Ginkgo’s Baby Story

“I know there is a lot of stigma and really, the word is ignorance, behind pregnant women and exercising […] and the truth is, it’s good for the mom and the baby.”

-Alysia Montano, after running an 800-meter at the USATF championships in Sacramento at 34 weeks pregnant.

Alysia Montano, an American middle-distance runner and five-time USA Outdoor Champion who has conquered the 800 meter distance in a sizzling 1:57.34 and competed in the 2012 Olympics,  didn’t listen to critics or let stigmas keep her from toeing the track start line while 34 weeks pregnant for the U.S. Championships last Thursday. Instead, she listened to her midwife who encouraged her to race.

34 weeks pregnant, Montano was determined to race.
34 weeks pregnant, Montano was determined to race.

She also listened to herself. She ran through her entire pregnancy and felt really, really good throughout the whole process of, ya know, growing another human being.

Having just given birth to my own son on Sunday, June 22nd, Alysia’s story stirred a lot of emotion for me and directly related to some feedback (wanted or not) that I received for continuing to run (albeit very low mileage) up until the day that I went into labor. Some supported me, others did not. But, most importantly, I learned only to listen to my own body and my doctor.

While i didn’t participate in any National Championships, I was able to maintain running two to three miles six times per week up until the day I went into labor (by the end, I was jogging with walk breaks every few minutes).   I felt pretty good most days, but on the days that I didn’t, I made sure to listen to my body.  For the most part, I didn’t feel like people really judged me; however, I did hear a few snide comments along the way. I brushed them off and continued to focus on what felt best for me while always deferring to my OB’s advice.

And I feel like my running made labor easier on me.

I went into labor at 37.5 weeks and gave birth to a 5 pound 3 ounce, 18 inch long healthy baby boy. In the back of my mind I now question whether I should have kept running? Was it too much? Did it stunt his growth? Or cause me to go into labor too soon? I know these are irrational, but after some of the comments I received, the weird looks that I got, the concern from older generations who thought I should have been retained to the couch eating non-stop, I do have these doubts. I shouldn’t. I did the best I could to take care of myself, exercise in moderation and keep eating healthfully and mindfully.

Connor Feran Sexton.
Connor Feran Sexton. The newest love of our life!

On the Thursday before giving birth, I thought my water broke. It wasn’t a gush like you see in the movies, but it was definitely different than anything I’ve felt before, an uncontrolled trickle. I called my husband, discretely left the office a little early ( I was lucky and this actually happened while in the restroom-timing is everything!), and we headed to the hospital to be on the safe side. Turns out, when they tested for amniotic fluid, it was a false alarm. However, many times this happens to women, only to return a few days later in active labor. I was sent home and felt a bit stupid for thinking my water broke when they said it did not.

The next day, I did business as usual, followed by a Huggies and Chuggies party for my husband (guys bring diapers and host provides beer and food). We stayed out and about until about midnight. When I arrived home, I was experiencing lots of cramping. I figured it was just an upset tummy and went to bed. All night, I lied awake with stomach pains, but I tried to ignore them. After being sent home from the hospital on Thursday, I knew it couldn’t possibly be the beginnings of labor.

Saturday morning, Sam’s dad and step mom came to town, and we went to lunch. As I was eating my chicken salad, the cramping was becoming more and more intense and coming in waves. I discretely tried to tell Sam as to not alarm anyone at the table and not to get hyper about the pain. We said our good byes and Sam and I headed to Babies R Us to get some baby gates. As we were in the aisle, I hunched over in pain. Sam knew something was going on and started timing the contractions at that point.

We went home, popped on an episode of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ and I tried to relax and drink water. They say if rest and re-positioning doesn’t make the contractions go away, it might mean the baby is really on his way. I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions from about 33 weeks on, but these felt much more intense and rhythmic. I waited it out as long as I could, but eventually they were coming every 5 minutes and lasting about a minute to a minute and a half, so we (begrudgingly!) headed back to Riverside Hospital and went to the pre-labor room by 5:30 p.m.

Because I had just hit full-term a few days before this, they didn’t want to induce me or give me pitocin to move things along. I had to progress to 5 centimeters naturally before they could officially admit me. I was stuck at 4 centimeters for about 5 hours. The pain was, indeed, a new level of pain – a different type of pain than a marathon, a broken arm, etc., but the breaks between contractions and having my hubby by my side got me through it.

At that point it was about 10:00 p.m., I was officially in active labor. They helped break my water (turns out I had probably been leaking a bit of amniotic fluid slowly since Thursday) and decided to get the epidural. I progressed to 6 centimeters in about 2 hours. They did a small dose of picotin to keep things moving, and I was fully dilated by 1:45 a.m. I only had to push for one hour until Connor Feran Sexton entered the world at 2:43 a.m. on Sunday, June 22nd!

Welcoming our baby boy!
Welcoming our baby boy!

They say exercising can help ease labor and make recovery easier. Both rang true for me; then again, the little guy was early and small, which also undoubtedly helped, too. I was feeling good three days after and have been able to walk 2 miles every day since. No complications from the epidural, and feeling pretty much back to ‘myself’.

I was able to start walking 3 days after labor and my recovery pain has been very minimal.
I was able to start walking 3 days after giving birth and my recovery pain has been very minimal. I think running throughout my pregnancy aided in this.

What are your thoughts on running throughout pregnancy, especially in the latter-part of the third trimester? If you ran during your pregnancy, did you experience an easy labor? Were you affected by ‘nay-sayers’ who judged you for continuing to run? 

I'm a new momma, full-time non-profiter, and coffee lover. I write about healthy body image, half marathon training, and recovery from eating disorders. I'm currently training to maintain fitness throughout the winter and break 1:27:00 in my next half marathon.

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  1. Congrats and welcome to the world Connor!

    It sounds to me like you took a very smart approach with fitness while pregnant. I was pregnant with my child 13 years ago and did not run because the common convention was that it was really bad to raise your heart rate while pregnant. I recall neighbors even making snide remarks to me for doing gardening while pregnant! I did walk every day though and I do think that helped my recovery. Probably because I stayed in the routine and continued to walk (and then later run) post-baby. If I had been pregnant today, however, I would definitely continue running, but would no doubt take a very conservative approach like you did.

    1. My mom has said the exact same thing about when she was pregnant…exercise was considered a danger to the baby. It’s crazy that that idea is still lingering, but I do think more people are becoming educated about the importance of keeping fitness up (in moderation) during pregnancy due to good OBs, blogs like ours (ha!), and research studies.

  2. Congrats on your beautiful baby boy!! I am currently 24.5 weeks pregnant and still running three days a week, 3-5 miles each time (with some races thrown in there every now and then). This is my 4th pregnancy and 5th child. I ran through my first two pregnancies up until about 24 weeks and with my twins I ran only until 12 weeks. I did, however, work out until the day I delivered them all. When I stopped running I just went to the elliptical. I also cross trained with weights and spinning. This week, I am starting to realize why I ceased my running at 24 weeks with my first two. I think at this point, I the baby typically hits a growth spurt. I carry pretty much all up front and grow big babies, so the pressure starts to get uncomfortable to me. Today, I was able to run 5 miles at a 9:25 pace, which is still good. I plan to try and go further with this pregnancy and run until I can’t put up with the pressure any more ( or the multiple bathroom breaks). I have a goal of at least 30 weeks, even if I am waddling along at a 12 min pace. I 100% believe that working out throughout all of my pregnancies helped with an easy delivery and a quick return to exercise. I went two days overdue with my first and was induced, my second baby I was induced a week early (at 39 weeks) because he was pretty big (8 and 1/2 lbs – and I have a small pelvis), and I went into labor on my own at 36 weeks with my twins. With my first I was in labor for 12 hours, 2nd was half that, and with my twins – they came quick, four hour labor and about a 1/2 hour of pushing. I was able to return to at least walking after each birth about 4-5 days after and I did return to running (slowly and not long) about two weeks after each birth. I was lucky in that I had vaginal deliveries with my three births. Luckily I have not had anyone been negative towards me and my running. Last week I did a local 5 mile race and I had three separate people come up to me afterward (of different ages) and tell me how inspiring it is to see me out there and they gave me a fist bump and said keep it up!!

    1. Great to hear about the positive feedback you get…that’s what it’s all about!! I never got negative feedback from the running community (huge supporters), but I found older generations shaking their heads at my regimen. I’m so impressed with your ability to keep fit for FIVE pregnancies. Like you, when the pressure was too much or the inability to do a 3 mile run without feeling like I was going to pee my pants, I turned to the elliptical or the indoor treadmill where a bathroom was waiting around the corner. Best of luck to you these next couple of weeks. It’s funny at 24 weeks is when I remember feeling like running wasn’t enjoyable anymore (that was also the week that I took a spill on the sidewalk and freaked myself out)!

  3. You go girl! I was active during both of my pregnancies as recommended by my doctor and specifically ran most of my pregnancy with Max. No negative impact whatsoever, and definitely made pregnancy, delivery, and recovery easier! Just be careful about running post partum-I was chomping at the bit to start running again after I got the okay from my dr, but over did it my very first run. Running with baby forces you to really listen to your body, but once you go back to running on your own it’s easier to tune your body out and give in to the impulses to push yourself. From my experience, it’s best to take it slow until you are 100% even if you feel great early in your recovery.

    1. And your little Max is ADORABLE. I am in the same boat as you…I began jogging/running a few days ago and accidentally overdid it. I have been so anxious about getting back out there, and decided to do a 3 mile run yesterday morning. I pushed myself fast (partly because it was the first time I felt semi-good and partly because I wanted to get back to the baby!) and this morning feel some repercussions. The site where I got the epidural is still sore (and very much so today) and I just feel crampy and off….I gotta take your advice and just chill out. I’d rather heal completely than get in a few runs and hurt my recover…at least that’s what I tell myself haha!

  4. Congrats to you and your family! Don’t let those niggling “what if” fears get you down. He looks healthy and beautiful! Enjoy the snuggly newborn days!

  5. Congrats on the lovely baby! So exciting!

    I ran through pregnancy through ~34 weeks I think. It’s funny you ask about judgment: I switched OB practices at 28 weeks because my original practice was terrible. When I went to see my new doctor she knew I was a runner because we have mutual acquaintances so she said, ” So you’re still running?” At 28 weeks I wasn’t running because I had pulled something, and told her so and she said, “But you’re walking fast, right? And doing some weight training?” I KNEW I had made the right decision then!

    My labor was looooooong – 53+ hours from water breaking to birth. Baby J was doing fine, but I was encouraged to get a cesarean several times and I had to be a bit assertive in declining. (I was given abx to prevent any infection and temp taken hourly.) Although I wanted to try for a drug-free labor I ended up with an epidural. Baby J was posterior so I had significant back labor. And not only was he posterior but head was also asynclitic (tilted) so it was a rather larger circumfrence attempting to squeeze its way out: holy tearing. 🙁 If it weren’t for those wounds, recovery would have been a breeze but I actually ended up back in the hospital a week post-delivery…Once I healed, though, I’ve been feeling pretty good!

    So glad your birth experience went smoothly!!! Enjoy your newborn little guy!

    (Sorry for the novel!)

    1. Agh! Your labor story sounds just like one of my best friend’s…what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, right?!

      I went in with the notion that I’d opt for a drug free labor too…for as long as I possibly could. I lasted to 5 centimeters…but I try not to feel guilty or “wimpy” for changing my mind while in the heat of it. It was the best option for me at the time and helped tremendously to get me through it. I always thought I had a high pain tolerance, but the pain was very different than what I had ever experienced before with running, breaking bones, etc. I know now why they call it “labor”! BUT…I’ve already forgotten about it and am ready to do it again (well, not yet!) for the ultimate gift at the end.

  6. Yeah! What a beautiful baby!

    My babies are all pretty big…all have been between about 9 lbs. My first was 9 lbs 9 oz and I’m a pretty petite girl. I think that hinders my recovery a bit. Things kind of get ripped apart down there. Sorry to be so honest. Haha. I do think exercising throughout pregnancy makes things so much easier. It may or may not help recovery, but it certainly helps when you are finally ready to get back to the swing of things to only be two months off exercising rather than ten.

    1. Absolutely. 8 weeks off from exercising results in an easier bounce
      back than 10 plus months! My mentality was just to keep exercising for as long as I could. Ouch on the tearing…thank gosh for those frozen witch hazel pads, right?!

  7. I just had my first baby on June 19 and I ran until week 31 and continued with barre, cycling and elliptical workouts until the day I went into labor. I also had a very easy labor and recovery (with the exception of a bout with mastitis and an allergic reaction to the antibiotics). I’ve been able to walk almost every day (except when the mastitis was at its worst) and I’m feeling pretty much back to normal. And almost all of the pregnancy weight is gone and most of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit again. I largely credit working out and healthy eating through my pregnancy for the easy labor and recovery.

    I didn’t get much in the way of naysayers, but I wouldn’t have let it bother me. My body was used to working out before I got pregnant and I was smart about listening to it during pregnancy.

    Congrats on your new baby!

  8. Long time lurker, saying hello for the first time. I absolutely believe that running and exercising throughout pregnancy helped with my recovery. I didn’t have easy labors. I was induced with my first at 42 weeks (42!), went through two days of unmedicated labor, and then ended up with an emergency c-section anyway, followed by a second c-section two years later. Obviously, they were not what I envisioned, but I know that being in good shape aided the time it took to recover. I was walking fairly quickly after my first kid and was cleared for light jogging after 8 weeks. Earlier with my second. C-sections are major surgery and 3 years later, I still struggle with core strength. That impacts running and my other tri sports, but I do a lot of PT. Had I not exercised throughout pregnancy, I imagine it would be a lot worse.

    There’s no way to quantify this, but I also believe that my running helped me deal with horrendous depression after my first daughter was born. I was/am a late-to-start runner. I didn’t run until I was in my 30s, and I fell in love with how it can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. There are no many shoulds/coulds/what ifs about pregnancy and parenting in general. Knowing that I really only need to put one foot in front of the other to run has always been a welcome respite.

    Congrats on your new baby!

    1. 42 weeks and 2 days of unmedicated labor!?!? Since I went into labor at 37 weeks, they were going to ‘send me home’ if my body didn’t ‘declare labor’ and naturally reach 5 centimeters. I couldn’t believe that they would send me home (at that point, the pain was at it’s highest and I couldn’t envision having it last for days back at home, like they said could happen). I had never been so happy when the nurse said..5!!!

      I’m only 3 weeks into parenthood, but I’ve had some ‘baby blues’ and emotional highs and lows hit. Walking and running have helped, so I can definitely relate to your story!