… the first bit aside, of course, which was a tragi-comedy of 24hr nausea, fatigue and wanting to punch people. I remember “morning sickness” being shit, but this felt, well, cruel. Lots of laying on the floor and allowing my son to watch back to back Shaun the Sheep while I felt sorry for myself, licking my desperately cracked lips (that will happen when you can’t stomach liquid in any form: cute!), and fantasising about sleep.
I’d sneak off to buy McDonalds (full dirty coke, cheeso or nuggs, fries and a hash brown on the side, since you asked), because it was the only food – and I use the term loosely – I could stomach. This from a woman who had spent 2016 living a low-FODMAP, gluten, lactose and fructose-free life of baked fish, eggs, arrogant earnestness, and DIY bulletproof coffee. The shame.
The spell broke around week 17 when a Poke place popped up near home, and I ordered a big, around bowl of veges, tofu and rice. And a drink! It felt incredible to be eating food from, yknow, the ground, again.
DID YOU KNOW!! The reason salad, veges, eggs and meat repulse you when you have morning sickness is for a reason! Our primal brains instinctively understand that bacteria resides on plants and in protein, (e.g: salmonella in chicken, toxins or bugs on greenery), so the body rejects them in order to keep the foetus safe from poison or sickness. Choose safe old cheese toasties and Saladas instead, it’s saying. “Can do!” we respond, with very little say in the matter.
Anyway. I eat normally now. (All low-FODMAP considerations are void under advice from my GP but I’m still lactose free because lactose makes my guts rough-as)… Oh, except for my ALL-ENCOMPASSING DESIRE FOR CARBS AND SUGAR. Jesus. It’s intense. And since I dodged gestational diabetes this time, (woo!) self-control has been a bit of a struggle. And by struggle I mean: Easter.
*Also on the list of preggo shit they don’t tell you about is that your eyesight can buckle because of hormonal changes. My right eye went blurry (long-sightedness, it turns out) in the second trimester, and after two weeks of assuming it was just fatigue or a scratch I had an eye-test. I now have to wear glasses whenever I look at a screen. (ALL DAY.) Oh, also I have had at least nine cold sores since I discovered I was pregnant, three bad colds, and many UTIs. Naaaw, thanks, low immunity! You’re the best!
PREGNANCY THE SECOND TIME.
You’re better at it round two. You know stuff. You don’t panic about every weird twinge. You don’t ‘eat for two’, cos you know that’s a filthy trick. You’re busy with your first-born, can’t remember how many weeks you are, and forget you need to set up a room or buy clothes for the incoming child.
And should you have had any debilitating pelvic/pubic/back issues last time, well, you do all that you can to avoid that. You really, really do.
See, my first pregnancy was a bit shit; that’s why I am writing this post: I don’t want any other pregnant women (or men, no discrimination here) to end up like that.
The full post is here. (Lots of useful stuff in the comments, also.) In a nutshell, what started as some spicy, achey hip/groin/pubic pain from week 24, was deemed pelvic girdle pain, or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD), which is common when you’re gestating. But mine developed into a fractured pubis, and then osteitis pubis, eventuating in crutches at week 31 until birth.
I expected the pain to fuck right off once I’d released the human in my uterus, but post-partum the pain was even worse: I couldn’t walk for longer than 10 minutes, and it took many exercises, much frustration, two years (and about a million dollars) of osteopathy, pilates and myotherapy to heal my pubis, and get my glutes, core, and pelvis presley strong again.
But I had no idea pelvic stuff was even A Thing! I assumed pregnancy was all cute dresses and insufferable bump-caressing. People warn you about flatulence and swollen ankles, but no one tells you pelvic pain is A Thing. GUYS: IT’S A THING.
In my obliviousness I did zero exercise or strengthening, and had no treatment. Even the g-damn physio who put me on crutches didn’t recommend getting treatment. It blows my tiny mind. Other regrettable stuff I did:
- I‘d walk and walk (at the park, or choosing cot sheets at Baby Bunting) until it became too painful, because I‘d heard walking was good in pregnancy (It really is NOT if you have pelvic issues)
- I did guided weekly pilates on one of those big, weird torture looking devices with a disappointing physio who offered no advice or treatment on my pain other than to give me a print out on how to stand and sit correctly with SPD
- I did nothing to help my body- no glute-strengthening, no active stretching, no core work, minimal pelvic floor work, no foam rolling, nothing. I had no idea that I was supposed to. And judging by the amount of emails and comments I get from pregnant women in pain and desperate to know how I got it sorted so they can do the same, I’m not alone.
And this is what really grinds my gears: pelvic pain is possible, even probable when you’re pregnant, but it is totally manageable with professional treatment and the right exercises. Yet so many pregnant women don’t seem to know this. And I reckon someone – their GP, their obstetrician, their PT, their chiro, their sister, Margery from two doors down – needs to tell them. (Cue ol’ nosypants Fosters: your friendly, unsolicited advice monger.)
I live in inner Melbourne, have access to Google, and still had trouble finding people to help me. I went to a physio-pilates joint that specialises in pregnancy for months and they entirely missed the problem… So what the hell do women in Mudgee and Marulan do?
Annnnyway. Leading up to and during this pregnancy I did All The Right Things, optimistic I could sidestep the drama and pain. Alas, the pubic pain is back. But! It’s okay: it’s not osteitis pubis, or instability, and my glutes and core are strong. It’s just classic preggo SPD which my Osteopath is treating, and which she assures me is both transient and normal.
Some days are 7/10 pain, some are 3/10, and some days are pain-free. Sitting down is the worst, which is a real turd when you write for a profession, (this post has taken friggen weeks, one chunk at a time) or want to binge on Veep/Fargo/Survivor at night, or catch a plane, but overall I’m fine. No limping. No tears. No kicking tyres. I know which exercises, or active stretching and release will help when I get tight and sore, or to book a massage/extra Osteo treatment, or run a big ol’ Epsomy bath if things are really painful after doing errands for an two hours in cute but non-supportive shoes. (Idiot.)
PILATES. DO PILATES.
You’ve heard it a million times, but sweet golden cheeses will pilates help in pregnancy. I do pre-natal pilates with Candice Kino, director of pre and post-natal pilates at Studio PP in South Yarra, twice a week. PP is where I have religiously done reformer pilates studio since mid-2015, and where I have regained a shitload of strength and mobility. Stuff you want when you’re up duff.
Some pregnancy exercise tips and loving warnings from Candice:
NOTE: Always seek medical advice if unsure. Don’t exercise if your doctor has recommended you not to, you dingus!
1. Strengthen your deep core
Focus on strengthening your deep core muscles (esp the pelvic floor) with APPROPRIATE exercises. These muscles will support you through pregnancy, minimising pelvic instability/pain and low back pain, and help deliver your baby. I highly recommend investing in a private session or pregnancy-specific exercise class with a pre-natal qualified instructor – even if it’s only once – to help you learn about your deep core and pelvic floor muscles and how to strengthen them effectively.
2. Focus on good posture
Sit, stand and walk tall! You need a strong back and glutes! Strengthening your hamstrings and glutes will help support your pelvis and pelvic floor muscles. Increasing your mid-back strength will also support your deep core and get you strong for lifting the baby. (My all-day job is to lift up my pelvic floor (not squeeze, lift)… zip up my lower belly… lengthen through the torso and up through the top of the head. For posture, strength, and, of course, BIRTHING SUPERPOWER.)
3. Avoid coning
This is when you see bulging down the middle of your belly because your deep core muscles aren’t able to support you in an exercise or movement. (I see it when I try to get out of bed quickly, instead of all the rolling to the side palaver – Zo.) Coning can increase the occurrence and the severity of Diastasis Recti (separation of the abdominal muscles). SO AVOID CRUNCHES AFTER THE FIRST TRIMESTER! This includes getting up from your back when in bed; instead roll to your side to get up. Your exercises should change or be modified as you progress through your pregnancy. NOTE: Appropriate exercises can be different for each woman and each pregnancy. See a trainer who is qualified to give advice for exercise throughout your pregnancy.
4. Listen to your body
If it doesn’t feel good, DON’T DO IT! You should feel better after a workout. (I always do, even though I CBF most of the time. A lot of it is analgesic. – Zo.) If you don’t, you need to modify or change your workout. There are numerous benefits for both mum and bub to exercise appropriately during pregnancy and it’s never too late to start – even if you are in your third trimester.
GET AN OSTEO.
I see a body-fixing wizard Osteopath named Daniela Aiello at Bulleen Osteopathy (Melbourne). She began helping me at 6-weeks post-partum, when I was in world of pain, and I have seen her at least monthly since.
As the pregnancy heats up, (“boob sweat”) and things get sexy (“snoring, waddling, panting”) I see Dan weekly, or more if my pubis is being bitchy. Osteo is magical. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, I don’t think anyone knows, it may be a government secret, but it involves muscular and structural release and relief, and I cannot believe I did a whole pregnancy with out it. No friggen wonder my pubis got so fucked up. Anyway. FIND A GOOD OSTEO, is my loudest and caps lockiest piece of pregnancy health. They’re everywhere now. Get one who understands the pregnant body.
I asked Daniela, at gunpoint, to write some stuff for me about pre-natal Osteo:
“Your body will go through tremendous change during pregnancy. With these changes it is unfortunately very common for women to experience musculoskeletal pain, but they do not always seek treatment.
Just because pain is common, it doesn’t mean it is normal. There is help available! By understanding the hormonal and physical changes that are occurring during pregnancy, your Osteopath may provide you with much needed relief. My aim is to assist women in the natural process of pregnancy by using appropriate treatment techniques to restore motion and reduce muscle tension, thereby maximising the ability to cope with the physical changes that occur with a growing baby.
When your body is stronger, you tend to cope a lot better with the physical changes of pregnancy. As part of your treatment, we can also advise you on pelvic floor and other specific exercises to strengthen your body. We can also advise you on particular activities* to avoid during pregnancy.
*She’s not kidding. She will text me if she sees me sitting in an unstable position on Instagram.
I’M AN UNASHAMED TEACHER’S PET
Candice and Daniela give me strengthening stuff to do at home: clams, leg raises, squat pulses, Theraband stuff, pelvic-floor breathing, and lots of foam-rolling, fit ball stretching, cat-cows, and spiky ball release stuff. In the past, if you had told me to exercise daily, for fitness, or weight-loss, or some form of glorious #fitspo physique, I would have tapered off after about four days. But since I know what happen if I don’t do these exercises, I don’t miss a day. I expect some form or medal to arrive in the mail any day now.
I take magnesium powder every day, and have a magnesium spray I use at night on sore bits, and go through a tonne of Epsom Salts. Magnesium is the preggos’ best friend.
BE A SMART PREGGO
Pregnancy is unforgiving, relentless work. This is not a time to play martyr or hero. Ask your partner for a foot rub every night, with no guilt. Have a rest when you can. (Now I’m in the third trimester, Daniela’s rule is 20 minutes on one activity or in one position, then change. It’s a real P in the A but I try.) And, have as many massages as you can afford: don’t think of it as a luxury, your body desperately needs release and care. I have discovered Mary de Pellegrin in Carlton, and she is very special. She’s been doing it for 20 years, and artfully blends my two favourite disciplines: myotherapy and shiatsu for incredible relief. I also like the futon massage at Body Freedom Urban Spa in South Melbourne.
HotDOG. This is a long post. I’m sorry. But not really, cos if it wasn’t of interest or relevant to you, you would have already gone back to scrolling Instagram, and plus, I’m passionate about this stuff, because I spent almost three years in daily pain fixing a preventable problem, and also, being pregnant is tough enough without being in agony, ay.
I was shitting myself about this pregnancy, but it’s been good. I feel in control, and strong, I’m not just ‘sucking it up’, and I have people now if I need help. One thing I learned about chronic pain is that a lot of it is mental. Re-adjusting my attitude was imperative.
Well-meaning people tell pregnant women to relax, and ease off work, and rest, but I’m not going to tell you to do that cos it’d be completely disingenuous; I am doing none of those things. (That said, if you work in a super stressful or physical job, um, you should probably relax/ease off work/rest.)
I love what I do for work (Formula One driver/part-time back-up singer) and will happily plod along on my current projects until baby Darlene/Dwayne arrives. I won’t do a national book tour at 32 weeks, or launch a skin care brand at 35 weeks, though. That was a rookie fail.
What I will do – and say – is be smart about it.
Know your limits.
Don’t push yourself to go to Ikea for a rug for the nursery if your feet are killing and your back is sore.
Put in the time and effort to care for, maintain and strengthen your body.
Strengthen and equally indulge your magical baby-creating machine.
Make people be your slaves because by law they can’t argue with your bulbous tyranny.
And if there’s a choice between eggs and pancakes, eat the pancakes. Always eat the goddamn pancakes.