Exercise and pregnancy: 40 years ago
As a final instalment to this week’s blogs on exercise and pregnancy, I asked my mum what it was like 40 years ago when she had her first child. There were no mother and baby yoga classes and no running buggies. How did they survive?
Back in 1971, when I had my first child, Maternity Units where still very hi-tec. The Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, where I had by first baby, had just opened, but they still used an ear trumpet to listen to the heartbeat and there were no scans. You would just wait and see if it was a boy or a girl. Men were not allowed into the delivery room, so you were on your own with the nurse, midwife and, if needed, the consultant.
While I was pregnant, I used to walk to the hospital and back for check-ups, which was 4.6 miles. We had no car and the busses didn’t really go that frequently, so this was just what you did, it was normal. I remember that if you had a bike, you where advised not to cycle after six months into your pregnancy.
Me, my mum and my sister.
Prenatal classes were there to just tell you about breathing during pregnancy and not a lot else. Women gave up work at six months and started maternity leave then. If you were going back to work after you’d had your baby, you had to go back at six weeks after the birth.
When my son was born I had to stay in hospital for 10 days, this was the norm in 1971. You were advised not to take the baby out till after you had been given a clean bill of health by the visiting midwife. There was no advice about keeping fit, or what to do fitness wise, just how to be a mum. I suppose they thought you would be run off your feet with a new baby, so fitness never came into the equation.
But walking was what I did along with just about every other mum in the 70’s – but it was a means of getting around first and foremost.
In June 1976, I was pregnant with my third child, and my brother walked the inaugural Sea Bank Marathon which started at Skegness in and finished in Boston, Lincolnshire. 26 miles in the heat of the summer, it was the first time I had ever really heard of a marathon. 21 years later, though, I did the walk myself, my first marathon.
Me and mum
I had four children over 10 years, the last (Laura) being born in 1982. Over those years, again fitness was never an issue to be discussed at any of the pregnancies, but I carried on walking many miles. Taking the children to school, pushing the pram, doing the weekly shopping with the pram, the groceries always underneath in the pram tray.
I would walk everywhere, and with having to move house but not wanting to move the children’s schools, I walked the children to school and back – four miles every day. On days when I had to go shopping, this added another six miles, so some days I’d walk 10 miles in total.
I would take the children swimming, but with four kids there was never much swimming for me to do. There is always one to keep close learning to swim, two messing about and, although one was a great swimmer, I still needed to be aware of her danger in the pool.
When our youngest went to school, I went back to work in the evenings shelf-stacking for a large supermarket. This was hard, physical work pulling pallets around the shop floor. Having had four children to walk back and forth to school in the day, shopping to do, a dog to walk and food to sort as well as washing, etc it was even harder. No need to go to a gym.
My first steps into ‘Keeping Fit’ was back in 1997, when as I decided to Walk the Sea Bank Marathon. So out I would go walking and training to walk 26 miles. The longest walk I did before the marathon, was from Peterborough to Stamford, which is about 16 miles on the route we took, and we managed that in four hours.
I have always enjoyed walking and still do, be it for pleasure, or necessity. But I never considered it as a pregnancy fitness regime or anything to do with having the children. Today’s mum’s have the advantage of midwives advising on health and nutrition, but they also have a lot of information to take on board when they’re pregnant, which is probably quite overwhelming for some.