Monday, June 30, 2014

Not only can they stand and walk, they can even run!

If I believed in God, I'd feel like the apple of her eye right now. It's because of the timing.

Just as I'm succumbing to a little old-fashioned thinking and deciding maybe now, at 34 weeks pregnant, I'll stop running and stick to the bike, a friend (an angel?) sends me this article in the USA Today about a woman who's also 34 weeks pregnant:

Alysia Montano just doing her thing, which happens to also show the world what pregnancy can be. (source)
She's still running like a cheetah.

And guess what? Cheetahs get pregnant too! Always have!

And you know what? Gazelles get pregnant too! Always have!

So whether you see hominins as the predators or the prey at any given time in human evolution, the pregnant ones, at least in our direct lineage, were obviously doing all right. (Flashback to similar thinking, here.)

There's footage of Montano on the move, and an interview about it all at ESPN. Those questions reflect some old-fashioned thinking that I wish the interviewer had explicitly distanced herself from. That's because we're in the future now. Women aren't asked to stop being active, strong humans just because they're growing a kid. In fact, those of us who are active and who have good healthcare and routine pregnancy check-ups are encouraged by our midwives and doctors to stay active, to stay fit throughout pregnancy.

Society expects non-pregnant women to do the same. Society also expects kids growing outside the womb to do the same. Is any of that any different? Do people actually think that all their female ancestors sat on ass while pregnant?

I guess some people don't think. Or maybe they haven't had a rich enough education in both history and natural history to give them the context for thinking about this. Maybe they take a doctor's (god's?) or a scientist's (god's) Word at any given moment, no matter how many decades ago it was uttered, as scripture, forever and ever amen. Especially when it comes to babies, those little miracles.

There are so many of us who've spent our entire lives being active, and as a result are pretty strong human beings. This goes for women who have no choice and must labor physically during their lives to stay alive and well and to keep their families alive and well. But this also goes for women in places like the U.S. where many women have had the opportunity to be athletes as little girls and throughout their lives.

Many of us products of Title IX are reproducing and we sure as hell aren't going to have healthy pregnancies being inactive, being someone else for nine months.

I hope every woman watches Montano and takes inspiration from her if she'd like to. And that might include getting a new and informed, dare I say futuristic, doctor if her current one's holding her back.

I also hope people see Montano running strongly (and disgustingly fast) so that they'll maybe think twice before admonishing a pregnant stranger for lifting that bag of dog food. Or for tsking at her for hiking on any inclines because she should know better and should stick to the flat paths congested with strollers and flip-floppers instead. 

Me, 32 weeks pregnant. On top of Mt. Sargent, Acadia National Park.
To the women and men of our society who have culturally limited expectations of the female body: Watch this video of Montano and then think, react, and act accordingly--with that much broader picture of "woman"--to the rest of us, pregnant or not.

We're everywhere, us active pregnant ladies, but it's something else to see such a prominent one put herself out there like Alysia Montano did. I hope that her two swift laps around that track will go a long way toward expanding minds about expanding uteruses.  


Holly Dunsworth said...

I wish I'd written this entirely about the expanding uterus. How it starts with a big bang....

Ken Weiss said...

Of course, to the extent that our evolutionary ancestors were some form of hunter-gatherer, without permanent settlements, women at all stages of gestation would have been walking long distances, even carrying loads (like their prior toddlers).

Holly Dunsworth said...

They need additional calories, and that's for resting and beyond.

It's tough to get me to go very far these days because home is where the refrigerator is.

Ken Weiss said...

Maybe, being relatives and charitable souls, the pregnant womens' friends let them gather just nearby roots and berries, instead of needing to do the normal long day-trek. The payback would be that everyone was getting pregnant from time to time.

Of course, this is pure guesswork. Real evolutionary theory will enter the picture only when relics of their ancient refrigerators are unearthed.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Wait. First you're telling me that these people had s-e-x and now you're telling me they were communists???

Anonymous said...

Hard to tell whether they would have been carrying toddlers -- it contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, child spacing is very wide. If you combined extended breastfeeding, lots of exercise, and a not-so-robust diet, you probably wouldn't have a baby every 2 years.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Holly, and it's great that you're feeling good running. On the flip side, though, I went into my first pregnancy (as a dancer) thinking that it would be just a matter of counterbalancing a little extra weight on my front. No problem! I totally bought into the message that pregnant women could do anything. Which made me feel like a lame weakling when I was constantly out of breath, sluggish and feeling funky in my joints. The trick is to tell women that they are allowed to accommodate and give themselves a break, without forcing it on them.

Ken Weiss said...

well, the 3- and 4-year olds would have been constantly nagging mom to slow down, give them a snack, or whatever....

Ken Weiss said...

S-e-x?? No, they never did that. There were no bushes to hide behind, no privacy, and other esthetic things of that sort. No way! But communists? When the ancient fridges are found we'll perhaps know if they were shared, or if each family had its own stuff.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Hi Lara!

It should be easier for active women to learn all about changes to anatomy and physiology during pregnancy so they know what to expect with aches, pains, and performance as they proceed through gestation.

I haven't come across one, but I'd love to see a pregnancy and childbirth book geared toward athletes. If anyone knows of one, please post. I can't be the only woman who's looking for alternatives to aromatherapy and Yanni for while I'm in labor.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Isn't that why writing was invented? To label dibs on the last sleeve of girl scout cookies?

Holly Dunsworth said...

Pretty giddy that Ms. Montano favorited one of my tweets about this. I might have to go run off my excitement.

Ken Weiss said...

Of all your creative ideas, this is by far the most insightful! The origin of writing! And the discovery of the reason, based on primitive fridges also makes it clear what the first word was (and so characteristic of humans): MINE!

Tom519 said...

The Wall Street Journal has an awesome article about a ballerina who created a modified ballet routine while preggers and then started a business that teaches women her techniques. The classes have other pregnant women who are active so it gives them an opportunity to provide advice and support to each other. It's not sissy stuff either, it's quite rigorous.

This is a bit off-topic but I couldn't find an answer to this anywhere. What would happen if you artificially inseminated a chihuaha or any mall breed with a great dane? I mean if the female couldn't control the growth of the embryos the puppies would be larger than she. I searched and searched and was supprised that it had never been tried as an experiment - or there's no record of it. I asked around some biologists and biological anthropologists and they gave a variety of answers:

Intrauterine hypoxia and miscariage

Reduced litter size and suppressed growth. Puppies same size as normal chihuahua puppies. Small dogs have smaller litters normally.
Female has a 'fail safe' mechanism of sorts to suppress intrauterine growth that goes back millions of years to origin of sexual reproduction. Normal delivery with dogs larger than chihuahua but not much larger. This is the explanation I think most likely.

Breeding between large and small dogs always have the male as the smaller parent (for obvious reasons) Puppies are intermediate in size between big and small dog both in-utero and ex-utero. If female is smaller dog and artificially inseminated there might be a drastic reduction in litter size with puppies the same size as her "normal" pups.

I read the HD paper about pregnancy and energy metabolism but couldn't find any information to support or refute the above scenarios. If you are able I appreciate any thought or information that might resolve or clarify the hypothetical insemination idea. It seems to me worth an actual experiment. If the female's life is in danger you could just abort the puppies, so you don't have to kill lab animal. Thanks

Holly Dunsworth said...

I don't know the answer to your question--I've never heard of an experiment like that. Of course I have some hypotheses though.

Ron Simpson said...

It's very admirable of Alysia Montano to run even though she's 34weeks pregnant. I love it that even though she doesn't have a chance to win, she just ran and ran until the finish line. She's an inspiration to us all. That no matter what happens, win or lose, even with depleted resources, even when shes lagging behind other competitors, she's going to strive hard and finish what she started.

Anonymous said...

Would you mind sharing that hypothesis if it's none of the above? Another I thought about was premature delivery of an underdeveloped fetus.
The mother should be able to control the amount of nutrients and calories by by restricting new blood vessels. I was thinking that something like this could help in understanding miscarriage, or, epigenetics in general.
Smaller dogs have smaller litters to begin with (chihuahuas and yorkies average 2.5per) and artificial insemination results in smaller litters as well, at least according to dog breeders. That idea seems kind of odd to me since there's so many sperm that damaging their motility or chemo-taxis seems impossible. TIA

Holly Dunsworth said...

Thanks for sharing your ideas, but I hope you can understand why I prefer that when someone wants to talk to me about my research and wants to pick my brain for my ideas about what sounds like their research project in the making that we do it non-anonymously. To be honest, I'm now worried that given all of what you said you'll read an upcoming paper of mine and think I've stolen your ideas. But I'm not even sure why I'm worried since I don't even know who you are.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Of course, this would be different if I'd posted about these issues. That would mean I'm willing and hoping to have a public conversation about them.