The First 23 Weeks: Fears, Tears & Cheers!

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"When fear drives you, you aren’t living from your best self. I was not willing to keep carrying on that way.  One day, I would be able to look back and see value and learning in this, even if I couldn’t see it now."

I’ve gotten so many questions about how I’ve been approaching fitness during my pregnancy—a topic I was so eager to share with fellow Mamas-to-be. However, I am 28 weeks and only just recently started exercising…but not by choice.  

I was put on activity restriction (a.k.a. “modified bed rest” or “pelvic rest”) very early in my pregnancy, and it lasted through week 23. It was definitely a tough road, but it made me stronger—where it really counts. 

Blood, No Sweat & Tears

Beginning about my fifth week of pregnancy, I began having bleeding episodes.  As you can imagine, this is one of the most terrifying things you can experience in pregnancy. The first few times it occurred, I thought for sure I had lost our baby. After all that we went through to get pregnant, it was such an overwhelming feeling. I remember falling to my knees in tears fearing the worst.

Thankfully, we never had to sit with the worry of not knowing our baby’s fate for too long. Our doctors always brought us in same day for ultrasounds. I could barely breathe sitting in the ultrasound stirrups waiting for the test to begin. I can’t explain the relief I felt when I saw that little tiny gestational sac on the ultrasound screen and, in later weeks, a sweet little heartbeat.

Placenta Previa

In the beginning, there were no explanations for the bleeding. We saw three different specialists at the fertility clinic and no one could find the source of the bleeding. It wasn’t until an ultrasound at 16 weeks that I learned I had placenta previa—a condition where the placenta is located low in the uterus completely covering the cervix (a placenta is typically positioned high in the uterus). The pressure of the baby resting on the placenta can lead to bleeding episodes, especially if you are active, standing for long periods of time, bracing your core, etc. 

Each time I experienced a bleed, I was put on physical restriction, which meant no exercise, no sex, no standing for long periods, managing stress and elevating feet, when possible.  This restriction would be for the duration of the bleed (three to five days) plus 14 days more days once the bleeding resolved.  Once I got the placenta previa diagnosis, I was permanently on restriction. So, all in, I think I had a total of a week where I was cleared to be exercise.

The Struggle Is Real

Was it difficult not to be physically active? Heck yeah. I had never gone this long without being active. Its a part of who I am. So, I struggled to feel like “me” while sitting on my butt for weeks and weeks. On top of that, I desperately needed the exercise endorphins to cope with all that my mind and body were enduring.  

The stress and worry of my high risk pregnancy and bleeding combined with the synthetic hormonal cocktail I was ingesting to support my IVF pregnancy made for a difficult time for this Mama-to-be. Add in the natural hormonal and physical changes happening, including terrible first trimester nausea, and you have a recipe for exhausted, anxious and craaaazzzy. I felt like a caged animal about to attack at any moment. My sincerest apologies to anyone I might have snapped at and/or spontaneously cried to for no good reason! (My poor hubby!)

I Needed To Make A Change

During this time, I struggled to feel like my usual vibrant self. In addition to the uncomfortable physical symptoms, my mindset was less than ideal. I was entirely too focused on all the restrictions, my perceived “loss of control” and feeling resentful that my pregnancy wasn’t going as I had planned. Basically, my stubborn Type-A personality was kicking and screaming every step of the way.

But much like a child exhausted from throwing a fit, I eventually came around. There comes a point when facing any challenge or struggle where you have sufficiently run through your emotions and recognize that it's time to “get over it” and establish a new perspective. Everyone has her/his own timetable for getting there. It took me weeks.

I can actually remember the day I shifted in detail. The clouds parted—literally and figuratively. I was standing in our living room watching the rain through our sliders. I was thinking that it was time to adopt a new mindset. Just as the rain stopped and the sun came out, I could feel my internal tempest quiet and my “light” starting to shine through. In that moment, I just knew everything was going to be okay. Our baby was going to be okay. I was going to be okay. One day at a time.

From Fearful To Freedom

To make that transition, I had to let go of fear. I feared losing our lil one, feeling terrible for months with no relief, not being able to live my life the way I wanted and losing every bit of fitness I had. However, when fear drives you, you aren’t living from your best self. I was not willing to keep carrying on that way. 

Once I realized that I was the one making this situation so much harder than it needed to be by how I was viewing and reacting to the cards I was dealt, I stopped. One day, I would be able to look back and see value and learning in this, even if I couldn’t see it now. And, perhaps I would learn something that could help someone else.

I believe one of the keys to not living in fear is to remind yourself that you are completely capable of handling anything that comes your way. That is the mantra that I had to adopt. From there, I began implementing new ways to cope, from mindfulness and writing to nutrition changes and nesting. I will share my strategies in detail in my next post!

A New Beginning: All Restrictions Lifted! 

As soon as I started to really accept my “new normal,” I learned that my placenta had moved! At 23 weeks, the restrictions had been lifted—with the understanding I needed to cautiously increase the intensity of my activity. So while I wanted to sprint down the street, I had to start with baby steps—slowly building my stamina and strength back. I didn’t think getting back in shape was possible mid-pregnancy, but it is! (More details on that to come!) 

I am so grateful to now be experiencing a more “normal” pregnancy without any further worry about the potential serious hemorrhaging that comes along with placenta previa in the third trimester. What a blessing!

And, despite the heartache I experienced in the first half of my pregnancy, I am grateful for how the experience shaped me—as a woman and a Mama-to-be. I feel like my heart has grown from pumping out so much love for our lil one during these difficult weeks. I never thought I’d be this in love already! On top of that, I feel stronger, more resilient and more full of gratitude—all the makings of an Iron Mama™. 


How About You?

Have you experienced similar struggles in your pregnancy? How did you overcome them? How did they challenge and change you? I would love to hear from you! Leave a note or send me a message on social media!

What’s Next?

In my next posts, I will share how I stayed sane on “bed rest” and got back in shape mid-pregnancy.  If you don’t want to miss a post, make sure to sign up for my email newsletter.  Until then, stay strong, Iron Mamas!