Doctor’s Orders

On Friday morning at approximately 5am, I couldn’t sleep. Since my alarm was set to go off in about 30 minutes anyway, I decided to get up, throw on the running stuff and go for my standard (these days) 20 minute run/walk. The weather was cool and breezy (if not downright creepy and Sleepy Hollow-esque) and I knew I wasn’t in danger of overheating. I hit a stride after a minute or two of walking and ran all the way to my out and back point. I felt good. This was going to be a good run.

Until it wasn’t. And then the round ligament pain and cramping and just general shitty feelings of trying to run with an extra 30 lbs started; I did a lot of walking on the way back.

As I got ready for work that morning, I noticed the cramping wasn’t really going away like it usually did. The normal Braxton Hicks contractions I’d felt since early on in pregnancy were coming more frequently. At one point I had to lie down on the bed for a few minutes because I was seriously in pain, another anomaly. I thought of the Babycenter emails about having more than four contractions in an hour and the other “symptoms you shouldn’t ignore during pregnancy” and wondered if I should call the doctor. I dropped my son off at daycare and explained my symptoms to our daycare provider (former OB nurse), but deep down my mind was already made up to call the office as soon as I pulled out of the driveway.

The hospital is literally a 60-second drive from her house, so I pulled into the lot and dialed up the office. As I sat on hold, I felt a little silly. This was way too early to need any monitoring, I thought. I’d gone in for fetal nonstress testing with Aaron, but it was after I’d slipped and fallen on some ice while walking from my car to work. I hadn’t suffered any trauma, and I told myself they’d just tell me to put my feet up and take it easy.

And then they didn’t. They told me to get out of my car and come up to Labor and Delivery right away for testing. I hung up the phone, sat for a few seconds, and decided to call Scott to let him know what was going on. And then I started to kind of lose it as we said goodbye and then hung up and really lost it in a brief emotional flood of panic.

I went inside, checked in and rode the elevator up to the second floor; at this point the act of walking and certainly climbing stairs was making my entire uterus contract. I knew the drill: get undressed, tie on one of the ridiculous gowns, get in bed and have two discs strapped on: one to monitor the baby’s heart rate and the other to monitor uterine activity. I answered a slew of questions from a very nice L&D nurse and settled in for a long morning of doing nothing. Left alone in the hospital room with nothing but the sound of my baby’s heartbeat on the monitor and my smartphone with a dying battery, I tried to relax.

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This was definitely not how I’d planned to spend my Friday.

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Thankfully, my regular OB was on call that day, and she walked me through the tests they were going to do while I was there: preterm labor testing, cervical check, ultrasound, etc. – nothing was a surprise to me. She looked at the long strip of paper that the machine had spit out and announced I definitely had uterine irritability. That led to a shot of Terbutaline (I had to look this up later because at the time my brain was just hearing “shot” and thinking, “what?”), which made me shaky and helped with the contractions a little bit.

Since this is child number three, I’m quite used to being poked and prodded, so the tests were no big deal, though honestly I am quite glad that cervical checks aren’t really a regular thing this early on in the third trimester. The ultrasound would need to confirm it (and it later did) but the doc reported my cervix felt thick, which is exactly what you want to hear at 28 weeks. The preterm labor test came back negative, which was a relief. The baby had a steady, regular heartbeat. Everything seemed very positive.

Then the sonographer came by, apparently directly after her smoking break (blegh). She took measurements of my cervix, amniotic fluid, and the baby’s head, stomach, femur. When she took the first measurement of the head and “31 weeks” appeared on the screen, I wasn’t fazed. “All of my kids have enormous heads,” I told her. And then she started taking other measurements. And 30-31 weeks continued to pop up on the monitor. And then I started to get a little worried.

I approached gestational diabetes this time around as if I was an old pro. I’d managed it with my last pregnancy like a fucking champ. I’d been able to keep my weight stabilized and my baby’s, too; Aaron was a normal-sized baby.

It’s been tougher this time, and while I’ll be the first to admit I’m not perfect, I haven’t completely let everything go, either. I haven’t stopped letting myself indulge every so often, but it’s a controlled indulgence.

When I look back through my logs from my last pregnancy, I ate a lot more controlled, processed foods: protein bars, granola bars, snacks that had nutrition labels stamped on the backside. This time I’ve tried to eat more whole foods: whole grains, fruit. I really want to believe in this approach, that it will be better for my baby and me, but am I failing? Because I feel like I am failing.

According to the baby emails, my baby should weigh about 2.5 pounds this week. According to the ultrasound estimations, he/she’s weighing in at well over 3 pounds. I know these are just estimates, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t worried this baby is going to end up being a 10 pound behemoth.

And running? Even though the doctor didn’t specifically advise against it, I know it’s time to quit. There are moments when it still feels tolerable, but on the whole, it’s not an enjoyable experience. The tiny psychological rush I get from getting out for 20 minutes isn’t worth throwing my body into early labor (at least not right now). And if I’m really honest and listen to my body, my body’s telling me to cut it out. Walk. Yoga. Take it easy.

Yesterday was my Week 29 milestone. Early on in this pregnancy, my biggest worry was making it through the summer months. Done. I’m looking at the time I have left and thinking, can I get through? Is my body going to cooperate? My mom was quick to admonish me on the phone when I reported that I was in the hospital. “You’re not 25 anymore; you need to quit running!” And while I briefly rolled my eyes after she spoke the words, I know she’s right about one thing: I’m (a lot) closer to 40 than 30, so maybe slowing down and taking it easy is a good approach for the next two(ish) months.

Just as long as she knows this: I might be on a brief running hiatus for now, and I love you, Mom, but I’ll stop running when I’m dead.

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The state of the belly at 29 weeks, encased in Oiselle.

Week 27

You guys, BabyCenter tells me that this is the last week of the second trimester. And while I’m sure that I’m not going to suddenly feel differently as soon as midnight strikes on Sunday and I begin the 28th week of this crazy thing called pregnancy, it’s a milestone nonetheless.

A few things I’m kind of happy about:

  • I’ve been able to keep running up to this point, though my last run was on Saturday and haven’t been able to get out since then due to household scheduling, i.e., my husband working stupid hours. My goal was to keep this up at least through the first two trimesters, so hooray! I’ve also regularly been doing a weight routine and/or prenatal yoga on the days that I’m not running (every other day). I think this is the longest strength training streak I’ve been on in almost ten years. I know. Ouch.
  • I’ve spent a week (officially) on the gestational diabetes train and haven’t fallen off (or gained a freak 5 lbs or something). In fact, I’ve been able to maintain my current weight for a few weeks now. Blood sugar numbers aren’t crazy (when I don’t forget to take it when I fall asleep before 9pm because EXHAUSTED), and my diabetic counselor even called me “a poster child for good gestational diabetic practices.” Doesn’t mean I didn’t seriously want to upon leaving there, hit the bakery for a chocolate donut. But still! Accolades!
  • Our across-the-street neighbor was getting rid of a bunch of baby stuff in her garage sale over the weekend. I usually do not do the garage sale thing, because 1) I hate them and 2) I don’t really need additional crap in our house (we have enough crap already), but I checked it out. I scored a barely used Medela double electric pump with a shitload of extra stuff for $45. The pump I used with Aaron is sort of broken (maybe), so this was a huge score (and one less thing I need to frantically shop for this fall).

There was a trip to the local county fair over the weekend and some job-related stress (not my job, so I won’t start spewing forth about it here) but Sophie got to ride a pony. So for her, it was pretty much the most awesome weekend ever.

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Aaron had less fun, since (mean) Mom and Dad didn’t think shelling out $25 for a wristband for rides for a kid who can’t ride 90% of them seemed like a good deal. He did eat his weight in french fries, though.

There was a kangaroo. What? Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.

And I did have a very excellent latte, thanks to my step-daughter and son-in-law*, who brought me back some fancy beans from their recent trip to San Francisco.

While I’m on the Instagram embed binge, let me end by shamelessly promote this lovely sweatshirt from Michigan Runner Girl, which as been getting a lot of airplay at home; I bought a size larger than I thought I’d probably need, just so I had something to wear now and something a little oversized later on. Since I live in Michigan and consider myself all the rest of these things, it’s fitting. I highly recommend anyone living in Michigan (or wishing they lived in Michigan) get one from Heather here.

Also, thank you to all who posted kind and encouraging comments on my crazy dental post. I still feel awful that Sophie has a bumpy dental road ahead, but I think we can get through it. I mean, we have no choice, right? Anyway, thank you.

*Yes, I have a son-in-law, which is nuts. But when your husband is old, it can happen. :)

The Acoustic Set

The first time I went running, I didn’t wear a watch.

Shocking, I know.

I only ran in school when it was required by my [insert team sport] coach, and running on my own just for fun or fitness wasn’t really my thing. I didn’t start running for exercise until I was about 20 years old. Even then, I never ran for time. I knew exactly how far it was to the corner and back and called it good if I made it without stopping to walk or pass out.

When I started training for my first marathon in 2004, online mapping sites were just starting to be a thing. I remember using a site to route a 20 miler around my house that summer. I had no idea what I was doing but was fascinated by the technology. I was using Training Peaks to keep track of my training schedule (it was a freebie subscription) and for a few years I was pretty diligent about using it to log my workouts. I was mostly concerned about pace (like everyone else) and wasn’t too dependent on the other data.

For the past ten years I’ve mostly used a regular Timex watch with a stopwatch feature to time my runs. I started using a GPS about two years ago and immediately got hooked on the instant gratification of seeing my pace on the display. At first that was enough. And then I started uploading workouts to the web site. And then the miles started adding up. And before I knew it, I was snapping photos of the Garmin watch as proof of my day’s run and obsessively charging the watch every night. Because if I couldn’t have that watch for a run, it felt like it wasn’t real; it didn’t happen. BECAUSE I WOULD HAVE NO DIGITAL PROOF.

When Josh proposed his “Run Data Free” assignment last week, my first thought wasn’t “Sweet! Let’s do this!” It was, “BUT THE DATA.” I started to twitch about the idea of running unplugged before I’d even laced up my shoes.

The challenge:

  1. Go for a run for 30 minutes.
  2. No digital tracking devices allowed, including watches.
  3. Write out three paragraphs (WITH A PEN, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY). Let someone read it.

But I hate to back down from a challenge, so I decided to do it. And let’s be honest: my pace has really been bumming me out during this pregnancy; I figured it might be a good thing to go out and run without obsessing over numbers.

I had a very limited window of time to get this done; Scott was working all weekend. I turned an errand to the post office into my homework and took off.

There aren’t too many good things to say about this run in terms of pace or how it felt. Truth: it wasn’t one of my better days (physically) and it took me much longer than 30 minutes to get back home. But there were positives:

  • If my body started barking at me, I took the time to walk, readjust clothing, etc. If I’d been wearing my Garmin, I would have been thinking, but if I slow down now it’s going to ruin my average pace. Stupid. When the body talks, you need to listen. Especially when you’re six months pregnant.
  • I stopped worrying about pace completely and just focused on moving comfortably. Even though I was running a familiar route where I knew where the miles would tick off, it wasn’t at the front of my mind. I just ran.
  • When I got back home, I felt like I’d still gotten in a good morning of exercise and wasn’t tripping out about my slower than usual pace. It ended up feeling really good.

Writing about the run on paper was different than blogging about it. I gave myself the limit of one small notebook page. When I got down to the bottom, I was a little sad I didn’t have more room to write, but I got over it. After all, I didn’t cure cancer. I went out for a recreational jog.

Going through this exercise allowed me to think about why I run. That seems like a simple question, but is it?

There are hundreds of reasons why we, as runners, do what we do. And I don’t mean to invalidate any of those reasons, because if they work for you and get you on the road, then I think they’re good reasons.

But when I thought about why I run, other questions arose.

Do I run for social media validation?

Do I run simply so I can post something to my little blog?

If I had to run GPS-less for now on, would I still do it? 

Would I enjoy it?

Am I capable of enjoying a run with a “bad” pace as much as a “good” pace?

Do I run to make someone else happy/impressed? 

Do I run for me?

The truth is, I’ve answered yes to all these questions at some point, but ultimately, I run because I genuinely enjoy the act of running and most importantly, I DO IT FOR ME. And I think this is the only motivating factor that will keep you running past the training cycle or run streak challenge or C25K program. Eventually, and perhaps even now, no one will care if you got out and ran today. And if that’s the case, will you still go?

My answer is yes. I’ll keep running. And it took this little silly assignment to remind me of that.

I’ve made the decision to run out the rest of my pregnancy data-free and not obsess about losing a handful of miles from my annual total. I can’t say I’ll stop posting to social media, because I believe that in our little running community, when we see other people getting out there and getting it done, it’s motivating (Hi, Jenna!).

And don’t get me wrong – timing devices certainly have their place in our sport, and if you’re training for something specific, they’re great tools. I don’t see giving up my Garmin any time soon or deleting all the data. But leaving the watch at home has helped me enjoy the few minutes I have each opportunity I’m able to put on my shoes and go. It’s making me look at running for the rest of this pregnancy in an entirely new light. I strongly suggest you give it a try.

Week 26 – I’m sorry this is so long.

For the last ten years, I have spent every summer training for a fall race. With the exception of 2009 when I dropped to the TC10 Mile, those have all been marathons.

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Scott and I post-marathon. Amazingly, despite my really awful time (over two hours on not a lot of postpartum training), I had time to go back to the house, shower and come back to see him finish.

Ten years is a long time, and the following statement might make you think I’m a little wackadoodle, but here it is:

I miss marathon training.

I miss the camaraderie I have with other friends I run with and follow on social media, all training for their own fall marathons. I miss the long runs, the build-up to the race. I miss going to the expo and being among all the other runners who are about to take on the same crazy challenge you are: run 26.2 miles. That’s a really long way to run, even for elite athletes. Hell, it’s even a commitment driving that long in your car; at this point in my pregnancy, I might not even make it that long before I’d have to make a pit stop for a bathroom.

I miss the expo. I mean, who doesn’t love a good race expo? Twin Cities always puts on a fairly decent one.

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I miss the spaghetti dinner that Scott and I always make the day before.

Didn't feel like taking the kids out to a restaurant so made our traditional #tcmarathon spaghetti and meatballs.

I miss laying out my clothes and gear and worrying if I have enough gels or chews and will they make me sick and did I bring the right socks and will those short last me for over four hours?

My husband calls it obsessing. I call it taking care of the things I CAN control. You never know what race day will bring. #tcmarathon

I miss waking up early, getting ready, riding down to the starting line (Scott’s dad always drops us off a few blocks from the Metrodome). I miss the sight of all the runners standing in line for a port-a-john or gathered in the concourse(s) of the Dome, and the lines for the bathrooms which always seem long at first but go so quickly I have time to get in line again before heading to the starting line.

Racers milling around the metrodome

I miss standing in the corral, checking out other runners’ clothing and gear and doing last minute nervous stretching while the National Anthem is played.

I even miss running shoulder-to-shoulder for the first mile or so until the field starts to thin and that “hill” right around 2.5 miles, which I always end up powering up mostly on adrenaline. I miss seeing Allan Page playing his tuba.

I miss running along the lakes and laughing as runners dart off the road to take a leak in the bushes. I miss the mile markers, the aid stations, the volunteers standing on the side of the road with globs of vaseline for chafing runners (me in 2010). I miss all of it, and as the date of the Twin Cities Marathon continues to near, I know I’m just going to keep missing it more and more. I registered for the race before I became pregnant, and this particular race doesn’t allow refunds or transfers. When Scott and I head to the expo to pick up his race packet (this will be his ninth Twin Cities Marathon), I will most likely waddle up to the pickup table and grab mine, too, even though I have no intention of being at the starting line in any capacity other than cheering.

Twin Cities Marathon 2013

Back in June, it was a bit of a relief to not be bound to a training schedule. Marathon training is no joke; it takes a huge commitment of energy and time, and when you’ve got two kids and a spouse who’s training, too, it takes time management. I enjoyed my runs that were just for the sake of the run. I had been about a month or so into training for a half marathon, and it hadn’t been going great; I’d missed a few long runs and the motivation was waning.

And maybe my marathon sickness is due largely to just not being able to run like I’m used to. And the people I know who are RAGNARing and racing and #birdcamping. I’ve decided 2015 is the year I take a trip/retreat/something for myself. Not sure what that will be yet.

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And then there was today. Day two of Week 26 and my day of reckoning with that fucking asshole known as the Three Hour Glucose Tolerance Test.

I have taken his test three times in the past three years (roughly). The first time was when I took it while pregnant with Aaron and failed. The second was back at twelve weeks after failing the one-hour; this is standard procedure if you’ve had it with a prior pregnancy.

I handled the GD with Aaron’s pregnancy fairly well. I was really good about food journaling, counting carbohydrate servings, testing my blood sugar levels. I kept a spreadsheet with food, ketone readings, blood sugar readings, carb servings. I think my OB was both impressed and scared at the same time.

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I was able to manage it with diet and exercise, which was solely walking; I wasn’t allowed to run because of placenta previa. Aaron was a normal size upon delivery and when tested showed no signs of elevated blood sugar levels, either. I patted myself on the back and called myself the motherfucking expert on managing gestational diabetes.

With this pregnancy, I knew there was a really good chance I’d have it again. And since I’m obsessive over some things, I occasionally tested my levels throughout the pregnancy thus far, knowing what can happen if you do have it and don’t manage it. Plus, I was gaining so much weight, I was scared. Scared that I was going to exceed weight gain of both prior pregnancies and give birth to a 10 lb monster baby.

My danger zone is in the morning, and breakfast is a bitch. Morning has been the only time of the day when shit is elevated. My early morning runs would barely put a dent in the number, if at all. Lucky for me, it also turns out that you take this test first thing in the morning. So, no. My hopes were not terribly high regarding passing.

In a weird way, I thought a diagnosis would be a relief. I’d know what I was dealing with and like last time, I could control it. While gestational diabetes isn’t something you can really control getting, I felt like I’d owned it. Last time, I managed to only put on a few additional pounds after being told I had it, which was kind of incredible in the third trimester. I’m already sitting at +30, so gaining a minimal amount of weight from here on out wouldn’t be a bad thing for this 5’1″ shortie.

I felt really lousy during the first hour of the test but that seemed to ease toward the end. I briefly thought to myself, maybe you’ve nailed it after all.

I had a call within two hours of leaving the hospital; the nurse reported one of the other doctors was recommending me for “diabetic counseling;” my one-hour reading was about 50 units higher than it should have been.

“So, what you’re saying is that I have ‘it.'”

She confirmed it. “Oh, and your baby seems to be sucking all the iron from your body, so make sure you start taking a supplement.”

When I saw my regular OB last week, she expressed sadness over making me take the test again. Like she didn’t really believe I’d have it; I’ve measured spot on every week and am trying to do all the right things – exercise, not let my diet get completely out of control, even blood testing voluntarily to keep things in check.

But I knew taking that test was the right thing to do, and that if it was an issue, that I needed to know about it.

I just thought I’d handle the news better than I seem to be doing today.

So, I guess this is the road I’m on for the next three months. A pastry-free, finger-sticking, write-down-everything-you-eat road.

Hold the bread, please.

 

Week 25

I was going through my morning ritual of getting ready for work, which lately involves squeezing myself into this garment that is a cross between an old-lady girdle and a pair of compression shorts. You laugh, but somehow it manages to hold together the mess that is my midsection these days, and also spares the innocent bystander of an accidental belly flashing, since most of my shirts are now precariously draped over my enormity. (Though let me sing the praises of the extra long tank top – my new BFF.)

I’d just announced to my husband that I would be borrowing one of his sweaters to wear to work – just a black crew neck that probably cost $15 at JCPenney – but it was a godsend. A lot of the maternity items I bought in the beginning, thinking they’d last the duration, are too small. The shorts I bought two sizes too large in the beginning of the summer? Barely hanging on, even with additional waist-expansion devices.

“I know this is probably quite entertaining for you,” I said to my husband, who was watching me squeeze into a pair of jeans.

“I’m just wondering if this is an attempt to avoid maternity clothes,” he said, clearly unclear on the concept of what constitutes “maternity wear.”

My definition? It’s everything that’s NOT all the things I wore back in April. The jeans with real waistbands, the shirts that had any kind of definition at the waist. It’s the two drawers full of running clothes I can’t even get past mid-thigh or my shoulders. Maternity wear are the bras I had to borrow/buy that are at least two sizes bigger in the bands/cups because my boobs are out of control (and I’m not even going to start on the awesome sideboob I’ve got going).

As a reasonable adult, I know that all this shouldn’t matter or make me feel awful about myself. I’ve been through this two times, and I know that it’s temporary (though let’s be honest – my body has never really gone back to what it was pre-children, even when the scale registered a lower number than it did in my mid-20s). I know that there are women who’d die to be in my spot, and that my ever-growing self is one of the signs that all is still well – the baby is continuing to grow and be seemingly healthy and right on target. Shit, I know all this. I’ve been there. I know that the 40 weeks of pregnancy are a blip compared to the rest of the child’s life. I know that eventually I’ll be able to bend over to tie my running shoes without fearing I’ll pass out and cover more than 1.5 miles in a 20 minute run (that’s about where I am these days).

But I’m uneasy these days. Uneasy, uncomfortable, and at times, a little afraid. Afraid of what a third child is going to bring when most days I feel completely inadequate to take care of the two I have. Which was where I was the other day, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking to myself, oh shit. I suppose the only good thing to come from that is that it didn’t last long. It’s a little too late for second thoughts at 25 weeks.

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Above: 24 week photo (I think).

I also think I went into this expecting it would be a breeze. I’m an old pro. I totally know what to expect. But I didn’t take into account that every pregnancy is different. I’m older, for one. And your brain is really good at making you forget all the little shitty things during pregnancy (sorry, I know it’s probably a different story for all the “ooh, I luuurrrvvve being pregnant!” people, which sadly, I am not). While I don’t regret having my 20s to do all of the stupid things I did without parenting responsibilities, I have to wonder how your body handles this kind of task when it’s younger and more spry. Also: when I could wake up in the morning and not have indentation lines from my pillow stuck in my face for the rest of the morning. It’s these little things I just seem to notice more these days.

Exercise-wise, my pace has dropped another minute or so per mile, even though I try not to pay attention too closely. There is definitely some walking going on in my morning sessions. Yesterday morning I only had enough time (and bladder endurance) for 20 minutes. It was enough.

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I also ordered Hilaria Baldwin’s Prenatal Yoga video (yup, she’s Alec’s wife!), which I like a lot more than the other one I had, though it was a little tough to keep up with her at first, and I totally need a set of yoga blocks to do this (which I don’t have yet). This one seems more like a good stretch with some yoga thrown in, which is good for a non-yogi like myself. I don’t feel quite as ridiculous doing it, and the stretching is probably good to balance out my run/walking. There was also a strength/core session thrown in one day (Tuesday, maybe?) and I was sore for the rest of the week.

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It won’t be long before I’ll have to retire the jacket. Boo.

This is pretty much the scene looking down. Also: all shoes must be able to be slipped on without bending down.

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I go to see the doctor today for one of my final monthly appointments (only one left) and then it’s every two weeks (I think) for the rest of the pregnancy. Next week I retake the three-hour glucose tolerance test (blegh). This is when it really starts to feel real;  I start to bug my husband to finish all the half-done house projects (THE BATHROOM) before November. I also find myself crying about everything – celebrity deaths, heart-wrenching blog posts, Instagram photos, a raspberry I picked from our bushes and dropped on the ground. I know it’s all typical at this point, but I can’t help but feel weak and emotional.

At this point, every week I tick off is a victory. I’ll take what I can get.