Beginning Again

Amelia (Baby Elwood bloggy name) is eight weeks old. As each week passes, I feel more and more centered and normal. Pregnancy is NOT a normal state of being, and there’s a reason that the weeks and months following birth are called “the fourth trimester.” Hormones, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, not to mention your entire brain being rewired as you figure out how to care for this little one – who you love beyond all sense.

All that to say, I’ve realized this week that I need to cut myself some slack in the getting-back-in-shape department.

Honesty compels me to admit that my last real runs were probably sometime last November. I did some run-walking up through February, but not very rigorously, and I did just walks after then. So, when I started running again two weeks ago, uh, I shouldn’t have been surprised at how hard it was. Bones hurt. My core felt like it had been ripped to shreds. I felt off-balance. I was frustrated when I could hardly manage two miles towards the end of the week. The schedule I’d created for training for the half marathon said that I should be running three miles by now.

On Friday, I had an epiphany when I lifted a few weights. Two sets of squats and a set of reverse lunges almost finished me off. Besides my abs still being somewhat MIA, I had lost a lot of muscle tone in my legs. My triceps are sore still after ONE set of French press.

In addition to weights, I need to also make sure I allocate time to stretch and do yoga. Carrying a baby around causes strain on my back and shoulders. In the last few days, I’ve done 15-20 minutes per day, and I’ve already noticed my back loosening up a bit. I could barely touch my toes, my lower back was so stiff.

It’s a different mentality – to think of weights and yoga as important as running. I was so focused on running and races before Amelia was born. Logically, I know all three – cardio, strength, and flexibility work – are important for overall fitness. But I’m also really, really task-oriented and goal-oriented. And races really, really worked for me as goals! After Amelia was born, I was excited to once again get back into races. I even have my sights set on a really cool marathon for next fall! But I almost have to treat my pregnancy like an injury; understanding that this kind of event takes a serious toll on the body and it takes time to rebuild.

Time to  begin again.

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Baby Elwood: A Birth Story

Note: this post contains some frank details of the birthing process. Not insanely graphic, but there’s no way of getting around how we all end up in this world. So, if that kind of stuff bothers you, might want to skip this post!

Elwood Family

Nothing like the adventure of giving birth! We are now in the midst of feedings, naps, pumping, and adjusting to life as parents of a newborn. I have learned so much over these days, more than I ever could have dreamed. The love I feel for our little girl is overwhelming. As part of her story, I wanted to record her birth experience.

I’d been having false labor for over a week. One word: maddening. In fact, we spent all afternoon at the hospital on May 27th because the contractions were regular and speeding up. This being my first kid, I had no idea what intensity to pay attention to. As it turns out, um, they have to be really, really intense! So we knew we were close, but close at this stage of pregnancy means either a couple hours or a couple weeks. I was starting to think, though, that I would be pregnant forever.

On June 3rd, I had my 40-week appointment and was 2 cm dilated. My doctor told me to plan to come to the hospital on the following Monday to be induced if nothing happened before then, but he seemed fairly confident that I’d go into labor on my own. On Wednesday evening, we went for a walk and then I did some cleaning and slammed out a pile of thank-you cards for baby gifts. Burst of energy? Maybe.

At about 5:30 the next morning, on June 5, I woke up and went to the restroom. Whilst within, I had a largish contraction, felt a weird internal pop, and out gushed my water. I woke up Steve to tell him and we started getting ready. We took our time because I wasn’t having very regular contractions. I ate a big, fortifying breakfast (I thought back to my pre-race brekkies for inspiration), cleaned up the kitchen, tidied the bedroom, and got the guest room ready for my parents. We finally left the house at 7:30, and I’d still only had a couple more contractions. Baby Elwood (bloggy nickname still to come) was still moving around, which surprised me.

One surprise that I did NOT read about in my books: you keep producing amniotic fluid! So in addition to that first gush, I kept randomly leaking/gushing for several more hours until her head descended enough to basically plug the tear. Who knew?? Feels like maybe that could have been mentioned somewhere!

We were admitted to Marion General Hospital and the contractions got more frequent, but still weren’t super strong. When we got up to the birthing center, all the labor and delivery rooms were full and we had to wait in the hallway while they moved out one family and cleaned the room. I got all checked in and attached to the monitors to see where I was at. By about 9:00, I still wasn’t having very strong contractions, and my doctor came in to talk about administering pitocin to get things going. While that was not my first choice (and holy wow, I hope I won’t have to have it for our next kid), we made the choice to go ahead to prevent a long, unprofitable labor that might end in a c-section.

Before the pitocin kicked in (and I was given the lowest possible dose) I was really relaxed. We watched a couple episodes of Outsourced on my Kindle. They brought in a clear-foods meal tray, and as I was devouring my Jello, things started to get real, man. Regular, every 3-5 minutes hard contractions that required focused breathing. I changed my position about every half hour for a while – hands and knees on the floor, sitting on the ball, leaning over the bed with Steve applying counter-pressure on my back, etc. He was amazing throughout the entire experience. He breathed with me, let me crush his hand, massaged my back, coached me through it all. I couldn’t have done it without him. He was there every step of the way.

I stayed on top of the pain for a while, but things started to get fuzzy after several hours like this. The contractions were every two minutes, and hard. Steve kept saying how strong I was, but I was starting to feel defeated. How could I stand this level of pain for much longer? I was committed to a natural, no-epidural birth. But could I do it?

By 3:00, I was ready to talk options. I was so tired, in so much pain. I just couldn’t keep up with it. The nurse suggested a IV medication called Stadol, which wouldn’t dull the pain but would help me relax in between contractions. I knew someone who had used it and hadn’t been a fan, but maybe it would give me what I needed to power through. At this point, I was about 4 cm dilated. I fully expected to be at this for another six+ hours.

They administered the medication, and I was able to relax so much in between contractions that I fell asleep! I even remember going back to the same dream several times…something about an herb garden. I was also more able to manage my breathing, at least for a little while. At this point, apparently things started happening rapidly because I was able to relax so much. Even with the drug, I was highly aware of how much was going on inside me. I was so overstimulated, I basically kept my eyes closed for the last few hours of labor. Couldn’t handle seeing anything…or smelling, unfortunately for Steve and his Jimmy John’s sandwich. (“Remove your sandwich!!”) Steve tried to distract me with HGTV at one point, and that didn’t work out well either. (“Turn it off! Can’t handle stupid!”)

Things became more intense. The pressure was building and I felt like I needed to push. But the monitor wasn’t picking up on the contractions well, because when Steve told the nurse, she said, “Really? Well, OK, I’ll check her.” I was nine centimeters, and she rushed out of the room to have someone call my doctor, who was across town at his office.

The books all call it an “urge to push.” It’s not so much an urge as it is a frenetic, uncontrollable force with a mind of its own bent on destroying you. I couldn’t help myself several times; I screamed with everything I could muster. Which isn’t helpful, wasting energy and breath on making noise. Steve and the nurse were working overtime to keep me calm and reminding me to breathe.

Through my closed eyes, I could tell that a bright light had come on. Steve told me that they were getting ready for delivery, and that I was super close. “I don’t believe you!” I kept saying. Even though I felt this “urge” I didn’t believe that my body could actually expel the baby. And my body agreed with my head, so all in all, it almost took reaching outside of my mind and body to convince myself I could do it in those last moments. I opened my eyes briefly to see my doctor putting on his gear, and that the table was set up behind him with supplies. The room seemed to rapidly fill with people.

Dr Mueller told me to push, and with just three pushes (and possibly, yes, screams) our baby arrived. In those moments, I reached into a strength that I don’t even understand. I’m not sure I even believed it when she was out. I just stared at her in shock as Dr Mueller cleaned her up, cleared her airways, and placed her on me while he clamped the cord. Steve got to cut it. She was here, she was ours, and she was perfect. Born at 5:10pm on June 5, 8 pounds 10 ounces, 20 3/4 inches long after almost 12 hours of labor.

Meanwhile, I was aware that things were still happening. Dr Mueller was saying something about a lot of bleeding. I felt the placenta come out, and then a burst of pain. I yelled out, “No surprises! What are you doing?!” And in very measured tones, he replied, “Honey, you’re losing a lot of blood and I need to stitch you up.” A nurse who was assisting him started giving me a play-by-play, letting me know when he was giving me local anesthetic and when he was stitching. I was shaking uncontrollably – also something I missed hearing about before birth! Apparently it’s caused by hormone changes, is completely normal, and lots of people do it.

Steve and the nurses kept reminding me to breathe and to focus on the baby. I remember staring at her hand – it was so beautiful and her fingers seemed so long. And while I’m maybe possibly biased, she looked so good even from the start! No funky shaped head, her skin was a pretty color, and she was completely, entirely whole and healthy. Steve and I were in love.

Post-delivery, we stayed in the room for a few more hours. We had a long skin-to-skin time and started working on breastfeeding. The room was cold, and she had a relatively low core temperature, so they put her under a heating device and monitored her until it was raised to the right temp so she could have a proper bath. We Skyped with our parents to tell them the name. They were located in Pennsylvania (my parents), Hungary (Steve’s dad), and Turkey (Steve’s mom) and at one point, we had three different devices pointing at her so we could tell them all at the same time.

I got to walk to our recovery room, pushing baby in the bassinet. I was exhausted, but it felt so nice to stretch my legs after essentially being in bed all day. We got all settled in, and Steve left to pick up take out at Applebee’s. Which I went to TOWN on.

And then, we started our journey of being a family.

Rachel and Katie

Quick note on the hospital: Our experience at MGH was great. The nurses were awesome, a lactation consultant came to our room, and even the food was good! We were very thankful that our hospital experience was so positive. The nurses especially were super kind, helpful, and supportive.

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We Thought You’d Be Here By Now

Some things about this pregnancy business haven’t surprised me, like the fact that I have been able to successfully learn to fall asleep on my side. (I figured it would come eventually!)

Some things have surprised me, like the fact that getting dressed requires intentional focus, otherwise there would be serious tipping over.

One thing that has also surprised me is that the pain of the last five years of infertility hasn’t gone away. I had expected it would, having finally attained that which we so desperately sought. But I guess that when you have that many days and nights of pure struggle, it makes enough of an inroad in your heart that won’t disappear just like that. I still get emotional about it at times. Like I did today when I listened to Wes King’s “Thought You’d Be Here” for the first time in a very, very long time.

But if you like dancing
I’ll make it rain rhythm, and rhyme, and melodies, child
And if you like dreaming
Your mother will make your imagination run wild
Somehow, we thought you’d be here by now

We have a room just for you upstairs. It’s right down the hall
So we’ll be close should you ever get scared
We’ll come when you call
It’s a room full of stories
Waiting to be told
Longing to behold

As you can imagine, a song that hit this close to home – especially a couple years ago – was intensely beautiful to experience, but far too painful to make a regular on the playlist. And even today, as I listened to it knowing what we will have in approximately a month and a half, I still cried.

Maybe that’s the point. To lose all emotional memory of this would be nice sometimes, but I don’t think it would do anyone any good. I need it to remember how amazing God is, how much He loves us, and how prayer can do things you can’t even explain. And maybe, when our little girl is older and I tell her about it, it will be one of the stories she can hold onto as a testimony of God’s work in her life before she was even known to us.

And if you like laughing
I’ll paint you a circus of smiles and ferris wheels, dear
And if you like living
Your mother will fly you to worlds both far and near

Categories: Family, God | 1 Comment

Wait. Rest in Me. And have hope.

It’s been over five years since Steve and I decided it was time to start our family. Five long years of doctor’s offices, medications, tests, surgery to remove endometriosis, and waiting. So much waiting. Last year or maybe even the year before, our church spent some time talking about God’s promises. One of the things we could do was write a promise or a word from the Lord that we’d received on a 3×5 card, which were then taped all over the walls of the atrium. The title to this blog post was what I wrote down.

Because over those five long years, that was what both Steve and I heard. Wait, just wait. I love you. 

We struggled. At times, it was hard to believe God really loved us when something we both wanted so badly (and came so easily for most people!) just wasn’t happening. It was hard to believe He really wanted to give us the desire of our hearts. It was hard to believe He even cared. I tried bargaining: “Okay, God, if I get involved in all these ministries and committees, you’ll come through, right?” (Bad idea. Seriously, you can’t bargain with God. You’ll burn yourself out and get really annoyed with Him.) We considered adoption, but we never felt like that was our path. So we kept waiting.

Heck, one of the main reasons I took up running was to give my mind something to focus on, and to relieve the stress of infertility appointments/treatments.

Last summer, we made the decision to pursue in-vitro fertilization in the spring of 2014. We also came to a place of peace, where we told the Lord that if He wanted us to remain childless, we would accept that. I still remember the tears as I voiced that commitment out loud. Even after living with infertility for so long, the pain never abated.

And then.

I was training for a marathon (the ultimate mind-getter-offer). Even though we had decided to do in-vitro in the spring, we were still trying on our own to get pregnant. I had essentially given up hope of that happening, but common sense dictated that we still keep trying. On September 27, I ran an 18-miler from our house in Marion, looped around IWU, on to Taylor in Upland. Like all my long runs, I was bushed afterwards, but this time I frankly felt concerned about tacking on an additional eight miles after just one more month of training. I was tired.

Also, I was five days late in my cycle, so that was messing with my mind. But Steve and I had previously had so many false hopes after being late a day or two here and there that we weren’t going to take pregnancy tests until I was at least a week late. The next day, I went shopping and picked up a couple brands of tests to take the next day, on Sunday. I was putting away groceries, and Steve said, “Why don’t you just go take one now?”

I figured, what the heck, might as well. Then I’ll know that I’m just a little late and can get on with life. Anyone who has tried to get pregnant – not just infertile couples – knows that day-by-day, mentally exhausting anxiety around the time when cycles are supposed to start. I’d taken lots of tests in the past, and never gotten a positive.

HEY, THAT WOULD BE TWO BLUE LINES!

I came out of the bathroom in shock. I think my first words were, “What is this?? What does this mean??”

A second test taken a little while later confirmed it. We were going to have a baby. Steve had never given up hope. 

Wait. Rest in Me. And have hope. 

Not that I felt that God owed us this child, or that I felt like He had to do this for me to trust Him. I just feel an immense sense of love from Him. I don’t know why our wait had to be so long. I don’t know why we got pregnant and other couples we know in our same boat have not. I just know that God IS sovereign. He DOES love us. And He DOES see every tear that falls.

Have hope. 

That was six months ago. Our tiny one is growing. She’s kicking and thrashing around like it’s going out of style. We’re working on getting her room ready. I daydream about who she will become, if she has Steve’s sense of humor, and if she’ll like curry. I worry about sleep deprivation. I read up on how to run with a jogging stroller and a dog at the same time. 

At 4:00 in the morning, when I lie awake with aching joints and a baby who seems intent on flailing about my uterus with glee, I think of those five years of waiting. And I’m grateful for every moment.

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Girls Night Out 5K

A crisp, sunny September day. Over 200 women gathered to go for a 3.1-mile run together. Pink and sparklies fill the crowd. Friends to share the experience with.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Girls Night Out All-Female 5K in downtown Kokomo yesterday. I picked that race for a few reasons:

1. Proximity: It was nice and close to home, just a 30-minute drive.

2. Time: It started at 5:00pm, which meant no rushing around to leave the house at the crack of dawn.

3. Price/Cause: It was pretty inexpensive: $18, and it benefited the local women’s shelter.

4. Buddy: My friend Kassie, who I had run a 5K with in April, decided to run with me.

So, all in all, lots of good reasons! And when Saturday dawned with gorgeous crisp-cool sunny weather, it was just icing on the cake.

Ready to race!

Ready to race!

Pre-Race

I had oatmeal with fruit for breakfast, and a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread (no cheese) and a fried green tomato for lunch. Normally I would avoid fried foods on race day, but um, it sounded good. And it wasn’t like it was deep-fried, more like sauteed. (And darn it all, my garden-fresh tomato days are numbered!) Even though I enjoyed having a nice leisurely morning, these night races are always a little tricky, figuring out what to do during the day. I canned peaches with a friend, but I tried to stay off my feet as much as possible.

We drove to Kokomo with Kassie and Tim and arrived at Grace United Methodist Church at around 4:40, which was where the registration and packet pickup was. The start/finish were right next to the church. It was a great location, very well organized. Churches rock for being involved in community events like this.

We waited in the parking lot with the hubbies and took a few pictures. Then Kassie and I joined the crowd towards the back of the pack. A pastor from the church led us in prayer, and the national anthem singer had everyone sing along. It was really cool to hear voices all around me singing, like a choir. I’m thinking about how I wished I’d taken one more drink out of my water bottle.

Blowing a kiss to the paparazzi, aka, the Hubs

Blowing a kiss to the paparazzi, aka, the Hubs

The Race

Took off a little fast, maybe. We ran south on city streets and then onto a paved Cardinal-Greenway-like trail that led to a park. Kassie and I ran together for the first mile. We passed a lot of people. Then I stopped for water at the aid station and she went on ahead. At the first mile marker, the guy called out: 9:11. I thought, cool, I might be able to make it under 28 minutes, which was my goal.

The course wound through the park, where some kind of country-western music festival was going on. I’m not a fan, but it was nice to have something live to listen to. (I’d chosen to run without headphones.) The trail was really shaded. They had plenty of volunteers directing runners. All dudes, naturally! The police was also blocking traffic on a few streets for us.

At the second mile marker, I heard 18:35. Hmm. I was getting a little tired and my window for making it under 28 was shrinking. Running fast is NOT my strength. I’m more of an ambler. And then there was a fairly steep hill about half a mile to the finish. I just kept thinking that Steve was going to ask, could you have done anything different? Could you have ran harder? So I pushed. At 3 miles, I heard 28:11. Phooey. Ah well, these things happen.

I started to sprint to the finish, to try to get under 29. But there was a lady ahead of me, and the chute was really narrow. I was afraid if I passed her, she might startle and get hurt. Steve was urging me on, and even afterwards, he said there was room to pass her before the chute. Well, these are judgement calls we must make. My phone GPS said the course was actually 3.3 miles, so taking that into consideration, I did about a 9:01 mile pace. Not too shabby for Rachel.

Coming in at 29:08

Coming in at 29:08

Post-Race

It was a pretty low-tech operation and the results were tabulated pretty much by hand. So we waited until the awards ceremony to find out if we placed at all. No such luck this time, but it was fun to watch the rest of the race. Also, no raffle prizes were won, but we were OK with that because it seemed like most of the raffle prizes were tanning bed sessions. Um, no thanks.

Then we drove off to our real reward – dinner at Half Moon Brewery, a recent restaurant discovery that has excellent BBQ and fried pickles. Yum. Headed home to chat some more with Kassie and Tim and play with Lucy. All in all, a great day! I’d definitely do this race again!

 

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