Irritated pregnant woman has something to say

If I hear one more time how dangerous/unpleasant/risky pregnancy and/or birth are--well, I don't know what I'll do. Get even more irritated than I already am, I suppose.

I went to a yoga class this evening--a gentle/restorative class--my first yoga class in weeks and weeks. I felt too sick during most my first trimester to attempt any yoga, but as readers of Baxter Sez know, yoga has been an important part of my life for years now, and I was eager to get back to it. There are very few prenatal yoga classes in Charleston--in fact, only two that I know of right now--and neither one is a good fit for my schedule. So I thought a gentle/restorative class would be a nice way for me to ease back into a yoga practice.

I made the mistake of mentioning that I'm pregnant to the person taking my money at the front desk. (Things I've learned from pregnancy so far: do not take the recommended tests! Do not tell anyone you're pregnant unless they absolutely need to know! No good can come of it!) Then ensued a whole, furrowed-brows conversation between the front desk person, the owner of the studio, and my teacher. I was informed, in a very kind way, by the studio owner that I'm a legal liability if I take any class but the prenatal class, that I might do something "that would be bad for a pregnant woman," and that it would be too time-consuming for the teacher to have to pay attention to me to make sure I didn't hurt myself. I understand all these concerns--I know this person didn't make them up--we are in an incredibly litigious society, and people feel the need to protect themselves and their small businesses.

But this is just one of several conversations I've had in the last few weeks that have centered on the dangers, the perils, the risks to life and limb, of my pregnancy.

Here's what Ina May Gaskin has to say about some of this. Ina May, you may know, is the mother of modern midwifery and one of my feminist heroes. She runs the midwifery center at The Farm. She says:

So many horror stories circulate about birth--especially in the United States--that it can be difficult for women to believe that labor and birth can be a beneficial experience [and I would add to this pregnancy, too]. If you have been pregnant for a while, it's probable that you've already heard some scary birth stories from friends or relatives. This is especially true if you live in the United States, where telling pregnant women gory stories has been a national pastime for at least a century.
Ina May advises pregnant women to read stories that focus on how empowering birth can be, how exciting pregnancy can be, stories that don't pathologize a perfectly natural human experience. I would add that it's important I surround myself with people who are excited that I'm pregnant, who are supportive of the choices I'm making--and, indeed, of my ability to make informed choices--and who are ready to love this baby no matter who he or she is. I am perfectly comfortable with people wanting to commiserate with me about the challenges of walking around in a pregnant body, but I'm losing my patience with being looked at like I'm a ticking time bomb.


Anonymous said...

I am *aghast*, AGHAST, I say, that they wouldn't let you take the yoga class. There's nothing dangerous about yoga for pregnant women. You need to be careful about your balance and with inversions because your core muscles aren't used to your new weight distribution, but there's nothing dangerous about yoga and being pregnant!

I'd love to know the name of the studio!


Aaron Piepmeier said...

Monkey! I'm all about the preggers workout movement. (sigh). It's a subject that I've been wanting to look into for some time now. Back when I was teaching taekwondo I wondered if there were any movements that could be dangerous for a preggers to perform (you know... besides the getting kicked in the womb thing).

It sucks that it screwed up your yoga night.

Anonymous said...

What I have always heard is if you were doing it before the pregnancy you can continue it throughout until (and your body will tell you) you no longer can. I have witnessed very pregnant women dance right up until the due date...and it was totally fine, of course.
You should take pilates, though. ;)
It conditions the abdominal and pelvic muscles that help you push and recover.

I hope you find a class that works!

eglentyne said...

I never enjoyed yoga so much as when I was pregnant (I have three kids now). I wasn't in a prenatal class. My instructor, who had some limited experience guiding a pregnant body in yoga, was enthusiastic to learn along with me. All of those hormones racing through my pregnant body made most of my stretches deeper than at any other time. The twitchy jellybean inside of me made me more aware of every motion and nuance of each pose. And I never hurt myself. Your body tells you what it needs, what it can do, and what it can't do. You already know that, I'm sure. Perhaps in your case it's just a matter of taking the time to talk with the instructor, or even of finding a different one that doesn't get too worked up about things. ;)

Best of luck.

The Mom said...

I, too, am surprised at the instructor's reaction - and that it's become such an issue. Even recently I had read something about how good yoga was for a pregnant woman. I hope you get it worked out so that you can again take a class. I'm sure it's more fun than trying to discipline yourself to do it alone. Good luck.

I'm glad you've read Ina May Gaskin. I read her when I was pregnant, too. (Shows how long she's been there, huh??)

Daniel said...

AP: If it's any solace, I've ALWAYS thought of you as a ticking time bomb.

After reading this I'm wondering if it's even wise for me to return your chainsaw.

The Dad said...

Yea Alison

Yes, it is very important to surround yourself with positive people and attitudes
Yes, it is very important to keep yourself in positive thought
Yes, whatever you choose is the RIGHT and PERFECT thing
Yes, you are the mother bear, the one who is going to know what is right for you

If there comes a time that you need or must take a stand on things or people around you... use your new irritability and
Rage, Baby, Rage It can clear the air and cleanse the mind.

The Dad

BlondeonBlonde said...

The baby is protected in the uterus and by the amniotic fluid. I suppose that our society isn't quite up to jumping on horseback and riding for miles before squatting in a field to give birth.

But it sounds as if the yoga folks were thinking about themselves (no lawsuit) as well as the care of the baby. I have read that there are exercises that are good and there are those that are bad for babies.

I understand that being told that you can't do something that you have been doing for years is grounds for being irritable. But maybe you can do some of the exercises at home, put some music on, and get relaxed without going to the studio. There is probably a lot of information on line.

Curtis said...

Hmm, perchance pregnancy is treated almost like a disease because doctors were a Boy's Club for so long? I know that *I* have absolutely NO frame of reference for it. It is, perhaps, the most foreign thing I can imagine.

Quiche said...

I have heard the same as Megan, adding that once you get more of a belly, you might avoid poses that restrict your abdomen, and Iyengar suggests not attending a class or doing your practice in the 11, 12, 13th weeks. Likewise if you typically jump into positions, you can alternately walk into them. Yoga is so conducive to our changing bodies and adaptable to all. I'm surprised at the reaction you got! Aside from the usual precautions and things to avoid, general rule of thumb- if it hurts, stop or do something different. You know your body. The yoga will help prepare you body physically, mentally and spiritually for the birth process, using your pranayama breathing to help you transition between the wave of contractions and help you to relax.

I think that whole dangerous/unpleasant/risky "fragile flower", as if it's some unnatural (?!?) thing assumes women have no common sense or don't intimately know their own bodies. Total crap! Pregnancy is neither dangerous, harmful or risky unless you have been told you are high risk. It is an altogether weird, wonderful, powerful, humbling, awe inspiring experience and perfectly natural- your own microcosmic version of the Big Bang. I send you much love. Glow on!

Anonymous said...

First--I hear you. It gets even more fun when you become visibly pregnant. In addition to horror stories, people offer MUCH too MUCH unwanted advice, control and assume pregnancy = pathology. Of course, in the third trimester, it does become much harder to ambulate, but still.

Second, my favorite part of pregnancy #2 was prenatal yoga. One thing I loved was that the teacher emphasized that our class was not about restful meditation but about building strength and endurance--two things we'd need for labor and delivery. She really pushed us, and I appreciated it. Yes, there are some poses that one shouldn't do, not just because of the baby, but because your balance, lung capacity and blood flow alter during the pregnancy, but in general, so many poses can be easily adapted.

hang in there- littledj

Conseula said...

Ah, just wait until there's an actual kid your lugging around--people are full of horrible, inappropriate advice and scary stories.

I firmly believe that your body knows what it can and cannot do, what it wants to eat and what it needs to eat. If you listen to your body and surround yourself with people and caregivers who will also listen to your body, then you'll be okay.

The Mom said...

Alison, you have some wise and wonderful friends! Again I say, you are the expert. Yes, you can seek advise when in doubt, but go with what resonates with you. You'll know what's best for you and your baby.

Salvador Dalai Llama said...

You know, this reminds me of a book... Yes, I'm a geek. But a proud fathergeek of two. The book is by Della Pollock, Telling Bodies, Performing Birth. She's a faculty member at UNC in Performance and Cultural Studies--the book is an interesting look at the way we tell stories about pregnancy and birth. It's been a long time since I've read it, but IIRC it might be up your alley.

Garin's Mom said...

Alison - Mandy sent me this info a couple weeks ago; it might be one of the classes that doesn't fit with your schedule, but if not, give it a try. BTW - I did full-contact karate through my whole pregnancy with G, he seems none the worse for wear (nor am I). Mel.

-------- forwarded email --------
I figured in one way or another you'd be interested in this class or know someone who is interested in this class. Please feel free to forward on to any and all!

Cameron (who many of you know from Holy Cow) has opened her own space on James Island. It's called From Seed to Tree. Her vision of this space is so magical and she's sharing with everyone! She has recently started her pre and postnatal class on Tuesdays at 11:45. The website is www.fromseedtotree.com

They're located just off of Folly Road on Sol Legare (right by the Piggly Wiggly) about 1/4 mile down.

If you're pregnant or a new mama...you really deserve to be there.
----- end forwarded email ------

Emervents said...

ARGH! This kind of attitude irritated me when pregnant too.

I know they are afraid of being sued, but their fear of litigation indicates that they are responsible for any risk you may take while on the premises. Yet, any non-pregnant person participates at their own risk, right? This indicates that:

Because you are pregnant, you are no longer able to judge risk.

Now that you're pregnant your brain is a teenyweeny pea and you are likely to harm your baby as a result of your new stupidity.

We non-pregnant staff (at the gym, yoga centre, take your pick) are much better at assessing the risk to your baby, you'll need to trust us when we say you won't be able to do anything at all in this complex until you've had it.

It's blatant discrimination against pregnant women that occurs in all societies. It's as though the bigger you are, the further you leave your autonomy behind.

Grrr. I'd be angry too.