Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Trying Time

This past spring, whenever I went to CVS for a pregnancy test or prenatal vitamins, my receipt included a coupon for tampons. (Other purchases warranted different coupons.) “Nope,” said CVS with a sneer. “No baby this month.” It was like a slap in the face. Because dammit, CVS, for months you were right.

I was originally optimistic about the ease of transitioning from serious runner to mother-to-be because of how many young mamas raced at the Trials. But once I was stressed enough to overanalyze it, I realized that in all the stories I’d heard (or Googled) the women got pregnant right away (within two months at most). But then I started to wonder: What happened to all the women that took a while to conceive? Those that had to step away from the sport for longer, for all the months of trying, before they got pregnant? What about women who miscarried? Statistically, these women must exist. Do they not share their stories? Did I selectively forget them in an effort to be positive about quickly conceiving? (Very possibly yes.) Or does staying in the sport require getting pregnant right away to minimize time away? I read a blog about how to plan your pregnancy around your running life, even down to scheduling it so you can be sidelined during your least favorite season, and—while the post tried to gently mention this wasn’t possible for everyone—it made me want to punch the computer. Who can conceive with such precision?! I’d just like to get pregnant sometime in the near future, please and thank you.

More recently I found an old post from Lauren Fleshman about how the unrelenting Olympic cycle makes this a serious problem for women pro runners. “You better hope your pipes work in the first few months of your off-season because the clock is a’ticking. Miss your window and you have to wait.”

But I’m not a pro runner. And while I do think in Olympic [Trials] cycles, my job/earnings/etc. don’t depend on my ability to run. So it felt incredibly selfish to be stressed about getting pregnant right away because of running. I wanted a baby quickly for other reasons of course (I wanted to start a family, and generally when you want something, you want it to start as soon as possible). But every time I honestly thought about why I wanted it to happen ASAP, it came back to running.

Because my running was already a mess. At first I thought I could race some summer 5Ks, or at least aim for them, and then possibly skip them once The Stick told us the good news. But then I started to worry even that was too much… the books and literature made the odds of conception each month seem shockingly small. (I would not recommend them for a high school Sex Ed class.) There’s not much you can do to help the process; you can try to time it correctly, pray about it, not stress over it. (Good luck on the last one). And—as nearly every book will gently remind you—you can stop all that running nonsense.

Most books about pregnancy (nearly all) aren’t written with a serious athlete in mind. They talk about hormones and how running too much (like over an hour) will mess up your chances of getting pregnant. But what if an hour run isn’t a hard effort for you? And pros have gotten pregnant in the middle of serious training or in the Olympic village, without giving their bodies a break. But obviously not everyone is that lucky, and who knows where I fell?

As the stress grew (What if this run is a hair too long or a beat too fast and I’ve screwed up this month’s chances??) the risk seemed too great. I gave up workouts, races, and long runs. Now that I’m happily and blessedly pregnant, I regret that slightly. I have a long road of reduced running ahead, and I wish I had started in slightly better shape. But it’s easy for me to say that now; at the time, I didn’t know who to believe and was too worried about everything I was doing. For the record, there are books (like this one) and doctors (like my new one, thank goodness) who say it’s totally fine for athletes to keep up their running routine while trying to conceive (so long as you are normal weight and get your period). I didn’t have those influences at the time.

As soon as I stopped training, I missed it. I was still running, yes, but I immediately missed the hard workouts, looking ahead to a race, really pushing myself and feeling simultaneously completely spent and exhilarated. The books warned not to worry about the extra flab or squishiness you may gain while trying to conceive, but I didn’t give a crap about any of that. I missed the competition and the readying myself for it. And I kept ruminating on this idea of what if it takes a long time to get pregnant? Every failed month meant one more month away. But those worries devolved into wondering: What if I can’t get pregnant, ever? And then I’d berate myself: Why the fudge am I worrying about running?! Who cares about such a dumb, selfish hobby?! I just want a baby!

But, in July, we got that happiest news that pee can deliver. Five months post Trials and I was pregnant. I’m fully aware of how incredibly blessed I am to have gotten pregnant and to have had a healthy pregnancy thus far. But just because my struggle turned out to not be that long, I didn’t want to forget how frustrating it was. In my anxious Googling, I didn’t find much about balancing running and trying to conceive, just article after article about running while pregnant. And I certainly didn’t find anything about the emotional battles of being a runner and trying. Times of stress normally make me turn to a hard run for an emotional cleansing—but, in this case, that just led to more questioning.

I wish I had helpful advice for those struggling, but I don’t. (One of the unexpected annoyances of pregnancy, in my opinion, is the ever-constant reminder, “Every pregnancy is different.” There are no hard and fast rules about anything, including exactly how hard and fast you can work out. You’ll need to talk to a doctor—preferably one with a healthy appreciation for a running obsession—for individualized advice.) But I can lend some understanding and agree that it’s really hard and frustrating and annoying and discouraging and stressful and feels impossibly long.

But I really hope it’s not impossibly long. And that one day, you’ll get the pee result that will give an ultimate F U to those CVS receipts.

Shut up, CVS. This time you're wrong.
UPDATE: Thanks in part to your comments, I was inspired to look into this more deeply (and get some real advice from professionals) for a Runner's World article. Check it out here. 

Dream big, 
Teal 

16 comments :

  1. This resonates so much with me. It took a year for us to conceive. During that time, I had the same nervousness over training. I normally peak around 80 mpw, but instead during that time I limited myself to 45mpw and much reduced speedwork. I don't know if it helped or hurt, but the whole year felt like I was in line at for a ride and I never got there. Our baby is due next month, but I hope I never forget that process. Thank you for your honesty.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Kathy. I like the analogy of the ride, it's just so frustrating to have no idea how long it will take. And congrats on the little one!

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  2. I can 100% agree that literature and resources are limited in many ways. The reality is miscarriage and problems conceiving are SO common but people don't really talk about it as much as other things. Especially when it comes to athletes, whose bodies are not quite as "normal" as others. Then if you're struggling to conceive, or deal with loss- you wonder what's wrong, start placing blame, and it just creates even more stress. Reality is, everyone and every situation is so different, and saying some miles for pregnancy are right for everyone is like saying 80 miles/week is the best choice for every marathoner. Unfortunately, this is just far more emotional and personal than training for a marathon (even at the highest level I'd assume). Also, I know which post you are talking about that made you want to punch the computer and I had the same reaction.

    I'm so incredibly excited for you, and your new adventure. Thank you for always being real, and inspiring! Looking forward to following along:)

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    1. I agree that these issues aren't talked about enough. Hopefully sharing our stories and being honest will help; I think there's been an increase in openness in our generation, hopefully that continues. Thank you for always being real, too!

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  3. Thank you for sharing! I'm in the midst of this right now. I ran a marathon PR in May, then went off birth control and was like, hooray, now I'm going to get pregnant! But I never got my period, and still haven't despite seeing a reproductive endocrinologist and dropping from 60mpw to 15mpw. For me it's been brutal to lose running, to lose seeing my running friends, and to have no idea when my body will get it together! I'm definitely having all the same thoughts you did 'is it even my training that's the problem?' 'is this 3 mile run going to ruin my chances? but if I don't train at all that can't be healthy either, right?'
    It definitely makes me feel less alone to hear stories like yours- though I'm sad you also had to struggle with it. Hopefully you can still get some good runs in during your pregnancy!

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Megan! It is really tough--especially not seeing your running friends and feeling out of the running community that you love! I have heard it can take a few months to get your period post-birth control (I think I heard the average was 3) but obviously your doctor will help more with that. Good luck, and try to be patient. (I know, so tough!)

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  4. Congrats, Teal! SO excited for you!
    xo, Bergamot

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  5. Congratulations Teal! I'm very excited for you and hope your pregnancy is going well :). I was happy to see a new blog post from you pop up and this news is even better (also way to deliver the news at the end).

    We haven't tried to get pregnant yet and it's not really on our minds, but I have considered that I'm not getting younger and it may take some time. I don't run nearly as fast or as much as you or other athletes, but even running 40-50 mpw isn't always conducive to getting pregnant. I would like to run a marathon, BQ, and run Boston before having kids, so that's been on my mind lately. It can be a tough thing to understand- especially if your female running friends didn't get into it until after kids or if most of your training partners are male.

    It's really great to hear from you and for you to tackle this issue in your blog. I hope you'll write more about running during pregnancy, having your baby, and post-baby running too. You write really well and it would be a GREAT resource for other ladies in your shoes with trying to conceive.

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    1. Thanks, Amy! You have to just do whatever works for you and your life, goals, etc. I wanted to run the Trials before starting a family and some people (mostly non runners) didn't understand that, but that's okay. I do plan to keep posting through the pregnancy and after, so hopefully it's helpful!

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  6. Congrats!? Somewhat abrasive and angry (really? the last part?) for an event that should be so joyous

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    1. Sorry to send the wrong signals! I am of course VERY excited to be pregnant and know I'm incredibly blessed to be so. In this post, I wanted to address how frustrating it is to try and fail to get pregnant and how angry reminders (like from CVS) can make you when you haven't yet succeeded, when you want so badly to have a baby. But of course I am beyond thrilled to be past that point!

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  7. That is tough for those who are trying :(

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  8. Congratulations! And thank you so much for sharing your experience. My hubby and I are delaying a family because I am trying to qualify for the Trials once the window opens again, but I too fear that conceiving will be difficult (fertility problems run in my family) and I worry about not qualifying for the Trials because if I don't qualify then reasonably age-wise I should really start a family but I don't know what that would do to my chances of qualifying for the OT.
    Few people understand this. I am asked all the time at work why I don't have children, and I think of my family members who struggled so hard to have children and how those questions just hurt so much. And I wonder if I'm too cavalier to think that I can delay children and qualify for the Trials and just have children whenever I want them.
    It's tough, but it's so nice to read your blog and see that others have similar thoughts, worries, and experiences. Thank you so much for sharing. I've really enjoyed reading your blog- it gives me hope that I, too, will reach my goals!

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    1. Thanks for your comment. It's so hard to deal with the incessant "when will you start a family" questions, but you have to stay true to what is right for you and your husband. People certainly asked me and some people didn't think running was a legitimate answer, but that was the timing that was right for us, so oh well. Starting a family changes everything, so you shouldn't do it until you're ready, for whatever your reasons may be! The doubts about how long it will take are harder to address, but know that you are not alone in those concerns and worries. (I know some women get tested before they want to start trying, just to see what they'll be working with, so if you are really stressed about it, maybe that's an option?) Best of luck with the training and hope to see you at the Trials in 2020!

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