Running in the First Trimester

When I first thought that I might write about being pregnant, one of the things I thought I’d write a lot about was running. I spent the weeks before I knew I was pregnant reading everything I could about running through pregnancy, and loved the few blogs I did find that gave specific information. Not because I wanted a training plan to follow, but because I (obviously) like to know what to expect whenever possible. My college teammate and I went for an easy run last weekend and she reminded me that our assistant coach was pregnant during our senior year, and I realized: she’d been the person who let me know, without ever saying anything at all, that it was okay, healthy, and for some people, happy, to run through pregnancy. Suddenly, I remembered 8-month-pregnant Coach at our conference meet, the team jokes about what would happen if she went into labor at Nationals (I vaguely remember that she stayed home for that trip since it was so close to her due date). Nothing every seemed strange about Coach running with us on our easy days (at some point I’m assuming she ran with slower groups rather than the varsity runners, but now I can’t remember), and remembering all of this has been a good reminder how the overall message, that she cared enough about the sport, and about us, to keep coaching even when she obviously had other important things going on in her life, stuck with me much more than if she missed a meet or a practice or sat out some runs (things I’ve been worrying about with my girls). I hope I can be that role model to some of the girls on my team.

So, how have I been feeling on the run? Pretty good. Last Thursday I did my last training run with the varsity girls. We were doing an easy 5 mile loop, probably around 8:00 pace, when I noticed that the hills felt tough, and that I was breathing hard enough to make my stomach feel a little uncomfortable. At first, I thought that our typical pace-pusher (every team has one, right? It’s a lovable position, but usually a single identifiable person) was leading us a bit faster than we needed to be going, but then I listened to the breathing around me, and noticed that all the other girls seemed fine, chattering away about plans for Memorial Day weekend and goals for our upcoming conference meet.

I’m going to miss running with the girls because it’s the time I’ve used to check in with as many of them individually as possible, and because it’s so much more convenient than running at 4:30am (before school) or after a 12 hour work day when I get home. At the same time, it’s been nice to run alone, watch free, and at whatever pace strikes my fancy. This week, I’ve been participating in a consultancy in another district, so I’ve had a little more time in the mornings to enjoy beautiful, crisp spring mornings and then feast on consultancy-provided pastries all day (what is it about those costco brownies they always give you at these things that makes them irresistible?). Just in the past few days, I’ve started to notice that I’m consistently a lot hungrier than I was a few weeks ago (though I have to say I have yet to feel anything that compares to 70 mile-a-week hunger).

If any future or recently pregnant ladies are snooping the internet trying to find out what another pregnant stranger is doing in terms of running while she’s pregnant, here is how my past two weeks have gone. (For reference, before I got pregnant, I was running about 45 miles a week; I always run 7 days a week [for sanity not out of insanity, I promise] and typically did 1 or 2 speed workouts with the high school girls I coach and 1 long run of about 10-12 miles on my own. Most of my runs were between 7:30-8:30 pace and I was in shape to race about a 19:45 5k/1:30 half marathon.) Rather than boring anyone who might be reading with the details of which route, who I ran with, what time of day, etc., I thought I might just screenshot my training log calendar.

This log shows from the middle of the 7th to middle of 12th week of pregnancy:

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Some days have felt slow and sluggish and sore-chested. Other days, like yesterday’s sunny but cool morning when I’d promised myself a giant scone for breakfast post-run, have felt surprisingly wonderful. The biggest change, besides my pace slowing and being tentative and uninterested in doing any speed workouts or really long runs, is that I can’t run on an empty stomach. Hills feel proportionately harder than flat running does (maybe due to extra weight? As of last week, I had gained four pounds, but feel like I’ve been gaining a pound a day since then, so who knows).

I recently ordered a support band for when my belly starts to grow, and have been asking my midwife at each appointment if it is still okay for me to be running. I’m happy and thankful that I have been able to run and enjoy it so consistently so far, and am trying to remind myself on each run how grateful I am that this is still a part of my day.

 

What Are You Having?

People keep asking if we’re going to find out what we’re having. I find this to be one of the more baffling things people have asked me. More information? I once asked if I could get a full-body MRI just to find out everything weird and broken that might be in me–of COURSE I’m going to find out.

I read menus to restaurants, in their entirety, before going to a restaurant, even if I’ve been there before. I like to plan accordingly. If I’m going to get balsamic-glazed salmon, I’m not going to eat salad with balsamic on it for lunch. (As though my lunches were ever anything other than PB&J, but, you get the point.) Then, when I get to the restaurant, I read the menu again just to make sure I haven’t changed my mind.

I am in the habit of looking at the 10-Day Weather Forecast even when I’m not planning any trips, big races, or outdoor time in the next 10 days. I just like to be prepared. If it’s going to be 80 next Tuesday, I might want to wear my white skirt, which means, I don’t want to wear the only shirt that goes with it on Monday.

So, yes, when we can, we’re going to find out “what we’re having.” Other than a scone, I mean. 

A different kind of doctor

Usually when I have to go to the doctor I feel: nervous she’s going to weigh me and tell me I’m fat (I don’t actually think I”m fat, but I’m dense and muscly and short, which makes me heavy on those charts), and I’ll try to nicely, but without directly explaining it, convey please don’t say that, I spent years standing in front of the mirror crying at how little my ribs protruded, and only recently have allowed myself to eat when I’m hungry and run because I love it; convinced that my dread over being weighed is going to make my pulse and blood pressure high, further confirming her hunch that I’m obese; nervous to ask questions because I’ll sound like a hypochondriac, yet at the same time reveal to myself a previously undetected incurable disease.

Yesterday I had my second appointment with my midwife. I actually had an appointment with the doctor that’s in the midwife practice I’m going to, the philosophy being that at each of my appointments, I’ll see whomever is available, and by the time I give birth, will have a good relationship with all five midwives and the OB in the practice.

Yesterday when I went to the doctor: I read a magazine, got complimented, and heard a baby heartbeat!

Honestly, I was kind of excited that they were running a bit behind; the twenty minutes I spent reading Redbook (Ha!) were the most relaxing of my week. The receptionist is nice and funny and doesn’t make me feel nervous. Getting weighed isn’t so nerve-wracking now that no one seems to care what I weigh as long as it’s changing at the appropriate rate. Since I wasn’t nauseated at the thought of the scale, my blood pressure and pulse were lower, and I didn’t feel worried about being judged (I can’t be the only one who has this chain reaction to visits to the doctor, right?). The sun was shining, people were in good moods, and when I finally did finish with my doctor, it was just late enough that I knew I wouldn’t make it to practice in time to see the girls finish their intervals, but I would still have time for a run on my favorite trail. It has been a long time since I’ve had any time to myself (I know–good luck on having any in six months).

The other reason the appointment was great is that I got to hear Little Scone’s heartbeat on the Doppler machine! I didn’t even know this might happen, so I didn’t have the chance to worry about it beforehand. The heartbeat sounded great: clear, consistent, right pace, and the best part was that we took a video (funny that I didn’t know how to do this on my phone and my doctor showed me) so Nick could hear it, too. I think my doctor is also a genius-person-reader (this should be a more common skill in doctors, no?) because first she made a joke about my blood type being an A+, and then she told me that I was a model patient when I confirmed that it was okay to be running about 30-35 miles a week. Although I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m worried about making mistakes and like to be reassured that I’m doing things well, I don’t think I’ve ever had a doctor actually notice this.

Special Treatment

Before I got pregnant, a friend and fellow English teacher told me I wouldn’t believe how much differently students, and particularly their parents, would treat me once the word was out. We chalked part of it up to the knowledge that a teacher is having her own child undermines the image that some parents seem to harbor of me living in a closet at school, dreaming up ways to prevent Deserving Offspring from getting an A and subsequently into Princeton.

Less cynically, I do believe that some of the extra consideration comes from a purely good place: men, and especially women, remembering the exhaustion of early pregnancy, sharing in excitement for the wonderful, scary, exhausting, thrilling challenges ahead. Parents at track meets have offered me blankets and food, which is wonderful because if I’m already cranky and nauseated, I really do feel stressed about being stuck outside for 12 hours in early New England spring, but also a little strange, because, I mean, I definitely got cold and hungry and exhausted at track meets last year, or any of the other 9 years I’ve been coaching track.

I started thinking about the other things that I’ve noticed get me treated differently: the first one, and actually the thing that prompted the initial conversation with my teacher friend, is marriage. I have this really nosy next door neighbor, who, in the past, has sent me emails with passive aggressive “information” like: “There is a weed in your yard! It is so big you might think it is a plant! But, I wanted to let you know it is a weed.” (Uh, thanks? I”m working 70 hours a week and don’t really care too much about weeds?). Once Nick and I got married, she’s been much friendlier. Maybe she thinks I’m less likely to become a crazy old lady whose house is slowly deteriorating and becoming covered with weeds, now that my manly husband is here to help with lawn work. Or, maybe she’s relived to understand that when my best friend and her partner came over, I was simply hanging out with my best friend, not starting a lesbian commune that might change the neighborhood. Regardless, I get the sense that she likes having figured me out.

The other two biographical details that I’ve noticed change the way people treat me are much more blatantly about privilege (can you tell that even though I’ve been avoiding the news that absurd hullaballoo over the Princeton student’s sophomoric editorial has been seeping into my brain?): where I grew up and where I went to college. Revealing either of these two pieces of information seem to have the strongest impact when I’m talking with parents of students or athletes at work. I went to the high school where I now teach, and I have often observed looks of unrestrained relief cross the faces of parents at back to school night when I mention this. Part of this, I’m sure (trying to be fair and start with the less cynical explanation again) has to do with the imagined (and often real) class tension between public school teachers in one of the most affluent towns in America and their students. Recently our student newspaper published an article with an infographic comparing the average per capita income in town with the average teacher’s salary, the cars students drive with the cars teachers drive, and the average home price in the town where I teach and in the towns where most teachers live. I have heard, and remember from when I was a student there, many teachers making a point to enlighten students about privilege. Now that I’m on the other side, I’ll say that there certain are issues of entitlement (“my taxes pay your salary”), but there are also a lot of assumptions made about students in school based on town-wide demographic data. I imagine that some of the relief I’ve seen when parents “figure me out” in this way has to do with their own fears about what I’m assuming about them. Though this relief is often undeniably coupled with a (sometimes rather overt) sense of: oh, you’re one of us.

The other time I’ve seen faces change from skeptical distance to warm, enthusiastic surprise is when parents find out where I went to college. Often, this is followed with an incredulous (I imagine some people think is polite or subtle): “what made you decide to become a teacher?” Once, the first year I was teaching an AP class, a father raised his hand at back to school night and asked: “where did you go to college?” I had been teaching for a year, was flustered, young, felt outnumbered, but still hate that I answered (later, I would come up with retorts I wish I’d used, like: “college? I didn’t even graduate from high school!”). Even more, I hate how I felt when I saw the relief on his face and heard the approval in his voice. I was annoyed at myself for participating in this elitism disguised as accomplishment-based recognition. I thought of friends who couldn’t afford to go to the best schools they got into, friends whose high schools hadn’t even suggested applying anywhere outside the local state school system, kids I’ve taught who had a storm of life-event-hell throughout high school that made SAT prep and GPA perfecting beside the point.

I feel a little bit uneasy when I’m treated differently because I’m going to have a baby. I am so excited to have a baby. I am so grateful that so far I have been healthy, and all signs point toward a healthy baby. But, I didn’t really accomplish anything to have this baby. I was lucky to be born with a working reproductive system. I am lucky that I found a man I love and want to have a family with who was also born with a working reproductive system. Because I’m a straight woman with access to healthcare, the logistics of conceiving were uncomplicated and, well, free. I guess it’s not at all that I mind additional kindness when someone finds out I’m pregnant, or additional respect when someone finds out I went to a college that they think means something exciting, but guilt to be benefitting from the narrow-minded direction of kindness to such a privileged and narrow definition of what it means to be successful.

The Psychotic Scone: Hating Phoniness Since 1997

About six years ago, some friends and I went on a trip to the Outer Banks. One of our wild spring break activities was playing Loaded Questions (the board game), and one of these loaded questions was: “if you were in (? on?) the WWE, what would your fighting name be?” Because I love scones, and because everyone at this beach vacation knew I can get a little… tightly wound… I called myself The Psychotic Scone, and it stuck. “To scone” has become a transitive verb, meaning some combination of to skulk around being an introvert, to get worked up and obsessive about something a little odd. Nick and I are both big scones, and so we’ve been calling the baby “little scone.”

Anyway, now that we’ve told more people about the pregnancy, I am having a much easier time letting myself be excited instead of constantly worrying that someone is going to figure it out (why this was so stressful for me, I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with my first true love being Holden Caulfield). I told the girls on the team. Their questions ranged from amazingly informed (“I’m going to buy you the cutest maternity outfits, because most of what’s out there is horrible,”) to hilariously teenaged (“who is going to run with me?” “will you name the baby after me?”) to shockingly oblivious (“is it already in there?” “how are you going to know when it’s getting born?”) to identical to my own reactions (“I googled ‘can pregnant women run’ just to be sure” and “you’ll have so many amazing babysitters!”). Word spread pretty quickly around school and when one of Nick and my mutual students interrupted my class to shout “congratulations!” through the door, I decided to just announce it to my class.

I also decided to tell my writing group. The group is all women (coincidentally) and I’ve been meeting with them every other Monday for three years. Many of them have met for years longer. I’m the youngest by about 20 years, but it’s one of the communities in my life that I value most. Often I leave class so wired that even after the hour drive home, I have trouble sleeping. This Monday was our last meeting of the spring (we break for summer), and at the end of the evening, once the writing had been critiqued, I decided to share my news. Even he women who are usually more reserved responded with such warmth and happiness. I felt free for the first time to honestly throw around some of the ideas I’ve been having about balancing my career and motherhood, and to voice some of the anxieties I have about what role writing will play going forward. I had been thinking that I might not chose to join the group for the fall session: the long drive, the windy backroads, being head coach in cross country along with being 7-9 months pregnant during the session just seemed a bit much. After Monday, though, I decided that I will sign up. If I miss some (or many) sessions, that’s okay. If I don’t do much revising, or if I need to leave early some nights, that’s okay. I want to be sure that I’m part of this community for a long time.

Maybe part of what has been hard about not telling anyone was that a lot of the community associated with being a mom is accessible only when you are one. Yesterday I got a message from the wife of a colleague inviting me to her prenatal yoga class, explaining that this is how she met many of her mom friends in the area. Not many of my close friends have children yet, and many of them don’t plan to at all. Because of this, there’s not a lot of talking about motherhood, even from the friends who do already have children. Just being open about the fact that I’m pregnant seems to have revealed both a support system of people I already know and access to support and a community of women in general.

Halves of the Heart

The more people it’s become either important emotionally or professionally necessary to tell about the pregnancy, the better I feel. Being secretive (rather than just being private, if that distinction makes sense) has always been something that makes me feel awful. Nervous, cranky, not myself.

Next week, the department will get our schedules for next year, and my boss warned me that people are going to either figure out or ask why I only have one prep (this year I have four). I’m also a little bit (or a lot) vain, and I don’t want people to think the reason I’m not teaching an AP class is because I’m being demoted. So, I’m going to be honest about next year and open up to both my colleagues and my students. Nick reminded me that I don’t owe my students any sort of explanation, and suggested that I might be imagining that they even care what I’m teaching next year (for the most part, I think he’s right, but I also hate the idea of anyone thinking I’m not doing a good enough job to handle the challenge of four preps, including my students. I don’t want them to avoid challenges and be lazy, so I don’t want them to think I am, either). This means I’ll also tell the girls on the team. Right now, my plan is to tell the boys’ team coaches (who don’t know yet), and explain that I am still going to be the head coach in cross country, and then tell the girls at the team meeting after our race on Tuesday. It’s a little earlier than the typical beginning of second trimester time, but I’ll be nearly 10 weeks by then, and I think that opening up about why I haven’t been running intervals with the varsity girls will also make me feel better. Most days I feel good on runs, and have been keeping up with the varsity squad on easy runs and the next group on interval days, but I also know that there may soon be a day where I don’t feel up to running at all, let alone with the faster girls, and it will be easier for me to respond appropriately if I know that everything is already out in the open.

Yesterday I felt pretty queasy all day, and instead of going out to dinner as we’d planned, Nick and I spent the evening at home. I started and finished a collection of personal essays by my college creative writing professor. I took at least three writing workshops with Megan Stielstra when I was at the University of Chicago, and in the ten (!) years since graduation, I’ve read everything of hers I could. Recently, her essay “Channel B” was published in the Best American Essays anthology.

I first read Channel B years ago–when I thought I might like to have a baby someday, and when I had friends who had babies, but before I was anywhere in a how-will-motherhood-change-my-life state of mind. Last night, as I was blowing through Once I Was Cool, I was particularly drawn to two essays about writing and motherhood. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I love in my life. I love teaching. I love coaching. I love writing. I love training. I love Nick. I love my parents. I love my friends. I am excited to love being a mother. How can I have room for all these things I love so completely? I already often feel that I can’t do everything I love to my standards.

When I was in 10th grade, I had a journal where I would write down my goals. Here is one list from the May I was 15:

  • Break 12 in the 2 mile
  • Kiss Mark Johnson
  • Get a 5 on the AP US History Exam
  • Get into the University of Chicago
  • Get a PhD from Stanford or Berkeley

Although I never did kiss Mark Johnson or apply to PhD programs, I am still a person who loves to make lists, to cross things off those lists, and to add new, loftier plans. It is hard to accept that the list (which is now, thankfully for me and those who share a life with me, mostly mental) is shifting, not only in its focus, but in its nature. I don’t know what exactly will be hard about being a mom. I don’t know what will feel impossible, and unlike knowing how to make flashcards, take practice tests, proofread my essay 803 times, or run 400s with short rest, I don’t know what steps I’ll need to take to be a patient, strong, loving, supportive, mom. Some people who are well-meaning, but obviously more sane than I, have suggested that my priorities will change once I have children. They’ll say this as though this is supposed to be reassuing: what consumes you now won’t consume you in six months.

WHAT?! I’m a loyal girl. I’ve been loyal to running, to my love of literature, to my dreams of writing, for more than half my life. Consistently consumed by the same passions for longer than I’ve known how to drive. There has not been a season since 1996 when I was not trying to PR in some distance. There has not been a day since I read Harriet The Spy in 1989 when I was not writing down the strange things around me and spinning them into stories.

In Megan’s interview with The Rumpus, “Where I Write,” she talks about the two halves of her heart:

I am writing from an artist residency, all expenses paid, far away from the city in a beautiful old house. I have my own room. My own desk. Zero responsibilities save for writing and reading. It’s so still. The sun is shining through my window. I can hear crickets. I can hear my own thoughts; my own heartbeat. I’ve accomplished more in two weeks than I have in six months, and the sheer force of my gratitude could power a small city.

 But.

 I keep glancing up, expecting to see my kid drawing pictures at my feet. A hundred different times, I’ve been sure I heard him laughing in the next room. Last night, I counted mileage: If I leave now, I could be in Chicago by bedtime. I could read him a story, wait til he falls asleep, and be back at the residency by midnight.

Once again, the two halves of my heart.

I am excited and awed and humbled, of course, but also sometimes terrified about the two, or five, halves of my heart.