You may have seen the media storm over the last week over Emily Breeze. Emily is a games level CrossFit competitor who has been lifting and cross fitting throughout her pregnancy. She was featured in Women’s Health and Insider People and has received a lot of attention- the Insider People video has over 21 million Facebook hits!
I absolutely love that we’re talking about pregnant women lifting heavy in the mainstream media. But it was apparent after a quick scroll though the comments, not everyone is on board with this idea:
My doctor said she’s an idiot.
I can’t believe she’s putting her baby at risk for the sake of vanity.
She’s an idiot.
What if she drops all that weight on the baby?
You guys. These comments HURT my soul to the very core.
In Defense of Emily Breeze
First of all, I don’t know Emily, but I wish I did. She is a former collegiate athlete and in 2015 placed 24th in her Region during the CrossFit Open (that means she’s pretty legit). According to her CrossFit Games profile, her 1RM Clean and Jerk is 185#, she can Snatch 145#, Back Squat 265#, and Deadlift 315#. All at just 5’4″ and 125 lbs.
It appears to me that Emily is being pretty intelligent about her training. In the media features, the amount of weight she is shown lifting is not a heavy percentage to what she moved prior to pregnancy (though still legit). Remember that weight lifting is not defined in absolutes. 100 lbs for a sedentary person is completely different than for a veteran athlete.
As for the fear of injury, my bet is that she knows how to fail these lifts. Meaning she is only taking lifts she knows she can make and can bail safely if something goes wrong. Really, the fear of dropping “all that weight on the baby” is most likely coming from someone who is not experienced in these movements.
Why I’m Lifting During My Pregnancy
When I posted the first video of myself lifting whilst preggo, I got some comments about it being scary or to be sure to talk to my doctor about what I’m doing. I even got a private message that it was dangerous and basically selfish. And all these made me smile and chuckle because they were coming from people who meant the best (I think).
But I got nothing like the comments that Emily received. The first time I scrolled through them, my blood boiled. Because if those comments are being said to her, they could be said to me. That is NOT OK.
And I refuse to bring a child into the world where uneducated internet trolls have the final say.
1. “She’s an idiot.” First of all, people, pick your knuckles up off the ground. This is no longer 1965, when the delicate woman is quietly rushed to the hospital to hide her lady bits while Dad has a cigar in the waiting room. We know that birth is one of the most physically demanding events that humans regularly endure and survive. Why would you NOT train in preparation for this? Why would you NOT lift as heavy as possible for as long as possible? It’s tough to find studies that prove the efficacy of this strategy either way (for some reason, it’s unethical to do clinical trials on pregnant women), but the observational data tells us that women who train throughout pregnancy are more likely to have better birth outcomes and quicker recoveries.
When I tell my sphere that I’m training for birth, I typically get the brush-off: “Pfft. You can’t train for that.” I disagree- this is the first time I’ve made it to 25 weeks, but it is not the first time I’ve been pregnant. When we miscarried, I did it naturally. I had very real contractions as I birthed an 11 week old placenta over my toilet. It was exhausting and terrifying and traumatic and emotionally drained every ounce of courage I had in me. And that experience demands that I ask the question: Why would I not be training for this??
To be totally fair and level headed, of course women who are pregnant will need to adjust the intensity and frequency. There will be some movements that are off the table. But an idiot for lifting and training hard? Sorry, I’m just not following.
2. “My doctor said she’s an idiot.” Your doctor is an idiot. And for the record, if you think I’m an idiot for all of this, I’m ok with that. I probably have the same opinion of you.
3. “I can’t believe she’s putting her baby at risk for the sake of vanity.” Gah! What? I have made it a point to surround myself with women who care more about her Snatch PR than her pants size. When it comes to this breed of woman, vanity is usually about 5th of the lists of reasons why we chalk up and squat low. Sure, it’s nice to have a perky butt, but things like feeling unstoppable and not having to rely on a man to help me pick my suitcase up off the airport carousel sure do top the list. Everyone has their own reasons, but I work out because my fear of becoming helpless or a burden is far greater than what my scale says is going on that day. Especially while pregnant.
4. “What if she drops all that weight on the baby?” Probably won’t happen. See above.
5. “She’s selfish.” Ok. If you’ve been skimming up until this point, STOP. Because this is where I’m going to get real. If you tell me I’m selfish for lifting heavy during my pregnancy, I’m going to say “Yeah I am.”
I think it is incredibly selfish to lift heavy and train hard during pregnancy. And that’s EXACTLY why I’m doing it.
When it Comes to Self-Care, Choose Selfishness
Why are we saying selfish like it’s a bad word? If putting my nutrition and fitness as a priority is selfish, then I’ll be selfish all day long. For women, it is so common for us to forgot to be selfish. And by selfish, I mean putting our needs above others. Maybe it starts with pregnancy, but usually within those first few years, and suddenly 10 years later we’re sick, unhappy, unhealthy, and desperate for something better. So yeah, if this is selfish, then OK.
While we’re on the topic, let’s stop we using the word selfish to shame others. We live in a world where our phones never turn off and neither do we. We’ve evolved from human-beings to human-doings. We need to stop negotiating with the world and reclaim the word selfish. Do something for yourself and do it regularly. Even if your house is a mess, your laundry isn’t done, your kids didn’t finish their school projects, and your spouse is complaining that dinner is burnt. Shut it down.
To take this one step further, as I mentally prepare myself to raise a son, I consider “What do I want for him to know and who do I want him to be?” I want him to know that a wife and mother is not a doormat. She is an equal partner in the family who deserves the same quality of life as everyone else. If I demonstrate something else, he’s going to be looking for the wrong kind of partner one day. And if we ever have a girl, I want her to know that being a wife and mother does not mean she has to be a doormat, either. Because then I run the risk of her looking for a partner who likes to wipe his feet on doormats.
Lifting and training are an integral part of who I am. I am aware that babies cause a shift in that identity, but I refuse to let go of who I am at my core. When I got pregnant this second time, I spent the first trimester living in fear (and with my head in the toilet). In fear that every decision, every movement, and every memory would someday be painful reminder what I lost.
Living a life making decisions based on fear leads us to unlivable lives.
Listen. This is not a fitness shaming post. Lift or don’t lift while pregnant. Do what works for you and be cool with it. Demand support for your decisions and show others the same courtesy. And if you feel the need to rip some woman apart, suppress that feeling and go find another bridge to live under.