Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The recovery phase

Just like in any training plan, after the big event, you've gotta have some down time. Now that Hunter's due date is past, I feel like I'm right on my plan. Before March 23 (how many times during the last 9 months have I said that date?) I'd felt like a few more days of training had been needed before the hopefully short recovery.

In my first Ironman, I managed to develop a little tendinitis in my Achilles. Normal Ironman recovery might have been a little shorter, and I'd have been back running sooner if I hadn't had a growing knot of tendon damage to deal with. My baby's birth had after-effects that I hadn't planned for as well. I must've been in denial that a c-section was actually a real possibility, because I skipped all sections on it in my pregnancy/birth books. Actually, most of the books I read were written by Ina May Gaskin, the famous midwife, or about the Bradley method of natural drug-free birth. I really concentrated on these since I believed the hardest part of birth would be intense labor.

I have to start thinking of these weeks as post-season recovery. It's hard not to think of the detraining effect that taking off so many weeks can cause (and just how hard will it be to run again when my body is ready? I've never taken off more than a few weeks at a time). I'm not worried about weight loss. I'm down about 12 pounds and so only have 6 or 7 to go to get back to a normal weight. Actually I could live with this weight; it's pretty close to my past winter weigh-ins. I'm not worried about the pooch of numb, swollen skin around my incision. Well ok, maybe a little, since that could look pretty weird in a swimsuit. It's still early, and I know these things take time to heal. I learned that my doctor did what most don't: gave me real stitches as opposed to big metal staples. She'll be getting a huge thank you at my follow-up appointment.

Just like in the weeks after an Ironman, I've been surprised at how sore some parts of my body are. I've felt a little sentimental about the "training" that's now gone; I enjoyed being pregnant and am so thankful it was easy and fun. "Race" day was so exciting that I would relive it anytime (with extra morphine please?). But this time I have a much better prize -- better than an age group award, being recognized on stage, or getting a Kona slot.

He's already learning to talk with his hands, just like his mommy.
If I can brag a minute: at his 2 week weigh-in yesterday, he'd gained a POUND over his birth weight, which is a pound more than his daddy expects out of 2-week-olds. Should I start selling this rich breast milk?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

He's Here!

My sweet baby Hunter is lying here sleeping next to me. He is one week old today! It was a surprise for all of us to have him so early, since we thought we were just going in for a version when he was 38weeks, 4 days. He didn't tolerate it well; his HR dropped really low, and my doctor decided it was best to go ahead and deliver him then. We had about an hour to mentally prepare before he was born. Glad I packed a sparse overnight bag just in case!

I was really disappointed that I was not even able to go into real labor, not to mention actually give birth to him. We learned why he was so stubborn in turning, despite my best efforts: he had the cord around his neck twice. Poor Hunter had no cord slack to let him move, even though I know he tried.

Recovering from this surgery is going to be a lot longer and harder than I'd realized. It's such a huge shock to go from swimming with flip turns plus running 6 miles on Monday to not being able to sit up in bed on Tuesday. I'm surprised I'm not able to stand up for longer than a few minutes at a time still. I can't put into words how lucky I am to have Jeremy. Not only has he done everything for us, from making food to helping me walk to changing almost every diaper (and getting peed on countless times), but he also knows infinitely more about diapers and babies that I probably ever will. What a blessing to have such a wonderfully sweet husband, and the best daddy in the world.

What I most want to be doing is sitting and holding and nursing this precious blond-haired, blue-eyed baby (which is nice since locomotion is still difficult). I'm a little obsessed with him, and couldn't have imagined that he'd be so sweet and perfect.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hitting the Wall

Eleven days until D-day, and I hit the wall last week. It was so similar to when your training is going so well, and you've seen improvement after improvement (or in this case, plenty of energy and no major pregnancy pains), and them bam, something causes a setback. Or multiple things, like in this case.

I'll say it again: I promise I wasn't taking any of it for granted. I have been loving running, and after the Achilles pain, I kept my longest runs at 6 miles and mostly ran around 20 per week, plus computrainering and swimming. I was perfectly happy with that. Then the dominoes started falling. Our pool closed for two weeks, so swimming and doing handstands became more difficult. Next the sickness that my sharing husband brought me took over.

And then came last week's doctor's appointment. Hopping up on the scale fully clothed and shod and usual, it announced a slightly lower number than the week before. Never before have they mentioned my weight, good or bad, and it had been somewhat steadily increasing over the weeks, depending on the outside temperature and my shoe or boot of choice. The nurse mentioned my weight drop, and I explained I'd been sick and lacking much of an appetite. I only felt slightly scolded. When the doctor came in and mentioned it as well, I started getting a bit defensive and blamed my lighter clothing. They do realize I'm not naked on this thing, right?

As usual, a quick, grainy ultrasound was performed, and I asked about the baby's size. I have been a bit scared of the potential baby size. I was over 8 pounds and Jeremy was almost 9.5, and averaging that plus considering it's a boy with the possibility of a head the size of mine had me a little nervous. Also, he's breech, and I'm hoping he still has room to turn. Then of course I want to make sure he's growing well. At a 31 week measurement, he was measured exactly at his due date. This time, 6 weeks later, he was only 2-3 weeks bigger. Immediately I blamed myself and my lack of weight gain, sickness, exercise, etc. I am totally aware that her estimate of 5.5 pounds GIVE OR TAKE 2 POUNDS is a gross estimate. But after all this time feeling good about my exercise and the benefits to the baby, this voice in the back of my mind is asking if I have done something wrong.

I tortured myself for a few days over this, but have tried to see the best in it if she is accurate. He still may have plenty of room to turn, and should come out easier, plus over 5 pounds is not a low-birth-weight baby. Jeremy, the head medical advisor of the household, has assured me that I have not caused this by exercise. And honestly, my doctor's forte is most certainly not ultrasonography. She prints out pictures for me that I literally can't make heads or tails of. Seriously, what is this? Part of his head? Thanks for that keepsake. It'll go in the scrapbook.

I was recovering from the particularly nasty cold, still stuffy, but not in as much pain, when J and I both seemed to get a stomach bug. I might have to blame it on a delicious burger we shared the night before. Of course, just like the last sickness, his lasted about half the time mine did. Lucky for him, he was out of town at a beautiful wedding that I had to miss while I was up all night with stomach pain.

Of course this put a damper on my running again. I didn't bother getting on the trainer and burning calories I wasn't taking in. The weather turned windy, dusty, then cold for a couple of days, and we even got rain. The mailman even asked me why I wasn't running one day.

Finally, on Sunday, everything turned around. Jeremy came home, I ate normal food, the sun came out, and I went for a 5 mile run. The saboteurs tried, but they couldn't ruin the last few weeks of pregnancy for me. Back at the doctor today, I held my weight steady (even without resorting to boots), my fluid looked good, and we are scheduled for an external cephalic version for tomorrow morning. I'm optimistic that this baby will be easy to turn and that this potentially excruciating procedure will be tolerable to me, and especially to the baby.

The bright spot in last week's sickness and anxiety was the army base's pool about 40 miles away. It was clean and bright, twice as big as ours, with a slide and climbing wall. I took my beach ball with me and stayed in for a 3000m swim.

So glad even polyester suits can stretch like that.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Forget racing, how about birthing at altitude?

I'm planning on having my baby in a cute little mountain resort town nearby, where we did a sprint triathlon last summer. I picked it based on all the good things I'd heard about the doctor and hospital there.

It's at 7000ft above sea level. I had never given much thought to my oxygen requirements during labor and delivery until I attended the hospital's birth class. Skimming briefly over what causes pain during labor, one bullet point mentioned lactate accumulation during uterus contractions (it actually said lactic acid, but I'll translate into more current terms). Regardless of whether or not I believe this to be a cause of pain (or whether or not it is actually a very efficient fuel in exercise -- read this), I have to conclude that based on the fact that there will be less oxygen in my L & D room, my hardworking muscles will accumulate lactate more quickly than they would at sea level (LT is reached at a lower level of exercise when at altitude).

This, of course, brings up many more questions in my mind. First of all, is it really true? Just because a muscle contracts doesn't mean it is accumulating lactate beyond threshold levels. I don't completely trust this booklet or instructor when it comes to specifics, especially after the instructor told us, "You know all those hormones that made you cranky and nauseated in early pregnancy? Well those are now your mucus plug." What?? When I looked around the room to see if anybody else was thinking about congealed hormones and smirking, I got only blank stares. Is nobody paying attention? Anyway, back to the uterus contractions. I started thinking about the make up of fast or slow twitch muscle fibers, but smooth muscle fibers are not classified this way.

I did find some studies on the correlations on the levels of lactate in the uterus and complications in delivery (usually resulting in cesareans). So I wondered if all my training over the years to help my body better utilize that lactate will come in handy. Surely my efforts will be rewarded.

Then I started thinking of my baby. I have heard that APGAR scores tend to be lower for babies born at altitude; it's hard to pink up quickly when you have less oxygen to help you do that. I found a good article summing up a recent study on rats born at altitude who were then kept there for the first 2 weeks of life (and one with some graphs- I love graphs). They were in Bolivia, at almost 12,000ft of elevation, which is significantly different from the measly 7000ft at which my baby will start. Plus we don't plan on staying there for two weeks, much less for the full proportion of life when comparing human life span vs. rat life span.

Some of the differences seen in these rat babies at altitude included higher hematocrit and hemoglobin, bigger hearts, lower oxygen uptake and lower carbon dioxide production. Sounds like a good start for endurance athletics! However, the researchers actually saw these results as negatives. It could be because the high altitude group died off significantly faster... But like I said, we're not reconstructing that study with our baby anyway. It was just a fun thought.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Taper Time! 3 weeks to go

It's March, the month I've been thinking about for the last 8 now! I'll be hitting the 37 week mark tomorrow, which means just one thing: it's time to taper. I've done the work, and now it's time to sit back and relax, and prop my feet up. While lying on the ironing board.

I'm taking this literally. Actually, my baby is still breech, so I've been doing everything possible to get him to flip. The fact that he's not in position has caused me a lot of stress. My doctor will deliver by cesarean if breech, and that was definitely not in my plans. I know there are always surprises and circumstances that pop up right before or during a race that you've been planning for months. This changes the whole race for me. I've found that I've stopped reading my Bradley and Ina May books on natural childbirth, and my obsession with getting the baby to turn is changing to finding reasons why cesareans are actually chosen by some people. There must be positives.

Otherwise, I plan on tapering as I've always done. Since most of the work is done, I need to concentrate on not ruining my race delivery now. Rest is important in this stage, and as Gordo writes, I might want to reduce my outside commitments. Done! The last week or two it has been hard for me to commit to work out partners, and I had to quit my pro bono swim lessons. That wasn't hard, since they wanted to meet at 6 am. I need my rest.

"Lay out all gear well in advance," says Gordo, along with ensuring the equipment is 100% functional. The room is stocked and the cats have tested the comfort of all soft surfaces.

The jogging stroller got a good shaking out for potential loose parts as soon as it was put together (thanks J). We even figured out and installed the carseat base.

I'm not waking up earlier to get ready for the race day alarm, but I am waking up frequently in the middle of the night, and often spending an hour or more lying awake (usually trying to massage baby into a better position). That's great training for nursing.

Since I'm still trying to put some fat on this baby, I'm not eating less, but trying to get an abundance of good nutrients, lots of fluid, and plenty of protein. My exercise has been steady, but may be taking a hit due to a newly developed cough and cold (which I'm trying not to medicate at all). And swimming is out for the next two weeks due to both pools in town being simultaneously closed. I'm still enjoying running most, and even kept up with a group last weekend. We dropped one guy :)

Staying out of the sun has been harder, since it's been beautiful outside, but I am avoiding alcohol and naps. There's no expo to limit my time in, but I don't spend a lot of time in baby stores or around new moms with horror stories. That has to be similar to staying away from the expo.

The mental imagery is the hardest for me with this new twist of natural vs cesarean. I'm trying to go through each with the most positive thoughts. The ending is always the same, with a new healthy baby boy to take home. Just like crossing the finish line when you know you'll get there no matter what.

March = spring, and spring is here!

My beautiful V-day flowers from Jeremy :)

From our back balcony at sunset

I'm really going to get bigger than this?!