I am Thankful

Today was my third day of maternity leave, and even though I tried not to, I really thought Baby Scone would be here by now.

I was so exhausted, mentally, emotionally, and physically, when I left work on Friday, that I was actually hoping for a day or two to myself, just to sleep and clean and organize. Monday flew by–a doctor’s appointment, I’m still coaching, so I went to practice, did some writing, organized things… Tuesday, my mom and I went for a nice walk by the beach, it was Nick’s birthday, so I went all-out making a nice dinner. And then today. It was raining and cold when I woke up. I zipped around prepping for Thanksgiving in the morning, and then feeling kind of wiped out, settled in for a rainy afternoon.

And then I started to get really sad.

Every year since 2000 (my freshman year in college), my dad and I have run a local 5 mile Turkey Trot. There have been years when I was in pretty good racing shape and ran myself into an exhausted stupor at the race. Other years, I was more excited about the breakfast afterwards, but regardless, there has not been a year in the past 14 when I haven’t run as hard as I could, on the given day, on Thanksgiving morning. My high school coach works at the finish line, friends I haven’t seen in years show up on the starting line, and whether it’s an icy 20 degree morning or a weirdly humid 60 degree morning, I start the day doing something I love. For the past several years, we’ve had a family pasta dinner the night before including our close friends. The pasta dinner goes back well before I’d even met Nick, and has covered years that ran the gamut from lonely to joyful and everything in between.

In what I’m just beginning to understand is not in the least unusual for parents, my mom and dad are selflessly walking the race with me tomorrow. Nick and my brother are racing. This year, it didn’t work out to have a pasta dinner. My family was picking up my brother at the airport, our friends have a lot going on right now, I have virtually no appetite…. For a while this afternoon, I tried to tell myself it was nice not to be humming with the adrenaline of pre-race excitement, but by dinner time I was feeling pretty down. I love routine and tradition, and when I heard my parents and brother in the car on the way home from the airport, all on speaker phone, I suddenly felt so sad about the ways this year will be different–no wine while we wait for dinner to cook, no pre-race nerves, no falling asleep at my parents’ house so we’ll all be ready to go early in the morning–even though I know that the reasons for these differences are wonderful and joyful.

I did cry a little. Because I miss the pain of racing, and the satisfaction it brings. Because I’m a little bit scared about labor, and if I think about missing pain too much I realize I probably have plenty of Turkey Trots worth of pain in store for me very soon. I miss my friends who are busy and am afraid that having children will put a chasm between me and people I love who don’t. But, then, I started thinking about Thanksgiving.

I’ve had Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “I am Waiting” stuck in my head ever since I showed my students a video from last year’s Poetry Out Loud competition. Probably because I feel engaged in the most epic waiting of my life. After my tears, though, I tried to borrow the rhythm of the poem and repeat the line “I am Thankful.”

I am thankful for parents who love me unconditionally. Never has either of my parents made me feel they wished I were anyone other than who I am (stubborn, sometimes ornery, weird, obsessive, occasionally myopic, a girl, a runner, a writer…) I truly hope I can be anywhere near the kind of parent that I have. I don’t have a list of things “I’ll never do.” I want my home to be as full of love and nurturing and adventure as the one I grew up in. This fall, both of my parents have changed their schedules to wait for deliveries at our house so that we could feel more settled by the time the baby does arrive. My mom has met me for walks, helped me organize our new house, listened to my repetitive and often indulgent stream of consciousness about pregnancy. My dad has traveled to Hartford to watch the girls on my team race, and though I know he does love supporting my team, it dawned on me after the first few trips that he was also there for me. Just in case.

I am thankful for my health and Baby Scone’s health. This pregnancy has been easy, in spite of the tears and fatigue. Having a little taste of what being anemic or uncomfortable does to my feelings of self-worth has been eye-opening to how deep the connection between physical and mental health is.

I am thankful for my husband. One of the stupid things I’ve been indulging in while pregnant is reading online message boards about pregnancy. A huge portion of the posts on these boards are from women whose husbands refuse to work, humiliate them about the weight they’ve gained, are having affairs, or in other ways hugely negative forces. Nick has picked up extra tutoring jobs, assembled more furniture than I realized we owned, broken down garbage bags full of moving boxes, and defended me against my worst critic–myself–on hard nights.

I am thankful for my running family. There are a lot of times when teaching feels like an isolating profession. Despite being around other people all day long, it’s easy to feel on the defensive against helicopter parents, administrators with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye, and even colleagues who view themselves as part of a different departmental faction. Coaching is different. The girls on the team threw me a baby shower (the pinkest event I’ve ever witnessed), the boys coach mapped out three different routes from the All State Banquet to the hospital where I plan to deliver, and team parents have offered me rides, given the baby track-themed onesies, and offered words of kind empathy.

The Problem With “IB for All”

This morning I read an article about a school that’s implementing an “IB for all” program despite having more than a third of its students eligible for free and reduced lunch. This was, of course, being lauded as a revolutionary and open-minded move.

As a high school teacher in an affluent district, this is really alarming–a large part of what makes IB inaccessible to some students is much bigger than income level. The courses are challenging and time consuming, yes, but specifically, they are abstract and complex (mores than most AP classes). I have plenty of students with a non-working, college-educated parent at home to help, availability of tutors, every comfort of upper-class suburban life (including the pressure to enroll in courses that are too challenging) that often comes with it. Just as it would seem absurd to read about a school that’s requiring everyone to run a marathon, it is misguided and disingenuous at best, cruel and demonstrates a huge misunderstanding of what an IB class is and should be. Either this classes will not–cannot–actually be IB level, or students will be forced to either transfer out of this school or struggle through classes in which they are struggling, not in the hard-work-is-good-for-you way, but in a really demoralizing way.

I’ll use myself as an anecdotal example. In 12th grade, I signed up for AP Physics. Partly because I’d liked regular physics the year before and partly because “obviously” I’d need to take an AP science class. I’d always been a good student, I went on to be a relatively successful, academic-minded person, and I had supportive parents. While they didn’t help me with my physics homework themselves, my mom actually hired a tutor for me, and once a week, I’d drive from my nice, suburban high school over to the local university and get extra help from a college physics professor. On Friday mornings, I’d get to school an hour early and go over my many, many questions with my wonderfully patient physics teacher. I did all my work. I never skipped class. I had a great teacher, focused classmates, state-of-the-art lab equipment, a history of academic success, additional resources, and I was committed to doing the best I could in the class. You know what happened at the end of the year? I got a TWO on the AP Physics exam. At first, I was shocked–I didn’t even know they gave scores like that–and then I was relieved. Considering how little I’d understood and how frustrating the entire year had been, I was surprised I didn’t get a one!

My husband, at a high school across Long Island Sound, was taking AP Physics before going on to major in Physics and get a PhD in astrophysics. I can’t imagine how frustrated he would have been, had he known me then, to see me struggling with the most basic of equations. The IB, or AP, or honors distinction in a class should mean something. It should mean a rigorous class that’s not accessible to everyone. Not because of socioeconomics, of course, but because of something that’s become increasingly taboo to even acknowledge in public education: talent.

I’ve often used a running example to try to convey the absurdity of assuming that all students should or can achieve “greatness” in all subjects. Would we expect that anyone regardless of size, health, lifestyle, and injury history could run a 6:00 mile? A 5:00 mile? Now, though, I realize that my own analogy is flawed. That’s not the direction we’re headed–toward true excellence or mastery for all. Instead, we assume that anyone can “complete” a cross country season, even if that means walking a good portion of every single novice race (where I coach a novice race is about a mile and a half compared with the typical 5k distance for varsity runners). Being on a sports team, even one that doesn’t have cuts should mean something. That’s the whole point. Taking an IB (or AP) class, even in a school with open enrollment, should, too.

Year Seven

Yesterday I wrapped up the first week of my seventh year teaching. In seven years, I’ve taught at two schools, prepped and planned materials for thirteen different courses, taught about 700 different students, and written “what do you mean?” or “needs more evidence” on a mind-numbing-exhausting-overwhelming number of papers. 

This year feels a little different because I know I won’t be there after Thanksgiving. I have all freshmen (my freshman English teacher was the most influential I’ve ever had, and so while a lot of my colleagues like older students, I have a special place in my heart for nervous, insecure, wide-eyed 9th graders). I’m starting the year out with The Night Circus, a novel I’ve never taught before. I’ve already planned through November and graded first drafts on 100 papers. I am excited to do the very best I can for the months I’m with my classes, and I’m also excited to hand everything over to my long-term sub in 12 weeks. 

We have 80 girls on the cross country roster this year. By the time our season wraps up, I’ll be waddling more than running. The leaves will have changed and then fallen, and hopefully most of those 80 girls will feel a little bit stronger, faster, fitter, prouder of what they can make their bodies do. 

Year 32

Friday was my 32nd birthday, and in the weeks leading up to it, I had been thinking a lot about everything that happened since my last birthday.

 

We got engaged.

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I ran the Twin Cities Marathon.

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I coached our girls cross country team to the highest state finish in more than 20 years.

We got married.

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We went to Hawaii

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We bought & started building a house

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I got pregnant.

Hannah won nationals and broke the national sophomore record.

We took our wandering road trip.

I finished the first draft of the novel I’ve been working on since 2011. 

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I know it is unrealistic to think life will slow down, and I don’t want it to, but I would also feel okay about having fewer major life changes between now and turning 33. Yesterday was a quiet birthday. Nick and I went for a run at the beach before work, and out to a delicious dinner after work. Kids come back to school on Monday, cross country season starts, and by early December, we’ll no longer be a family of two. 

This weekend was such a perfect way to end the summer that even though I’m excited about some new things I want to try in my classroom and the cross country season, it feels a little like I’m being ripped out of the house this morning. 

 

The [Taboo?] Penance of the Long Distance Runner

A few years ago, I wrote a piece for Running Times, loosely modeled on Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (not calling myself Rilke here!). I had been thinking a lot about how running has changed me, and the things that adult, teacher and coach-me wishes she could tell that insecure 14-year old on the first day of cross country practice. Before I started running (because I got cut from the volleyball team), I was an overweight, self-conscious 13 year old with frizzy hair and braces. I came in last in our team’s mile time trial at the end of the first week of practice, even though the time (still remember it: 8:12) was a PR (though I doubt I knew this term at the time). I wore flannel boxers and basketball shoes to practice. I had to walk more than once on the loop that would eventually become my warm-up.

I was trying to convey how becoming a runner totally changed the way I thought about my body, and in turn, myself. Instead of being embarrassed by it, for the most part, I was proud of what it could do. I wrote about how I eventually ran a marathon faster than that first mile time trial pace, and about how despite spending that entire first season of cross country counting down the days until the season ended, I now can’t imagine my life without practice at 2:45 each day. 

When I wrote the piece, I was coaching at a high school one town over from the one I myself attended, and now, I actually coach at my own alma matter. My high school coach is the boys’ coach and I coach the girls. We run the same routes, and some (though I try to be more innovative than this might suggest) of the same workouts. We return to the same park each October for our conference meet, and each October, I see this park magically transformed from the place where I’ve logged hundreds of long runs, fartleks, and tempo runs, to a place that still makes me short of breath with nerves. 

The piece I wrote for Running Times, though, was only part of the truth. Running did allow me to forgive myself for what I (still, to be honest) do consider the embarrassing failure of my adolescent self. I’ve grown to equate pre-running me with slothful me, lazy me, overweight me, worthless me. In part this is because running gave me something physical in which to take pride, and in the way that distance running has for so many others, the discipline of distance running really did change me as a person. I spent the entire summer after my freshman year determined to run away from the girl I’d been (slowest on the team, chubby, awkward). I can still remember running up Route 33 on muggy afternoons visualizing a varsity letter always a step ahead of me. The only person who wasn’t surprised when I made varsity on a team that went all the way to the New England championships the next year was me. I was too naive to understand that I wasn’t built like a runner, and that even novices don’t typically shave off minutes per mile in a year.

Sticking with running through those first hard months is, without hyperbole, one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. Becoming a runner, and everything that entailed (someone who took care of her body, someone who made fresh air, alone time, exploring new routes, pushing her body to the limits of competition and learning not to fear, but instead to relish, that pain) have defined me on and off the track. I worry about a lot of things, but I don’t worry about if I can endure something unpleasant for the sake of something that I think is important. 

After our honeymoon, my husband and I were showing his parents pictures and a few videos we’d taken on our trip to Hawaii. One of the videos Nick had recorded on his phone, mid-run. It starts out with the back of my head, my ponytail swatting around sticky with sweat and the wind from the Pacific muffling any other sounds. Then, I must have realized Nick was recording and I turn to wave, smiling hugely. When his parents saw the video, they both commented, clearly surprised, about how happy I lookedOf course! What in the entire world could be more joyful and free? I was running along the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii on my honeymoon while Connecticut got pummeled with the season’s 438th snow storm! Why wouldn’t I be happy?! Because most people associate running with grueling penance, tiresome drudgery, or side stitches and sore knees, I realized. 

Today, though, I spent a lot of time thinking about how the fact that I started running all those years ago to run away from something about myself cannot be ignored: my own penance. There’s a fine line between self-loathing and dedication, and I don’t mean just for me. I’m often asked what makes a given runner I coach successful, and usually it’s some combination of talent, hard-work, and willingness to be uncomfortable. This answer is something I’ve been surprised to learn makes people uncomfortable. I’m not sure what exactly about this it is that makes people uncomfortable: the idea of success requiring physical pain? The notion of masochism being, in some (if not all) cases, a prerequisite for success? The image of a teenager in physical pain for something as unessential to survival as sport? It had never occurred to me that there was anything shameful or taboo about success in distance running requiring not just a high pain tolerance, but a respect for pain.

Now that I’m pregnant, my relationship to pain, and as a result, to running, has changed. (I expect it will change again in ways I can’t even fathom once I face labor and delivery.) Pain can’t be the goal; avoiding pain is the goal. I’m running, wogging, or, increasingly, walking, in search of fitness and some peace of mind. Today, as I blew my nose into the hem of my maternity dress, I was struck by the realization that the peace of mind running brings me has always been deeply tied to my ability to endure pain.

Of course part of what I love about running I can still do: see new places, get fresh air, have some time to myself. But part of what I really miss, I’ll have to wait several months to experience again. I miss being in so much pain that I can’t think. I miss the high that comes from having made my body do something I doubted it could do. I miss being sore in the mornings or so hungry at night that I’d eat my shower curtain. Part of what running has always been about for me is about obliteration of something shameful (laziness, sloth, a past self buried deep inside), but also about the peacefulness that comes from the obliteration of consciousness. 

I am immensely grateful that I’ve been able to keep waddling as long as I have, and although it’s getting harder to stay comfortable and my pace is slowing, I do hope to be able to continue running for awhile longer. I am, as I hope goes without writing, beyond grateful that I have the luxury of contemplating missing physical pain during pregnancy when so many women are in scary, debilitating pain during pregnancy. But, as I’ve been a little surprised to find out, the escape that running has always offered me is more elusive than fresh air and solitude; it has to do with a mind-body synchronicity that’s almost spiritual for me. Figuring out what specifically I miss (after I blew my nose into the hem of a second maternity dress–not joking) was a relief, but at the same time, realizing that I’m still running away from something–or maybe more accurately someone–revealed a dark underbelly to something that I generally associate with pure, unadulterated joy. 

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.

 

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.

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.

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.