There is no doubt in my mind that this will be the ride of our lives!! Brandon and I are so happy and grateful to be expecting a sweet baby to join our family in May! My eyes have certainly been opened to the amazing, beautiful, miraculous process that is growing a tiny human…I feel constantly blown away by it all.
“For this child I have prayed, and the Lord answered my prayer.” 1 Samuel 1:27
After many seasons of training and racing as an endurance athlete, I’ve become so in-tune with my body and its needs, and that has made all the difference in the way I’ve approached pregnancy. Just because tiny things were “off”, I actually knew I was pregnant very early on, despite a negative at-home pregnancy test result. I’ve practiced listening to my body for so long; I just simply knew! And as I navigate staying active and healthy throughout this journey, it’s remained so important that I continue to listen and adhere to all the changing and growing needs of my body as it works towards supporting and developing our baby.
We are now in our sixth month, which I can’t even believe! Part of me can’t hardly wait to meet this precious baby, and part of me is so grateful that the Lord designed this process to be a full 9+ months, because I feel like I need every moment of that timeframe to prepare – not just emotionally and mentally, but also in the sense of true “nesting” – organizing around the house, designing the nursery, and gathering all the things that a tiny human needs, which is a lot!!
Everyone wants to know “how do you feel.” And I struggled to answer that question for a while, because it was all just so foreign to me. I mean, one of my strengths as an athlete is my will to suffer, and I have put my body through very intense training blocks season after season, and have experienced the fatigue that comes with that – six hour training days in the hot, humid Texas weather, 25-30 hour weeks of high intensity race season prep, balancing racing professionally with a full-time marketing career — I really thought I knew what it felt like to be tired and exhausted. But oh my goodness. The fatigue experienced during my first trimester puts all of that to shame — I’ve never imagined a state of fatigue that intense! I could barely keep my eyes open, and needed so much sleep. I’d barely drag myself out of bed in the morning just because I knew I needed to feed my dog. Then after taking her for a walk, I would need a nap!! But there is a life inside of me that relies solely on me to support it, so yeah, I guess that makes sense…so much of my available energy was going towards nourishing this growing baby. But I still couldn’t quite put it into words.
Then one day we were driving back from the Lake of the Ozarks after a weekend of wedding festivities celebrating my cousin, and the roads were winding and hilly – so much so that I would get the sensation of feeling like I was on a rollercoaster combined with that unique sinking feeling you get in your stomach as it drops. Most of my family had “lived it up” a bit at the wedding and eventually someone had to pull over to “release” some of that. Just before we pulled over, I yanked open my car door as I realized that I had to throw up too! And it dawned on me in that moment that it so perfectly summed up the way I felt my entire first trimester…I felt hungover. And it’s a bit of a cruel irony as it’s the one period of time in my adult life that I’ve gone without any booze – I haven’t had a drop! Yet, I felt hungover every single day. Headache, queasy, exhausted, can’t get out of bed — the only time I didn’t feel queasy was when I was eating and the only thing that sounded good to me was comfort food or anything that would sound good when one is hungover. Juicy hamburgers with fries, milkshakes, pancakes, macaroni and cheese, I craved all the grease!!
So that was first trimester. I’ve stayed healthy and it’s been a smooth journey, and for that I’m so thankful…but yes, those first few months were a bit yuck. And I was really weak, and couldn’t make it through much exercise. Staying active has been really important to me, but I had to listen to my body and back way-way off during that time. Sleep was the number priority for me, and most nights I gave my body every bit that it needed. The level of activity and intensity (or lack there of!) was something so foreign to me after years of triathlon racing, but I really embraced it knowing that my body was taking on a completely different kind of physical challenge. I gained a quick ten pounds but I think that our bodies know what we need and I was coming from a place of world championship level fitness…I was in great shape and very lean from a summer of training…and hey, I think I just needed some additional “maternal fat” as I’ve endearingly been calling it!
Now into second trimester I feel much better. So much more energy, and able to get away with no naps and far less sleep! I still need a lot, but it pails in comparison to earlier on. And my nose has settled down. Yikes – anyone else?? I could smell things a mile away, and 100 times more intense, and let me tell you, the world is mostly not full of beautiful floral scents but rather of dirty sink scum, B.O., and filthy residue. So that’s calmed down, and now I’m craving healthier foods (still my sweets, nothing has changed there!) and realized most of those pregnancy cravings we hear about revealed themselves during those first several months. But ya, those are crazy. It’s like you get something in your head and have to have it. This trimester, I’ve been craving healthier foods across the board, but I never used to eat sandwiches, and now it’s all about the sandwich!! And sushi recently. Turns out, there are alot of sushi rolls that are cooked that totally allow me to get my fix. And one night I had to make a special trip to the store to get all the ingredients for homemade chocolate chip cookies. Brandon has not been complaining too much…come to think of it, I think he finds it fun to come home to these unique snack findings I acquire for the pantry! He has been so supportive all this time, we are already forming such a good teamwork approach to the needs of this baby and our growing family, and there is something really special about watching your partner mold into the parent he is destined to be.
That passion for fitness and an active lifestyle hasn’t faded, it’s just managed very differently now. With more energy, I’m able to join in on a masters swim 2-3 times per week (about an hour/4k), and much thanks to my friend Brooke Knaus who introduced me to Orange Theory Fitness when she was in town for the NASCAR race in October, I’ve been incorporating “OTF” 2 x per week. It’s been AWESOME. I can monitor my effort level and modify when needed and it’s just a high-energy environment that has given me another opportunity to stay active while on maternity leave from triathlon. I love it. I supplement that with some really easy (think 100-120 watts) spinning on the Wahoo KICKR and short plyometric/strength sessions so my muscles don’t deteriorate. (I took cycling indoors the moment I found out I was pregnant. The odds of something happening while riding outside are low, but I just had to ask myself if I could live with the possible consequences if something were to happen…Just a personal decision, and since I have a great set up indoors, and we were approaching cooler weather, it really was an easy one. So, it’s been about five months since I’ve ridden outside but it’s an easy sacrifice, and the first of many, to make.) I cover around 30 minutes of running during the OTF sessions, where I include short blasts of intervals/increased effort, and since it’s chilly out at this time of year, I really haven’t included much additional running on top of that unless I’m traveling – and then running is just the easy thing to do. With my energy levels, I’ve learned that if I try to do too much, I’m couch bound the next day, so I only do one “session” with any increased efforts (i.e. masters or OTF or a ride on the KICKR with a few short intervals) a day, and if I do something else, it’s all really easy, steady “just get out and move” efforts. Sometimes that means walking with my pup, sometimes it’s a little easy spinning or elliptical time, and sometimes it’s just some light strength work and stretching. I’m aiming for 1-2 hours of activity every day with a guilt-free day of rest here and there. And yep, training is drastically different than exercising. Or activity. But just getting up and moving really does help manage the fatigue and other pregnancy symptoms across the board, so it’s remained a big priority for me.
I am excited to share this journey and will pass along as much wisdom as I can as I do think that it’s all much more relatable than it appears upfront. We all have new challenges we get to take on, changing demands in our schedules, shifting priorities as we move through life, additions to all that we need to balance on top of the training — and so on. I will continue to share my insights as I navigate through this learning curve and as we explore the needs of our growing family while remaining fit and healthy and active!