Saturday, February 17, 2018

Anthony Colin, a birth story

I can't believe it's been seven weeks. All this time has passed since "the baby" was born. I go back to work on Monday so it's about time I finish this and post it!

I really thought I'd have time to write this post way sooner, what with all the time off I have on my hands...somehow my early mornings (when I prefer to write) have all been taken up by new things like pumping and feedings and trying to squeeze workouts in :P

It turns out, babies take up a lot of time, especially when you're breastfeeding (that's another story there). Even if you're not they're very time consuming with their eating and pooping and sleeping...and I've washed and folded quite a bit of laundry too!

And then there's all the staring you do. I've spent more time holding and staring at my baby in the last month than I've spent doing anything else.

Now though...well it's a good thing I made notes about everything 3 days after delivery, because it's time to buckle down with my laptop and write out the whole story of how he got here. The "Birth Story", if you will. And maybe I'll even include some pictures (of the baby, not L&D lol).

Fair warning: In addition to being super long, I talk about birth in this post. As in, I'll mention certain anatomical parts I possess and the process of forcing a baby out through them. I'm going to be honest about what it was like, and there will probably be a few moments where you think, "Uhh gross, TMI." But that's life for you.


So let's get started.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Anthony Colin: A Birth Story ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I'll divide this up by days, just to provide some eye relief while reading, starting with my OB checkup on Boxing Day. Here goes!

~*~*~*December 26th and 27th (Tuesday-Wednesday)*~*~*~
Thing #1: I was induced.

I really wanted to go into labor naturally, but for financial reasons we also really wanted the baby born in 2017. No, it was not about a tax deduction. It was purely for insurance reasons (and avoiding paying $8,000 out of pocket on January 1st). So on December 26th (Tuesday) when I had my weekly checkup and there were no signs of baby coming, my doctor and I discussed induction and Anthony and I decided to go for it.

We scheduled the induction for that Thursday at 7:00pm...and then went home to wait. And still go to work for two days.

It was very weird. It was weird going to work for two days knowing we'd probably have our baby by the weekend. It was weird having people comment on my still being at work and all that...because we didn't tell anyone (except our moms). There was a chance that the first step of the induction wouldn't work, and we didn't want to rile people up if there was a chance baby wouldn't be coming anyways.

In those two days I did things that they tell you not to do (so as to conserve energy) like clean my house and stuff. Sorrynotsorry everyone who said not to - I did not want to come home to a messy/dirty house that needed to be cleaned! So I did it myself on Wednesday. House picked up, vacuumed, kitchen and bathroom cleaned and mopped, all the dishes done and laundry put away, etc.

Mission prepare house for baby homecoming: Complete!

~*~*~*December 28th (Thursday)*~*~*~
On Thursday when I got home from work I got everything sorted for my brother to spend the night and watch the dogs (who he'd then take back to my mom's house for the weekend), then I finished packing up our hospital bag, and took a shower - I didn't know if I'd be showering at the hospital so I wanted to have my chance at home. (Note for expectant mommas: I'm very glad I did this because I did not shower until we came home Sunday.)

We drove to the hospital in snowy, slick conditions that signaled the start of a snow storm, checked in, and got started!

Oh yeah, and we texted our managers to explain why we wouldn't be showing up for work on Friday.
Actual text to my manager. Every day starting around November he would ask if I'd had the baby yet, hence his comment :P

Steps of Induction
My induction involved three steps, as explained by my doctor:
  1. Insertion of Cervidil to soften the cervix and (hopefully) prompt labor/contractions
  2. Breaking the amniotic sac ("waters") to futher coax labor/contractions
  3. Pitocin (if necessary) for contractions
If Step 1 did not work (i.e. cervix didn't soften and contractions didn't start) then the whole process would stop and we'd be sent at 8pm my only hope was that the Cervidil would do it's thing.

Cervidil: At 8:00pm the overnight nurse inserted the Cervidil, which was basically like a tampon with some medication on the end of it and a string for removal. The insertion was only slightly uncomfortable - akin to a pap smear - because they need to get it as close to the cervix as possible. Once inserted I had to remain in bed for two hours for maximum efficacy, but after that I was able to get up and go to the bathroom as needed.

I was also told not to eat anything after midnight (*insert eyeroll here*) so I smashed a bunch of Bender-brand Chex Mix as my "final meal". (Aside: I know they tell you not to eat in case you need anesthesia in an emergency but come on. This makes the endurance athlete in me so angry. Labor takes a lot of physical effort, and that requires fuel. Not letting a woman eat anything during labor is cruel.)

Anyways - since the insertion was done at night I didn't really need to get up a whole lot. I wouldn't say I slept at night, but I dozed on and off and got enough rest. The Cervidil started contractions as well, but they were nothing - more like consistent, mild to strong period cramps. I was even able to sleep through them.

~*~*~*December 29th (Friday)*~*~*~
Progress: At 7:00am Dr Dan came to see me. The Cervidil had done it's job - it softened my cervix a bit (80% effaced), dilated me to 1cm (whoopee...), and started pretty consistent, albeit weak, contractions. This was enough to warrant breaking my waters - which meant no matter what our baby would be with us soon! Dr Dan's estimate was 2:00am.

Breaking Waters: Having my waters broken was super interesting and very uncomfortable. To do it, the doctor uses a tool that looks like a very long crochet hook. The doctor uses their fingers to feel the opening in the cervix and then guide the tool through, hook the bag of waters, and tug to break it. This was way more uncomfortable than a pap smear just because you get someone's hand allllll up in there pushing on the cervix which is not pleasant. The actual hook and tug wasn't too bad or painful at all - it felt like snagging a piece of clothing on something and then feeling it rip. Then there was a big gush that felt like I'd wet myself ('cause I kinda had).

After my waters were broken we knew the baby would come because they don't let you leave, due to the increased chance of infection. The hope was that breaking them would cause stronger contractions without the use of pitocin (and that I wouldn't need a C-section at some point)...we just had to wait and see.

Oh, at this point I also asked Dr Dan if I could have a granola bar because I was starving. He allowed it.

Early Labor: After having my waters broken I stayed in bed for a bit, and then started walking around the unit. My mom had come to the hospital to wait it out, so she and Anthony took turns walking with me. I walked for about 20 minutes out of every hour from about 7 to 9. Early on when I'd have a contraction I could walk through them, but they gradually got a bit stronger to the point that I had to stop walking and breathe through them.

At one point, while breathing through a contraction I had a "this is it" moment of slight panic. And then I thought, 'You can do this. You will do this. You already are doing this.'

The moment was significant for me...I never actually wrote about spectating the Chicago Marathon. But guess what my sign said?

So in that moment, my encouragement to other runners became my own mantra...You can. You will. You already are.

So there was walking and breathing through contractions, and when I got back to my room I would bounce on the birthing ball or the giant peanut (I'd never seen one of these until L&D).

Oh, I also stopped by the coffee area to steal some crackers and graham crackers. Seriously, I don't know why women in this country are deprived food during labor. Eventually during late-active labor/transition the thought of even drinking water made me want to throw up - but during those early stages I needed the calories. So I ate the prohibited food, and told Anthony, "Well if they have to put me under we can tell them I ate one and a half crackers at 9:47am."

Anyways, there I was, having contractions...the problem was that they weren't strong enough or occurring frequently enough (every 5-7 minutes instead of every 3-5). So around 9:30 Galya came and in said she'd spoken to the doctor, and it was time to start me on Pitocin.

Pitocin/Active Labor: After that, Galya started me on the pitocin drip. I don't know what this means, but she started it at a "2". Once the pitocin was going, it took away my freedom to walk around the unit because I had to be strapped to the monitors at all time. I neglected to mention it earlier, but once I was all set up the night before they strapped two monitors to me, a blood pressure cuff, and inserted an IV line ("just in case"). The monitors went around my waist, one to measure my contractions, and one to monitor the baby's heart rate. The IV line was now being used for the pitocin drip and fluids.

The monitors itched. And the one for the baby had ultrasound gel on it, which made things itch more. That is all.

Prior to pitocin I could whip the monitors off and go walk around - once it was started I could only take them off to scoot into the bathroom.

Sidenote: Also annoying was the fact that my IV line (which, PS, was sore and bruised immediately upon insertion into my hand) was positioned right where my wrist bends, so I kept setting off the alarm on the machine on accident. This is the second time in my life that's happened with an IV...I should really stop letting them put them in my hands.

The pitocin did it's job, although Galya did have to increase the drip after about an hour (to a "6") to get my contractions closer together. That got shit moving. By 1:00 pm my contractions got to the point that I couldn't do anything other than breathe through them when they started, which was every three minutes like clockwork.

They were strong too. The monitor would go from 35 to 100 within 30 seconds, and I was constantly moving around my room, but fatiguing quickly. Sitting in bed was the worst feeling, and I swear made the contractions harder to get through. So I would stand and lean over my bed or the counter and when I finally needed a break I got onto all fours in bed.

The only problem with this position was that it was preventing the baby from dropping - the last thing we needed to happen.

Since I really needed a "break" and the ability to sit down (without the massive pain of contracting in bed), Gayla got a chair that the birthing ball could be put in so I could sit on that. That helped a good bit, but my contractions were still strong, still frequent, and still draining me.

The easiest way to explain how I felt? I wanted a nap.

Through all of this, Anthony would stand behind me and rub my back and coach me through each one, but I could tell he and my mom saw that my energy was waning...

Transition: Sometime during all of this I moved from active labor to transition. For those who aren't aware/haven't experienced it, "transition" is the part of labor you're probably most familiar with from movies and TV (aside from pushing). It's the part where the woman appears to be in a lot of pain from contractions but isn't actually pushing yet.

I can't tell you if the pitocin made my contractions "worse" (ie stronger) than they would have been if I had been able to labor naturally. I've had women with multiple children tell me that's how it was for them, but I don't know if it's actually true.

What I can tell you is the contractions hurt (duh), and they were energy-sucking. There's a reason every woman you see in pictures right after labor look like they need 10 years of sleep.

At 3:00 pm I finally told Anthony I had to get off the birth ball and into bed because I needed to lay down. I climbed into bed, where the contractions immediately started to feel worse (because laying down sucks when you're in labor). Shortly after I laid down, I saw Galya come into my room...and then I started having another contraction. At this point I was literally laying in bed writhing in pain.

Seeing this, Galya pulled my mom and Anthony aside and told them that the anesthesiologist on duty was about to leave - he would be on call but 30 minutes away. That meant it was my last chance to decide if I wanted an epidural - something I had been avoiding for multiple reasons.

But in that moment I knew what I needed most was to be able to rest. The pitocin had made my contractions so strong, so quickly, that I was starting to worry I wouldn't be able to push through a contraction when the time came.

I tearfully asked Anthony if it was "okay" if I got one - to which he laughed. Of course it was okay. So that decided that. Galya immediately started me on extra fluids which I needed before the epidural could be placed, and the anesthesiologist was called.

Epidural: My epidural was placed around 4:00pm, and getting it kind of sucked, though not because of the epidural itself. When you get an epidural a hollow needle is used to pierce the space between your spinal cord and the (aptly named) epidural space. A small catheter is then placed through the needle, taped to your back, and then medication is delivered through the catheter. You have to stay still during this process.

My mom and Anthony had to leave the room while I got the epidural. Galya stayed with me, held me to help me stay still, and coached me through each contraction I had while Dr Wuertz (the world's most amazing anesthesiologist) did his thing. Since they numb you up, aside from the injection for that I didn't feel anything but pressure when the hollow needle was inserted.

So what sucked about getting the epidural was...the contractions I had during the process. Being told to hold still while you're a) contracting and b) having a needle inserted into your spine is nerve wracking. The other problem I had was shaking violently because I was so cold. And I had to hold still. Galya and Dr Wuertz were very encouraging though, and said I was cold and shaking because my body was working hard.

Once the epidural was in place I had two more contractions that I could only feel on the left side of my pelvis, so Galya had me lay on my left and piled a few blankets on me to help me stop shivering (she also gave me a catheter since I wasn't allowed to get up any more). Within minutes I couldn't feel anything in my pelvis - but the monitor showed I was still contracting as I had been! I could also still feel and move my legs, which was a relief.

The best news - when she checked me at 4:30 I was almost 9cm dilated. That explained why it hurt so much.

Pushing: The next few hours of labor were uneventful for me pain-wise - I was still contracting but each contraction was much much less intense. By 7:00 pm I was feeling some major pressure in my pelvis because the baby had finally dropped!

I now understand the feeling of "needing to push". To be completely open and honest here, it feels like you need to pee super badly and take the most massive poo of your life, at the same time.

7:00 was also a significant time because it's when the nurse shift changed - the L&D nurse who finished out the night with me and coached me through delivery was named Lauren. I love her and she was amazing!

At one point when she came in to check on me I told her I felt like I needed to push. She checked my cervix and said I was 9.75cm dilated. Almost there, but a "lip" of my cervix was still in the way. She wanted me to try holding out until about 8:00 to see if I would continue dilating to get that lip to go away. She also said that my baby was still some time away because, on average, first time moms push for about three hours.


By now, I was feeling my contractions again, along with ALL THE PRESSURE  pushing down on my pelvis. No one had told me about the button to deliver extra medication to my epidural...not that I would have used it :P

At 8:00pm I really felt like I had to push, but when Lauren checked that lip was still there. She asked if I could hold out another 15 minutes or so and I agreed. And then she walked out of the room and I had another contraction and decided I didn't agree anymore. I told Anthony I needed to push, and thought of all the posts I read on Reddit where women said, 'You know your body best, if you think it's that time it's probably that time!'

It was time to push the call button.

Lauren came back and in and said we could try pushing. The first contraction came and Lauren and Anthony held my legs while I pushed three times, with Lauren's coaching. She was great - she gave very clear instructions for how to push and I absorbed and did everything she said to the best of my ability.

I could tell Lauren had tried to help move that lip of my cervix while I was pushing, and once the contraction was over she went and got another nurse to come help. While I pushed through my second contraction that nurse was able to push the lip up enough that the baby's head could come down into the birth canal.

At this point I had pushed through two contractions and decided there was no way I would do all that for three hours. I made up my mind to do every single thing Lauren told me to do and get my baby out as quickly as possible. This decision was doubled in my mind when Lauren put an oxygen mask on me because the baby's heart rate had dropped. I wanted him out and in my arms as soon as possible!

Sidenote: The reason it takes new moms an average of three hours pushing to get their baby out is because most new moms don't know how to push. I'm by no means an expert, but it should feel like you're bearing down and pooping - those are the muscles you use. Pelvic floor and abdominals. It's really easy, instead, to push with your legs like you're doing a leg press or a squat. I did this a few times without even realizing it and Lauren corrected me. I swear, her coaching and my own physical fitness are the two reasons it only took an hour to get my baby out!

And yes, I pooped. It's totally normal and I don't know what anyone else would expect when you're literally being told to push like you're pooping.

I pushed for just about an hour, and during that Lauren and Anthony told me they could see the baby's head At about 9:00 Lauren said she'd need to call the doctor in about 15 minutes.

During the next contraction she had me stop pushing and told me to hold my baby in and "blow out the candles" while she called the doctor.

Oh!!!! I should also mention that during all of this, my mom and Anthony's mom were sitting on the couch in the room, trying their hardest to be as quiet as church mice and become invisible. Anthony and I had long said that we wanted it to be "just us" when the baby came, and they were hoping to be able to stick around for his arrival. Not so, haha. As soon as Lauren went to get the doctor, Anthony turned and kicked them out of the room, much to their dismay.

Delivery: Fifteen super awful and excruciatingly long minutes later, Dr Dan and Dr Wuertz came in. Nothing was more uncomfortable than holding my baby inside me when my body wanted to kick his little butt out. I held him in through a handful of contractions and even with an epidural it was worse than all of labor, than pushing, and than fundal checks.

Just trust me on that.

Dr Dan had Dr Wuertz give me a shot of something through my epidural to completely numb my lady didn't really do much for the actual delivery, but afterwards when he stitched me up I appreciated it!

The next contraction started and Dr Dan had me push once to get baby's head out. (For those wondering, it felt like a very strong burning sensation.) Half way through the next push Dr Dan said, very calmly, "I need you to slow down. Don't stop, just slow down."

?!?!?!??!!? Huh??

But fine. I pushed "slower". (Dr Wuertz was in the background cheering me on, telling me what great control I had. I was oddly appreciative for the nice little ego boost in the moment!)

It turns out the reason for the slowdown is that my kid had his hands all up in his face when he was being born. So his head came out, and right behind it was his little fist - since there wasn't enough room for it to come out with his head. Anthony told me later that Dr Dan had to pull baby's arm out first in order to birth his shoulders, and that was why I couldn't push as hard.

The rest just slid out after all that. (As in, the rest of my baby and a few minutes later the placenta. #dontcareifitsTMI)

That first moment...
Everyone was telling me to look down between my legs. I thought that was a really stupid thing for them to say, since I hadn't been able to see my toes for the last three months, let alone anything between my legs. But they kept saying it so I did it.

And when I did, my belly had miraculously deflated...and there he was. That little purple thing balled up in Dr Dan's hands was my baby.

Dr Dan handed him to a nurse who brought him up to my chest and laid him down on me while they suctioned out his nose and mouth to let him give that first good cry. And he did cry, while I kissed his head and apologized profusely for evicting him before he decided he was ready.

There he was. My perfect little baby boy. All eight pounds, eight ounces, and twenty one and a half inches. I was finally holding my healthy little boy in my arms.

Nothing can ever describe or capture those first moments until you feel them. He was 100% worth it.

Our first family photo!
I don't look tired at all...
 All cozy in Daddy's arms.

Being weighed, measured, and checked over:

After we had our first few moments as a family, Anthony allowed Gramma Deb and Grandma Kim to come back in the room :P
Gramma Deb on the left, Grandma Kim on the right. A grumpy little Baby Anthony in both pictures ;)

After a few hours they moved us from L&D to Recovery, where we spent Saturday and Sunday. The first few hours after delivery were very exhausting and uncomfortable (though necessary). Lauren was constantly coming in to check on me, take vitals, and do fundal checks.

Fundal checks are the absolute worst, especially right after giving birth when all you want to do is sleep. To perform a fundal check, the nurse pushes down on/kneads your abdomen to make sure your uterus is shrinking appropriately, and to help expel whatever is left from the birth process. They hurt.

She also removed my catheter and made sure I could make it to the bathroom and take care of things on my own and around 2:00am she finally told us we would have a four hour stretch, undisturbed by nurses, to rest.

The rest of our hospital stay was perfectly normal and uneventful. We had a few visitors on Saturday (between our naps).

On Sunday, my mom came and hung out with us during the discharge process, and around 1:00pm Baby Anthony's alarm bracelet was removed from his ankle and we were cleared to take him home!

We bundled him up, strapped him into his carseat for the first time, and headed home!
All ready to take our little narwhal home!
Anthony...oh Anthony. None of this would have been possible without him (obviously), but I am so lucky to have him by my side for all of this. He was an absolute champion for all of L&D. He was by my side the entire time, my coach and my rock. To say I love and appreciate him is an understatement.

It's been 7 weeks and I can honestly say he is an amazing Dad. I knew he would be - there was never a doubt in my mind. But seeing him now with our baby has taken my love an appreciation to an entirely new level.

A Family of Five
We're now a family of five. We were home New Year's Eve, just in time to ring in the new year altogether. Our pups made it back to us after a fun weekend with Gramma and Uncle Jim, and started loving on their brother right away.

Laying on this couch with all four of them made my heart so full. After everything (1, 2, 3) that happened last year, I am still so grateful I was able to end 2017 holding a healthy baby in my arms.
Yeah I totally took this picture while all of them were asleep :P

And there you go. The last seven weeks have been a ride, but I can't wait for all the rest of the weeks to come.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

40-ish Weeks of Thoughts

Sooo...this is coming to you post-baby-birthing. I have started this post at least once a week since sometime in September, and I still haven't finished (nor posted) it. So now it's coming to you late, but there are so many thoughts contained in it that I've decided to put it up anyways.

It's essentially an amalgamation of all of the thoughts I've had during pregnancy (and there have been many).

So here goes.


We are on the home stretch of pregnancy (week 39), and I have finally reached the point where every day I think, 'This kid needs to come today.'

It's not even because I'm sick of being pregnant or any of that - and god knows we still have a shit ton of stuff to do around the house - but I'm getting anxious for the baby because of all the logistics involved with work and health insurance. I won't bore you with the details, just know they're lurking in the back of my mind.

Life is odd right's exciting (what with the baby coming) and we have lots that we've been doing, but it's also mind numbingly rote at times as well (wake up, go to work, come home, etc). We have made it through most of our plans for the month without missing anything...and now it just feels like we're in limbo waiting for the rest of our lives to start!

So much has changed...and yet I feel like nothing has changed at all. Like I'm the exact same person I was nearly nine months ago (but now with a house and two dogs and an alien inside me).

And then I catch a glance of myself in a mirror and it's like whoa buddy, lots has changed.
6 weeks vs 38 weeks!
A glimpse in the mirror...

I try to get up off the couch...

I stand or walk too long...

Or my favorite: I try to bend over and pick something up or tie my shoes. Oy vey. That's the worst because it's like I suddenly have feetsies in my lungs and liver and a butt in my stomach all at the same time. No one simple movement makes me feel more pregnant (and, honestly, limited), than making the mistake of bending over to pick something up. It's all about the squats nowadays.

That said...for the majority of my pregnancy I have felt like myself. Like my own entity, sharing my body with this morphing little thing inside me.

To be honest...for months I've been thinking about how I see and hear some people gush so much about how wonderful it is to be pregnant and they've never felt so alive and in tune with everything they are and have ever hoped to be (hello social media, giving rose tinted glasses)...and I always raise my eyebrows and squint and think, 'Really?'

And it's not that it's not weirdly awesome, because it's just that it's also not this magical feeling of sunshine and roses and rainbows and puppies (okay so for me there are definitely puppies).
Note the yellow paint on Zorra's ear...she's a little too inquisitive sometimes :P
I've been lucky that I've had a really easy, complication free pregnancy. My biggest "problem" with my pregnancy is my due date and hoping the baby comes early. I haven't had any other weight is fine, I don't have gestational diabetes, my blood pressure has been perfect, I've been able to stay active and work out, I didn't/don't have HG (really, really bad morning sickness), I don't have SPD (pubic dysfunction), our anatomy scan looked great, the baby is super active and has had a healthy heart beat at every appointment...

...knock on wood, but it's honestly been a picture perfect pregnancy. And we're hoping labor and birth and baby's health are the same.

But at the same time, not every woman is so lucky. Some women have really difficult, challenging, and heartbreaking pregnancies , and I've thought about that and felt lucky literally this entire time that we have been so fortunate that everything has been normal for us. And when I see the social media posts where women talk about feeling so at one with everything in the world and their pregnancy being the culmination of everything they'd hoped for in life, I wonder how it makes women who are having a really hard time being pregnant feel when they see that stuff.

I'm over analyzing, for sure...but I wanted to put that into words. It's not that I don't already love my baby or feel proud of my body for growing this little creature, but I want to be real about the fact that I don't feel like this is the most (physically) amazing thing I've ever done. I've basically just had to sit back and let it all happen.

Sure, I've pushed myself out of bed very early to continue working out, or I've gone to the store after work to grocery shop so we could have healthy food when what I really wanted to do is lay on the couch and order pizza (*sidenote...there has been plenty of pizza too*), but those are things I did before I was pregnant too.

Now that I'm at the end of my pregnancy and "slowing down" I find I'm doing much more yoga and stretching than cycling and lifting. I'm letting my body relax and rest and prepare for the marathon that's coming with L&D.

Actually, Anthony would disagree with that statement, haha. I've "slowed down" proper workouts, but we've both been doing a lot around the house to actually get things ready. For me that's meant painting (walls, furniture...) and for him it's been furniture assembly.

My friend Stephanie gave us a changing table, and my mom gave us a bookshelf and I've been painting them gray to match the crib. Here are pictures of some of those things:
The bookshelf is actually finished now, and the table just needs a coat of sealant.
We currently have a holiday weekend for Christmas (out early yesterday and off through Monday) so there's a little more free time to relax and do things around the house. Yesterday I maxed out and did a ton of stuff when we got home from work. I finished putting paint on the changing table, I started to clear out and organize the baby room and the guest room, and now at least two more rooms of our house are more livable. We're still waiting for the dresser for the baby room (once I have that I can put away baby clothes and blankets - yay!) but at least the rest of everything is coming together.

So for anyone who's about to give me the advice "you need to move around to make the baby come"...bitches please. I have not stopped moving this whole pregnancy, I'm not about to stop now!

(So ends the 39 week writing...but wait, there's more!)

In addition...
Here are some other thoughts I've had through my 40 weeks. Little snippets I've written but never gotten around to posting. I'm throwing them in here for posterity's sake, so I can remember and reflect my first full-term pregnancy in the future. Because why not? This is a major life change and I have no doubt that nothing will ever be the same.

Thought 1 - Race Goals
Very few people know this - but I wanted to do my first half Ironman this year (2017). My BIG goal for the A goal, the thing I was going to work hardest towards! I'd targeted Steelhead in August. I was going to push through the winter, spring, and summer to become a better swimmer, and I was going to nail an iron distance (2.4 miles) wetsuit free open water swim.

But then we bought the house and I found out I was pregnant again so there that went! In the end, I gave up pretty much all of my races this year. I did a pick up 5k in April that I never even wrote about, and that pretty much ended my season. I don't even have a gym membership now.

For 2018...I have a home gym setup, and sheer determination. Let's see where it goes.

Thought 2 - Pregnancy Weight Gain
I was telling Anthony how one month - four measly weeks between one doctor's appointment and the next (maybe between 20 and 24 weeks?) my weight ballooned by 10 lbs. I gained 4lbs in literally a week. Until that point, I had been on target with the recommended 1 lb week, feeling good about myself. I'm honestly not sure what caused that gain, it hasn't gone away, and I've gained about 4 lbs in the 8 weeks since...but I didn't like seeing that.

Looking back I realized that week/month was when I stopped running. I was bound to gain weight for that alone, but with pregnancy stacked on top I was fighting a losing battle. Weight gain with pregnancy is inevitable, and should not be avoided anyways!

Overcoming the mental hurdle of gaining weight during pregnancy has been hard, and I haven't mastered it at all. But a healthy pregnancy and baby are the two most important things in my life right now.

Thought 3 - Working Out and Running
All of pregnancy has been a mental battle in a way. What can I do vs what should I do. It has been a lesson in how to push myself and when to recognize the need to step back. Like these difficulties:
  • I ran the Ragnar at 11 weeks. Holy ballsacks. Amazing (hi Team 38!) but not really something I'd recommend.
  • Marathon training while pregnant was hard. Finding the motivation and energy was hard, and ultimately deciding not to do it was a mental battle I was not prepared for. 
  • How much more I hate the heat and humidity, and how intolerant I am to it.
  • How hard it was to keep my heart rate steady (I just wanted to run faster!!) while still seeing my pace slow.
  • How I didn't think it was physically possible for me to run more than 2 miles in a row without walking (but I did!). And then I didn't. Running was a rollercoaster of emotion regarding my capabilities.
  • Peeing right before I left my house, and having to pee again in a quarter mile. Peeing after mile 4, and then having to pee right away again. Peeing, and then 10 seconds into a run realizing my baby was bouncing on my bladder. Probably having a total ball, like it's in a bouncy house.
    • Note: This only ever got worse as time went on. Pee, stand up from toilet, have to pee again. Thanks, kid.
  • And while I wouldn't technically say I miss attempting three-minute planks, I do miss no-brainer ab workouts, and the eventual realization that ab workouts couldn't really be a thing. Yoga helped keep me in some semblance of shape...but it's gonna be a long road back to real core and back strength once the baby is here.
Mostly I learned that...things can wait. I have my whole life ahead of me. If I don't run a certain race or if I alter my workout to better suit my body and energy level for the day, that's okay. And I'm proud of myself for being able to adjust.

Thought 4 - The Things You Can't Say
I had an easy pregnancy, but for the majority of it I felt like I wasn't allowed to say that. Why? Because everyone responds with "Wait until you're further along!"

Well...sitting at almost-40 weeks I'll go ahead and say I'm still feeling great. I'm tired (because I get up every 30 seconds at night to pee), but pregnancy has been good to me. I'm ready to meet my baby, but not because I'm "done" being pregnant. My body is swollen and walking too much hurts - I could do without both of those things...BUT I'll still say this whole pregnancy thing is okay. It's been easy for me.

So to everyone who tried to tell me that pregnancy would get that much worse and I'd just want to be done once I reached ## weeks...I'm still waiting. #thingsyoushouldnotsaytopregnantwomen

Go ahead now, "Just wait until you're in labor" blah blah blah...

Thought 5 - Yes You Can vs "Just Wait"
I feel like this is worth noting because it showcases how pregnant women are talked to. (Note: This actually goes along well with Thought 4!)

Through my entire pregnancy I've indicated the desire to get back to racing. Granted, I haven't gone about shouting the desire from the rooftops, but from the handful of people I've talked to about it, all but one have indicated skepticism at the goal (excepting Anthony and my mom). In all this time I have only had one person respond by saying, "You will do it."

One person.

It honestly meant more to me than anything because of all the negativity I'd had until that point. It's frustrating for positive emotional and physical goals to be met with skepticism and borderline negativity. So maybe if there's a pregnant person in your life...just don't do that.

I've stayed active my whole pregnancy. I ran until it was too uncomfortable to do so, cycled until 38ish weeks, and lifted until about 37. I've done so because I wanted to stay fit and prepare for labor, but I can tell you that the entire time I had people saying things like, "Oh just wait", basically telling me that once I was 'further along' I'd lose the motivation or desire.

What I don't think people realize is that my baby is my motivation. My health for my baby trumps feeling tired in the morning. I've slowed down, but I never stopped. Plenty of women don't - I'm not alone in this.

Basically, I think we need to start encouraging pregnant women to pursue goals to stay healthy, fit, and active rather than telling them they'll give up 'when it gets harder'. We need to be supportive and encouraging of women in general...and pregnancy has taught me the necessity of that.

And that's all of it.
My lingering and meandering thoughts from pregnancy.

Now for the coming days...I'm terrified...but at the same time I can't wait.

See you soon, Baby M!


Monday, December 18, 2017

Year of Running 2017

Though I did much less running than I planned to this year, I thought it would still be fun to do a 2017 "Year of Running" post. So here goes!

Best Race Experience
I raced three races this year. The Lincoln Presidential Half, the Run for Refugees (which I never even wrote about) and Ragnar. The best? I hope it's no surprise...Ragnar beat out the other two for best, and it truly is a race experience!

Best Run
My single best run of the year...that's really hard. I mostly had hard runs all year because of my body changing with the first pregnancy and miscarriage, and then with this pregnancy. But I would say the very early morning runs I had with Token in the early summer were the best. Just the two of us in the quiet of the forest preserve...such a good way to start those days.

Best new piece of running gear
Ummm I haven't even used it yet, but my Ragnar teammeates went in on a BOB Ironman stroller for Anthony and I for our baby shower. That. That is the best new piece of running gear for sure. It will be used a-plenty in 2018!

Best running advice you've received this year
Not specifically running related, but races in general. When I was trying to decide whether or not to do the Lake Zurich tri and stressing about the bike course not being closed (I would have been 17 weeks pregnant at the time of the race). Someone said to me, "Triathlon will always be there." It made it a lot easier to focus on what was really important - a safe and healthy pregnancy - and give up the race. And it's true. Races aren't going anywhere and I'll be able to do them for the rest of my life.

Most inspirational runner
Shalane Flanagan killed it at the NYC marathon, and I feel like every runner in this country is astounded by her, so I want to say that. Later she said it took her 7 years to achieve her goal of winning NYC. That's pretty amazing and inspiring - monumental goals need to be chipped away at steadily, and the improvement you want to see will happen over time, in spite of setbacks.

But really, during a year when I achieved very little race-wise, it's been inspiring to see other people tackle their own goals and make their own improvements. And I don't mean world-class athletes, I mean every day people that I follow on Instagram! So I guess I'll pull a Time magazine circa 2006...and say "You".

Favorite picture for a run or race this year
Hands down this one - starting my last leg at Ragnar:

Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat
Ragnar! We already have 8 team members signed up for next year's Ragnar Chicago as well. I can't wait!!

If you could sum up your whole year in a couple of words, what would they be?
Did Not Start (DNS). And not in a bad way. I learned a lot about myself and my body this year, as well as how to adjust goals and expectations when my body isn't cooperating. I DNS'd every event after June, and I had to learn to be okay with that. Life is changing and learning to adapt mentally has been a huge thing for me since June.

And there you go! Thanks for reading!