GD Screening

On Monday morning, I went in for my one hour glucose screening test. I had been considering waiving this test, and only went through with it because I’m a wimp and don’t like confrontation. I’m not measuring large, don’t have a history of gestational diabetes in my family, have been running and eating healthfully throughout. My midwife suggested I not fast on the morning of the test so that I wouldn’t feel too sick. I had breakfast, went in, drank the gross drink, sat for an hour, went home feeling exhausted and queasy, and dragged myself back to work for practice.

On Tuesday, I got a call that I’d “just missed” the screening cut-off and would need to go back for the three-hour test. I will admit that I felt defensive, embarrassed, and caught off-guard, but I also felt, logically, that this test was unnecessary. I learned that many women who went in without fasting failed, and that 2/3 of all women who fail the one-hour test ultimately pass the three-hour test. I asked what the alternatives were and were told there are none, other than taking my blood five times a day for the rest of my pregnancy.

On Wednesday, I went in and drank 100g of glucose on an empty stomach. First I started shaking as though I’d had seven cups of coffee. Then I got really tired. Then I got nauseated. Then I got a headache. I went home, thinking I’d take a short nap and then clean the house, do some errands, and go back to work for practice. Instead, I could barely drag myself out of bed to reheat dinner. I’d never drink 100g of glucose, period, let alone on an empty stomach, while pregnant, and then not eat for hours afterwards. I really can’t imagine that this “routine” test is harmless.

In the hours since the test on Wednesday, I imagined that I gave myself diabetes from the test (I mean, I’d worry if I ate that much sugar EVER, so why would drinking it in a doctor’s office make it safe?), that I was going to have a 14 pound baby, that I was going to be told to exercise more. I felt like the fat 13 year old I once was, embarrassed to go to the doctor, acutely aware of her disdain. I also felt like an indignant conspiracy theorist. BIG PHARMA. INSURANCE COMPANIES. LIABILITY PARANOIA!

After spending yesterday with my stomach in knots, checking my phone throughout the day and repeatedly logging on to my health records to see if the numbers were in, I called the office first thing this morning. My numbers had come back totally fine.

Of course I’m relieved, and I’m annoyed that I let myself spend so much energy being nervous, scared, embarrassed, defensive, and angry. I’m also surprised that even after having sought out a practice that avoids unnecessary testing as much as possible (while still being, you know, a legitimate medical practice), I’d been subjected to a test that was not only inconvenient, but unhealthy.

I’m also struck by how deep the feelings of shame, inadequacy, and guilt that I felt were. Someone was accusing me of being fat. Someone was accusing me of not exercising enough. Someone thought I wasn’t taking good enough care of my baby. It made me remember how much I used to hate going to the doctor. How I could sense my weak, waifey pediatrician shuddering at my chub as a kid and until I started going to my prenatal appointments with my midwives, would have done anything to avoid going to the doctor and possibly having to get weight. Even after I was running 70 miles a week and obviously no longer overweight. What a toxic cycle. It also made me sad that this positive medical experience had been made a little less loving, a little less positive, a little more guilt-inducing.

I know logically that lots of thin, fit women get gestational diabetes, and that a lot of the guilt, shame, and anxiety are my own hangups. But, the more research I’ve done, the more it really does seem that the three hour test is over-perscribed, and that GD itself is over-diagnosed. I know (anecdotally) many women who were diagnosed with GD despite never measuring large, having no risk factors, and who delivered small babies vaginally. Perhaps some of these woman had the small babies and never measured large because they controlled GD with diet and exercise, but it also seems highly likely that some of these women never had GD to begin with, but perhaps had trouble processing… oh, 100g of sugar on an empty stomach?

If I do have another baby someday, I hope I am a little less afraid of confrontation, and a little better equipped to advocate for a different method of monitoring for gestational diabetes.

My New Best Friend, Anne Lamott

One night last week, I said something about how I’d been having trouble getting into a new book, and Nick agreed, saying he’d just been reading The New Yorker. Well, I’d just been reading babycenter.com. I kept thinking “I’m tired. School just started. We’re having a baby soon and I don’t know anything about having a baby.” But, I don’t really want to be the woman who reads anonymous internet message boards about how to spell Kaleigh while her husband reads The New Yorker

So, I decided to start Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions, which I bought right after I found out I was pregnant, when I’d just finished reading (and loving) Bird by Bird. I feel like I have a long-lost, equally-insane but much more eloquent friend. I started wondering why there isn’t more written about parenting, or even pregnancy, that’s actually thoughtful, or at least something other than the moronic condescension of What to Expect When You’re Expecting (from this week’s update: “Has your innie been outed? Is it poking straight through your clothes these days, like a timer on a well-cooked turkey? Don’t worry: There’s nothing novel about navels that pop during pregnancy”) or the “Hot Topics in December 2014 Birth Club” (including, but not limited to “what difference between leaking fluid and peeing on yourself???!” “SAHM help” and “Let’s see your bumps!!!”). 

And, it turns out, that wonderful something is my new best friend, Ann Lamott. 

“Sam sleeps for four hours at a stretch now, which is one of the reasons I’ve decided to keep him. Also, he lies by himself on the bed staring and kicking and cooing for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. I had these fears late at night when I was pregnant that I wouldn’t be able to really love him, that there’s something missing in me, that half the time I’d feel about him like he was a Pet Rock and half the time I’d be wishing I never had him. So there must have been some kind of a miracle. I never wish I hadn’t had him.” 

“…one of the worst things about being a parent, for me, is the self-discovery, the being face to face with one’s secret insanity and brokenness and rage.”

“I nursed him for a long time tonight. He’s so beautiful it can make me teary. I told him I was sorry for thinking such sexist stuff about his people. He listened quietly and nursed and stared up into my face. I wanted to justify it, tell him about all the brilliant but truly crummy men out there, and let’s not even get started on the government, but then I began humming some songs for him until he fell asleep. Then it was perfectly quiet.” 

“People have been inviting me and Sam to their parties lately, for God knows what reason. Everyone knows I don’t do parties or dinners…. I would honestly rather spend an hour getting my teeth cleaned than an hour mingling. I am absolutely serious about this. I get so nervous that I actually skulk, and then I get into this weird shuffling-lurk mode. It’s very unattractive. I look like a horse who can count, pawing the ground with one hoof… But in the old days I used to get sucked in and say yes to everybody and be there for them, showing up at their parties, helping them move, or staying on the phone with them too long. Now I do the counting-horse shuffle and shake my head and say I Just can’t do it, can’t come to the party, can’t do the favor, can’t stay on the phone. I want Sam to understand when he grows up that “No” is a complete sentence.”

I’m hoping if I keep reading something decent, funny, smart, self-depricating, honest, I might have better luck writing. Speaking strictly in terms of quantity, it does seem to be working so far. 

 

 

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. 

When Am I Going to Get Really HUNGRY?

Even though I’m 31, I don’t have many close friends who have kids, and those who do mostly had kids before I met them. Our daughter will be the first grandchild on both sides of the family, and I’m the first of my cousins to have kids. I’ve never been to a baby shower (not complaining). In the past few days I’ve been reading a lot of internet garbage about pregnancy and childbirth. Everything from healthy living mommy blogs with gratuitous photos of bellies to message boards to WebMD. Part of this might be because we go back to school next week and I’m procrastinating syllabus writing and unit planning, but I think part of it is because it’s hard to feel like I have a real-life community of nervous/excited/confused/bloated women to talk to.

I’m not a big group-joiner, so I don’t see myself making buddies at prenatal yoga or through our childbirth class, but all this internet mindlessness did get me thinking about what it is that’s surprised me about being pregnant.

1. I sort of imagined I wouldn’t look pregnant for a few weeks, and then BAM would look 7 months pregnant. I still feel like I appear to be ambiguously full/overweight.

2. Had I realized that strangers might stare at me (when running, when trying to discern if I am in fact full or pregnant), I would have realized I’d hate this, but since I didn’t realize how many people openly stare at pregnant women (or probably anyone who stands out for any reason), I’ve been surprised to feel extremely self conscious almost anytime I go out in public. I don’t even like seeing people I know and love that I haven’t seen in awhile because I get nervous they’re going to want to look at (or worse–TOUCH) my belly.

3. I kept waiting to get really hungry, and I’m kind of sad that that’s never happened. I also haven’t had any weird cravings. Or, at least not what I’d call cravings. I decided maybe I’m just really bad at self-denial all the time, and so eating a bowl of ice cream after dinner or some chocolate in the middle of the day is nothing remarkable. I’m running about 20 fewer miles a week than I used to, which I guess is enough to make up for pregnancy ravenousness. Which is too bad, because one of my favorite things about running a lot is getting really excited about dinner (or dessert). I was hoping for some 3pm “MUST HAVE A MILKSHAKE RIGHT NOW” episodes.

I’ve been really lucky (it seems it really is just a matter of luck) to be able to continue running and feeling pretty good. I’ve been running between 20-30 miles a week this trimester, usually 6 days/week with mostly 3-5 mile runs. I’m not sure how much longer this will be possible, but I’d love to be able to run with some of the new girls when cross country starts in the fall.

A lot of the things I’m not supposed to or can’t do haven’t seemed appealing. While there was a time in my (grad school) life when I’d have an afternoon snack of a latte and a chocolate covered espresso beans, I’m okay with my one cup of coffee in the morning. I’ve probably had about 10 turkey sandwiches in my life. I’m a little squeamish about raw fish anyway, so I’m happy to have an excuse to get my avocado rolls without eliciting eye rolls from sushi-loving companions. And, since all cheese made (and most sold) in the U.S. is pasteurized anyway, I’ve not minded reading the label before continuing on wholeheartedly with my goat and brie cheese loving ways. But the things I do miss…

1. a good, hard, exhausting, crash-the-rest-of-the-day long run or race (followed by calf-slicing pain when trying to walk downstairs in the morning)

2. wine (especially sipping a glass of wine while I cook dinner and catch up with Nick about our days)

3. disregard for sleep (I used to be an “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” person, particularly fond of pre-dawn solitary writing or running time)

Luckily, I have a feeling that the first time I try to run after the little scone arrives, it will probably be hard, exhausting and, even if I can’t crash for the rest of the day, will probably result in pain walking down the stairs in the morning. I’ve also heard that I’ll have no problem finding a way to be sleep-deprived.

Before our Wandering Days Are Over…

On Wednesday, Nick and I are taking off for our last big epic-family-of-only-two adventure. We’re re-vsiting a lot of sights from our individual and collective pasts, hoping to do some hiking, easy running, picnicking, photographing, and laughing. We’ve got audiobooks and fully-charged electronic devices and the following itinerary:

Sutton, West Virginia (where I worked as a field organizer for the Kerry Campaign back in 2004)
St. Louis (I haven’t been since I went on a father-daughter trip to the Arch with my dad as a little kid. I’m also really looking forward to the drive through Kentucky, the chance to eat some BBQ, and a farm-to-table breakfast before we head to…)
Fayetteville, Arkansas to visit my cousin and her husband, see their new house and play with their new puppy
Salina, Kansas to see my aunt, uncle, and other cousin
Valentine, Nebraska where my college roommate once let a mouse out of her pocket in the middle of a Chinese buffet while doing field work for her evolutionary biology PhD (she really wants me to ask everyone we meet if they know the mice people, but I’m a little hesitant to reveal this connection)
Rapid City, South Dakota en-route to Mt. Rushmore
Cody, Wyoming en-route to Yellowstone
Missoula, Montana to see my mom’s best friend
Minneapolis, to see my brother and eat our way through the Twin Cities
Madison, Wisconsin to see my college teammate and hopefully revisit the Nepalese restaurant I’ve been dreaming about ever since I first tired Roti when I lived in Madison back in 2005
Chicago, to see my college roommate and eat as many of my favorite Hyde Park foods as possible
Columbus, Ohio to see Nick’s old stomping grounds from his Ohio State post-doc days
and, finally, home again. Just in time to go check in with the cross country girls before the season starts, do some teaching workshops I signed up for back in the spring, and get ready for the school year.

I’m going to try to post photos, if nothing else, along the way.

Any food, running, audiobook, or oddball Americana sight-seeing suggestions welcome!

Type A Pregnant Lady Support Group

One of the hardest–no, the hardest–thing about being pregnant has been feeling isolated from parts of my identity I didn’t even realize were parts of my identity. I figured not running as much and not jumping in twilight 5ks (followed by a nice cold beer–a perfect summer evening!) would be a little sad. I did not anticipate how tired simply existing would make me feel. Or how sad feeling tired would make me feel.

I’ve been working on a longer, more polished thing (essay?) about this, but what I realized last night is that the qualities in which I take the most pride all have to do with my ability to work hard, often quickly, and on little sleep. It is this willingness (ability?) that is responsible for most of the modest success I’ve had in life (as a good student, a productive teacher, a dedicated post-collegiate runner) and that has most often earned me praise and admiration (two things I must admit to loving somewhat rabidly).

I wouldn’t say (I hope) that I go around bragging about being an overly caffeinated ball of productivity, but deep down, I do take pride in my indifference to physical discomfort in pursuit of goals. I remember discovering that while it might be physically painful to wakeup for a 3am morning run before vacation, the pain was brief (really only those first moments of opening your eyes if you didn’t let yourself hit the snooze button), and the sense of accomplishment lasted all day. The sense of shame and guilt I’ve trained myself to associate with “laziness” is much worse and can’t be cured with caffeine. Sort of like a sleeping version of that stupid eating disordered aphorism “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels:” nothing is as relaxing as feeling productive and accomplished.

I have been thinking that there must be a lot of other type-A women out there, for whom the concept of relaxing isn’t very enjoyable, or at least whose ability to relax is deeply tied to a need to have accomplished quite a bit first. These days, though, I really am too tired to be my usual productive, zippy self, and instead of doing what I would have done in graduate school and washing down my second coffee of the day with chocolate covered espresso beans, I hydrate and do my pregnancy yoga breathing activities. And wonder if this will give me the energy to put the laundry in the dryer.

Some of the things about my normal life that I’ve missed during pregnancy are insanely petty: my favorite outfits, a nice glass of rose, the convenience of being able to run on an empty stomach. But to feel tired and low-energy has been not only hard but also alienating for me. I miss myself. I’ve still been running, and I can read about pregnant runners, but few of my other (many) type-A crazy friends who figure pain is temporary and productivity is forever are or plan to be mothers, and even fewer are nearby.

A lot of the symptoms of depression and of pregnancy overlap: inability to focus, difficulty sleeping, extreme fatigue. At my last appointment, I found out that I’m a bit anemic, which, along with the stress of the school year wrapping up, certainly has contributed to the knocked-on-my-back exhaustion I’ve been feeling. Knowing that there is a reason for these feelings certainly helps the logical part of me, but struggling to get through the day without a nap certainly doesn’t feel any less foreign just because I can understand why it’s happening. It is frustrating, strange, alien, confusing, not to be able to count on the certainty that I will plow through. It feels disorienting and scary not to know if I’ll have energy to do something that matters to me, and to know that I’m responsible for making good decisions about how much is too much and when growing scone needs me to relax whether I want to or not.