Friday, January 29, 2010

BuyBabyBuy

I just got back from BuyBuyBaby.

I might need a moment.

What to do on a Thursday night when the work is done, the workouts are done, the dinner is eaten, you have no interest in watching Iron Chef Battle Tilapia and it is 7 degrees outside.

You suggest a trip to BuyBuyBaby to see just what we are getting ourselves into.

Chris was game. In fact, he suggested this trip just a few nights ago. I remember thinking how unusual it was but also how lucky I was that my husband was suggesting we go…baby shopping. Later I discover that there was another motive here.

Do you think they will have diaper genies?

Of all things baby that a man might be wondering about, ie., breast pumps, why the diaper genie?

Everyone on Ragbrai kept saying that Trixie’s solar powered iPod player looked like a diaper genie.

This is true.

We walked across the parking lot, the night cold and lit up by the colorful letters shouting not just BUY baby but BUY BUY baby to us. Beckoning to us – consumption, on a grand scale. It’s like going into Bed, Bath and Beyond – which I never suggest unless you have 2 hours and approximately 400 dollars to blow.

BuyBuyBaby, owned by the same company, is just the same. Except imagine all things baby. ALL THINGS. Nothing is left unsold here. To the left, diapers are stacked ceiling high, to the right, clothing jumps off the hangers in pretty pinks and soft blues, in front of me are toys toys toys.

The first thing we do is stop at the book section. Aubrey, our adorable niece, is celebrating her first birthday and I thought we might get her some books. The classics. I grabbed Goodnight Moon off the shelf.

This is a classic, I tell Chris.

I’ve never seen it before.

This doesn’t surprise me. Along those same lines, Chris has never seen most classic children’s movies, television shows, or been in a hammock. Normal kid things. Brenda still recalls the day, just a few years ago, Chris was over their house and noticed a hammock in the tree.

What’s that, he asked.

It's a hammock.

What’s it for, Chris said as if he could not even imagine what a netted sack hanging between two trees could possibly do.

Well, it’s for sleeping, relaxing.

Next thing, Chris gave the hammock a try. And quickly flipped right out the other side.

I realize that I will be not only raising a child but a husband child. Many of our child’s first will be Chris’ firsts too. But I draw the line at changing him and we have already had the discussion that no the breast pump is not a penis pump.

Assume nothing, that’s what I say.

We walked over to the cribs and rocking chairs. There had to be at least 2 dozen rocking chairs lined up and next to them were cribs of every size, shape and color. Where do you even begin? I suppose 50 percent of the work will be cut in half when we find out the gender. But until them let me put in my vote for anything with monkeys or frogs. All of the boy stuff was adorable filled with animals and polka dots. The girl stuff made me want to bark pink flowers and purple butterflies. I started talking to Chris about cribs that turned into beds when I realized he was no longer behind me.

Instead I saw him standing by a crib with a blank look on his face. Actually staring into the crib. For a long pause. And I realized at that moment that he was probably doing one of two things:

1 – Wondering if he could build a similar crib, and the answer is no, our child’s bed will not be a woodworking experiment (he is on a woodworking kick lately, after he painted the entire house, he began searching for a new man project and decided that we would rebuild the living furniture even though it is from Target and we can just buy all new stuff for 80 bucks, I believe he is nesting already).

2 – Thinking to himself…HOLY SHIT. Because at some point, when you are having a baby you have the moment when you realize that you are going to have a little person to care for in less than 6 months.

HOLY SHIT.

And that person will require: diapers, special shampoo, special soap, special little nail cutters, nursing pads, changing pads, diaper bag, crib, rocking chair, bouncy chair, vibrating chair, high chair, car seat, stroller, pacifiers, bibs, little socks, little shoes, onesies, and when I informed Chris that baby would also need a special place to take a bath he said….

No.

What do you mean no?

We’ll give them a bath the same place we give Boss a bath.

IN THE UTILITY TUB!?!

Let’s move on to the play pens. Oh, wait, my bad – the pack n’ plays. I had a play pen. A portable prison cell if you will. You put the baby inside of the play pen and here’s the deal – they can move but they can’t go anywhere. Now they are called pack n’ plays. And they look much different than the practically metal box that was my play pen.

What are these for?

They are for putting the baby somewhere safe when you are away or doing things. And, in our case, when we want Boss to stay away from the baby.

Maybe we should just buy one and put Boss inside?

That is a very good idea.

We head over to the strollers next. Where to even begin? There have to be four dozen strollers here. Chris immediately picks out Aubrey’s stroller and says that he likes it the best. I agree, it was a good stroller. And it should be. Considering it was $749!

I make a new rule: no stroller in our house will exceed the cost of any one bike in our house.

But it gets worse. We find a stroller that costs $949. No joke. Chris starts playing with it and discovers it has full suspension. I have reason to believe it also had carbon fiber brake pads. And an aerodynamic hydration system.

I’m at the breast pumps. Actually, we both are. There is something wildly curious about a pump you attach to your breast. I need to see what this is all about.

Check this out.

Leave it to my husband to find the box with the picture of a woman that has two pumps attached to her breasts. You can have both and a little box that tells you how much milk you produced for the small fee of 349 bucks.

Last stop, the diapers. We need to know what the damage might be. 180 diapers for $40.99. I have no idea how long that would last but realized that when you have kids you can either have a fancy coffee habit or have a kid who wears diapers.

Finally, there they are – the diaper genies.

I signal Chris over to the shelf that holds at least 6 different types of diaper genies.

How do they work?

Let me check my maternal instinct which at birth installed the directions for how to use a diaper genie in my head. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THEY WORK! But I think the idea is that you put the diaper in, you twist the top and the poopy smell goes away.

So it’s like a garbage can.

Kind of. Just a lot more money. And that is when I realized a baby is like Ironman. You slap IRONMAN on anything and automatically the price goes up by loads of bucks. And baby is the same way. Even though the brush you use to clean out bottles is the same damn brush they sell at Target for $1.99, for baby you are going to pay $6.99. Ditto for…everything.

We walk out of the store.

Having a kid is an expensive thing, Chris says.

Back at home, I sat down to catch the end of Iron Chef and Chris cleaned up his things around the house.

Elizabeth.

Ruhroh. Full name means I’m in trouble.

Did you move my paintbrush?

Oh you mean the one that has been sitting in the same place for two weeks but really should have been put away two weeks ago. I didn’t. Ok, I did. I put it in the bucket which also needs to be put away because it is sitting in the utility tub.

Please do not move my things.

True, I shouldn’t move his things. But they were begging to be moved. They had seen enough of the laundry room. Quick, think of a bulletproof defense here....

The utility tub needs to be clean. It’s going to be the baby’s bathtub.

Call it cost cutting. Or something like that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Know Your Intention

Yesterday I sat down and wrote some goals out for myself.

When I return to racing, I will be 36 years old. Yikes. That sounds almost as bad as having a geriatric pregnancy! While I know that women can peak in endurance events into their late 30s, the clock is ticking. Funny, we women cannot escape ticking clocks. I feel like all of a sudden I’ve found myself approaching my late 30s with so much I still want to do in sport and life.

Where did all of the time go?

I’m not saying you can’t be fast in your late 30s, I’m just saying that I’ve already set some decent PRs and to break through those, it needs to be done sooner than later. I’m not dropping a sub 18:00 5K when I am 40. Not going to happen. Plus I have these damn ovaries, and my husband does not. If we want a bigger family, well, tick tock.

So I sat down yesterday to write out pie the sky, escapism dreams. You know those dreams? Like if you had all the time, money, drive, talent in the world, what would you want to accomplish? There’s the old saying that says you ask yourself why, I ask myself why not. And that is something I always used to do. Why not me. Why not sub 18. Open yourself up to the possibility. That is often the difference between those that pick apart their performance (why am I not getting faster! why am I so slow! how will I ever hit those intervals!) and those who peak at their performance (why not go faster than that, why not do it today, why not be one of the best).

It’s interesting to think or talk about goals or dreams when you are pregnant. I was talking to a friend about racing after pregnancy and he said “whoa, worry about having a healthy baby first!” Seriously? I can worry the next 25 weeks away but that won’t improve the process. In fact I will probably enjoy it less. Not only that but we as women have the right to think about life beyond baby. A baby is a beginning, not an end.


Entering pregnancy, I was prepared for all of the changes in my body, the changes in my life but I was not prepared for all of the assumptions from others that having a child will equal the end of everything that embodies “myself” – my passions, my business, my needs, my dreams, my-self. The self can still exist. Let me rephrase – the self will still exist. I am not going to become this child, I will care for and shape this child. Yes, you can still pursue yourself and your passions. Women do it all the time – my friends, my own mother. You just have to do so more time-effectively and with balance.

Spend enough time in the pregnancy mode of swimming/biking/running with your heart rate low and you find some time in your mind to think about goals. Big goals. Like I said, pie in the sky dreams. Mmm…pie. I have never before been so hungry for accomplishment (or, bacon). Something so strong you can taste it, you visualize it before bed, that you cannot wait to begin the process of working toward it. I am caged. That is how you find passion for your goals. Not surprisingly, the goals came to me quickly, affirmation that this is what I want to do and it is just a matter of time and effort before I achieve them.

And even if I do not, I will at least say to myself that I tried.

Shortly after writing down some goals, I ran into one of my athletes. She is also a coach. We started talking about athletes in general and the conversation turned to goals. Everyone is into goals. Aren’t they great? All of a sudden you write down something like I am going to give up chocolate this week and you feel 10 pounds thinner. You feel totally in control. Of course writing it down is the easy part. Action is a little more difficult. When faced with temptation, commitment, follow through, time crunches, stresses of daily life – we behave in different ways. All of a sudden giving up chocolate, a sensible goal, becomes a failure of meeting a goal. And then what. We go back to being our fat, unworthy self.

All because of chocolate?

She started talking about how athletes can get wrapped up in their goals, they rely on them in a not so good way. Goals are never that easy. You might say that you want to go sub xx:xx at Ironman and then dedicate so much time, physical, mental and emotional energy to achieve that goal. But it is never as easy as that. Even if you do invest all of that into your goal, there are so many x-factors on race day that reaching your goal is never guaranteed. The longer your race, the more x-factors exist, the more likely luck plays an even bigger goal in your role. You cannot plan for luck. You just hope that it finds you on race day.

What happens, then, when an athlete doesn’t reach that goal. Then what. How do they feel? In the case of giving up chocolate, you fail to give it up and you just become yourself again. Maybe even more disappointed in yourself. Maybe you go on a chocolate binge because why not – it’s all or nothing, you already f*cked up might as well slide down the slope of self-pity and eating your emotions. But in racing, if you spend all of that time preparing, working, sacrificing and fall short – or don’t even make it to the finish line – what do you do? Are you devastated? Do you quit the sport? Does it inspire you to work even harder? Or does reaffirm yourself as being slow, not good enough, whatever demon thoughts you harbor about yourself.


In this sense, setting a goal can be a very empty experience. Of course it is fulfilling if you reach that goal. But if you do not, you are left with a vacuous feeling that all of that work went for nothing, that you failed yourself.

That is when she started talking about intentions. And how important they are when setting goals. She said it so simply but it was very powerful: know your intention. You can set a time goal, you can set any goal – but why. What does that goal mean to you. Why are you setting it. Who will you be if you reach it. And, who will you be if you fall short.

By definition, the word intention means a knowing and willing determination or decision to act in a certain way; the reason, end or goal for performing a specific action; resolve. It is a sense of purpose that leads to action. Along those lines, all of a sudden setting a time goal alone is not enough. What is the purpose of breaking 2:30 in an Olympic distance triathlon? So what. It’s like swearing off chocolate for a week. Yes, the ultimate goal may be to lose weight – but why? What is the intention in that? If you think it through you find that the intention is to feel better, to be healthier, to eat more balanced, to have more energy….the list could go on. And it is a list that is 10 times more inspiring and meaningful than just-stop- eating-it-already-will-you.

I thought about this on my drive home from the city last night. Intentions. So many of us set goals and have tasks leading up to those goals but what is the bigger purpose. What makes an athlete keep going back to the pool to break x:xx for a series of 100s when they keep hitting a few seconds off. What makes them ask themselves for more in their run test because they only dropped 4 seconds per mile and they wanted to drop 5. What drives them to continue to strive for their best? What are their intentions?

Back to my pie in the sky goals. Or dreams. Whatever, these are things I want to achieve. Why? It’s more than just wanting to say, I went xx:xx in Ironman. It’s more than setting a new personal best. It is because everything in the last two years tells me I should give up on goals and just buy Huggies for the rest of my life. Because it is easier to give up on yourself as the demands in life increase, as we age, as we know we will have to work harder for what once came to us more easily. Because after being defeated or falling short so many times, it is easier to not even try at all.

But that is not my intention. I’ll set and go after my goals with the same gusto I did years before. Back then I did it because I wanted to see how far I could push myself, how much I could better myself. My intention was to keep proving to myself that yes I can. That whatever goal I set, it could be achieved. That I had what it took to get there. Whether it was starting a business or running a fast 5K. Intention is contagious in all areas of life.

Nothing has changed. That is still in me. There is also a baby inside of me that right now is the size of a navel orange! But one day it will be out. And I will have freedom to pursue sport goals again. So in the remaining time I have to peak, how high can I climb? The possibility of this, to me, is exciting.


Being pregnant you start to think about these things – is the climb possible, worth it, will there be time. It is so easy to expect nothing from yourself because everyone else is expecting that your job for the rest of your life will be taking care of baby. Well, of course it is! But if I know anything about women, it is that they are master multitaskers. More demands call for more focus. And focus gets things done. So, I go through pregnancy with the intention that I will get back to being myself, pursuing goals for myself while also shaping a little person to do the same.

Know your intention. If you know what you want in a situation, you will know what to do. You will know why you want to do it. Intention is your passion, with a purpose and drive. It clarifies your reasons. My intentions are clear to me. Are your intentions clear to you?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Changes

Every day I feel changes. My mood changes. My emotions change. Some days I am elated. Other days I am ornery. Today I got really scared.

Did you know an infant can urinate up to 18 times a day and poop up to 8 times a day!?!

AND THAT IS A NORMAL DAY!

On top of that I was sick for the past two weeks. Right now I have the immunity of a 3-year old who just licked every chair in preschool. Everyone tells me this is totally normal in pregnancy. My cousin, 24 weeks pregnant, told me that she has been sick several times. When I asked her what she took to treat it, she gave me what has to be the typical everywomanwhoispregnant answer: I just suffered through it. I swear you become this machine of suffer. Sure, running over 2 hours used to be my suffer (WHY do people like to run that long!?!) but suffering through sickness with no medicine (specifically, no Nyquil) – that, my friends, is true suffering.

What about suffering through every day? All of my defenses for survival of daily life have been stripped away:

No coffee
No sushi
No hot tubs

No Advil
No wine

How I survive every day? Beyond me. But I believe it is because of something very little. And right now growing rapidly and about 4 inches in my uterus.

Back to my sickness. This was a full blown angry cold that finally ended in a Z-pack and a 5-day headache that only responded to only cure that I’ve ever believed in:

Coffee

Yes, I drank my first cup of real coffee in nearly 15 weeks on Saturday. It tasted good and for the rest of the day I was wired on all sorts of pent up energy. I can’t say that I will be going back to coffee any time soon because I never wake up craving it any more. This has been a huge lifestyle change. Sometimes I am sitting at the kitchen table working and my hand reaches for a phantom mug of piping hot brown liquid goodness and it is not there. I know you can drink coffee in pregnancy, the problem is I don’t want it. It doesn’t taste right. And decaf? Ditto. I can get by on decaf but it’s like the difference between white and red wine. You drink red wine because you love wine. You drink white wine because you are at a cheap wedding and that is all they are serving. From a box.

Everything also tastes salty and metallic. Pregnancy changes your taste buds. Don’t believe me? I cannot stomach peanut butter and do not crave ice cream. I know, sacrilege. A few months ago if you have told me I had to live off of coffee, ice cream and peanut butter for the rest of my life I would have said amen. Now, all three of those have no interest to me.

The only thing I do crave is meat. Lots of it. Steak, veal, lamb. Bacon.

Seriously – bacon?

BACON!

Speaking of changes, I realized that I have gone through an entire trimester without posting any belly pictures. The one thing several women said to me was to take pictures of my belly – often – because you will love to look back at them. I thought about taking them every week but it wasn’t really until week 14 that I realized my belly looked different. “Different” doesn’t really hit home until you see yourself in a picture.






This is my first belly picture in my 15th week of pregnancy.

I was running and realized that if I was ever going to take a belly picture, this would be the only type I would settle for – a picture of me being me. A belly picture in action. I have to confess that I asked Chris to do two things while I was running: take a picture of me and take some video. I wanted video so I could watch my run form and make sure I wasn’t getting all flat footed and shuffly at the pregnancy pace. I realize that makes me sound crazy. I never said I wasn’t crazy. Just pregnant. That is all I am admitting to.

Check out who else is in this photo. That’s right. Boss. You know how dog people say that dogs have a sixth sense? Like they know something is up with you? I am telling you, Boss knows there is something up with me. He sits guard by the treadmill for the entire time. This is a change because he has never done this before. It’s like he has access to some secret panic switch in case I fall. I’m not saying he’s gifted because I’ve already said that before. I’m just saying that my 10.2 lb (winter weight) chihuahua is not only utterly adorable and cute beyond words but also looking out for me.

Things change. My fat pants are getting tight. Every girl has a pair of fat pants. No, not pajama pants – those are what I call my work uniform because I sit around in them all day. Fat pants are that pair of jeans you reserve for days when you are feeling really fat and you put the jeans on and they end up falling off of you because they are so big and you’re like – see, I’m not fat, I’m still skinny after all. The fat pants are now tight. I might have to buy new pants but then I heard about this thing called the bella band which is like cheating with your fat pants, making them extendable fatter pants. Even fatter fat pants is what I will call my pants + bella band.

One of the hardest changes in pregnancy is the complete unpredictability of your energy levels. Some days you wake up feeling like you could sleep all day. Other days you wake up on 3 hours of continuous sleep and feel like you could climb a mountain. This is frustrating because as an athlete we are so tuned into our body and realize the rhythm of our energy levels. Day after hard workout ---> lousy swim and insatiable hunger. It is like some days I am stuck in a loop of post-hard workouts even though my heart rate hasn’t left zone 1 in weeks. That is the rhythm of pregnancy.

As far as workouts go, I had a great run today, and lasted 60 minutes on the treadmill. That is a long run for me right now. I realize I was completely fueled by coffee and that is ok. Tomorrow I will probably crash and need 3 naps. I was also up all night with a headache. The strange thing about being pregnant is that you can be awake on and off all night but wake up the next day feeling ok. Any other time you do this, you feel like the walking dead all day. In pregnancy it is like you are meant to come alive at night. I think the body is smarter than we think. It prepares you for all those nightly wakenings and feedings by disrupting your sleep for 40 weeks. I cannot remember the last time I slept through an entire night without waking up for something.

Especially dreams.

For awhile I was calling them progesterone dreams because they were especially bizarre and vivid while I was still on the progesterone shots. There is something crazy about dreams in pregnancy. I am not typically a dreamer. I used to go to bed and wake up 8 hours later. Whatever happened in between then, I didn’t know because I was asleep. Now, I think I am waking up so frequently that I keep catching myself in the middle of dreams. Last night I caught myself dreaming about Bobby Flay. True story (about the dream), we were in a hotel talking about swimming when I asked Bobby if he was ready to throwdown. Throwdown what I have no idea but I was totally ready for it.

This just in: I ate pizza tonight. I believe some time last year I made the shocking announcement that I was the anti-pizza. But lately, pizza sounds really good. Vegetables do not. I had one piece of pizza tonight along with salad. I took three bites of salad, ate my pizza then ate half of Chris’ pizza slice. When I offered him the piece back, it was torn into a rhomboid-like shape and missing half the crust. He just shook his head. I just pulled the pregnancy card.

I’ll tell you one more thing that has changed. I have started watching more television and it’s not good. I am shamelessly addicted to the E channel. Chris told me that channels like this actually make you dumber. Too bad I didn’t hear him because I was too wrapped up in the Kardashians.

You definitely do not see the changes day to day. But every Monday I step back and realize that I am that much more pregnant than the week before. Whether it is my changing side profile, the thickening of my waist or watching as another month comes to a close…changes are the theme of all of this. And in the next 6 months, there are many more to come.

Friday, January 22, 2010

First Trimester Fitness

Last week I talked about exercising through pregnancy – the why and the how. And also the changes that you and your body will encounter. I’ve now gone through an entire trimester of this thing called pregnancy. How did it go?

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor should my experience be construed as medical advice. Talk to your physician about guidelines for exercising in pregnancy.

The first trimester is 13 weeks of pregnancy. I found out I was pregnant in week 4. You may or may not know this but it’s worth explaining that by the time you miss your period you are already 4 weeks pregnant. You are not actually pregnant the first 2 weeks but since most people do not know the exact date conception occurs, pregnancy is counted from the start date of your last period. Looking back in my training log, it was pretty evident something was going on in week 3 because I went for a run and my heart rate was sky high compared to the pace. A week later, I realized what was going on. And started making changes to my training routine.

Someone asked if my doctor gave me permission to workout. Unless the doctor needed to restrict activity level because of a high risk factor, it seemed to me like the doctor was not otherwise going to be much help in giving guidelines for activity. In most cases, you do not even see the doctor until after 10 weeks. Some doctors do a consultation around 6 weeks but the first visit is usually around 10 to 12 weeks. At that point, you’re almost finished with one-third of your pregnancy! And, those are the most critical weeks for development. You could do a lot of things right, and also a lot of things wrong in that time. Bottom line: you have to take responsibility to educate yourself. Read books, look through websites and ask other athletes. Then, filter the information to make decisions for yourself.

During the past 13 weeks, I did some type of a workout on all but a few days. It’s important to go into pregnancy with the expectation that you will keep on doing what you do – just modified. When you start giving yourself permission to sit on the couch and skip workouts it becomes a slippery slope. Yes, you will be tired. Yes, you will be slow. And, yes, you will need to make some changes. But I never finished a workout regretting that I started in the first place. I always felt better at the end.

Here are 3 guidelines that helped me get through the first trimester: (1) Do your workout early in the day. From what I experienced, fatigue hits like a pile of bricks most days after 2 pm. Workouts after then will not happen. (2) Something is better than nothing. Even if you only have the energy to spin on your bike for 20 minutes, you will feel better. (3) Keep on keeping on. Keep expecting yourself to be who you have always been. If you have always been fit – you will continue to be so in pregnancy. Like you’ve always done, make the time for it and expect it from yourself.

Swimming:

In the first few weeks, swimming did not feel good. I had to switch all of my asthma meds and I noticed it most in the pool. Masters had also just started up – and I was feeling a love/hate relationship with it. I love swimming hard. I busted my ass last year to move up a lane in masters. Now, I could barely keep up. I hated that. Plus for the first few weeks I didn’t want to say anything about being pregnant. It took about 2 weeks for my lane mates to figure it out and once they did I got a lot of flack for pulling the pregnancy card (which incidentally can be pulled for just about anything). On days when I felt good, I might pick up the pace for some 50s or 25s. But I would never go hard or sprint. Nor did I do anything that involved holding my breath. No diving or jumping either. I did, however, do lots of pulling, paddles, kicking, fins, IM (I totally mastered the art of easy fly) and yes you can still flip turn.

When I did go to masters, it was so hard to just sit in a draft and not compete. So I started swimming alone more and found I really enjoyed it. I could go as slow as I wanted. I could do what I wanted. There was no keeping up or explaining to do. I could also swim in the kiddie pool which was kept at 82 degrees (for some reason my tolerance to cold water got really bad those first few weeks!). As I got more pregnant, I started swimming more, and swimming felt better and better. I did tons of kicking and lots of IM just to challenge the muscles in different ways. I didn’t time myself – but by week 12 when I occasionally looked at the clock I noticed that my 200 pace had dropped by over 30 seconds. And that is why I try not to look at the clock!

Biking:

Biking has been on my trainer – of course, dead of winter here. The first few weeks I felt normal on the bike. My heart rate was a little elevated but I could still do a normal workout and actually put out normal watts. And, yes, I still use my tri bike and it still has a Power Tap on it. I wrote myself bike workouts so I always had a purpose – big gears, low cadence, high cadence, little “intervals” to mix things up. I also did a lot of on the bike work mixed up with off the bike strength. This helped me to break things up because I realized I just might be on my bike trainer for the next year or more!

Around week 10 I started noticing a drop off. My heart rate was going down and so were watts. I knew it would happen towards the end of the first trimester. You will lose some strength in pregnancy and your heart rate will go down. It was interesting to track, though, because as I physically started feeling better (less nauseous, less tired) my body was actually able to put out less work. It was interesting to see the changes finally setting in to my body. If anything, you will be absolutely awed by what is going on with your body – but more importantly what you still can do while most people are expecting you to just sit on the couch, eat and make a baby for 40 weeks.

Running:

The best way to describe running in pregnancy is like running at altitude. You know you have the fitness but the breathing capacity is just not there. I would be running with my heart rate low but it would sound or feel much more labored. Part of it is because you have not caught up to the changes in your blood and heart in the first trimester.

I decided to do a lot of my running on the treadmill (two words: bathroom upstairs). During weeks 5 to 7, my easy pace stayed the same as pre-pregnancy. By week 8, it had dropped about 20 seconds per mile. After that, it was a full 30 seconds per mile slower. Though it felt slow, I thought about it – my heart rate was in zone 1 so it wasn’t that slow really. It was just that I was used to running faster and now every time I ran it was like doing an easy recovery run – every.single.time. By week 12, I was a full 1-minute per mile slower than where I started (yet my breathing had gone back to normal). The hardest part was biomechanically running like that. Every runner knows their body has a default pace where they feel most biomechanically efficient. Running nearly 90 seconds slower than my default pace was hard on the body. I could only do that pace for about 45 minutes before I started to feel wrong.

Strength Training:

Early on, I was reading through a book called the Girlfriends Guide To Pregnancy. I’m sure it has some high points, but I read two things in it that scraped my pregnant core.

1 – There is no point in exercising because you are going to get fat anyways.
2 – Have you ever seen a pregnant woman with buff arms?

Dear author: You have never seen me or any of my athletic friends.

I strength train 2 to 3 times a week, never for more than 30 minutes at a time, never with heavy weights. You cannot grow stronger in pregnancy – but you can maintain your strength. The first 10 weeks I did not have to make any changes to my strength routine. By week 10, however, I noticed changes. Push ups were as “intense” as running according to heart rate. Lunges while holding the TRX also shot my HR up. I also had to make other accommodations – and knew more were to come. By week 14 you should not perform anything on your back (or supine position) because of the risk of lack of blood flow to the baby.

Many times I mixed in the strength work with the other work. I might run 15 minutes on the treadmill, hop off for 10 minutes of strength then go through that 3 times to keep workouts interesting. “Interesting” is the key – pregnancy can often feel like a monotone pace that you are stuck at. Mixing in strength work, writing creative “workouts” goes a long way – trust me.

How Long Is Too Long:

I kept workouts at 30 to 60 minutes. Sometimes I did two workouts a day but never for more than 75 to 90 minutes total. My thinking was that I would get the most “benefit” from keeping workouts short but frequent to keep feel for the sport. There was no point in slogging away at a long and slow pace. I was going to be slow enough as is! I know many women go much longer and it works for them. For me, I liked the short stuff, especially short runs – as in 30 minutes at a time. This meant I could run more often in the week and it was a blessing for constipation let me tell you.

Using a Heart Rate Monitor:

Yes, I did. Not because I was worried I would push hard because the heart rate monitor is a window into your body. You can tell when you are getting tired and dehydrated. You can tell when something is no longer safe for you. I used it with biking, running and strength training. While I did not follow the 140 bpm guideline (which is not really based on anything conclusive in the first place), I did make my own guidelines for biking and running for heart rate and felt more comfortable sticking to them. The only thing my doctor did say about working out was to ignore my heart rate and keep workouts conversational. She said that to me when I first met her – at 12 weeks pregnant.

Overheating & Hydration:

Overheating is a risk for the athlete in pregnancy. Some athletes use a rectal thermometer to be sure their internal temperature does not go above 101 degrees. If it does, there is an increased risk of birth defects in the first 9 weeks. I had two fans going on me at all times when exercising indoors. You also need to hydrate carefully. I normally drink a lot but was amazed at how much more I needed to drink when pregnant.

Eating For Fuel:

I read that the active athlete during pregnancy needs up to 800 more calories per day (compared to the 300 calories a day most women need). Of course, this depends on your activity level. The bottom line is that if you are going to continue to exercise in pregnancy, you need to remember to replace those calories you are burning. You do not exercise in pregnancy to burn calories – you exercise to stay fit and feel good.


Body Image & Weight Gain:

This is probably the hardest thing in pregnancy. You are exercising, you are eating right and you are…gaining weight! I am currently at a weight that I have NEVER been at in my life. For an athlete, seeing the numbers on the scale move up and up and being able to do nothing about it can be disconcerting. That’s just me being honest. But, at the same time, who cares. I mean, really. There are much bigger things to worry about in pregnancy than “oh my god I am so fat!” Please, get over yourself. I just keep telling myself that you have to give something up to get something incredible in return. There is a cost. That cost will be a few pounds. In terms of costs, that’s really NOTHING! You’ll read a lot of analogies about being pregnant – some compare it to renting out space. I liked that one, and agreed that my body is for rent for 40 weeks. And when that lease is up, I will get it back because I want to. Not because it will be easy or because I expect it but because I WILL WANT IT BACK that bad.

Remember Your Reasons:

As I was running around the indoor track the other day – at my pregnancy pace - I thought to myself about how awkward it felt to run so slowly but how awesome it was that I could still do what I loved – I love to move, I love to be fit. And that is all that counts. Before you embark on fitness in pregnancy, remember your reasons. If you are in sport because it’s a diet plan or permission to eat to without restraint, you might struggle with fitness in pregnancy. In Racing Weight, the author explains how those who participate in a sport for weight loss reasons are less likely to enjoy it and stick with it. It’s when you focus on the other benefits – health, social, fitness – that you are more likely to reap the rewards. Staying fit through pregnancy is the same thing. You will gain weight, you will get slow, you will be lifting weights with your belly popping through your shirt and think to yourself I look ridiculous!True, there is no pay off in terms of dieting or body image. However, the pay off in other terms is huge. You will gain less weight, you will stay healthier and your baby will be healthier. For as awkward as it feels to run slow, the benefits to me are worth it. My reasons for being involved in sport have always been about the movement, pleasure and fitness – and through pregnancy that will not change.

I am now into the second trimester. I no longer get up in the middle of the night to pee (AMEN!) but I can’t say that it has been a total relief of pregnancy feelings. So far, I have had a headache for four days straight…I thought this was supposed to get easier for a few months before the bottom really drops out? Ironically, the only thing that makes my headache go away is running or biking.


Keep on keeping on….

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Name Games

When you’re pregnant you feel like there are things you should know. And unless you’ve been pregnant before, you’re not quite sure where to get the information. Naturally you want to turn to other women who have been pregnant. And of course, everyone has an opinion about everything. I listen to half of what they say and believe half of that. Which I think leaves me with 25 percent worth of useful information. But what about the rest? Where do you go?

It was Sunday when I took a trip to the local Borders to browse some books. My first stop is always the magazines. Then, the fitness books. The cookbooks and – new stop - the baby book section.

Where to begin, where to begin, where to begin. I’m not even sure I know what I’m looking for I just know there are things I need to know. Right now I am pregnant so perhaps I will start with the books about pregnancy. All 9809823948022of them! For crying out loud there is a book about pregnancy + everything. How about your organic pregnancy. Your pregnancy with your same sex partner. How about being pregnant like Hollywood. Or being over 35 and pregnant.

I SWEAR TO GOD! I am just in my 35th year, NOT approaching death!

I looked through some books but didn’t find anything revolutionary. I mean, I’ve already got the What To Expect When You’re Expecting and I’ve kind of read ahead a few chapters so I know what to expect and there are only so many ways to tell me that I’m going to get bigger, boobier and bigger.

That pretty much sums up the next 26 weeks.

Looking somewhere between a book called Pregnancy Sucks and My Boys Can Swim, I noticed the next shelf…

Baby Names

Oh sweet Jesus (which coincidentally was one of the most popular boy names in 2007), there has to be over 1,000 books about baby names. An entire book shelf standing 7 feet tall stacked with different books about….names. Where do you even begin? Each one promises to have the most comprehensive lists, the most complete book, the best baby names. With claims like that how do you start the selection process? Which one of these is the most complete of the best bestselling books?

Check this out:

The Complete Book of Baby Names: The Most Names, Most Lists, Most Help to Find the Best Name, #1 Bestselling Baby Names Book with 100,001+ Best Baby Names

I’ll have you know it was that extra “1+” that made me select that book.

Plus I got all that for only $12.99!

SOLD!

I brought the book home and put it on the dinner table. Now, Chris and I have not really talked too much about names because we figure that we can just save ourselves 50 percent of the work by waiting until after we find out the gender of the baby. Which we plan on finding out (hopefully in another 6 weeks). I mean, you’re either going to be surprised at 40 weeks or 20 weeks so why wait the extra 20 weeks? Plus do you really want people buying you a bunch of nongenderspecific green stuff?

Really? What if someone gets you something pea green. How do you feel about that?

I know, I know, I know…it’s one of the few things in life that you can still be surprised about. Not true. Here’s my big surprise each day: will I take a crap? Will I make it through the day without a nap? When will I need to buy new pants? There are tons of surprises in pregnancy, trust me.

Chris and I have entertained the thought of a few names. And shortly thereafter I learned Most Valuable Pregnancy Lesson #2: do not share ideas for names with anyone, including but not limited to your own mother. Because she will have an opinion about that name and it will not be the opinion you want to hear.

(and in case you are wondering, Most Valuable Pregnancy Lesson #1: do not listen to anyone)

Naming a child is a tricky thing. I remember around week 8 it hit me: I have to name this child. Crap! Naming a puppy was one thing. That came to me easily. I remember the first time I held Boss, I looked at him and said “I shall call him Boss.” Like many of our best ideas (and don’t deny it, naming what became our 10-lb chihuahua "Boss" was one of the best ideas I ever had) – you don’t know where they come from or why. They just come to you.

But with a child – that seems a little risky. Plus I might be under the influence of very heavy drugs. Which reminds me I have not even thought about a birth plan! There are a dozen ways to give birth to a child. I would like to chose, um, let’s see … THE EASIEST MOST PAIN FREE ONE! Anyways, waiting until I hold the child to name the child might result in something very bizarre and sedated like….Freedom.

I cannot give birth to Freedom Waterstraat!

This is why I bought a book about names. And because I realized a few weeks ago that talking about names with my husband was not going to be enough. You see, he revealed some very strange things to me. He told me he named his bikes. Then he confessed that they were girl names. Then he said maybe we should name our future could be a daughter after one of his bikes. Two problems here. First, you RIDE your bike. Think about that. Second, one of the bike’s was named….Vera.

VERA!

I really did not want to be one of those wives that just put their foot down as soon as the husband came up with a name because I want him to have a say even though we both know that I will have the final say (I will) but Vera? Does Kiss My Grits ring a bell?

Of course with Chris, it did not. Because he was not allowed to watch television growing up which meant he never experienced the quality show, Mel’s Diner. And, please recall, that Vera was the ditzy, unconfident, skittish waitress who never got anything right.

NO to Vera.

Back to dinner the other night. We sat down with the book of baby names on the table. Of course I sexed Chris up (meaning, I made him a good enough dinner so he would completely ignore the fact that I just pulled out a baby name book during dinner) with homemade green curry. Then I explained that I thought it might be fun (of course nothing mandatory is fun but let’s pretend) to start going through the book, tossing out some names and getting an idea of where we were at.

Beyond Vera, for sure. But settled on nothing, yet.

This book had more than 600 fantastic lists to start the conversation out. Lists of names by state or ethnicity. Lists of saints, senators and country singers. Emmylou Faith Waterstraat? No thanks. Royalty, rednecks and popular television show names. I read through a few and we concluded that we would not name our child Ava, Emma, Madison, Isabelle, Jacob, Joshua, Caden, Jayden, Braden, Aiden or any of the other 100 names that every kid in their 1st grade class will be named in another six years.

The book also gave some rules. Make sure you feel comfortable shouting the name across a playground: Charity get over here....ick! Make sure it’s clever but not cruel: Hello, my name is Candy Land. Scour the media: Yes, Apple was a brilliant name….for a martini?! Make sure it is a name that they can carry through life: would you really hire a girl named Mikayla to do anything but work a pole? Turns out you should not name your child something like Sugar or Cookie. And don’t even think of rhyming. So that nixes Scratch Waterstraat.

Then, there are other rules not in the book. Of course I am talking about the Filipino nickname. You see, our child must have a name that can be easily transformed into a Filipino nickname. If you are not part of a Filipino family, let me explain. When I first met Chris’ relatives, I was introduced to them with a certain name. For example, this is Jeff. Awhile later in conversation, someone would start talking about JepJep. Who the hell is JepJep, I asked. That’s Jeff. How can one person be two people? It didn’t stop there. Stacey is CeCe. Meredith is DitDit. Megan is MegMeg. Yes, there is also a LopLop though I don’t know their real name. It’s kind of like bananananfofana but Filipino-style. You take a part of the person’s name and you break it up into one syllable and double it. Elizabeth is BetBet though there is already a BetBet in the family so I am just “the skinny girl.”

It could have been worse. The last girlfriend was known as “the girl who stole the hand mixer”.

The other day, Chris’ grandma was talking about PongPong when I got totally freaked out by the whole Filipino Name Game. On the way home, I told Chris that I don’t know what PongPong’s real name is but we are NOT naming our child that!

Incidentally, his real name is John Paul. How they got PongPong out of that, I just don't know.

Bottom line, whatever name we give to our child, it has to be easily morphed into a two syllable nickname. There are no other important rules to us than that. That said, we started flipping through the names by alphabet. Starting, of course, with A. And wouldn’t you know that the first name that makes perfect sense to me is already taken?

Aubrey: (English) one who rules with elf-wisdom.

Our niece is already named Aubrey.

DAMMIT!

Fortunately there were 25 other letters with names to choose from. But there were over 100,001 names! It was almost too much. Where do you even begin? After an entire dinner conversation, we had 2 names circled. Both girl names.

Sigh.

We should just wait another few weeks so we only have to do half the work. Chris is right. And since ultrasound technicians are not always accurate in what they see, we better pick a name that is gender neutral or else we might end up naming our was-supposed-to-be-a-daughter-but-came-out-as-a-son as Katelyn. Or something like that.

I realize this is going to take some time. And I might need some help. One thing the book suggested was asking friends and family. So, I ask you. What are some of your favorite names? With a last name like Waterstraat it needs to be simple. But not too boring. Cute but ageless. And can easily be transformed into a Filipino nickname.

Any ideas out there?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pursuit of Happiness

The other morning, I was doing some strength work while watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Before you write me off for keeping up with them, I don’t mind a certain level of mindless chatter when I’m working out in the basement. I’ll admit to watching Tough Love, For The Love Of Ray J, Animal Cops and just the other day hit rock bottom with Jersey Shore. But this is not about my exceptionally poor taste in television while working out. It’s about a conversation I overheard on the show.

In the show, the ever-famous Kim was despondent over her break up with Saints running back, Reggie Bush. So, Bruce Jenner, Kim's stepfather, offered up some advice. Now, you need only have grown up in the late 70s to know who Bruce Jenner is. The man on the Wheaties box. The decathlete. Olympic gold medalist. Amidst Kim’s woe-is-meing, Bruce asks her to look at the break up from Reggie’s point of view. Or what it takes to be an athlete at that level. He tells her there is a certain amount of selfishness you need to have with your body, with your emotions to achieve that level of athletic success. You get a once in a lifetime shot at being at your physical and mental best.

I barely see my husband. Or if feels that way. On Saturday he left the house before 7 am for a 5000 yard masters swim practice, returned home for a few hours before riding his bike in the basement for over 2 hours. Sunday he ran 10 miles before heading out for another 90 minute masters practice. I see him in between workouts, in an endless transition from one activity to the next, of filling up with fuel for the next session or recovering. Weekdays are much the same. He leaves before 7 am, works until 4:30 pm before heading out for the evening workouts. And finally gets home after 7 pm.

It’s a lifestyle I know very well. The one I used to lead too. After work there is play but it’s different than the play of other people. It is the "play" of an athlete. Playing with the pursuit of a goal is what makes an athlete and athlete. It’s a fire you cannot fake, a competitive drive to stop at nothing but the goal. Scrapbooking is a hobby. For the athlete, sport is not a hobby. Sport is a pursuit, at times self-focused and myopic but to achieve great things you have to have tunnel vision for your goal.

I’ve thought about this a lot mostly because I cannot seem to find something that fills the space in my life that sport used to occupy. Sure, I coach, I teach, I still exercise – but it’s not the same. It’s vicarious and limited. And what I have always liked most about sport is that it is limitless. Right now sport is also not competitive. It’s not driven. It’s a bunch of “doing” because I can still do things. But I struggle with not having a goal. Athletic goals usually have numbers attached to them. For me, some days, I’m just happy to be at the pool nevermind what interval I hit for my 200s. Right now, sport is not the same.

I try to find another hobby but something is missing. It’s that pursuit. The pursuit of a goal, the process, the feeling of being of driven. I miss the small steps of success you make toward the bigger goal. I miss the feeling of running fast. These days I’m cranking out a pace that’s 1 minute per mile slower than my usual easy pace. While I’m still grateful to be running, and realize that even that pace isn’t that slow, I still miss running fast. I miss gasping for air while trying to make the interval at masters. I miss pushing out more than recovery watts. I miss the feeling of doing work and feeling like it is getting me somewhere. It’s that work + time = progress equation that is missing here. Right now I do single-legged squats on the upside down Bosu and years as an athlete make me expect to get stronger. The other day I fell off the Bosu smack on my butt right into a chair that then crashed into the wall. It was a dramatic reminder that I am losing my balance and maybe even some strength. That is the equation of pregnancy.

Being on the other side now, watching my husband come and go from workout to workout, I see how selfish and focused the pursuit is. But I also know that for that selfishness, there is a payoff. Achievement and pride. The feeling of I did that, I worked hard for that, I made it happen. For the athlete, these are very valuable things. For as selfish as the pursuit seems, I envy the way he looks when he comes home from running. Or the stories he has to tell about a torturous swim workout with a 1400 yard warm up, descending 100s on a tight interval and a hard kick set inserted at the 4500 mark. I want to be doing that. I miss that level of selfishness. Or maybe selfishness is the wrong term. Maybe it’s absorption in your athletic goals. Is that selfish? I don’t know – but from years of being an athlete I will admit that is what it takes.

I can’t do sport like I want to right now so I do find that watching others do sport sometimes fills that hole. It doesn’t matter the sport, we are all athletes, I can relate. The other night I was watching an old favorite of mine, pro bull riding. JB Mauney, one of the top riders in the world right now, was atop a bull when the announcer was talking about how he was coming into form before the world championship. He was talking about how any athlete knows the mental focus it takes to be at your best. I found myself nodding my head. I know that feeling. I can taste it. Thinking about it makes me salivate. And makes me want to focus intently on a goal.

Earlier that day I watched ice skating. It was the national championship with two spots for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics up for grabs. The second place couple was most likely going to be awarded the second Olympic slot. Upon realizing it, the girl in that couple started crying. And she didn’t stop. Of course I have not been to the Olymipcs, but I got what she was feeling. Every athlete has tasted that level of success. Whether it was finishing their first triathlon, crossing the line at Ironman, or bouncing back from injury. We’ve done something that meant that much to us. In between tears, the skater mumbled something about 8 years to get to this point. And I think about that – 8 years. 8 years is 416 weeks of work, of practice, of sacrifice and grit. 8 years...

All of a sudden 40 weeks in pregnancy doesn’t seem that long. I realize now that each week my body will get a little bigger, perhaps a little slower but the finish line will be here soon enough. I’ve already started to notice that some of the things I could do are no longer possible, my heart rate spikes too high with some push-ups. At 14-weeks you are no longer supposed be lay on your back. There is a lot I cannot do right now but still so much I can do – albeit it slower than I want to but it gets done nonetheless.

But as each week ticks by I find myself getting more hungry. More fired up. The athlete is still in there. A fire is building. I am intimately learning why women return from pregnancy stronger, faster. Spend 40 weeks stumbling over your own feet, carrying the weight of someone else inside of you along with your lungs pressed up to your throat, well, you get tough. You get hungry. You lose your selfishness and instead become selfless. You spend 10 months with your body not being your own, you hurt in new ways, you give things up, you sacrifice. You hold back. In many ways pregnancy is a lot like sport.

So, I suppose this is my goal now. Everything I do en route to July 28 is the pursuit. I’m trying to do everything I can to be strong, tough and prepared. I’m reading the books. I’m eating the right things. I’m sleeping a lot. And I even find myself envisioning it. Of course no race ever goes as planned but at least I will have the illusion of being prepared. That will count for something. I know at this race there is no personal best waiting for me but I argue there is something much better. And like the girl going to the Olympics, I too will probably cry.

You can take the competitive athletics away from the athlete but the athlete is still in there. In the past 13 weeks I realized I don’t workout to stay skinny. If that was the case, I would have stopped 13 weeks ago. I don’t workout because it’s sexy. If so, I would have stopped every time I looked down and saw my bloated belly sticking out from my increasingly tighter run shorts. I don’t workout because I’m obsessed. I work out because there is an athlete in me that begs to achieve a physical goal and because pushing the limits makes me feel alive.

I’m still very much an athlete and very much alive. And this is my pursuit of a physical goal. And just as soon as I achieve it, it's on to the next goal of getting back to making the interval, pushing out watts and running those fast miles.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

For Real

On Wednesday I sat down with the perinatologist.

The walk into the hospital was long. It was littered with people with tubes, canes and wheelchairs. Being sick isn’t pretty. The perinatologist office was dark and filled with lots of nurses talking about critical levels and test results. It smelled serious. So far: medicine is unpretty and serious.

Yikes.

The nurse asked if I was there for a first trimester screening. This is one of those added bonuses of being of advanced maternal age. I’ve thought about it and there is no triathlon equivalent. You get better as you get older in triathlon. If you’re 80 and doing Ironman, you’re a rockstar. If you’re turning 35 (and may I add I am turning 35 on the due date so it’s not like I am really 35 in this pregnancy…right?) and you’re making a baby, you’re a risk. You get oodles of pamphlets to read through about tests tests tests. I’ve declined the tests. Not only because they carry some risk because what will be will be.

Let’s just leave it at that.

I wait in a small room for the doctor. He walks in, nonchalantly, in surgical scrubs and asks me why I am there. So much for preparation. He’s a younger doctor with a slow manner about himself. As much as I wished he was Ti-voed so I could fast forward to a speed that I could handle, I realized that a slow, careful perinatologist wasn’t a bad thing. Their work is small, slow and complicated. You want a guy like this to be careful. Very.

He explained to me about Kell antigen and antibodies. It was a lecture I could have given myself. The best thing you can do in a situation like this is arm yourself with knowledge – lots of it. Don’t expect that you will be given the answers. Know the questions to ask. Know the lingo. Know your own body. The worst part about his lecture is that it included a diagram. When he actually had to pause to read part of the diagram I almost shit myself in a moment of does this dude really know what he is doing!?!

He talked about the action plan. First priority: get Chris tested. I tested positive for antibodies. The kicker would be if Chris tested positive for the antigen. If positive, there was an action plan. If negative, no further action would be necessary. The baby would not be at risk. How I got the antibodies, still left open to debate. Not really the issue, though. All that matters is what is in Chris.

Next he created a timeline. Nothing could be monitored until 16 weeks, which was even early. That’s 3 weeks away! And, nothing could be done, if needed, until 18 weeks. All you can do is wait. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

Meanwhile, get your husband tested, he said. But there is no hurry.

I wanted to reach across the table and slap him. NO HURRY!? Are you kidding me!? Of course there is a hurry. Maybe not a hurry for you because you can’t do anything for a few weeks but the hurry for me is that there is a 50 percent chance I can breathe again and a 50 percent chance I will spend the better part of my pregnancy holding that same breath. Yes, there is a hurry! I want him tested. NOW!

He casually told me that the other doctor could do the testing and by the end of the day he would send over a request for it. But I’ll tell you what, the minute I walked out of that office, I called the other doctor and made an appointment for that evening. No more waiting.

I called the doctor, a little frenetic but then again that’s the speed I usually operate at frenetic with a hint of overactive Chihuahua in situations like this, and asked for Kell antigen blood test but genotyping if positive. The receptionist got a little befuddled and handed me over to the lab tech. Please be nice, please be nice, please take my husband’s blood tonight I thought to myself. They were on top of it. They knew what to do.

Chris gave blood a few hours later. I figured it would be a week or so until the results came back because it’s such a rare test. In the meantime, we would just wait and hope. Hang in limbo a little longer. What’s a few more days….

That next day, they called.

The bad news is that Chris tested positive for being 50% Chinese Filipino, 50% drunken Irish German and 20% Mexican Chihuahua/corn chip mix. There is currently no treatment.

The good news is that he tested negative for the Kell antigen which means the baby cannot be positive. And thus should not be effected by my antibodies.

I’ve received a lot of good news in life. But this one takes the cake. Heavily vanilla frosted, giant plastic box of Safeway sheet cake with a glass of cold milk cake (which reminds me, I really need some cake).

Someone told me today that they were going to have to stop reading my blog because they were getting too emotionally wrapped up. I have thought to myself that there is a risk of talking about all of this. Whether it is exposing the emotional core of the experience or the details of something that could be considered a medically private matter. Regardless, this is my experience and these are my words. This is life lived in real time. It is not always pretty nor perfect. And hopefully the more real people are when they share their experiences, the more we will realize that we are all alike, that no one is infallible, that no marriage is flawless, that no pregnancy is perfect, that no one drops 1 minute per mile from their run pace over night. Those are all illusions. The rest is just real life.

Carry on, pregnancy, carry on.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Preparedness

I’m not sure you fully appreciate the miracle of life until you try to start one. With all of the complications, precise timing and conditions required, the room for error, it’s a damn miracle that anyone is born at all. From there, it’s a series of tests, could be conditions, and other complications that make you wonder how anyone can be born totally healthy.

If you are here, thank your mom. If you are healthy, thank your lucky stars.

Doesn’t it seem like you only hear about perfect pregnancies? And you only see pictures of women who look zealously overjoyed to be 20 pounds heavier and peeing every 30 minutes. But what about the rest of us? The ones who are finding the oh so joyous journey of pregnancy to be cobblestoned, full of detours and other obstacles?

You get tested for a lot of things when pregnant. Like I said, don’t ever expect to leave a doctor’s office without giving blood or pissing in a cup when you are pregnant. Last Monday I went in for my first visit to the real OB/GYN. Until then I had just seen a specialist. It was time for them to test me for many things at the ‘regular’ doctor.

The first visit is quick. I didn't even see the doctor. I had an ultrasound to be sure the baby is still in there. Then got blood drawn. As in, 10 different vials of blood drawn. The nurse comes in to tell me I am due on such and such a date – like I didn’t know – and where my placenta is (ok, this I didn't know). She told me that right now my placenta is covering the cervix which is totally normal in early pregnancy. But it has to move up. If not, it leads to placenta previa which leads to all sorts of not so fun things like possible best rest and a fairly certain C-section. I thought about it for a moment and got aggravated. Come on, if I am doing the training for this race I am doing the real thing! Do not cancel the swim! I say that now. I am na├»ve at best.

Was that a roadblock? Not really. The roadblock actually came a few days later. The nurse called with my lab results. In pregnancy you get tested for everything – STDs, blood type, possibility that you are part canine, other diseases. They were probably testing my caffeine level. Which right now is totally decaffeinated.

You could say hell just froze over but it’s 14 degrees here. I can see that it’s frozen, thank you.

Now, I already know that my blood type is A positive which, if you recall, means I’m perfect. Turns out that medically this is not the case. You see, less than 2 percent of women test positive for antibodies in pregnancy. I am among the 2 percent.

I know – what the hell are antibodies? I didn’t know either. Which meant I didn’t know the questions to ask on the phone. All I could think of was is this serious? To which the nurse replied, well it could be serious. Thank you. Thank you for that well-educated gem of reassuring information….*%(#$*)#($#!!!

The seriousness of it quickly became apparent when she said I would have to see the perinatologist. I don’t even know what that is, I thought to myself. I soon learned that it was a doctor specializing in the care of the baby in the womb.

Of course I spent all weekend researching information about antibodies. And with the limited information I had, ‘you tested positive’, I was all over the place. There are hundreds of antibodies that can be in your blood. The most serious when pregnant are those resulting from a negative Rhesus factor. But that is not the case for me, remember, I am A+ (or Rhesus positive). So, other antibodies could be from anything. And there are so many of them; C, D, M and some have names associated with them – Duffy, Kell, Lewis, Kidd. By the end of the week I felt certified in hematology. Pathologically speaking of course.

Since I knew it wasn’t from being Rhesus negative, that left me with all the other blood antibodies. And everything I was reading either did not make sense nor look good. You develop an antibody in response to exposure to an antigen. Usually by way a blood transfusion or come into contact with someone else’s blood. For the record, I have not done intravenous drugs nor drank blood. Nor had a transfusion. Sometimes, though, you are exposed from the mixing of your blood with fetal blood in miscarriage.

Monday couldn’t come soon enough. I had my first appointment with the OB/GYN – this time actually seeing the doctor. And did I have questions for her too. Of course I peed in a cup. They took my weight, which for the record has gone up about 6 pounds in the past 12 weeks. I pretty much look the same – except for about 5 pounds of extra boobage. I met the doctor. She is nice. She talks fast but I married a fast talker so I was totally prepared. She asked me a million questions. Mostly which I answered no to. What can I say about my family history, we are small healthy Italian people.

She then told me what was in my blood. I knew what to expect – a series of letters or names. I had read something online that caught my attention about antibodies; Duffy dies, Kell kills, Lewis lives. Those were the big ones.

I was positive for anti-Kell antibodies.

My stomach dropped. Do you need a stool sample?

She explained a dozen things I already knew after spending 3 days straight researching all about antibodies. I know that the most serious is being Rhesus negative with anit-Kell being second in line. Only .2 percent of pregnant women test positive for this. It can cause severe fetal anemia, organ failure, even death. I know it complicates pregnancy by 100 times including frequent ultrasounds, blood tests and monitoring. I also know it can be treated, if needed, with in-womb blood transfusions for the baby (amazing, isn’t it?). And those transfusions might have to be repeated multiple times before birth occurs. Birth may then be induced early because the later the pregnancy progresses the more risk occurs and…..

And honestly the doctor didn’t know that much more than me. Anti-Kell is rare so who can blame her. They can’t know everything. She also didn’t know how I got it. Maybe because I am special. Combined with being perfect this makes absolute sense. I am trying to retain my sense of humor here. But it almost quickly left when the doctor reminded me that being in my 35th year I am also of advanced maternal age. Super. Between being decaffeinated, elderly, constipated and now blood poisoned with a low-lying placenta keeping humor is not easy.

The good news is that as of today I no longer need to have progesterone shots!

The doctor then left the room so I could get undressed for all of the physical exams. Undressing distracted me. But finally sitting on the table, wrapped loosely in those damn gowns that NEVER CLOSE CORRECTLY, a million worries, thoughts, outcomes and emotions buzzed through my head until finally, they all cleared, my head was quiet and this came to me:

We’re just going to have to take this one day at a time, Liz. One mile at a time, one foot in front of the other.

The doctor returned. She pulled out the Doppler and immediately upon sticking it to my stomach I heard the amazingly fast yet steady whooshwhooshwhoosh of a baby’s heartbeat. That sound, that simple yet powerful sound reminded me that no matter what was in my blood, there was also a baby in me. It is alive. It is, thus far, healthy. The show must go on, Liz. One step at a time.

The appointment wrapped up quickly. I am healthy, things look good. Relatively speaking. I will go to the perinatologist on Wednesday. More waiting. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. In addition to whooshwhoosh, that is also the sound of pregnancy.

Driving home, I let it out – the emotion, the fear, even the anger inside of me. Thousands of other women have perfect pregnancies. Why not me? Did I do something to deserve this? Maybe I tortured puppies when I was younger. Maybe I was really mean to my friends. Wait a minute, I didn’t even have that many friends! Maybe I should stop running. Maybe I should eat ice cream. Maybe I should…pray?

Hormonally you are at the limit of all emotions when pregnant. The slightest thing can send you hurtling over the edge of backlash, tears or fury. This time it was tears. Here I was, approaching my 13th week, the week where things should be feeling better, you made it through the most anxious months of pregnancy. Here I am in the outgoing lane of the first trimester, exiting right into pregnancy complications and variations thereof. Why. Why me? I just want to experience the fucking joy of pregnancy that every other woman seems to be beaming with out there. I want to relax. I WANT TO BREATHE. I want to not worry and be free.

And you know what? For 40 weeks of my life, I don’t want to have to worry about numbers. I don’t want to have to worry about paces, send offs and interval recoveries. NO NUMBERS PLEASE. But instead here I am faced with the risk of having to worry about numbers – will my titers rise? If so, how quickly? During which week? Will they go up from 1:32? If so, what does that mean? Should I get amniocentisis? Is it worth the 1 in 500 risk?

Breathe.

I am fortunate to know a high risk OB. Soon after returning home, I told her what they found. She wrote back:

Anti-Kell is one of the more dangerous ones.

It’s different when you hear it from someone who deals with it all of the time.

That night I laid in bed. Night has a way of leaving you exposed to bring forward any unquiet demons in your head. Appearing in my head over and over again were the words, I am so scared. Yes, I am physically strong, yes, I am mentally tenacious, yes, I am emotionally resilient. But I can’t help thinking that in this case, will that be enough. Am I prepared for this.

I have no way of knowing. But I will find out more on Wednesday. So until then I shall keep on keeping on. That’s all I’ve done so far. And so far, it has worked.

Whooshwhoosh.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Slow Is The New Fast

What happens when you go from putting together a race schedule for the upcoming season to finding out you are pregnant? Are you still an athlete? Can you still be an athlete? Should you workout when pregnant? How far? How fast? How often? Where do you find these answers?

I want to write about this because the information out there is so scattered and limited. Hopefully this will be helpful to those who are or who plan to get pregnant. Maybe my experience will help you make sense of your own. If you are not interested in being a pregnant athlete, check out for this week, come back next week. If you are, read on these next few days and enjoy.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor. I am just an e.l.f. You should always consult with your doctor about exercise activities during pregnancy.

The first thing I realized is that there is not a lot of information out there about athletes that get pregnant. And if you workout every day, more than once a day, you are an athlete and not the average woman. You will find immediately when you are pregnant that everything out there is for the average woman.

You are not the average woman.

When I started thinking about getting pregnant, I started reading – anything and everything about athletes that went through pregnancy. I had every intention to continue with my fitness activities through pregnancy. And I had good reason. Here are just a few of the benefits of exercising in pregnancy:

Strengthens your pelvic floor muscles for labor, reduces the risk of labor complications, leads to a quicker and less painful labor, reduces the chance of birth defects, increase the chance of delivering a baby with higher APGAR scores, improves your immunity, relieves stress, improves calcium absorption, reduces pregnancy-related discomforts, increases energy, leads to less excess weight gain.

Not convinced yet? Dr. James Clapp (who studied athletes in pregnancy), found that women who exercise until the last day of pregnancy will have shorter labor – by more than 30 percent. 65 percent of exercising mothers will deliver in less than 4 hours. The risk of C-section is reduced by up to 75 percent. And, you are more likely to go into labor a week earlier than planned.

What about after birth? Babies born to exercising mothers will be more fit. The nervous systems of these babies seems to work better. At five-days old, they appear calmer, more alert and more adaptable. They require less attention. They have less colic. They may begin to talk earlier and have accelerated mental development. Why? Exercise seems to improve the growth and efficiency of the placenta; and delivers an improved blood and nutrient supply to the baby (Allred, 2000).

Despite this – and oodles of other research supporting the benefit of regular exercise during pregnancy - one thing you will find when you are pregnant is that everyone has an opinion of what you should or should not do. My mother in law told me I should buy a $65 tub of stretch mark cream from A Pea In a Pod. My own mother thinks I need to drink lots of milk and eat more ice cream. Their differences aside, the one thing both mothers agree on is that I should stop running. Why? Because ….. and there is a blank. There really is no reason other than: you should stop running.

That’s it. That’s all they had for me.

Maybe they were right, I wondered. But I knew that wouldn’t be right for me. If I do not exercise (read: MOVE like we humans are intended to do), I do not feel right. I feel off, uncomfortable and at unrest. I like being fit. Triathlon is just an outlet for loving fitness. It allows me to put purpose to something that I enjoy doing every day. And I was not about to give that up because I was...GASP!...pregnant.

But I agree, it is much easier to sit on a couch and let my ass grow bigger into the couch for the next 9 months. Trust me, I get how a woman can easily put on 50 pounds in pregnancy and not even see it coming. You feel beyond fatigued. It’s like training for Ironman on tranquilizers. You feel out of control because you quickly realize for the next 9 months you have no control: you will get bigger, you will change, life will change. And, you are scared. Because of that you read books and listen to other people. You convince yourself you are hungry because the books say your appetite increases. You convince yourself it is ok to refuse exercise because you are going to get fat anyways plus everyone is telling you to slow down! Rest! STOP RUNNING! You tell yourself it’s ok to eat dessert every night because you are eating for two. Pregnancy is a slippery slope. If you are not careful, you could slip right down it into a big bowl of hot fudge every night because it’s ok, honey, you’re pregnant. Treat yourself.

What a bunch of horseshit! This is pregnancy, not a prison sentence. Pregnancy is not a disease state, it is simply a stage in life. It is not terminal, it is not forever. There is a finish line. This will be over in less than 10 months and I am not going to throw away 34 years of taking care of myself for 10 months of green light to eat dingdongs, cookies and muffins from morning to night. I’m not eating for two, I am eating for twice the nutrients and quality. I am not needing 1000 more calories a day for a person that is less than 2 inches long in the first trimester. Pregnancy is not permission to stop taking care of myself. Heck, its reason to take care of myself that much more!

And because of that, exercise is a part of pregnancy.

Plus research supports that exercise should be a part of pregnancy. There is no research to support that exercising increases your chance of miscarriage, complications or birth defects. NONE. In fact, the opposite is true. The less fit you are, the more weight you gain, the more health complications you will have during and after pregnancy.

But, when athletes are involved, you have to ask how much is too much? Come on, we are athletes. Two a day workouts are not an absurdity, they are a part of every day of the serious athlete. So, is two workouts a day too much? Who would know? How long is too long? What about how hard? Do you really have to keep your heart rate below 140? What happens when it hits….141.

DO ME AND THE BABY JUST EXPLODE?!?

The best thing you can do is arm yourself with information. Read books. Lots of them. Take in the information and filter it for yourself. Unfortunately, most pregnancy books with chapters on exercise are not very helpful. Most of these books encourage you, as a pregnant woman, to exercise. And most consider exercise to be 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity 3 times a week while keeping your heart rate under 140 bpm.

Seriously? That’s the amount of time I spend walking my dog to take a crap – and that is considered exercise? And 140 bpm? These days, I can reach that easily going up the stairs!

You should know that those guidelines are outdated – very. In 1994, the ACOG revised their guidelines to suggest that pregnancy women only limit exercise intensity and lower their target heart if the woman is high risk. In other cases, regular exercise at a mild to moderate intensity is recommended.

Key word: regular. Sporadic exercise is actually viewed as harmful during pregnancy because of the inconsistency. Like exercising as a normal athlete, consistency leads to adaptation. Without it, exercise is a stressor, especially to the pregnant woman.

Of course there are guidelines. In other words, use common sense. You should not engage in anything that compromises your safety or balance during pregnancy. As far as triathlon goes, you should probably avoid cycling. I know a lot of pregnant women cycle out there. And it’s really just a personal judgment call. Personally, I do not think it is worth the risk of falling or crashing.
Pregnancy is also not the time to start significantly changing things. If you haven’t been running 20 miles a week, now is not the time to start. Use common sense, simple as that.

Other than that – guess what – there are no guidelines. There is no magical number of hours you can or cannot workout a week. No formula. No secret training plan. You have to decide for yourself. Your fitness level, your comfort level. You have to find a new normal for your body. And, more than ever, you have to listen to it. Your body, that is.

In figuring all of this out, I found it helpful to talk to other athletes about their experiences in exercising through pregnancy. From recreational runners to professional athletes. Their stories are out there. I started reading, asking, searching for answers and in the end finding myself a little frustrated. Talk to anyone and everyone and what you will find is this one thing: everyone has their own experience. One woman’s 3-hour ride might be another woman’s bed rest for 8 weeks. Another women’s 8 mile daily run is yet a different women’s run for 5 miles for 3 times a week. And what you realize is that what so-and-so in such-and-such a place does during their pregnancy has nothing to do with me. You find yourself caught between being a competitive person in spirit to a pregnant person in body. It’s an interaction of desire and knowing better. You have to just know better and listen to yourself for the next 40 weeks.

That is the magic formula.

And that brings me to another point: if your body is used to two-a-day workouts, 8+ hours of “training” a week, I think that ceasing that or drastically changing it is a stress on your body. Change is stress and stress is not good. Joan Benoit Samuelson once said that for athletic women, being told not to exercise during pregnancy can be more stressful than the exercise itself. My motto was to keep on being who I was and just listen to my body that much more.

After all of that reading, researching, questioning and thinking, where did it leave me? Did I feel any more comfortable doing one workout a day let alone two? Is this really ok? And sometimes, the guilt was the worst part. I would find myself feeling good after a swim, thinking I could go for a short run but then second guessing myself with, should I...really…?

Sigh.

Ask the question, there is no answer. Other than what your gut tells you and what your body says. And that is the best guide - how you feel during and after the workout. Sometimes how you feel before, but I often disregarded that because you will feel like ass for most of the first trimester. Varying levels of ass, but ass indeed. If I could get into a workout and it felt ok - I kept going. If I felt tired afterwards, I did too much. If I felt better, then I did everything just right.

I also made peace with myself - as a pregnant athlete. In pregnancy you are an athlete but you are a different athlete. You are like a kinder, gentler, less competitive version of your athletic self. And that is ok. For now. I accepted that what I was doing was really no longer training. It was just working out. Staying fit, having fun, feeling good. There were no performance goals or measurements that needed to be made. For now, working out was about staying healthy and promoting peace of mind.

Perhaps the best reasons.

And, I made peace with the fact that I was going to get slower. Especially running. That was a hard one to swallow. I can swim slow, I can bike slow but run slow - does not feel right. But I accepted the inevitable. Slow is the new fast. For now. Research has shown that by the end of the first trimester you will lose 10 percent of performance ability due to nausea and fatigue. By the end of pregnancy, you have lost 50 percent of performance ability due to weight gain and changes in body composition. However, while you might be running 2 to 3 minutes slower per mile you are still gaining the same cardiovascular benefit. Fitness can be maintained (Allred, 2000).

For daily workouts I did set limits. I like boundaries. They keep me safe. Setting your own limits requires understanding what is happening in the body when pregnant. Your resting heart rate is about 10 to 20 beats per minute higher. Your blood pressure should go down. Blood volume increases by 40 percent. Lung capacity increases yet breathing is more difficult. Your cardiovascular capacity increases along with your heart rate and body weight. Heart rate is up but effort might be down. So, your fitness level will seem low. However, you are actually more fit just by being pregnant. Pregnancy itself is like armchair training – your blood volume increase so much that by the end of the first trimester, it is like the equivalent of blood doping. Not only that, but these effects lasts 6 to 12 months post –pregnancy, which may account for the post-partum “boost” in performance that some athletes have.

Indeed, I set limits with my heart rate. Early in pregnancy, heart rate is high for effort level. But around week 5 to 6 I felt like heart rate was more reliable and would be helpful to use as a limiter. I’ve been monitoring my heart for years, I know how it responds. So I set a limit within the middle of my "zone 2" for the bike and run (this did not mean I forced my heart rate up there, rather I did not fear implosion if it crept up there). Those are the two places where I feel like the work shifts from I could do this all day to I might be pushing it. While some say rate of perceived exertion is more reliable than heart rate, especially in early pregnancy, I felt comfortable having heart rate limits. The exception was swimming, where I went by effort, pace and draft. Regardless of the numbers, my rule was really to do what felt comfortable. Because if I was comfortable, the baby was comfortable.

I also set time limits. Remember, we are working with guidelines here that suggest 20 to 30 minutes of exercise. 3 days a week. There are no guidelines. You have to invent them for yourself as an athlete. Personally, I was comfortable with 45 to 75 minutes of exercise per day. Not every day. Not all at once. I would usually start with 45 minutes. Then add more of a different sport later if I was feeling good. Sometimes I would just do 30 minutes and that seemed like enough. Rare days when I felt alarmingly zippy I might do a total of 90 minutes. Beyond that I did not see the point. Additionally, I felt it would be harmful to the baby in terms of nutritional or heat distress. Nutritional because it becomes difficult to replace calories when you exercise too long; I did not want to pull nutrients away from the baby. As for heat distress, since most of my workouts were in the basement, I had 2 fans pointed at myself at all times. You want to avoid letting your internal body temperature go above 101 degrees (measured rectally - fun!) especially in the first 9 weeks when most birth defects occur.

Beyond the limits, I was free to do what I wanted. I didn’t set a schedule each week and I wasn’t coached. I made it up as I went. What I did depended on how I was feeling that day. Days I felt good, I ran. Days I felt normal, I biked. Days I felt not as good, I swam. Days I felt really bad, I took off. I always tried before I wrote myself off for a day. Something was better than nothing. And, usually by 15 minutes into the workout I felt so much better than when I started that I kept going.

So how did it go for the past 12 weeks? I’ll write more about it this week. Until then, here is a list of books I found helpful for understanding more about exercise in pregnancy:

Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James F. Clapp III, MD
Entering The Mothering Zone by Alexandra Powe Allred
Expecting Fitness by Birgitta Gallo
Fit and Pregnant by Joan Marie Butler
Runners World Guide to Running & Pregnancy by Chris Lundgren
The Women Triathlete by Christina Gandolfo

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Beginning(s)

Pssst.....

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.

And wait.

And 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! 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:

Oh crap.

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
.

Breathe.