Monday 11 December 2017

Yvonne Hogan: From fear to maternity

Yvonne Hogan Photo: Marc O'Sullivan
Yvonne Hogan Photo: Marc O'Sullivan

Yvonne Hogan

Yesterday, I went back to the gym for the first time in more than a month. I had been avoiding exercise due to a number of factors -- overwhelming tiredness, pelvic-girdle issues (more of which later) and laziness, but yesterday I made the trip.

Today, I am a bit sore, but I feel great. I feel like me again.

Over the past couple of years, being fit has become part of my identity. I take it very seriously indeed. It is the glue that holds everything together, and I promised myself all those months ago when I saw that blue cross that nothing would change.

No matter what, exercise would still be a priority.

And up until about 26 weeks, it was.

At first, it was difficult to control the ridiculous first-trimester worries -- I kept running into the bathroom to see if I was leaking amniotic fluid (even though my friend, a doctor, assured me over and over again that at that stage I didn't really have any to leak), and worrying that I would dislodge the baby every time I moved my leg, but before long I got used to being pregnant and settled into a rhythm.

And then, without the insane worry to distract me, I found I wasn't really enjoying exercising as much. In fact, I found it really frustrating.

I enjoyed pretty serious weight training, but obviously I couldn't do it to the level I had been before I was pregnant, so my trainer, Damien Maher, devised pre-natal programmes for me.

"You need to listen to your body," he told me. "You can still challenge yourself, but listen to your body."

"But my body is lazy," my inner voice cried. "My body wants to stay in bed as long as I can in the morning and to eat loads of crap. I listened to my body before and I got fat, and we don't want to go back to that now, do we?"

I don't really do moderation in anything. I have always been either a complete hedonist or a Spartan. I feel most comfortable with extremes.

Getting fit had required me to reprogramme my brain to ignore my body and push past pain, tiredness and dizziness to complete whatever task I was doing, no matter what. It was the only way I knew.

So, I probably pushed myself a bit too far one day and I did something to my pelvis.

I knew immediately I had messed up. Within half an hour, I literally couldn't walk. Every time I tried to take a step, I got a screaming pain just over my left buttock, like an electric shock.

Lots of women suffer from pelvic-girdle issues when pregnant as the ligaments loosen to make room for the baby, and that whole pelvic area can become very unstable. You really do have to be careful.

For the next three days, I was in agony and walked like an aul fella, each ginger step accompanied by an expletive and a groan.

When it wasn't getting any better by itself I went to a physical therapist called Doug Leonard, who was recommended by a friend who had suffered from sciatic pain in her pregnancy. After one session, I was walking without pain. After two, I was back to normal.

But I decided to take a couple of weeks off the gym to be sure.

I had started to realise that it's not just about me any more, and even though I knew I was not putting the baby in any danger, I needed to calm down; not get lazy and use the pregnancy as an excuse to let things slide, as I admit I have done over the past couple of weeks, but get sensible and recognise that, at the moment, and probably for the next couple of years, extremes might not be an option.

And if I want to stay fit and healthy so I can juggle work and motherhood and everything else successfully, I will have to forge a new path.

So I have set myself a new goal of three short exercise sessions a week.

I think I am starting to realise that my days of all or nothing are over.

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