Running for Two

Throughout my pregnancy, I have maintained my practice of running. After I was given the all-clear post-IVF, I put my running shoes on and started out again. Slowly. Very Carefully. With just a hint of trepidation.

At first, I had to stop and walk a lot. I was tired and out of practice for the first time in 7 years. This annoyed me to no end. I am a seasoned runner, damn it! Walking is for sissies! Rationally, I got why I was slowing down. But as any runner will tell you, it is a mental game more than anything, and mentally I felt like I should be pushing myself harder.

I had to change my expectations. Instead of running with my gadgets that calculate distance, time, and pace, I just run for time now. I set the clock for 35 minutes, then run/walk until I’m done. This sounds so simple, but it is huge shift for me.

It has also helped me reconnect with this sport I love so much. I run now for the grace of it. For the joy of being outside. For the clarity I get on each run. It also reminds me that even as my body changes, I’m still incredibly strong. Sure, my glutes and quads are not what they used to be (let alone my abs. HA!) But I’m out there and this requires a particular kind of courage: To do my best that day, no matter what that day brings me.

Exercising while pregnant is weird because it follows the opposite path of what you’re used to. Instead of improving over time, I have been slowing down or having to modify workouts. Instead of getting stronger each week, I’ve had to figure out what I can’t do anymore. It’s a downer if I think about it too much. I’m used to literally feeling the progress that comes with exercise. Again, it’s about changing my expectations. So now it is less about performance and more about simple movement.

I realize at some point running while pregnant will not be a good idea. As my doctor put it, my body will tell me when it is ready to stop and I just have to listen. I’ve also started adding pregnancy pilates to my work out. Truth be told, I find it exceedingly tedious, but it is good for me. It keeps my legs and core strong, and it keeps me moving. At the moment, I’m running 2-3 times a week, and doing pilates 2-3 times a week.

On this morning’s run, I was feeling electric. The weather was perfect– 50 degrees and sunny. Chick was cooperating by keeping movement to a minimum. I felt strong and empowered, even as other runners breezed by me like gazelles. “Yeah, but are you running and carrying a baby? I AM A WARRIOR!”  As I stopped mid-run to stretch, I took a photo of the view from where I stood: My running shoes peeking out from my baby belly. Feeling good about where I was at that moment, I posted it to Instagram and finished my run.

Which is when I realized that I kinda, sorta forgot about my and Mr. O’s “No Social Media Pregnancy Announcements.” I also forgot that there are some people following me who don’t know about Chick. So I got a flood of “likes” and “OMG” style comments. In my exuberance, I inadvertently outed myself as pregnant. Oops.

It isn’t that I want to avoid social media altogether. It’s just that I remember being ambushed by the announcements of friends. I hate the idea that someone saw my picture and had a similar reaction. I also want to be so mindful of Chick’s own privacy– Chick may not want a kabillion pictures all over the interwebs before they can even get born.

Thankfully, Mr. O didn’t seem to mind my slip, and was one of the first to “like” my photo. Along with 23 other people… and counting.

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Who Wants to Know?

You may not have figured this out, but I am actually a private person. I may have willfully blogged about my infertility treatments to perfect strangers. But remember… none (or I should say very few) know who I am.

Infertility– IVF in particular– meant that I knew a lot more about my pregnancy than I would have otherwise. I mean, I literally saw the embryo inserted into my uterus. I know my exact conception date. Because I’m an IVF mama, I also had a whole bunch of early ultrasounds– more than a “normal” pregnant woman would. I have seen my insides more in the last 2 years than I would have expected to in my whole life time.

In principle, this is fine. Thanks to all this technology and SCIENCE!, I am pregnant and happy to be starting my family. But I also wish I had a bit of the mystery I assume “normal” pregnant women have.

In part because of this, Mr. O and I have decided that we don’t want to know the sex of our baby until it comes out. I like the not knowing. I like the idea that for 9 months, there are no expectations or assumptions about this kid, so Chick can just focus on being happy and healthy.

It would appear that other people are not okay with this.

Because humans abhor vacuums, this has led people to frantically trying to predict the gender of my baby. They base their assumptions on how I’m carrying, what came to them in a dream, a “gut feeling”, or what I had for dinner last night. One person tried to get me to do the “Needle Test” which is apparently when you rub a needle on your wrist and dangle it over your arm. Depending on which way the needle swings, you’re having a girl or a boy. Huh? How is this a thing?

It is amazing to me how judge-y people are about not finding out. Two of my favorite responses so far:

“I hate it when people don’t find out. You have the technology, why don’t you use it?”

The real question is why do you give a rat’s ass?

“But how will I know what color baby clothes to buy you? Green and yellow are just so boring.”

Then let’s go with my emo baby theme, and just get everything BLACK.

Pregnancy is funny. On one hand, it is an incredibly personal experience. This is happening in your body. You’re carrying this little person, taking care of it, dealing with all the new and exciting ways you’re changing. It is happening TO YOU in a very real sense.

But at the same time, pregnancy is very public. The bigger you get, the more conspicuous this very personal experience gets. People can’t help but know, and so can’t help but offer completely unsolicited advice about how and what you should be doing.

Along these lines, Mr. O and I have also decided against the FB announcement. At first it seemed harmless enough, but the truth is that I don’t want people I don’t care about to know. I also want to respect Chick’s privacy. Who knows? They may never want a Facebook account, Twitter handle, or whatever new-fangled social media is out by the time they are old enough to care.

Honestly, I don’t care what other people do. What I love about humans is that we all find a way in the world that works for us. If you want to post your ultrasounds on Facebook, that’s a-okay with me. What I don’t understand– and never will– is this insistence that we all experience pregnancy the same way. The people who love and support me know I’m pregnant– that is enough for me.

Everyone else can just learn about it on their own. And keep their opinions to themselves. Please.

The Reveal

It’s that time, folks! The time when I have to tell my manager and team that I’m carrying.

And as should come as no surprise, I feel very uneasy about this. On a certain level, I’m still convinced that something will go terribly wrong. Like at my next ultrasound, my doctor will confirm that I am having a garden gnome, not an actual human. But I’m also getting to that point where it is going to be very obvious I’m not getting chubby, but getting babied.

I’m also just feeling a lot right now. My life is a whole lotta messy, but I’m finding a place of calm I can process this from. I’m coming to terms with the fact that my first pregnancy happening just as I lose my mom. To quote the immortal Whitney Houston, “It’s not right, but it’s okay.

With my mom’s death now common knowledge at work, I feel a little conspicuous. People come up to me and tell me that they’re sorry. I get hugs, invitations to lunch, random “Just thinking about you” emails. It comes from a place of kindness, I get that. But I’d really like to get back to being a normal person, thank you very much. Just as it looks like “normal” is on the horizon, I will be outing pregnant self. With this brings a whole new level public attention that I’m not really interested in, and yet is totally inescapable.

The workplace is weird. Not just my workplace, but any workplace. We’re thrown together with a bunch of people who we may or may not have anything in common with. Because we spend 8+ hours together 5 days a week, there is a false sense of intimacy. We see each other a lot, but we don’t really know each other that well. Not everyone gets this, and so sometimes boundaries are crossed. Which is part of the reason I’m queasy about this.

My manager, who I will tell first, is the bomb. He’s in the top 5 of people I’ve ever worked for. Part of the reason I adore him is that he gets the idea of privacy, while also being one of the most supportive managers I’ve ever had. He has never asked for justification for all the time I’ve needed off to go to my many, many medical appointments, and he has given me free reign to visit my family over the past year (which is part of the reason I feel at peace with my mom’s passing, if I am to be honest.)

All of this is to say that I’m okay telling him. He’ll give me the space and the support I need. He is like magic. My direct report will be over the moon. Truth be told, I think she may have already figured it out, but I could be wrong.

There are two colleagues who I am most concerned about. 1) Myna, and 2) a coworker I’ll call Robin*.

Myna should come as no surprise. In her book, boundaries are for chumps. She is the kind of person who will tell me about her labor horror story. Or how she worked up until the last possible minute, and was emailing between contractions. In short, there will be a lot of over sharing and insistence that I do my pregnancy exactly like she did hers.

My plan for Myna: I’ll accept her hearty congratulations and offers to throw an office baby shower. I will even thank her. However, I will not accept stories intended to terrify me or shame me into thinking that I am bad parent. I’ve been practicing this exact line in my bathroom mirror:

Thanks for sharing your experiences, but pregnancy is such a personal subject I’d rather not talk about it at work.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll cry at her and through post-it notes.

Robin is another conundrum altogether. You see, Robin and his wife lost their second child when they were 36 weeks pregnant, about a few days before my mom died.  I do not know the details- I’ve been respecting his need for privacy because I totally get it. Okay, I don’t get what he is going through at all,  but I do get the need not to have your grief on display.

When he returned to work, he sent an email to the team saying that if anyone wanted to talk with him about his loss, set up a meeting with him. He would talk about it with us, but he didn’t want to get approached in the hall or at his desk. (Which was the most gracious and mature thing I’ve seen a grieving person do.) Clearly, Robin understands workplace boundaries.

My plan for Robin: Uh… I’m not sure. I want to tell him about my pregnancy before it gets out. I want him to know that I understand if he doesn’t want to sit with me at lunch or hang out around the water cooler. I understand that the sight of my growing belly will likely trigger some hard emotions for him, and I do not blame him for any reaction he has. But I can’t decide if that is being presumptive or respectful. Obviously, I’m aiming for respectful.

So what do you think? Should I tell him personally? Or should I email him? Write him a letter? Send a messenger pigeon? Or should I let word get out in the usual grape-vine-y sort of way?

Advice and opinions are welcome.

*Nope. Not his real name.

Stuck Between My Head, My Heart, and a Hard Place

(Warning: There is a lot of rage and a ton of expletives below.)

I’m just going to get the sad part out of the way. It looks like my mom won’t make it through her latest round of illness. After 13 months in the hospital, her heart is starting to shut down. It isn’t imminent, but it will happen soon.

When this became clear to me, I had a huge internal debate. To tell her that I’m pregnant or not to tell her.

My head kept insisting that I wasn’t ready. We’re too early on to know if this is a viable pregnancy.  Telling her will mean we have to tell everyone else, and I don’t want that yet. Whether or not my mom knows, it doesn’t change anything. She is dying, and I am pregnant. Facts are facts.

My heart was a weepy mess. As with all the ups and downs over the past year, I have made a point of making sure my mom felt loved and cared for. I’ve let her know I think of her every single day. I tried to make sure she experienced joy and happiness, and this certainly qualifies.

As should come as no surprise, I had a plan for telling people that we are pregnant. I wanted to wait until the 8 week ultrasound to tell family and close friends. If all went well, we’d let the world at large know after the first trimester.

As should come as no surprise, the Universe is shitting all over my plan.

If there was some magical way I could just tell my mom… that’s what I wanted. I don’t give a shit about anyone else right now. No, really… I’ve become remarkably unfeeling about morons over the last few days. For example, Mr. O pointed out that his mother may be upset if she finds out we told other people first. To which I responded, “No problem. I’ll just tell her to go fuck herself.”  And I mean it. I will take on that burden for the rest of my natural born life and well into eternity.

I am willing to tell my mother-in-law to take a flying leap every day until one of us dies, if it means I can tell my mom. That’s when I realized how important this was to me.

Even though what’s happening to my mom is profoundly sad, I still wanted this to be happy. I hope that doesn’t sound heartless, but this is happy. IF is an asshole, but it has taught me some life skills– among them the importance of holding both the good and the incredibly hard. Your life is never, ever painted with just one brush.

So Mr. O and I made a video for my mom that my dad could play for her in the hospital. It was funny, and a little bit cheeky. We had so much fun making it together too- I haven’t laughed like that in a while.

After she saw it, my dad Facetimed us in so we could celebrate with my mom. It was amazing and painful. As much as I am so grateful we got to share this with her, I am also so fucking mad. Of all the ways I pictured telling my parents, it was never with my mom hooked up to a ventilator. I am grateful, but I am not a saint. This is fucked up. FUCKED UP.

As I knew it would, the cat is creeping out of the bag. My sister was in the room when my dad played the video. My brother found out because my dad blurted it out in the car. My mom was telling her nurse the other day. All of which is fine. I do not regret the decision to tell her for one minute.

Now comes the hard part… (oh, you thought that was it?)

My mom has asked me not to come see her. She wants me to focus on taking care of this new little life. My mom knows how hard this has been for me and Mr. O. She had a lot of difficulties with her pregnancies, and worries about this for us. And so she doesn’t want me to undergo the travel and the stress.

I’m checking with my doctor today but I worry that even if we were cleared to go, my being there would cause her anxiety (which is what sets off her heart, we’ve found.)

Merry fucking Christmas to me.