During my pregnancy, I exercised to relax. But my old faithful, the elliptical, wasn't enough. Running wasn't quite doing it either, and my pregnant breasts were not excited about the jostling of the treadmill. I needed something so exhilarating that I would keep coming back, even when my joints hurt or I was really tired. So I decided to try Zumba. One Saturday morning, I shyly stepped into the aerobics studio, a baggy t-shirt covering my slightly protruding belly. I wasn't far along enough yet for anyone to guess, but I wasn't sure I wanted to be the only pregnant lady in a class that promoted sexy, Latin dance moves. That seemed weird. This seemed like one class that couldn't be 'pregnancy friendly.' I scuttled to the back corner of the room.
A few minutes after 10:00, a beautiful woman with long dark hair glided into the room. "Hey, ladies!" she announced. She wore lime green cargo pants with black ribbons hanging off the pockets and a hot pink tank top with ZUMBA written on the back. "I'm Koni. Ready to shake it?" There was a loud whoop from the ladies in the room, and with that, the percussion beat pounded through the floor and Koni took off. The tassels on her pants wiggled as she swung her hips. I laughed out loud at my unexpected glee. She was intoxicating. The music took over. And astonishingly, for an hour, I forgot I was pregnant. I was too busy dancing.
A month or so later, my belly popped. "Here comes my Zumba mommy!" Koni would exclaim as I entered the room each week. I started wearing colorful clothes like the other ladies in the class, and I even wore tight tanks to highlight my pregnancy. But as I got bigger, the movements became more difficult. I couldn't squat and move my hips in a smooth figure eight when we belly-danced; I had to settle for a more syncopated, left to right movement. My cumbia steps weren't effortless and graceful. Sometimes, it felt downright wrong. Here I was, on my way to becoming a mother and I was running my hands down the side of my body in a sexy salsa move. It seemed so… contradictory.
I thought about giving up. It felt wrong to be dancing like this anyway, and I couldn't even do half the steps. I was in my sixth month- maybe my body was telling me something. Koni danced like a beautifully decorated ornament…and I was lucky I didn't fall down. One day after class, I shared my feelings of inadequacy. Koni listened and then told me to take my glasses off. "Stop looking at yourself and judging. Just dance and you'll see."
When I take my glasses off, I can't see five feet in front of me. And when I couldn't see, I couldn't judge. That's when I really started to relax and have a good time. My belly grew, my body swelled, but I kept dancing. Once I stopped criticizing myself for what I wasn't doing, I was able to get back to that first day I did Zumba; an hour where I didn't think about the baby or my fears and anxieties but just relaxed, let go and danced. And surprisingly, I even felt sexy.
For two or three hours every week, I took a little vacation from pregnancy. During Zumba, I actually felt like me, like the person I once was, not a person whose life was about to change in a zillion unexpected ways, a person who was living each day in a limbo land of transition, waiting for this little boy to make his entrance. During Zumba, the pregnancy screen lifted, and for a little while, I could see clearly.
I danced up until my 38 th week.
And here's something funny. From the day my son was born, he calms down whenever he hears music. It's like he remembers. When there's music, there's no reason to be stressed. When there's music, everything is going to be ok.
How do you relax during pregnancy? What is your 'pregnancy vacation?'
Sarahlynne is a Parenting Guru, a freelance writer and mom of one.