Just keep swimming

What is matronatacion and why should you care?

Actually you needn’t care, not unless you’re a little beached whale like I am these days. However, it’s something that I just recently tried and I thought I’d share my experience with those out there who are looking for information on what it’s like to be preggo in Chile (as an expat). There’s lots of ground to cover on that topic but for now, I’m going to share just a wee bit on matronatacion specifically – or water workouts for (human) preggo pygmy hippos.

Who dat? A pygmy hippo! Cute as a botton. Photo courtesty of Vision O2

[Disclaimer: Now, unless you’re a complete moron, or otherwise desensitized to all things empirically adorable, it’s hard not to notice that pygmy hippos are, in fact, quite cute. This is the reason I use the pygmy hippo as a metaphor for myself and in general, cute preggo ladies. If you’re offended by this, I’ll assume what I asserted in the first sentence of this disclaimer – 1) you’re a moron or 2) you’ve been genetically altered to NOT recognize what is clearly all kinds of adorable. As such, I pity the fool.]

Last week I attended my first matronatacion (water workout) class at MEDS Mall Sport in Las Condes. Actually, this first class has been pending since January, when sweet, sweet, chocolate-covered G gave me eight sessions of these water workouts as a birthday present. Unfortunately it wasn’t until now, that I’m on maternity leave, that I actually had time to trek all the way to BFE Mall Sport in Las Condes for this class.

The class is led by a midwife (midwife assistance and expertise is common practice during most labors here in Chile) and though at first glance it would seem that the purpose of the class is to provide a workout for us pygmys, the reality of the benefits of these classes goes far beyond just providing a cardiovascular, low impact workout for the mom-to-be. The main goals of these workouts are to strengthen the following three areas: ab muscles (for pushing the baby out and, let’s face it, to snap back to pre-preggo shape post popping it out), pelvis (you know, so you don’t break in two when the baby comes rearing its ugly head from in between your legs) and the…ew … perineal area (which is the area that lies somewhere between your hoo-ha and that place they say the sun doesn’t shine. You know, the “money-shot” favored by porno directors the world over.) Apparently mastering these three areas, along with the right kind of breathing and relaxation techniques (in my case, i.e. epidural) make for an “uneventful” and “easy” labor. As such, the midwife that leads these classes believes that working out in the weightlessness that water provides, allows pregnant women to work these three areas successfully in preparation for labor. Other benefits include a healthy, lightweight cardiovascular workout for the mom, enhanced flexibility and increased blood flow to all pertinent areas (wherever those may be.)

Bobbing in the water like little bueys. Photo courtesty of NYT Blogs

Upon further inquiry about water aerobics classes for preggo ladies, I learned that in the U.S. it’s been studied that women who partake in these kinds of exercises are less likely to request pain relievers during labor (i.e. epidurals, for example.) Now, I don’t know if there’s a correlation or not because I don’t know if bobbing about in the water is really going to make me forgo all kinds of medication and entice me to go all natural. I know me and me doesn’t fit in well with the whole 100% natural, granola-esque way of living. I mean, seriously, MORE POWER to those women who do it all natural and for reasons that make sense, even choose to do so submerged in water, but that ain’t me, baby. Here’s where I do see some kind of correlation to the claims: the fact of the matter is that these water aerobic classes are trying. As in any workout, you do repetitive motions so as to “train” muscles and build endurance for longer hauls. I was literally spent and almost breathless on several occasions (not to mention that I of course swallowed water and started sputtering about like an idiot, gasping for air on two occasions…in 4.5 feet of water, mind you.)

The next day was ugly for me. I felt like a burlap bag that had been hit by Bam-Bam’s club one too many times.


It hurt to walk, to lay down, to get up and just basically, to be. As luck would have it, my mom was with me the entire day and though that’s great, she was convinced I was going into labor (which I clearly wasn’t) due to all the pain I was in. The reality is that I’m 8+ months preggo and I spent an hour in a lovely, warm pool, doing exercises I’ve actually NEVER done in my life. Yeah, I was in pain! But it was my first time and regardless of the fact that I hurt the next day, I think it’s worth the pain, if anything because I want to believe it will help build SOME kind of endurance for D-Day. After all, how further off is labor? Aside from the obvious things, I’ll be doing something I’ve never done and be put into positions I’ve never been in. I’ll be out of breath and who knows, maybe even choking and sputtering like I was in the pool. But if my abs, pelvis and that other nether region are stronger and will help me bounce back “sooner,” then I say ok.

After writing the bulk of this post, I continued to be in pain after the water aerobics class. Because of this, I made the wise decision of forgoing any further sessions. I’d like to reiterate that it’s not because this isn’t a fabu alternative for preggo pygmys like me to partake in some healthy, active workouts. But the reality is that I should have started these classes at 20-odd weeks and not at 35 weeks. By this time, there is just way too much going on with your larger-than-life body (more than meets the eye, Transformers style!) and a mere lap across the pool – assisted by floaties, mind you – is enough to get your heart racing and make casual conversation virtually impossible.

Just keep swimming, naked little baby. Photo courtesy of Sleevage.com

So the verdict is in. Matronatacion, or water aerobic workout for pregnant ladies, is a fine alternative for a healthy workout… but don’t even THINK about trying to attempt this for the first time when you’re 35+ weeks preggo. You’re heavier than you think, your range of motion isn’t what you remember it to be and your silly little heart will beat way past what you’ll find comfortable. I honestly really liked it and wish I could go back, but to say it was uncomfortable at the stage I’m at would be an understatement.

Besides, the classes I haven’t yet used can be used for swim lessons with the baby pygmy soon-to-come. Visions of Nevermind dance in my head.

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