Friday, February 26, 2010

Labor & Delivery 101

The other day I was reading a book about labor and delivery. And I was only 20 pages into the book when it occurred to me at some point this will pregnancy will end. I will have to deliver this baby. And it will not be fun.

For the most part, pregnancy is fun. You get a free pass to just “be” for 40 weeks of your life. You have an excuse for everything. It’s like training for your first Ironman. You are a rock star. Everyone is excited to talk with you about it, to share their experience and offer their support. I’ve heard that by the second pregnancy, you’re lucky if someone even holds a door open for you. I imagine by the third people are asking you to open the door for them.

But at some point you realize that the fun will come to an end. I was in a store the other day and a baby was wailing. Not just crying – wailing. It struck me that in less than 5 months, that mother trying frantically to rock and hush her baby might be me. It also struck me that I might not leave the house after July for a very long time.

At first I wasn't even going to read the book. Angela gave the book to me a few months ago and mentioned that once she was giving birth, she was glad she had read it. But I was hesitant for a few reasons. First of all, many have advised me not to read books. Too much information, it will scare you, go by your intuition, do what feels right. Secondly, do I really want to know? I coach some athletes who refuse to do a half Ironman before the full Ironman. Why? They don’t want to know half of how bad it’s going to hurt. I finally get it. Because there is something about reading about birth that makes me a little scared. Do I really want to know how excruciatingly painful, awful, messy and get this baby out of me RIGHT NOW it is going to be?

I don’t know.

Finally, I gave in to the book. It was time to face my fears and get me some labor and delivery education. Soon I realized that there are things I already know, things I should know, things I don’t want to know. This book covered all of it.

A few chapters in, the author started talking about pain. It occurred to me that most women may not have a scale to measure pain - know what I mean? Sure, there is emotional pain, and ow I stubbed my toe pain but how often do most "normal" women experience pain when they go from bed to car to desk to couch to bed again? Where is the pain?

I think I may have an advantage here. You see, I have spent years burning in my own physical pain. I know what it feels like to get to zone 5c. I have blown up. I have done 25s no breath underwater and then peed myself. Pain is a familiar language to me. I get it. The up to my eyeballs in lactic acid pain. The shaky I just spent too long above my threshold pain. The I missed the interval but oh shit I have to keep swimming hard or else I will get lapped pain.

I miss pain. Really, I do.

So when the author started talking about pain, I listened. But she explained something I really didn’t understand. She said that most physical pain we have experienced usually lessens over time. Labor is the opposite. It worsens then it stops. I thought about it in regards to my pain experience. The pain I know doesn't stop until you hit the rest interval. The pain I know builds. I thought about Ironman. At no point did the pain of Ironman subside. It got worse and worse until finally at mile 22 it felt like two explosions that were really just blisters bursting followed by my quads tightening. I continued to run – even faster – to get to the finish line. The pain continued to worsen until I crossed the line and even at that point the pain did not stop. Instead my body just throbbed with hot pain.

So maybe, just maybe, I am one step closer to grasping the pain of labor because I have done Ironman. Or maybe not. I am sure it is 100 times worse because at no point in Ironman does a small person travel down your backbone and through your vagina.

Though it feels like that around mile 80 of the bike.

The next thing the author did was talk about how to prepare for the pain. She suggested taking a bowl of ice cubes, grabbing a handful and squeezing it tight for 90 seconds. Is it wrong that the idea of doing that does not leave me scared? I go outside to my car each morning and sit on the ass cold seat when it’s below 20 degrees outside. It’s safe to say my ass grips a handful of ice cubes every day. I’ve sat in a sub-50 degree ice bath, completely naked, for 10 minutes. WITH NO MAGAZINE. Is this where the ordinary woman draws the line for pain tolerance? If you told me to shove those ice cubes in my mouth for 90 seconds while standing outside in 20 degrees, naked – NOW we are talking pain.

The book, though, was informative and prepared me – at least “theoretically” – about what to expect in labor. I anticipate it will hurt – bad. Very bad. I’ve been there in my mind and sometimes I get scared. I think most women have a vision of themselves giving birth or envisioned it at some point in life – and it involved a bad fitting hospital gown, screaming, gritting, pooping and … all I want to say is please spare me the post-labor close-up face picture. I don’t think I will want to revisit that look.

But while I might be “prepared” what about Chris? The ignorance of all things childbirth is so blissful husband. There are things he should know. Things we should talk about. The other night when Chris was riding in the basement, I took the opportunity to park myself in my basement-comfy-chair with the book. Then, I announced to Chris that I had a few questions to ask him about having the baby.

This is my time, he said as he turned back to look at me from the middle of his warm-up.

In the category of things never to say to your pregnant wife: That is not the correct answer.

I gave him that look back like listen I am sitting here with a stomach bursting out of a pair of cupcake pajama pants, 12 pounds heavier, I have urinated at least 20 times today and all I want is a glass of wine, the least you can do is answer a few questions about what is going to be the most painful experience of my life.

I am just kidding.

That is the correct answer. Thank you.

What is your feeling about drugs during delivery?

It is your pain.

What about an epidural?

Whatever makes you happy.

How do you do with the sight of blood?


What about lots of blood and a placenta?

Ok, I know all of that stuff has to come out of you.

Do you want to be at the head of the bed or watching the baby come out at the end of the bed?

It doesn’t matter. Where ever you want me to be. Some people need to be in their box of pain by themselves. If you want me in there with you, I will be there.

(I got the sense that to Chris, having this baby will be like doing a 12 minute interval at CP6 – you just put yourself in the pain box and gut it out for the prescribed time no matter what it takes. This will be far worse than CP6 though. How about CP.2 for 26 hours straight).

So you don’t want to watch the baby being born.

(you could tell he hadn’t thought about it like that)

Let me put it this way, if you watch a small person come out of me will you ever been able to put your woo woo into my hoo ha again.

He paused, with an empty look across his face then said: I don’t know.

At that moment, it became clear. He has no idea what is coming. And so it was decided (by me). He will be standing at the head of the bed.

Time to move on to the more important isuses: What are you going to do if I poop myself?

You could tell that he had answer but like the questions above could sense there might be a right and a wrong answer. So I filled in his blank.

You will call me poopy pants.

I read through some of the other scenarios and questions – if I have C-section will he stay with me or go with the baby, what should we bring, who will call everyone. Having a baby requires some planning!

Then, things took a more serious turn.

Did you know there is no sex after child birth for at least 6 weeks?

Really? I figured it would be at least 8 weeks.

I was thinking it might be more like 8 to 10 years.

We both laughed. But as ridiculous as the conversation was, I think it helped. Because how often do you talk about these things. Sure, we know what life is like preparing before baby and roughly anticipate how completely disheveled life will become after baby. But in those hours directly en route to baby – how many couples have covered that?

Not that we have the road map – turns out, there is none, you just go the way the baby wants you to go – but I feel like we at least know the direction of where to go. And the things that may come up. Or, honestly the things that may come out (ewww). I feel one step closer to being prepared.

Heck, I’ve even started to make a list of things I will need when I come home from the hospital. And I am pleased to report that a 24-pack of granny panties is right up there next to wine, lots. Along with my post-delivery order for sushi.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bumping Along

I’m still pregnant.

Entering my 19th week and counting. Counting what? How about the weeks until my quiet life gets turned upside by noise, poop and other things baby! There are days when I feel like it is going slow. There are other days where I feel like it could go a little slower because I am almost half way there!

Many have asked me how I’m feeling. The answer is good. Almost too good? I realize in another 7 weeks when I enter the third trimester things will change. But until then, I will enjoy every day where I can still breathe, where I am not being kicked in the ribs and where my stomach does not move like something alien as Baby Boy Waterstraat decides to practice proper pedal stroke in my uterus.

I have a confession to make. The other day, I went baby shopping. I was at the outlet mall and saw the Carter’s outlet. This is where cuteness and baby clothes collide. Everything was so small and adorable. And I wanted it all – anything that had monkeys, alligators or frogs. While baby has already gotten his first gift (a book) from Bree Wee (thanks!), it was time for baby to get his first outfit.

Check this out:

I KNOW! So freakin’ cute I almost threw up on it. Not a problem it only cost 6 bucks. If necessary, I could go buy a replacement. Or 10. I stopped at one. This time. I also have to note that I bought the 3 month old size. Did you know that the newborn clothes are designed for babies that are only 5 to 8 pounds? When was the last time you knew someone who birthed a 5 pound baby!? So I bought the 8 to 12 pound size. He’ll grow into it. Or with my luck, he’ll pop out at just that size.

Aside from obsessive interest in buying onesies with little animals and stripes, pregnancy is ticking away uneventfully. Like I said, I feel good. Energetic, zippy, some days I have to remind myself I am pregnant. Mostly because I don’t look TOO different (yet). Yes, I have gained 10 to 12 pounds at this point. But it seems to be going to the “expected” places. I don’t look like a marshmellow (yet).

The other day at masters, I was doing a kick set when the guy in the lane next to me asked me how I was doing with the weight gain. A legitimate question because I know a lot of women out there worry about the pregnancy weight gain. The only place I “feel” like I have gained weight is when I am at masters because there I am standing in a swimsuit. I am still wearing the same size swimsuit but definitely squeezing out of it. You can’t really hide when you are half naked.

I told him that I was doing ok with the weight gain. Keeping it in perspective. It’s only temporary. Honestly I didn’t know how I would do. You know sometimes how we as women think that if we gain xx pounds the unthinkable will happen….I don’t know what that is, I just know for years I felt imprisoned by this fearful idea of ….GASP…gaining weight.

Being on the other side now, it’s not that bad. There is a big difference between getting “fatter” and getting “bigger”. In pregnancy you get bigger. And that is ok. I mean, the world hasn’t ended. My husband didn’t leave me. I do not wake up every day feeling worse about myself. Yes, I am bigger but I am not the numbers on a scale. Contrary to what I thought would happen, I actually feel better. I look better. I think pregnancy evened me out. I lived for so many years at an obsessively low body weight that I think this has reset myself. And I’m starting to think that if I could get back to where I started in weight, I wouldn’t want to because it was honestly too low.

Where we want to be and where we need to be with weight are two different things. Many women spend years struggling with self-concept and just getting through a day without being overshadowed by their worries about weight. They have such a dysfunctional relationship with food that daily life becomes unfun. I know because I lived that way many times throughout life. I’m not saying that everyone should live pregnant to teach themselves a lesson. I’m just saying perspective might just be the best medicine.

For the past 6 weeks, exercising has felt great. I swim, I bike, I run, I strength train. I exercise for about 45 to 90 minutes a day. Is this too much? Not enough? My body seems ok with it. I don’t feel any strange pains or unusually tired after it. The baby has not fallen out – yet. I drink sport drink while running, I eat a gel during long swims. Pregnancy metabolism is a little different. You can bonk after 20 minutes into a run because your body can only tap into sugars for energy. It doesn’t dig into your energy stores – those are being used for baby!

Right now I really enjoy swimming. I go to masters 3 to 4 times a week. The time passes quickly and I like seeing my swimmy friends. Tugboat Tom loves having me in his lane now because he can use me to negotiate a slower interval. I’ll tell him I can’t make the old intervals that I used to when he says “that’s ok, we’ll wait for you.” That is not compassion. That is just a man swimming scared of a tight interval.

Today I walked in and the coach said to me that I finally have a baby bump. I do. The “bump” is finally starting to shoot out like a torpedo from right below my belly button. While being bump inspected, I stood waiting at my usual lane with Tom. I could tell he had something on his mind. While doing arm circles, he said to me “I want to ask you something that might not be appropriate to ask.”

When a man says something like that to a pregnant woman, I have learned it can go in any direction. So, I made it easy for him. “Yes, my boobs have gotten a lot bigger.”

NO! I want to know if you want our breast pump.”

Wow. I didn’t expect it to go there. To make a long story short, Tugboat Tom gave me his breast pump. Turns out the masters coach had also borrowed Tom’s breast pump. She told me it was industrial strength and worked really well.

I’m not sure what to think about this.

Sometimes I lane myself down at masters just so I don’t have to worry about keeping up. Depends on the set. I love days when we do IM or kick sets or pulling. I can do all of that no problem. Even sprint free day is an easy one for me because you can’t lap me on a 25. But distance free always throws me a challenge. Chopping off a 50, using paddles or putting on fins usually helps. Today was distance free day so I took the empty lane next to Tom. He already announced his goal was to lap me on every set so I figured I would at least stay out of his way.

As we stood at the wall waiting to start 300 IM, I heard him and his lanemate talking:

“I’m going to do the 75 fly easy," Tom said.

“I’m going to do the 75 fly really easy,” the lanemate one-upped him.

“I’m going to throwdown.”

That last comment was from me. I figure, why not. At least give them the illusion that you are going to try to throwdown. But it’s hard to throwdown fly when you are pregnant because every 4 strokes you feel like you are going to give birth through your mouth. It’s nothing a pair of fins can’t help you get through (and also get to the wall first – fins or not - I win).

The other day at masters while waiting for the top to roll around, my lane mate asked me something:

How are you doing?

I’m ok? I mean, it’s just a set of 10 x 50 kick with fins on 10 seconds rest. I think I’ll make it.

I could tell I had just given the wrong answer.

You look like a competitive person, how are you doing with being pregnant?

Oh I see. Totally different direction with that question. Wait, I look competitive? So, you noticed the twitch in my eye when the coach said we were doing 50 x 25 on the :xx and I realized that while I busted my ass last year to break :xx in the 25, this year I would just have to cruise in 5 seconds slower while slowly raging under water every time the guy in the lane next to me just has to beat me to the wall time because there’s nothing like racing the pregnant chick!

That? Fine. I am doing just fine. Thank you for asking.

True, I am a competitive person – which is why I like sports, really if you’re not competitive you just sort of la-la along with no fire under your ass. So her question made sense. How can you come to a group workout, being a competitive person, and just hang back. Hence why I do not do group workouts when I am un-pregnant (except for swimming). You can’t tell a dog not to salivate when they smell meat. Know what I mean? So, yes, going to a group swim, putting myself down a lane and just la-la-ing along is not easy. But like the weight gain it is only temporary. It will come back. And when it does I swear I am going to beat that damn guy to the wall EVERY SINGLE TIME.

And, lap Tom.

Other than swimming, I still ride my bike 2 times a week. I also do 2 days of strength training – lots on the Bosu or balance disk to work on balance, single-legged strength, weights, stability ball, TRX. Standing on top the Bosu on one leg while lifting is getting harder. I fall off sometimes. But that only makes me want to try even harder.

I still love to run and of all 3 sports it feels the best. I run 3 to 4 times a week, 35 to 60 minutes at a time. Oddly enough, my pace has stayed about the same since week 12. It’s hovering about 1 minute slower than my usual easy pace so it still feels like running. I am clinging to each day it stays that way. In no time, I will be running slower then shuffling then walking. I know it’s coming…

Today someone asked me if I feel different when I run. Yes and no. I am over 10 pounds heavier so there is a zip in my step that is gone. Carrying the extra weight, any hills outside feel like mountains. I walked up a hill last week. If I wait too late in the day to run, I’m off the treadmill every 15 minutes to pee. If I get it done early in the day, I can make it 30 minutes. In fact, sometimes I play the game – how long can I make it without a pee (you run enough on the treadmill and games like this become FUN). Often I have held it too long and the moment I step off the treadmill I am literally peeing my pants. I found out today that this is totally normal. And that I can expect to leak for the rest of my life.

Between this and the word “tearing”, I am really scared for things down there.

Do I still feel like an athlete? Oh you bet. Because it’s in the mind. Competitive energy gets pent up and stored away for a later time. I know women out there race when pregnant – and I admire that but it’s not for me. When I go to my next race, I intend to not just finish it. I’ve finished enough races in the past few years. I want to be better than that. Until then, I’ll just stand on the sidelines, watch, wait and build more energy. I will lane myself down and run easier than my easy pace. It will take time to come back, but it will. Like with the pregnancy - or Ironman - the time will pass, it always does.

It will.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

TR - What?

Today I attended a TRX suspension trainer course. I learned a lot. I hurt a lot. And if you’ve ever used a TRX, you know that (good) hurt is often a byproduct of it. That’s what makes it so good – it’s a challenge, unlike anything else you’ve ever done. And we all know that challenge is good. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you will yield the same results. A challenge is a new stimulus which leads to adaptation which then leads to different results.

Enter the TRX. What is the TRX? Exhibit A: TRX (yellow strappy things supsended from ceiling).

TRX was created by a Navy Seal who needed to keep fit and trained on a mission. Increasing in popularity, right now you hear people talking about it – from other bloggers to celebrities to coaches. It’s not a gimmick, and in fact it’s been around since 2004. Right now it is catching on in fitness and chances are you’ve seen one around your gym. It’s not only for elite athletes or the super fit. It is for anyone interested in improving their strength.

I was introduced to the TRX last year by a physical therapist. They suggested I incorporate it into my strength training to build more swim specific and core strength. I purchased one online through Fitness Anywhere and Chris installed it in our basement ceiling beams. From there, I performed TRX exercises twice a week, nothing sophisticated, just following the moves on the two laminated training routines that came with it.

It only took a few months before I felt a difference. Last year I took over 5 seconds off my base swim pace. Not only that, but I had more repeatability in that pace over longer distances. Along with a few tweaks to my stroke, the only other change was incorporating the TRX. It made sense – the TRX exercises specifically targeted my upper body and core strength. And if you want to swim faster, you need upper body strength and core strength. Especially if you are a woman who took up swimming later in life, it is more difficult for you to develop the specific strength required for more powerful swimming. A bunch of lat pull downs with a weight bar won’t cut it. And I’ll tell you why...

Think about it – how many sports are performed while seated? Other than binge drinking (true, it is a sport, in fact many of my athletes claim to have been D-1 binge drinkers in college on their intake form), there are three ‘seated’ sports: horseback riding, cycling and rowing. The other ____ sports (too many sports to count – and yes, even curling is included here) are performed while standing or moving.

Why, then, perform strength training while seated? And if you follow a traditional strength training approach, chances are you are seated on a chair doing chest presses or lat pull downs or seated rows. When you are seated, you require very little stabilization and core strength to perform the move correctly. You can usually anchor yourself with your feet or brace yourself against kneepads. Not only that but you are usually isolating one muscle. But how much of swimming is performed with an isolated muscle? Do you only use your lats when swimming? Proper swimming involves engaging the lats but also involves rotation from the core, kicking from the glutes and following through with the triceps.

That’s a lot of muscles – and who has time to isolate each one of those muscles as with traditional strength training?

The TRX therefore works a variety of muscles at the same time. Not only that but it works the muscles in all dimensions or planes; transverse, sagital and frontal. How is this important to triathletes? If you are like most triathletes, you work only in a plane moving forward. For years I felt like I was swimming backwards but this is not really possible. Point is that the more planes you can involve in your strength training, the more well-rounded and strong you will be. Sagital plane involves going forward and back, frontal plane involves moving laterally and the transverse plane involves rotation. Few other pieces of equipment allow you to train multiple dimensions at the same time. Bottom line: the TRX is a great tool for improving full body strength. For requiring your body to do the work – all of the work – that it takes to stabilize and strengthen.

How does the TRX engage the whole body? It relies on gravity to change your center of balance and then requires your muscles to engage in every exercise to stabilize and balance the body again. With functional movements and dynamic positions, the TRX develops your strength beyond what a stationary or weighted exercise can do. Remember, the key to beneficial strength training is to involve as much tissue as possible to maximize the depletion of muscle energy which then promotes the utilization of fat during repletion. It is this process that increases lean muscle mass and decreases fat.

So, does the TRX work? Currently, 10 of my athletes are using the TRX. And I’ve noticed a few things. Their swimming has improved. In the past 2 months, DK took 7 seconds per 100 off of her swim test base pace. We have not made significant changes to her swim stroke. We just incorporated the TRX. Coincidence? Maybe but then how do you explain the others who have also experienced similar breakthroughs with the only change being the addition of the TRX? While I don’t believe there is much magic in sport, I do believe there are specific tools (ie., Power Tap, TRX) that can help you train more effectively which leads to more progress. This is not magic, just incorporating useful tools into a logical training plan.

Jennifer has talked about her experience with the TRX this year on her website. When I noticed a course a TRX trainer course in Chicago, I suggested we sign up. We attended a day-long course in the city with many others – some were personal trainers while others were just fitness enthusiasts who wanted to know more. If you have the time, I highly suggest the course because it was a practical, hands-on approach to how to use (and better use) the TRX.

We got into pairs (I chose Jennifer but she told me I didn’t really have a choice). Exhibit B: Jennifer in her kitschy Lululemon top.

In the course, we went through several hours worth of exercises.
There's nothing like learning hands-on. Here is Jennifer attempting a multi-planar lunge.

Take your traditional lunge and mix it up TRX style and you get a “lunge matrix” or a series of lunges you can do in front of, behind and across your body.

Now, being nearly 5 months pregnant, I still use the TRX for strength training at least once a week. After using it for over a year, you'd think I'd be proficient at it or even bored by now. Not the case! I was challenged with many new moves today and progressions for my current moves. By 3 pm, I was pretty sure I was bonking and would not be able to raise my arms above my head for several days.

As the instructor went through pages of exercises, I realized I had barely scratched the surface of using this tool. How versatile is the TRX? Check it out. In this position, you can do Suspending Hip Abduction, Suspending Prone Planks, Suspended Push-Ups, Suspended Atomic Push-Ups or how about a Suspended Crunch.

And that is how you do a crunch when pregnant!

At one point, pregnancy did beat me. Here I am backing out of one move because I felt like if I did any more of it I would probably give birth right there on the floor.

That is my "I think I felt my uterus in my throat" look on my face.

Honestly, though, there are only a few things I cannot do with the TRX while pregnant. In fact, it is one of the few ways I can still work my core. Anything supine is out – so normal crunches, stability ball work and some pilates are out. But give me some planks with the TRX and it’s like doing 50 crunches while pressing up a medicine ball. It’s effective and for the most part – it is safe.

Believe me, I’m not a big fan of flavor of the month gimmicks. I honestly feel this product is a secret weapon for those who use it. It develops strength and stability unlike any other piece of equipment I’ve seen.

Not only that, but it’s economical and portable. Economical because you don’t need to stock your basement with weights, balls, and bands to create a home gym. You need only a sturdy door or high ceiling to anchor the TRX. Portable because you can take it on the road, anchor it to a hotel room door and there you go – you have your cardiovascular and strength training workout with you (and it weighs under 3 lbs). No pool while traveling? No problem – just do a series of swimmer’s pulls or seated lat pulls. No strength training this week? Use if for flexibility and mobility. Feel like you’ve mastered the TRX-specific moves? Add a kettlebell or medicine ball. Want the work to be more cardiovascular, do reps for 1 minute at an up-tempo. How about adding explosive power by lunging with a hop.
The variations and progressions are endless.

Curious to learn more? To find out more about prices and products for the TRX, click here:
Fitness Anywhere. Check out the forums, too, to find new workout routines if you already have a TRX. Also, if you are interested in learning more about how to work with a TRX, feel free to contact me with any questions or I'd be happy to meet locally to show you more.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Small Talk

This past weekend, I headed 315 miles west to Ankeny, Iowa. Not exactly a winter-vacation hot spot, it was covered in high drifts of snow with a temperature around 23 degrees. Yet like every other time I have traveled to Iowa, whether in the green lushness of July or the barren cold of February, the landscape is inspiration. Driving along I-80, the rolling hills are covered in a perfect white layer of snow with the dark bales of rolled up hay scattered throughout the horizon. It is simplicity at its best. For me, Iowa feels like peace of mind.

I was in Iowa to work with a group of my athletes. This weekend, we will assess their swim form, go through a bike Computrainer class with strength work and analyze their run. What they would get out of the weekend is a better understanding of their personal weaknesses in each sport, how to address them and also how to implement their workouts. When one of them asked what I would get out of the weekend, I explained it was an understanding of their weaknesses but also how they approach workouts. You can learn a lot about an athlete by watching them workout – their dialogue, body language, physical response. Observation, as a coach, is one of the most powerful tools we have.

Waiting to meet with them on Saturday morning, I was sitting in Panera. It was filled with the usual early morning crowd - older couples, groups of women, laughing, chatting about the minutae of life. Small talk, the soundtrack of any coffee shop.

After awhile, a group of men sat down behind me and started talking. Immediately the conversation struck me because they were talking about sport. Their sport was college wrestling but they could have been talking about coaching athletes from any sport. They covered issues like motivation, attitude, nutrition, conditioning. The conversation was intriguing and relevant because this is my business – the business of bringing out the best in others and like they were saying – there are many factors that go into that.

They started talking about attitude. And one of them said something striking:

There is a firewall in the mind called confidence.

(now, I'm really listening)

He went on: This wall will not permit any other thoughts to pass other than the will to win.

He went on to explain how in the moment when the athlete is on the edge of greatness, there is no doubt, there is just a foundation of sacrifice behind them and that confidence. Athletes that have it – will win. Athletes that don’t have it, want to win but never get there. Athletes who don’t win, don’t have the will to win – they just have the desires to get the benefits of winning. However, the athlete who will win gets there because they want to test their limits, to see what they can do not what they can get.

I thought about this for a moment. Keep in mind that winning doesn’t have to be number one. Depending on your level, winning might be cracking 8:30 miles at a 10K. It might be crossing the finish line. It might be earning a national championship. It doesn’t matter what your goal is, you won’t get there without confidence.

The other part of confidence that they discussed was attitude. Attitude is the litmus test for a great athlete. There are two attitudes: an athlete is either selfless or selfish. The selfless athlete lets it go. They invest 100 percent in the program, trust it and give themselves up for greatness. They put past any hesitations or ego needs. They have a strong character that is not easily swayed by success or even defeat. The selfish athlete is always in conflict with themselves and the coach. They doubt the plan and so they never fully commit. This athlete also never reaches their full potential. They put up a road block to their own greatness.

Next they talked about athletes who break through versus athletes who break down. When you get frustrated, you have two choices – you can back down which causes you to stay at the level you are at. However, if you keep pressing on, you learn and develop. That paves the way for winning. That builds confidence. How many times have I seen an athlete give up because things aren’t going their way? One of the hardest parts of training is that it hurts, there are set backs. There are hard days and harder days. Training is not about setting personal bests, it’s about building a stronger body and mind so on race day you can set a new personal best. Day to day, training can be tedious and painful. Some days you feel like Phelps, other days you slog through the water with heaviness. But day to day does not matter. It is the athletes who focus on patterns over time, focus on big picture that reach their success. Getting frustrated by the day to day or obstacles holds you back.

Not only that but great athletes keep themselves in perspective. They accept that they have both strength and weaknesses. Like one of them said: winning athletes are focused on their strengths yet partner with their weaknesses. They realize that a weakness is an opportunity - to work harder, to learn more, to challenge yourself. Great athletes partner with their weakness because by addressing it, they get that extra edge. If an athlete always does what they are good at and what is comfortable, they never make themselves uncomforatble or frustrated enough to learn.

They also talked about sacrifice. How if you really want what you are chasing after you will go after it with tunnel vision. You will give up things that others are not willing to do. In the case of the college wrestler, they talked about how while other athletes are playing video games on a Friday night, the champion will be reviewing films with their coach on how to wrestle better. Part of sacrifice, they said, is also learning how to rest. Most athletes, in any sport, have no idea how much rest you truly need. We are great workers – and most burn out too quickly because of their obsessive drive to work themselves into the ground. The best athletes understand there is a balance between work and rest. They realize that what seems like enough rest is usually not enough. It takes a great deal of rest to reach your greatness.

I’ve spent the past few years working with many different types of athletes. Whether beginner or advanced, there are commonalties to greatness. Commonalities that transcend specific sport. These coaches were talking about wrestling but it was as relevant to me as multisport. Successful athletes possess key qualities. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this because the more I coach, the more I realize it is less about the details, the numbers and the physiology. You don’t need WKO+ to identify a great athlete. It is immeasurable – it is an athlete who trusts, who sacrifices and who believes – in themselves and the training plan. Whether they run a 6:00 mile or a 9:00 mile, the successful athlete is less about speed and more about confidence, grit and character. They care about what they do, they believe in who they are, they trust the plan. That is the athlete who will win and who will feel athletically fulfilled.

What is fulfillment? One of them explained how it is putting your talents to work with confidence. To succeed your talent doesn’t necessarily need to be speed or high V02 max. It might be perseverance, endurance, positive attitude, tenacity, resilience. Your ability to maximize this talent determines your success. How many athletes are longing for what they can’t do rather than just capitalizing on what they can do? I thought about this in regards to my own past performances; I never felt I was more physically equipped than anyone else. I just wanted it more, and was willing to do whatever it would take.

The men concluded shortly before 10 am. I was sad to see them go. Of all the nonsense chit chat and small talk you hear throughout the day, this small talk left an indelible impression o me. Because it confirms what I have sensed all along: that all athletes are willing to work. Work alone does not set us apart. It is the attitude and mindset that accompanies that work that will count more than power to weight ratio, mile splits, more than experience in sport. One of the men said it best: attitude is everything. If you’re going to work harder at something, work harder at improving your attitude and building that firewall called confidence. Only then will you see rewards.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blue Skies

WARNING: Pregnancy pornography ahead.

Here I am at 16 weeks. It’s important to note that this was taken in the morning. Had it been taken 8 hours later I would have looked 8 months pregnant. To call it bloating would insult the word bloating. But it at least gives me a good idea of where my pregnancy look is going. I am also wearing my former fat jeans here. The good news is that they fit like a glove now. The bad news is that on my feeling fat days, I have only a wardrobe of pajama pants to choose from.

I had my 16 week check up on Monday. Every time I go it’s a different doctor so I get familiar with all the doctors in the practice should my actual doctor not be available for the birth. Honestly it doesn’t matter to me who delivers the baby. As long as they have access to very powerful drugs and general knowledge of the location of my vagina, any doctor will do.

The first thing that the doctor did was hand me a screening survey for depression filled with questions about anxiety and feelings of sadness. My score for the test was zero. In other words, I have no sadness or worries. When the doctor reviewed my test she said wow, you are pretty relaxed. Not really but I am not worried. There is a difference. The way I see it, all kinds of idiots have babies in the world. I know I can do it - and do it better than them. Not only that but remember, I am of advanced maternal age. I am too old to be scared or depressed about this.

I did the token pee in a cup, they took my blood pressure then my weight. To quote the nurse, you’ve gained a few pounds. Thank you because my what feels like mammoth breasts and bloated stomach are not a daily reminder of that. But she is right. I have gained about 4 pounds since the last check up. That would be a rate of 1 pound per week which is common (and suggested) in the second trimester. Still, it freaks me out to keep stepping on the scale and see it going up with no effort on my part. It’s not like I sit around eating chocolate for breakfast and ice cream for lunch. All in all, I have gained nearly 10 pounds. I have never weighed this much in my life. Actually, 5 pounds ago I had never weighed that much in my life. By the end of this, I will have put on nearly an additional 25 percent of my starting body weight.


The doctor must have gone through a generic Must Tell At 16 Weeks list with me. She ran through a list of symptoms, each of which I declined. No, really, I feel pretty normal. In fact, sometimes I have a hard time believing there is a baby in there. Until she whipped out the Doppler again and a few inches below my belly button picked up a speedy whooshwhooshwhoosh of something unmistakenly alive.

Sounds like a happy baby, she said.

Sounds like at least zone 3 if you ask me!

Eventually, she got to talking about classes – there is a class for everything; breastfeeding, multiples, high risk, postpartum depression, Cesarean birth, infant massage, baby sign language, even grandparenting. There are also at least a dozen exercise classes.

So, I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you about prenatal aerobics?

Please don’t.

Next, the doctor told me about the childbirth class. Since this is our first child, she told us to definitely attend a class. Plus, she noted that women who attend tend to be less anxious during labor. In her words, they don’t get freaked out by an IV. In that case, I am well ahead of the game - I've done Ironman. I've never needed but have seen IVs. I know what they do. There are so many choices for classes; 5 weeks for 2.5 hours, 3 weeks for 3 hours, 3 Sundays for 3.5 hours. And then…..the Preparation Marathon.

MARATHON! That's the key word! Sign me up for that. Yes, a marathon of 8.5 hours of baby googoogaga and all other scary things that come out of your vagina during childbirth. I WANT TO DO THE MARATHON!

When I told Chris about this class, he grumbled, moaned but did not get out of it. Honestly, this is more for him than me. I know what comes out, I know it won’t be pretty and things might tear/strain/hurt/bleed/ooze, etc but I am not sure he does or to what extent. There are things he needs to know. This class will be an eye opener to him.

Or, completely turn him off from sexual contact for the rest of our lives.

When I got home from the doctor, I had to register to give birth at the hospital. I am pretty sure I just signed a permission slip to open my legs wide in front of the world. Not only that but the baby can barely fit in the palm of my hand right now and I already need to know its pediatrician. Really? Even with this pre-registration the doctor told me to still expect 6 pages of paperwork when I arrive at the hospital. Excellent – I will totally be in the mood to fill out forms in triplicate while in labor. Sorry, kid, you got to wait. I’m only on page 3. I need more time.

I’ve started to read about giving birth. Of course everyone has advice. The best came from my college roommate, Ellen.

Take the drugs, you totally won’t regret it.

I thought for a moment about not taking the drugs because I want to feel the pain. I want something to put on my pain scale, ie, this rates somewhere between the Ironman marathon and scaling a wall with my tongue. In all seriousness, I know this will hurt. There is no need to tell me – I’ve heard it and I made an educated guess a long time ago that it will really, really, REALLY hurt. Point taken. I envision it to be something like running along at mile 22 of the Ironman marathon while my dentist performs dental work on my teeth and my husband chases my ass with a progesterone shot. On second thought, I want the drugs.

This week I went shopping for some new clothes. I still fit into most of the old ones but I am anticipating the waist will tighten to discomfort any day now. I refuse to shop at a maternity store because I figure there is a 100% mark up on something just because it has an elastic band. Instead, I hit the sale racks at some of my favorite I-know-I-am-too-ol-to-shop-here-but-you-try-finding-something-that-fits-when-you-are-5’2” stores; American Eagle, Gap, Old Navy. Sometimes I even shop at Aeropostale. I also like to read People magazine and have Flo Rida on my iPod. If that makes me a moron and you a genius, I’s Doesn’t Care.

Back to the doctor’s visit, this time they did not do an ultrasound. Instead, it was scheduled in another 4 weeks. But, I lucked out because I had another appointment set with the perinatologist on Wednesday. They wanted a follow up just to be sure the baby was not experiencing any ill-effects from Kell antibodies. There would be an ultrasound. I waited like a child for Christmas for over 5 weeks for this ultrasound. Because I knew if the baby cooperated and the technician was willing, they could tell me the gender.

And yes, we want to know.

I got home from teaching on Tuesday night and thought to myself – tomorrow morning I get to meet my son or daughter for the first time. Sure, I have seen them but until this time it was just an “it”. Baby. Knowing the gender make everything feel more real, to me. Names can be chosen. A nursery can be painted. Your dreams become that much more tangible. When my sister-in-law was pregnant, one of the most endearing things was that she and the father called the baby not only by its name but by its future nickname. They hadn’t even met this little person yet already they seemed to be connected, “when Aubbie gets here….” By the time she arrived, I felt like we already knew her. They had been talking about her for months!

Wednesday morning, I went to the perinatologist. I was giddy. THIS IS IT! Let me tell you the best thing about the second trimester – no more transvaginal ultrasound! The technician got to work on moving the wand over my belly. And….wow!

Compared to 5 weeks ago, there is definitely what looks like a little person in there! The baby was face down my uterus but the profile was amazing – there is the spine, the legs, the umbilical cord, the head. And, before I knew it, little hands moving all over the place. The mouth was moving, probably talking to itself just like Chris does sometimes when I catch him reciting his favorite movie lines outloud to himself for a laugh. And, the heart was beating at 149 bpm. She scanned the legs and from the looks of it, those legs look ready to put out 5 watts/kg. Give or take.

Then, she pointed to something small. Really small.

Looks like you are having a boy.

I let out a little yell and then said I KNEW IT! Really, I did. And, wouldn’t you know the Chinese Gender Prediction Chart and Aunt Linda were right, too!

All of a sudden, everything became more real. Those are his legs. His little hands. That is Chris’ son moving around in there. He did a complete flip in my uterus (early flip turn training for sure) and was now laying face up, hands still moving wildly and still talking to himself. She took a picture of his face and my first comment was – that is freaky but looking closer it is a little face, that is my son's little face!

He weighs 5 ounces right now.

Wait a minute…doing the math if he weighs 5 ounces how the hell have I gained 10 pounds? And, if the baby has 7+ more pounds to go what the hell does that mean for me!?

The technician left the room and I waited for the doctor. Immediately I sent Chris a text:

It’s a boy!


He is moving around like crazy.

He is going to be a wild one.

He has your chin. But he has a really small penis.

That is from your side of the family.

The doctor eventually came in and said that everything looked good. Confirmed it was a boy. And then I left.

Walking out, things felt different. More specific, more real. I know who is in me now. I can talk specifically to them. I can call them by name. I thought ahead – perhaps parents do this where your mind starts spinning years from now, what you’ll do, your dreams, their reality. I thought about how exciting it must be for Chris to know there is a little man that will look up to him in a different way than a girl would. A little pal – well, at least until he is 12 and too cool (though I am sure nowadays, 8 is the new 12).

But what I was really thinking about was Ragbrai 2028. When this boy will be pulling an entire team of boys and their getting-too-old-to-be-drinking-and-riding-their-bikes-fathers – with the same turbo-charged V8 engine power that his father has. And the coach in me started thinking of a training plan. As soon as this kid is old enough to mount a tricycle, we are doing big gear repeats, with sand-filled tin cans attached to the back so he gets the feeling of pulling dead weight.

Game on, Ragbrai friends, game on.

And now, the real work can begin – preparing not just for baby but for baby boy. Blue or green walls? Monkeys, frogs or trucks? Cars. Roughhousing. My daddy's recovery wattage is your daddy's FTP onesie. The fun begins...but...oh crap. I just realized that come July my house will be 75 percent smelly boy. And there is a very good chance I am going to get a lot of urine sprayed in my face.

Must buy for changing bed: ski goggles.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Mini Monster (+10)

Frequently in pregnancy, you are told what you can’t do. You can’t drink wine, you can’t eat sushi, you can’t sit a hot tub, you can’t sleep on your back, you can’t eat unpasteurized cheese, you can’t take ibuprofen, you can’t travel after 34 weeks. There are so many things you can’t do that sometimes you think you might as well just lay on your couch for 40 weeks doing nothing at all.

And if you are an athlete, you can’t really pursue any athletic goals. Sure, you can be athletic but like someone said to me today, “you get to spend a year going easy!” Yes! I do! Which is relaxing and feels good but…but…sometimes I miss having a goal. Something to strive towards. That little thing in the back of your head that motivates you to get up and get things done. I get things done, lots of things but where are they going?

Enter the annual monster swim. When I thought about it a few weeks ago, it sounded ridiculous. What is the point of showing up if I wasn’t going to do all 100 x 100 on the 100 (that is, 100 yards, 100 times, sending yourself off every 1 minute and 40 seconds)? All or nothing. But I also used to never see the point of running “only” 4 miles or riding my bike for just 30 minutes. In pregnancy, your perspective changes. It’s almost like injury – you become grateful for the little things that you used to take for granted because they came so easily. There is value in everything now – no matter how little or how slow.

As the swim got closer, I started getting the itch. Thought to myself - what if. Then - why not? I started swimming more. And realized there was definitely value in doing the monster swim. In fact, it became my new goal.

A goal! Finally! I decided that 50 x 100 would be a safe distance. If you do the math, you will see that swimming 50 x 100 for 2 people is the same as swimming all 100. Really. Not only is this finally a goal but also something I have never done before – I have never swam 5000+ yards pregnant. This will be a first! I still remember the first year I did the event, I did the 75s but only 75 of them. That seemed so far to swim. At the end, I remember thinking – I cannot believe I just swam over 5000 yards! The next year I did all of the 100s. Last year, I did all 100 but did them much faster. At the end, I said to myself – next year I will do the last 10 as IM. Scratch that, I think I topped it when I decided I would do half of the event, pregnant.

What wakes the Midwest out of the ass crack of winter? An early Saturday morning monster swim. There were over 70 people who signed up this year. The coach assigns everyone to a lane. I did not know any of the people in my lane. But I quickly realized that leading the lane was voted between another woman and myself. Let me make this clear: this was not lane I was looking for. I was hoping to slip into the back of a speedy lane, disappear in the wake and get pulled along fairly effortlessly by a draft.

Not today.

I ended up swimming second position. The woman leading took off a bit fast which worried me but eventually the pace settled. After the first one, I remembered how long the monster swim really is….only 99 (actually 49) more to go! I told myself to just focus on the next 10. Then the next 10. And then after the next 10 I would pull. I should have waited another 10 to start pulling because after that my arms were heavy. But the good news is that after that I only had 10 more to go.

The 5000 yard mark arrived too quickly. I was feeling ok. I was holding a pace that was less than 5 seconds per 100 off the pace I held last year. Considering I have one steady speed right now, I was pleased. I started to think about swimming more. It was only 90 minutes of swimming...I was not ready to stop yet…


After 50, we got a 3-minute break. We were switching into a deeper lane when I walked by Chris.

I saw you get out of the pool around the 4000 mark to use the bathroom, I said, you’re going to have to make that 100 up.


Chris was clearly not in a happy swimmy place. When we walked in this morning, we noticed that he was assigned to the fastest lane. Fast as in the lane that would be holding under a 1:00 pace for all 100. We both know he has no business swimming there. But how exciting that he got the chance to try! How painful, too. After the first 5000 yards, he emerged from the pool grumbling (and stumbling) before the coach switched him into a safer lane.

Break over, I told myself I would give it another 1000 yards. Surely I can do 60 x 100. The coach suggested I switch into a less crowded lane. Perfect! I just want to hang out in the back and backstroke or kick along. But when I switched, I realized I was now in the half disbanded 100s in under 1:00 lane. I absolutely have no business being here. But in the back I can survive doing my own thing. However, I soon realized that two of the guys were starting on my side, while another guy was starting at the other end of the lane. Instead of swimming an easy 1000 yards, I was swimming like scared to not get caught by the guy coming at me with Phelpsian speed from the other end. At the 6000 yard mark, I was finally fatigued so I called it a mini monster (+10) swim day.

While I was pleased that I did 60, I won’t lie, part of me was sad that I could not go the entire way. Because I know what it feels like. The fatigue that you push through once you hit 90, knowing there are only 10 more to go but also knowing that 10 more is a really long way. The feeling in your arms when you are done, a combination of adrenaline, fatigue and what have you done to me. That feeling is the rush, the gratification that athletes chase after in each workout and race.

I quickly got over it and became satisfied – for today. For the here and now. Of course as I was drying my hair, I thought about next year. How do you top doing this pregnant? Do I swim with my husband on my back? Do I hold under x:xx the entire time? Do I swim the last 10 as IM? It took me a few minutes, but then I realized I will do it for the first time as a “mom”. And that is exciting.

I watched the team finish up the remaining yards. Around 87 I could see the fatigue setting into their strokes. At 99, there were some cheers. And at 100, many cheers before the pool became empty and silent.

Afterwards, everyone was milling about, eating food, getting dried off, chatting, when of the speedier guys on the team stopped to talk to me:

So, did you do the 50s today?

Enter a long pause of he did NOT just ask me that.

Because last year I would occasionally swim with this guy – and not get lapped. Because sometimes I put on fins and still swim with him this year. It’s not like I show up at masters with a foam noodle and breaststroke the entire way. COME ON! For crying out loud, I am pregnant, NOT DEAD!

I looked at him, gave him that oh no you didn’t look, and said I did 100s. 60 of them. And then, I walked away.

Some people are intent on telling you or assuming what you cannot do when pregnant. Few conditions in life seem to give people unlicensed permission to say things to you in this regard that should otherwise be left unsaid. Ignore them and instead look around for inspiration. It is there. Today in the lane next to me, a woman over 7 months pregnant did 30 x 100 on the 1:40. I was talking to the aquatics director and he told me that his wife gave birth and 10 days later was right back into her running routine. Less than a year later, she qualified for Boston. Whereas the rest of the world seems set on telling you what you can’t do, or making you long for what you could once do like you will never get there again, women keep reminding me that you become who you want to be during and after having a child. Whether it is despondent about who you were or actively working at becoming better, you create your own successes and failures.

Walking out, I heard a woman telling the coach that next year she would do the 50s, all of them with no fins. Hearing that made me smile – because I got it. THAT is what this is all about. It is about setting a goal and doing it. Whether the person was swimming 50s, 75s or 100s on the 1:40, there are so many ways you can mix it up and challenge yourself. That is what I love about the monster swim event.

Swimming today reminded me of what I love about sport – setting a goal and being motivated by the process of getting there. I miss that sense of achievement. These past few weeks my swim yardage has been up to some of my biggest weeks in the past few years. It felt meaningful, more than just doing it all to stay fit or feel good. Yes, I love that about sport and I get it. But I enjoy reaching for a little more. Enter: goals. And now that I accomplished my goal – actually, did 10 better, what next?

You guessed it: I need a new goal.

Leave it to Jen H. to have an idea: What about doing a theme that coordinates with the week of pregnancy you are in?

Hmm, I see what you are saying….I could swim 20,000 yards total during my 20th week. I could do 24 x 50 IM during the 24th week, I could do 30 push ups on the stability ball in week 30…


I realized today – a pregnant athlete can still have goals – beyond making a healthy baby, beyond taking care of herself, beyond preparing herself to be a good mother. She can still set and achieve meaningful sports-related goals and let me tell you – that thought, and that feeling go a very long way. My year going easy can be more than that. And all I have to say about that is a happy and chlorinated…YAY!

One goal down, about 23 more to go. Next week, I get to do 17 of something. I am still thinking about what that something will be. But when I figure it out, I’m on it.

At least until next Sunday.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Honeymoon Phase

I am happily situated in the second trimester.

Everything you read about the second trimester being the honeymoon phase is true. Totally true. It is like after week 13 you walk through some magical door that delivers you to pregnancy bliss. So blissful you cannot even feel that you are pregnant any more – no nausea, no indigestion, no bathroom breaks all night long, no more fatigue. You feel…dare I say…normal?

Of course all you need to do is look down at your ever-expanding belly to realize that you are, indeed, pregnant. That feeling normal is just a 13 week phase. The discomfort will return soon enough. But it is like someone gave you a break in the middle just to keep your faith alive. To lure you into thinking I could do this again one day. To butter you up just enough before you are whale-sized in the middle of the Midwesterner summer with ass sweat soaking through your elastic band pants and a belly sticking out that makes you look like a snake who swallowed a large animal.

Not that I have nightmares about that very scenario.

Believe it. Believe it all. I didn’t think I would ever feel normal again, and here it is. ME. No more leaving tea pots of boiling water on the stove until the water completely boils away! No more mistakenly pouring kibble into my bowl in the morning instead of oatmeal. No more fog in my brain. It is clear! I have a brain after all!

Though after going upstairs to blowdry my hair, I did forget if I fed Boss his dinner kibble. So far forgotten that I had to sniff to see if I could smell kibble on his breath, undecided, so I brought Boss to Chris who was riding his bike and said I need you to smell Boss’ breath. All Chris came up with was “smells like dog” so I gave Boss another ¼ cup of kibble and when he immediately went to the couch eating it I declared him overfed. Which is better than burning the house down.

Here are a few other delights of the second trimester:

1 – I can walk up the stairs without being winded.

2 – It no longer feels like I am running at altitude.

3 – I can tolerate the taste of peanut butter again.

4 – I smelled coffee the other day in the store and I had to turn my head to see where it was coming from; there is still hope, my friends, I will return from the decaffeinated dead when this is all done.

5 – I still fit into my jeans.

That’s right, while all of you might be swimming 4000 yards on the 1:15 interval, biking up mountains backwards (single-legged drills all the way!), running 8 miles at a 6:00 pace then doing a little hot yoga followed by weights, I still fit into my jeans at 16 weeks pregnant.

I win today. And every other day that I still fit into them.

Most noticeably my energy has returned to normal. I have the energy to work out a little longer but of course it is all still easy. Except sometimes in the pool. Sometimes in the pool I like to pick up the pace for a 50. But I will say that my picking up the pace right now has an upper limit that my body will not let me go beyond. My picking up the pace for a 50 right now is still over 5 seconds slower than my usual “hard” 50 pace. The body is smart. I believe it won’t let you do anything stupid in pregnancy unless you try to override it. I have not attempted the system override because it is not worth it. This is a life I am creating here. Not a personal swim best.

I've been swimming more because I am preparing for the Mini Monster Swim. If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know that every year in February my masters swim team do a monster swim of 100 x 100 on the 100. I LOVE THIS SWIM! When I signed up this year, the coach said I will put you in for the 75s! Wait...what? I am might be pregnant but that doesn’t mean I am going to swim 75s on the 1:40 interval. Maybe if I do them all backstroke or single-arm. I will make the interval for 100s with plenty of time to spare. And to drink. And to eat Rice Krispie Treats (the best fuel for this swim). I will only do 5,000* yards because 10,000 yards would be too much stress on the body and baby.

*And I have permission to use fins or paddles at my discretion. If anyone calls me out for doing this, I will pee in the pool. Do not provoke the pregnant lady. You have been warned.

Lately I have also felt a strange calm. Maybe it is all the relaxin and progesterone pumping through my body but mostly I feel totally relaxed. Right now there is nothing to worry about. I mean, it’s too early to decorate a nursery or buy the one-million-and-one things I will need for baby, or register at the hospital or fill out the release to get my maybe-future-son circumcised (seriously, the doctor gave me a giant folder and that was one of the forms, like a field trip permission slip for your kid except this one involves the penis). There is nothing right now that I can do so I am relaxing and worrying about nothing at all!

The only thing that is not going well right now is sleep. Every night I wake up around 3:30 to, of course, pee but then I cannot stay asleep. I wake up about a dozen times, tossing and turning. Sometimes I wake up to find myself on my back, get all freaked out because you are technically not supposed to sleep on your back, so then I have to toss and turn again. I read that your metabolism rises in pregnancy so you are more restless plus all of the disruptions (discomfort, need to pee) make you get less deeper sleep. I feel like I sleep maybe 5 hours and then just go through the motions for the rest of the time. I know in a few months, 5 hours of continuous sleep will feel like eternity.

So I am not complaining.

Chris seems to be getting more maternal every day. You learn a lot about your spouse when you are pregnant. You see their true character. Chris has already nested in the house by installing new tile floor, painting the entire living room (including our 20 foot walls), weatherstripping the doors, announcing that we need to get rid of some bikes (shocking) and buying a new car. Yes, a few months ago I declared the Ghetto Honda unfit for baby occupancy. Over 12 years old, it smells like armpit, you could get a coffee buzz from licking the seat cushions, it is rusted, dented and – it’s biggest fault – stick shift. A new car is long overdue – and will thankfully arrive before I am due!

The other interesting thing about the second trimester is that you can finally feel your uterus rising. Before pregnancy I didn’t even know what or where my uterus was (do I have two?). Now I can feel it rising like a ridge underneath the belly button. By the end of pregnancy it will be right below the chest. Crazy how something so small can expand that large. But then again I might be pushing a 10 pound baby out of my….ouch. Chris was 10 pounds when he was born, his mother is 4’11” and dammit if she can do it, well if I need to…I will do it too.

But I am hoping that since I was 6 pounds at birth, you add 10 + 6, divide by 2 and get a healthy 6 pound baby.

I never said I was good at math.

Speaking of big things, I have to thank Angela Kidd for giving me a big bag of help-me-I-am-too-pregnant-for-my-real-clothes clothes. When she handed it over, she warned me not to look at the size of the shirts or else I would get scared about how big I could get. That night of course I looked at the shirts.

And I got scared.

But I’m not obsessing about it - yet. That is what the third trimester is for. And I’ve definitely got some more honeymooning to do before then.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Things People Say

The other night I had a dream that I had a baby boy. And a two-year old girl.

Analyze that one.

Everyone keeps asking me what I am having. I can confirm that it is human. Beyond that, I do not yet know. I have a doctor’s appointment in one more week. There might be an ultrasound involved. There might not. They just don’t tell you. Not only do they make you wait 4 weeks between appointments (isn’t there something you need to tell me? Don’t you want to keep an eye on me? Aren’t there things I shouldn’t be doing right now that you need to remind me about?), but they don’t tell you what is coming up at the next one.

It was Saturday evening that I was at Aubrey’s first birthday. As far as first year birthday’s go, it was off the hook. Halfway through it, she stripped half her clothes and donned a poofy pink party hat. Yes, there was the token cake all over the face photo. There was also a lot of asking about what am I having. Really, I don’t know. But that didn’t mean people didn’t want to take a guess.

My gut instinct says it’s a boy. There are plenty of old wives tales for me to refer to but I am going with the gut which suspects boy. Oddly enough, Chris’ aunt whom I never see also thinks it is going to be a boy. Going through the buffet line, I learned why:

She is having a boy because she is getting prettier.

Wow. To think that if it had gone the other way, it would have gone really, really bad.

This is not really about gender, though. It’s about the things that people say to you when you’re pregnant (first example, above). There must be a scarlet P on my head because it seems like everyone has something to say about me being pregnant and uses it as permission to say and do things you don’t normally do. Do you know how many people touched my stomach at Aubrey’s party? But it’s my stomach. It’s not technically a private part but imagine if you went up to one of your relatives and just touched their stomach.

Kind of, sort of…awkward?

Tummy touched, told I was – THANKFULLY – getting prettier – and then came the comments surrounding food. Now, I don’t know if it is because I am getting bigger that I am sensitive about food comments because they are usually so closely tied to body image OR if I have become a complete chow box deserving of the comments. Though I will say I avoided sweets all week so I could have a damn piece of ice cream birthday cake. And I did. It was a big piece. It was filled with cake batter ice cream and I loved every bite of it. I was carrying the plate of it to the family room when someone said to me:

Every time I see you, you are eating something sweet.

Ok, that – for the record – was a lie because it was the FIRST sweet thing I had eaten all night. But it got under my hopefully not to stretch marky skin. And honestly I wanted to throw the cake away because I thought – maybe they are right. Maybe I should put the cake down because the only place that cake is going is straight to my rear end which is getting fluffier WITHOUT my help.

It gets better. I was at masters on Sunday. While the rest of the team dove off the blocks, I was put into the lane of those pushing off the wall. Nothing more needs to be said about that. While waiting for my heat to go off, here’s what someone said to me:

This is kind of a risky question, but, are you by any chance pregnant? Because you are usually so small.

What if I had said no. What if it was a really bad winter and I just ate myself into happiness. Of course, I said yes and if the masters team mascot was a whale I would step up and represent because that is how I am starting to feel in a swimsuit (and as a side note, I need to get a new swimsuit before I start showing ass crack because the damn thing is getting TOO SMALL!). But it got me to thinking – I am only 4 months into this. If people are saying things like that now, where will they go? What is next?

If you keep running, that baby will fall right out of you.

No, they haven’t said that yet, but I was already warned that it is coming.

Someone else on the team made a public display of my chest. YES it is getting bigger. But objects are not bigger than they appear. It’s all an illusion! That is what happens when you go from nothing to something! Anyhow, the person told my fellow swimmers that to know that I am truly pregnant they need not look at my stomach (and I missing something here, it is sticking out right now like I just ate 10 bowls of pasta) but they DO need to look at my chest. LOOK AT THE CHEST they shouted! For god’s sake, please don’t! This is swim practice, not the Playboy Mansion!

I take all of this – touching and commentary, with mixed feelings. It depends on my mood and how hormonal I am. Some days the slightest thing sets me off. Other days I am crying at commercials. Maybe I am a little sensitive right now. All right, I know I am. I got teary-eyed while watching the end of Miss America. AND WHY WAS I WATCHING IT IN THE FIRST PLACE! But it just seems like people let their guards down – way down – with pregnant women. Things you wouldn’t say, shouldn’t say seem to easily come rolling out of their mouth.

Case in point:

How do you think you will manage your business and motherhood.

Depending on the level of hormones pumping through your body, a question like this might explode you into gender-inequity laced fury or straight into tears of perhaps I am doomed for failure. But you realize that a question like this has nothing to do with you but everything to do with the person who asked the question. It only reflects their insecurity, their discomfort with multitasking, with managing more than one role, with keeping balanced in a chaos. And so you realize when pregnant that a lot of what people say to you or ask you is only what they fear themselves – about themselves of for themselves.

Of all the things on sale at BuyBuyBaby, the one thing I didn’t see were…pregnancy ear muffs.

I would definitely like a pair.

Forget all of those other comments and questions, here is my favorite:

How much weight have you gained?

Is there any right answer to this one? Because no matter what you say, it is too much. You can see their heads doing the math after you tell them – and the result is oh, you are screwed. You might as well call yourself Captain Liz because your body is going to be a barge any day now. And then we’re going to need one of those cranes to get you out of bed.

Speaking of things people say and ask, I ask myself a lot of questions. Like how many times can I pee during a 60 minute workout (answer: every 15 minutes – note that tempting fate by seeing if you can make it 20 is a good way to pee yourself while running like mad to the bathroom). How much longer will I fit into my regular jeans (I know that any day now I will be in a wardrobe that consists entirely of elastic pants). How much will my baby weigh (I draw the line at giving birth to anything that weighs more than my dog). How many times can you wake up during the night and still call it sleep. When will I feel the baby move?

I’m pretty sure I’ve felt fluttering or maybe that was just gas. It’s hard to say.

I walked into masters the other day and my usual swimming friend A.N. was there. She was asking me how far along I was and then said: Elizabeth, you look great. It's funny, becuase of all the things people say to you when pregnant, few make you feel good or confident about yourself. At best, they make you feel awkward and ridiculous. But like any other time in life, a simple compliment goes a long way.

As for everything else, it is just part of the pregnancy experience. The comments, the looks, the touching. Oh yes, I am now learning first hand. There is no right answer to any of the questions you are asked. Even if there was, it would change day to day. That is the nature of pregnancy. It is unpredictable just like the things people say.