Miscarriage: Your Story Matters At Every Phase

Content warning: Miscarriage

The second time I was pregnant, I knew instantly - okay, within 5 days to be totally accurate. My bras filled up, my poops changed, and I had that full body exhaustion where it’s not just your eyelids that want to close but your entire body wants to turn off. I took a pregnancy test even though I knew it was too early to show on the pee stick (it was).

A couple weeks later, I wanted to involved my husband so I told him the 3 minutes was up for the pregnancy test and as he walked into the bathroom I said, “two lines means yes, one line means no.”

He came out of the bathroom with a puzzled look, “what if one line is faint?”

Me, “no fu@k!ng way!!”

The smiles on our faces said it all. We were excited. After all the things leading up to this, it felt right (read this blog post where I chat all about our struggle with how to know if we were “one and done”, our couple’s therapy, and my decision to ask for PPD medication).

Within 5 minutes of excitement the obvious impact hit me, and tears started flowing, as I realized we really were about to go back down this path. Things like, “but I JUST feel like myself in the gym again” and “argh I’ve been craving sushi!!” came out of my mouth. As silly and petty as those things sound, they were really just the tip of the ice berg of knowing what I was in store for for the next 9 months, and what we’d be in store for as a family after that.

Not more than a week or so after, I felt the cramps, and again, knew immediately. I knew something was wrong. The heavy bleeding followed, and I had to break to my husband that this one wasn’t meant to be. After 5 days I took another test, to confirm what I knew, because both of us were still holding on to a little bit of hope that maybe things were okay. But this one wasn’t meant to be.

As soon those two pink lines confirmed a baby was on the way, we were picturing Christmas 2019 with an almost 3 year old and a 4 month old. Would it be a boy this time? Another girl? Up until getting pregnant I’ve said I wanted another girl - partly because I have boxes of clothes waiting downstairs - but as soon as we saw the two pink lines, it didn’t matter. It became the old, “as long as it’s healthy.”

Now, working out, eating sushi, and having wine, didn’t seem like a big deal, nor even enticing anymore. I didn’t touch a drink for a couple weeks after the miscarriage, even though I was “dying for one” when I found out I was pregnant. I still haven’t, months later, had sushi – again, that I was craving so badly, apparently.

It confirmed for us how much we did want this. No question now. We were sad.

And boy did we appreciate our little girl that much more. We were, and continue to be, so thankful that she came to us, and is the healthy spitfire she is.

I was additionally upset because I felt like the medication I had just started for my postpartum depression wasn’t working. I was low, sad, my social anxiety heightened again, and I didn’t want to partake in anything. I quickly reminded myself – no, this IS a reason to feel sad. If anything, it was a sign that my medication wasn’t “numbing” me as so many false claims are made about anti-depressants (especially maddening when those claims are made by famous people with huge influence circles, and add to this stigma. Not naming names. We’ll call this fictional character Hewis Lowes.)

There are always surprises in these life events. With my miscarriage, the surprise was in my inability to allow myself to be outwardly sad. I didn’t feel worthy of sadness. Why? Because I wasn’t far enough along. Because I never met my baby. I fell into the comparison trap of “my story isn’t tragic enough.” I was “just another statistic” of the many many women who will experience miscarriage in their life. But the truth is, the SECOND we found out we were pregnant, that child existed to us. It was the 4th at the Christmas table next year. It was Anna’s sibling. It was the 2nd grandchild (on one side) and the 34th grandchild (on the other side - yes, 34th).

Again and again I’m reminded – everyone, EVERYONE has their struggles, and every single struggle and story matters. Everyone is entitled to feel all the feelings, go through all the thoughts, and mourn or celebrate or laugh or cry. If you’re feeling like your situation isn’t worthy – it is. It absolutely is. And you have every right to feel every and all of the emotions over it.

I’ve come to view this experience as a necessary one for us. Never ever has a decision been so all-consuming, and it was the scariest thing in the WORLD to try for a second. Even when it happened, I still had a huge piece of me saying, “do we REALLY want to do this again?” Despite the tantrums, the hard days, the sleepless nights, the teething, the sickness, the trips to the Children’s Hospital, the constant physical contact, the constant repeated questions, the lack of time for us as a couple, the lack of time for us as individuals - despite ALL of it, we were sad when that was all taken away from us. It was the confirmation piece we needed to say, “Yes. This is a bad shit crazy ass way to live. But for some reason, we want it, and we want to add to the chaos.” (And even as I write that, I still don’t 100% believe it, hah! Do you EVER believe it?).

Going Upside Down In Pregnancy & Postpartum: CrossFit Open 19.3

Welcome back for week 3 of the CrossFit Open! If you’re new here, hi! And welcome. Each week I’m offering considerations, strategies, and modifications for the Open workouts for pregnant and postpartum athletes.

Open 19.3 - For Time:

  • 200-ft. dumbbell overhead lunge [Scaled: front-rack]

  • 50 dumbbell box step-ups [Scaled: same]

  • 50 strict handstand push-ups [Scaled: 5-in. elevated]

  • 200-ft. handstand walk [Scaled: bear crawl]

    • Time cap: 10 minutes

    • Men: 50-lb. dumbbell / 24-in. box

    • Women: 35-lb. dumbbell / 20-in. box

As in previous weeks, let’s break this down movement by movement!

Dumbbell Overhead Lunges

Considerations:

  • The main consideration with an overhead position while pregnant or postpartum is are you able to maintain core control to keep your ribs over your hips, without thrusting your rib cage up to the sky? Thrusting your rib cage puts extra tension on your core - of consideration if you’re healing a diastasis, or are pregnant and trying to keep avoid excess stretching. Second, thrusting your rib cage takes your diaphragm, core, and pelvic floor out of alignment, possibly meaning more strain on your pelvic floor than necessary.

  • If you’re experiencing pelvic pain like pubic symphysis (in the front) or SI joint (either side of your bum), lunges may be something that is aggravating to you at this point. Really, my only advice here is, if it hurts, don’t do it:)

Modifications:

  • Front rack carry, and/or reduced weight: could help to take away any rib thrusting, and will be kinder on your core and pelvic floor.

  • Squat instead of lunging for pelvic pain: Since the squats won’t move you forward, either pick a reasonable number to do that you can do with controlled form, or take a few steps forward after each squat.

Dumbbell Box Step-Ups

Considerations:

  • Hip movement: Pelvic pain or not, as we get bigger in pregnancy and adapt a “waddle”, there’s no need to exaggerate this movement with a step onto a 20” box. Try to pay attention to if you’re able to maintain control on the way up and down.

  • Again, if you’re experiencing pelvic pain like pubic symphysis (in the front) or SI joint (either side of your bum), step-ups may be aggravating. Same advice as above - if it hurts, don’t do it, or at least not as written:)

Modifications:

  • Lower box and/or reduced weight: Does a lower box or step help you better control the movement? Does it diminish your pelvic pain?

  • Hip thrust (shoulders elevated), with or without dumbbell on your hips. Alternate between right leg, left leg, and both legs for variation.

  • Consider reducing reps.

Handstand Push-Ups

Considerations:

  • Holy core pressure batman. Lol. I don’t even know what else to say. Hah! Read below under “Handstand Walk” for my take on doing these upside down movements. For the record - being upside down isn’t necessarily the issue - if you’re a gymnast or yogi and have been inverted for the last 5, 10, 20 years, your body is familiar with this position. What’s more the issue, is the core control required to do the movements while upside down - the push up or walking itself.

  • Plus the whole being upside down thing in pregnancy - nausea, dizziness, acid-reflux, all the blood rushing to your head.

Modifications:

  • 5-in. elevated: while this is the scaled option, I don’t particularly love it as a modification. It’s sort of like saying single skips are a modification for double-unders. Still a TON of core pressure here. Let’s maybe leave upside down for a little later.

  • Push-ups: From the floor - still core intense but not as much, or incline - getting better on the core pressure situation now.

  • Dumbbell Z Press: From a seated position this one is all upper body, and is a great alternative to HSPU. Not only that, you’re directly working on strength to eventually be able to do a HSPU, when the timing is right.

  • For any of the above, feel free to reduce reps as well. 50 is a LOT of one movement in a row, and form is likely to diminish no matter how strong your first 20 look.

Handstand Walk

Considerations:

  • Core pressure, core alignment - all of it! For fun, I googled “pregnant handstand walking” and found a number of videos that visually showed what I expected to see - a LOT of lumbar curve. Think about it - you’re walking on your hands, feet in the air, with a large belly throwing your centre of gravity off. Most women won’t have the strength (or balance) to maintain a neutral spine, so to compensate for the belly their belly is forward, while hands and feet are behind - resulting in a huge “C” shaped body. The resulting pressure on your outstretched belly is a lot, as you walk across the floor.

  • While postpartum doesn’t have a belly pulling you forward, I’d still caution being in this “C” shaped position and the strain it will place on your linea alba (abdominal muscles), particuarly if you are healing or managing diastasis.

  • Again, being upside down in pregnancy and dealing with nausea, dizziness, and/or acid-reflux. Not fun.

Modifications:

  • Bear crawl: If having your head down doesn’t make you dizzy or want to vomit, bear crawl is a much more core friendly movement.

  • Offset front rack kettlebell carry: If you’re later into pregnancy and being bent over in any way shape or form is just not happening, opt for an upright walk instead. You’re still working on a ton of core stabilization, plus you can walk the same distance as everyone else - just be sure to switch hands at the half-way point.

How did you modify your workout? Let me know below! I’ll be doing mine later today and will check in with you all after:)

I thought I wanted a fit pregnancy. What I really needed, was a supported pregnancy.

During pregnancy everyone asks about the baby. Your doctor wants to know how much it's grown. The nurse asks if you plan to breastfeed. Friends ask "what's the gender?", "what's the name?", "will you do baby-led weaning?" Family asks which school system they'll attend, and if you'll still be home for Christmas. Coworkers ask how many weeks left. Strangers ask how many are in there.

But what about the mom?

There is one message out there, and while it carries benefits (or at least I think is trying to), I'm going to unload my issues with it. That message? #fitpregnancy and everything surrounding it. The MAIN focus we see being directed towards moms during pregnancy, is fitness.

Sound weird that as a trainer I have issues with this? Hear me out.

First - YES there are absolutely multiple benefits to working out during pregnancy. Research supports this, I am not disputing this, nor saying that someone shouldn't workout during pregnancy. I absolutely support and think they should - in ways that feel good for their pregnancy body, and ALSO support their mind.

Buuuuut. (You knew there was a but coming).

But why is it "fit pregnancy"? Images of thin women with round bumps looking adorable as they squat, in adorable outfits, smiling. Or in the CrossFit world I follow, videos of women well into their second or third trimesters doing workouts at a 9/10 intensity with little to no scaling or modifications. We've hit another extreme. Swing, pendulum, swing!

The message this gives off: We care about you, too, moms-to-be. But we still have impossibly high expectations of you while you're pregnant. Be fit. Be strong. Be amazing. Be invincible. Be superwoman. 

Enough.

You know what a pregnant woman wants when she goes to the gym? To be spoken to like she's NOT just a vessel for another human to rent out for 40 weeks.

When's the last time you told someone at the gym how big or small they look?

When's the last time you reached out and touched someone at the gym's belly, without permission, and made a comment it as you touched it?

While you get asked about 500 times during pregnancy, "how are you feeling?" I would actually much prefer to hear this over and over. Because at least it asks how I'm doing, and gives me the opportunity to answer for myself, as a whole person, not just a body that happens to be growing an incredible little human being.

The focus goes from fit pregnancy, to bouncing back. Getting in your old jeans. Shedding the baby weight. Barf. I am so sick of these phrases.

What, instead, could be helpful for a new mom?

Do you have resources for BOTH breastfeeding and bottle feeding?

Who can help you have some time to yourself when baby is born, so you can sleep, nap, or take a bath?

How do you feel about your transition from career life to mom life?

Do you have someone who you feel comfortable talking to when things get tough (because they will)?

Do you have some numbers on hand to reach out to for depression, anxiety, PTSD, or couples therapy?

What do YOU need from me?

And moms-to-be, what do you need from yourself? 

Grace, to know you're going to have bad days, but that doesn't make you a bad person, nor a bad mom.

Patience, to know that you are going to heal, and that you are going to make it through.

Confidence, to say no, and to ask for what YOU need.

Permission to ease off, of the gym, of work, of life's tasks. Permission to do LESS, and not be invincible.

Acceptance, that some things won't be the same. But also Faith, that some of those things will be even better than before.

Courage, to speak up about the hard things, and to take action even when fear is telling you not to.

Resiliency, to forge your own path - the one that has your best interest at heart. Not what society wants of you, not what medical staff want of you, friends, family, social media - the list goes on.

I am not immune to the body talk surrounding motherhood. I know it's not easy to shift your thinking. But, together we can interject in the conversations that revolve solely on aesthetics. We can speak up when someone fails to understand there is SO much more important things to talk about than how our physical body has changed.

I thought I wanted a fit pregnancy, but what I really needed, was a supported pregnancy. Someone to say, it’s okay to ease off. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to feel lost. You are not defined solely on what your body can or cannot do.

I'm curious - what did you think you wanted in pregnancy, and what did it turn out to be that you actually needed in retrospect? Comment with yours below:)

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Why the Crossfit Open Can Wait

Last year when the Crossfit Open kicked off I was 7 weeks postpartum, a whole week past that magical 6-week clearance from my doctor to resume activity.

I went to one of the Open events to watch and cheer, and was asked by someone as I held our 7-week old daughter, “are you competing today?” I thought the person was joking until I realized they weren’t, and while I think they were just trying to make polite conversation, I was baffled because I know this is the thought process of MANY in the athletic world. Six-week check up, mom was active, obviously she’s ready to hop back in, right?

Omg no.

I was struggling with anxiety hardcore at this time, and still incredibly sleep deprived. The importance of sleep cannot be emphasized enough - you cannot recover from workouts without sleep. Your central nervous system will not function properly without sleep. You cannot recover physically from childbirth - whether vaginal or c-section - without sleep. I’m not going to tell a mom, “sleep when baby sleeps” because I too was shooting daggers when I was told that, but I will say, if you aren’t getting adequate sleep yet - adequate uninterrupted sleep - holding off on strenuous activity, particular the Open, would my strong recommendation.

Sleep aside, let’s talk about the actual format of the Open. It’s exiting, it’s loud, it’s fun, you push yourself and find out what you’re capable of, because you can’t help but get caught up in the music blaring, friends and coaches cheering, and the adrenaline of the clock running. You can’t help but push outside of your comfort zone, and when you’re done the butterflies you went in with are replaced by a great feeling of accomplishment.

But, is your body ready? I don't doubt your mind is.

I don’t doubt you could go out there and do it all in the scaled division. Or muscle through some pretty ugly Rx reps. I don’t doubt you might “feel fine” doing it. I definitely don't doubt your athlete brain is ready to go. And yes, you do have that “doctor’s clearance” behind you.

But can we think about this for a second? Your body grew a human, another entire human being, for 40 weeks give or take. Your pelvic floor supported that little being, plus an entirely new organ your body made just for one purpose, plus 50% increased blood volume, plus still kept you alive (though perhaps not thriving), for those 40 weeks.

Then, you delivered that baby. I don’t care if you had the “easiest, no complications birth” ever - you GAVE BIRTH!! This isn’t like a little orthoscopic procedure where the doctor repaired a torn muscle or ligament - you delivered a human. And I’m sorry, but we got the short end of the evolution stick when it came to birth, because we don’t get to just dig up some sand, drop some eggs, and then hop back in the ocean and swim off like all we did was have a bowel movement. Sea turtles, I envy you a little. For us humans, childbirth is major on our body. Again, no matter the birth story.

If I had had ACL surgery and was on the couch with crutches, I would have been waited on hand and foot. But deliver a baby the size of a melon, and it’s like, “so you doing the Open?" (or for non-Crossfitters, replace "Open" with any other pre-pregnancy activity in full force).

Moms, I COMPLETELY get your desire to want to compete and get back to normalcy. Trust me, I get that so much. But the one thing I hold on to continuously is that I want to be active and healthy for YEARS to come. Not just this year, not just this season. If going out and proving I can do something today means putting my body at risk for longer-lasting injury or life-long conditions, then it’s not for me. Not right now at least.

This is not a “never do Crossfit again”, or “never run”, or "never compete”. This is my plea to you to hold off, just for now, for this short chapter, so that you can enjoy all those things well into your own real-life version of the Golden Girls, or Jerry’s parents in Florida (where my Seinfeld peeps at?). Is the reward of pushing too fast or doing too much now, worth the risk of long-term discomfort? For me, it's not.

This is also not a “be scared of working out.” You can absolutely work out. I encourage you to work out! But I know what type of people Crossfit attracts - because I am one. Lots of former varsity athletes, or currently competing athletes, or people who thrive on competition and want to be pushed. So I know that doing the Open is not “just working out”. It’s pushing, it’s testing, and it’s intense. And as much as you tell yourself, "I'll hold back and be cautious", my guess is you won't drop and do deadbugs instead of toes-to-bar when it comes your time to go, with music blaring and all the spectator eyes on you.

So, for the sake of your pelvic floor, your healing diastasis, your lax joints from the relaxin produced during pregnancy (which also hangs around until 3-6 months post breastfeeding), your exhausted sleep-deprived body - consider holding back, just this year. Build up your strength and conditioning slowly and steadily over the next 12 months, and then return. Return with confidence that YES, you have trained for this, YES, your body is ready for this, and YES you have strategies in place that will allow you to keep working out months beyond the Open.

While I'm 13 months postpartum now, time alone doesn't mean I'm ready. Because of a nagging knee injury that flared up in pregnancy and postpartum, plus finally getting a rotator cuff tear diagnosed (3 years later) my workouts have been incredibly few and far between, and I have not had the chance to build my base back up. And it really does need to be built back up, gradually and methodically.

You will get stronger. You will get your lungs back. Your pelvic floor will regain function so you can skip and box jump without fear of leaking. You’ll be able to kip without worrying about your shoulder joints that have been neglected for months, or worrying about your diastasis with every rep you pull up. You’ll be able to run without pelvic pain or heaviness. But you have to give your body the time it needs to heal, and you have to take the road of slowly and steadily increasing weight, reps, and intensity.

Be the mom getting cheered on by her 5 year old in a few years, not the one continuously in physio over and over again for preventable issues. Sidenote: some issues are not preventable, some are handed to us without choice. But, causing prolapse or separating your abs further from doing high volume, high load, high intensity? Preventable.

You’ll be back. And you’ll be stronger than ever. In becoming a mom, you’ve already become mentally stronger than you ever have been before in your life. Give your physical body the time and grace it deserves to come back to its strength as well.

2019 Edit: Over the next 5 weeks of the Open I’ll be hosting live chats weekly on Thursday nights @ 7pm MT on my IG page @rawfitnessyyc & on Facebook. Click here to add yourself to the FB event to get the reminders.

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A Letter To New Moms

From this week until the end of December, we are expecting 7 new babies in our family and friends circle, and it got me reminiscing on those first days of motherhood. My daughter was born on the 7th, on a Saturday, so at this time exactly 9 months ago I was about to become a mom in less than 24 hours. And my world would be rocked!

Just shy of my daughter being 2 weeks old, my cousin came to visit for some baby snuggles. With a gift was a letter she had written, passing on some sage mom wisdom being a mom of two herself.

I BAWLED the first time I read the letter - I mean, I was 2 weeks postpartum and perhaps slightly (okay totally) overwhelmed and hormonal. But still. I think I only made it half way down the page the first time I read it because I literally couldn't see through the waterworks of tears.

For any women about to become a mom, or perhaps has recently become a mom, I would like to pass on my cousin's loving words (with her permission), in the hopes that perhaps it will give you a bit of reassurance and comfort during this absolute whirlwind time. Let's be honest, I just re-read it and cried again, it's great advice no matter where you are on your motherhood journey.

Let me start by saying how very happy I am for you and your new family! This is an exciting time that will without a doubt trump all other moments in your life thus far. As a fellow mom, I feel it is my duty to warn you about all the “super helpful” thoughts, ideas, and suggestions you will receive in the next while, and remind you that on those days you think you are going crazy…nope, you really are just normal. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts for you:
A little advice on taking advice:
Take all the “offered” advice with a grain of salt. Always remember, “mother knows best”…meaning you!
When someone offers help, take it! This does not make you weak, this makes you smart.
You will have those days that being short on sleep and overtired get the best of you, and you may look at that baby and say, “holy shit, what did I do!” Don’t feel bad, this makes you normal, and anyone that tells you they never had one of these moments is lying to you. Rest assured, when that sweet baby curls up in your arms and falls asleep to the rhythm of your heart, you will fall in love all over again.
Your baby does not come with a program, as each and every child and situation is unique, so take what you want from all those baby self-help books, and brainwashing Google sites, and toss the rest away.
Take guilt-free time for YOU! These are necessary sanity breaks, and YOU DESERVE THEM!
Join a baby group, but don’t get caught up in the comparison game. Some women will tell you that their child is perfect no matter what…seek out the ones that make you feel normal, not inadequate.
Lastly, don’t forget each other. After all, this baby wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the love that brought the two of you together. Some day that little baby will grow up and get a life of it’s own, and you don’t want to lose sight of each other and your marriage in the meantime. You will find date night takes on a whole new meaning once you have a baby – it means you get to eat a meal while it’s actually hot, wear something other than yoga pants and a hoodie with barf, poop, or snot on it, and perhaps even risk the idea of putting on a regular bra again, even just for an hour or two.
I can’t wait to watch your little baby grow and become the beautiful little person she is destined to be.
With Love
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