What you’re supposed to feel

On Friday, we went for our first ultrasound! I was pleasantly surprised that this happens over the belly, and that unlike other medical procedures I’ve had, the lab tech is actually excited to talk to you and explain what’s going on. Usually, I’m looking at x-rays/ultrasounds/MRIs (fortunately I haven’t had too many of these, but, you know, running injuries over the years and other hypochondria) imagining the worst and feeling like I don’t have permission to speak. This was so different! Nick and I watched and she explained the little fluttering heartbeat, and the yolk sack of food that sustains the embryo until the placenta is ready to take over.

Seeing the heartbeat was exciting–but it was so fast! I thought of what I’d feel like if I had way too much coffee on an empty stomach and then got in a fight with someone at work and had to go race the 800. Still nothing compared to this crazy heartbeat! Because I can get emotional fairly easily (actually, I haven’t really noticed being any more emotional since getting pregnant, but I already cry every time I see a movie and often when I read a book, when I get passionate about a political issue, when I’m worried I’ve upset a friend…) I thought I might cry. That wasn’t really the kind of emotion I felt–usually I cry when I feel overwhelmed, but on Friday, I just felt reassured. Like I could finally breathe out just a little. In the past few days, I’ve felt more comfortable telling a few people. I told my boss, and we made some concrete plans for next year. She inadvertently spilled the secret to my officemates, which ended up being okay since they were more excited than I could have possibly imagined (including, strangely, my 23 year old single male co-worker), and my hunch that secrecy and fear are really a toxic combination for me has been confirmed as I’ve felt better, and finally have begun to allow myself to be excited.

I do still feel like there’s a lot of talk about how one is supposed to feel, which is why I’m trying to be really honest that I didn’t cry or feel overwhelmed. Which is not to say that I haven’t felt overwhelmed many times since finding out I’m going to be a mom, but the moment of seeing the fluttering little heart on the squirming little creature felt like magic of modern science, and a relief at the access to this new information (related: I read about a woman who bought an ultrasound machine at home so she could look at her baby whenever she got nervous. After Friday, I completely understand both why this woman would do that and how I really hope that I never talk Nick into letting me do that).

What I have felt: excited, scared, stressed about keeping this major all-consuming obsession a secret, anxiety about my career (both in terms of decisions that are mine to make, and in terms of things that are largely out of my hands, like how being pregnant will affect the courses I’m assigned when I go back to teaching full-time and how being a pregnant woman head coach doesn’t really fit in with the Old Boys Club of track and field), hope that I find the energy and discipline to write as much as possible between now and December, shame over vain concerns about my body changing, gratitude for my parents’ health, proximity, and support, relief, inadequacy, guilt for worrying when I know I’m lucky to be pregnant, to have a job I can return to, to have financial stability, to have a husband who loves me and to worry still.

Who to Tell When

Yesterday, I decided to tell two of my co-coaches about the pregnancy. I’m still conflicted about this whole “protocol” of waiting until 12 weeks, not because I don’t understand it, but because the notion of being judged or made to feel shame or guilt because of something upsetting that might happen in those first 12 weeks seems to be much more of a problem than anyone casually mentioning what our tradition here in the U.S. is would say.

I’m terrible at keeping secrets, I’m a horrible liar, and while I don’t like a lot of public attention, openness is as important to my daily life as coffee and running (speaking of which I’m liking coffee okay again! Which is wonderful!) So, after a tearful, stressed conversation with my mom in which I asked (again): what will I do when I have appointments I have to schedule during work? What if girls on the team figure it out? What if I physically can’t run at some point? While I’m not ready to tell the girls on the team yet, I did decide to tell two of the coaches I work with, and I’m relieved. No one made too big of a hullaballoo about it since we were talking quietly on the side of the track after practice, but we all shared some joy and congratulations, and most importantly, I could honestly explain why I won’t be at practice on Friday.

At some point, I’ll need to tell my boss. I like my boss, and I like my job, and because it is so rigid in its schedule (school starts on time with or without me, runs on certain dates with or without me), and if I go on maternity leave in early December, that means I’ll be missing a good portion of the school year. This year I teach an AP class, and two different semester-long electives. I’d like to be able to have an honest conversation about who would take over my AP class when I leave (if it even still makes sense for me to teach it next year, but hopefully that wouldn’t mean losing it forever), and scheduling the electives so that someone else who really loves teaching Reading and Writing Fiction can have the class second semester while I’m at home bonding with and loving our baby.

We have our first ultrasound on Friday (it was not part of the very first prenatal visit, which went well on Monday), and I am going for blood work in just a few minutes, so I think I will tell my boss next week, once I have just a bit more information.

Fear

I’ve read many times that pregnancy is scary. I’m not sure what, exactly, I thought this meant, but I thought it was something pretty obvious, like: the fact that you’re about to be responsible for the health, safety, happiness, emotional and intellectual development and relative normalcy of another human is daunting. That is true. What I just had absolutely no way of anticipating his how scary being pregnant is.

Yesterday I felt the worst I’ve felt yet. I could hardly eat, but was hungry. I was exhausted, but coffee sounded awful. I drank a Big Gulp of Coke from 7-11. In college, I once turned down a Rum and Coke because of the Coke, so this was serious. Nick, my mom and I went to look at kitchen appliances for the new house, and then my mom and I got lunch. Or, rather, I sat at Panera drinking water while my mom had a lunch that normally would be just the kind of thing I’d like.

I was being a complainer, and I could tell it alarmed my mom a little. I was bitching about how stressful it was not to be able to tell anyone at work, and yet feeling like my performance would soon (if it hasn’t already) start to slip. Being worried about being found out in addition to being worried about not being able to do my job. I went into a long pity party about how much scrutiny high school teachers are under by their students and how, despite the appearance to the contrary, teaching is really not such a child-friendly career (I still believe this, but that’s another topic for another day involving unpaid maternity leave and no scheduling flexibility). Then I complained some more about how I used to love waking up every morning and spending an hour alone writing with my coffee and how that just isn’t fun anymore.

After (unconvincingly) apologizing to my mom and telling her how I really do feel lucky to be healthy, happy, pregnant, and to have a husband who has already cleaned the entire house several times while I was out just to do whatever he could to help, I came home and went for a run. After the run I felt sort of okay, and had some soup and sorbet and graded some more papers, and then Nick and I talked about how scared I am. I complained a little bit more, and did the thing where I’m not really looking for an answer, I just want to tell someone how I’m feeling (scared, nervous, more scared, inadequate, scared) and have person say something along the lines of, “yes, that must be so hard, you hard-working, kind, saintly woman!”

Today I am feeling so much better. I have graded several writing portfolios, am not dreading going to practice, and was even able to enjoy a cup of half-caffeinated coffee. This has made an enormous difference in my mood. On the one hand: how embarrassing. I was feeling sorry for myself because I couldn’t have a cup of half caffeinated coffee? Talk about first world problems. On the other hand: what a wonderful, small daily ritual to have (hopefully) back in my life. I’ll miss cooking dinner while sipping wine (but Nick has found a sampler of herbal teas for me to try… probably not quite the same, but very sweet), and I already miss racing and am eager to plot (but trying not to be unrealistic) a return to competitive running, I miss hot baths (but still not convinced I can’t take those–going to ask my midwife on Monday), but it is really nice to see what everyone had been telling me: this morning sickness will pass (even if it’s only on hiatus now) and then it will seem silly that I sat in a Panera pouting about my morning quiet hour.

All that excitement, though, is undercut by fear. Do my boobs still hurt as much as they did yesterday? What does it mean that I don’t feel as sick? It’s only seven weeks in. What if this is a bad sign? What if it’s bad karma that I was complaining yesterday and something absolutely horrible has happened because I am an ungrateful, immature, and selfish person? This is the kind of fear that I didn’t anticipate.

Coming Home

Last night, Nick went with me to hear Elizabeth Strout read. We went to dinner at the Italian place my family used to get takeout from when I was a kid, and without realizing it, I ordered the pasta dish I always used to eat. In that same chocolate pregnancy book I keep writing about, one of the most fascinating parts was the connection between hormone changes in pregnancy and emotional desires. I’m especially intrigued by the connection between hormones and nostalgia/homing/wanting to connect with one’s family.  I’m already a fairly nostalgic and place-focued (obsessed) person, but I do feel those feelings intensifying. Especially when I took my first bite of rigatoni with peas and sausage and thought of all those summer nights when I sat on the Portofino patio with my mom, or when my dad came home from the train with a bag of takeout in tow.

The reading itself was funny. The woman doing the interviewing was bossy and insistent, and while Strout kept (kindly, I thought) quieting this woman’s instincts to tell us all what the book Strout had written really meant, I spent most of the interview thinking about the groups of women around me. Nick and I were some of the youngest people in attendance. Most of the women had let their hair grey (yes!), and most were in pairs or groups. Friends, book clubs, women who’d known each other for a long time. Many, presumably, through children and pregnancies and broken marriages, and hopeful joy. The woman one row in front of me was talking about the tasting she and her husband were going to for their daughter’s wedding. I thought of my mom and the fun we had wedding planning (and for a moment even felt bad that our engagement was so short and the fun wasn’t drawn out any longer), and most of all longed for a group of women in my life.

Now that Nick and I are buying a house, I’m starting to feel more settled (despite having lived 15 of my 31 years of life in Fairfield County). Like, this place might really become home. We could go to readings and be regulars at a restaurant and have a group of friends and a doctor we’ve known for years and a favorite ice cream place and start to feel like “wow, what a small world!” when we run into our friend’s boss’s sister’s wife.

Right now, my freshmen are learning about the hero’s cycle. They’re talking about the journey inward, reading memoirs, watching Joseph Campbell interviews, and getting ready to learn bout mythology and read The Odyssey. The group that’s reading This Boy’s Life talked yesterday about how Wolff changing his name from Toby to Jack back to Toby is a going and a returning. I guess I’m tempted to do the same. Think of pregnancy as a return, the beginning of a new cycle, and so it makes sense that I’d be overcome with such a desire to connect to my beginning. I mean this only in the “journey inward” sense, not the “I’m heroic because I got pregnant and am now I’m hoping to do everything within my power to have a healthy child.” And, of course, there’s that abyss in the hero’s journey, which I can’t help think could be something like labor.

At the end of this post, alarm clock ringing in the background, the clothes I meant to wear to work today still in the washer, I’m struck by one final thing: I picked the name of my blog partly because the word “run” is in the line from the Mary Oliver poem (“Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long, Black Branches,”) but also because the poem, about daring to risk exposing yourself to the complexity of beauty in this world is also about coming home to the life you were meant to live.

Craving bonding time. Missing hard long runs and Sauvignon Blanc.

I just drove home from my Monday night writing group. I’ve been meeting with this group for a few years, and even though I often wish I could just go home right after practice on Mondays, I’m always glad to have gone, even when it isn’t my work we’re discussing. I’m the youngest by at least 30 years in the group’s current demographic. There are no men. Today we talked about a story about frozen embryos (not saying this derisively at all–it’s a fascinating and kind story), a story about a child’s suicide, and a story about a daughter coping with her father’s death. I drove home on dark, twisty, un-lit Connecticut back roads thinking in a slightly different way about what awaits. I felt protected by this group of women a bit. 

One of the most interesting things I read in my chocolate book was that one of the things early pregnancy hormones do is make us want to bond with family, especially mothers and sisters. I am only just very slightly beginning to feel some of the physical ramifications of hormone changes, but I felt this almost immediately (which I’m not sure means its hormonal). Whether an evolutionary hold-over or neediness on my part, I find myself planning walks I can take with my mom (she’s out of town right now), yearning to confide in girlfriends about the pregnancy, and almost completely disinterested in life outside my little sphere of love. I’ve been motivated at work, but really mostly because I’m terrified I’m going to be hit with unbearable fatigue and I’ll be swamped with grading and nausea all at once. Trying to use tonight’s writing class as motivation to be similarly amped up about writing. 

Other than craving time with my mom, I’m craving… kale. I think about salads much more than I used to. I think part of this is psychological–I’m not running nearly as much or as hard as I usually do, so I feel a bit soft. I do actually think I’ve already gained weight in my thighs, lower stomach and boobs. It’s scary to fathom keeping the pregnancy a secret when its only week 5 and I feel self conscious in my running tights and t-shirt. 

Something I’ve read hundreds of times in all my crazy pregnant internet stalking is how grateful women feel to be healthy, and how all they hope for is a healthy baby. Of course that’s the most important thing to me, too. But, to be honest, I do miss my body (already). I spent a long time as a fat kid, and when I started running as a freshman in high school, I also stopped hating myself. It’s been 17 years since I crossed my arms protectively over my midsection or chest, and I already feel myself assuming that horribly familiar stance. If it were the best thing for my baby, I’d gain 100 pounds and not run a step between now and December. Of course. But I already miss racing and running to exhaustion and the accompanying feeling of being invincibly alive. Now, I feel very alive, but very vincible. Conscious of every ache, swell, craving, and aversion. 

I also miss wine. Especially after an hour drive home on rainy, un-lit Connecticut back roads after an 11 hour work day. 

Hopefully I don’t wake up vomiting. Hopefully I wake up vomiting.

After a really busy fall and winter, it’s been strange and (by contrast amazingly) relaxing to have two low-key weekends in a row. We haven’t had meets the past two weekends, which means that I’ve only worked for a few hours on Saturdays, and Nick and I have had a lot of time to spend together doing not much of anything.

This weekend I read Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies, which was the kind of thing I think my University of Chicago self is supposed to hate (frequent mention of evolutionary psychology without any sense that this might not be a legitimate academic field, lots of pop-academia Malcolm Gladwell type studies), but actually really enjoyed. I learned insane and weird things about fetus cells getting into my brain. Actually, this weirded me out so much, I had to skip most of the explanation, but it seems to have something to do with the cells being stem cells and then being able to become part of any organ in my body? Which also means Nick’s cells are in my brain?

We also attended our first non-family social event since finding out about the pregnancy. A friend’s daughter was getting confirmed, so it wasn’t exactly a raucous late-night booze-fest, but the people I knew there are people with whom I’ve frequently drank beers after a track workout, crammed in the back of a van and smelling godawful. My mom (and I’m sure she’s right) told me no one is thinking about what I’m drinking, so just not to make a big deal about it and grab some water and get on with it. It was hard to get on with it because I kind of wished I were sipping the glass of Rose my friend offered me, and because I was convinced that as soon as we left the party everyone started speculating about my uterus.

Today we went for a walk in our soon-to-be-new neighborhood, I finished my pop-academic book that I secretly found very informative, and then I went for an easy run. Today was the first run where I really felt different. Not bad, but my heart rate was definitely elevated. My legs felt fine, but because my heart seemed to be beating so fast, I kept making a conscious effort to slow down. It got me worrying about how soon I might not be able to keep up with the varsity girls I usually train with. Not for my own ego (at least not right now–if I decide to coach after I have a baby and can’t keep up with them, it might well be an issue of ego), but because I don’t want to tell anyone associated with work for quite some time. When Nick and I got engaged in the fall, the girls were convinced that our short engagement was because I was pregnant and came up with the following pieces of evidence: I asked a girl for advil one day, citing cramps; I hadn’t been running as much (I’d just finished a marathon); I stopped wearing tank tops (it was mid-October), I had been in a bad mood (they denied they’d said this, but I know they did… and it might have been true, but certainly was not due to pregnancy hormones).

It was a relief to feel bad on the run today. It’s so hard not to know what I’m supposed to feel like. The internet is a horrible time suck of anecdotal information (so I thought I’d add my own!), and it’s so easy to worry that I don’t feel bad enough, that I’m eating too much, that I should be running more while I still can, that I should be running less, that tomorrow I’ll wake up vomiting, that tomorrow I won’t wake up vomiting…

New Routines

As someone who loves routines, I realized this morning that I’ve been feeling a little calmer now that I’ve established some new routines. Since I hear I may soon get too tired or nauseated to cook, I’ve been trying to cook a lot this week. I’ve also decided that since I’m not having wine, I get to have dessert every night. I’ve been going to bed really early (probably imagined fatigue, but trying to bank sleep while I can) and getting up early. I haven’t been writing at all in the morning because I’m so distracted by questions I’ve come up with about how I should be feeling. Although I’m feeling guilty about the lack of “progress” I’m making on my writing, I have also been trying to tell myself that this is a special time (not in a cheesy “you’re a special person, Amanda” way, but just because it’s not every day a person gets pregnant for the first time), and it’s okay to enjoy my quiet morning time thinking and reading and writing about pregnancy if that’s where my heart and mind are.

It’s really hard not to get worried that I’m not feeling “bad enough” or “pregnant enough.” A lot of times, I forget that I’m pregnant–when I’m in the middle of teaching, when a student comes to me with a tough problem, when I’m running with the girls and trying to make sure we’re at the right pace, far enough from traffic, no one’s being cliquey, and none of the other groups have made a wrong turn all at the same time.

When I met with my doctor on Monday, I was expecting her (she’s sort of hippyish and usually helping me calm down about whatever my latest hypochondriac fear is) to tell me that a cup of coffee a day is okay, and that an occasional glass of wine after the first trimester is no problem, either. I didn’t feel brave enough to ask about the wine, but I did ask about the coffee, and she gently sympathized with my love of coffee, and even began saying, “I drank coffee through both of my pregnancies…” and then finished that sentence with, “but I switched to decaf”!? Decaf is not coffee! She did say that a cup of coffee a day over the next few days wouldn’t be harmful, but that I should start to wean myself off by switching to half-cat and then to decaf. I thought this was a little silly and was all prepared to ignore this advice, until yesterday my heart rate seemed to stay high for hours after I had a cup of coffee before work. I’m not sure if it was anxiety and guilt over the coffee or my body’s reaction to caffeine having changed since pregnancy, but either way, this morning I did brew my first cup of half-caf. And, yes, honestly, I’m still feeling fine and awake and not headachy and I’m sure this will (obviously) be fine.

In terms of advice I hoped I’d get, she did tell me that running is absolutely fine, didn’t even mention (what I’ve heard is mostly out of date) advice about heart rates, and just reminded me not to engage in sports where I might fall or really hot activities. I hate raw fish, pork and cold cuts, and as coffee has already become less appealing, running would really have been the only thing that would have been hard to give up. Both because it makes me feel like myself and because it’s so much a part of my job that it would have been logistically difficult to stop running without sharing news we’re nowhere near ready to share.

In a few weeks I go to meet with the midwife group I’ve decided to use for prenatal care. The group has a birthing center at Yale, so I feel safe and supported by all advances of modern medicine, but I’ve heard great things about the personal relationships friends have been able to establish with the small group of nurse-midwives. I’m excited to go to my first appointment, where I imagine I’ll meet a calming, maternal, spiritual guide and feel at peace with all anxieties. Ha!

Introduction: why the blog, and why not publish any of this yet

In the months before I got my positive pregnancy test, I spent a lot of time scouring the internet for information about how those first few days might feel. I knew that few (and in fact, I found none) women would write about those first few days publicly. We’ve had our two-line stick for three days and have only told our parents, and we don’t plan to do so anytime soon. I’ve never been pregnant before, so I’m not sure what it’s supposed to feel like.

Is this nausea or cramping? Should I feel sicker? Less sick? Am I eating too much? Is it just me or do I already feel fatter? Is it okay to keep running? It has to be. I have to. I miss wine. I read coffee is okay. But what if it isn’t?

My thought was that if I chronicled the way I’m feeling–as a runner, but also as a writer, a teacher, a human–that there might be a time when I felt comfortable sharing these early thoughts and that these might be helpful to another runner, writer, teacher, human woman out there.