And now to completely shift gears.
Did anyone else notice a few weeks ago when a certain world champion in our sport announced her sabbatical from triathlon? I read through the announcement about the things she wanted to do and people she wanted to inspire and couldn’t help but think one thing:
When a woman in her mid to late 30s announces a sabbatical from anything – triathlon, coffee, wine – I suspect one explanation for it.
Now, if it turns out she isn’t going to have a baby – meaning, she goes forth this year to inspire boatloads of Britons to take up triathlon then I’m no clairvoyant, I’m just wrong. But if she is going to try to make the baby then I figured I would use this blog as a platform to help a sister out. CW, dear, there’s things you need to know about parenting. More importantly, about pregnancy.
First things first, getting pregnant is not just about having sex. That’s only the case for teenagers and only because they are young. For the rest of us, who have waited until maternally geriatric age (meaning: over 34) to get pregnant, our fertility is as predictable as your stomach in the last few miles of the Ironman marathon. There are actually books on how to get pregnant which sounds as ridiculous as directions on the side of a box of Pop-Tarts but trust me, you’ll need them.
Hey, you weren’t really going to put that dangerously hot Pop-Tart in your mouth, were you?
Here’s the deal. You’ve spent the last 20+ years trying hard, very hard, like zone 5 effort, to not get pregnant. What they didn’t tell you when you were 10 years old, sitting in your 5th grade classroom, boys separated from girls, while you watched some awkward film about getting your period and were told from that point forward anytime you so much think of a penis you risk pregnancy, what they didn’t tell you is that it’s not that easy to make the baby. It’s actually really hard – the older you the get, the harder it is, so hard you wonder how someone can make it happen at all. Let alone that woman who’s been pregnant over 20 times.
Does she ever leave the bedroom?
Unlike triathlon training – which we know is not rocket science – I’m telling you making the baby is. Even if you think you know, there are things you don’t know. So from this point forward consider yourself a student of the sport TTC (trying to conceive). Instead of spending countless late night hours on triathlon forums (admit it, everyone lurks!), you will spend those hours on TTC forums. And I suggest you put those letters, TTC, into your vocabulary along with 2ww (two week wait), DH (darling husband) and BD (babydance). Know that if you are TTC, you want to BD with your DH approximately 1 day before you ovulate. After that…
And wait what feels like 14 days short of FOREVER.
About 8 DPO (days past ovulation) you start peeing on sticks (POAS). Each cycle your patience wears thinner and thinner to the point where you start peeing on a stick every day, multiple times each day. You have your husband pee on a stick, then your dog just to see if the damn sticks measure anything! Honestly, the 2ww is more nerve wracking than the start line of Kona. Time slows to zone 1 pace.
First rule of TTC: to make a baby you have to have sex. At first, this is your husband’s/significant others dream come true. Until the truth becomes obvious. There is sexy sex and there is baby-making sex. In other words, business sex. They are not the same thing. I don’t care how many candles you light or what you’re (not) wearing, sex with a purpose is like low fat ice cream. It’s the same but not really. It will become business sex because getting pregnant is a precise (perhaps divine) timing of an LH surge, an egg, a sperm and like any successful race – a little luck.
And, like any race, just as exhausting.
Like any sport, there is equipment you need to make the baby. Take thyself to Walgreen’s and pick up an (OPK) ovulation predictor kit. Here’s something else they didn’t tell you in the fifth grade. Just because you get a period doesn’t mean you ovulate. Suddenly you feel jaded. All those years you thought you could get pregnant? Some might have been a lie. All that money you spent on birth control could have been saved for things like shoes, fashion, RACE WHEELS!?
It’s complicated, isn’t it? And just like in triathlon, people tend to overthink and overcomplicate it. Spend a few moments online at Baby Center or Just Mommies and you realize people are desperate, crazy, neurotic about babymaking (note: this is NOTHING like triathlon websites). They read into every sign, symptom, they chart their BBT, they have special thermometers, they talk about it, think about it and when they’re all said and done they probably enter their data into Training Peaks.
Enough about the baby making, when will you make the baby already? Did you make the baby? That’s your mother-in-law chiming in. Fear not, at some point you will get a BFP (big fat POSITIVE). (maybe) Once pregnant, you’ll probably be like any other athletic woman who stays athletic because she “doesn’t want to lose any fitness!” It only takes about 8 weeks of feeling like you’ve been shot in the ass with a tranquilizer every day at 2 pm to realize the oppressive fatigue you feel for the first trimester is no match for your fitness. You’re going to take a nap and skip that swim. But the beauty of pregnancy is that everything slows down. Including time and yourself. 40 weeks feels like forever. Perhaps this is nature’s way of preparing you for the accelerated speed at which time passes once the child arrives. Or nature’s way of reminding you to slow down enough to enjoy the journey.
In the final trimester of pregnancy or around the time you’re ready to be done (roughly 20 weeks) people will start saying you’re almost there! It’s like a spectator on the side of the road about half way through the marathon telling you you’re almost there! Mathematically, you’re nowhere even close. And you know that. Let me assure you, when someone tells you you’re almost there and you’re nowhere close that means you look so bad that they’re not sure what else to say.
Which leads to the next thing: you look great! The third trimester is the beginning of the end of any time in your life when you looked great. From that point forward you will look tired, ragged and completely at wits end depending on how bad that morning’s blow out/tantrum episode was. You will notice that with lack of sleep, those little lines on your forehead don’t go away. Those bags under your eyes are going to need a sherpa to carry them.
Here’s something that’s more fun than trying to squeeze behind your steering wheel in the final months of pregnancy: registering! Registering for your baby shower is like registering for an Ironman except everyone else pays your way. Yet within two trips to BuyBuyBaby, you realize registering is like one of those days on the bike when the wind shifts and all of a sudden you’ve got 60 miles with a 30 mph headwind in your face. So much for the first 10 miles of tailwind! You’ll find yourself overwhelmed by shelves stacked high to the ceiling full of baby things; hooded towels, receiving blankets, breast pads. All of those things are nice but not necessary. What you actually do need, you cannot register for: patience, humility, perspective and a tongue guard. To keep you from biting through your tongue every time someone without kids tells you they don’t have time to do _____. Did you have time to take a crap this morning? If so, you’ve got time AND you’re winning.
Giving birth is nothing like a marathon, an Ironman, a double marathon within a double triple Ironman. Any visions you had of being able to draw upon your mental strength and physical endurance will fail you the moment that baby hits your spinal cord. Rather than teaching you how to breathe, birthing classes would do you a better service by teaching you 10 new cuss words, how to run angry after your husband while wheeling your IV, how to get your head to turn completely around to complete the exorcism. Once you ungrit your teeth, the word EPIDURAL will magically roll off your tongue, a very good looking doctor will put a large needle in your back and you will start smiling. Even at your mother-in-law who, yes, will somehow find her way into the room where you are birthing though you have no idea how she found you and got past front desk nurse security.
And a stability ball – unless you plan on doing plank off of it while you’re 4 centimeters dilated – it’s most likely useless during your birth experience. Along with your husband. Who knows better than to get within 10 feet of you while you’re in that much pain.
Psst….come in closer. This next thing is touchy with some women. It’s ok to not like breastfeeding. It’s ok to think it’s inconvenient, awkward and time-consuming. It’s ok to want to throw the breast pump into the middle of a busy lane of traffic. The goal “I’ll do it for 6 months” will dangle in front of you like a finish line that doesn’t seem to get any closer. WHERE IS IT ALREADY!? You will get there but it takes a lot of patience, engorgement and nipple cream.
And this just in: Your body will never be the same.
Once the aftermath of your body subsides, you realize that saggy boobs or not – you must press forward with parenting. In other words, you learn to get over yourself – quick. Welcome to parenting. There might be some volunteers waving you in different directions (and by all means, don’t listen to all of them!) but ultimately, you’ve got to know your own course. And if you get off course, turn yourself around and fix it. No outside assistance! Parenting is the ultimate experience in personal responsibility. This child is entirely yours. There is no turning in your timing chip. No DNF. At times you will want to lay down in the middle of the Queen K and take a nap but it will only last….about 3 minutes. Before someone starts crying again. It requires you to accept this is my life now so deal with it – no weakness, no crying, no feeling sorry for yourself. You got yourself to the start line so get yourself to the finish.
I was in the coffee shop today and there was a mother with a kid running around her ankles and a baby strapped to her chest while my child had his hand deep in a jar of coffee beans. She looked at me and said remember when life was easy? I had no idea who she was but motherhood is like this. You have an unspoken bond with anyone who owns a Baby Bjorn. It’s like seeing a 140.6 sticker on someone’s car. We get it. We know that getting out of the door was your marathon today. We know that even though you do 100 squats with a 25-pound child on your hip EVERY DAY – you’re not getting any skinnier. We know that while you love your child, a small part of you longs for the simplicity and selfishness of your life before. We know that it’s the little things that make a big difference – an extra long nap (for the child, not you, silly!), enough time to blow dry your hair, going shopping without having to sing the ABCs.
Which brings me to my next point. You will do anything for your child. Whether it’s sucking snot out of their nose, waking up to cradle them yet again at 3 am, pushing them down the slide for the 100th time – this little person will tug at your heartstrings like speedwork tugs at your hamstrings. I never knew I could love something as much as I love my child. It’s a feeling that nothing replaces – no pet, no other person, no award, no PR….it’s priceless.
Now if all of this has scared you away from having kids, you missed the point of having kids in the first place. The more something is worth in life, the more you have to work for it, the more you sacrifice. In giving up yourself, you get someone else. Remember when you thought giving up chocolate to get to race weight was sacrifice? Parenting is the ultimate sacrifice and one that us parents know we would do again and again and again. I never thought something could bring me as much joy as my son, Max. I never thought something could finally make me feel so complete.
You’re probably like everyone else who says they live life with no regrets. There are no mistakes, just lessons! Let me tell you the one mistake I made: waiting until I was maternally geriatric to have a child. I have no idea what I was doing that was so important earlier in my life (triathlon? working?) but in hindsight, it can wait. Perhaps you’ve heard time ticking like that Timex clock that sits in the van that rides in front of the leader along the Queen K. Listen to it. Don’t wait until it’s too late. I always told myself – I’ve got plenty of time! But I’ve learned in babymaking – there are no guarantees. Just because you have all the parts, don’t mean they work. Just because you want something bad enough, doesn’t mean you can get it. Just because you did great training doesn’t mean you’ll win the race. Get to this race early before transition closes and it’s too late.
I’m not sure what you’ll be doing on your sabbatical, but let me recommend the event called parenting. The registration fee is outrageous but at least it’s not (yet!) owned by the WTC. I haven’t seen the medal and the race t-shirt but I'm guessing it’s covered in something. And about the course itself? Hey, where else can you get an experience that starts with your kid sitting in his crib with a sleep sack full of shit and a 24 ounce container of parmesan cheese all before 8 am! The parallels between racing and parenting are endless. You’ll want to quit but once you cross the finish line any memory of pain, discomfort or crapping yourself immediately dissolves away. And you find yourself thinking – maybe I could do (have) another one?