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‘The Bump’: Jennifer Iafolla

Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily LifePregnancyPost Category - PregnancyPregnancy

This month’s ‘Bump’ interview features some of the most amazing photos we’ve ever seen, mamas, and as a bonus our featured mama Jennifer Iafolla is absolutely hilarious! A super-fit mama of three (Cooper, age 4; Logan, age 2; and baby Elysa, 5 months), Jennifer is a jeweler by trade who grew up in Hong Kong, Canada, the United States, Australia and Italy before finally meeting her American husband here in Singapore! You’ll be wowed by her pregnant yoga poses, and even more inspired by her tips on keeping fit during pregnancy.

What was your reaction when you first found out you were pregnant with your third baby?
I was shocked. It was not exactly a happy moment as we thought we were done, or at least waiting a few years before even thinking about a third baby. I went to see my OBGYN with the intention of picking up birth control pills, but instead walked out with an ultrasound. Let’s just say it only started looking brighter when I found out it was a girl. Truth.

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Your funniest memory over the 9 months?
I had a pretty textbook pregnancy with my third baby. I could basically check off each box in the baby book on symptoms for each trimester. I remember one of them was gas… yeah. I tried to be discreet about it one time in the elevator, but it backfired. I was with my middle child when I thought I could let out some “steam” but oops! People heard it and started looking in our direction. So I looked at my middle child and said, “Oh Logan!” and starting shaking my head.

Any great books and resources that prepared you for when your baby arrived?
For me the best resource was watching Babies by filmmaker Thomas Balmes. It’s a documentary following four different families from four different parts of the world, each raising babies over their first two years. It gave me peace of mind that you can’t screw up and that you really don’t need 90% of what books say you need to have in your house before baby arrives. And whether you’re giving birth in Africa, Inner Mongolia or San Francisco, your baby will be healthy and happy as long as they have you.

Another great resource was Vicki Iovine’s Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy. I love her humor and how candidly she speaks of what medical books fail to tell you. However it is not a medical book so I won’t recommend it as the pregnancy bible. For a more serious read, I would have to go with The Baby Book by Dr Sears. It is and has been my baby dictionary for all three kids, covering everything from immunization to sleep training (or not training) to breastfeeding.

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What do you think every woman should know before getting pregnant?
Before you get pregnant you should know that you will never for a long time get to sleep in again. If you decide to go out to party, remember there is no such thing as nursing a hangover! Babies/kids don’t care and they will wake up at the crack of dawn, especially on weekends.

What was the easiest trimester and which one proved most difficult?
Easiest trimester is the second. Even though you have a growing belly, you think it’s easier because the first trimester just sucks in general, and the third is by far the worst. You’re just a huge balloon waddling everywhere. And I already started losing sleep in the last trimester because I just couldn’t find a comfortable position.

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Did you follow a fitness programme while pregnant?
With the first pregnancy, I read as much I could online about working out during pregnancy and even consulted the trainers at my gym about what was safe and what wasn’t. What I realised was there is so much controversial documentation on fit pregnancy that it just deters you from even wanting to exercise! Plus, you’re just tired from the exhaustion and the pains and aches that come with pregnancy.

That said, I didn’t have much morning sickness so I exercised through all trimesters. The biggest battle for me was the lack of support in general; dear lord if my mother ever saw half my Instagram photos, I think she’d faint! Not to be dramatic, but it felt as if it was me against the world. But things are changing slowly as more research shows that a fit pregnancy is the best pregnancy for mother and baby.

I wish I’d had a role model to follow during my first pregnancy. I would search “pregnancy exercise” or “pregnancy workouts” in YouTube to create my own routines. In my second pregnancy, I was fortunate enough to have met a yoga teacher who believed I could continue my practise and even grow from it while I baked. By my third pregnancy, I had learned that we are stronger than we think and that our bodies are built for this, so just kept working hard at the gym or on the mat.

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Did your approach to fitness change between each of your pregnancies (i.e. were you more cautious with your first than you were with your second and third)?
It took me three pregnancies of trial and error to figure out what did and didn’t work for me. I initially focused more on cardio – the elliptical machine, swimming, light weights, yoga – but gave up when my belly got too big.

Part of it was not having a great support group, so I was always conscious of what others thought. With my second pregnancy, I added weights, more conditioning than cardio; basically I didn’t change much from what I’d done before pregnancy. I also learned to do inversions in yoga during my second pregnancy because of a pregnant yoga teacher I met at the time. Watching her move through her poses with her big belly inspired me to push beyond what I knew I could do. I started practising headstands and forearm stands against the wall at 20 weeks, and by 33 weeks I was moving through inversions in the middle of the room!

With my third pregnancy, I was just sick of the backlash I got from others saying how it was bad to lift weights while pregnant. I became rebellious and that fueled a lot of my motivation to work out even more intensively (yes, I’m very stubborn!). I didn’t change much of my routine from pre-pregnancy and was even trying out SUP yoga in the Maldives during our babymoon. I added plyometric exercises, barbell workouts, balancing movements on the Bosu ball, and squats with weights….

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Did you get any strange looks or unsolicited advice from people who saw you exercising while pregnant? What did you tell them?
When I was pregnant I stood out like a sore thumb in the gym and was basically the only pregnant mom in my yoga classes. Older people had no shame expressing their thoughts to me about how dangerous it is to work out during pregnancy. One time when I was waddling across the road with a 31 week belly, an older female told me to walk slower.

I know they have only good intentions, but when you’re filled with pregnancy hormones, I can get a little defensive! I had days where I would just listen and say thank you, and others where I would give my own opinion. But I’m starting to see some expecting moms working out in the gyms, which is a great shift in thinking.

I would just keep doing what I was doing – kept my head low and headphones on. Secretly I wanted to prove to them that it’s ok to work out hard and still have healthy babies. But part of me was worried – what if something happened? – and they were right about taking it easy?

Bottom line, I did it for myself and I knew this was the best lifestyle for baby and me. And after I gave birth, they saw how healthy the baby was and how quickly I recovered.

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Any fashion tips and tricks for maternity dressing?
I always hated the thought of shopping for maternity clothes and found alternatives. For work I found wrap dresses work well, especially if you already have them in your closet! I lived in my DVF dresses throughout most of my pregnancies. For casual wear, I started using a lot of my existing tank tops and pulling my maxi skirts over the belly and adding a belt so it looks like a dress. Otherwise if I truly needed more clothes, I would shop at places like Forever 21 and get a bigger size.

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Any weird and wonderful cravings?
McDonalds throughout all three pregnancies, and coffee Frappucinos from Starbucks.

What did you struggle with most being pregnant?
My body image. How pregnancy produces loose skin, stretch marks and the battle wounds of childbirth.

Name a mama you find inspiring and why?
My mom. Even though we have different approaches to raising kids, her energy is amazing with my brother and me, and now with my children. I am fortunate enough to have her close by so she can grow up with my kids. When I give up on feeding my babies, she will use all her energy to entertain them just so she can get one last spoonful into their mouths! I feel like that’s what Asian parents always want to do (fatten their kids). Joke!

But in all seriousness she is an amazing mother and I have her to thank for that. I still remember the times when she would just sit next to me while I did my homework – it took forever – and I’m sure if I was in her shoes I would try not to kill myself with boredom!

 

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What are your thoughts about finding out the sex in advance?
I couldn’t wait to find out the sex of the babies! I wanted to prep the room, get the décor in for boy/girl. And especially being pregnant a third time (after two boys), I was hoping and praying that it would be a girl.

What kind of birth did you have? (hospital, home, epidural, etc.)?
For all three babies, I had hospital delivery with epidural. I think I’ve scared myself enough watching TLC birth shows that I just didn’t have the will to go through a med-free birth. Plus my pain tolerance is not exactly high.

What helped you get your groove back after being pregnant?
Date nights! Before we had babies, my husband and I agreed we would always come first to each other. When he walks through the door, the first person he greets is me, and vice versa. It’s not that kids come second, it’s that when you have kids, your life and schedule will automatically revolve around them. And because they are your flesh and blood, the love is automatically unconditional. Because of that, spouses tend to come second and you lose communication with each other. So every Friday, we make an effort to go out either for a meal or drink just to catch up on life in general.

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Do you have any mama-friendly favourite places (restaurants, parks, etc.) to hang out with your kids?
For baby -friendly dining I love places like Spruce, especially the one at Tanglin Road, because they have a big outdoor space, a playground for the older kids and kid-friendly cutlery. The staff is so accommodating as well. Most restaurants at Dempsey Hill are also baby-friendly (if you can’t tell, I’m looking for restaurants with big indoor and outdoor spaces and no white table cloths!).

As for parks, hands down the Botanic Gardens (I also live close by). They have an area dedicated to kids that’s good enough for my children — Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden is amazing. They have their own water play area, a beautiful waterfall, and even a suspension bridge especially for children.

The place is so well created that any kid’s dream and imagination can come alive; from playing in the treehouse, to pretending to be camping in the rainforest to learning about the different plant species. I grew up in the outdoors and definitely want my kids to grow up running outside and using their creativity.

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Any local businesses (or websites) that made your pregnancy journey easier?
Definitely Babycenter.com, but I would stay clear of forums. From my experience, reading them just made me more stressed out. A phone app I loved was Baby Bump; it helps track your pregnancy with weekly updates on what’s going on with the baby and your body. After the baby arrived, I loved the app Baby Connect where you can keep track of your feeding times, diaper changes, sleep schedule etc.

As for websites, hands down would be Sassy Mama of course! It’s targeted to our island specifically with information on where to get maternity photos done, places to get massages, and shopping!

What are your hopes and dreams for your kids?
My dream? That they won’t grow up so fast so I can still hold them in my arms without them squirming. They grow up too fast! But in all honesty: That they grow up to be honourable individuals who treasure life and will live it to the fullest with integrity and happiness.

Thanks Jen! To keep up with Jen, her super-cute kids and her fitness tips, be sure to follow her on Instagram

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