In case you’ve never thought about it, nine months is actually a long time. I’ve come to learn that surviving 9 months of pregnancy is made easier by the presence of certain things in one’s life. Like a survival kit. In no particular order, here are four survival kit items of the people variety:
A great mother
Mine is amazing and supportive. She listens as much as I want her to, no matter what time of day it is or how long the phone conversation gets. I know that she could be doing other things.
I try to shield others in my life from some of the more mundane details of preparing for a baby. My mom never bores when I want to talk to her about mundane details like cushions for my antique rocking chair. She offers to do tasks for me that will be patience-consuming, such as hiring someone to sew cushions for the antique rocking chair. She does some shopping for me. She takes care of me from 3.25 hours away.
She doesn’t boss me around like some people have the proclivity to (no less than 4 “ladies” demanded that I stop running for the rest of my pregnancy just yesterday). She only offers advice only when she knows I’ll accept it and somehow always seems to know when this is. She lets me complain and never responds with “yes, my back is sore too.”
An amazing partner
A partner to share your pregnancy with is important for pregnancy survival. My husband, partner and best friend of 7 years has been the best. He’s never been the partner of a pregnant woman before but intuitively has known how to do it from the beginning.
After 7 years together, he knows how to deal with me and my range of normal human emotions: happy, excited, sad, stressed, worried etc. He somehow adapted easily to pregnancy’s amplification of these emotions. He says the right thing at the right time. He puts the right jokes into the right moment. He tells me that I look good exactly often enough for it to feel genuine.
A man can’t read a woman’s mind. Especially the pregnant woman’s mind. My husband is unruffled and easily accepting when I tell him what I need. Mostly what I need is just him.
A good obstetrician
A good obstetrician is worth her weight in gold.
Early in my pregnancy, I had a disagreement with my family physician over running during pregnancy. I had completed a lot of research and was prepared for my first appointment just 6 weeks into my pregnancy. I had learned that running was both safe and healthy for baby and mom, blah, blah. More in many of my early pregnancy blogs.
Family doctor said, “No running during pregnancy. You must take it easy.” I stated that this was not what I read in the research that I did.
“You’re right,” she said. “There are no contraindications. Just my opinion.”
That wasn’t good enough for me. So I quickly went elsewhere. One of my track running partners, Tonya, has run safely and successfully through more than one pregnancy so I decided that I wanted her obstetrician, Dr. Katherine Robinson at Dal. Luckily, she took me as a patient and my husband and I have been thrilled with her since day 1. Here are a few reasons why:
Dr. Robinson knows a ton about the pregnant athlete’s body. She sought to understand my running background. She easily approved my early pregnancy running regimen of 5 days a week, 1-2 days at the track and 1 long run as she understood that this was a reduction in both intensity and mileage for me. She counseled me to cap my runs and workouts at one hour at 25 weeks of pregnancy. I easily accepted this because I trusted her for impressive knowledge of running and pregnancy and her understanding of my running background. Aside from being a runner who knows her body intimately, I’m also a nurse. I needed someone with this expertise.
Because of her knowledge base, Dr. Robinson doesn’t panic over normal pregnant running issues like other physicians might. When I began to experience SI joint pain in my second trimester, we both knew that the baby was fine and safe. The SI joint pain was a nuisance for me and my body. She counseled me to seek physio and make my running decisions based on whether or not the pain was worth it.
At my next appointment, as my baby bump began to grow, I told her that I was occasionally experiencing belly pain but knew it was along the uterine ligaments. I described where the pain was and why I thought it was the ligaments and not the baby. She agreed. She confirmed that the baby was safe. She said the ligament pain was normal, expected, just a nuisance and not harmful. She told me to make my own decision about whether or not I would run through it as running was safe and fine. I think that other physicians might have quickly jumped to “Pain in belly! No more running!” when that wasn’t at all necessary.
I really value that she listens to me, offers a medical explanation of what’s happening and leaves the decision making up to me. Because the baby has always been safe, she doesn’t tell me what to do. Even with this most recent issue of daily pelvis pain from some separation of my SI joint, she confirmed that the baby was safe and fine and hasn’t told me what to do. She simply asked me to think carefully about resuming my running IF the pelvis pain settles and goes away and to understand that the pain might return if I resume running.
A good obstetrician that listens to you and whom you trust and feel comfortable with is so important. Especially for an athlete. Rate your MD websites are popular. You can read more about Dr. Katherine Robinson here.
Onto the last item in this pregnancy survival kit:
Role Models: For me, athlete ones
At the beginning of my pregnancy, I read as much as I could about professional runners Paula Radcliffe (UK) and Kara Goucher (USA) who trained through their pregnancies. Their experiences inspired and encouraged me and made me feel normal to want to continue my running as best as I could.
Now that I’ve run into a pregnancy complication (separated pelvis) at 6+ months of pregnancy, I’ve been reading as much I can about Deena Kastor (USA), the 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist, who could only run for the first four months of her pregnancy.
Deena’s experience also encourages me and makes me feel normal but in a different way. I’ve injured myself plenty over my years of distance running. If you run long enough and hard enough, you accept that you’re going to rack up a few injuries. I concede that in all incidents of injury, I did it to myself. I now have a separated pelvis: an injury that just happened. My body has never betrayed me like this. I’m somewhat offended by it. But I know that Deena’s body did the same thing to her. She couldn’t run beyond 4 months of pregnancy.
Deena made a superb comeback from her pregnancy. Her daughter, Piper Bloom (super cool name) was born in February. This January, less than one year later, she placed 6th in the USA Olympic Trials at age 38, while competing against hot 20-somethings. Read here, here and here.
Don’t worry, I don’t have any delusions of running an Olympic Trial marathon or placing 6th in my first race postpartum. But I feel encouraged by Deena’s story. Encouraged that I can comeback to a level of running fitness that I love my runner’s body for.
Today is my mother’s birthday, which is what inspired me to write this blog. You can join me in wishing her the happiest of birthdays. On her birthday next year, she’ll be a grandmother.