12 weeks in: breastfeeding, marathons and milk-siblings

One week ago when Max turned 11 weeks old I texted my friend Del: "we've come to the point where I went downstairs and did in fact help myself. I hope that's still ok". 

She responded promptly: "Please please feel completely free to help yourself whenever. Seriously. No need to even ask. I'm just happy it's being used."

The previous day, while I worked a 3-4 hour morning with clients and after being nursed, my ravenous baby boy went on to drink his way through 11 oz (325ml) of breastmilk. All the milk that I had pumped over the previous 24 hours. I was shocked as I had just nursed him before leaving and he greeted me with expectations of another feeding. 

By Sunday night I was fried. So I went into our basement and opened the freezer chest. Del had been dropping off milk but I never paid attention to quantities. 

But as I opened the chest and started rummaging through plastic bags neatly labeled by date, volume and time of day (!), I was overcome by sadness. There in this freezer lay weeks possibly months' worth of pumping liquid gold. Milk that Del's son couldn't drink and that I would now be helping myself to. Because my son was not getting enough from me. 

Rewind to summer 2016. Del and I met shortly after she had Lucien Maximilian and within a few weeks I was expecting Maximilian Stewart. We formed a fast friendship bonding over our shared passion for running and soon my pregnancy and her postpartum recovery.

I started training Del for her first marathon while on the sidelines vicariously living though the ups and downs of her marathon preparation. There were a few tears when she twisted her ankle and couldn't run but overall we were brimming with enthusiasm. 

Until Lucien got sick. 

Within a few short weeks this healthy 4 month old boy started losing significant weight. He spit up and had diarrhea. We joked that Del had to cut out the croissants, cheese and soy (not easy as a French/ Chinese woman) but before long everybody was very worried and so the saga of hospital stays began. 

After weeks of sleeping by Lucien's side at Cornell hospital, the week before the NYC Marathon, Del and I met up for a shake out run. Prospect Park was misty and serene that morning. It felt peaceful and as we found our step she asked me if I thought that with everything going on with the baby, I would recommend running the race. I told her that there were only two options; deferring to the following year because it had been such an exhausting time or pouring all the frustration over no diagnoses, anger, fear, sadness of seeing such a small baby hooked up to various drips, into the marathon and racing for Lucien. I always knew which option she would choose...

"Race for Lucien" had been her mantra all along. Del had been running from and to the hospital not to train but for her own sanity. She ran to get away from it all. She ran from appointments to school to take care of her older children. It felt like for weeks she didn't train but ran everywhere. So it was fitting that on November 6th she lined up in Staten Island to run her first 26.2 miles in honour of her son. 

I had few words and mostly tears for the seconds that I saw Del run by me at mile 8. She was beaming and she was fast. I handed her an extra water bottle, gave her a big hug and sent her on her way. I continued to track her. Fast through Brooklyn, remembering the defeating  silence on Queensboro bridge, the deafening crowds on First Avenue, saw her slow down briefly in the Bronx where desperation runs high and marathoners run out of gas. Just when I thought she was giving in to the fatigue she entered Central Park with renewed vigor and ended an incredible race with a great time and raising several thousand dollars for mothers around the world (Every Mother Counts). 

In the following months, doctors in New York and Philadelphia finally were able to diagnose Lucien's condition and we met and I was able to squeeze this cute boy who had endured infusions and special formula all while his brave mama never gave up hope that he would be able to drink her milk. Pumping around the clock. 

And this brings us back to the current summer. It's unlikely that Lucien will ever be able to use the incredible amounts of milk that his mother pumped. To drink it, it would have to be skimmed as he can not digest the milk fat. 

Meanwhile I have been struggling for weeks to keep my supply up. I have supplemented and cluster pumped. Cluster fed and pumped after breastfeeding. I have used hot compresses, massage, fenugreek, and brewers yeast. I have oatmeal coming out of my ears and still my baby is hungry. Half of the time when I lay him down for naps I'm unsure if he's had enough from "just" the breast at which he's been for over an hour. So there's no knowing how long he'll sleep. 

My biggest issue is that I don't have many letdowns. It has been suggested that I am too obsessed with my postpartum body. But as many runners will attest, the sport that makes me happy often causes a letdown. I get them when I'm out and about and teaching but when I sit down to pump: crickets. And with each bottle my baby gets lazier, too. Thus not nursing efficiently. It has been a vicious cycle which had me sitting in front of the pump crying on more than one occasion. I find myself envying women who's milk leaks when they wake up in the morning. Because mine doesn't. 

So I've come full circle. My friend offered me her milk and while I still feel guilty each time I defrost a packet I am also immensely grateful for her help and knowing that my baby is well fed. Last weekend after our text exchange I'm sure we both shed a few tears. For the sacrifices, the trials, and ultimately the triumphs that have created a special bond between us and our two boys. 

Max is 11 weeks old

Just this morning I was sitting down with friends and reflecting on the past three months telling them how rough a newborn can be on life, marriage, sanity and equilibrium. While there was a lot of laughter (because we're coming out the other end), it is also crazy to think back to the first week we brought Max home. He looked like a little alien but to us he was the most beautiful baby in the world. Now we look back at some of the photos and have to admit that hormones and sleep deprivation may have played a role in our perception. But as Chris likes to say: "it never pays to peak too early"...

 

Now that Max reacts, discovers, imitates and recognizes voices, faces and objects, he's actually a lot more fun to be around. He's also sleeping better so inadvertently the focus comes back to us, individually and as a couple. We've taken him to our favourite dinner place and for the first time he wasn't either snoozing or attached to me but sat in my lap and laughed with the bartender. As we were beaming with pride. Can we elevate a high chair to fit the bar next time? So fun! We're back to high-fiving each other at how great we are doing just like the first week when we were flying high on happy hormones. 

Max is also showing some more of his personality: impatient when kept waiting for food, curious when riding in the stroller, delighted when listening to music, amused when watching Zola zip past his bouncy chair, content when dad does bedtime, stubborn when I try and get him off my chest and into his crib for a nap (he holds on to my bra and even when he dozes off he keeps his eyes slightly open to make sure I don't move him to his crib). 

With a shift in Max, the focus has definitely come back to us individually, too. We've both been able to exercise more, alone and with each other. I've managed my first 4-run week back and had a lot of fun doing that. I've taken further stock of what needs work and where my progress has been good. Now that I have increased the volume again and some intensity, I have to be mindful of stretching, foam rolling, strengthening and postpartum recovery strength work. It's not necessarily a lot but I've been slack about it for a few weeks because I wasn't running that much. I also look at my body and there's certainly a plateau that I have hit about 3-5 pounds above my pre pregnancy weight and a long ways from my racing weight. I had heard about it from mothers and now I'm experiencing it myself. Ultimately I believe that the stress of having a baby accumulates further and further over the weeks and kicks our hormones out of place. That's difficult to control or recover from, so patience might be my best friend. 

The bigger commitment I am making as we go into month four, will be to improve my diet now that external factors aren't as much of an issue and to try and go to community acupuncture to get my balance back. 

July will be my first month back to marathon training and for that I want to be feeling good so it's time to get organized hop onto the feel-good-train. 

I have also come up with the idea to post a weekly challenge on social media for myself and whoever wants to join alternating the weeks between fitness and nutrition. So for example one week we all fit in 50 pushups each day (throughout the day) and a stretch, the next week we all eliminate refined sugars from our diet. One week is generally doable and with the help of a community there's accountability too. 

I look forward to sharing this with everyone. 

Max is 10 weeks old

And I am hating pumping. This week I realized what a blessing it is when one doesn't have to rely on pumping to bottle feed the baby while mum is gone. Also known as: longer maternity leave when one doesn't have to rush back to work and pumping can be a personal choice. 

Don't get me wrong. It has its advantages like letting your partner feed the baby at night. But pumping is tough. They don't tell you that. You get that machine and it seems that if there's milk in your boob and you get a machine to suck it out then that's just that. Nobody tells you that you need to be relaxed to bring on a so called letdown. Something babies do by sucking but the machine needs some hormonal support in the form of oxytocin. They also don't tell you that adrenaline suppresses letdown. So when you're a sleep deprived mess that is working part time and worrying about finances and your business, that doesn't bode well for your adrenaline levels. And once you start worrying about milk supply your stress hormones spike. Negative feedback loop. 

In the midst of this Max is great. He was vaccinated this past week and took the shots well. He's now pushing on 13 pounds which led us to work on on his sleep habits. They were already good and we consider ourselves really lucky to have a baby that has been content on the whole and learned to self soothe well most of the time. Now we finally all get to sleep more and that makes us happier as a family of four. 

As a result of sleeping more Max seems even more content, too. We've gone past the "goldfish phase" where we alternated between "FEEEEED MEEE" and "CHANGE MEEEE" with a lot of fussing if needs weren't met instantly. Instead now, by being silly, we can move past the sad bottom lip and often get a little smile out of Max to have time to change him before feeding or get home before a meltdown. 

People comment on how alert he is. He has started flirting with people from his carrier and stroller. It's so sweet to watch and what people have said is true: once you move towards the three-month mark, the baby rewards you for a lot of things that were rather unpleasant earlier on. 

I'm trying to move past my anxiety and enjoy all of the above. I am committed to breastfeeding and pumping as long as I can. I have also received formula from my friend from Germany and it feels good to have that as backup, both physically and emotionally. 

It often helps me to have lofty goals when I feel anxious so I will be racing a series of 5ks in Prospect Park. No expectations other than going out without a watch and running my heart out. Just as I did when I started in the sport as a kid. I want to run free, fast and happy. 

After all, what better way to get the milk flowing than through a healthy serving of running induced endorphins? 

Until next week... 

Max is nine weeks old

This was a big week. For both baby and mama. I ran my first race back and a half marathon no less, Max slept his first mini marathon of 8 hours. Yes, you've read that right. Eight glorious hours at 8.5 weeks. 

As somebody who had resigned herself to be firmly stuck in the 5 hour bracket for a while, this came as a total shock. It helped that we had a big day outdoors with sunshine, running, stimulation and Max hearing all about how mum would be going back to her first race. But when it actually happened, Chris and I were so caught off guard that he stayed up way past his already late bedtime and I proceeded to hover over the video monitor anxiously until 4am because, he would wake any moment now. He didn't and even repeated the whole thing two more nights. 

After which... you guessed it: he regressed to 4-5 hour stretches just as we had become too comfortable. No rest for the weary. 

But let's rewind. This week, was big for me. I had known about this race since I cashed in my guaranteed entry in January. Oblivious to how my postpartum recovery would go, whether I would even be able to run towards the end of my pregnancy and not knowing if my delivery was going to be a vaginal and smooth one. I got really lucky in so many ways. My delivery was all things considered, smooth. I felt good enough within 3-4 weeks to resume running (ambling about), I have a baby who didn't mind being in the stroller and a great network of women who were happy to run with me. 

A little side rant: I have received comments from strangers on social media and in real life, about the fact that I choose to run with the carseat. The stroller is not for children under six months, blah blah, etc. Now let me clarify. The stroller's main compartment is not for children under six months because they don't have neck control. The manufacturer of jogging strollers also has to point these things out among more precautions to not be held liable if people choose to jog with infants. Lastly, I live in a city where the route I choose is paved well. My baby's head is very secure in the carseat because it is a CARSEAT. Anyone that has driven back from the hospital with a newborn in said carseat can attest to a bumpy NYC cab ride and the stress that comes with worrying about the child's fragility. And guess what? That's a lot bumpier than my 9 or 10 minute mile huffing and puffing around Prospect Park. 

So for the umpteenth time I really wish women would keep their comments about pregnancy and motherhood to themselves or phrase things in a positive way. Leave my parenting to me.

But I digress...

On Saturday morning my 12 pound alarm clock woke me at 4:30 am, only 15 minutes prior to when I would have set my alarm usually. We nursed and then I decided to place him in bed with Chris asleep and he ended up staying asleep there until 7 am! In the meantime I heated my usual pre-race oatmeal, sipped on my performance drink from Generation Ucan and showered and pumped. My stomach, as usual, was a little upset as I couldn't quite shake the jitters before running my longest run since one year ago and with the responsibility to pace my friend responsibly to a 1:59:59.

As I made my way to Brooklyn Museum where the start would be I realized that even in my prepared and feeling very accomplished state, I forgot my asthma inhaler, throw away clothes for the start and hadn't pumped enough. So upon arrival, I froze in the beginning rain, then proceeded to take up too much time in the portapottie hand expressing milk from my breasts. A sad sight and not very dignified. But after that I felt lighter and ready to go. I met up with two Every Mother Counts runners in my corral and we got underway. 

I really enjoyed the race. The pace was not an issue for me, I only needed to pee once and was able to catch back up with Del, we narrowly missed our goal but ran a smart and strong race for her and a big personal record. 

So that's that. I cannot imagine right now to race myself. As I watched Del enter the zone in which talking is impossible and she worked so incredibly hard, I tried to imagine how my previous race pace of 7 minutes per mile would feel. If I will every get back there and how on earth I will do that.

I guess I will just have to trust that just how I figured out how to keep a two month old alive and thriving, I will eventually find my footing in running again, too. 

This next week marks our first vaccine appointment at the pediatrician and another chance to weigh the baby. It's a joy to see him grow and develop a personality. 

... to be continued... next week. 

 

Max is eight weeks old

Happy Mother's Day to me and to all fellow first time mothers and veteran moms out there. What a beautiful day in May it was, to celebrate this Sunday baby's two month mark and a special day with Chris. 

In the last week Max has really turned on the charm. Many things make him smile and coo. Among them, Chris tickling his feet, Zola running up and down in front of him, me giggling at him or stroking his head, being milk drunk and people who give him broad smiles whether he knows them or not. He made quite the impression at the annual Every Mother Counts 'Mpower Luncheon' and it was great to be in a room of like-minded people who want to support EMC's efforts toward maternal health worldwide. 

Chris says Max has inherited my lopsided grin. Possible. There's nothing cuter than his lopsided grin though, as it often stretches into a full smile accompanied by a coo and detailed baby commentary of the day. 

He now hangs out in bed before falling asleep and will sometimes recap his day with sounds and facial expressions that we get to follow on the baby video monitor. We used to worry that it meant he wasn't tired or that it would be a precursor to screaming but it's just one personality trait that has emerged. And we find it very endearing. Needless to say. 

And then there's sleep... less endearing to say the least. We have finally adopted the "divide and conquer" strategy which isn't very romantic but not only do we split the night now, we split rooms too. We remind ourselves that we will eventually sleep in the same bed again sans baby. 

In the meantime we have half night shifts of watching Max while he sleeps in his own crib, on the video monitor. 

The biggest breakthrough have been three nights in a row of 5 and 5.5 hours. Naps during the day are still hit or miss partly due to the lack of everyday routine in my work schedule. It would be unreasonable of me to expect him to nap on a schedule when so many of my days are different. 

My work is going well and I love what I do. There are times when Chris and I discussed part time nanny options but Max feels terribly small to be left with a stranger. The other big issue is that I have a decent milk supply for him when I'm around but not much milk stored. 

I have been working on pumping more often to build up a bigger supply but it's not huge. Definitely not for a few full days of me away. Any and all recommendations are welcomed. Because otherwise we have been discussing supplementing formula too. I know this is a loaded topic but this child needs a LOT of food! 

As a Mother's Day gift Chris took the kids... ha, the dog and child to the park so I could run alone. Call me crazy but it made me really happy. I ran one of my favourite loops towards Greenpoint and back along the waterfront of Brooklyn. It was blustery and sunny and the perfect temperature and I had tears in my eyes and danced along while running to Spotify's "All 80s" soundtrack. 

I managed to get in 8 miles in an average of 8 minutes per mile and two miles significantly under 8 minutes. That was my last run before the half marathon. Or: "no sleep 'til Brooklyn"!

Next weekend I'll party all the way to the boardwalk in Coney Island.

xx

Max is seven weeks old

On Monday I posted a desperate text to my Instagram asking women for advice regarding tongue tie and couldn't have been more impressed with the response and kind words. Women truly come together when it matters. 

Max has done pretty well this week. Meaning he is actually eating even more so I have started to top him up with pumped milk whenever he goes to bed and for one longer nap in the day. So basically I pump while he nurses and then twice a day we speed things up with the bottle with said milk. Seems terribly inefficient to me but sure beats 90 minute nursing sessions. Then I pump when he sleeps for some surplus for when Chris has him. 

It seems to be working. Of course if Max had his way he would be on me all day and nurse around the clock but mama needs some autonomy and now when his belly is full we interact differently. He tells me stories over nappy changes. He tells his sleepsheep sound machine stories that i get to follow on the baby monitor. And a rested baby wakes up happy. Smiles all around. 

I've also noticed that he is sticking his tongue out more almost as if to show me how he is exercising it. 

The best night's sleep was two stretches of 4 hours each. A bit of a fluke in an otherwise long week but he is showing us that it's possible so I have high hopes for our future. We are also learning that in order to have a well functioning child, i.e. smiling and not overtired, there is a certain schedule that we should try to adhere to. Ah, I miss the times when weekends were carefree and spent randomly napping, eating, drinking cocktails and being out and about. 

We set Sunday aside to be 'good' and after one long nap in the stroller during my run, a longer nap in the carrier during coffee, Max took two naps in his crib like a big boy after nursing, put down drowsy but not asleep and managed to self-soothe before sleeping for about an hour each time. While that's not terribly long, it certain felt amazing to use both hands for those two hours. That's while watching the video monitor intently, praying that he would stay asleep. 

My personal week was busy working and I feel quite strong but running has not been possible except once and it throws my week off completely. I knew that trying to keep a routine for Max was more important and we've had some dreadful weather but I miss the days when I would just throw on a pair of running shoes and head out the door. 

So yesterday morning I rallied some of my favourite moms for a nice long run in Prospect Park. We managed to do over 6 miles at 9:20ish pace with the stroller and some considerable hills. Two weeks until the Brooklyn Half Marathon and I think I'll be able to pace my friend Del to a sub 2 hour half marathon. Babysteps. I will try and get in at least one 9 mile run in this week and maybe something slightly faster or a fartlek and then see if I can get some rest ahead of Brooklyn Half. 

Haha, who am I kidding? I'll focus on taking my vitamins and staying hydrated. The "rest" (ha! Get it?) is up to Max :)

Wish me luck and sleep!

xx

Max is 6 weeks old

I vaguely remember when starting this series that I was going to stop at six weeks. Since clearly that was the magic day when everything was going to fall into place. My body be healed and Max would sleep for at least 5 hour stretches. 

Good news: Max is alert, a smiling little boy who is thriving and has put on 3.5 pounds since birth, over 40% of his tiny body. The lactation consultant said normally an 11 pound six week old would have multiple chins but he's also quite long so we are currently only counting one extra chin. 

Bad news: Max is on the low end of being tongue tied. Not enough to require the snip but definitely enough to make him a rather inefficient eater resulting in less milk he takes in from the breast per feeding. Means: frequent feeding = doesn't sleep for very long. He also gets lazy on the breast and takes cat naps... sorry, dog naps.

Naps... while he takes them on me, I don't nap nearly as long as I wish I could. 

Hence the solution has been to top him up with a bottle after nursing at bedtime so his belly is full and yesterday he slept for 4 hours in one stretch. Then his belly rebelled against the new amounts of liquid and we spent the early hours of the morning pumping the gas out and soothing on the breast. Then we went for a run with Zola and shook the gas out. 

On that: I did my first stroller run with Zola and Max. My lungs didn't burn this much pregnant going up a hill. That's a serious workout and while I enjoyed it, I am in awe of women who push more than one child and older children. Max loved it. He got a bit fussy which I assumed meant hunger but really he wanted me to lift the blinds on the car seat and was drinking in his rapidly (well... not so rapidly) changing surroundings. Zola pranced along, tennis ball in mouth, approving of this thing that finally kept his mouth shut and came along for her favourite pastime. How could anyone not love being in the park on a Sunday morning? She kept leaping up by the stroller as if to peek at Max asking him if he was as excited about off-leash time as she was. 

Which brings us to my recovery. By next week I shall be cleared by my doctor to resume exercise. Ahem... 

I've felt good. I weighed myself for the first time since being weighed at my 38 week appointment and am about 3-5 pounds away from my pre pregnancy weight (mind you I was marathon fit just 2 months prior) . I have managed another three runs this week but my core rebuilding hasn't been quite as disciplined. Pushing 30 pounds up multiple hills today I could tell and will need to make that a priority. 

I've still been trying to get a nap in when Max naps and can feel a huge difference in my mood, physical energy and even my milk-flow when I do. I wake up and can pump good amounts post nursing. We've eaten more home cooked meals and less junk and sugar. But, I had a few days when I barely met my caloric goal and with NYC humidity picking up I could tell. Another item to keep high on my list. Too many women suffer stress fractures later postpartum from lack of calories, lack of sleep and lack of good nutrition. Vitamin D3 and iron are closely linked and both contribute to healthy bones. So I'm still supplementing with my prenatal vitamin and will have my blood checked as soon as I can. 

Three weeks until my first half marathon of 2017 too. I'm not pushing my participation but I would love to do it. I will know more in two weeks about how my body feels and will make a firm decision then. 

Wish me sleep, friends. Typed one-handed while breastfeeding...

xx

Max is five weeks old

Does your breast pump speak to you? I swear mine says 'got milk' with each pumping motion. Out of curiosity I asked several mothers if they could hear their pumps speak and many admitted that (depending on the level of sleep deprivation) they could hear it loud and clear. Apparently the podcast "The longest shortest time" even had women call in to tell what they heard. 

In case you thought I was slowly losing my mind, you're not entirely mistaken. Pumping, breastfeeding, working a few hours a week and a challenging early week where Max' sleep is concerned, contributed to moments of delirium. That and the time when I walked out of a 2 hour meeting with Every Mother Counts completely zapped. It had been the first time in weeks of an adult, focused conversation that left my brain fried but excited for what is to come. Stay tuned. 

Max also had his one month checkup with the pediatrician and we're proud to say that he is now in the double digits and has gained a whooping 2.5lbs since being discharged from the hospital. He was particularly cranky on our way to the doctor but she worked her magic and while she didn't take us up on the offer of keeping him for an hour while we "pop up the street to take a nap", she did send us home with a happy baby that had stopped screaming at us. 

In new developments, Max is now way more alert and we are trying to figure out what his eye colour will be. Seems blueish in the morning but then hazel in the afternoon. He sometimes follows a finger or toy with his eyes. His tummy time game is stronger and he'll switch the cheek that he is lying on - promptly followed by sucking on everything within reach. And then there are fleeting little smiles. They happen upon waking up first thing in the morning, when he finishes nursing and is pleased. Very occasionally he will lock eyes and we will flash him our biggest dorky grin and he reciprocates. But I haven't quite been able to catch that on camera since I find myself freaking out with joy each and every time, still. 

Sleep... a loaded subject that I dared touch on social media this week. Boy did I open pandora's box. In all fairness, apart from seeking advice, I was curious about the backlash or lack thereof. Most women were very nice about it saying that these weeks are about pure survival. A few messages were interesting and while I can't say that I would have had the wherewithal to sleep train Max as early as week 1, the biggest takeaway has been that we're all different. Meaning, our babies are and as such there is no one size fits all. 

Somehow, despite being quite sleep deprived some days, I managed to run three times this week. The first two runs back were barely 30 minutes but felt so freeing and happy. Just today I managed 45 minutes in perfect weather and in great company. Afterward, we met up with Chris for a coffee and Max didn't mind nursing from a sweaty salty breast. He's already a champion in my book. 

This week, has felt like I found back to myself more. While I have still been eating a ton of German candy and generally just shoving into my mouth what has been easy and quick, I have cooked twice and made healthier choices overall. Chris has managed to go to yoga twice and to the gym and is going for his first evening out where he won't be around for bedtime (something that will probably take a while for me to do...). The fog is lifting a little bit for all of us.  

Seems that just as the little man, we are all becoming more alert again. Can't wait to see what next week brings. 

xx

 

Max is four weeks old

Remember how I said, that one week ago I finally looked in the mirror? Well this week Chris and I finally looked up at each other. Then we promptly went from breakthrough mode in the sleep department to three consecutive very short nights and thus the "whisper wars" commenced. 

Another thing nobody really talks about during those first few weeks, is what toll keeping a child alive can take on your relationship. We always make up in the morning and guffaw at our cooing and adorable son but at night when we hand over between 1 and 2am, tensions run high. 

The night is dark and full of terrors... wise words from a friend. 

So of course, just when we had bathtime figured out and had him down and sleeping around 8:30pm, we decided to do a little over night trip to the Hamptons. Cue the madness! How does a 4 week old need more luggage than we do? Should I hand express milk into a (semi-clean) bottle in the car because I can't take him out of the car seat to nurse (and he is screaming all the way from exit 20-40 on the Long Island Expressway)? How does one sleep in one room with a dog and a sister when the tiniest of us may very well keep us all awake? What is in gripe water that seems to calm him almost instantly? 

Well, I am happy to report that we made it there and back in one piece. We enjoyed two lovely days with beach strolls and breathing sea air. We ate good food and saw friends for dinner and we will definitely do it again, now that we feel like we got the hang of it. 

More importantly, the one critical night, that we all needed to recover, Max slept like a champ. Maybe because of the fresh air but he even kept his farts, belches and general noisiness at bay so that when we brought him into our bed at 6:30am, we were all able to doze off again until 9am. I feel like a million bucks! 

Outside of that, I started working again. Oh yes.. did I mention that we like to pile it on? 

So on the day that Chris had the arguably biggest presentation of his recent months, I jumped back in to teach a 7am class. Never could I have imagined how much preparation would go into pumping, pre-napping, going to bed early and out the door on time, to teach one (GLORIOUS) hour of exercise and be ready for a subsequent appointment with the babe. 

Another fun fact? All the people I saw this week are in worse shape than me after a few weeks off, hehe. But man did I enjoy seeing everyone again, handing the baby off and the autonomy of knowing that there was enough pumped milk for me not to have to worry or rush back. Is that not motherly of me? 

Within these few workouts, I managed to also test my running legs and lungs a little bit. I'm happy to report that the legs cooperated well and the lungs will follow. I have yet to pump enough to be able to work and do a run in the same day, I'm afraid, so it's more of a supply and time constraint. But it feels palpable and with the weather improving even the sleepless nights, don't seem too daunting anymore. 

I will get there this week I think. I'm also enjoying seeing nice people for casual sunny lunches and coffees as I work less currently and being a lot more social and slowed down than I have been pre and during my pregnancy. 

I can't believe that our Spring equinox baby is a solid month old. He looks different, he is growing like a weed, he is almost long enough to fit into 3 month old clothing and slowly filling out a bit more. 

Enjoy Spring, everyone! Before we know it, it will be Summer and we will - in good ol' New York fashion - complain about the heat and humidity and this baby will be a 3 month old...

 

 

 

Max is three weeks old

Three weeks! Can you believe it? This week has by far been the most difficult at times especially for someone who prided herself on not getting out of bed unless she got at least eight hours of sleep...

Cumulative fatigue: a sought after phenomenon during marathon buildups which means that once taper time comes around, the rest period before a marathon, will allow the body to absorb all that hard work and make us strong and fast. Does the same apply for cumulative fatigue suffered from several weeks of 4ish hours of sleep at night? 

Ich don't think so. 

But as it so often happens, when you're at the brink of breaking, something gives and a glimmer of light appears at the end of the tunnel. In my case, just as the crying started up again (*this time not just hormonally but with reason) and I started passing out with the baby on my chest (*dangerous!) I decided to give pumping a try to allow Chris for special bonding time with Max at midnight. Meaning that that night, I managed to sleep almost 6 continuous hours in one go. EUREKA!! 

What else is new?

  • I have graduated from mesh hospital panties back to regular underwear;
  • We met with a lactation consultant who man-handled my boobs for 90 minutes and showed me tons of tips and tricks on how to nurse efficiently and re-assured me that this is a normal phase;
  • Max, Zola and I went for a solo stroll in the park for the first time since he was in the belly;
  • I'm wearing pants other than spandex or maternity jeans;
  • I've started looking at work related emails and am plotting my comeback (not without anxiety);
  • Max had his first bath time and hated it. The second night went better. Turns out, baby has curls post bath (cue mother's excitement!);
  • Because I left the house for farther than across the street for coffee, I've actually looked in the mirror.

When people say "it goes so quickly", it sounds like such a cliché... but I can already tell how much bigger Max is getting. We're getting the occasional smile when he happens to lock eyes in the right moment. He is quite strong in the neck and core when angry and trying to latch, not so much during tummy time. We now have alert phases outside of the sleep/ nurse cycle when he just hangs out, elicits strange noises and looks around (cross-eyed) and those are precious. 

With the weather improving, I have been eyeing all runners in shorts enviously and am dying to get back to it. I miss my running partner, starting the day with a sunrise (outdoors) and the physical accomplishment of a few miles under one's belt. Plus, there's a small race at the end of May waiting for me from here to Coney Island. 

But more on that when running becomes a remote possibility. Until then I'll be walking around Brooklyn with my baby in a carrier, proud as a new mama because I made him, I've single-handedly kept him alive for almost a month and I'm out walking. 

What's your superpower?

Max is two weeks old

Woof! What appeared to be a good first week in the sleep department, went south rapidly with a very fussy baby that apparently hates the bassinet and being swaddled.

We always knew that Max likes the thinker pose. There was never a clear shot of his face on the ultrasound and when he was born he came out with his hand in front of his face. Hence my stitches. Thanks, kid!

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So what's new this second week after what someone referred to the early honeymoon phase of week 1? Turns out, we have a super chill and happy baby between the hours of 9am and 9pm. He naps, hangs out on a playmat, sleeps on firm surfaces and smiles (yes, he smiles AT me!). He charms visiting friends (thank you for the food, clothes and love) and sleeps through restaurant dinners.

After 12am, this same baby fusses in his sleep, farts like a sailor, breaks out of anything resembling a swaddle and wakes from the deepest slumber if placed in the bassinet. 

A big shoutout to everyone that has reminded me that this too shall pass, that structure at this point is an illusion and that anything goes to promote sleep in the adults. So the Snuza plus Rock'nPlay it is. Thank you 4 hour stretch of sleep!

How have I been recovering amidst this? Two weeks is the longest I would usually take off from exercising after a marathon. I'm in a weird in between state of retained fitness, less pain from delivery and - believe it or not - motivation to attempt a workout or run. I even got caught in a bit of rain without the stroller rain cover the other day and jogged back home the last half mile. My doctor would disapprove, but man did I feel empowered. 

That being said, I am still keeping it cool. I have checked my abs for diastasis recti and while there isn't a gap, I am doing exercises for my abs and pelvic floor on a irregular schedule. I've started doing random squats around the house. I've tried jumping jacks to see if my bladder would hold up (it did!). 

I am also aware that there is a lot happening in my body on a hormonal level and that the balance between well-being and falling off a cliff with fatigue is a delicate one. That is why I'm very careful at resuming anything that would add a strain and definitely not thinking about anything structured or resembling training. 

Every morning I wake up and get past the initial lethargy of a short night, I try and take a shower and get out of the house even if it's just for a coffee across the street. This has done wonders for my mental state which in turn has allowed me to open my eyes to the wonder of a small 8.5 pound baby boy that has opened our hearts wider than we could have possibly imagined!

Max is one week old

Ever since working with my first pregnant client,  I have observed how hard those first weeks postpartum can be for new mothers on a physical and emotional level. As such I had planned to not only document Max' growing up, but wanted to see how I felt week-to-week in those six weeks that are so crucial for healing but which are also without any support on the medical side and often any assistance on the logistical end if you live - like I do - in the US/ NYC without that proverbial village or your family close by. 

In comparison, women in Germany have access to a midwife that is assigned to them for six weeks to help them maneuver questions such as nursing, sleeping and self-care, whereas here, these services could probably be summed up in the work of postpartum doulas or babynurses who are difficult to afford especially as an entrepreneur that is taking a pay cut for the duration of their choosing, while recovering from childbirth. A friend in Germany who is in the same business as I am, was paid close to $2,000/ month for a full year of maternity leave. It makes me weep.

Anyway, I digress. We've made it to a week. Seven days ago, I was sitting in a hospital bed with an epidural in my back, had tracked some of my runners in the NYC Half Marathon and taken a nap. We even thought we'd watch a quick episode of "Call the midwife". But transition was fast approaching. I was on an IV of pitocin and they had broken my water... (*I can tell you my birth story in more frightening detail in person - I'll just focus on the positives here). Six hours later my doctor checked and it was time to push. 

I believe her exact words were: "I've only ever seen one woman push that child out in super fast pace of two contractions and she was an Olympic rower". Didn't she know who she was talking to? "Roma, this is not a competition..." Yeah, right. "I have to tell you that she tore BADLY!" Ok, maybe not two then. 

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Max came out 30 minutes later and he was perfect. Since then, he's taught me how to breastfeed him, we've passed the diaper test of soiling as many diapers per day as he is days old. He took a first sponge bath, gained an inch in length, met his pediatrician and managed to sleep through a friend's party as well as a few coffee outings. Some of my interactions with him feel incredibly intuitive, some others make me scratch my head. Like: how much can a little boy of 7.5 lbs possibly drink? 

As for my recovery, there are two things that hurt and are making moving around a little more difficult. One is the tearing that I couldn't avoid despite admitting defeat to the Olympic rower... The other is a self-inflicted (and self diagnosed) psoas strain, possibly from pushing. The latter occasionally robs me off breath and knocks the wind out of me. Both of them hurt laughing. Either will make it hard to resume running as a form of exercise in the foreseeable future. 

And you know what?

I.DON'T.CARE. I have just spent the most incredible week getting to know a person that we made. All we do at this point is dictated by his schedule and his needs. I have plans on the horizon and I have no doubts that I will get there. But how... that remains to be seen. 

One week in it is hard to believe that Chris and I were ever just the two of us. 

38.5 weeks and a guide on what NOT to say to me

If you're one of the people checking in with / on me in the next 10 days, please beware of the following:

  • If you're calling and then follow up with why my baby will be late, I will hang up.
  • If you're calling and then telling me to relax these last days/ weeks, I will hang up.
  • If you're calling to tell me that I should be patient, I will hang up.
  • If you're calling to tell me how much bigger I will get, I will hang up. 
  • If you're calling to tell me that I won't sleep after delivery, so I should sleep now, I will hang up.

Right now, I'm in a position like during the marathon taper. I am preparing for a really big race, however I don't know when that race will start. In addition, I'm dealing with some real and not imagined discomforts. 

Sleep has been patchy and my feet are swollen. I'm still working normal hours and I've developed a condition called de Quervain's which means I wake up in the morning with stiff and painful hands that feel like I've been clenching them all night. Unclenching them is really painful. Working early in the morning takes some massaging and warmth and it usually subsides by midday. But it's not ideal. 

I'm naturally a doer so I don't like being passive waiting for an occurrence that could happen in an hour or in two weeks. Once labor starts, at least I will feel like I can do something. Chris has been a lot more zen but then again, he's not the one trying to sleep with a 25lb medicine ball strapped to his belly. 

Other than that, things have been good. I don't have as much energy to keep up with my workout schedule as I would love to but the times that I fit in a workout feel really good. I also am still able to run which is incredible considering that my belly is getting quite large. But mostly I've been heeding people's advice and cutting back a bit more. 

When I talk to women in Europe, they are all under the assumption that I am on maternity leave as they all were weeks before their due date. Talking to women in NYC, makes it clear that nobody was cut any slack when pregnant here and most women worked late into their pregnancies at the normal rate. 

I'll definitely be updating the blog on my postpartum journey as that's the other area in which cultures of my past and present collide. For now, I'll just dwiddle my thumbs until my body and this baby boy decide to change the current situation. 

Impatiently.... 

36 weeks and floored by all the love

Hello, 

my name is Roma. I like running, croissants, my work and good coffee. I dislike, stability belts for when I'm 20+lbs heavier, running only 4 miles and feeling like no amount of sleep is enough...

This past week I've been thinking more about labour and delivery, I've watched some birth videos and I've talked to girlfriends about their experiences. It is pretty unanimous that most women regardless of how long and difficult their labour was, are able to block that part out and focus on the good - being a new mom!

Given my very physical work and my love for being physically active, I would love to move on to the next phase and being a new mom and of course meeting our little man. Then start my postpartum journey. Alas, I suppose this is the one thing that I can not control, so I am begrudgingly "exercising" as much patience as I can. 

One of the things that I didn't expect and that have caught me off guard is the immense kindness, support and love that has flooded mine and Chris' way. From our non-shower baby shower, to the numerous baby gifts or phone sessions on what is essential to put on a registry (many of my items were deemed superfluous) to a surprise shower in one of my group workouts.

I've broken into sweat, been flabbergasted, forgot to have more donut and been on the verge of tears more than once. 

 

It's a very emotional time for me as I remembered the 20th anniversary of my dad's passing while awaiting his first grandson. I prefer to give than to receive and I usually hate surprises. 

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But friends got me good several times over the past few weeks. And although I protested, have showered me with love that has felt almost undeserving. 

However, I am so happy that this little life in me is already so loved and I want the best for him now and going forward so I'm opening my heart wide and receiving all this love for him and us. 

To everyone who has been there during this pregnancy, every word of wisdom, every item that we received, every act of kindness, every bit of support, I thank you for it. 

 

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Almost 32 weeks - still going strong-ish

As I type this, it is the date that I should have been born (many years ago). I would have been an Aquarius instead of a Scorpio/ Saggittarius cusp baby. But I had my own mind, coupled with my mother's rather stressful relocation from Poland to Germany, I suppose. So, I was delivered at 8 weeks early, and 1.6 kg or barely 4 lbs and immediately flown out to a specialized NICU about 60 miles from my hometown. 

My baby boy is the size of a bunch of asparagus right now, according to the www.thebump.com app or the size of a coconut if you believe www.babycenter.com and making strides towards hitting the 4lbs himself. Grow, baby, grow. 

As mentioned in my blogpost about asthma, my premature arrival is probably to blame for my wonky lungs. When I'm in a positive state of mind, I see it as a blessing that I have been able to do what I do despite this disadvantage but sometimes I wonder what else could have been possible with properly developed lungs inside the womb. I guess we will never know. One thing we know however, is that despite my lungs, I have claimed my guaranteed entry into the NYC Marathon 2017 and will attempt to run it 7 months postpartum. 

My lungs are one issue we have been monitoring closely over the past 8 months along with my iron deficiency and unfortunately blood in my urine. It's unclear why it pops up but it hasn't presented an issue and iron can luckily be supplemented, so I have been on a daily routine of prune juice and probiotics before breakfast (to deal with other pregnancy related side effects), then coffee and any regular dairy like yoghurt, then leaving at least a 2 hour window before taking my prenatal and Floradix with a glass of grapefruit juice because Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron, whereas dairy products and caffeine, can block it. In the evening I usually take one calcium tablet dissolved in water since the baby now needs an extra 250mg of calcium from me to develop his skeletal structure and having gone through a near stress fracture, I am not willing to enter into that kind of deficit before labor, delivery and postpartum breastfeeding when women are often even more likely to develop osteoporosis. 

In addition to the above mentioned supplements, I have been seeing my acupuncture practitioner religiously from 3.5 weeks pregnant to "give the baby some ooomph" as she put it, to now when he dances around my belly each time she inserts a needle (elsewhere!). Acupuncture has been essential for minor aches and pains but mainly for emotional wellbeing and to keep my sugar cravings in check and combat fatigue. My practitioner reckoned that my spleen had been "tired" so she treated it and my cravings for non-stop caffeine and hourly donuts dissipated and made way for healthier choices. At least most of the time.
I can not stress the wonders of acupuncture enough for hormone related issues that we women face. 

That brings us to my plans for the next few weeks. I had a conversation with a friend in Germany who is due in February and she couldn't believe that there was no subsidized, paid maternity leave for entrepreneurs in the US. She will be taking one year off from work, just like all my other friends (and still they think that more time with the baby would be better), and occasionally I weep thinking of the privileges that one enjoys back home. 

Alas, I'm here and love my job and my clients. So the plan will be to work as long as I can, just like everyone else and only stop working if and when I can't handle it physically anymore. Then, depending on my type of delivery, I'll treat the comeback like an athlete. When my body tells me it's fine, I will come back part-time and delegate more than I demonstrate. Should I need more time, I'll have to take it. 

It's a big unknown for the time being but I know that I'm doing my best on this end to facilitate the best recovery from a purely physical point of view. As opposed to what people may think, none of my physical routine is rooted in vanity. I had always said before pregnancy that I would stay as active as I could and it has kept me in good shape to hopefully continue what I love to do after the baby is born. 

These last 30+ weeks have taught me even more resilience, surrender, discipline and being good to my body, than anything else. Having the constant reminder in the form of jabs and kicks that I was doing this for someone other than myself has been good, since I am very capable of taking on too much and digging myself into a hole. 

Emotionally I have shielded myself from negative influences and accepted more that would have otherwise had me bang my head against the wall in stubbornness and frustration. Pregnancy has unearthed so much doubt, joy, inspiration, motivation, grief, love, aggression, fear and bliss that it can be a lot to handle at times. It has also shown me from day to day how there is an upside to most 'downside days' and usually it follows promptly. 

I am not sure what motherhood will bring. I can't wait to meet this little man and be a parent and have him show me ways that stretch far beyond my current imagination. 

So stay tuned and until very soon! xx 

 

Pregnancy Update: Third Trimester

How did we get here? Haha, just kidding. I won't pretend like this 29ish week update came on suddenly. 

This pregnancy went approximately like this:

- 3.5 weeks: whoa! That's a second line. But what if I still get my period. Let's wait.

- 9 weeks: hearing a heartbeat. It's real! Tears... joy and fear. 

- 12 weeks: still not officially out of the danger zone?? Really??

- 18 weeks: anatomy scan, hello baby boy, we're so happy that you have all your parts!

- 20 weeks: half way point, I feel big (LOL, you don't know what's coming).

- 24 weeks: this pregnancy is progressing well, I'm not nauseous anymore, I feel like I'll be at 30 weeks in no time.

- 29 weeks: ANOTHER 3 months?? Whaaaaa? Let's get this party underway. I can't wait to meet my little man.

So this brings us here. It is January in New York City and we just got our first big snowfall. It's pretty and very cold. It's the first winter when I'm not being brave and running because if I trip or slip and fall like last year, that would be really reckless. Frankly, today I can't motivate myself to go to the gym onto the treadmill either. So it's a long rest weekend.

What has my wellness and fitness routine been so far? I hear from a lot of people how disciplined I appear. It's true. But just like before, my motto is moderation. I would say I eat about 70% well and everything else falls prey to my enormous sweet tooth. Way more than before but now I can't get enough gummy bears, hard candy, ice cream and sweet and salty popcorn.  Other than that, this baby loves all things I love. I swear, he jumps with joy when I start preparing lunch, usually a variation on the egg theme with good sourdough and avocado. Baby loves Nutella and bacon, too :) We've been going through a pint of Sahadi's Castelvetrano olives in a few days and I've lost my fear of eating some of the things that pregnant women should be careful with... I won't list them. 

Here is a breakdown of my routine on good days:

6am: Wake up and either go for a run or have breakfast when I go teach.
7am: coffee unless it was part of breakfast (usually Muesli, berries, yoghurt and almond milk).
8am: usually the first client session of the day, sometimes the second, yup. 
9am-12:30am: probably 2 more sessions, run a quick errand and dash home for lunch.
1pm: lunch at home whenever possible and followed by a nap (even though lately naps make me feel like a zombie so I try to relax without sleeping and instead go to bed sooner).
2-3pm: scheduling of clients, invoicing, blogging, chatting with copy editor at www.wellroundedny.com and procrastinating. 
4pm: either get mentally read for another session with clients or debate what's for dinner. Emails.
6:30pm-7:30pm: usually dinner around that time (most of the time I cook a low-carb meal centered around good fats, proteins and greens).
7:30-9pm: watch a TV show with hubby.
9:30pm: lights out (I value my sleep immensely, not just since being pregnant. I try to read before bed and browse less, cuddle our dog and chat with Chris. Falling asleep takes me about 3 mins tops). 

I work six days a week and while each individual day seems like there's a lot of time to procrastinate, working with people one-on-one is physically and mentally draining. On Sundays when I don't schedule sessions, I used to do my marathon long runs of up to 18 miles (I used to fit 65 miles of training into this work week anyway, now it's more like 25) but it's my most valued day to regroup and recharge with 'me-time' and quality time with loved ones.

As I mentioned in a recent Instagram post, pregnancy led me to postpone a few dreams of mine, I had thought I could push through in the first and second trimesters. Coming to terms with that was harder initially but now it's fine. This journey taught me that a lot of things are outside of our control and the next 10-11 weeks will be even less foreseeable. So I'm along for the ride. 

In my next blog post, I will touch on my "birth plan" and my hopes for the postpartum recovery. 

Thank you for reading. xx

Asthma in Pregnancy - When a runner is slowed to a crawl

A little known fact about me, the runner, athlete and personal trainer, is that I have asthma. I've had it my whole life but discovered the problem when I was competing at a high international level in my teens and going forward. That's when they introduced me to my first abuterol inhaler and ever since I picked up long distance running again in the past few years, my asthma has returned and I am currently on both, an oral medication and the inhaler for workouts. 

Asthma as a condition was always a stigma. It seemed like my otherwise so capable body tricked me and betrayed me in an area where I needed it most and felt so passionate about. I felt like a lesser athlete with my 'TUE' and regular check ups but mostly because in every other area of my life, whenever I set my mind to overcoming a problem, I would. 

I looked into why I had it and stumbled across a lot of scholarly articles that examined the correlation between being a preemie (32 weeks) and underdeveloped lung function. I didn't want to believe it because it seemed so final. But unfortunately it was true. Now that I'm pregnant I faced a different question from my doctor which was "do you want to wean yourself off the medication and see how pregnancy affects your lungs, or not". 

I chose not to. 

As it happened, I came to the end of my prescription some time at the beginning of my second trimester and had about a week without it. I don't know if I imagined it or it was true, but my running became more strained. I wheezed going up stairs and there are many stairs in NYC's subway. 

 

So when I saw my OB/Gyn next, I talked to her about it and we decided that since the medication is considered safe and hasn't shown any adverse effects on the baby, that I would continue. From the beginning, my doctor had warned me that in some cases pregnancy with its added weight gain, the pressing of the uterus up and into the lungs, the increased blood volume that has to be pumped by the same heart and ultimately the baby's weight, could drastically affect my asthma for the worse. She said in few cases, asthma was improved during pregnancy but nobody knows what to attribute it to. 

So here I am now, in the same conflict about taking a medication for my hobby that I probably wouldn't need in just regular every day life. Having mixed feelings about it. 

But then I remember how happy running makes me. How it is my "off switch", my happy place, my quality time with my fur baby Zola, how it's my community at races and how every time I get back home, whether it's 3 miles or 8, I'm happy! It improved my digestion in pregnancy, my mood, my cravings, it's healthy, it's social when a lot of other options for being social fall away and I think endorphins make my baby dance in my womb.

So as long as I can, I will continue to run and take baby along on the ride. Whether it's at 9 min pace or 13 min pace. Whether I have to resort to treadmill running come winter or will have to add in walk breaks. My asthma is part of me and defines me in a way. But I have already found a way to overcome it, which is by living with it and doing so to my highest potential. 

Happy running, friends. 

 

Why should we all look the same? The appalling body shaming of pregnant women

I'm writing about this because it has come up repeatedly in the past week. A woman who came to our prenatal workout upset and telling me how a woman congratulated her on her pregnancy, then proceeded to ask if she was carrying twins since she was so big for as far along as she was. Another woman was asked by a homeless person if she was due soon and when she said 'no', was told "whoa, you're big!". 

I on the other hand don't have much of a bump. I have more of a bump when my bladder is full or my bowels (sorry), after a big meal, towards the end of the day. But when you see me during a workout mid morning, it's safe to say that I look at best like I had a big meal and in most instances people wouldn't notice anything different about me. 

Some days I feel ok about it and even feel like it makes my life a lot easier. I don't have much to worry about while running, my center of gravity hasn't shifted, all my clothes fit and I'm super moveable in my job. Other days I worry... about my energy being back up, not feeling the baby yet and not looking much different. 

Then there's social media which has been celebrating and highlighting women who are extremely fit and who still boast tight six-packs at up to 20 weeks along. I look at those physiques and some remind me of my lifestyle, while some are what can best be described as extreme. The notoriety of those women comes from the collective voices in their comments. People applauding and envying them and a much larger group bashing them and shaming them. 

Ultimately it's every woman's personal choice how she goes about her prenatal care. There will always be extremes in the thin and in the big direction. What gets me is how so many people have an opinion on how women's bodies should be changing and how quickly. 

The most extreme case that I heard personally was a person wondering if I was still pregnant. The examples above are pointing in the opposite direction telling women that they are big. Either one of these comments isn't ok. It is rude, it invades the woman's privacy, it causes anxiety in the pregnant woman and it extends an unhealthy habit that we all have to face when we're not pregnant and exposed to physical comparison in society. 

But pregnancy should be different. The most important thing is the health of our baby and our own health. Each woman has a different first trimester. Some of the fittest women get struck down with morning sickness and fatigue and have to pause their physical fitness programs. Other women are luckier but crave more comfort foods and may gain more weight. Some of us retain more water and others face complications that force us to be more sedentary. 

What we all have in common is the unconditional love for our unborn and hopefully gynecological care with doctors that help us navigate this new chapter in our lives. Ultimately this little bundle that we carry is the same. A human that we care for and that we will do our best for during the 40 weeks that they are solely reliant on us. 

 

12 is the loneliest number - my first trimester

It’s true. I’m pregnant. Some women guessed, some women knew. Some people detected changes in my body and I told them. I’m looking at you, boob inspector :) 

Most of the interactions have been very positive with a few falling under the ‘lecture’ category. Given that a first trimester is ripe with anxiety in this day and age of online fora, early detection pregnancy tests and iPhone apps that claim to be able to detect a heartbeat as early as 8 weeks, I pushed back on the lectures and lapped up all the positive support I could get.

One thing that struck me as I was counting down the weeks was how long 3 months can be when counted in days. How long that week was until my period was due… (yes, I found out that early). How un-enjoyable the good days are when one is void of pregnancy symptoms and doubting that there is anything going on. Just to rejoice in dry heaving and extreme dizziness, midnight pee breaks and fatigue worse than in the height of marathon training.

I am generally an ‘early to bed – early to rise’ kind of person and as such, could get away with a quick disco nap when the physical demands of my job became overwhelming. I was utterly unprepared for the drooling mess I would become, waking from a 90 minute ‘nap’ and unable to function properly for at least one hour, wishing 9pm to come around so I could go back to bed.

I had stated to Chris beforehand that the worst that could happen to me would be nausea. Not quite vomiting but just ongoing, day-long, nausea. That’s exactly what happened. Didn’t eat quickly enough: nausea, ate too much: nausea, ate too greasy: nausea. My second favourite symptom: crippling dizziness. I am generally prone to low blood pressure, which was always celebrated as a great problem to have. But the doctor’s office commented on my blood pressure with “oh, oh, give me your other arm”. Not very calming and it did result in quite the spike in the following reading.

Within these three months, the 7 weeks and 2 days mark couldn’t come fast enough to confirm the pregnancy with an ultrasound. Seeing the blueberry’s heartbeat and hearing it, along with the OB’s words “everything looks perfect” elicited sobs, sweaty palms, joy, more sobs, telling the doctor that my due date is within a month of my father’s 20th death anniversary and the ensuing long hug from the doctor “he’s sending you your biggest gift”. I’m tearing up writing this.

Since then I have had two more appointments which still brought on some sweaty palms and relief when everything turned out to be great and we are on our way to the size of an avocado, i.e. the second trimester is underway. 

From a fitness perspective, coming back from my Spring injury and then trying to get fit pregnant wasn’t going to work. Initially it was a hard pill to swallow but conceiving quickly was a huge blessing so I ran some races in which I felt awful and fought hard to keep my ego in check until I got to a level where I run for as long and as fast/ slow as I feel and am ok with it. My OB told me that pregnancy can exacerbate existing asthma and it has already so my body has been putting the brakes on any of my attempts to be a hero. I will write a separate blog post on how I'm dealing with asthma before and during pregnancy.

I’ve started swimming again and worked my way up to a good 2500 yards, really enjoying being in an outdoor pool. I have emphasized cross training until my leg was healed and added in strength to make sure I have the best possible foundation for the next months. And, yes I’m doing 9+1 this year to receive guaranteed entry into NYC Marathon 2017 because a girl needs goals.

For those who have criticized my running, I have said it in person and will repeat it on here. My fitness level is high compared to the average person and as such I have no reason or recommendations from my doctor to not exercise or dramatically cut it back. I am highly in tune with my body and exercise as I see fit, when I feel up for it. It seems ridiculous to me that I’ve had to defend myself to women nonetheless, for doing something I’ve been doing since the age of 5 and that I love. If anything it is my calm time and helped ease some anxiety during the first weeks. I won’t even go into the benefits of prenatal fitness for both mother and child. It also happens to be my job…

So this brings me back full circle: 

I have never understood how a couple is supposed to keep things mum for 12 weeks and not burst. How women are supposed to keep their mouths shut during a time when they need so many answers. Why the fear of a miscarriage means celebrating and potentially mourning in isolation. I know that the people who knew would have uplifted me in any given scenario and am incredibly grateful to the many times when they talked me off a ledge or out of the spiraling thoughts. Sometimes firmly, sometimes pointing out that locking my bike helmet to a pole but not my bike was the best indicator that my pregnancy was going well.

Less than 25 weeks to go and I’m happy to share my experiences with everyone. More importantly I want to learn from all of you. How was your first trimester? Leave me a note in the comments. 

Athletes Corner: Laura Sanhueza-Miller / Mom, Former pro rower & brandnew IronWoman

When I talked to Laura in July, she had just come off racing a half Ironman distance as preparation for her Ironman debut at Mont Tremblant only 9 months after giving birth to baby girl Mia.

Laura says she didn’t really participate in sports until she entered high-school but she sure kicked things into high gear from there. She competed in triathlons at a high level and then decided to try out for the Canadian rowing team while working full time. A quest she succeeded in.

I remember coming across Laura’s Instagram account while she was in her third trimester with baby Mia. I love Laura’s voice. It’s playful, accountable, engaging, warm and strong. All qualities in women that I admire. I hope that you will enjoy our conversation will inspire you as much as it inspired me.

 

Tell me about your recent half Ironman race:

It wasn’t ideal and I didn’t achieve the goal I had. I wanted to go in with a training mentality to try and have good takeaways from it for my goal race.

What I realized is that I have to eat more – as a breastfeeding mum. I bonked near the end of the bike. In 25km I had over 100 people pass me. You rarely bonk in a half Ironman. I have done them before and could race very fast off of nothing. But the lack of sleep as a new mom and the poor nutrition leading up to the race, having enough pumped milk for my husband those were the thoughts that consumed me.

On the plus side I feel fine today. I was still able to finish the race in a decent time. It is what it is.

How many Half Ironman races had you done before?

Three. But this was the first branded race.

Let’s go further back than 2004. What was the very first sport you were exposed to?

Baseball! I was nine years old. My parents put me on an all boys team. Then I went to an arts school for 10 years, so I didn’t really perform sports until about high school. 

But performing arts included dance, so that’s a sport.

You’re right…

And in High-school you started training for and comepeting in triathlon?

I did. My brother was a triathlete and competed in Kona. He got me into the sport. I didn’t know how to swim. So at 14 I joined 7 year-olds to learn how to swim so I could do triathlons. And I kept doing that until I was 21.

That’s when you switched to rowing

I had just done two half Ironman triathlons and qualified for Worlds but there I truly bonked. I couldn’t finish the race. I didn’t train properly. I had an eating disorder. I was bulimic. Because a lot of coaches said “you’re fat” and “you’ll never be a fast athlete, you have child bearing hips”. When you’re 14 and you hear all that stuff it gets in your head. It was odd because I only had the eating issue during my racing season, which is the worst time because you are trying to compete off of bad nutrition.

So I switched sports and went to rowing and was also taking kinesiology in university, which helped me learn about nutrition, learn about the importance of fueling for performance.

I was mostly in crew boats because I had been focusing more on me, fixing me, and the sports nutrition. But during that phase I also thought why not see if I could get faster each year.

So I would wake up at 4:15 in the morning, commute to a different city and row from 5 until 7.  Drive back, shower and be at work from 8:30 to 4:30, get back out there again to train until 8 or 8:30.

I was working full-time and rowed for six years until I made the national team for rowing in 2012 and I was just married so I didn’t see my husband much for a few years. But he knows who I am and knows how driven I am so he was good about it.

So I was invited to try out for the team and four of us were selected to go in the quad to race in Bulgaria that summer. I was on the national team just for that summer of 2012. It was the Olympic year and there are a lot of politics in rowing but I won’t go into details.

I raced a World Championship in Bulgaria. I feel like all the fringe sports go to Bulgaria :)

Haha, I guess so.

Did you go back to triathlon after that?

Not really. It was the year I started trying out for a baby. First we decided to give my body some time to recover. I was down to race weight. Normally I was about 125-130lbs in weight and I was down to about 118 to 120. I needed to put on some healthy weight. I was also asked to be a lulu ambassador to lead a run club. Which I did weekly and it was good as a distraction from the whole process of trying to have a baby.

What was it like to switch from water back onto land?

Scary, especially if you’ve been at such a high level in a sport. Then you come back to land and you’re not as fast as you used to be. It hits your ego a little bit.

How was your journey of getting pregnant?

Athletically I decided to just have fun. I did a half Ironman in 2013 just for fun. I didn’t train for it. I told myself let’s just do it because I can and to focus on something else than baby, baby, baby. I didn’t do any workouts that compare to what I’m doing now. Speed work, testing myself…

Unfortunately throughout that journey I had two miscarriages. Between 2013 and 2015. The second one being in January of 2015 but I conceived Mia immediately in February of 2015 and I gave birth to her in November.

2 years of trying to conceive is a long time. Do you want to talk about what this was like?

It’s HARD. You need a distraction. Do something that you’ve never done before. It could be exercise but it could also be learning how to draw or play the piano. Just something that keeps you focused and away from stress. When you’re body is stressed it shuts down so it’s not optimal for conceiving. Nutrition is really important. I found out that I had to feed my body. Especially after all the pressure I had put my body through during my career. I needed to get my system clean, I ate really healthy and took my supplements and I drank a lot of water.

Then you got pregnant. Were you worried about another miscarriage?

Absolutely. Our miscarriage was very hard for both of us. My husband and I. I am very open about it because I believe people should talk about it because unfortunately it happens a lot. When we got pregnant with Mia we were cautiously optimistic. We didn’t want to be too excited cause we had just had a loss. We wanted to wait until that 3 month point to get more excited or celebrate but afterwards every check in with the doctor got more exciting. We got to see her heartbeat and see her grow. We had her pictures on our wall and in our wallets. It turned real and very exciting.

Did you get back to exercising while you were pregnant?

Yes. Some people had suggested that I miscarried with my first pregnancy because of working out. But that was plain wrong. I’m used to it. I’m not doing anything new for my body. That’s when I started capturing my journey on Instagram. I don’t have a coach and IG helped me be accountable. My husband would never say “Laura you have to work out” he was more like “come chill out with me”. But IG was a nice community to be a part of and to meet other likeminded moms. I wanted to focus on something I enjoy, among peers without the pressure of a goal.

Now it keeps me sane on days when I haven’t slept much and I’m tired and it’s all baby all day. Mentally I have found that exercising is so helpful to have a bit of a break for yourself.

Did you have to make any changes nutrition wise?

Yes, I didn’t have much of a choice. When I got pregnant I hated everything that was healthy. I ate bagels with cream cheese and I had croissants every day. I couldn’t touch salad. I hated chicken and salmon which is usually my favourite. So yeah, my diet changed to the complete opposite and I couldn’t control it. It lasted my whole pregnancy.

Do you want to tell us how much weight you gained on that diet?

People may not like me very much but I only gained 17 lbs. I know for some that’s impossible. Women retain more water or have other side effects.

How was your postpartum recovery?

It was fortunately very quick. Weight wise I went under my weight within the first 5 days . I tore so I had three stitches. That took 3- 4 weeks to heal so I couldn’t get on the bike. I didn’t run for about 3 months because I didn’t want that pressure on the hips after just having had a baby. And I bled for about 2 weeks, which seems pretty standard.

I was definitely on a high from having a baby for a few days but then my husband had to have surgery and was on bedrest and then I got sick. So that was rough but we survived.

When did you decide to do a full IM?

I decided to do Mont Tremblant while I was pregnant. I always wanted to do a full Ironman distance and especially after seeing my brother do Kona. It’s been a goal since I was 19 so for over 10 years. Now is the time to do it. I’m on maternity leave and have amazing support from family and friends. They help watch Mia when I train. I also train when she naps and at night. But I couldn’t do it if I was working full time while also taking care of an infant.

What length is the maternity leave in Canada? It’s about 10 weeks postpartum here.

That’s awful. You should move back to Germany when you have a baby. Two friends of mine in the US are new moms and we just talked about this. How unfriendly the system is towards women in the US. It’s not fair. In Canada it’s a year…

What advice do you have for women coming back from pregnancy.

Both for women who aren’t that fit. And those that are.

Walking is amazing. Walk to do your groceries, carry your baby. You could walk with the stroller and choose a farther route. Drink lots of water and keep your milk supply up. Walk carrying the baby to get some extra strength training J

Don’t rush into anything just let your body readjust. Do breathing exercises and work on your pelvic floor. Breath correctly when lifting. Core work is very important. After Mia’s birth I remember checking my stomach and there was nothing there.  

For a bigger goal, set realistic milestones and don’t expect to be where you were before you got pregnant. Set mini goals along the way. I set a goal to race a 8km race and then a 12 km race before doing another half IM before my big goal of a full Ironman. Milestones are important. Remember that it’s ok to miss a training day. You are already doing a lot more than you probably would otherwise. It’s a pretty big accomplishment to have a baby and to be balancing it all is awesome. You can replace a run with a walk and that’s fine. Don’t get caught up in all the little stressors of it.

Have you had injuries?

Yes and really dumb ones too. I hurt my Achilles and got that fixed. It was because my calf was very tight. When you have a baby you forget to stretch among other things because when you’re done working out, you have to breastfeed or spend time with the baby. There’s always something that takes priority over you and you are already feeling guilty over taking the time for yourself to train. Foam roll!

Did you have diastasis recti?

Yes, about 2 fingers wide, but I was diligent about my exercise and was able to close it.

Fast round:

Who’s your athlete crush? I have two. Crissy Wellington and Natascha Badmann.

Trail or road?  Road

Pool or open water? Pool

Garmin or carefree? Garmin

Solo or with company? With company?

If you could choose a different talent than rowing and triathlon what would you be?

I’d be an Olympic soccer player. My daughter’s name was inspired by Mia Hamm. So being a high level soccer player would be a dream.