The First 12 Weeks: From Triathlons to Trimesters
Recently, my husband Owain and I were thrilled to announce that we’re having our first baby. The due date is May next year, almost a year to the day of my first ironman triathlon. A different type of endurance event! This new chapter in our lives has been a unique experience to date. A definite highlight being the 12-week scan where we could see our little 6 cm baby developing and enjoying lots of moving around (an athlete in the making?!) Now at 16 weeks baby is the size of an avocado, so my Babycenter app tells me, and is due to double in size in the next few weeks!
I have been reflecting on our first 12 weeks and would like to share some of the elements that I believe have made it thriving as opposed to surviving time (so far!) I have crafted these into the “Purposeful Pregnancy Pyramid” (diagram and reflections below). I think these are applicable to other life transitions too. This could be starting a new career, retiring from the workforce or having kids leave home.
Further discovering my purpose. I enjoyed a trip to New York and San Francisco during the first few months of my pregnancy to attend a couple of conferences and inspiring meetings. This reflective time away allowed me to further discover my purpose, which was a major theme of the conferences I attended. Questions I asked myself included; Why was I born? What is my unique offering? What is the most striking for me? And, how do I want to spend my limited heartbeats? I discovered my purpose in this moment is to share my learnings and insights with the world through writing and conversation to inspire others to action (if right for them). I think the first pregnancy life milestone is a great transitional period to reflect on your purpose. It’s useful to check in against this and see if you’re living this authentically. I’ve discovered that planning for maternity leave offers an opportunity to consider flexible working conditions to pursue dreams and ambitions.
Mindfulness in the moment. Coinciding with my pregnancy has been participating in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed MBSR, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.” This has been instrumental to a smooth transition from active corporate athlete to a more relaxed pregnant mum to be. The first 12 weeks can be an anxious, uncertain time for many when you are waiting and hoping all is going well with your pregnancy. Mindfulness in the moment meant my husband and I could enjoy all the little moments along the way without worrying about the future. I’ve heard a calm mum equals a calm baby; let’s wait and see!
Self-compassion and compassion for others. One thing I have been conscious of during the first 12 weeks is being kind to me. Self-compassion, which I define as empathy into action, has included massages, relaxed weekend mornings, reflective time and regular mindfulness practice. This has enabled me to continue giving to others and maintain my energy balance. A quote I love via Sharon Salzberg from this year’s Wisdom 2.0 Business conference is “You can’t give from a place of depletion … self-compassion is not selfish.” This was my most retweeted tweet from the conference so it must have triggered something for many. In this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world where we’re trying to do more with less it is imperative we look after ourselves to maximize our wellbeing and that of others around us.
Stepping back. After competing in an Ironman triathlon in May this year I actively took a step back from my hectic schedule, planning to start a family. This took courage to break the social norms and routines that I had become accustomed to. One element of this was a personal choice to stop long group cycle rides which I had thoroughly enjoyed. I realized though that if having a family was highly important to us (which it is) I needed to make some lifestyle changes. I wrote about not having it all at once in a post, “You can have it all … in the longterm,” and I truly believe this periodized approach to life events and milestones is satisfying and rewarding. Rather than dwelling on the fact that I no longer have my vigorous ironman training schedule and associated high fitness levels, I take great pleasure in other things. These include: more time to connect with loved ones, smell the roses, focus on my career, develop a mindfulness practice and start new activities such as reformer Pilates.
Exercise to keep active. Having been very active pre-pregnancy my doctor shared it was great for me to stay active on a reduced training schedule. I have swapped intense running and cycling sessions for Pilates reformer and have been enjoying easy jogs/walks and swims as well as yoga. I think keeping active has helped me maintain my energy balance, having not experienced unusual tiredness so far. I’ve also been very fortunate to avoid the first trimester morning sickness and I empathize with others who have this. In addition to keeping active I believe balanced nutrition has been a key ingredient to thriving versus surviving in my first 12 weeks. Of course there have been the inevitable cravings: for me, salty French fries!
I hope these “purposeful pregnancy pyramid” insights may be of use to others thinking about starting a family or those who are already pregnant. For others, perhaps this was an interesting read with elements that can be applied to other life transitions. I would love to hear any comments from others experience.