Friday, July 30, 2010

Adventures In Nursing

Wednesday morning, 12:30 am, Chris brings Max into the bedroom.

Get ready.
Meaning: pull out your boobs and get ready to feed the little man. I pull over my shirt and accept Max into my arms.

Here you go, Jugs Magoo.
Jugs Magoo? Hmmph. That’s our code name for anyone that has ridiculously large boobs on a small body. Then it occurs to me.

I look down.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!

Call 911, there seems to have been a boob explosion! I thought my milk came in the other day. I thought wrong. Because I was now not only carrying the cow, but the cow seems to have brought along all of his barnyard friends. I’m HUGE!

At 4:15 am, it was time to feed Max again. I woke up to the pain so bad that I thought someone was sitting on my chest. Then I realized that was just the feeling of my chest. Sounds the sirens: ENGORGED! And, bigger than at 12:30 am. Ouch ouch ouch. I thought blisters on day 2 were bad. This was worse. I thought bleeding on day 3 was bad. This was worse. I thought that giving birth was supposed to be the most painful part – I’m convinced, breastfeeding is worse!

6:37 am rolls around. Max is sleeping so this is my opportunity to shower. As I get undressed, I pass by the mirror…

EEKS!

There staring back at me with eyes wide and all guns engorged were what I would call roughly, roundabout, eyeballing it at…..36Ds.

GIVE OR TAKE AN ENTIRE CUP SIZE!

Are you there god, it’s me, ELF. Remember when I was a teenager and I prayed for bigger boobs and you just kept me waiting and waiting and waiting. Well here I am 20 years later and though I appreciate your follow through I’d like to ask you to TAKE THEM BACK! WHAT am I going to do with these things? Rhetorical question, I KNOW, for their purpose is fueling my little man but for the other 20 hours in the day – where do they go? How am I going to contain these!

After my shower, Chris walks into the bathroom. Dead stop at the door. Wide-eyed with a mix of horror, curiosity and it-can’t-be in his eyes.

I think your milk came in.

YOU THINK!?!

And so it begins – life with a child, fine, I can handle that. Life with big boobs, now THIS is going to take some getting used to. I don’t even know where to begin. If my clothes no longer fit me because my stomach was big a week ago, now it’s the same problem just migrated north. I’m busting out!

I’ll tell you what is harder than being pregnant. Harder than 50 all out sprints off the blocks. Harder than 400s on the track. It’s nursing. No joke. I had no idea how hard it would be. But I don’t regret the decision. And I will stick with it! I honestly think it is best for baby and for mother. Breastfed children are less likely to have asthma, allergies, obesity. Breastfeeding mothers recover from birth quicker, drop weight quicker. It’s natural, it’s fairly cheap and it’s what our bodies are meant to do.

However.

IT HURTS LIKE A MOFO!

First, there are the contractions. As you nurse, it releases oxycotin which stimulates uterine contractions. Painful – yes. But these are the same contractions that help your uterus return to regular size after pregnancy (that would be shrinking from 2 pounds back to 2 ounces).

And then there is the actual boobie pain. At first it wasn’t bad. But then, like any overuse injury, it got worse. And worse. Until I found myself with scabs on my nipples.

Is there anything more unattractive than what I just said!? SCABS!

I’ve heard that when you first start nursing, this pain is normal. Eventually it will go away. My cousin said to give it 6 weeks. But for right now every time he latches on I have the uncontrollable urge to scream obscenities. It’s like getting a shot of cortisone in your foot. Highly sensitive area of the body, highly painful. Especially when it takes him a dozen attempts to latch on correctly. He’s on, he pulls off, he’s on, he pulls off. As Chris said to him the other night:

Get on the boob while you can kid because you’ll spend the next 18 years trying to get back on and it won’t be as easy.

I thought pumping might help. But found out that whether it’s a pump tugging at me or a child – there is pain. I thought maybe at least I could hand off one bottle to Chris to feed him with so I could get some recovery. Every good training plan includes ample recovery! So I pumped, and pumped and after 10 minutes had….1/4 ounce of milk. That’s right ONE FOURTH OF ONE OUNCE. For the love of lactating nipples, no wonder why this kid is always hungry!

(the other day we were at the pediatrician when Chris asked him what the flow rate of a breast was, the doctor stopped examining Max, turned to Chris and asked are you engineer, why yes he is and you should see trying to hang a picture at our house)

It was finally on Wednesday or maybe it was Thursday or somewhere in between that I realized how hard nursing can be. Each feeding lasts from 20 to 45 minutes. Burp him, change him, swaddle him, soothe him and we’re up to a full hour. That’s a lot of time! And it’s never consistent. On Wednesday, Max went to bed at 8:30 pm. He was up at 8:45 pm with a poopy diaper then 8:50 pm with another poopy diaper. He woke up to feed at 10:50 and had another poopy diaper. At 1:50 am, he fed again with a wet diaper. At 4:17 am, he fed again. He pooped. At 5:17 am, he fed again. He pooped. At 6:17 am – yes HE FED AGAIN and then pooped. By the time 8 am rolled around, he had two more poopy diapers and one more feeding.

For nearly 12 hours I was caught in a loop of feed, poop, feed, poop with no end in sight. The lack of sleep isn’t draining, it’s having someone constantly needing you and only you for 12 to 18 times a day. Chris wants to help. And when he asked how he could help and I said “grow breasts” he said he wished he could! Max has tried to nurse off of Chris only to realize that…man boobs are only ornamental. But still watching him try to latch on to Chris is one of the funniest things we’ve ever seen.

On Thursday, Max fed every 2 hours. Each feeding was 30 minutes. By the time he settled down again I had roughly 30 minutes to do – I don’t know, the growing list of 239820934 things I need to but don’t have the time. And here’s another unwritten rule of nursing: The minute you need to ____________(answer the phone, take a crap, put food in your mouth), your baby needs to nurse.

(and if you're wondering how I have time to blog, I've developed mad typing skills with baby on Boppy)

3:42 am last night, yesterday morning, it all just blends together as either Max’s late night snack or Monday breakfast that he still hasn’t finished...I was sitting in the glider, sleepy-eyed, I reminded myself this is only temporary. At some point he will establish a routine. But until then, there is no routine. Last night he went to sleep at 9 pm and didn’t wake up until 12:50 am. Imagine that – over 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep! This morning, he has fed nonstop from 6:10 am to 9:10 am.

And so, this is the hard part of being mommy. You are milk maid. It’s not a bad job and one that I’m trying to have fun with. I walked proudly the other day around Naperville thinking to every woman who walked by that’s right bitches, look at my chest, they’re real and they’re mine. I said to Chris:

Did you ever think you’d be walking around with someone with a chest this big and this good looking?
(work with me here, I gave birth 1 week ago and it helps to convince myself that I look freakin' fabulous)

He laughed.

I’m going to keep at it. It’s hard for sure but I can’t help but think this is part of the reason I’ve dropped 18 pounds in one week. Can you believe that! This is the best weight loss plan ever. Yank a kid out of your stomach and then have him suck the life force out of your breasts nonstop every day. Now all I have to do is lose another 18 pounds by next Friday and I’ll be all set.

Feed on!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Child Is Born

He has arrived!


Meet Maxwell Logan Waterstraat born July 23, 2010 at 5:43 pm. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 9 ounces (so much for ultrasound estimates) and was 20 inches long. He is perfect in every way possible. The way he got here – not so perfect. But it’s true what they say – the minute you see your child, you forget it, all of it, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

The day before I was going to give birth I knew it – I felt totally off, crampy, achy, irritable. Your body knows. The next day, sure enough, I started leaking amniotic fluid at 6 am. Only 8 percent of women have their water break. Water breaking is not such a good thing unless you are already in labor. When it breaks, you have 24 hours to give birth because of risk of infection because the membrane protecting the baby gets ruptured. Great, if you’re having consistent contractions, not so great if you’re not. If you’re not, they need to speed it up so you can get that baby out. The only way to do that is through Pitocin. I was very upset about this. I know what Pitocin does and what it can do. I know it likely leads to c-section if things progress too quick or the fetus gets stressed out. I did not want a c-section. I did not want to be induced. I wanted to give birth, not have surgery.

But everything needed to move more quickly now. There was no time to wait. I was moved to a laboring room, I was given an IV and Pitocin. I labored with Pitocin contractions for about 5 hours. I felt things and made noises that I did not think were possible. I could focus on nothing but the pain. No amount of breathing, relaxing or pounding my fist made it any better. Except shouting obscenities. When I finally shouted MOTHERF*CKER I think Chris laughed, did you just drop a mofo bomb? A few hours later, a few more cuss words later, I got the epidural. When the nurse told me I could expect another 6 hours of laboring as they increased the Pitocin so I could dilate enough to give birth - I ordered in the anesthesiologist. Let me say this – Pitocin contractions are nothing like exercise pain. I felt like I needed to shit an elephant out of my ass and that elephant was also marching on my spine. It was more intense than anything I have ever felt. Once the epidural was in, I felt nothing and could finally relax.

When I entered the hospital, I was still only dilated to 3 centimeters. A few hours later I was at 4 centimeters. After the epidural, I got up to 8 centimeters. The doctor told me I should be fully dilated in another 45 minutes so they wheeled the delivery table in – that’s when Chris and I looked at each other and said this is really happening!

But then something happened. First, I stopped dilating even after another 45 minutes. Then, I had a contraction that lasted 5 minutes which stressed Max out so much that his heart rate dipped below 60. You get 6 minutes below 60 before your life is threatened when you’re a baby.

I was given oxygen and by the time my mind caught up with what was going on, I was being rushed at high speed on a gurney into the OR for an emergency c-section. All I remember is watching the lights whiz by above me and stopping in a sterile, bright room looking wide-eyed and feeling more scared than I’ve ever been in my life. Chris wasn’t there. I couldn’t talk. I was surrounded by white lights and doctors in blue scrubs.

In the OR, the doctor then monitored Max for a few minutes and his heart rate returned to normal so I returned to the room to continue laboring. I was told that I could deliver normally. Chris was still standing there, looking a little shell-shocked. He never got into the OR. He stood in the room telling the doctor she doesn’t want a c-section. The doctor told him it wasn’t a choice now, the baby needed to come out alive.

5 minutes later I was back in the OR because Max’s heart rate dipped again. I was scared and had so much adrenaline that my entire upper body was shaking uncontrollably (because the lower half was blocked by the epidural). My view of birth was a blue sheet in front of my face. I kept wondering where Chris was and then turned to the door to see him standing there in scrubs and a mask. He looked confused, concerned. I tried to tell him with my eyes that I was so scared. He came over to me and rubbed my head. I wanted to cry. This was not how it was supposed to happen. This is not how I wanted my son to enter the world.

I could hear the doctors. It all happened very quickly, I was cut open within a few minutes and moments later, Chris, looking over the blue sheet that hung in front of my face, shouted oh god, he’s out!

The next thing I heard was crying – from Max and from me.

Chris went to cut the cord and sounded so happy. I remember him coming back over to my head and saying I love you so much, Elizabeth. I can’t imagine how it must have felt for him to see them cutting open my stomach and pulling out a baby. He told me I was brave. I felt like a failure…

The worst part was not being cut open or feeling tugging, pressure and pulling as they did it. It was having no control, no choice and not being able to “give” birth. The next day I remember saying to Chris that I felt like I DNFed childbirth. I didn’t even get the chance to push. You have to get to 10 centimeters before you can start pushing. I’m not saying that I regret still having my vagina in tact (I win!) but I regret not knowing birth the way it was intended. Then again, I’m not sure any of us know what is intended for us.

Because I was shaking so bad, I couldn’t hold Max for two hours. The longest two hours of my life. All I wanted to do was hold him and feed him. Something very instinctual kicked in. It took them 30 minutes to get my arms to settle down so they could get a blood pressure on me. When they finally did, I was able to hold Max. In that moment, it’s true what they say – you forget everything.

Everything.

I have never felt so much love for something. I looked at him wondering how it was possible that together Chris and I created something so perfect. He was the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. He looked just like a mini version of Chris with beautiful Asian eyes, round cheeks and a full head of dark hair. I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of my life with them both.

After recovery, I was taken to the mother baby unit and already had visitors! Everyone said how beautiful Max was. I was sure I looked like hell. I felt like hell. I just had major abdominal surgery. I was given an IV, I had a catheter in from the epidural, I was on all sorts of pain medication. Before this I had never even been in a hospital for more than an asthma attack!

That night, I was woken up every hour for something; pain meds, anti-itch, vitals, breastfeeding. The IV bag would beep when it was out, the clock was ticking, and I had the most awful itchiness (drug side effect). I fed Max every time he woke up – but like most babies on their first night, he slept a lot. I slept maybe one hour.

At 4 am I remember two women came in to change me. I realized how major the surgery was when I needed help walking to the bathroom and once I got there, they had to do everything for me. I hated the feeling of being helpless. I was fearful of how I would set out to care for myself, a dog, a business, a house and a baby once I left the hospital. I wanted to cry.

The next day, things settled down a bit. I was coming off the pain meds and allowed to “eat” fluids. I had eaten nothing but ice chips for 36 hours! (once you are in labor, no food in case you need to get anesthetized). We settled into being parents; assuming my role as milk machine, Chris assuming his role as supporter. Taking every quiet moment we could to talk, to rest, to breathe. We roomed in with Max because I wanted to get to know him. I know a lot of moms have the baby taken to the nursery and then have the baby brought in for feeding only. To me, something about that didn’t feel right. I waited so long to meet him – I couldn’t wait to start being his mommy! Not only that, but it forced Chris and I to learn to work together for how to care for Max. This has been critical so far. And, also agreeing that I don’t expect Chris to be superstar dad just like he doesn’t expect me to be perfect mom. We are going to make many mistakes – together. And that is ok.

I could write more about how much I hated being in the hospital for its restriction of movement, the uncomfortable beds, being poked and touched for days. Or how every night I woke up in the dark replaying in my head what felt like the horror movie of the operating room. Or how I passed on the extra day so I could be released on Monday – finally! Or how I walked around a hospital room in nothing but a sports bra and mesh panties with a pad so big it felt like a diaper (this was not sexy). I could tell you how I have the thighs of a 300 pound woman right now after being given about 10 IV bags. Or how the first time I went to the bathroom on my own and saw a stomach that still looked 6 months pregnant I almost cried. Or the 20 staples along my bikini line that made me look like a spiral notebook. Or my horror when I realized my vagina had returned within sight but looked like someone pounded it puffy with a meat hammer. Or how after not crapping for 5 days I finally got the urge at 5:43 am while nursing (and yes, I brought that baby into the crapper and continued nursing). Or that when I cough I feel like my insides are going to fall out. Or how when my milk finally came in on Monday I walked out of the bathroom, flashed Chris and he said “you got the boobs you always wanted.” Or how I am prone to exploding into tears at any moment because of dropping hormones. I’m a mess – in every sense you can imagine, physically, emotionally, mentally. But if I wasn’t, I’d probably wonder if I was human at all.

The past 5 days have been a whirlwind of dark moments, joy and pain. But all of it has brought to me the most amazing person I have ever met (next to my husband) – my son! And that is why women do this over and over again. Anything worthwhile in life comes with a cost – a huge cost of pain, emotion and brings you to the edge of something so raw that it changes the way you see life. Yes, life has changed. Like everyone said all along, it has changed.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So here we go – one journey ends and another one begins. Motherhood. And like life before it, I am certain it will be filled with many highs and lows but a hell of a lot of laughs. Ready or not, here we go...


(I didn't have to pay money for those!)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lasting It Out

On Wednesday, I had my 39-week appointment.

This is it, the last appointment on the books. Next week I guess they assume you’ve either delivered or given up. Part of me thinks it’s a trick. False hope, especially for the first-time mother who is wishing for a prompt end to the discomfort known as late pregnancy.

Not like that is me or anything.

The truth is that less than 5 percent of women deliver on their due date. And many first-time mothers deliver well beyond. Oh, you might get lucky with the second one because your cervix is smarter, more flexible and tends to deliver earlier. But with the first one? All bets are off. My cervix has been tightly closed for 34 years. It’s not giving up that easily.

The usual vitals are taken. Just when you think you can’t feel any bigger…the nurse starts the scale at 150 pounds. Now I know that is NOT that bad but when you are 5’2” – OUCH! I tell her I’m not there - yet. Put it back down to 100 pounds and go from there. Please!

After that pleasant experience, I went for an ultrasound. Note to expectant mothers. If you want to get the scoop on your baby, make nice with the ultrasound technician. She is willing to do much more than she lets on to. You just have to be nice and ask her! Normally she just measures the fluid. Oh, ho hum! I came all the way here, you have all that technology and you’re just going to tell me how much fluid is inside of me? Let me answer that for you - LOTS.

Can you tell how big he is right now?

BINGO! I asked the right question. And so she measures him. And am I glad she did!

Looks like he’s about 8 pounds and 2 ounces right now.

Right now? What happened to 6 weeks ago when you estimated he would be 7 pounds AT BIRTH. Talk about bad math. That’s like listing a 3500 yard swim that comes out to…oh….5000 meters. Then it really hits me – if he’s this big now, what if this goes on for 3 more weeks. What then?

Oh no.

I might be giving birth to something larger than my dog (who usually weighs around 10 pounds but nightly family walks have probably gotten him closer to 9 pound fighting weight).

Get him out. GET HIM OUT NOW! I can’t give birth to something that large. I come from a line of small, sassy Italian people. We are not meant to birth large mammals. Have you any idea what that will do to me? How about tearing peeper to pooper? How does that sound? HORRIFIC! Isn’t there an alternate route we can choose here? Vagina closed. DETOUR! Can he be born out of my mouth? Sometimes I have a big mouth. It can get me into trouble. But it can expand! My private parts…NOT AS FLEXIBLE!

Next she tells me the baby’s head is lodged very far down.

There’s a good chance I won’t see you next week.

Let’s hope not! Because if you do, I might be the first woman to not only be pregnant for a year but also deliver a 20 pound child.

Then she says because the baby is in such a good position today, let’s get a 3-D shot. Let’s! And soon enough, there is his little face. With what had to be the biggest lips I have ever seen. Are they too big? Is that normal? And so it begins – is he cute? Really cute? Or am I going to have one of those, wow, I never thought there could be an ugly baby but that is an ugly baby.

This is just the beginning. I know.

Pictures in hand, I go next to the comfy chair. Max is so wiggly today. His heart rate is all over the place, hitting highs in the 180s. And only settling into the 150s. Max, what happened to our recovery heart rate? It’s not doing too well! And then I get all sorts of uncomfortable. My stomach is tightening, the baby is squiggling and there is pressure. Then I look over at the Richter Scale - contraction! Big one! About 8 minutes go by and then it happens again. Not painful (yet) but uncomfortable for sure. Another 8 minutes, I get another one. I realize I accidentally knocked the HELP ME NOW bell to the ground and think to myself – oh no! What if I give birth right here! How will they know if I can’t ring the bell!!

The nurse comes in.

I knocked the bell down but I don’t need help, I say sheepishly.

I didn’t even hear it, I came in for the data.

Then what is the point of the freakin’ bell!

The data looks good. So I’m off to the doctor next. Oh, this one! She talks like the teenager. Super nice, smiley and so damn reassuring. There is no bad news with her. She could tell you that your uterus was falling out but sugar coat it with an AWESOME and you wouldn’t think twice about it.

Not much to report to her today. I’m still pregnant. I’d like to be done. I’m not leaking fluid. Actually, I’m leaking nothing but sassiness and irritability. For the sake of my marriage, it might be better if you induce me.

She does the exam. And then smiles.

You’re about 3 centimeters dilated, 50 percent effaced and the baby’s head is low.

GOOD NEWS! In other words, the baby is locked and loaded. He is nearly ready to go.

Now, I’m sort of a schedule person. And like to know what is going on when. I don’t really “go with the flow” much. I go against it, along side of it but more often I go my own way. I know the doctor won’t give me any certainties but I got the technician to measure the kid so I decide to press my luck…

How likely is it that I will have this baby in the next week?

She sits quiet on the doctor stool. And then smiles at me.


I am confident that you’ll have an awesome labor and awesome delivery.

Now, there are many awesome things in life. Riding my bike fast down a big hill is awesome. Swimming in the cool, calm water of Lake Michigan is awesome. Ice cream for dinner – awesome. Wine – awesome. Chicken n’ waffles = AWESOME.

However, labor and delivery = THE ANTI-AWESOME.

Your cervix is awesome right now.

I just want to swat her. Stop saying that! And, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?? At least throw some medical jargon my way. That way I can Wikipedia it and feel all smart afterwards. But awesome? Work with me, woman! Awesome sounds great but would you please just tell me the correlation between awesomeness in the cervix and likelihood of delivering within the next 7 days!

She tells me that my delivery will probably go like my mom’s went. If mom carried her first baby to the due date, chances are so will I. My mom’s water broke on her due date, July 26. Up until that point and even in the hospital she felt no contractions. NONE. She had me 36 hours later on July 28. That’s right, 36 hours of labor and delivery. If I am that unlucky, someone please reach down my throat and pull the baby out. Max is due on July 28. I suspect that my water will break on that day. And then with my most awesome cervix and genetic predisposition to feeling no pain, I will push him out in 10 minutes. Smiling.

One can dream, right?

I am certain that your delivery will go very well. You have a great cervix.

That’s reassuring. But the bottom line is that I am entering my 40th week of pregnancy. Still very pregnant. Help?

It’s like she read my mind: Are you miserable in this heat?

Define miserable. Miserable as in I weigh 145 pounds, I can’t sleep, I have a rash all over my face, the air conditioner has been running nonstop for weeks but the house still is not cold enough, I only crave Power Bars, it takes me 52 seconds to swim 50 yards and none of my clothes fit me. Does that qualify me as miserable? Or is there some hidden level of misery that I am missing here.

If you are miserable, we can induce you.

Did my husband put you up to this? Because I can imagine at this point you might want to be asking him about his level of misery.

We can induce you if you’ve just absolutely had enough.

I had enough about 12 weeks ago. I really had enough about 2 weeks ago. And every day since then I think to myself ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

You are due in one week. If you get to that point and you are miserable, I’m on call the next day. I’ll induce you.

Do I love you or hate you? How dare you dangle freedom in front of me. Too bad it comes in the form of a pitocin crack pipe. I'm not sure I want your drugs! So, I went back home and thought about it. I suspect the endurance athlete in me will win and I’ll last this out. Plus, I know it’s better to let the body work on its own timeline. Being told you are being induced is one thing. Being asked to make that choice? If it’s a matter of ending my discomfort, it’s not worth the risks. What’s another week when I’ve lasted nearly 40?

Then I heard the forecast for the next 5 days – highs in the 90s. With high humidity. Tomorrow? Heat index of 103.

Miserable….yet?

At home, I am hit with a sudden rush of energy. I needed to clean the house. Again. I got stalled when the vacuum broke. Likely an overuse injury. So then I switched to yard work. That involved clipping the birch tree with a pair of kitchen scissors. It was getting in my way! I did three loads of laundry, thought about giving the dog another bath and then capped it off with swimming 4000 long course meters at the quarry. I wrapped up the day by demanding waffles for dinner.

I have a feeling my buzzer goes off before next Wednesday. Or at least I hope it does. Because I cannot clean this house one more time. We’ve already gone through two vacuum cleaner belts and I’m almost out of Windex. And I’ll be damned if the next time I get on a doctor’s scale they have to push the little weight to start at 150.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Week 40: Is It Time?

In case you were wondering, doing 50 fly at 39 weeks pregnant does not induce labor.

Neither does bouncing on a therapy ball (but it does induce the urge to poop), eating spicy food (I think it makes my stomach hurt but I can’t even locate my stomach anymore), walking (and walking and walking and walking). All I’ve got to report is this suspicion that the baby will come when he is ready to come – with googly eyes, salsa on his breath and a tendency to walk in circles
.


As you can see, I am still pregnant. Increasingly pregnant. Here I am, entering my 40th week of pregnancy. Every day I wake up, I look bigger. I AM BIGGER! 37 pounds bigger than where I started. Do you know how much that scares me! Chris tells me it’s mostly water weight (LIES!) but somehow I have a feeling I will not magically drop and piss out 37 pounds when I deliver this baby.

HELP!

I’m at that point where every time I show up somewhere late, I have voicemails and inquiries from people wondering if I’m in labor. I take too long to answer an email and get an “I thought you were off having your baby.” Or, how about when I didn’t show up at the quarry to swim last Monday, the coach was convinced I was delivering. One thing is certain – if and when I do head to the hospital for labor, anyone within 300 miles will know because they will hear me shouting……FINALLY!

I feel like I’ve been waiting forever. I think to myself about a possible extra 2 weeks beyond the due date and the idea of “42 weeks” hits me hard. Think about that. That’s 10½ months pregnant. Almost an entire year. GASP! I can’t even remember myself unpregnant. Was I ever not pregnant? Could I ever see my feet? Was there a time when I didn’t walk bow-legged? Heck, was there a time I actually walked and didn’t waddle? That version of myself is so far from where I am now that I wonder if it will become just a memory, like my glory days of when I was young, fit, slim before I fell into the parent trap of becoming old, tired, crabby, slow, lamenting about how I never have time, how life has changed. Bitter and envious of anyone who doesn’t have a child.

But I know better. Actually, I’ve forced myself to know better. There’s a lot of bullshit you can read and hear out there about life as a parent. Especially life as a parent who would also like to be an athlete. I’ll admit – at times I wonder if it will be possible. Where will I find the time to train for anything other than a 5K, I think to myself. That is, if my pelvis will ever get back in line and permit me to run again!

Rather than listen to scare tactics, horror stories or worry about what might never be again, I sat down a few weeks ago and went straight to the source. I believe that if you want to learn how to balance your life with parenting, a career and training, you go to someone who does it – and does it well.

Enter Jenny Garrison.

I met at her house a few weeks ago because I wanted to learn more about how to be a mom, a triathlete, and a coach. Jenny is a consistently successful athlete, an excellent coach and a mother to two children under age 5. She’s been to Kona, she’s been a two-time national champion, she’s competed as a professional. She’s fast and fiery. She doesn’t have a nanny, she doesn’t train 30 hours a week, heck she barely leaves her house! But she makes it happen – her training, her goals, because she wants to.

I remember about 3 weeks after she gave birth to her second child, she showed up at the start line of a local 5K. I won the 5K. She finished 1-minute behind me. ONE MINUTE, 3 weeks after birth! About 12 weeks later, she won a local triathlon. She followed that up with many more wins. When I think ahead to where I can be in a few weeks, months, or next year – I don’t think in terms of I’ll never have time, I’ll never be fast again, it will take me 9 months to lose this weight. I don’t think or worry about any of that. I just think about Jenny.

She inspires me. As do the other moms out there who have done the same – Alicia, Angela, Michelle…who am I forgetting? Look to any of the women who show up to the awards ceremony with a child in tow and you don’t need to look any further. These women have defied the odds of what everyone assumes will be – you’ll slow down, you’ll never have time, you’ll never get back to where you were. They got faster because they made the time. And because they wanted it. I cannot imagine how you can spend up to 42 weeks waiting without getting fired up and focused about whatever you want to achieve athletically.

When I asked Jenny about returning to “training” after birth, above all she said to listen to your body (and of course your doctor). Everyone is different. There is no timeline. She stopped running at 32 weeks. Ten days after birth, she returned to running. At first, her run was down the block and back. Her uterus did not fall out. A few weeks later, her run was up to 10 miles. She did some races. She said that you’ll feel slow, slow, slow and then BAM one day you feel like your old self again. Everyone’s body is different – especially if you have a cesarean delivery – but it goes to show that it is possible to bounce back quickly. You hear a lot about people who came back too quickly, got injured, etc but what you don’t hear enough about are people who recovered quickly and got back to doing things.

These are the women I want to listen to.

So, it is possible to get back into it. But you’ve got to want it and balance it. She stressed the importance of following a schedule. Putting the baby on a schedule, putting your support system on a schedule. Scheduling in the time to get after what you want. In talking with her it became clear that she is not only highly driven but highly organized. A quick trip to her basement revealed a workout room right next to a play room. She rarely rides outside yet her bike splits are phenomenal. She doesn’t have time to drive places to run, but the treadmill seems to do her run splits just fine. She can train while watching her kids play. Or trains when they nap. Swimming means early morning trips to the pool. She proves over and over again that you can pursue your dreams – in whatever way is possible – and achieve them if you are willing to be organized and maximize your time management.

I have no idea what birth or beyond has in store for me. I’ve heard everything from 10 minutes of pushing (my cousin!) to pushing for 36 hours (my mom!). And the only common denominator is that all of these women were pregnant. It doesn’t matter if they were fit, unfit, gained 17 pounds or 40 pounds, there are no guarantees with birth experience. Being fit doesn’t mean it will go faster just like gaining a lot of weight doesn’t mean you’ll have a big baby. There are no certainties in pregnancy or even post-partum, which is perhaps the most frustrating thing. You just want to know when it will all be over. I’m ready to move on to that next stage of life. There’s not much else I can do in this one – know what I mean?

Week 40. TEN MONTHS! Ten months is a long time. Last week when I was particularly irritable, Chris told me to rest on the couch because it was time to taper. Ever tapered for an Ironman? I believe it takes 9 months to train properly for an Ironman, so the timeline is roughly the same. Remember tapering for Ironman? Remember feeling like you were ready to stand on the start line about 2 weeks out from the race? Imagine that plus another 4 to 6 weeks. Late pregnancy is like a never-ending taper. Of course I feel fat and sassy which often means you are going to have a good race. If that’s the case, I’m going to set an amazing PR out there on birth day.

As for other PRs, I know they will be out there in the future. Which isn’t too far away. I don’t have any race plans this fall except to do a Turkey Trot. Back in 1998, it was my first 5K. It was the race that got me into racing. I want to return to it, come full circle to start a new racing journey. All I have to do is beat my time from that first race: 21:38.

Considering it currently takes me that long to walk a mile and I haven’t run in over 14 weeks, I have my work cut out for me.

Tomorrow I have my last doctor’s appointment. I suppose I will have to make another appointment if the baby doesn’t come by July 28th. I guess this is what happens when two endurance athletes reproduce. We create a kid with freakish endurance for life in utero. When he does decide to come out, I’ve been told the time to beat in delivery is my fastest Ironman time. In that case, I have 10 hours and 32 minutes to get this kid out.

I will win, kid. I WILL WIN.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Getting There

The weekly appointment has come and gone.

And…for those dying to know...I’m still pregnant.

I arrived to find the nurse who isn’t always the nicest nurse. Great. Is she going to scold me for too much pee in the cup again? Or, tell me that taking off my shoes won’t make a damn bit of difference in my weight? Because I’m not in the mood. It’s 8 am and I couldn’t sleep last night. Plus I’m 38 weeks pregnant and it’s going to be 93 degrees today. Tread lightly, Ratched. LIGHT-LY.

First up, the scale. MUST we go through this every week. At this point can’t we just agree that I am bigger, does it really matter how much? Oh? I’ve gained two more pounds. Would someone explain how I gained another two pounds IN ONE WEEK!

Then she takes my blood pressure and, drumroll please, NEW PERSONAL BEST! 82 over 50!

Wait a minute…

Am I dead?

That seems really low for someone doing the work for two people. She then asks me if I workout.

Yes.

I can tell by your blood pressure but really I can tell by your veins.

Thanks! I do have great veins, don’t I? I totally missed a career in Hollywood stardom and heroin addiction. Maybe in the next lifetime.

I have veins too, she says while showing me her veins.

I’m not sure what to make of this. People don’t usually go around showing other people their veins.

I swim.

Oh, me too! We start talking about swimming and finally – a connection with Nurse Ratched! She then lifts her sleeve to reveal her bicep, flexes it and says:

That’s from swimming. I’m 62 years old and I will never have those flabby arms that women get. I swim 3 days a week and will keep swimming.

GO GIRL!

Next she puts me on the nonstress test machine. I’m in the comfy chair. The machine starts taking data and it’s clear that Max is going to be quiet today with a low heart rate. He doesn’t move much. The heart beat is quiet, too. Meanwhile, my uterus is contracting all over the place.

About 15 minutes later, the nurse checks on me.

Somebody’s sleeping, she says. Not me! I don’t sleep at all lately. She asks if I feel Max moving. Not really. He’s quiet! It’s early. Let’s not wake him. But the whole point is to see him moving. She brings something towards my belly.

This will wake him up.

WHAT IS THAT!? She shocks my belly with a vibrating wand and he moves. Then leaves me on the machine to give him more time.

Another 15 minutes pass. One acceleration. They’re looking for two. Numbers…NUMBERS! Come on, just let the kid sleep! In a few weeks I’ll be dying for quiet like this. I’ve been sitting here for 45 minutes. I’m uncomfortable in the comfy chair. LET ME OUT!

The doctor comes in to talk with me. She asks how I’m feeling, any contractions. She looks over at the machine.

Wow, are you feeling that? There’s a doozy of a contraction right now.

A mountain of a contraction makes a giant valley in the data. It looks scary. The earth might have moved. I’m approaching 8 on the Richter Scale! And I feel nothing.

She then pulls out the vibrating wand to wake Max up. I get a little jolt in the belly and…he’s awake! His heart rate starts accelerating and now I have a kick machine in my belly. THANKS!

Then she asks a series of questions.

Any leakage of fluid?

You’re asking a 38-week pregnant woman if she has any leakage of fluid? If I laugh any harder I’m going to piss right here! Yesterday, I got off the treadmill to go and got close - so close - but not close enough. I may or may not have leaked on the floor. Oh sure, laugh at me! Come on - I’ve got 35 pounds of fluid, tissue and baby on my bladder. Holding it in is not easy! But if you're asking if I'm leaking amniotic fluid - negative.

We head to the ultrasound machine next. Time to check the fluid. She starts looking around and shows me all of the cord in the pockets of fluid around Max. The fluid is normal. I see his heart beating. I see his little hands.

Do you know what you’re having?

Doctors, nurses and technicians ask you this all of the time. Because damned if they will to be the one to let it slip when you don’t know want to know. Well, I’ve known since week 16 and I’m happy to say it’s a boy.

It’s a boy?

She says it with a hesitation in her voice that makes me think I have spent the last 22 weeks of my pregnancy in a lie, decorated an entire room in monkeys and named a child Max when really it should be Maxine.

They told me it was a boy?

She doesn’t say anything but keeps looking around. Meanwhile, I’m now convinced that I am not having a boy. I’m having either a girl or a Chihuahua. What if it is a girl. What if I’ve got a whole room full of blue stuff and it’s a girl. What then? WHAT THEN!?!

THERE’S THE SCROTUM!

Sweet Jesus! I’ve never been so happy to see a scrotum.

Wow, we don’t usually get a great view like that. Look at those testicles!

One thing is clear: my boy’s got great balls!

Time for the exam next. I’m seeing the nice doctor today so she wipes all of the goop off my belly with the paper sheet and then, in a very awkward moment, takes the sheet away to get a new one. Uh, excuse me, EXCUSE ME? I am laying on the table here. Half naked. A little privacy please? But then I realize this is all part of the preparation. If I can’t lay here half naked with one doctor in the room, how will I handle a nurse, a doctor, my husband, an entire circus of people and machines.

I should probably sit around naked for the next two weeks just to prepare.

She does the exam next. I’ve been waiting all week for this! A little strange, yes, but at this point I just want confirmation that this baby is getting ready to get out of me. She tells me I am a good 2 centimeters dilated now. Which means in the past 2 weeks I have gained – 1 centimeter.

You have to be at 10 centimeters to give birth, some quick calculations and at this rate, I will give birth in 16 weeks.

But at least it’s progress. I know, I know, labor is not linear nor logical. It progresses at its own unpredictable rate. I suspect I'm going to have to wait a little longer. Max still has not lodged his head into my pelvis. His head is “ballottable” which means it is still floating and not engaged. He needs to take a nose dive into my pelvis and just stay there before he’s ready to come out.

Exam over. Legs closed. Come again next week.

Whatever you’ve been doing, keep it up. And, stay active, says the doctor while pumping her arms.


I ask her, out of curiosity, what happens if I go past my due date. She explains that they continue to let you go. We don’t like to induce and there’s no reason with you, you’re too healthy. Too healthy? DAMMIT! What about old. Doesn’t that count for anything? I was hoping to pull the geriatric pregnancy card and demand evacuation on July 28th but it looks like if he wants to stay, he can stay. So, I might lose my mind on July 29th but stay pregnant until August 11th.

August 11th – THE HORROR! I grab the therapy ball when I get home, sit on top of it and start bouncing away on it like a mad woman. I will bounce this baby out. Just you wait!

Later that day, the rest of Max’s furniture arrived. FINALLY! It’s been nearly 5 months since we ordered it. I finished assembling his room, putting the onesies in the onesie drawer, putting the washcloths in the bath time drawer, putting the….all you need to know is that with everything in its place, it feels complete.

So I say to him: Max, we are now ready for you (psst, that’s your cue to ARRIVE NOW!)

That evening, I walked on the treadmill. I had many strange pains and irregular contractions. Such is late pregnancy. And there’s nothing you can do but keep waiting. Wait until contractions are less 5 minutes apart for 2 hours straight and then head to the hospital to attempt to give birth. All I have to do is wait for that moment to happen in the next 4 weeks.


I can do anything for another 4 weeks, right? RIGHT!??!?

Where’s that therapy ball?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Week 39: Pack Your Bag

A new benchmark has been set.

The towels at the gym no longer fit around me.

I realized this while walking out of masters on Saturday. My bathing suit also no longer fits me either but I’ll be damned if I buy another swimsuit. I’m wearing it to the end no matter what hangs out. But when they were both hanging out I decided I should wear a bra top under my swimsuit or else risk getting kicked off the masters team.

I have reached 38 weeks of pregnancy. I’m like a baby time bomb right now. I could go off at any moment and until I do – the pressure keeps building, and building, and building until….

Baby bits, placenta and whatever else blows out the hole is all over the place.


The other day I was watching the Tour de France. In an effort to make me happy (read: shut me up), Chris ordered Versus. Turns out we were getting some economy cable package designed for old people. That explains all of the religious and shopping channels. As Versus listed the stats for Levi Leipheimer, I realized that I just might weight more than half the men in the Tour right now. Levi weighs in at 132 pounds. He is 5’7” tall. I weigh in at…I stopped checking. There is no reason to add more insult to late pregnancy.

And…would someone force feed Andy Schleck a bowl of ice cream? I’ll help, I’ll sit on him to hold him down. I think I have bigger biceps than him.

Every time I see someone they keep telling me how much bigger I am. Some guy at masters said:

Every time I see you, you keep getting bigger.

I’ve got to ask: is there a woman out there who actually gets smaller as pregnancy progresses? If so, can I sit on her too? I can imagine at this point there’s not much else to say to me than the obvious (like some woman in the store said the other day – wow, you are SERIOUSLY pregnant to which I thought no…I’m faking) and I hate to point out the obvious to everyone but…

I HAVE A LITTLE MAN IN MY BELLY. He keeps growing, I keep growing. There really is no way around it.

(and if you are/were one of those women who lost weight in the third trimester, best you keep your piehole shut or I’ll force me and my very pregnant friends on you, sit you in a car with us with the windows tightly shut, yeah, no one does gas like a pregnant woman, NO ONE, and according to my husband I’ve never heard your ass bark so much. Coming from a man, that is a huge compliment)

I feel different. All along I’ve felt different but now I feel really, really different. JH told me it is my body preparing for battle. I had 30 minute episode the other day where I saw flashing lights. I wondered if I was getting pre-eclampsia (you will convince yourself you have everything in pregnancy) or simply dying but learned that it’s just a side effect of the extra blood volume. My back hurts – a lot. Sometimes I get strange gripping pains up the entire side of my back. Other times I got sharp stinging pains in my pelvis.


At this point all you can think about is getting the baby out now. Telling yourself that you’ve covered 38 weeks and only have 2 left is not the same as telling yourself you’ve covered 124.4 miles and only have a marathon to go.

It’s still a marathon.

You’ll try anything just to make it end. I could last like this another two weeks, sure, but you get to the point where you just want the next phase to begin. You’re tired of waiting. You don’t know what else to do with yourself. You get desperate and plan your escape. I'll do anything...

When I find myself looking for answers to the more complex issues in life, I turn to the internet. God bless it. What did we do without it? Wonder? Ask people? Use encyclopedias? Just not know? Anyways, I discovered some natural ways to induce childbirth; walking, jumping jacks, herbal tea, acupuncture, and talking to the baby. Some cultures believe that the baby only arrives when it feels welcome. Well, I’ve been talking to Max all along. Just the other day I had a serious conversation with him:

Come on, Max. Aren’t you bored of being in there? Don’t you want to see the world? There’s better things out here. Don’t you want to come out? Aren’t you tired of being on your head?

I’m sure he could sense my enthusiasm.

Then I read about the one that everyone swears by…sex.

After a few awkward moments of thinking about it (the words carnival act came to mind), it hit me: that is exactly what got me into this mess and exactly what could get me out of it! But a moment later it occurred to me that I might not even be equipped for that.

Haven’t seen that part of my body since week 25.

Monday was another turning point. Enter dull ache in my lower back. All day. You know that ache you get when you’ve run 20 miles? That ache. And then, it started – those gripping pains in my back. Every 10 to 15 minutes lasting over 1 minute.

Instantly, my mind started overworking, thinking this is it. You can’t prepare for this moment until you’re in it. Kind of like a mass swim start. You can simulate it so much in training but when someone is yanking at your feet, attempting to mount you in a wetsuit and pulling at your goggles – you just don’t know how you’ll react.

In that situation, it is best to increase your kick and swim right on top of them, which is what I did at Muncie in 2002 to only later learn that the person I mounted and swam over was my husband.

Some lunatic mounted me during the swim and swam right over me.

Guilty.

But when contracting, you start thinking a million crazy thoughts because there is nothing physically you can do to escape the pain. First thing I thought – I ate lamb chops for dinner. Is that a good enough pre-race dinner? Second thing I thought – if it hurts this bad now, dear god, WHERE is this pain going!?!? Then I thought about Boss. We can’t forget Boss! The other night he went missing until I opened the basement door and a 10 pound whir of fur bolted from the darkness. HOW LONG WAS HE DOWN THERE? Next thing I thought – the house is not clean enough. I wanted to jump up and clean the entire house, top to bottom to make it “good enough” for the baby to arrive. There’s a least 3 dust particles under the couch and the Tupperware needs to be reorganized.

I laid down in bed and it didn’t help. The pain came and went for over an hour. And then, it stopped. I fell asleep and woke up an hour later with more. Then it stopped again.

The next morning, I woke up. Still pregnant. Sigh. Chris greeted me with a rather typical marital good morning:

Leave the garbage cans in the garage.

Why?

They need to be cleaned.

I guess nesting is going around?

One of them is full of fruit flies and the other one has maggots.

OH MY GOD! Did you just say maggots!?! We live in squalor. SQUALOR!

Right then, I decided I had to put myself into high power nesting mode. After breakfast. So I made breakfast. Only to realize that I cooked my oatmeal for 3 minutes with 1 cup of blueberries but no water. Get yourself together, Fedofsky! Find your mind and FOCUS! I opened up my email and found a message from the hospital. Every week they sound out a new message to women having babies there. This one read:

Week 39: Pack Your Bags

I GET THE POINT ALREADY!

My bag is now packed. You could eat off the floor of my pantry. The bathroom cabinets have been wiped out to an impeccable level of cleanliness. The signs are all around me and within two weeks he will be here. I will be ready. I'm going to start sweet talking Max out of my belly once I wash the sheets, bathe the dog, reorganize the linen closet, vacuum the basement. And then tomorrow, if needed, I will do that all over again.


One can never be too prepared.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Full Term

It’s official – I'm full term.

I’ve lasted 37 weeks. That’s over 9 months in pregnancy. Which means I’ve been pregnant for almost an entire year. With no end in sight.

In the past week nothing has changed. I haven’t felt any contractions. No change in energy level. And all that bullshit about weight gain slowing down or losing weight in the final weeks of pregnancy? Bullshit. I’m still gaining weight.

And now that I’ve passed the 140.6 pound mark, all bets are off. I’m crying uncle. About the heat, the humidity, the weight gain, the fact that I am still pregnant. All of it! I know I said I would only allow myself to be miserable after July 29. But due to extenuating circumstances, I’m bumping that date up.

To now.

On Wednesday, I had the weekly appointment. Another ultrasound.

I bet you didn’t think your stomach could stretch any bigger, the technician said to me.

Oh humor me, sister, are you going to tell me that I’m bigger or that I look great.

It looks bigger than last week.

Thanks. But can I get a “you look great?” Anyone…ANYONE!?!

Max is still in there. According to the technician, his head is smashed up against my pelvis. Sounds comfortable. Sounds like a great reason to hang out in my uterus FOR ANOTHER THREE WEEKS.


Next up, the weekly pee in a cup. Actually this time I peed on the cup. Hey, in my defense, I can barely get my hand and the cup under my belly let alone take good aim! Weight (going up), blood pressure (going up) and then a trip to the comfy chair.

Max is quiet today. He doesn’t move for at least the first few minutes. There is also very little uterine movement. And then I get a few massive earthquakes of uterine movement that rock the lines on the chart but still…I don’t feel a thing. Max has a few accelerations. The nurse comes in and asks if I’m feeling that stuff (medical term that she throws out while wagging her finger around the contractions).

Not feeling a thing.

Next up I wait for the doctor. Sitting on the table, covered in a paper sheet. Usually the doctor is very quick to see me but this time I wait well over 20 minutes. Which is kind of a long time when you are pregnant (falls into that I am going to need to pee timeframe) and wearing a paper sheet half naked (seriously can't they come up with something better than this!?!). Trying to get comfortable I twist and turn in the paper sheet until I make about a dozen tears in it. I’ll tell you one thing – if this doctor doesn’t get in here soon I’m going to have nothing left of this sheet but a square napkin!

There are four doctors and one nurse midwife in the practice. Each visit, I see someone different so I am familiar with all of them. On delivery day, you get whomever is on call. In this visit I see one of the doctors that I haven’t seen much. She reminds me of a woman that I used to know growing up who always smelled like doughnuts. The doctor doesn’t smell like doughnuts but I just can’t shake that memory.

You KNOW she’s going to be the one on call the day Max is born and I’m going to barf if I ever see a doughnut again.

Today she seems to be in a hurry, all scattered wearing scrubs which tells me she probably has already delivered 10 babies today and I’m just another thing on her must-do list. She tells me that everything looks normal then gets ready for the exam. Ever get the sense that your doctor is in a bad mood? Like you hit jackpot with the unlucky appointment after maybe she’s been up all night or just got into a scuffle with someone’s doula. Let me tell you, the last thing you want to see when your doctor is in a bad mood is a view of a gloved hand that is coming straight between your legs.

Remember, my cervix did nothing wrong to you! You chose obstetrics and gynecology! What were you thinking? Of course you’re having a bad day! You stare at vagina all day long and deliver babies at all hours. That is NOT my fault!

Her bad day gets shoved so far up my cervix that I feel like I just might see a gloved hand pop out of my mouth.

OUCH!

No change from last week. You’re not going to have this baby tomorrow.

I didn’t think that but now that you mention it I would not have minded it either.

Let’s hope you start having more contractions to get that cervix ready.

Therein lies the problem with seeing 5 different medical professionals. Last week the doctor talked to me as if I lasted another week it would be a miracle. This week, this doctor has me convinced I will be the first woman to ever be pregnant FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR.

Switching topics: Have you thought about pain management during labor?

Thought about it? Are there women out there who haven’t thought about it every day since the day they got pregnant? I’m not scared of it but I’ve definitely thought about it. I’ve heard a lot of things from – it doesn’t hurt that bad to its unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. Dozens of women – athletes and nonathletes – have given me their opinion about the pain. And the only thing in common is that…it’s different for everybody. Fit, unfit, big, small, young, old – there are no similarities. It’s kind of like racing. One person’s epic holy shit it was so hot out there and uphill both ways day is another person’s yeah, it was a little warm out there on the hills.

And so, I’m undecided about pain management. Actually, I’d like to leave it open to decide when I’m in the moment. I have no idea how I will react to the pain and would like to give my body the opportunity to tell me what to do. Maybe that is wishful thinking. Maybe I trust my instincts. I’ll know the right thing to do when I’m there, feeling it. And I don’t think you are any better or worse for the decision you make. It’s your pain, your experience.

That is a good attitude to have, she says.

I know. And when I’m crying in pain and crapping myself will you please remind me of that.

She tells me that I’m done and then leaves me there to get up. This is perhaps the most evil thing you can do to a pregnant woman. Leave her lying on her back and challenge her to get up with no assist. Ever flipped a turtle on to its shell? I’m all limbs with no core! Eventually I’m up, the sheet is torn again and at this point I might as well be naked. I hope I get a little more than a paper sheet to wear during delivery!

I set another appointment for next week. For when I will be 38 weeks. By the way, there are 40 weeks in pregnancy. And if your baby so desires, they’ll let you go all the way to 42. Which means I might have to live like this FOR ANOTHER FIVE WEEKS.

(Aren’t there certain tribes that put really pregnant women in pregnancy huts? I’m starting to think that isn’t such a bad idea and my husband might want to put a tent up in the backyard and lock me in it)

The next day I had a meltdown. I needed to stop working. I needed to move. I wanted to leave the house for a break but every time I opened the door, I was greeted with an oven of heat and humidity. It’s been hotter than hell here. Since April. Normally I don’t mind the heat. But normally I am not wrapped in 35 extra pounds and carrying a small mammalian heater inside of me.

Chris got home from work and could sense my discomfort, my pent up I need to get out of this house but it’s also too damn hot to leave it. He walked up to me and said you look like you need a hug.

To which I replied, I don’t need a hug, I just need to give birth already.

Shortly thereafter I broke down in tears. I know I need to just last it out a little bit longer and I know that I’M ALMOST THERE. But I’ve got to be honest with you. This is one of the hardest things I have ever done. And I’m not even at the hard part yet! I felt weak for crying but at the same time, it’s kind of like in Ironman training when you find yourself stopped in your long run, 30 minutes away from the end, crying because you’re hurting, because it’s hot, because you know, dammit, that there will be no more relief for another 30 minutes because there is still work to be done. You know you’re going to get back out there, finish up the last 30 minutes and suffer because that’s who you are. You don’t give up. And when you’re pregnant, giving up is not even a choice.

There is no DNF.

Like in training, you’ve got to let yourself hit rock bottom, bounce back and prove to yourself, ok I can do this. I can last it out a little longer, I can push a human out of me, I can take care of that human for life. And the scary thing is that if I can do all of that I know…I can do anything.

This is why women come back to sport stronger after birth. Trust me.

I pulled myself together, put on my walking shoes, running shorts and a top that is now a midriff top (safe to say that my entire wardrobe is now midriff style), got into the car to so I could head out out to the lake for a walk. As for the heat, fuck it. As for being too large to walk faster than a 20-minute mile, fuck that too. As for 19 (and possibly 33) more days of being pregnant, no comment.

Chris came to the door of the car.

Next time we’ll get you pregnant so you finish in the winter.

(pause)

Next time. NEXT TIME!? If you so much as drop your pants in front of me for the next 5 years I will run out of the room screaming with my eyes closed! And, may I add, that woman who has the 19 kids – there is something not right with her. She is not normal! No one should go through this 19 times!


So, to recap my experience at 37 weeks:

1 – Still pregnant.
2 – Still hot in the Midwest, has been so since…April.
3 – Still sassy but starting to cross the line into surly.
4 – Considering relocation to pregnancy hut.
5 – Still gaining weight.
6 – Still pregnant, did I already mention that?
7 – Still clearly not remembering things.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Cooling Down

I’m bringing sexy back.


Just as soon as I can remember where I left it!

Oh that’s right, I left it about 33 pounds ago! Somewhere in the past week I surpassed the 140.6 pound mark and jumped straight to 144. Welcome to pregnancy. I gained 5 pounds in one week. A few hours later I had lost 2 and then next day I was down another pound. At this point, I weigh myself more for comic relief than anything else.

I am less than 20 pounds away from weighing as much as you, I said to Chris the other day.

And he is 8 inches taller than me!

The scary part? I am almost 50 pounds away from being 200 pounds. Give me another 9 months and I’ll show what 200 looks like on a 5’2” frame.

Foreshadowing: it will not be a good look.

Yes, I’m still pregnant. It’s been what – over a year now? Sure feels like it. The other day Chris admitted that he feels like I’ve been this way forever.

I had a dream that you were back to your normal self.

A dream. Lovely.

I can’t imagine your belly getting any bigger.

You and me both! But every time I look down I notice just a little bit more of my feet disappearing.

Honestly, though, I have the world’s best husband. He won’t let me do a thing (including grocery shopping, carrying my swim bag, walking the dog) and keeps telling me how beautiful I look. But if he says it one more time I’m going to have to send him to a methadone clinic.

To help him PUT THE CRACK PIPE DOWN!

The doctor called the other day with good news. I don’t have Group B strep. That’s one of those things they test you for in late pregnancy. I won’t spoil the fun or scare Keith away by telling you where they take the cultures for that test. Consider it your 36-week surprise.

I think I also lost the mucous plug. You think that’s a fictional thing, it’s not. I’d tell you to Google Image search it but I’ll also warn you to not do so while eating. I know it’s sort of a private thing to reveal to the world but the news is already out because my husband told the masters team at Saturday morning practice.

No, really, he did.

Anyways, like anything else in pregnancy, it could mean something or could mean nothing. Could mean that I’m giving birth in 1 to 2 weeks or not. There are no sure things in pregnancy other than that fact that you will end up with a baby. Eventually.

I’m completing my 37th week on Wednesday and I keep telling myself I can do anything for 21 days. Really, I can. I can….not sleep, go through a roll of toilet paper every 2 days all by myself (if you're pregnant, one word: COSTCO), waddle at 19-minutes per mile and find myself sweating inside when the house is at 75 degrees.

Pregnant women simply cannot live in habitats above 70.

I’d also like to offer this public service announcement. I have found the one place a pregnant woman should never go. Not a bar. Not a sauna. Not even into a cupcake shop. I’m talking about the local summer festival. Every town has one of these where it costs you 8 bucks to get in, another 8 bucks to buy an ear of sweet corn and 4 bucks for a bottle of water. Throw in some tickets for the Tilt a Whirl and a bag of cotton candy and you’re close to broke. But be warned: pregnancy, watching your husband drink beer in a plastic cup and carnies do not mix. Especially when it’s 85 degrees in full sun. At one point, Chris looked over at me and said you look miserable. Funny, BECAUSE I AM. I almost shit myself (not hard at this point) when the woman at the entrance asked Chris and I if we would both be drinking tonight. Of course I’m drinking! Along with the rest of the hillbillies that showed up here tonight to see LeAnn Rimes on the mainstage.

I’m still working out. I’ve significantly slowed down but I still have the energy to move. I’ve been swimming mostly at the quarry in the long course meter lanes. Or I’ll go walk around the lake at the Arboretum for 90 minutes. That would be 9 times around the lake or 3 x 3 times with 1 potty break after every 3. See, I still do intervals. I also ride my mountain bike for up to 90 minutes. And continue to strength train twice a week.

A lot of people have told me to slow down and put my feet up now. Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve never felt that sitting on a couch and putting your feet up is a cure for anything. Except maybe a broken foot. But be warned, in pregnancy, people tell you stuff like this all the time. In fact, I’ve heard more about what I should NOT do in the past 9 months than what I should do. Most of what I shouldn’t do involves any sort of activity. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself believing it and laying on a couch. 60 pounds later….trust me, even with your feet up, YOU WILL NOT FEEL GOOD!

Right now when I workout, I am barely moving forward but my legs are moving, the blood is circulating and I feel good. Relatively speaking. And feeling good doesn't come easily these days. Sleep has completely betrayed me with no position comfortable, every chair hurts and standing still make my legs swell. I feel good when I move. I feel lousy when I sit and put my feet up.

Tell me again why that would be good for me?

All along I’ve trusted my gut about what to do and what not to do. When you first find yourself pregnant, it’s common to ask a million questions, read books, wonder incessantly about what you should do. It doesn’t help that everyone tells you to sit still. Well, I read the books, asked some questions and then – I listened to myself. Your intuition is a very powerful thing. No one can tell you what feels right, wrong, too hard or bad. Except maybe your doctor and common sense. But only you really know. Trust yourself. You'll know what to do.

In the past few workouts, I’ve been reflecting on being pregnant. I realize that every time out there might be my last time for a few weeks. I’m going so slow right now that I see my workouts as a cool down to the past 9 months. I think back to how the seasons have changed, how I have changed. I felt major changes at week 14 (I can stay awake again!), week 23 (I can feel baby kicking!), week 24 (oh crap I actually have to wear maternity pants), week 28 (now I really look pregnant), week 32 (I’m huge) and week 36 (I’d like to be done, NOW). In that time, it’s been almost a year of living, waiting, growing.

On Saturday, Chris and I were sitting in the park when I said that it might be our last Saturday as just a couple, enjoying bagels, coffee, the French market. Like everyone has been saying all along: life will change.

Yes, life will change...not in the scare tactic way that some people say it but in the your life will change for the better, you’ll see the world differently. Life has been changing for the past 37 weeks. In a good way. You gain some maturity and perspective. Those are always good things. Now we’re just waiting for him to show up so we can begin the even bigger change. We’re not scared. We’ve been waiting for this. I’m not sure if that’s being overly optimistic or just confident that we can do this.

Isn’t that the same thing that gets you across any finish line in life?

Counting down, actually cooling down....21 days in July. Which reminds me - it seems that during our legal acquisition of cable, we lost Versus. It's been so long since I've watched television, I had no idea this happened until I went to watch Stage 2. I'm not sure what is more devastating - having to survive another 21 days pregnant in this heat or not being able to watch the Tour de France or pro-bull riding. Help!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Tremors

I had my 36 week check up on Wednesday. As part of that, because I am having a geriatric pregnancy at the ripe old age of…34, I get to have weekly nonstress tests now to measure fetal stress.

I’m not sure how a nonstress test qualifies for testing stress. I have a feeling there are some athletes out there who wish a nonswimming test would qualify as a swim test based on the reactions I get when I prescribe a swim test. But let me just say – that will never be the case, my friends.

The visit started with an ultrasound just to measure fluid. I got plenty of fluid. And, Max is huge. All I see is his spine and his heart. Head down, this kid is ready to go. And honestly, just this past week I’ve felt different. Something is brewing. An eruption of epic magnitude that just might result in a human the size of 6 something pounds and a few uterine chunks and bits ready to blow out of my cervix. I can tell. It was Monday when I was laying on the couch miserable with achy cramps, pelvic pressure and lower back pain that I sensed something had shifted.

Soon he will be here.

The technician takes me for the test into a room with a giant chair next to a little chair. She tells me to sit in the chair. The giant chair? Yes the giant, comfy chair. I climb it. Literally it is a chair big enough for a 300 pound man. You could lose me in this chair. She reclines the chair and attaches two Velcro straps around my belly. One measures fetal heart rate. The other measures uterine activity.



Geriatric belly (above) seated in "comfy" chair with fetal heart rate monitor (all you athletes who complain about using your skinny mini heart rate monitors, pipe down). See that line leading to it? Let me introduce you to my friend linea nigra (how soon until that thing fades?).

Next to the chair is something that looks like a seismograph printing out data. I’m like a volcano. They are measuring the tectonic activity in my belly to give me a prediction of when I’ll blow. I also get a clicker to press every time I feel something – anything she says.


Fetal seismograph (above) telling me that like Mt. St. Helens, I too will blow.

I sit in the comfy chair. The computer generates a sheet of data. Meanwhile, the machine magnifies the sound of Max’s heart rate to fill the entire room. And for the first time – I’m a little freaked out. It’s beating – LOUD. The technician explained to me that he will have a baseline heart rate (you’re talking my language sister!) and then he will have accelerations with movement. Then his heart rate should return to baseline. They are looking for 2 accelerations in 20 minutes. As she explains this, Max has an acceleration. He goes from the 130s to the 160s.

All you need is one more, she said.

Max’s heart rate is erratic at best. He is in the 130s then the 160s. And as far as accelerations? I think he had 10 in the first 5 minutes. The heart rate data prints out like an elevation profile. I want to ride Max’s heart rate profile with all of its peaks and valleys. It’s all up and down. My favorite type of course to ride!

As excited as I get about the data (I LOVE DATA!), I sit there, “relaxing” (this is how most people relax, Elizabeth, sit still).

After a few minutes, the nurse comes in to look at the data.

This kid’s all over the place, isn’t he.

Yes! THAT’S MY BOY! I’ve always been told that I’m all over the place with a million things going on at once. Yet in the middle of the storm I can find absolute focus. In fact, the more my life storms, the more I can focus. I love multitasking!

Your uterus is showing some irritability.

CAN YOU BLAME IT? It’s holding 32 pounds of explosive material and has been doing so FOR THE PAST 36 WEEKS! I’d be irritable too!

Are you feeling those? she asks while pointing to the print out above the heart rate data.

Those? What are those?

Those are contractions. You’re having contractions.

Really? I feel achy and I’d really like to not be pregnant any more but I don’t feel anything painful. Except the other night while swimming at the quarry. I was at 2600 meters into my swim in the long course lanes when I got an extreme pain in my entire left side and back. Not like a cramp or a stitch, like I need to stop swimming right now and catch my breath kind of pain. I waited about a minute, then I kept swimming. I figured it might have something to do with the baby but also knew I needed to get back to the end of the lane. I was not going to give birth in the quarry. That thing is filthy, full of hair and I know I’m not the only one peeing in it!

She leaves the room and leaves me hooked up. The doctor wants more data. Max gets a little restless and his heart rate shoots up to 180. Holy crap, kid! If you’re not careful we’re going to redline here. My max heart rate is 189! Let’s not go there! I start watching the uterine graph. It stays mostly low but every once in awhile it builds up and then Max moves. How can I not feel this? My muscles are moving inside of me and I got nothing. NOTHING!

Five minutes later, the nurse comes back.

This data looks better.

But she leaves me hooked up. The comfy chair becomes uncomfortable. I want out! And now my uterus is getting tight. Maybe this is a contraction? Really – this? I feel this all the time! I always thought it was Max moving or kicking me.

A few minutes later, I’m done. I get my blood pressure taken (still low) and weighed (still high). The nurse takes me into the examining room, this one is waist down she tells me. Which is code for take off your pants. A ha! I knew it! And so it is the beginning of the end of my private part privacy. By late July, everyone will have seen it, touched it…..and a small human will have emerged from it!

OH MY GOD!

(it will never be the same, will it?)

Then I see the doctor. The doctor comes in all cute in her scrubs and takes out the graphs. Everything looks good, she tells me. Thanks! Because Nurse Ratched had me convinced I was going to give birth in the comfy chair.

You’re having a lot of uterine activity, she says. She points out all of the contractions. She said they are mild right now but should they get worse, say lasting 5 minutes for 2 hours straight, it’s time to call.

TIME TO CALL!? We don’t even have half of the baby furniture yet nor the car seat installed nor the pack n’ play assembled nor do I even own nursing bras and besides…I thought I had until July 28. You can’t go changing the race date! I’ve gotten myself ready to peak on July 28! What’s next, telling me I can’t wear my wetsuit if it’s above 78 degrees..?

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

(I’m sorry, I just needed a moment to get over myself)

She then asks how I’ve been feeling. Pregnant. VERY pregnant. My pelvis aches and I feel like I’m getting my period. Wait, I won’t get it – right? I’m in no mood for it!

She examines my cervix next.

Well, you’re 1 centimeter dilated, cervix is soft, I can feel his head down.

WHAT!? You mean, you’re getting all that without even looking? You can feel my baby’s head? All of a sudden I have fears that he will just fall right out in the middle of a walk or while squatting. Should I be worried? Sometimes you know you push really hard to poop, should I look at what’s left behind and expect to see……BABY!?!?! Isn’t there some kind of cork holding him in!?

I guess it’s pretty common for women to be 1 centimeter dilated at their first check up. And it means nothing. I could give birth tomorrow or on August 11th. The soft cervix, that just means it has thinned out and is ready to efface. In other words, my volcano top is getting ready to blow off. But there is no predicting when….

She looks at me.

Let’s try to get one more week out of this pregnancy.

ONE MORE WEEK?! Jesus, lady, I think my heart rate just hit 190! I thought I had 4 weeks left! All of a sudden there are a million things I need to do. I’m not ready yet!

Let’s do our best to keep him in there for another week so he is full-term.

There is a very good chance that I will last all the way to July 28th but I am thinking an even better chance that Max is coming sooner than later. What that means? Who knows. He’ll come when he’s ready but it’s good to know that my body is getting ready for it.

In the meantime, I am going to make some lists. Yesterday I thought I had nothing left to do. Today, I just remembered 294920384092384 things I have left to do. I’ve got to pack, I’ve got to hydrate, I’ve got to clean my chain (I have no idea what that is code for but it sounds like something I should do) and I need to write my race plan.

Because in the next 1 to 4 weeks I am going to have a baby.

Oh crap. Baby!? When did we get to this point? How did this happen? WHO DID THIS TO ME!?! I need more time. MORE TIME! Forget all that shit I said about getting out of me. Isn’t it cozy in there? Stay awhile. I’ll make more space!

All of a sudden, I'm wishing I had a panic switch.