I'm going to tell you how we made the baby. You can’t help but read, right? Fear not, I will spare you the details. Come on, my mom reads this blog! I won’t tell you stories of circus chimps, handcuffs and a flirty girl pole.
Did I just say that?
Where did this all begin? How did it happen? WHO DID THIS TO ME! It all began in late July. Or, the point at which we started trying to try. By mid September, something was up. I did a race around Labor Day and just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t breathe, I had no zip and felt flat. A week later I went for a run and was feeling off. My heart rate and my effort were just not matching up. I was holding a pace that was not that fast for me but my heart rate was high.
Being an athlete you notice these things. Because we are always monitoring our bodies. The ordinary woman probably wouldn’t think twice because she is not attempting to get her heart to beat over 180 beats per minute while running at a fast pace. The earliest signs of pregnancy are disturbances in your heart rate. Your body is starting to notice the change in blood volume and the heart can’t keep it.
It takes nearly 12 weeks for it to adapt.
A few days later it happened again. One bad run in a week I can excuse. Two bad runs in a week – other than illness there is no excuse. I thought to myself – maybe…? So I took a test. Sure enough it came back positive.
But this one wasn’t meant to be. Miscarriage. 15 to 20 percent of all first pregnancies end this way. We were in Iowa for the weekend that Chris was doing a race. I was also supposed to do the race. Instead my body had other plans. Though it was early, the moment you see a positive pregnancy test something changes. You change. You have hopes. You are thinking of names. You see the would-be child in 2, 5, 10 years. Even though nothing much has even happened yet, you still feel something. And no matter what you know or read, you can’t help but have the feeling that maybe it was because something you did wrong.
Maybe it was my fault.
While Chris was getting ready for his race, I sat in the bathroom and cried. I wasn’t crying about an opportunity or hope lost. I was crying because it was yet another example of how something was wrong with me again. Of maybe I should just give up at everything because nothing seems to be going my way.
10 minutes later I told myself I was over it. Yet it took over a week for everything to return to normal again. Every day was a painful emotional reminder of something being wrong – with me or my body – and it was also so physically uncomfortable. Imagine the worst cramps – times ten. For days.
In that time, you have to keep going back to the doctor to give blood. They take blood to be sure your HCG levels go down sufficiently. They also mentioned that I had very low progesterone. Progesterone is the hormone that sustains the pregnancy by way of building up the lining in your uterus, making it a cozy place for an egg to implant. As it drops it signals to your body to shed that lining, just like in a period. Mine could have been low for many reasons. But, it was so low it was not normal and got me thinking.
I decided to call a specialist. They did a few tests and determined that I had a condition that was often seen in women with low progesterone and required surgery. Nothing too complicated and once done I could happily go back to trying to make the baby.
Meanwhile, I had hung in limbo for too long. I wanted to get back to racing. And so I decided with Chris that I would set a race schedule for 2010 and let the baby making be. It would be what it would be. But the show must go on. So, I scheduled surgery based on the first day of my next period. All I had to do was wait.
Wouldn’t you know that I had just finalized my race schedule one day earlier. And wouldn’t you also know that it is never late?
Time for another test. Positive. Again? I have GOT to stop eating that fertility chicken! I’ve heard that you are more likely to get pregnant right after having a miscarriage because your hormones are higher. My cycle reset itself instantly back to normal and one cycle later – success.
The human body amazes me sometimes.
I laughed at the test result. Sometimes all you can do is laugh. The score is now 3 months trying and 2 times pregnant. Let’s hear it for fertility (chicken!). I called the specialist to cancel surgery. When they asked why I said – because I’m pregnant.
Since I had a miscarriage before, they put me under their care right away. I went in that day and they took blood. My HCG levels came back at 337 and my progesterone was at 24.6. They say that if your numbers are high from the start it indicates what will likely be a successful pregnancy.
But like numbers in training, they do not mean much alone. It’s how they change over time that matters. Three days later I gave more blood. My HCG levels came back at 737 and my progesterone had gone up to 30. I was right on track.
Since my progesterone was low last time, they put me on progesterone suppositories as a precaution. It’s an inconclusive treatment that assumes the extra progesterone will help your body to sustain the pregnancy. Does it work? No one knows. But I was willing to try. Imagine shoving all pill full of bloating, fatigue and constipation right up into you. Twice a day.
And those suppositories shot me straight into instant pregnancy. Hello fatigue, fatigue, seriously – FATIGUE. Not like I just rode my bike 142 miles fatigue. Hell, you can sleep or eat that off. More like I walked into the bedroom, fell face first into the bed and woke up 2 hours later still wearing my shoes. In the middle of the day. THAT kind of fatigue.
At the start of 6 weeks I went in for another appointment. They were going to do an ultrasound to see if it was a viable pregnancy. I took a deep breath and hoped for the best. And then there it was – a little yolk sac! It looks like a lighted circle in a black cloud. I realized I was seeing the very beginnings of Little Waterstraat. It is one of my most surreal things in the world. To know that at this moment something is living inside of me – needing me and growing with me. If that doesn’t make you feel humbled, alive and inspired then I don’t know what will.
The bloodwork comes back from the 6 week mark and HCG has jumped up to 23,500 while progesterone dipped to 19. Progesterone dropping is never a normal thing in pregnancy. As a reaction, they bump up suppositories to 4 a day.
More pregnancy in a pill. Super.
Other than fatigue so bad I felt like someone had shot me in the ass with a tranquilizer every afternoon and intermittent waves of nausea, the only thing that made me feel pregnant was the boobs. In pregnancy they have a mind of their own. I realized how serious it was getting when I caught Chris looking at me googly eyed.
Why are you looking at me?
I have a feeling it’s going to be like Christmas for the next 9 months for Chris.
All I did early on was wait. Week to week for the next appointment to see the next thing that shows me that everything is progressing normally. After you have a miscarriage you can’t help but stress over every little detail that might indicate something is going wrong. But each week was a confirmation that everything was actually going right.
At 7 weeks it was time for another ultrasound. If I am lucky in this one I will see the heart beat. I study the technician’s face waiting for her to wince or blink or drop her mouth a bit indicating that there is no heartbeat. Why do we expect the worst? Perhaps because I’ve experienced the hopeless side of it? Soon I am distracted by her saying:
There it is.
A little blob that if I squint hard enough looks like a teeny tiny baby. And within it a pulsing blob that is a heartbeat. Holy crap. Life looks different all of a sudden. How can something smaller nail head be inside of me, beating with its own pulse of energy? How can this be real?
The bloodwork comes back both good and bad. My HCG had risen to over 80,000 but progesterone dropped again to 16. Despite taking 800 mg daily of the progesterone put right where it’s needed, it wasn’t doing a thing. When they called the next day with these results I cried. Perhaps I was hormonal or perhaps I was just fearing what I thought was the inevitable. Something would go wrong. Not only that but yet again something was wrong with me. I kept thinking to myself what is wrong with me. All kinds of idiots have babies in the world. Yet again, what is wrong with me.
The specialist took the next step which was to put me on progesterone shots. I really do not like needles. Chris would need to give it to me every night. Imagine your husband holding a nearly 2-inch needle. Quick, what do you do? I want to run and hide. But alas we needed to go through this routine every night for the next 7 weeks.
The first shot was given by Chris in front of the nurse to be sure he knew what to do. It’s different than other shots because it needs to be injected directly into the muscle of your butt. To penetrate that deep requires a long needle that I felt every millimeter of as it went it and came back out. It was like getting stung by a bee in my butt every-single-night. And afterwards Chris had to rub my butt for 5 minutes to distribute the oil so it wouldn’t clump up.
So far, pregnancy has been a boob and butt party for Chris.
The first time he gave it to me I cried. Because it hurt like hell and because it was a painful reminder that something was wrong with me. I just wanted to be good at something again. I can’t even be good at making a baby, I thought to myself.
The next day all I could think about was the damn shot and how bad it was going to hurt. I got home, procrastinated until 10 pm when finally it needed to be done. Before Chris stuck the needle into the right cheek he said I’m so sorry Liz. I’m not sure if he meant because he was about to hurt me or because I had to go through it.
Chris kept telling me I was brave. But I thought about it the next day and realized that if this is what it takes to get to the finish line, you can poke my ass 100 times a night with a needle. This is what it takes. This is my goal, my race now. And like any goal you must look straight into it without fear. Without doubt. I know I can do this. I might need a little help along the way but I can do this.
It didn't get any better. Every night I reminded him that it HURT! We had to alternate butt cheeks nightly. I had track marks on my ass along with assorted bruises. I learned that if I bit my thumb or arm hard enough it would distract from the pain of the needle. I had bite marks on my hand.
One week later my progesterone shot up to 59.7. That is the benefit of shooting it straight into your ass. The cost was that my glutes were so sore from the shot that I could barely sit. And I was also getting pumped full of pregnancy. Indigestion, bloating, breathlessness. Some days walking up the stairs would completely kick my ass into what felt like zone 4 heart rate. Add to that fatigue so heavy I could barely function. And constipation, well, I could write an entire blog about that.
But I won’t.
At the 8 week ultrasound, I was told if they saw a heart beat again I would be released to a normal OB/GYN. Dark room, big machine, waiting, waiting...the technician turned the screen to reveal what looked like a bigger than teeny tiny baby. She pointed out two arms, two legs, a head, a developing brain and a tiny blob in the middle beating. When I asked her how fast she said 158 bpm. This is perhaps my favorite place to run – around 160 bpm! I thought to myself that the baby is already keeping up with me. We will get along just fine for the next 8 months. Just fine.
I was released to the normal doctor then. I waited 3 weeks for the next ultrasound – waiting crazy with anticipation, a little bit of fear and a whole lot Type A impatience. Finally the morning arrived in which I would get to see what was going on inside of me.
I was scared. Is it still in there? Did it stop growing? Chris assured me I was pregnant. It’s in there, he said. Every time he said that, oddly enough it reassured me. But I don’t feel pregnant, I would lament. Trust me you are still pregnant, he said. Immediately the technician turned the screen toward me and I knew it was a good sign.
THERE! There is Little Waterstraat. And growing bigger, measuring in at 11 weeks. Face down against my uterus like I just interrupted them from something important – growing! A little blob again that was its heart beat and lots of normal fetal activity.
Really, all of this has just started but at the same time...I am nearly 33 percent done. Whoa. I try not to think about it too much. I try not to think ahead too much or worry too much. But every few days something hits me:
I have to name this child.
I have to make a nursery for this child.
There is no turning around. This is a one way street, a one way ride that doesn’t stop until the end.
And at that point, the ride really just begins.
I remember a few weeks ago when I told a friend, he looked at me, bug-eyed as if he didn’t already have two children of his own – and said you know there is a little person growing in there. I just laughed, because I totally got what he meant. I was running the other day and thought to myself – there is a baby in there, running with me. It’s like a strange feeling of something alien that has taken up residence in your body. At times it feels – well, freaky. But each time I see the baby, it feels more normal. And I am sure that once I actually start looking pregnant, when I can feel it moving I will feel more connected to what is happening. Right now it still doesn’t feel real. But every day it is a little more tangible.
Time will tick quickly enough with my worry helping it along. Like I say to my Ironman athletes, the time will pass, it always does. 10 weeks from now I will find myself more than half way pregnant, much bigger, hopefully feeling kicks and wondering if I will ever be ready. The time will pass.
And all I can do for now is wait. July wasn’t too long ago but since then it feels like forever, the next July seems like forever away but...pregnancy time ticks to a different clock. Some days you feel like you will be at xx weeks forever. Other days you think to yourself – how am I already at this point? One day at a time, one step, one nap, like training, each day adds up until you find yourself sooner than you know it at the finish line.