New years is one of my favorite times of the year — it’s in my top 3! — in no small part because it makes me purposefully take stock of what has happened in my life. Obviously, I can (and should) do this all year round, but I think there’s sometimes some sort of calendar magic that comes with some year-end reflection.
All told, I got super lucky with my running in 2015. Going into this year, I was coming hot off the highest mileage I had ever posted in a calendar year — something just shy of 2,620 (easy to remember). I thought that maybe I’d be able to top that this year as I went after a 26.2 PR and my first 50 miler, but right after I ran the 50k in December, I learned I was pregnant, so I quickly put those big mileage and PR plans on hold. Concurrent with the pregnancy announcement were some shitty first trimester annoyances like incessant dizziness, mind-splitting headaches, and the desire to lie horizontally in a cold, dark room, void of any life, with my eyes closed — annoyances that aren’t super conducive to being human, generally speaking, much less to running. Needless to say, though the year began pretty rough in terms of running (and who am I kidding, in terms of feeling like myself), fortunately those shitty annoyances passed, and it seemed like the more pregnant I got, more often than not, the more comfortable running felt. So weird how that worked out.
Suffice it to say that 2015 wasn’t the year for chasing mileage or race PRs; instead, more than anything, it was about running because I wanted to, because I felt like it, and because I enjoyed how it made me feel (pregnant or postpartum). I’ve been doing this stuff long enough now that I don’t expect to PR year after year; it’s just not realistic. Honestly, sometimes running just for the sake of running is pretty damn awesome. 2015 reminded me of that repeatedly.
For the curious ones out there, here’s how each month’s mileage fared. In a few of these months, the mileage includes a few walking miles, but by and large, these numbers are all running. Right, now we’re sitting at over 1,100 for the year. The shakeout:
August: 36.20 – had the baby early in the month
September: 50.76 – had surgery about a month postpartum
October: 123.02 – yet another surgery about a month after the first
I was also lucky to be able to run throughout my pregnancy, virtually up until the day I delivered, and I consider myself stupidly fortunate to have been able to resume running as quickly as I have postpartum. Pregnancy is such a game-changer, and the same goes for postpartum; in fact, NPR even recently wrote a story on how childbirth can be considered a type of “extreme” sport and even likened it to marathon running (of course). You really have no idea what it’s (pregnancy and birth, specifically) going to be like, so you also have no idea of how you’re going to feel in the days, weeks, or months (years?) afterward. That said, I am so happy that my postpartum running has been coming along as smoothly as it has and that my body handled an intervention-less labor and delivery as well as it did.
When it comes to this year’s running lowlights, only one thing comes to mind – virtually the entire month of January. The aforementioned first trimester stuff knocked me on my ass for a lot of that month, and even thinking about running was dreadful. I was so relieved when that shitty stage passed! All the races I did pregnant or postpartum were for fun, so it’s hard to say that any of them had any low moments. I’m mildly disappointed that ZOOMA won’t be returning to Napa next year, since I kinda vowed to dominate that race next year after blowing up on it in 2014 and running it pregnant this year (and obviously not racing it), but c’est la vie. Out of my control. I’ll find another race to dominate. 🙂
Really, I think I can say every race I ran this year gave me something to be happy about, some sort of highlight, if you will. Since I didn’t race race anything this year, I genuinely enjoyed myself at each race and walked away from each experience with something that made me happy. I generally don’t purchase races and decide to just run for fun because that can get expensive quickly, but this year, I feel like pregnant-racing gave me tons of opportunities to still be in the thick of the running community, even though I had taken a step back from the racing one (if that makes any sense). It just feels good to be part of something bigger, I guess. The pics from the races in each linked RR speak for themselves; I’m generally just happy to be out there in the first place.
Without a doubt, 2015 has been excellent, and I’m looking forward to 2016. Though I have big goals and plans in mind, I’m also very patient with this process and know that it took me a lot of time to get to where I was pre-pregnancy; with that in mind, I don’t expect to be back where I was anytime soon. At the risk of sounding like a shitty new ager, I don’t believe in comebacks, in a linear process of advancement; I guess you could say that I believe in something more recursive, in a non-linear journey wherein each “bump” or “setback” is just part of the process: an “opportunity,” if you will. It’s how I write, so I guess it makes sense that it’s also how I run.
Very surprisingly to me, fewer than 72 hours after I wrote my last entry, detailing what the rest of my pregnancy and third trimester running looked like, I went into labor and had my second kiddo. Spoiler: another little lady 🙂
After A was born, we wrote out her “birth story” in a Google Doc — or rather, I think we began it but never got around to finishing it (hashtag newborn probs, hashtag first-time parents probs)–but I never published it here or anywhere. Truth be told, I think it took me a good 3 or so months to even think about blogging after I had A. This time around, I feel like I’ve got my shit together more than I did the first time (hashtag it’s easier the second time around, to a degree), so I figured I’d write out (and publish) how everything went down. Warning for lots of TMI I’m sure, above and beyond the standard runner TMI wherein we (read: I) talk about defecating in public places, but hey, you know you’re reading a birth story, right? And one written by me? TMI kinda comes with the territory.
It goes without saying, but obviously I’m not a medical practitioner, and how my l&d (labor and delivery) commenced, progressed, concluded — everything — is unique to me and my second pregnancy. Maybe the amount and frequency of running I did during pregnancy dos influenced l&d, maybe it didn’t — hell if I know — but please please please don’t take my experience as gospel or worse yet, assume that your l&d will mirror mine if your pregnancy has also been strikingly similar. I feel like an ass even prefacing this entry with this, but hey, litigious society, and you never know who will come across your blog (and how uninformed said reader might be)…
During the week that I ultimately gave birth, I ran just over 24.5 miles (24.55) in my ‘hood, and the runs were all between 5-7 miles each, with each run around a comfortable 8:30-8:40 pace. For the most part, I was still feeling really well and surprisingly strong for being nearly 38 weeks pregnant (on 8/7). On Friday, 8/7, thanks to a Camp Dance recital of A’s that I wanted to attend at 11am, and some predictable procrastination on my part in getting out the door for a run after I dropped her off at said dance camp, I had to haul ass to finish my midmorning 10k run, shower (kinda, since I was still sweating after I finished), and get to the community center on time to see her performance. That 10k (6.21 actually, because my Garmin and Strava data never link up correctly and it makes me kinda crazy) actually felt really good (at an 8:33 average), I saw her show, and the day went on as normal.
Later in the afternoon, I sent my also-very-pregnant sister a super unflattering profile pic of me, with a caption of something like to hell with good posture or sucking things in… also, not sure where this kid thinks he/she is gonna grow for the next two weeks!! running out of room! I laugh now at how massively, incredibly, super pregnant I looked; seriously, I wonder how much more my internal organs could have moved to accommodate any additional fetal growth.
At any rate, aside from looking like a pregnant tank, I felt fine, pretty normal, the same as I had been feeling, and aside from some weird mucus-like and, eventually, period-like discharge I had noticed each time I had gone to the bathroom, it was just another day. I figured that the discharge I had noticed was the standard “bloody show” and “mucus plug” stuff that I had read about, but I didn’t get especially excited at seeing these little gems in the toilet simply because, in terms of predicting l&d’s arrival, they don’t. Seeing a bloody show or losing your plug just means things are moving in the right direction, not that labor is imminent and that you’ll have a baby in your arms in X number of hours. (It’s like being dilated or effaced. You can be dilated or effaced for weeks before giving birth!). With A, I don’t recall ever seeing any bloody show or mucus plug business, so this was new territory.
Anyway, C got home from work, the three of us went out to dinner, and eventually, I awoke around 1am due to what I thought were possibly contractions but decided that it was probably just wishful thinking on my part, that I was willing them to happen and that they really weren’t. At the risk of sounding odd, I tend to do that sometimes; when I used to have a period, pre-IUD days, I’d try to “will” away any menstrual cramps that I’d have. I figured I didn’t like them so maybe I could “mind over matter” my way out of them. Similarly, I once decided that I was no longer going to be ticklish on my feet. Willing away period cramps didn’t work, but somehow, willing away ticklish feet did. Tangent.
Anyway, back to bed I went and awake I was again at 3am with this weird pain that experience taught me was assuredly labor, even though it was the most un-labor-like sensation. When I went into labor with A, I had this really bizarre discomfort in my hips, something that I didn’t connect to labor at all. Of course, when you’ve never been pregnant before, you’ve also never had contractions, but I always imagined contractions to be more menstrual cramp-like and to stem more from my midsection than from anywhere else. With both labors, though, the contracting pain/discomfort began in my hips and radiated outward. It’s hard to describe, but both times the discomfort originated pretty squarely in the middle of my hip sockets, on my sides, and radiated away from my midsection. When I felt this pain the second time around, I immediately knew that it was probably contractions and that labor was probably right around the corner, even though my estimated due date was still 13 days off. At 3am, I downloaded a pregnancy contraction timer app, timed everything for about 90 minutes before calling my midwife, waking up C, and calling my neighbor to come over to stay with A, and before I knew it, we were leaving home to head to the hospital.
Just like with my labor with A, I was a bit dubious about the entire thing the second time around; if nothing else, I was so.sure. that kiddo dos would arrive late that the fact that it seemed like I was going into labor early — and two weeks early, at that (even though due dates are plus/minus 2 weeks, but whatever… technicalities) — was just totally fucking with me. When I started timing everything, I was about 5 minutes apart, and because I had tested positive for GBS, I knew we would have to head over to the hospital shortly so that I could get the IV antibiotics necessary before the kiddo made his/her arrival. Getting the antibiotics would not take very long, but the midwife wanted to ensure that they’d be in my system for 4 hours prior to my having the baby, and since I was having my second kid, it was likely that l&d round 2 would progress quickly, if not significantly more quickly than it did the first time.
My l&d with A lasted about 10 hours from start to finish– still relatively quickly for a first timer– and this one lasted just 3.5 hours from the time we got to the hospital (at 6am) or 6.5 hours (from the time I started tracking contractions at 3am). Either way you slice it — and especially the 3.5 hour way — it was crazy fucking intense. For perspective: I can go birth a baby in 3.5 hours. Alternatively, I can run 26.2 miles in less time. I mean, c’mon. That’s crazy!!!
When C and I got to the hospital, after a quick pit stop for breakfast for him (at my insistence!), I learned that I was already 5cm dilated and that things were likely going to move quickly, though how quickly was anyone’s guess. The hospital staff was amazing and incredibly attentive and made us feel like we were the only ones in the entire delivery wing. When we had A in Chicago, the hospital we delivered at was lovely and state-of-the-art and beautiful but also something of a baby factory, since there were literally floors and floors of l&d suites and moms giving birth at any given time. The hospital here, on the other hand, only had facilities for 5 (or maybe 7?) birthing moms at any given time, and I’m convinced I was maybe one of two women in there when we arrived, though by the time we were finished on Saturday morning, there was a “rush” of 3 other birthing moms.
Once the midwife arrived, things seemed to move even more quickly. I got the antibiotic necessary for the GBS and basically just moved back and forth between the shower and the bed, riding out the contractions. C, my midwife, and the nursing staff were all really helpful and patient — I have told my husband multiple times before that if he ever wants a radical career change, I think he has a serious future in becoming a birth doula — and I won’t lie when I say that the 3.5 hours at the hospital were easily the most intense and also, strangely, the fastest 3.5 hours of my life. There were so many times during those hours that I had these moments of being beyond myself, for lack of a better phrase, wherein I almost felt like I was in denial about being in labor in the first place. I mean, obviously I was — there was no question about it — but it was almost like this transcendental feeling, like I was floating above myself and looking down, taking it all in and being equally fascinated and equally dumbfounded by the whole thing. I was so sure that kiddo 2 would come late, just like her sister, and here, this one was showing up to party 13 days early. So crazy. I’ve gotten this “being beyond myself” feeling before on runs, but feeling it in the throes of labor is entirely different. Eventually during l&d, I think you have to make a conscious decision and effort to lean into the pain, the experience, and not fight it. I don’t know if it makes it any easier or more manageable, but I wonder if making this decision and effort pretty conscious allows you to be more cognizant of the entire l&d experience and therefore, allows you to get out of your own head for a bit. I’m not sure. I don’t even think that makes sense. I think there’s something to be said for embracing the experience though.
Just as we had with A, this time around, we decided to forego any medical interventions during l&d, so once the contractions started coming fast and furious during those 3.5 hours, shit got hard — not gonna lie. Honestly, even if I wanted to have an epidural, I don’t even know if the opportunity would have presented itself because it just seemed like things were moving so quickly. Going through this experience for a second time was different in that I had at least a little perspective on the matter; if nothing else, I knew that even when the contractions and the pushing got challenging as fuck — and boy, did they — both had their ebbs and flows. There were definitely moments of holy hell, how do people have so many kids (my midwife said she was one of 13! THIRTEEN!), how do people give birth by themselves, why do hormones make us forget how much this hurts!?! quickly followed by moments of ok, that wasn’t so bad, let’s take a breath and regroup and get ready for the next one, this is totally fine, I could totally do this again. I didn’t think about running or anything like that while I was in the throes of things — and really, why would I? — but I was genuinely surprised that I did think about this silly prenatal yoga DVD I did frequently, especially in the third tri. I found myself mentally revisiting the DVD and trying my darndest to replicate all the belly breathing that I had done. For as much as I knocked that prenatal yoga DVD — which, in retrospect, was a little unfair … the video was good, but the instructor’s insistence on referring to butts as “buncakes” was a little silly — it actually seemed to help a lot.
When C wasn’t playing birth doula, he was sending WhatsApp updates to our family and friends, most of whom live on the other side of the country, so it was nice to periodically hear some words of encouragement from folks we’d want to be with us but whose distance precluded it. One of the funniest moments was when he sent a picture of me sitting in the shower, giving a thumbs up between contractions, because I was finally taking a hot shower since our hot water had gone out at home (and ended up taking 23 days to get fixed (!!!!!) ). Kinda funny to be happy to be at a hospital, in the throes of labor, simply for the reason that I’d be guaranteed oodles hot water, drought be damned…
Anyway. With only a handful of pushes, maybe 5, and some very minor tearing (phew) on top of the old tears/scar tissue from birthing A, the little one made its earthside appearance, and C was finally able to tell me — after keeping it a secret since he found out at 9 weeks — that we had another little girl, Guinevere Ellis MG. We’re avid readers, so Guinevere is a nod to the literary Guinevere from Camelot, Ellis is a nod to his maternal grandfather who held a special place in his life, and of course, we’re keeping the 4 name game strong by giving our offspring both my maiden name and his surname. 🙂
Seven pounds, eight ounces, nineteen and a half inches — pretty close to big sister, who arrived six days post-due date — so I’m fairly convinced that if G would have stuck around ’til her due date or beyond, she would have been a nine pound+ baby. Judging from the intensity of the l&d, I’m also fairly convinced she might have broken me and/or my gynecological bits. She looks a lot like her big sister, though G at birth (and presently) has more hair than A did by the time she was 2! Maybe both our fairly-far-removed Cherokee ancestry is shining through with this kid. That’d be cool.
I often joked during the pregnancy that my running volume was to ensure that I’d have a one-hour l&d, and now, the mere thought of an l&d that short is terrifying; holy balls, imagine the intensity! In the weeks preceding l&d, I read a lot of books that I think helped get me into a positive state of mind about l&d (if you want some recommendations, lmk). As we got closer and closer to the due date, and eventually, as the throes of l&d began, I feel like I went into it with a “calm confidence,” like I knew that I was physically and mentally ready to do it and not really worry about anything. Going into l&d for the first time, I wasn’t scared, but I was a bit anxious about it because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. It’s kinda funny; I would have thought that having been through l&d before, I would have gone into l&d round 2 with a lot more trepidation simply because I was aware of how much it could hurt and how intense it could be. Instead, I wasn’t. I just felt ready to do it, whenever “it” was gonna happen. Some stuff is in my control; a lot isn’t. No need to sweat that which is beyond you, ya know?
I’m not evangelical about insisting that women only have intervention-less vaginal deliveries — note that I very intentionally don’t refer to one type of birth as being more “natural” than another because I think that’s unnecessarily disenfranchising — but I do think that birth isn’t something that should be feared. Will it hurt? Yea, most likely, though some women say that they don’t feel any pain. Will the pain last forever? Nope; just like all the sleepless nights you’ll endure as a parent, the time spent contracting and pushing your kiddo out comprise only a teeny, tiny fraction of your existence. There is light at the end of the tunnel for both. Basically, I think that if you’re remotely interested in a birth without interventions — and if you’re medically a good candidate for it, based on the wisdom and opinion of your practitioner — go for it. And quite honestly, if the birth doesn’t go as you hoped, if plans have to change, it’s ok. You’re no less awesome a mother, woman, or person for it. All that ultimately matters is the health and well-being of both you and your brand new baby. You still kick a whole lotta ass in my book. Genuinely.
I’m so very grateful that the pregnancy and l&d all went as smoothly as it did. I still get a kick out of referring to “the kids” or “the girls” when I’m talking about my family; I don’t imagine that getting old any time soon. 😉 While I’m itching to run and be active, I’m really enjoying the time at home with my family. Since I began all this running business in 2007, the only extended stretch of time I’ve taken off was during the tail end of my pregnancy and postpartum period with A, so in a way, it’s kinda nice to step back momentarily, enjoy the special family time, and reignite/stoke my running interest. Running isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and even though I have (luckily) felt fantastic pretty much since I’ve given birth, I’m smart enough to know that jumping back into running straightaway is going to do more harm than good to my recovering body. I’ve still got a handful of races left on the calendar in 2015, so if nothing else, they’ll be good indicators of how the postpartum running is moving along, though my goals and expectations for all of them are minimal, if not non-existent. I’ve got a three-week checkup with my midwife on Monday and then outpatient surgery on Friday to repair my 2 hernias that came up (came out?) during the pregnancy, so nothing’s gonna happen in the run department for at least another week… and that’s completely ok.
In my first pregnancy, I often drew parallels to running/marathoning and pregnancy/l&d. This time around, I don’t think I’d buy the comparison; it seems too much like mixing metaphors. I guess I could argue that there are some similarities at the basest level, particularly when you begin to explore the mental fortitude and patience required for each, but I think comparing the two unduly and unnecessarily cheapens both experiences… but maybe that’s just me. Or maybe it’s my somewhat sleep-deprived mental reasoning talking here, reasoning that likely makes sense to no one but me. I’m lucky to have had overwhelmingly positive experiences with the 2 pregnancies/l&ds I’ve endured as well as the 25 marathons I’ve raced/paced, but yeah, one does not mirror the other IMHO. They’re totally different experiences, if not also transformations.
Anyway. Yay babies, yay family, and running, I’ll see you soon. We’ve got big things in store, big goals to knock down in time, and unfinished business to resolve. It’s on. And this time around, I’ve got not one but two little sidekick running partners. Running with that double-BOB tank is gonna be tough, but hell yea you better believe I’m looking forward to pushing my lovely little ladies in it (though remind me that I said this when I complain about how heavy it is with a four year-old and a small baby)!
One last thing: we can say that Guinevere ran 922.11 miles in utero, including a trail 50k with 5,000’+ of vert; an 8k; 2 stroller 5ks with her sister, including one that we won; 2 half marathons; and one last 5k at nearly full-term. Ah, the stories I look forward to sharing with her over the years … And as was the case when I was pregnant the first time, here again I can say that in all the years I’ve been running and the memories I’ve accumulated over the years and mileage, some of the best has come from running while pregnant, and dammit am I ever grateful to have been able to do this crazy stuff from start to finish of pregnancy dos. Did running help with the pregnancy, labor, or delivery? Yeah, I think so, but I don’t know any different at this point. Regardless, being able to run throughout the pregnancy was a completely unexpected gift (and that’s the best type, amIrite?!), and delivering a healthy and strong baby girl at the end, not even 12 hours after my last run of pregnancy dos, was the best thing I could have ever asked for. xoxo