Thursday, April 29, 2010

Negotiations

Last week, I was getting my legs worked on to help loosen them from the burden and swelling of pregnancy. The doctor was trying to stretch out my hips when he noticed how tight they were. You can make a lot of excuses for what is going on in your body but when a doctor is actually holding your body, you really can’t hide.

Have you been stretching, he so perceptively asked.

The short answer was no. The long excuse was: because it’s really uncomfortable in pregnancy, it doesn’t feel right.

Before I even got the entire sentence out, I realized how ridiculous I sounded. Did I just use pregnancy as an excuse? Shame on me. He looked at me, with little sympathy, and very matter-of-factly said:

Adapt and overcome.

Sometimes as athletes we just need to hear it like that. We don’t need someone to sympathize with us or make us feel ok. The best doctors, coaches, mentors know that you don’t need to commiserate, you need to activate (which is different then rahrah motivate – that’s what cheerleaders do). We need someone to look us in the face and point blank give us a “buck up and put on your big girl pants”. It’s like what Shawn told the Ironman group last year when they were worried about it raining on race day:

Nut up.

Sometimes you can’t make it any clearer than that.

Needless to say, I have gone back to stretching. But I’ve been thinking about excuses a lot because when your business is people and you are telling these people to go boldly into their discomfort zone day in and day out, you hear a lot of excuses. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying. Excuse management is sometimes the work of the coach.

Recently, I was talking to an athlete about a race. They had gone into the race very fit, hitting their goal numbers in training. Taper went well, they were healthy and all signs pointed to the race they wanted. But then on race day, something happened. They got halfway through the race, the numbers were a little behind what they wanted and at that point they gave themselves permission to back off. They told themselves they could just try again at another race.

We had a very honest discussion about how we both felt about that. In part, I think they were looking for me to say “that’s ok, you can try another day”. But honestly I didn’t feel that way. I think when you go to a race or a workout, whether it’s going your way or not – you give it 100 percent until you cross that finish line. Anything can happen out there. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances to this rule (illness, injury, safety risk, etc). But in most cases of giving up, the athlete is healthy and capable; the race just wasn’t playing out according to their plan. They gave themselves permission to mentally check out and physically give it less.

This is the art of making excuses with ourselves. The little negotiations that we allow to happen when we are at our most vulnerable – whether we are halfway through a marathon, facing a hard 10K off the bike, at the start of a long swim. Our mind is keenly aware of when we will be at our weakest and most open to suggestion. The suggestion that it’s ok to back off or give it less. In other words, it’s ok to fail.

These negotiations become a slippery slope. We see a windy day and think that instead of facing it on the track, we’ll use the treadmill. We see a chance of rain predicted and decide to ride indoors. Our legs feel tired so we stop trying. Can you see where I’m going with this? After getting into the habit of negotiations, we risk that unless everything is going perfectly, we will give ourselves permission to make an excuse for giving up or giving it less in any situation.

In over 10 years of racing, nothing has ever gone perfectly for me. Truth be told, the “perfect” race doesn’t exist. We hope for it, chase after it but…it’s not out there. My best races were some of the “worst” situations. The time when my bike didn’t arrive in Texas. Showing up at worlds to compete in pouring rain. The days that were 95 with equal humidity. The days where it was 38. I raced them all. I gave it my best. Not because I’m better than anyone else – hardly – but because I made it a habit of giving it my best no matter what was facing me.

How do you get out of the pattern of making excuses when things aren’t going your way or when things are hard? You have to expect things of yourself and then you actually have to practice. Expect that you’ll give it your best. Expect that you’ll embrace the challenge. Then, get after it! Practice. In as many workouts as possible, as many days of the week as you can. Don’t give yourself permission to run on the treadmill because it’s raining. Get out there! Why? As you make it your expectation and practice, you get tough. When you are tough, you accept less excuses from yourself until you finally get to the point where you no longer make them.

It really is that simple.

I was talking to some Ironman athletes recently. I warned them about making excuses. The longer your race distance, the more opportunity for making excuses. I’ve heard them all. It’s hard to drink when I’m riding. I don’t like riding alone. 3500 yards is a really long way to swim. This is a lot of training. This is really hard.

The world’s smallest violin is somewhere playing.

It’s not that I don’t feel their pain. I do. I’ve been there, done it. And I know that it’s hard – it’s an endurance sport, it’s never easy. It’s just that…sometimes we need a reality check with ourselves. If any of this was easy, everyone would do it, everyone would be fast, everyone would win. That’s not the case. Ironman training – heck ANY of this training - is not fast food, press a button and you’re there. You’ve got to work if you want to win. And when I say winning, I just mean achieving what your version of winning is. Most know that winners aren’t the fastest, they just did everything better than everyone else. How they win is all about how they go about their training and what goes on in their head. When push comes to shove, when the forecast calls for high winds, when they’re just not feeling it, they’re not making excuses. They’re just making the interval. They make it happen out there.

What does this have to do with adapt and overcome? We all face challenges. Whether it’s a pace plan that isn’t going to plan, a pregnancy, an off day at work, a long swim, a 12 hour week of training – it’s hard. We all get that. But that alone is not an excuse. It’s a reason. It’s a reason to do it better, give it a little more and focus on it. Adapt and overcome or you risk becoming your own worst enemy. The enemy part of yourself that lets you bitch, moan, complain, excuse away anything you do (or don’t do) in order to make you feel better about yourself.

If you want to achieve your goals and make progress, you sometimes have to put up a fight with yourself. Nip the negotiations before they start. Go rock solid into a race or key workout with a set plan and be ready to bring out the big guns when that little voice in your head says…but it’s windy today, we can stop giving it out best. Silence that. Instead, just hear and listen to the truth; take time to stretch, if you’re behind then work the second half of the race harder, lose 10 pounds, nut up, do the work, get over your bad self.

Another athlete was talking about a race. They had a strong swim/bike and then underperformed on the run. I asked them why they did that (because, in a race you do things, you choose how you’ll respond). They paused, thought about it and said “because I pussied out.”

There were a dozen excuses they could have made: it was humid, it was my first race, it was windy, I didn’t do enough track workouts…..trust me, as a coach, I’ve heard countless excuses that point to everything else but the real reason. The reason was – YOU. You made that choice. You chose to pussy out.

In their words, realizing that was the kick in the ass they needed.

(AMEN!)

Why do we pussy out or make an excuse? Most often it’s because we got into that habit of allowing it from ourselves (see above) or because of fear. Fear fuels us at times but more often it stops us. We fear the what if (what if it hurts too much, what if I get injured, what if blow up, what if I get that side cramp I always get). Until you look that fear in the face, flip it the bird and accept no excuses from yourself, you will never make progress. And you’ll cross that finish line with a dozen what ifs left unanswered.

When you cross the finish line this season, let there be no what ifs. No questions. No what if I gave it more, if only it wasn’t raining, I should have would have could have pushed harder those last few miles. By all means race smart, pace yourself and fuel well. But when it comes to how you mentally handle it, be unafraid, make no excuses and no matter what happens out there - adapt to and overcome it.

At the end of the day, the race, there is no excuse. There’s just you and what you did. That’s all that counts. They don’t post race results with the disclaimer of: but really everyone went 10 minutes faster because the water was choppy and it was windy out there today. You did the time you did, bottom line. Should have would have could have doesn’t count. All that counts is what you did.


What are you going to do today?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Entering Week 28

I wore a bib at dinner last night.

In public. At a restaurant.

My sister-in-law warned me that soon after the stomach so big I need a bib comes the boob shelf. Which might not be a bad thing. I can think of a lot of things to store on a boob shelf – a cup of decaf, a pen, my phone, my growing chin.

In my defense about the bib, I was wearing a white shirt (what was I thinking?) and went for pizza with Chris. I KNOW I am the anti-pizza but…I am also 7 months pregnant and when the man wants pizza, you give the man pizza because you are too big and tired to fight against it. And yes, I ate two small pieces of pizza (minus the cheese, the sausage, the mushrooms, ok I just ate the bread and the sauce).

You’d think my double chin would start catching the table scraps. Not the case. The belly is like a magnet for this stuff. The more you like what you are wearing or the newer it is, the more likely it will stick. When I looked at the pizza sauce and looked at my white shirt, I knew a napkin would become my bib.

Chris tried to reassure me: don’t worry, no one will even notice.

Then I realized I didn’t really care. I’m 7 months pregnant. I think when you get to this point, you get this way. Yes, I’m wearing a bib. Screw your skinny self and stop staring at me! I also had my shoes off under the table – MY FEET WERE HOT!

When I got home, I remembered that JoJo just sent a Baby Bjorn bib today, one of those with a trough that will catch all the food that falls out of baby’s mouth (about 99% of it). I need one of those.

Size large.

It’s been quite the day for embarrassing moments like that. I was at the gym today when I realized that my running shorts really are too small. After swimming, I got changed to lift some weights and thought to myself that maybe I grabbed the wrong pair. You know, because there is some other woman living in my house who stores running shorts in my drawers. I abandoned the extra smalls months ago. And realized that now the smalls are … really too small. Or I’m too big.

Something like that.

I didn’t realize how serious the problem was until I was out on the gym floor with what felt like every old man in the place looking at me. Great. Cookie monster eyes? Nope – both are in the right place. Showing crack? Nope – shorts pulled up, check ….OH MY GOD! In the mirror – THERE! It’s like I’m wearing hip huggers!

My comfy pants, the ones I bought a size too big so I could grow into them…the button popped off the other day. I need new jog bras. Not because my boobs are getting big but because my back is getting bigger. Did you know your boob tissue extends under your arms? It’s like you become one big mass of boob. Everything gets bigger.

My legs. Please. Can we just cover them up until…say…October (that would be NEXT October)?

I’m officially in the third trimester now and it shows. You don’t really “look” pregnant until this point. But I think it is right at week 28 when you look at your reflection in the mirror, realize (and accept) that YES that is me, and then think to yourself wow, I’m really pregnant.


Like, really. Really. Really.

Three more months to go! Someone told me that by Memorial Day I will be sick of being pregnant (is it wrong that I reached this milestone a month early?) and that by July 4th I will be feeling that premature birth is not a bad thing (what’s another two weeks?).

Yesterday, I also noticed that my swimsuit doesn’t fit either. I think I might have flashed my lane mate every time I pushed off the wall. My lanemate was…Tugboat Tom!

I’ve avoided swimming with him for the past 8 weeks or so because there is only so many times one can get lapped by their old lanemate without feeling the intense urge to hang on to their foot to get pulled along at your old speed.

When I walked into masters today he said: haven’t you had that baby yet?

I look that good, eh?

Before I could even get into the lane he had all sorts of jabs and jokes about how I couldn’t do this or that because I’m pregnant. Oh, I’m pregnant, I’m having a baby he would say in a high voice. Of course this is what lanemates do to each other. And then I told him to wait until November. When it would be just me and him again in this lane for a new season of masters. Me making him lead anything under 400 and him telling me to take the lead after he blows up.

We work well together.

I’m really slow now – like, super slow, like I need to put on fins for anything over 300 or else I will get lapped by Tom kind of slow. So slow that even with fins on AND lane line pulling with my left hand I still cannot keep up during backstroke. I could move over a lane but I’ve tried that and realize I don’t speak the language of other lanes. I don’t like standing there while practice goes by waiting for someone to take the lead or debating what interval to go off of or listening to all the reasons why they will be slow today (I lifted weights yesterday, I ran this morning, I’m sore from Saturday, I’m getting out of the pool early)….at least in my old lane I know the intervals and know the swimmers well enough to tell them to shut their piehole about why they will be slow today.

Because unless they’re pregnant, they can’t say anything about slow.

For the most part the swim was fine. It was a bunch of short sets with some fast 25s. I made the mistake of trying to do 6 x 25 fly on 5 seconds rest but it was off of Tom’s 25 free on 5 seconds rest which meant that I really had negative 5 seconds rest by the time I got to the wall.

That was hardest 150 fly I’ve ever done.

When I go to masters and swim in my old lane, I get hungry to compete again. I’m doing all this different stuff to stay active (not fit – I am so far from fitness I really can’t even kid myself) and it’s fun but…it’s missing a purpose. I just want to be better than myself. I realize that with age I will get to a point where I don’t set personal bests any more but I just want to be better than I was the day before. In pregnancy, you’re always getting slower and weaker. You keep doing the work but you keep going backwards.

Didn’t I just spend the last 2 years doing that?

The answer to that is yes and no. And, it doesn’t really matter because I’m so far away from competition still that by the time I get back to it I’ll be like a total beginner again. Probably race with my helmet on backwards and stop to brush my hair in transition.





It’s time for a belly shot. Here I am entering the 28th week of pregnancy. I’m about to eat breakfast and then head out for a morning walk. This is my morning walk outfit. If I put the shirt down, you’d notice that it actually covers my stomach. I broke down and bought some “maternity” workout tops (in order words, scoured the scale rack at the gym). From my experience yesterday it is also due time to buy some maternity workout bottoms.

Due time. I’m due in exactly 3 months from tomorrow. When people ask me when are you due and I say late July they say – oh you still have a long way to go.

(this is another one of those things that people say to you that becomes a precursor to you wanting to slap them after you hear it enough times)

But every day until then is exciting. You learn something new, you get more excited, someone sends something. Yesterday we got 4 monster boxes from BuyBuyBaby. Three were from JoJo. She sent us enough onesies to clothe Max through his 18th birthday. She also sent a vibrating monkey. Everyone keeps asking me about the monkey thing. 1 – I like monkeys, 2 – It’s better than balls and trucks, 3 – Monkey baby stuff is really cute. Baby stuff with ducks – FOR BOYS – is not. Better than the monkey stuff she sent would be the….TUB TOYS! I’ve told Chris that at the end of each week I’m going to throw him, Max and Boss into the bathtub for washy wash time. That and a couple of squirty boats and a reminder to PLEASE USE SOAP. MORE. And they’ll be all set.

I had a dream last night about breastfeeding. Two babies at once. Could there be another baby in there hiding behind Max? Ew. I shudder. It wasn’t as bad, though, as the dream I had where I was breastfeeding my dog.

And now, I’ll walk away from that comment and leave you to the rest of your day.

Cheers to week 28!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sneak Peek

I’m still pregnant.

I know, it just doesn’t end.

You know you’re really pregnant when you find yourself at the gym clutching a flyer for PreNatal Pilates. And, a flyer for PreNatal Yoga. I may or may not have also grabbed a flyer advertising a class called Mommy’s Muscles.

I’m so ashamed.

It could have been worse: it could have been PreNatal Water Aerobics.

Yes, I think I’m getting bored of my fitness routine. Look at me. I just called “training” a fitness routine. I’d call it a program but I don’t follow one and I’d call it training but the only thing I’m training for is giving birth. Which means I do lots of ball squats and at least once a week do 10 x 25 fly on a tight interval to remember what it feels like to want to vomit out of my nostrils.

Since I’ve been off the running, I’ve been on the bike. Thus I’ve become best friends with Oprah. It’s like she shows up at my house a few times a week to chat with me. I haven’t been swimming much because I’m not in the mood to swim this week. My legs have been happier so I’ve been walking. And when I say walking I mean full on power walking with a heart rate monitor, gel and those crazy pumping arms. I’ve been hitting the trails of the Arboretum for some very long walks. I never used to take walking too seriously until I realized if you walk fast enough up a hill you can get your heart rate up to 151.

I didn’t end up signing up for any prenatal classes because the timing didn’t work out but I did end up at a spinning class which reminded me of two valuable things: 1 – don’t wear running shorts to a spinning class; 2 – I really don’t like spinning.

So fitness while 27 weeks pregnant has been going well.

I’ve been finalizing the baby registry. And you thought registering for a bunch of pots and pans was hard. Try registering for everything you might possibly need to sustain the life of a little person that is entirely your responsibility.

How do you prepare for something like that?

I looked online for some checklists that might help and just when I thought I had everything I realized I was missing an activity mat. I know, it looks like another gimmick for babies but I have received word from a very reliable source that babies love these things.

I wondered: Can it get any more ridiculous than the activity mat, the vibrating chair or the Boppy? Enter: the exersaucer. Another thing I have heard that babies love. Good thing a friend gave me her old exersaucer and a high chair. Her words:

I don’t want to see this stuff anymore.

I guess that is what happens after child number two.

Chris came home from work, and upon seeing the exersaucer in the foyer he shouted:

WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT THING!

It’s an exersaucer.

Why do we need it?

It is like a mobile child prison cell. Trust me, we need this thing.

Same goes for the swing, the soother, the bouncer. I might have registered for it all. I don’t remember. The cashier Whole Foods (honestly, the free advice just doesn’t stop when you’re pregnant, it’s everywhere….) told me to register for a lot of things so people would have choices and not show up with a pair of blue overalls and white shirt with a Peter Pan collar.

You can have too many of those.

My coolness factor took a major dive the other day when I went to Diapers.com. Even worse when I made a purchase. I had a coupon and I’ve realized when you have a coupon for baby – you buy for baby. Saving money is the name of this game. Because everything is EXPENSIVE!

(speaking of coupons, did you know that BuyBuyBaby honors Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons?)

Now, I’ve done some research on diapers. I know, of all the things you want to look up online, diapers isn’t high up there but it’s worth searching. I’m not going to preach about diapers because I honestly don’t know anything yet but what I’ve been told or what I’ve read nor will I tell you which ones I chose because I’ve found that when you mention the word diaper EVERYONE has a different opinion so you get into all of these unnecessary philosophical debates about…diapering. Heck, even the cashier at Whole Foods had an opinion (can you please just ring up my groceries?). Any time the words diaper genie were even mentioned on my Facebook page there would be a series of HATE IT’s and an equal number of LOVE IT’S.

For the record, we are not getting a diaper genie.

I know it make me seem all psychocrazy to already buy diapers and I never said I wasn’t. I just want to be prepared. You read about people registering for diapers and I think to myself – really? That just seems awkward to me. Everyone knows your kid will shit on that gift. The other gifts – there is a 50/50 chance of getting shat upon. Registering for diapers is kind of like registering for nursing pads - WHO, other than another pregnant woman - is going to buy that for you? So, I went ahead and bought myself diapers. Might as well get used to it.

All you need to know is that I purchased what can hold the mother load. Look at this.



Inside that box is diapers. Roughly 29029304923 diapers. That should be enough, right?

I read somewhere that an infant can soil their diaper 18 times a day. Let's say that happens for 6 weeks or 42 days straight. Do you realize that we are talking about roughly 756 diapers? IN SIX WEEKS. I have a soon-to-be 3 year old niece who is still not potty-trained. Right now they are probably purchasing their 20,000th diaper.

It’s hard to say what size my baby will come out at but I know one thing: at some point he WILL be between 8 and 14 pounds. And at that point, I will be prepared. I bought a package of newborn diapers and a package of bigger diapers. Even if this kid comes early, my baby’s ass WILL be covered.

This box also includes wipes. I could write a thesis on selecting baby wipes but let’s just say that anything that comes in an 800 count package is good enough for me.

And we’ve also opted out of the baby wipe warmer. This is Chicago. It’s a cold world, kid. Buck up and get used to it.

On Friday I had an ultrasound to make sure baby is ok. Max is getting big. He is also getting very active. I’ve read that there is some predictability to their activity but so far – he’s a wild child. Every night at 9 pm he is active but other than that – there is not much rhythm to it. In fact, last night, he woke me up at 2:45 am.

There was a party in my uterus. I did not get the Evite.

It was like a bass drum beating against the wall of my stomach. It continued until 4:18 am. I went back to sleep – barely – and it started up again at 6 am, like it does every day as if Max is saying:

WAKE UP WOMAN AND FEED ME!

I’ve been told this is my training for life with baby once he arrives.

The ultrasound technician pointed out where he is right now. His head is down by my you know what which explains why it feels like someone is walking through the halls of my vagina all day long. That would be his head hitting against the cervix or his arms boxing the cervix. H
is feet are up by my belly button. That explains the bass drum. Two of them booming at once.

She gave me a profile picture and then took a 3-D shot. I’ve been incredibly spoiled with ultrasounds and feel like I’ve watched Max grow up since he was a little ball of cells. But this 3-D picture was the best one yet because I could literally see his face.

Now, I’m guessing every mother to be has a vision of what her baby will look like. I know I do. So it was a little strange to “see” what he looks like right now. Yet when she zoomed in on the face, the whole experience came alive. It was a sneak peek to our son. There is a little person in me with a mouth that I will have to feed, eyes that are resting for a busy life ahead and a small hand resting by his head.




And of course, he is adorable. He could look like a monkey’s ass and he’d still be adorable. Look at that little mouth. I could even see the umbilical cord. And, see that puffy white cloud near his head? That would be the pillow of my placenta. Say it with me now: PLAC – CEN – TA. I’m starting to like this thing. Not so much that I’ll go all Matthew McConaughey and plant it in my backyard but…

You never know.

Sometimes I visualize birth. I try to taste how much it will hurt, I picture how I will try to approach it and then how I will feel at the end. I used to do the same thing with races. When I cross the line after birth, I know there will be much pain, many tears and elation. But there will also be words. And today I realized what I will probably say…

We’ve been waiting to meet you.

When I look at that picture, I realized that 13 more weeks is a really long time to wait until I meet this little guy.

But having the sneak peek sure does help.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Living Large

I FINALLY HIT 130 POUNDS!

Hopefully this is the first, last and only time in my life that I will shout that in celebration.

As much as you convince yourself this is temporary, this is necessary, it is still unnerving. I eat well. I exercise every day. I have gained 22 pounds. I am not nose deep in a bucket of ice cream or chips. I can count on one hand the number of times I have overly indulged in that crap while pregnant! (but will admit to a few incidents with bacon) What I have learned, though, is that your body will do what it wants or needs to do. Some women gain 14 pounds (can I slap them?), some women gain 50 pounds (will I be one of them)?

So here I am at what feels like this supersized version of myself. Can I go back to being me now – please? Can I press the panic button and stop all of this expansion? I know it has a purpose but that is not making me feel any more comfortable. Plus I’ve still got 13 weeks to go, the three biggest months to go. If I feel this way now – what then?

We’re going to need one of those large people cranes.

Somewhere around month 6 in What To Expect To When You’re Expecting you see a new symptom under the list of things you may be experiencing:

A sense of boredom with pregnancy (“is that all everyone can talk about?”)

Bored would be a good way to put it – it’s a sense of hanging in between wow this is exciting and oh shit this is going to end and life will be really hard. When you think about it, the 40 weeks leading up to pregnancy is your vacation. The final hurrah of what life is like with just you and your spouse, the come and go as you please schedule, waking up in the morning and standing under a hot shower for as long as you want just because you can.

Those days are numbered, my friend.

Sensing that there are only 13 weeks left (in both ways – there are still 13 freakin’ weeks left of this? and ohmygod there is only one more trimester left!), I found myself in a little bit of a foul mood yesterday. The foul mood in pregnancy is like nothing else. Do not approach this woman. Nothing you do or say will make her feel better unless you suck out the 10 pounds of fluid she is retaining and turn her bladder off. She is large, uncomfortable and in general getting increasingly miserable with activities of daily living. She had to take a deep breath to bend over to tie her shoes. She realized that she might be revealing her private parts to the world because SHE CANNOT SEE WHAT IS GOING ON DOWN THERE. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she is convinced that a double chin is starting to take up residence on her face.

I said my uterus was for rent – but my face is not accepting tenants!

On top of all that, I didn’t sleep well – yet again. I got some decaf and it didn’t taste good. I went to the dog park and got man-trapped by a man who wanted to talk to me all about pregnancy (is that all everyone can talk about?). The list could go on. But in situations like this, rather than listing things out it is better to just go run them out and relax.

But there’s just one thing….

I can’t run. I am finally putting the running shoes to rest. Two weeks ago I was still covering 7 miles in a little over an hour. Two weeks ago I was running 3 to 4 times a week. But then something changed. These past two weeks, every time I went for a run my lower legs would experience increasing pain. I switched to walking – and the same thing happened. I visited my A.R.T. guy who explained it might be due to too much fluid, too much swelling, poor circulation and…too much pregnancy.

So what you’re telling me is that I’m not injured, I’m just pregnant?

Yes.

Awesome.


He suggested that I wear compression socks. So I gave that a try yesterday on the indoor track. The only problem is that the compression socks I have are hideously pink and accompanied by my light blue running shorts that are about ½ inch away from showing major crack and my white running top which covers me for all of about 10 steps before it yanks halfway up my belly – well, I looked like a human easter egg running away from all the kings horses and men. At a not so fast pace. I ran for 5 minutes before the pain started again. And so, it was off to the elliptical.

R.I.P. running shoes :(

For the record, the elliptical is not the same as running. It’s traveling but you’re not moving. And when you’re moving but not going anywhere while pregnant you become a giant hot pot of sweat and belly. The elliptical is also the only place you can find yourself checking emails, plugged into your iPod, watching television with a magazine also nearby and still thinking to yourself – I’m really bored.

How is that possible?

Thank goodness after 30 minutes, Chris showed up at the gym and saved me with a swim. Somewhere between my locker and the pool door I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It’s not the belly. It’s not the chest. It’s … no, those cannot be, those are not … oh my god those are my LEGS!

Warning to pregnant women – DO NOT TURN AROUND IN FRONT OF A MIRROR NO MATTER WHAT! You will not like what you see. You will then spend the next 10 minutes telling your husband that you do not like what you see and the only thing he can think to say is “you’re pregnant and you don’t look as bad as some normal women.”

Uh…have you SEEN the other women at the pool? There is one who has to be 300+ lbs, wearing a see-through bathing suit and yes she really does have hideous cankles so what you’re saying is that I look better than THAT?

Why is that not making me feel any better?

Out in the pool, I joined Chris in a lane. Correction – we shared the same lane where he lapped me every 200 yards. For crying out loud, I used to swim with him! When the swim was all done I found myself in the shower, still foul. Still uncomfortable. See, you can run this stuff away but unfortunately, you cannot ellipticize (it is a word) or swim it away.


Standing there, under the hot water of the shower JUST BECAUSE I STILL CAN I found a million thoughts going through my head – from I can’t believe I have to pee again - to screw it I’m just going right now here in the shower - to at this point would it really matter if I ate peanut butter cups and bacon for breakfast every day – and then I finally got a hold of myself.

Elizabeth. Dear. You have 13 weeks left. The work is mostly done. There is the finish line – it is straight ahead. Focus and take it one step at a time. You will get there. This race will not go on forever. There will be an end.

It’s easy to feel like I’ll be trapped in this forever because it’s been over 6 months. But no one has ever stayed pregnant forever. Except that woman on tv with the 20 kids or something. The rest, go back to being themselves. It’s only temporary. You’ll get there. Until then I will stay away from gym mirrors - maybe it’s the lighting? – ellipticize my stress away and keep believing the people who tell me that I look great.

Even though we’ve already covered how much bullshit that really is.

There is one more week until I enter the third trimester. It will be the beginning of the end. I’m almost done – which is both scary and exciting. I just need to look at bright side to see that there is a lot for me to be celebrating about pregnancy. I am pregnant (which is half the battle). I don’t have hemorrhoids (yet). I also don’t have that creepy “mask of pregnancy”. I’m not on bed rest. I'm only having one child.


Did you see that psychocrazy octomom with the 14 kids on Oprah today?


And, there is this little champ in my belly who is kicking to get out in less than 13 weeks. I'm living large for you, kid. I can’t think of any better reason go through all of this than for that.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hooray For Boobies

Warning: This is about breasts. Now, men, before you tune out: when was the last time you tuned out to something with “boobies” in the title, hmmph? You might just learn something here. And even if you don’t, did I mention BOOBIES!

Hooray!

Tonight I took a breastfeeding class. What I really want to say is that breastfeeding sounds like a pain in the ass. But I know that’s not the right thing to say. I know that there are many benefits to breastfeeding for both the woman and baby. I know it’s the natural and right thing to do. So what I really should say instead is that breastfeeding is a lot of hard work – but work that’s worth it.

Work, however, that still looks like a big pain … in the breasts.

I walk in to find another room full of pregnant women. My people. Let me say that if you are pregnant and having some body image issues, hang around other pregnant women. All day I am by myself or with fit athletes and find myself more and more in moments of…

I AM HUGE.

Not so when you are with other pregnant women. Especially if they are farther along than you. Especially if the woman next to you is….

Having twins.

Feeling like the skinny bitch (when pregnant, you take this feeling while you can because all it takes is a trip to the gym to feel like the whale), I soon realized that I actually lose because in the room there were only two of us that were not accompanied by a spouse. I told Chris that he didn’t need to join me at this class but in retrospect I wish he had been there. The more he knows, the better he’ll be prepared. And, besides…

BOOBIES!

We’re talking full on boobie baby porn. The class started with a video – WITH NO DIALECT - showing explicit pictures of baby and breast. Baby taking the breast. Mommy squeezing the breast. The breast! The breast! Oh my god! I just wanted to stop looking at nipples and breasts. Like I’ve said before, when pregnant these are not the breasts you are looking for.


THIS IS NOT SEXY.

Next up we practiced holding and feeding the baby. Each mommy to be was given a baby all wrapped up in a blanket with a mouth wide open ready to feed. It took me about 10 tries to imitate the holding pattern that the instructor was doing. If this was a real baby, its head would have rolled off by then. Then, we had to position the baby close to our breasts. And help the baby to feed.

Here I am thinking this is all hypothetical. Pretend play in the land of let’s make believe we all have babies already. Then I look around. And realize that everyone in the class except for me is touching their breast with a U-hold and squeezing.

What to do what to do what to do. I CAVED! Call it peer pressure but no sooner was my hand in a U-shape when I may or may not have touched my breast. And then I felt the need to hide under the table and wash my hands.

Burp the baby. I don’t know what happened next. I had my baby sitting up and was trying to burp it when – it fell over! And tumbled to the floor! I was so embarrassed. And not very confident in myself – I just wounded the plastic doll. When I got home, we realized that we forgot to give Boss his dinner kibble. Dogs, dolls = FAIL! How am I going to manage a live child? HOW!?

We then got into a throwdown of Boppy vs. My Breast Friend. My Breast Friend is declared the winner because the baby can fall through the Boppy (oh, my nonpregnant friends, I throw these ridiculous terms around but just you wait and see…it will only be a matter of time before you too walk into a store and ask another adult where you can find the Boppy or My Breast Friend without getting eyed suspiciously and possibly arrested).

Did you know there is more than one way to touch your breast? I am sorry if this disgusts you but…this is how infants feed! The breast is their lifeline. There is a C-touch and a U-touch to express milk from yourself. To demonstrate, the instructor brought out a boob puppet.

It was even more frightening than the placenta puppet. And yes, it was anatomically correct.

I felt ridiculous sitting in a room learning how to use my own breasts. Think about it – does a man ever have to sit in a class to learn to use his own penis? No. The breasts need a manual. An entire folder filled with packets, crisis lines, support groups, accessory flyers, special nurses to show you how to use them. The breast is...high maintenance!

Actually, they require very little “true” maintenance. Like your oven, they are self-cleaning with special glands. Which means women have the advantage. Last I heard, the penis is NOT self-cleaning.

Nursing clothes were passed around. Bras, nightgowns, pads, a whole line of accessories. And how fun is a breast cape? Better yet, how fun is it that someone already bought one for me? On days where I need to tap into my superhero identity I just might run around wearing the cape and nothing else while shouting to the world that I have gone batshitcrazy!

I have a feeling that after July 28th – that might be every day.

There’s a lot of philosophies about feeding out there. I imagine all that matters is what your baby wants and needs. But the class gave a lot of good guidelines. Feed as often as the baby wants to feed. This might be every hour or every 3 hours. There is no right or wrong amount of time. However, the baby needs to feed about 10 times a day. 24 hours in a day – you do the math. That means every 2 hours or so, you’re likely feeding. Considering it takes about 20 minutes to empty your breasts, another how many minutes to burp and then settle them down that gives me about 10 x 20 minutes a day to shower – eat – work and take a crap.

IF I'M LUCKY.

The instructor also suggested for the first 3 to 4 weeks not to supplement with pacifiers or bottles. That way your milk supply comes in as it needs to. This is also to avoid Nipple Confusion (true condition, also can happen to very drunk men, I know, sometimes I crack my own batshit up too). Bottom line is that for the first 4 weeks of baby’s life you will be a nonstop milk maid. She also mentioned that even if daddy gets up at night to take a feeding, you still have to get up and pump your darn breasts because they will continue to fill at the rate which the baby normally feeds.

This is probably how you might find yourself laying in bed at 4 am totally engorged with cold cabbage leaves stuck to your breasts.

Pumping your breasts. After seeing the different types of pumps, the instructor explained how they worked. I gathered that I might as well chain the pump to my ankle if I ever plan to leave the house again. Pump before you leave, pump if you’re out longer than 3 hours, pump after feedings just to have some back up milk you can freeze. It became clear that for 6 months – maybe more – I will be nothing but two breasts. Which got me to thnking….

I’m going to need to hire someone to be on boobie support. Anyone? There’s a lot that needs to be done! The damn pump has at least 5 detachable parts that need to be cleaned. And then all that packaging the milk, freezing and thawing? By the time I clean the baby, feed the baby and then clean the pump I might not leave my house for…the next 18 years.

But at least that’s about 18 years sooner than the woman who’s having twins. I win!

I left the class having a little bit of a meltdown. But like I told Chris when I got home, I’d rather crap my pants now in a moment of HOW AM I GOING TO DO THIS than to have that same feeling while I am sore, bleeding, hormonal and with the baby in my arms after delivery. At least I have the illusion of being prepared for something you can never be prepared for, you can never know enough about and really has no right or wrong way.

Did you know that the average time to breastfeed in most countries is 3 to 4 years? Yet in the United States, most women feed for 6 to 12 months. We value independence and, honestly, we value convenience. I can see how many women choose not to breastfeed because damn it’s inconvenient. I even found myself thinking – maybe I don’t want to do this. But the instructor told us to set small goals. Tell yourself to get through a week. Then a few weeks. Then a few months. And maybe you’ll get to an entire year. That’s a language I can understand. Small steps add up to bigger success.

My Breast Friend, a Medela pump, a cape, a tube of lanolin. Am I forgetting something?

The baby. DAMMIT the baby! HOW am I going to remember all of this? Which is EXACTLY why I need a boobie support staff. Full-time position. Paid. No prior experience necessary.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Approaching 26 Weeks

This picture’s hot.


Oh, come on! I know it’s the anti-hot. But THIS what happens when you take me and blow me up to 26 weeks pregnant. Yikes! In my defense, there is a little person in that belly who measures in at nearly 2 pounds and nearly 14 inches right now.

Speaking of 26 weeks – can someone please tell me just how I arrived here with only one more week until I enter…

THE THIRD TRIMESTER!

I’m starting to feel the pressure of the fact that I am having a baby. There is a little person in me who seems to only wake up when I sleep. Kick kick kick. All – night – long. It’s not painful (yet) but it definitely feels like something alien in your stomach with a mind of its own. The kicks are a constant reminder that he is in there and he is coming. And, he will need things – love, diapers, my lactating breasts.

I’m actually more scared about lactation than I am about labor. I am not kidding.

Realizing I feel nowhere near ready for the chaos of a child, I sent a plea for help to a friend that opened with something like this:

Hey, so...I’m having a baby in a few months and I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE WILL NEED!

Of course there are things you need, things you want and then there is everything else that people will give you that doesn’t fall into either category but they just thought it was really cute so here. All of that stuff is great. But….on a daily basis – WHAT will this kid need. I’m talking socks (do babies wear socks..?), soap (is there special soap for washing the baby…?), I could go on but I have NO idea where to go with this list!

On the list of “things Max will need”, I’ve divided it into two categories: breast vs. nonbreast. You might be wondering why breast requires its own category. There just seems to be a lot of “things” you need for lactating breasts. There is a pump, bottles to pump into, nursing pads so you don’t leak all over your clothes, special bras, special shirts so you can access that special bra so you can access your damn boob(s) already, special bras to sleep in, capes/blankets to cover your breasts during feeding.

Did you ever think you would have to accessorize your breasts like this?

To help me sort these lists out, I’ve signed up for two classes; breastfeeding and baby care. Honestly I don’t want to read another book – just tell me what I need to know. Yes, I know that women have been breastfeeding for thousands of years, but I haven’t. So, tomorrow night I’m going to stare at pictures of boobies and find out how to transition from decorative breasts to working breasts come late July.

Speaking of classes, I didn’t wrap up the birthing class this past weekend. The second day of the birthing class was a lot more about the physical effects of delivery and recovery.

All you need to really know is two things: ice packs and granny panties.

They actually make “recovery” panties that you can buy from Medela. They look like something your grandma wore on her most conservative days. Imagine mesh panties that go clear up half your stomach. And cut across perpendicular to your thighs.

I *almost* registered for them.

The instructor warned us not to bring thongs. And here I was thinking I would get my sexy back on right after cranking that baby out. Anyhow, the hospital supplies you with one pair of mesh recovery panties and giant diaper-like pads to catch the post baby-fallout (which includes a lot of “stuff”). I hear you can sport this look for up to 6 weeks. And then, your period comes back! It’s like the damn vagina just won’t give us a break. It’s always got to be yapping with something come out of it.

The best part of the class was taking a tour of the labor and delivery ward. It’s a lot more tangible when you are in the room looking at the monitors, the baby warmer and the bed.

And here is the mirror on the door that we can leave open in case you want to watch.

Mark me down as a “no” for that one.

The ward was pretty quiet but as we walked by the nursery, there lay 3 little teeny weeny eeny babies in warmers. OH MY GOSH! Better than looking at puppies. Better than looking at the little chicks in that exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. Better than ice cream – little babies!

I could have looked at them all day. So small, new and fresh to the world. They were each swaddled tightly like tiny potato sacks with a head and mouth. It was all sunshine and cupcakes and rainbows for me until….one of them started crying like a feral cat.

I think I've seen enough.

Speaking of cats and dogs – the instructor told us that if you have a dog, the best way to introduce baby to the house is to first bring home a baby hat and let the pet sniff it. Then, have the “alpha” dog bring the baby in. Chris is definitely the alpha dog at our house and Boss is so obedient to him. In fact, every night they have a bizarre make out session on the couch where Boss licks his face clean.

And I have to remind Chris to PLEASE wash his face after that.

The class wrapped up and I felt more confident about where to go and what to expect. I’m not saying you should take a class but at least tour your chosen hospital/birthing center to have a “map” of where to go and the policies. The hospital I chose has a lot of policies about the number of visitors, when they can visit, how to get into the ward. It also made us think through how we are going to notify our family and visitors when Max makes his arrival.

Like the instructor said, you never get those first 15 minutes back – the 15 minutes where it’s just you, baby and daddy – in the room together recovering. She advised against sending mass texts, calling people right away. Everyone else waited over 9 months for the baby – they can wait a little longer. For those first 15 minutes, she said to just enjoy it amongst your new “family”.

I owe you an update. The ultrasound on Friday. I went to the perinatologist to assess if the antibody was having any ill effects on Max.

The ultrasound technician measured the fluid around Max – normal. She measured his heart rate – 143 bpm – normal. She then did a doppler of the MCA – not to be confused with the Beastie Boy – this is a measurement of the velocity of blood flow through an artery in his brain. The higher the velocity, the more likely he is anemic (leading to many problems).

Measurement were taken and then I laid there to wait for the doctor. And wait…wait some more….still waiting….at 20 minutes I had to pee (can’t I do ANYthing for 20 minutes without using a bathroom!?)….30 minutes still waiting and…finally 35 minutes later the doctor arrived.

The doctor explained that she didn’t know why my titers were rising. Because anti-Kell was so rare, they just don’t see it a lot and I got the feeling that it was a bit of the unknown. She took some more measurements. While she measured blood flow, I looked at Max. I haven’t seen him in 4 weeks and he is getting big. He’s running out of room to do full body squats but he has been kicking up a storm lately. Some days he is totally quiet while others it’s like a track meet in my stomach.

He’s running every leg of the 4 x 8 relay and beating me with the baton!

The doctor had to leave the room to get a chart that would tell her what everything meant. When she came back she said everything looked normal for his gestational age. I have to go back again in two weeks for the same procedure to continue to monitor his progress.

Someone asked for a picture of the nursery. It is a work in progress. We are missing two pieces of furniture but here is the crib:



Yes the crib is about 20 feet long and 10 feet tall. I'm telling you EVERYTHING in our world is big these days!

Chris is the luckiest baby daddy in the world because I did not once nag him to paint the nursery, when are you going to paint the nursery, you need to paint the nursery. We painted the room that color about 3 years ago and decided to stick with it, add some animals (mostly monkeys) and call it Max’s little man cave.

I’ve just about wrapped my registry up but I’ll tell you – this was harder than registering for a wedding! I almost had a meltdown while trying to decide between a bouncer, glider, vibrator (oh get your mind OUT of the gutter!) soother, jumper or exersaucer. If you have any suggestions on which of those might be the best for baby, let me know. If I had my choice, I’d choose the….

Nevermind.

Nearly 26 weeks and I still have my sense of humor. I'd say I'm doing well, wouldn't you?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Marathon

Saturday morning was race day.

I ate my usual pre-race breakfast, oatmeal. I got a (decaf) coffee. I brought along my support crew – Chris. And, headed to the marathon, perhaps the toughest marathon I’ve ever done. The Prepared Childbirth Marathon; 2 days, 10 hours of all things birthing the baby education.

Better make that a venti, caffeinated.

A few months ago, the doctor encouraged me to sign up for a childbirth class. When I brought up the idea to Chris, he balked and moaned about spending an entire day learning. But I convinced him a little education never hurt anyone.

(spoiler alert) Education can be very, very painful.

Enter the Prepared Childbirth Marathon. A weekend of learning all things birthing the baby. You’re not supposed to go until the third trimester, but we signed up early as part of our plan. The plan being that we would rather spend a lousy day in April cooped up inside than a beautiful day in June.

(turns out this weekend was sunny and 70 degrees)

We arrived to find a room filled with yoga mats, birthing balls and 11 other couples. As much I wanted to feel like these were my people, this was my tribe, I felt out of place. These women were much further along in pregnancy than I was. I know we all have babies but…they were like the elite team. They know and feel things I do not yet know. It was clear – I was the rookie here. While every other woman was at 32 to 36 weeks, I had to ‘fess up that I was only at 25.

We wanted to get a head start on things.

(you know they’re thinking crazy control freak overachiever psycho type A uber mom personality, you know I’m thinking: GUILTY)

The class started with a quiz on your readiness for the birth of the baby. Is the car seat in the car, have you thought about if you want an epidural, did you register for the hospital. Based on my score, I came up as:

You’re either highly motivated, a “control freak” or extremely excited about having this baby!

It’s like they’ve been spying on me.

The instructor was a former LDN filled with war stories from her work days and her own 3 birth experiences. Before I knew it, she was talking anatomy of the pregnant woman (complete with slides). The fundus (not a type of cheese). The vagina (any opportunity to use that word, I will). The uterus (which stretches in centimeters that corresponds to the week you are, like a Slinky but much less fun). And the elusive placenta which lives inside the woman and is the only disposable organ. Would you believe she had a placenta puppet that she passed around to everyone?

I almost didn’t want to touch it.

Then she went into techniques for relaxation. Lights were dimmed, she put on her best library voice and started talking to us about breathing, relaxing, massaging; the importance of the support partner touching the woman in labor, using essential oils, rubbing smelly lotions, bringing soothing music, remembering to breathe deep cleansing breaths. You know – all that shit you need for relaxation.

Next we had time to practice. Chris was rubbing my arms when my eyes went wide and I told him if he so much as touches my face during labor I will strike him from the list of those allowed in the delivery room with me. And would he please stop touching my arms already!?!

I know, this stuff is not you, Liz.

Amen. This is why I married him.

Ever get the feeling that the only way the world knows for you to relax is to dim the lights, put on classical music, rub lavender oil on your arms then sit there chanting om to yourself? It’s like everyone is trying to force you into this round hole of relaxation. I’m happy to be a pent up square peg. I don’t need to sit on a mat wearing an $85 top from Lululemon to relax while someone tells me to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. Like there are many ways to recreate, there are also many ways to relax.

THIS way is not for me.


No educational course is complete without a video that scares the complete crap of you. Enter the birth videos. In one, the baby dropped right out of a woman as she rocked on all fours. Like a giant poop of blood, out came this little baby. That didn’t scare me. Nor did the footage of the woman getting the epidural. Come on, I did 8 weeks of progesterone shots. No, it was the one of the woman laying there completely naked that got me panicked.

I looked at Chris.

Do I have to be completely naked?

Now, I fully expect that parts of me will be broadcast to the entire world. I’m sure they’ve seen it all before. And even after THOUSANDS of miles in a bike saddle it can’t look THAT bad.


Can it?

She was having a natural birth.

Natural birthing, like breathing, is also not for me.

Labor positions – how many are there? The worst position for laboring? Laying on your back. It causes the baby not to descend properly or turn on its own. It slows labor and increases your risk of cesarean delivery. Instead, she showed us how to squat, rock on a birth ball, sit on a toilet, sit in a tub of water, walk, slow dance with the husband, stand in a shower, lay on the side – basically any position you can get yourself in is good for laboring.

My favorite position: all fours, rear facing the crowd. But only because the instructor assured us that we are least likely to poop ourselves in this position.

One thing that all the women seemed curious about was pain management. There were many questions about epidurals. Now, I’ve said before that I’m not against the drugs. Yet the more I heard about the drugs, the less I wanted them. Or, the more I wanted to make an effort NOT to want them.

The instructor talked about epidurals – the benefits, the risks, the effects on baby. As she talked, I couldn't help but start thinking that once you ask for the epidural, it becomes a slippery slope of more invasive procedures. Labor slows down, things don’t progress, more drugs to progress things which cause more powerful contractions which causes more distress to the baby which then may – just may – increase your risk of cesarean delivery. Bottom line: let things progress naturally. The baby will come when it’s ready. Be patient.

In other words…breathe (but wait, which way: deep cleansing, ah-hee or panting, and how will I know which to use when?).

Of course, on paper that sounds easy. I know it won’t be but it can’t be any more painful than being instructed to wear a lei while practicing the hula with your husband around a classroom to teach you how to rock your hips while laboring.

It did happen, and no, there are not pictures.

All of this talk about pain got me thinking about pain. The other women were very curious about the level of pain, how to stop the pain, does the catheter after the epidural cause pain. The pain, the pain, the pain. I got the sense that these women were scared – VERY scared of the pain.

From a show of hands, they were also VERY scared about pooping themselves.

(I’ve got to admit, while I might not be as far along as these women, I felt like I was in a different league for dealing with shitting myself – heck, I’ve fertilized miles of DuPage County since I started running 18 years ago. I can certainly handle a little poopy in the hospital)

During lunch, I thought more about pain. Most people live very pain-free, comfortable lives. We live in climate controlled homes, sit in cushy chairs, drive most places we want to go, have umbrellas for when it’s raining, we get nearly anything we want at a moment’s notice and ….our lives are very much full of instant no waiting I want it and get it right now pleasure with very little pain. Because of that, I would think most people learn to fear pain. They don’t experience it often enough to know how to cope with it or where to begin to even learn the skills.

Think of it from an athlete’s point of view. Frequently, we have painful experiences. We willingly put ourselves into situations that are potentially full of pain. We chase after it. We welcome it. That’s the point…right? If you’re not finding your limit of pain in sport then you will never better yourself. You’ll stagnate in the same comfortable place (and pace).

From what I’ve seen, many athletes confuse discomfort with pain. Is it the same with most women then? The most successful athletes know there is a fine line between discomfort and pain. Discomfort is when it’s really hot on a run, when you feel like your legs will explode at the top of the hill, when you have to do no breath 25s. That is not pain. Many athletes do not get to the point of pain. Our brains are intelligent organisms that protect us from getting there. They pick up on as many cues of discomfort as possible in order to warn us that we are approaching pain. The best athletes override that system and ignore those cues. It’s not that they don’t experience discomfort, they just push past discomfort, thus making it a new part of their comfort zone.

If you want to breakthrough, you learn to expand your zone of discomfort and find your threshold for pain. It’s much higher than you think. The next time you want to give something up, ask yourself if you are just uncomfortable or if you are truly feeling physical pain. Discomfort is I want to stop. Pain is I need to stop or I will hurt myself. I’m not saying that you won’t go to the hurt shop on a set of 400 meter repeats on the track but it’s manageable pain. Rarely will you give it so much that you cross that line into pain where you risk passing out or pulling something. You’ve got to find that line between discomfort and pain. It’s that breaking point where you learn things – what you’re made of, what you’re capable of, where your new limit is.

So it made me wonder – are these women worried about getting uncomfortable during labor or truly afraid of the pain? Seems like all of these things we were practicing – breathing, relaxing, massaging are to make us comfortable. Which to me sounds like an impossibility. It’s like telling someone that Ironman won’t hurt. Of course it hurts! It’s freakin’ Ironman. You can’t rub lavender sunscreen on your arms and expect it to go away. So why the same thing with labor? Maybe that’s my problem with all of it – I've accepted that no matter what I do or what Chris says or how much he strokes my face – there WILL be pain that I must accept and deal with. Must we fool ourselves? No matter what you do it won’t be comfortable so … let’s stop kidding ourselves into thinking we can create a magical pain-free birth.


The more I listened to the women asking if the drugs take away all of the pain (no), the more I realized that many of these women fear birth. I’m not saying I don’t fear it but…I trust that if my body was designed to do this, it was also designed to handle the pain. I also can't help but feel that birth is also one of the most amazing processes that a woman can experience. Yet, women seem so intent on rushing straight from the process to the end outcome. It’s like the rookie athlete who is so focused on results that they forget that patience with the process is really the one way to get the best result. After going through this class and watching The Business of Birth (watch it – trust me), I can see now that rushing it (unless medically required) is probably not the best way.

Before we left for the day, the instructor took us through guided imagery. The more she force-fed us the relaxation techniques, the more I realized they not for me. And that is ok. Everyone relaxes in a different way. For me, breathing, closing my eyes – these are not ways I deal with pain. When I think about how I deal with the pain of a track workout, a group ride – I first accept that it will hurt (like hell). I then look right into the face of pain (with no fear). And, lastly, I fucking deal with it. I don’t take an analgesic to make it go away. I don’t run the treadmill because it’s raining outside. I don’t ride the trainer because it’s windy. I don't quit when it gets hard or the splits aren't going my way. I grit my teeth, I focus, I deal – with – it. Labor will be the ultimate workout in just…dealing.

I left the class feeling informed about the birthing process. It will hurt, I get it. How I deal with the hurt - I realize that all that matters is birthing a healthy baby. Making things easy for me - well, it's like setting a personal best or wininng your AG, if it was supposed to be easy, everyone would be fast and would win. That is not the case. Birth is not going to be easy either. What I really need Chris to say is buck up, camper.


But I will not be held responsible if in a rear facing position, after hearing that, I 'accidentally' poop in his face.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ups & Downs

Sometimes pregnancy is like a roller coaster – full of ups and downs.

Problem is, I don’t really like rollercoasters. I’ll ride them but not without holding my breath at the top of every climb before plunging down only to crest another hill and do it again. It’s safe to say I ride rollercoasters in a hypoxic state.

Recall about 12 weeks ago when I found out I had some antibodies in my blood. Kell antibodies that affect less than 2 percent of the population. Chris tested negative for the antigen meaning baby Max could not be a carrier, end of story. A happy ending.

At my 20-week ultrasound, the doctor mentioned that I should have my titers checked once a trimester just in case. In case they go up. Even though they shouldn’t go up. Though in medicine, nothing is very certain. There’s a lot of what-ifs.

They took blood on Monday and sure enough today I got a call. My titers went up. More anti-Kell. No, you cannot catch it from me, no, I cannot get rid of it, and lastly, no, running cannot make it worse. The problem is that if baby Max is also positive, then my body’s antibodies will start attacking him.

Attacking is never a good thing. Unless we’re talking out of the saddle up a steep incline with the intent to get your heart rate into zone 5. I love hill attacks. I do not love, however, the idea of attacking my baby. When the body attacks the baby it makes the baby anemic. The anemic baby encounters all sorts of problems.

The nurse said I would need to go in for twice monthly ultrasounds to monitor the baby’s health. Fine. I called the perinatologist. They scheduled me for an appointment – over a month away. I thought that was a little unusual, it sounded a bit more serious than that but…what do I know. I’m not the one with doctor in front of my name…

Though Dr. ELF has a really nice ring to it.

Wait for a month...? That didn’t feel right. So, I called my friend who’s a high risk obstetrician. She confirmed that I should be seen right away. Increasing titer is not normal and there’s a good chance that Chris’ test result was wrong. She got me thinking, I did some researching and realized another call was in order. The perinatologist needed to do some explaining.

I called. They were out to lunch. Tick tock. Then they called back. I asked about Chris' test results, something about positive for a little K but not the big K. How a positive could be negative? I thought everything was ok? Something about homozygous vs. heterozygous. Genetics. I knew I should have paid better attention in science class.

They now told me I needed to be seen at the next available appointment. But – what about a month from now? That’s what the nurse told me this morning. I got angry. What about the fact that if I hadn’t called out of my own curiosity about what the heck is going on – I would have waited that entire month before. I got really angry. What about the doctor who at the last ultrasound told me my husband tested negative and everything would be ok? I got really, really angry. And confirmed to myself why when it comes to medical matters, you need to be an advocate. You need to educate yourself to ask the right questions and keep pressing for answers.

That evening, Chris came home. When I saw him I wanted to cry but knew that over emotional displays of self-pity never make you feel any better. They just make you feel helpless. There’s a lot we don’t know. And a lot we can do if something is wrong. There’s no need to bring tears and excess emotion into it. Let’s focus on what we can do rather than all that is going on that we cannot control.

We talked. We theorized. We sounded like too high school kids trying to pass a genetics test. I summed up my day by saying not only did I get this news but I dropped my decaf coffee in the parking lot of Buy Buy Baby.

Major foul. MAJOR.

Why was I at BuyBuyBaby again? I wanted to buy the bedding. I started decorating Max’s room with monkeys and animals and...damn it looks adorable. Whether he comes out 100 percent healthy or with a lifetime of health problems ahead of him – I will take him as he is. And will surround him with monkeys.

That afternoon I got a box in the mail. It was from a friend. A stuffed giraffe and swaddling blankets. This is the joy of pregnancy. A far away friend sends a gift that brightens my day for the little man that will be arriving in less than 4 months. The other night I was laying on the couch at night and watch my stomach move with little kicks and bumps when I said to Chris:

I can’t wait to meet this kid.

If I could have screamed it to make it any more clear how excited I am, I would have. But I didn’t want to scare the shit out of Boss. Or Chris. There’s something completely inexplicable about the way it feels to know that someone is growing in you, a little person ready to take on the world.


Years from now, Max will read this and tell me that I worry too much. I will agree, and tell him it is something I genetically inherited from my mother, from her mother, from her mother who was a small Italian woman standing at 4 foot 8 inches tall who I only remember in her late 90s in her bedroom saying the rosary while sitting under a picture of the Virgin Mary. You can’t escape genetics – the good, the bad, maybe the little K.

Tomorrow I’m going to have an ultrasound to see what’s going on the little man. And so the rollercoaster heads up toward another hill. I’m pressing on the lap bar. I’m taking a deep breath. I just have to remember to breathe every now and then.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

By Choice

Today marks the entrance into my 25th week of pregnancy!

The other day I had my 24-week check up and I was in and out of the doctor’s office in a record 12 minutes. I gave urine – just 2 ounces this month, I hope Nurse Ratched noticed that – and then they took my weight. This just in: I have now gained around 20 pounds. I’m no mathematician but I might end up with 35 pounds when this is all said and done. You know what that is - AWESOME!

I’ve found the best way to deal with the weight gain is to accept it, embrace it and make friends with it. You can spend 40 weeks hating the bigger version of yourself or just getting over yourself. I choose – b. And therefore lovingly call myself Jumbo or Lunchbox.

The doctor measured me again. I still measure perfectly. She also gave me a bottle of orange stuff that I am supposed to drink before my 28 week visit. Something about my placenta might be diabetic and it will only let them know at 28 weeks. The placenta is a very mysterious breed. Likes to keep things hidden like that. I warned Chris not to drink it because it looks like sport drink. I fear I’ll come home one night and find him frothing at the mouth, naked and running crazy laps with Boss because of a monster sugar high from a product made entirely of glucose.

But it looked like Gatorade.

As the doctor examined me, she told me I looked sporty. Coincidentally, I’m a sporty gal. She asked if I was going running. I said yes, even though I’m getting big I am trying to keep up the running. She told me about another doctor in the office did a 5K last year. On a really hilly course. Yes, I know that course. I was at that 5K and I won it. It made me hungry to run fast and light again. But alas that will have to wait many, many more weeks.

Until then, I continue on with the pregnancy runs. Character builders for sure. Nothing like carrying around an extra 20 pounds, a whole new gait and an entire running wardrobe that no longer fits. When I went out to go running, I realized that my shirt covered HALF of my stomach I also realized it was in the upper 70s. Do you have any idea what that means for a pregnant woman?

Instant cankles.

Running + pregnancy + heat do not mix. Just when I thought I couldn’t get any slower, I had to implement the 5 minute run, 1 minute walk today. Insert the :30 pee every 10 minutes and you get…not a whole lot of forward progress. I will not be running in the heat again. Looks like it’s back to the treadmill or early morning runs for me.

Aside from that, I’m keeping up with the swimming, biking and running though every day I have to approach it with even more flexibility than the day before. I still do something every day for 45 to 90 minutes. I know I don’t “have” to do anything and as I get more uncomfortable I wake up every day thinking – I don’t have to but I choose to because it's good for me both during and after pregnancy.

Now, I do not have any delusions about retaining fitness with what I’m doing. I might be crazy but I am not delusional. My fitness left me about 20 pounds and 24 weeks ago. Right now I go through the motions and I enjoy it. I know I’m not as strong and I know I’m not fast. Speed has no place in pregnancy. Don’t even try. And worrying about it? Totally useless. Just keep moving. One foot in front of the other, it counts.

Maybe I'm crazy to keep up with it but I don't think what I'm doing is all that unusual for an athlete. Heck, Carrie Tollefson is 4 months pregnant and still runs 40 miles per week. She cut that back from 80. You read stories of women who ran 8 miles a day every day in pregnancy, women who ran marathons, did cycling trips, my sister in law is training to walk a half marathon…the bottom line is that every woman is different but no one should expect anything less of herself. You can do what you normally do within reason. It’s at a much easier effort and you might not go as long but if you are used to doing something every day, pregnancy does not need to take that away (unless you are told by your doctor).

And I think women need to hear this. I talk to a lot of women who maybe are planning to start families and it’s always the same – the look of fear in their eyes, in their voice. They seem to think that what they love to do will no longer be possible. Or that their doctor will tell them to keep their HR under 140 bpm and they’ll be walking from week 4 and on. If you do have a doctor that tells you that, find a new one who understands where your fitness is at and what you are used to doing. There is no right or wrong way to approach fitness in pregnancy. Everyone is different.

Keeping up with workouts while pregnant has completely changed the way I see workouts. I don’t think I will ever have a bad run again after pregnancy. There is no way it could get any worse than my run today. I peed on my shorts and then on my hand! Nor will I ever fret about being lapped at masters. Get over it – you'll swim again another day. And you know how sometimes you feel so uncomfortable on your bike on a windy day – I’d give anything to feel the wind while I’m riding right now, a basement fan is not cutting it. From all of this, I’ve got something now…perspective.

I know many women who are pregnant now or will try in the near future. Don’t give up on your “training”. You’ll have days where you are tired and feel like it won’t matter if you skip a day, or two days, or an entire week. But keep up the consistency. It’s worth it! I know I must look ridiculous out there in running shorts that are too small and a top that no longer covers my stomach. But no matter how I look or how slow I go, I still feel like a freakin’ rock star when I get back from a run. I still feel powerful, “light” and like I've done good for myself. It gives me the illusion of control and even adds some confidence.


Oh BOO I feel heavy, I have to pee a lot or I’m tired. Times like that I tell myself to get over myself! True, there are times you truly do need to rest but everything else is just whiny excuses that you want to feed yourself because you’re pregnant. Trust me, I’ve battled many times with myself – I don’t have to do this. I could sit on the couch and gain 60 pounds and it would be OK! I could but I really don’t want to. And I don’t have to do this, but I choose to.

Which is the best reason of all – choice, not chance or obligation. By choice.

It seems like a sentence – 40 weeks of going slower than slow. But what I’ve found is that while it’s frustrating at times and monotonous, it’s an opportunity to do the sport in a different way. To use fins when I want. To explore a new trail. To make new playlists to entertain myself on the bike. It might be the same old 3 sports but I’ve never done them like this before.

All that said I am fired up to “train” tomorrow. Tomorrow I am giving myself the opportunity to swim a really long set. The good news is that my swimsuit covers me – ALL of me (unlike my running tops). The bad news is that for the rest of the week I’ve 21,000 yards of swimming to go. Yes, to celebrate my 25th week of pregnancy, I’m taking on 25,000 yards of swimming. I agree, that’s a little crazy. But I’d like to think that if you ever have to elect the mayor of Crazytown, you’ll choose me.

PS - if you don’t hear from me by next week’s end, please check under the giant pile of foam noodles on the pool deck.

Until then, I’m going to rest up in my compression socks. Gotta get rid of these cankle that appeared right after running 57 minutes. The old me would have run until that clock hit 1 hour even. The pregnant me ran towards the car like it was a giant class of red wine only to find out that I could not drink it. Dammit! I didn’t feel the need to run around the cul-de-sac until I hit 60. I will run again another day – and pick up the 3 there. Or not. But then again, if I hadn’t stopped my watch during pee breaks I would have been at 60 even….next time….crazy, yes, but crazy by choice (there is a difference, sort of).

Monday, April 05, 2010

Ships Ahoy

A few days ago, Chris told me that I was invited shopping by his mother.

My initial reaction was – I am not ready for this. You don’t understand. My mother in law is a world class, perhaps even world champion shopper. She has freakish endurance for spending entire days at the mall. So much so that Chris’ sisters used to break up shopping with her into two shifts – AM and PM. To endure an entire day – it takes stamina, it takes sports drink, it takes at least a week taper to be sure you are adequately rested.

How could I prepare in a few short days? I sat around for 3 days doing nothing but visualizing my best shopping day and wearing compression socks. By the time Saturday rolled around, I had my game face on, I packed a banana, I was ready.

All of the Waterstraat girls – that would be the MIL, Meredith, 1-year old Aubrey and MegMeg – headed out to BuyBuyBaby. Oh yes, we were baby shopping. Because not one but two of us are expecting – my sister-in-law is due on September 20th!

We did an initial walk around the store when someone suggested that Meredith and I start our registry. I’ve been holding out on this because how exciting does it sound to spend several hours in a large scale store scanning things – things that you want, things you need, things you think you need, things, things…there are so many things I had no idea where to even begin. In situations like this, it is therefore best to not even start. I had nightmares of myself standing there with a registry scanner so overwhelmed by bottles, car seats and bouncy chairs that I just run in fear straight into a Pack n’ Play to hide and mumble to myself.

Meredith and I walked up to the registry counter and I announced that we were there to register. The clerk looked at her, looked at me.

Together? (enter long awkward pause) Or…separate?

Oh for crying out loud. Let’s get two things straight – one, I am not into tall Asian chicks and two, I am married to her brother! No, we’re not together. Now give us separate scanners.

Scanner in hand, we descended upon the store. I immediately went to the bedding section and scanned in about 20 monkey fitted sheets – so cute! Followed that up with a Baby Bjorn, some pacifiers, a bathtub. That about covers it, right? Wrong. MegMeg, the voice of maternal reason, began telling us everything we would need.

Now, if you are pregnant, some advice – go register with someone who recently had a child. They know things. Things you do not know, things you cannot read about in Consumer Reports. It’s called current real-life experience. And so Megan suggested some important things we’ll need:

-Born Free bottles (Dr. Brown’s are too hard to clean)
-Bumbo chair (forget a highchair for awhile)
-Orbit stroller (costly but so worth it for the sake of your back)
-Medela nursing pads (lots)
-Fisher-Price swing that rotates, vibrates, sings, dances and also if you press the star-shaped button makes a damn good cup of coffee
-Summer Infant Monitor (video & audio) to spy on child in bed or husband in man cave (is he really cleaning it up or just playing Modern Warfare II again)

There were other things – many other things – but that about covered $5000 of the basics.

Over the next hour, we kept scanning. Eventually, I went off on my own and left the two sisters together. But every once in awhile, I’d hear Megan shout out something like “BREAST PADS, YOU NEED BREASTPADS” so I’d run over to find Meredith scanning something in with a puzzled look on her face and saying to me:

Do you think anyone will buy me breast pads?

Probably not but how fun is it to register for them?

LIZ, I FOUND THE RECTAL THERMOMETERS.

There’s a sentence you never thought you’d hear someone shout along with your name.

Megan would go through an aisle and find something that she remembered we needed – get these nipples, you need this bib, get the giraffe that makes sounds, a humidifier, baby nail clippers – dear god this a lot of stuff for someone that (hopefully) weighs under 10 pounds! And, then, in a giant a-ha moment, Megan shouted:

MY BREAST FRIEND! You need one of these!

Really? I do?

She explained how it worked to me and, I have to admit, in theory it sounds genius. You strap what looks like one of those things they sell peanuts in at the ballpark to your body, then you go to pick up the baby and you have somewhere to rest them while breastfeeding. I might not use it nor even need it but I’d like to run around the house while pretending to sell snacks to Chris as he rides his bike so – scan it in!

Power Bars. Power Bars. Get your Fruit Smoothie flavored Power Bars.

When all was said and done, I scanned in over 50 items. That seems like a lot but I know that barely covers it. The good news is that if you each donate one dollar to the support Baby ELF fund, about 10,000 of you later I might have it all covered.

Thank you in advance for your support.

After BuyBuyBaby, the MIL suggested we go to Neiman Marcus. Think for a moment about that store. Think about me. Right now you are laughing.

I don’t blame you.

We started with lunch in their cafĂ©. Everything was going ok until we realized baby Aubrey ate an entire bowl of butter while we were talking. She had the biggest smile on her face (and then had the biggest crap in her diaper about an hour later….). After lunch, we headed up to the kids department. I was told to find a “going home” outfit. In case you don’t know what this is, it's the outfit the baby wears when going home from the hospital. When shopping with the MIL, you do not question the absurdity of things, you just follow direct orders. I was looking for a going home outfit.

Unfortunately, they had one outfit for infants 0 to 3 months. That’s right – ONE. I looked at it, and wasn’t sure at first. You see, the outfit had pirate ships on it. Whenever I see or think about pirate ships, I think about the joke about the pirate. Did you hear this one? There’s a pirate walking around with a steering wheel sticking out of his pants. So you walk up to him and ask, what’s with the steering wheel in your pants ? and he says Argh, it’s driving me nuts.


I cannot dress my child in this without thinking of that joke but I had no other choice. I picked up the outfit. And even selected a matching hat. And about $$$$$ later, I had a going home outfit. Ships ahoy.

(you can now all hedge your bets on how long until Baby Waterstraat shits up the back of it or…shits ahoy)

Next up we sat around in the kid section while Aubrey played in a $110 play house. I want one! We started talking about Meredith’s baby and my baby and baby names. You see, we’ve already got this baby named and his name will be Max. It’s a solid name, a name you can grow old in and we like it. So spare me the stories about your neighbor’s dog who is also named Max, the kid who sat in the back of the class that only talked about Dungeons & Dragons who was also named Max – we don’t want to hear it. Besides, all that matters is that we have the MILs support. She told me so. And then she very seriously turned to me and said:

But you know we will be calling him MaxMax.

And with that, we got the Filipino stamp of approval. I couldn’t be happier. We thought long and hard about a good name that could easily be doubled. This child will be named Max(Max). But if he comes out and I decide he doesn’t look like a Max, I have the right to name him something else.

Back at home, I added a few more things to the registry. Some tub toys, a few mattress pads, and PeePee Teepees. I’ve heard that when you have a boy these are mandatory. So is a rug that matches the bedding, receiving blankets, bibs with monkeys and….give me enough time and I’ll scan in the entire store.

The crib is in Max's bedroom. There’s a rocking chair with a monkey sitting on it, waiting. And I have a registry. Holy crap I’m having a baby in less than 4 months! Nothing like a little reality setting in. I’m not scared though. I’m totally ready. Really, I am!


Now, excuse me, I’m just going to go find the nearest Pack n’ Play, crawl into it and mumble to myself for while…