

At 31 weeks I went into labor.  They put me in a bed in the hospital with instructions not to move a muscle, this turned out to be pretty easy considering they pumped me full of horrible anti-contraction medicines that turned off all muscle control.  I spent four days staring at a ceiling that I couldn’t make focus, willing my baby not to make an early appearance.  When they finally sent me home it was with instructions for full bed rest.  They weren’t kidding.  I tried to drive to Kinko’s and almost went into labor in the parking lot.  Thankfully, and by holding very still for seven weeks, Viv made it to 38 weeks.

Did I want to have an active pregnancy?  Most definitely!  Did I go insane with all that bed rest?  Completely!  It was incredibly hard.  I’d planned to be pregnant during the winter since winter sports are my least favorite.  I’d planned to give birth a month before kayaking season was in full swing.  Imagine my dismay when Mother Nature opted for a snow-free winter (i.e. year-round mountain biking weather, and a short early kayak season).  Knowing the joy I was missing out on REALLY didn’t help.

I truly believe that staying active during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby.  But no matter how much some of us WANT to have an active pregnancy, it’s just not always a reality.

The thing is, being outdoors is vital to my sanity, so I had to make some modifications. I thought I’d share a few tips from my coping strategy on the off chance that other outside moms encounter a similar situation.

1. Get a hammock
Bed rest is actually borderline enjoyable when you HAVE to lay around outside. On second thought I take that back, “enjoyable” is not really the right word… but you get my point. Aside from having a hammock in the yard there were days when Joe would come home from work, pack up the hammock, the kids… and me, and we’d head out into the hills. I’d lay in the hammock while he explored with the kids. Just being outside made me feel infinetly more sane.

2. Take a 50 foot saunter
When I was on low mobility the kids and I would head off down our favorite trail until we found the closest place to play. We often stopped at a big dirt pile just off the trail about 50 feet from the trailhead. The kids would play on that hill for hours while I propped myself up next to a boulder and watched them, while also enjoying a little sun on my face.

3. Live vicariously through others
I was actually pretty content being a shuttle bunny. I’d drop Ari and Joe off at the top of a trailhead with their Mt.Bike set-up, then find a place to park along the trail, pull out my chair, and then Isaac and I would throw rocks in the creek and wait for them to pass. Likewise watching kayakers at the kayak park was a great substitute for the real thing. I also didn’t mind shutteling friends and family to and from adventures I couldn’t attend.

4. Park your chair by a window
Bed rest meant I could also lounge in my lazy boy, so I parked it where I would stare out the window. Since it was the end of winter I kept tabs on when certain species of birds came back from their winter quarters, monitered the blossums, the polinators, my wind chime etc. Nerd? Maybe.

5. Modify your adventures
I don’t know if you saw, or remember my post last Valentines Day about our van party. There was a reason for this. I couldn’t walk very far, so instead of staying home with no festivities we had a party in our van parked in the closest national forest. It worked, I recall those simple little adventures being a high point for all of us.

6. Make sure your kids get out
If me AND my kids were stuck sitting around that would have been a pretty bad combo. This is where your spouse, friends or family come in handy. My kids still got to take walks and do some outside exploring with their Dad. Sometimes I’d stay home, but a lot of the time I’d go and just recline in the van with a good book, my coat and beanie on and the windows rolled down.

The kids also got full reign of the backyard. I’d send them outside and they’d have the hose on in the middle of winter. I didn’t care as long as they were getting out, and I think they enjoyed their lawless backyard time.

7. Take a drive
I felt like my Grandparents on several occassions. Sometimes we’d take a drive just to be taking a drive. We wouldn’t go far, in fact our favorite spot was a series of cow fields owned by the University. We’d drive the fields looking for birds, marmotts, rabbits and deer. Not something I’d normally enjoy, but it did my mental stability good.

8. Remember that there is an end
I had to keep reminding myself that  I was not terminally pregnant. I knew there was an end in sight, and that before I knew it I would be back to my active self. Turns out I was right…

If you’ve been through a hard pregnancy, what was your coping strategy? How did you still sneak in that vital outside time?

13 Comments so far

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  1. Oh boy – what a great post that I can totally (sadly) relate to! I think I am STILL recuperating from 6 weeks of bed rest (which was really just no activity) 11 months later. I. went. insane.
    Oh what we do for our children! Great tips – next pregnancy I am using our hammock – why did I not think of that?!?!? And yes, I CONSTANTLY have to remind myself that this too shall pass….(and another pregnancy wouldn’t go on forever either!) Honestly, I don’t have any other tips because I didn’t cope very well at all – it was 6 weeks of pity party! HA! Lesson learned! I am bookmarking this :)
    Oh BUT Mountain Mama: Expecting Adventure clothing at least makes me a LITTLE excited for being pregnant again (eventually) – even if I am wearing the clothing and DREAMING about long hikes 33 weeks pregnant! :) Thanks, Lindsey!

    • Amelia – Thanks for the comment. Sadly I’m happy to know that other outside moms have had to suffer through this… although I hope you never have too again. And trust me, there were plenty of pity parties! There’s a reason this post is coming out AFTER the pregnancy is over. I tried to write this post a month or two ago and it came our sorta… bitter. It’s always easier to look at these types of things in hindsight. But the occasional pity party with lots of candy does serve it’s purpose too ;)

  2. Hi Lindsey — I found your post very poignant. I reflect often on those who can’t enjoy the blessing of being close to Nature every day. There are ways, though, and you’ve discovered many of them. Like wonder itself, one’s appreciation of Nature is often more about attitude than anything else. I applaud your glass-half-full outlook!

    • Jeffery – Thanks for your comment. Yes, during this pregnancy I finally got why people are such big advocated of ‘urban outdoors’. Those types of spaces are so much more accessible to people with disabilities. Good learning experience! And I have to admit, my glass was not always half full, there were days… oh there were days… :)

  3. Jessica

    How funny,I could’ve written the first paragraph of your article word for word with my first pregnancy except I went 42 weeks! But still hiked about 25 miles a week in those last ones because that is what everyone said to do. “Go walk, you’ll go into labor then!” Ha. :)
    Oh how different this second pregnancy has been. I’m at full term right now and waiting (super impatiently, I might add) for my little guy to make his way into the world so I can start reminding him that my rather uncomfortable pregnancy with him caused me to miss every bit of the snowiest winter that Anchorage has had on record since the 70′s or something crazy like that. This winter-sport-addicted mama didn’t get to drop a single knee in bounds or out this winter and as you can tell, with no newborn cuddly baby to snuggle with yet, I’m still bitter about that. :) Hopefully, time will heal all wounds and I won’t hold it against him for life but I can completely empathize with your article in the little ways you still managed to get out in the great outdoors.

    • Jessica, Oh no!! We should have been commiserating this whole time! Hahaa. I’m sorry. I too hope, for your sake and the babies, that this kid shows up soon!

      And yes, I tried to hike my first child out as well… it’s a crock, it didn’t really work, I think they just tell you that to give you a way to harness your anxiousness ;).

  4. Thank you for covering this topic, Lindsey. I have not yet gone through pregnancy and it was helpful to hear that although we outdoorsy women might want to stay active, sometimes it is just not realistic. But you have provided some really great tips that are so simple but likely major life-savers. Just because you’ve been told to rest doesn’t mean you have to say good bye to the sun and fresh air! I especially liked how you mentioned that you made sure your kids still got out. Even if you can’t do everything with them, it is still important to encourage that outdoor activity! I appreciate being able to check into websites like yours to learn a thing or two about being an active, outdoorsy mom. Thanks for this thorough post and for being so ‘real’ about things.

    • Meghan, Thanks so much for your comment! You hit the nail on the head when you said “Just because you’ve been told to rest doesn’t mean you have to say good bye to the sun and fresh air!” I like that! But I hope that when/if you find yourself pregnant that you can take the active route ;).

  5. [...] Because I couldn’t have an active pregnancy I wanted to interview someone who would know a thing or two about active pregnant women. I decided to ask Teresa Delfin. Not only is she my twitter friend, but she’s also the founder of Mountain Mama Maternity, a clothing company for women who want to maintain their outdoor lifestyle despite their growing bellies. I knew she was the perfect person to ask. [...]

  6. [...] tail bone). With my third I was back on the bike by five weeks (small natural tear). After a rough pregnancy I was anxious to get out. I judged my ‘readiness’ by the amount of discomfort I felt, [...]

  7. [...] For now, let’s welcome Lindsey from Outside Mom! During her first pregnancy she was “the poster child of an active pregnant woman.” She kept skiing, hiking, biking and climbing until 41 weeks. Her second pregnancy was harder, but generally the same. She was put on bed rest only near the end. But her third…well…I’ll let her share the story! (Originally posted here.) [...]

  8. [...] has been through a lot of adjustments in the past year. I went from a low mobility pregnancy, to bed rest, to giving birth, to having a new baby, to dealing with postpartum anxiety, to moving out of state, [...]

  9. [...] “I felt like I’d been grounded for bad behavior,” she wrote in one of her posts, Getting Outside During a Hard Pregnancy.  Photo courtesy Lindsey [...]

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    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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