Exercising while pregnant is a little precarious. The main recommended forms are walking, swimming and yoga. This is perfectly reasonable, but I ignored it entirely my first and most of my second trimester.
I am a runner, so I ran until about week 12, when the thought of doing so made me feel like I was taking some sort of unnecessary risk, since all the books on multiples suggested not jostling your babies for the sake of exercise. I also did barre until about six months in, because it was wonderfully strengthening and I could adjust my moves to accommodate my situation. I eventually dropped this because my heart would race through moves that normally were easy for me, and because the instructor always spent the last twenty minutes of class having us do floor exercises on our bellies, while I passed the time doing free weights or stretching.
I went swimming once, but the stares were really more than I wanted to deal with. Plus we had an alarming encounter with a precocious five-year-old that pretty much scared me out of the water forever.
Mike and I had just entered the pool and were swimming over to an uncrowded area when a little girl swam up and said, “HI!” We greeted her nicely, and then she said, “Are you married?” We said yes, and then she looked at me, looked at him, and as if she were asking about lunch, said “Then why aren’t you in bed?”
Blink. Blink, blink.
We were so shocked we didn’t know what to say, so we just said, “Because it’s not nighttime — we’re swimming!” She wasn’t buying it, so she looked for further evidence. “Where are your rings?” she asked again, with a giant grin on her face. We dutifully showed her our left hands, like nervous travelers going through customs.
Then she dove for my belly. She noticed the bump and before I knew it she was practically crawling me like a monkey up a tree. She put her hands right on my belly and started asking about the baby, and we told her there were two and she just kept touching me all over. Her father swam up by this time, but just sort of chuckled at his silly daughter. I kept trying to subtly dodge her under the water, taking a step back and then swatting her away in a manner that could be mistaken for swirling the water around. It didn’t really work, so I decided to be nice to her until Mike could break conversation with the dad to notice my rescue-me stares.
With swimming effectively ruled out, I tried prenatal yoga. This was a nice experience, being with sixteen or so other pregnant women, but it was just…hard. I’ve done yoga for several years and going through familiar moves was so taxing it didn’t seem enjoyable. The weight gain, plus the bump, plus the change in mobility all added up to me wishing class would be over already. There were some fantastic moves that stretched in just the right way, and some great moments of stillness where we could focus on our babies, but other than that I wanted to leave. No namaste.
This left walking. Ever since I stopped running, I took up walking, interspersed with the other exercises I’ve described. I would walk about 2.5 miles several times a week, and this soon became my favorite thing. Now that I’m 35 weeks along I can only do one mile, but it’s still the most wonderful twenty minutes (yes, it takes me twenty minutes). Walking works all of my joints in the right way, makes my muscles feel great, and gets my heart pumping. It’s also the best time to talk to God about all that I’m feeling about the babies and life, and it gets me outside. Walking = winning.
When I first started I’d go down to the waterfront near our home, but this involved a 300-foot descent and ascent back up. This was part of its appeal initially, but about four weeks ago I had to give it up because it was too much. That and there are no sidewalks, and cars sometimes whiz around the corners with abandon. I used to be able to move out of the way but my zigging and zagging abilities are no longer to be trusted. My brain says “Car coming, move over!” and my body is like, “I’m going to need you to fill out several forms, have them notarized and then get back to you after two weeks of processing.”
The thing about walking is that it is done in public. Normally this is not an issue, but when one is pregnant, it is. For whatever reason, walking around pregnant invites all kinds of commentary from all kinds of people.
One day I was nearing the end of my walk and I was passing an intersection, which required walking past the row of cars waiting at the red light. Without warning, a man rolled down the passenger-side window of his car, leaned over, and yelled “YOU’RE PREGNANT!” right at me. I was so alarmed I didn’t know what to do, besides jump back and keep walking, rather quickly, away from him. Really? You had to roll down your window and scream at me? Really?
Another day when I was still doing the hill near my house, a car filled with teenage girls flew by me from behind and one girl leaned out her window and yelled “HEY PREGGERS!” It scared me to death because they came up so fast, she was so loud, and it was so unexpected. I think my expression surprised her as much as she surprised me, because she ducked back in the car when she saw my face. I was absolutely astonished that a woman would do this — my only thought was a tiny prayer that she would one day be with child herself, walking on a road, and she would have a heart-stopping flashback to this moment and be filled with shame. I didn’t wish her ill, because I knew she didn’t understand what an insensitive idiot she’d been, but I had the hope that one day she would.
A far more positive encounter was with a man who asked me how far along I was, and then told me about an anti-bullying program he leads at local elementary schools involving infants. It’s based on teaching children the concept of empathy toward babies, in the hope that they will translate that to other people. Apparently it’s quite successful, but I wasn’t sure. When I told him it was twins, he shouted and started bowing down to me, which was awkward, but funny. He begged me to bring the twins to his classroom in the fall, and I took his card and told him I’d think about it. It never occurred to me that me and the little twinnies could start our philanthropic endeavors so early.
My favorite encounter has to be with a neighbor from a few streets over. He and his gaggle of family are that house in the neighborhood that always has music on outside, has nine cars strewn throughout the property, and is always tinkering on something in the front yard so they can watch the world go by. It’s all very trashy, but they’ve won me over through the months.
This neighbor, let’s call him Ed, shall we? The first time Ed saw me he was sitting on his front lawn in a chair doing nothing but staring at the road. I didn’t even see him because I was power walking by, but he definitely saw me.
“That’s a pretty fast walk for a…” he started to say, but sort of stumbled over what to call me.
“Haha, yep!” I replied, not knowing how else to respond.
“Maybe if you’d walked that fast before you wouldn’t be in your condition!” he said, cackling with laughter.
I was so shocked that he had brought sex into our non-existent conversation that my brain temporarily shut off. I smiled and kept walking.
“Well, it’s not like it’s twins or something,” he added, for no apparent reason. I couldn’t believe he’d said that, just out of the blue, so I turned and said, “YES IT IS!” with a giant smile on my face.
“WHAT?!” he said. ”OH MY G-I was kidding! Um, well, oh, uh, GOOD LUCK!” he exclaimed, and suddenly he was waving his arms in the air with genuine enthusiasm, but I barely saw because I was blazing by.
You may be wondering at this point why I continue to walk. That’s a fair question that I don’t really have an answer to.
Over the next months, I continued to pass this house and every time he’d be outside, and every time Ed would have something to say.
“That’s a better pace! Don’t go too fast!” Apparently I have slowed considerably.
“Rain or shine, good for you!” As I waddled past in a raincoat that no longer closed.
“There she goes!” An obvious observation if ever there was one.
Most recently, we just wave at each other. It’s kind of fun to think of the day I will walk past his house with a double stroller.
Here we are at 35 weeks.
Things to note: 1. I have preggo face finally! 2. LOOK at my ANKLES (if they can still be called that, I think we’re in cankle territory) 3. My pregnancy tank top no longer covers the bottom of my bump. 4. This was taken on the hottest day of the year so far, it was a high of 91 — ideal for any person carrying two other people, you can imagine.