I knew from the start that my pregnancy wouldn’t be without challenges and complications. After all, my path there was far from straightforward.
My husband and I did not meet until I was 35 years old, so by then, I had pretty much given up on any expectations surrounding motherhood, probably to protect myself from disappointment. I had a history of hormonal imbalance/PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and became very aware of the challenges of “geriatric pregnancy” from my OBGYN and social media. Medically, 35 is described as “advanced maternal age” and comes with higher risks of pregnancy complications, hence the label, “geriatric”.
As our relationship grew and became more serious, my feelings on motherhood changed.
I really wanted to have a child with this man! Was it too late?! Had I “wasted” away my child-bearing years?! I wanted to be hopeful, but I was genuinely worried about our chances to conceive. I went to my OBGYN seeking answers. After labs and an office visit, I was told that I would likely need to have fertility interventions (starting with IUI) due to PCOS-related hormonal imbalances.
The more I thought about it, the more a voice inside of me kept urging me to look at the root cause of these imbalances.
I decided to take my fertility journey into my own hands and seek out the help of a functional medicine physician. After several labs, tests, and visits, she diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue- based PCOS. She was confident that I could reverse it with some simple lifestyle changes. On the surface, I was healthy, fit, and active. As a personal trainer, I worked out daily and ate nutritious foods. I looked the part too with low body fat and muscle tone. How could someone “healthy” like me have fertility issues?
Well it turns out, it is possible to be “too healthy.”
I was stressing my body with too much activity, not enough quality rest, and too little nutrition. As a result, my cortisol levels, hormone production, and periods were completely out of whack. The way I was treating my body was signaling to it that it was not a safe place for pregnancy. I started prioritizing sleep, limiting strenuous workouts, and increasing my carbohydrate and overall caloric intake. The functional medicine doctor also taught me about environmental toxins and their negative impact on hormone balance and fertility. I began reducing the toxic burden from my environment by swapping out traditional beauty and household products for safer, non-toxic options.
After six months, I felt more energetic, balanced, and happy.
I also gained (yes gained!) weight. I struggled A LOT with the weight gain at first. Being in sports like gymnastics growing up and continuing in the fitness realm as an adult, I put a lot of pressure on myself to have a certain body type. With a lot of work, and continued support from my care team, I finally realized that fighting my body’s natural shape for the sake of aesthetics was not worth the hurt it was causing me internally.
Once I started accepting these changes and was able to show my body compassion and grace, I became pregnant within three months of trying!
Now the dream was a reality! But, being pregnant brought another challenge that hit me hard. My pregnancy was double high-risk because of my advanced age (36) and my blood clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden. Factor V is a genetic disorder that makes blood more prone to clotting, including increasing the risk for dangerous conditions like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). Estrogens increase the risk of clotting, so taking an anticoagulant during pregnancy is especially important for someone like me with Factor V Leiden.
Because I had experienced blood clots in my 20’s, the maternal fetal medicine physician immediately started me on once daily Lovenox injections.
I couldn’t stop crying after that visit. I felt like this happy, joyful season of my life had been tainted.
After some time though, I realized that despite the pain, bruising, and dread of the daily injections, I was so grateful to have them. Afterall, they were keeping me and my baby safe and healthy!
By my third trimester, I was accustomed to the daily injections and growing more and more excited to meet my daughter! Then came another blow.
Around 36 weeks, we found out that my daughter was breech.
Luckily, due to my high-risk status, we had extra ultrasounds scheduled with maternal fetal medicine. Through these visits, we found out that she also had a nuchal cord (when the baby’s umbilical cord becomes wrapped around their neck in the womb). I was told that the cord was likely wrapped around her neck at least three times, so an external cephalic version would not be possible to try to change her position. This is a procedure that externally rotates the baby to the correct and safe position. Since this was not an option for us, the doctors said I had no choice but to schedule a c-section for 39 weeks.
I was devastated. As an active, fitness professional I worried my body would take a major hit.
And honestly, it did, because cesareans are major surgeries! As someone who has had multiple other surgeries in her life, it struck me as odd that my c-section was the only one for which I did not receive a post-op rehab plan. For most major surgeries, it’s standard protocol to follow up with some type of therapeutic rehabilitation. For example, my ACL repair required months of physical therapy and several post-op visits. But, for my cesarean, I left the hospital with no rehab instructions and only received one follow-up visit at 6 weeks postpartum. This still baffles me! Luckily, as a certified pre/postnatal trainer I knew exactly what to do to rehab my core and pelvic floor, but I know from my work that so many women are left with inadequate post-op care.
It has become my mission to help other c-section mamas (& all mamas for that matter!) get the support and care they need and deserve.
Looking back, going through all of these challenges on my fertility and pregnancy journey was a blessing rather than a curse.
I am now able to help other women and mothers navigate the ups and downs of their own journeys through my work at Motion Melissa and Motion Mamas. I am passionate about teaching women to trust their bodies, honor their inner voice, and improve their relationship with exercise through intuitive movement. I love guiding other mamas with safe and functional mindful movement through pregnancy and postpartum so they can feel strong and supported in their own journeys – no matter how complicated or challenging they may be.