Tag Archives: pregnancy

9 Months On, 9 Months Off

I could chalk the radio silence up to motherhood being busy as all get out, but that’s not the reason.  I simply have so many feelings, and I’m so inadequate at being able to express them.  I also, until six weeks ago, had been majorly slacking on exercise and therefore felt like I didn’t really deserve to be a “fitnessish” blogger.  Blogger should probably also be in quotes? Anyway.  My daughter will be 9 months old tomorrow.  Which has me taking a bit of stock in the idea of nine months on, nine months off.  And I think it’s impossible to address the issue of post-partum body issues without talking about breastfeeding.

In the beginning, breastfeeding was super-easy.  My daughter latched right away and we had very few problems nursing besides she would fall asleep immediately and then wake up thirty minutes later and want to eat AGAIN.  I drank the tea, I hydrated, I pumped starting the first week we were home so that I could build my supply and my freezer stash.  I went back to work at 6 weeks and I pumped three times a day.  And then slowly, gradually, my supply began to decrease.  Where I used to get 15 ounces a day, I started to regularly only get 12.  Then, I started to get 9.  This has been extremely frustrating.  My child still doesn’t sleep through the night.  And I lost zero weight from when I got home from the hospital until June.

The only reason I started to lose weight was I signed up for a program called Body Back, through a company called Fit4Mom (they do stroller strides), which came with a nutrition guide.  I started to really try to lose weight.  And my supply dropped even more.  And so, there I was, trying to figure out if the problem was calories, or lack of hydration, or just eating the wrong foods, or my pump, or what.  I still don’t know the answer.  Things have remained pretty low.

I heard, constantly, that the advantage of breastfeeding is that Mom gets to eat whatever she wants and can still lose weight.  That’s true for some women.  It wasn’t true for me.  And I am struggling, big time, with whether wanting my body back enough of a reason to let my supply tank and consider supplementing.  Supplementing isn’t the end of the world, but from where I sit, where breastfeeding is convenient and dammit, should be possible, and formula is expensive and requires measuring and mixing and throwing it out after an hour or something like that, I just would really really like to make it to the one-year mark.  But I’m not sure that I want to make it badly enough to keep sacrificing my body.

My body hasn’t been mine for eighteen months now.  It has grown an entire human being, and it has been the primary source of nutrition for that human being for the past 18 months.  And the forums I sometimes make the mistake of reading make me feel like that isn’t enough.  I’m supposed to be the freaking giving tree here, giving my baby everything until I am a stump.  And I am not okay with that.  And I think I’m okay with not being okay with that.

So where I am right now is still trying to make nursing work.  Because, literally, at the end of the day, I love nursing.  I love coming home to my baby and having her snuggle up in my lap and nurse for forty minutes.  My ability to be a comfort and a food source and to provide her with what she needs, nutritionally, without stressing about it, is enough that I’m willing to keep trying to make this work.  We supplement with the freezer stash I worked so hard to build up.  I’m also trying to decide whether I’m going to be done when we hit the one-year mark.  I am theoretically pro extended breastfeeding, but as my sister tells me, nursing is a two-way street and as soon as it doesn’t work for one of you, it doesn’t work for both of you.

I started working out again.  I started this boot camp, but I’m also tri training and running and going to yoga.  More than anything else, this makes me feel like my body is mine again.  Yes, exercising while nursing is logistically challenging.  But it is possible.  Going to an evening workout is logistically challenging.  But it is definitely possible.  It is not for everyone.  I’m not one of those women who will photograph herself in a bikini going “what’s your excuse?” because I do think there are a range of perfectly valid excuses for not having six pack abs at six weeks postpartum.

I will say, nine months in, I feel like I’m in a good emotional place, even if I’m not in a great physical place.  I have a grasp on what I want, what I need, what I feel, what I think.  I know my emotions and feelings are valid and that I have choices and options.  I know that it is okay to be a little bit selfish, it is okay to put my mental health needs in front of the baby, because if no matter what I do, my daughter needs a healthy mother before she needs pretty much anything else.

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How to go Back to Work at 6 Weeks

First of all, do everything you can to avoid going back to work at 6 weeks. If you have the option of unpaid leave, take it. Whether it’s not buying a bigger family friendly car or not ordering takeout or not doing anything fun during your pregnancy, do it. But, if like me, it’s not a matter of money, but because your job will not give you more time off because they don’t have to, and you are stuck with six weeks, here are what has helped us.
1. Save your PTO. My company let me take 6 weeks unpaid, then use my PTO to come back part time. This also helped a lot when we got the flu. A lot of companies make you drain your paid leave to take unpaid leave, but if, like me, you aren’t covered by FMLA, you may be able to get around this.
2. Enlist help. We cobbled together caretakers to keep the baby out of daycare. It was exhausting and stressful but we felt so much better leaving our teeny baby and going back to work with her aunt or grandma watching her.
3. Cosleep or at least learn to side-lying nurse. At six weeks, you are getting a few 4 hour stretches and a few 2 hour stretches. I think if we had just coslept from 5-8 weeks, it would have been easier than me getting up in the middle of the night.
4. Be prepared. Learn when growth spurts and wonder weeks are. The period from 9-10 weeks was really hard for us but was over a 4 day weekend over New Year’s. I highly recommend the Wonder Weeks app which warns about these periods. If you can adjust your work schedule accordingly, do it.
5. Study sleep. Start learning about good sleep habits before your kiddo shows up. Watch the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. Read at least one book about baby sleep habits, whether it’s Babywise or Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child or Ferber’s book or whatever. I really liked Baby 411 for laying out and reviewing sleep theory. We swaddled from day 1, we started using white noise early, we rock/bounce/nurse to sleep. We started a bedtime of 8ish early on because it gave us a couple hours to get things done (or I slept and my spouse got things done.)
6. Shop. Going back at 6 weeks sucks, among other reasons, because none of your clothes fit. If you can, only buy maternity/nursing shirts. This will help you be prepared. Otherwise, look for loose, v or cowl neck tops. The test is, can you pull the neckline down over both boobs at once? Buy 1-2 sizes up. I wear a small normally and I’m wearing a large right now. Order nursing bras in advance. Order at least two one size up and one two sizes up. I wear the sleep bras for daytime activity as well. You will need a new suit jacket. Buy pull on pants (love NY&Co for this) or demi panel maternity pants. Wearing full panel pants post partum sucks.
7. Take a breastfeeding class before you give birth. We did a free one at Babies R Us, otherwise the hospital one would have been $40 and so worth it. I knew the positions, latch techniques and whatnot before I delivered, which meant we got the hang of nursing sooner. This made all the difference for us.
8. Introduce bottles at 3-4 weeks. Hopefully you will have the hang of breastfeeding by then. This means you will learn to pump, and also you will get a break. Go to a bar, get a drink, go for a walk, get a haircut, go shopping, let your partner feed the baby. After you introduce bottles, make sure the baby is getting one every day to practice.
9. Walk. Start getting back into shape. This is especially important if your job is physically demanding.
10. Get a therapist. This transition sucks. I am so happy I made my mental health a priority, and it helps a lot on tough days.
11. Vitamin C. I got sick because I was burning the candle at both ends and my immune system basically collapsed. Try to sleep if you can, when you can. Do whatever else you can to stay healthy.

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Postpartum Body

I hoped, postpartum, it wouldn’t be hard to lose the weight. I hoped, postpartum, if things didn’t look how I’d hoped, I could just look at my beautiful baby, sigh, and say it was all worth it.

It’s hard to capture in words just how Done I was being pregnant. I did not enjoy sharing my body with another person. I didn’t feel like I was glowing. For maybe 7 weeks between when I stopped throwing up before the back pain kicked in, things were good and I felt cute and like an adorable pregnant person. For the other 32 weeks I was pregnant, I was uncomfortable. The thing we both looked forward to most was me not being pregnant anymore. I think I commented, leaving the hospital, how nice it was to not be pregnant.

As beautiful as my baby is, as relieved as I am, I’m having a hard time getting used to my body.

I knew things would be different after. But I didn’t know that I needed to buy a new suit jacket. I didn’t understand how much your body is not your own. I didn’t realize how daunting losing the baby weight would feel. How impossible it would feel to fit in exercise. I’m trying to have faith that it gets better, that winter is always hard, and all I can do is the best I can.

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New Normal

So with gestational diabetes, breakfast is the most important and hardest meal of the day.  Throughout my whole second trimester, I craved cereal for breakfast.  I generally ate healthy-ish cereals, but with gestational diabetes, they are immediately off the menu.  Breakfast must be extremely high in proteins, and contain less than 30g of carbs. I’ve found one cereal with less than 30g of carbs, and I tried drinking it with almond milk, and my blood sugar spiked more than 70 points or units or whatevers above where it should be.  So, no cereal.  I’ve been eating an Arnold Sandwich Thin with egg and cheese or almond butter and a tiny bit of jam for breakfast, but my numbers can still spike pretty easily this early in the morning.  Exercise brings blood sugar numbers down though, so I need to exercise after eating to keep everything under control.  Except that I leave for work around 7 and I was getting up around 6 and eating around 6:30.  So I had to adjust, and my new normal is I get up at 5:30, I eat by 6am, then I exercise and then I test my blood sugar around 7.

What kind of exercise am I doing at 36 weeks pregnant? I have almost no stamina anymore, so I alternate between a couple of at home videos, going to the gym to use the elliptical or treadmill, and taking walks.  I’m using Suzanne Bowen’s Prenatal Barre workout, which I really like.  I do one twenty minute segment unless I have time for more.  I also use the original 10 Minute Solution video because the yoga workout on it is very pregnancy-friendly.  I have a prenatal yoga DVD my sister loaned me but it’s not very good.  It’s now pitch black in the mornings and after I get home at night, so walking outside is less of an option, but it’s totally common for folks at my office to go on group walks around the parking lot at work, so I can do that without seeming weird.  A group of my friends is doing a daily mile challenge, that is walking a mile a day, which I eagerly joined in because it is helping motivate me to actually walk a mile a day.  I’m trying not to beat myself up for not doing more, but it’s really hard.  I remind myself that even pregnant, I’m still lapping an awful lot of non-pregnant folks who are on the couch.

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Well.

So how is my new job? It’s great. It’s fascinating. It’s mostly new areas of law, but I still get to do some domestic violence law.  The people are fabulous and overall everything is going swimmingly.  Except for two things. The commute, and this pregnancy.

The commute is long. It’s 45 minutes to an hour, and if I take the train it’s an hour and ten minutes, including riding my bike a mile to the train, then a mile to my office, and the same going home.  I like the bike ride and it’s nice to take the train.  Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not an option – if I have court or a meeting or a doctor’s appointment, I have to drive.  Which is exhausting.  Even if I’m not driving, I’m still losing 2 hours of my day – which basically is the time I used to spend cooking and that I used to spend going to the gym.  So my gym routine has suffered considerably.  I’m working on figuring out how to work out at work on my lunch break, but there isn’t a nearby gym and walking laps around our parking lot is pretty dreary.  We have a lovely trail nearby, but it’s pretty much a mile to get to it.

As an aside, let me just say: Pregnancy is an awfully humbling experience.  It’s really really easy to judge other people who are pregnant for subsisting on bacon cheeseburgers and then you get pregnant and you can’t keep anything down but grilled cheese.  What to Expect is like, “eat 19 servings of vegetables a day, it’s not hard!” and in the beginning you believe them but then you quickly realize that it’s actually not possible to consume as much food as they recommend.  And maybe there are women out there who are still able to be awesome and feel fit and good up through their third trimester, but I’m going to let you in on a secret: a lot of us are faking it.  I did a 5k over the weekend and pretended I felt good, but really it was uncomfortable because they did not have a bathroom on the course and also walking a 5k by yourself is pretty dull, especially when it’s on a runway.  I’m glad I’m still able to walk, and I’m glad I’m signed up for another 5k, because it is keeping me motivated to stay active, but man, did I have expectations which are ridiculous.  Third trimester is uncomfortable.  It’s exhausting.  I thought I was going to be better at being pregnant than I am, and I’m just not.

Anyway, the reason pregnancy has made my job transition difficult is that about a week after I started, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and classed as “high risk”.  Which means more doctors appointments and more monitoring.  They’ve had me coming to the OB weekly, plus I have to see an endocrinologist and go in for additional ultrasounds and monitoring to make sure the baby isn’t growing too big.  I also have regular therapy appointments, so I’m seeing a minimum of two doctors a week, pretty much.  Which means needing to work longer hours on some days to make up, and means driving to work when I have doctor’s appointments.  I don’t really like coming into the office at 11am or leaving early to go to yet another doctor’s appointment, so it’s been pretty frustrating.  However, the hours are flexible and my supervisor is very understanding and sympathetic about being high risk.  A lot of my coworkers have kids and are full of helpful working-parent advice and it’s just a good environment to be in.

So overall, things are going well, but my blogging has suffered and will continue to suffer.  IT can also always log into my computer, so I can’t write from the office in my downtime anymore.  But I will continue to update when I’m able!

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Pregnancy and Cycling

The biggest problem with cycling while pregnant, is the number of stupid people out there who do not understand pregnancy or cycling.  This makes it very hard to do actual research, and since I wasn’t willing to stop cycling, I felt myself getting pretty frustrated, especially in the second trimester as my body started to really change.

I had zero problems continuing to ride in my first trimester. Even though I was pretty sick, and being thirsty made me gag, I never threw up on my bicycle and I generally felt microscopically better on days that I biked compared to riding the bus.  Riding the bus made me sick a couple of times, so there’s that.
I gained most of my weight during the first trimester in weeks 12 and 13.  So by Week 14, I was starting to notice some discomfort in the saddle, even on my regular morning commute.  I finally posted on a forum about it, because googling “saddle pain pregnancy” was not helping me find answers besides “stop riding when it becomes uncomfortable” or “buy a new seat” which I wanted to avoid.  One of the responses was to tilt the seat down ever so slightly, which did help a lot.  I also lowered the seat just a bit because it was causing me some hip pain to swing my leg up and over the seat.
I did all of my training rides for the International Distance tri I did at 16 weeks clipped into my bike – these were rides 15-25 miles in length, and I turtled myself once at around 10-11 weeks because I thought I was unclipped and I wasn’t – I went to put my foot down and went right over.  I sustained a couple of bruises on my leg and elbow, but fell directly to the side rather than over my handlebars, and was going at a very low speed, so there was no damage done.  I’m a conservative rider generally so I did not ride super-fast ever.
At Week 16, I did my tri on my road bike and was fine, but found I could not go down into the aerobars (which I never do anyway because I’m a big scardycat), because my stomach had gotten too big and it was uncomfortable.  Around Week 18, I dropped my road bike off with my sister, who has custody of it until next January, so she could join me for the sprint tri we just did, and I test rode it to make sure they hadn’t done a terrible job tuning it up (they had) and I found it really uncomfortable. So I probably could not have ridden it past 18 weeks, personally.  My sister says I’m carrying low, so your mileage may vary.
At 19 weeks, we did a 25 mile bike ride on our tandem, which is the trek mountain bike tandem.  This was completely comfortable and not a problem at all – the rear of the tandem has a step through frame and a fairly upright setup. I think we did tilt my seat down slightly but otherwise I was completely fine. I opted not to clip in just because it was starting to make me uncomfortable to be clipped in.  Around 24-ish weeks, we did a short 10 or so mile ride on the tandem and that was also fine.  I think I could comfortably ride the tandem now.
At 21 weeks, I was still comfortably riding my Canondale Quick 3 to work, but I started to have trouble swinging my leg up and over the rear rack and itching to ride something more upright with a step-through frame.  We don’t have a ton of storage space for another bike, and carrying one up and down the steps is the main reason I went from a step through to a regular bike anyway, so I turned my search to folding bikes and decided to go with the Citizen Tokyo after some unsuccessful searches on Craigslist.  The Tokyo is an entry level price point and the appeal of the folding bike is that either my husband or I could ride it (although it’s baby blue so he probably won’t), and then if the other person needed to pick them up, it can go in the trunk.  This actually worked perfectly the one time so far that we tried it.
I’ve been riding the Tokyo for a little over a month now and I’m really happy with it.  I will give a more detailed review later, because there were very few honest reviews out there.  It’s 26 lbs, so the same weight as my Canondale, and has a low frame so I can step over it easily. I ordered it with the rear rack and the comfort seat.  The best part is that my Racktime Shoulderit Pannier bag actually fits on the rear rack – I wasn’t expecting that because the rear rack is tiny, the tubing is thick, and it’s low to the ground.  When I first pulled it out, we were like, “oh, gonna need a new work bag” but then I came home and told my husband that my ShoulderIt bag actually worked and he was like, “okay, I need to see this.”  It turns out that Ortlieb really knows what they are doing.
My new job is not too far from the train station, so the other purpose of getting a folding bike was that I could take it on the train.  I will be trying this next week.  I think, even though my pannier bag does fit, I will be riding with a backpack, because it’s hard to manage a shoulder bag and a folding bike at the same time.  I also will be hopefully exercising on my lunch break, and therefore might need to take workout clothes, plus my lunch, with me, and the backpack will just have more room.  I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to keep riding for – I’m really starting to slow down, so I think I might move to riding on the sidewalks of the busy streets soon. I’m not wild about this, but I’d rather ride on the sidewalk and annoy pedestrians than risk getting run over by an impatient driver.

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Pregnant Triathlete, Part II

I just finished my second triathlon of this pregnancy, and man, was it harder than the first.  I did the first at the very beginning of my second trimester, and my second at the very beginning of my third.  I hit 28 weeks on Friday, and the race was Sunday.  

I did this race last year, and it’s a fantastic race.  (Druid Hill Park Sprint Tri) So I knew when I signed up (before the January 1 price increase) that even if I was pregnant, I would probably hopefully maybe be able to handle it, as long as I was having a healthy pregnancy, which I fortunately am.  It’s a 300 yard pool swim, an 8 mile bike course, and a 3.1 mile run.  The run is completely flat, around a lake.  The bike course is challenging and hilly.  The swim is in a pool, which actually presents it’s own challenges but does not feel as endless as an open water swim of the same distance.  

When registering for a pool swim, it’s important to gauge your speed accurately.  I was generous with my time and put 2:30 for my 100m swim time.  Based on what my pace has been at the gym lately, I was spot on.  Last year I put 2:00, which was also fairly accurate.  I was passed by a couple of people but I also passed a few folks.  If you are pregnant, you should probably adjust your swim time down a bit – even though swimming is recommended for pregnant women, the reduced lung capacity and general lumbery-ness slows you down.  

I rode my Canondale Quick 3 for the bike course.  My normal road bike is a Giant Avail, but my sister, who did the race with me, has had custody of that since May.  I stopped riding my Canondale to work about a month ago (more on that later), because it was getting too challenging to swing my leg up over the rack to ride to work.  I was concerned about riding it for the race because when I’ve done long rides recently, the angle I have to sit at presses directly on my bladder.  The seat, which is normally very comfortable, was also uncomfortable on my SBR a few weeks ago.  I asked my husband to swap out the seat for a wider one, which helped considerably.  I would recommend a comfort saddle like this one for anyone who is cycling during pregnancy.  (I don’t actually have that one but it looks a lot like the one I do have and it’s nice.)  If you still have saddle discomfort, consider slightly tilting the nose down.

Like I said, the course was hilly.  I did not train hard enough for the hills.  My lungs were working at their capacity and I was having braxton hicks contractions on the steep uphills.  I coasted as much as I could on the downhills to give myself a break, and I didn’t push myself.  One guy that passed me kept cheering me on, which was lovely and was the extra push I needed to finish the bike course.  

The run course was where I felt the crappiest, at least for the first half.  I wore my camelbak hydration pack but forgot to bodyglide my arms.  So of course I started to experience chafing from my arms pumping against the wet straps.  I knew from my run last weekend that following my 2 min run 1 min walk pattern was going to be hard.  So I switched to a 1 min run, 1 min walk pattern.  Even that was too strenuous for the first mile and change – I was still having Braxton Hicks contractions, I was getting round ligament pain, and the chafing on my arms was really burning.  I stopped and walked for about five minutes.  Everytime I tried to run again, something hurt.  So I had a pack of Stinger gels and walked as fast as I could.  At the end of Mile 1, I saw my husband and brother in law on the course and handed off my Camelbak.  Once I did that, I was able to run again – I’m not sure whether it corrected my posture or just not chafing was such a relief, but at that point I picked up and stuck with the 1 min run / 1 min walk intervals.  Everyone was super encouraging and nice to me, but sometimes it’s hard to know what to say to total strangers when they say, “you are awesome!” So usually I just said “so are you!” or something else like that.  

As I got to the end, I could see where the chute was to the finish, so I took my walk break and gave the baby a quick pep-talk.  We were going to walk until we saw the sign for the chute, and then we were going to sprint.  I did not think this was actually going to work, but it did, and we were able to come flying into the finish line, which I’m pretty proud of – usually I’m so spent from races that I have nothing left at the finish line, but the advantage of being conservative on this one was that I had plenty of legs left, even if I didn’t really have the lung capacity.  Also, the finish was downhill. That helped.  A lot of people congratulated me after the race and asked how I was feeling and commented on how great it was that I was out there.  

I also got to hang out with my tri club for a little bit, which was really nice.  My husband usually crews me for races but I feel like being in the club will make it easier next year when I have to go by myself and leave him at home with the kiddo.  Everyone in the club is really nice and super-supportive.  

My time last year was 1:16:25.  My time this year was closer to 1:35:37. I’m okay with that.  I felt a little uncomfortable with the attention I was getting (I wasn’t even the only pregnant athlete there – I overheard another girl saying she was 16 weeks), because I didn’t sign up for this race because I felt like I wanted to prove anything.  I really just wanted to do it, and I’ll admit that a part of me was curious if I could do it.  But it wasn’t like anyone told me I couldn’t and I needed to prove them wrong.  I will also say that I did not notice any judgmental looks, comments, or implications.  

What I wore: 

– De Soto Carrera Loose Top with Drawstring Waist – I ordered this top before my international tri, and I was so happy with it’s performance, even though it was snugger than I’d thought it would be and I knew I couldn’t wear it for this race, and when I went to review it I realized that De Soto had accidentally shipped me the Sprinter Top and I hadn’t realized it when I received it. I sent them a sheepish email asking if it was at all possible to exchange a used tri top for the one I had wanted and they shipped me the Carrera top right away.  The Medium accommodated the belly really well and also accommodated my increased chest, and although I probably would have been more comfortable in a Large, I will be able to wear the medium post-pregnancy as well.  A+, would highly recommend to any pregnant athlete looking for a good workout top.  

– Under Armour Compression Shorts (5″) – Last weekend, getting pretty desperate for something made of moisture wicking fabric to wear for this race, I hit the Under Armour Outlet. I really wanted these shorts in the longer 7″ version, but they only had the 5″. I bought them in a large, and because the waistband is wide and pretty flexible it was able to fit up and over my belly.  However, when I test rode them yesterday, they rode up quite a bit and so I needed to add gripper elastic to the bottom.  (I ordered 2 yards of Gripper Elastic from Quest Fabrics a month ago to add to my running skirt.)  It was a quick project and made a world of difference – my shorts stayed put and didn’t ride up, bunch, or chafe, and they were long enough to protect my thighs from my bike seat.  

Ultimate Maternity Belt – I’m a pretty comfortable person doing what I need when I need to, but even I was kind of embarassed to be pulling on my support belt before the bike course. However, I can’t run without it, so I sucked it up and put it on.  It stayed put and helped keep things in place for the run.  I actually have mixed feelings on whether it’s that helpful for the bike.  

Tri

 

And yes, I went home and took a nap.  

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