Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

Introducing Samuel John

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Born Jan. 31, 6lbs 15oz, 20 inches long. Photo credit: Bella Baby Photography.
He's here! It has been two and a half weeks since my world changed, and I'm only now with it enough to reflect a little on what happened and how our lives have changed as a result. Here's my rough recollection of how it went down (my husband Greg's take on things can be found here):

For a variety of reasons, including borderline high blood pressure, my OB had decided in advance to induce my labor at 39 1/2 weeks. Two days before my scheduled induction, I went in for a routine appointment and fetal monitoring. Although every metric on the machines looked fine, something felt... off. Sam wasn't moving as much as usual, as much as he had even the previous day. A hot chocolate and almond croissant from Bakery Nouveau didn't change things, and neither did a quiet afternoon paying attention to his movements. When we spoke to our OB on the phone that evening, she recommended we come in for induction that night -- acknowledging that the decision was at least partly driven by our (non-evidence-based) anxiety. We got the call at 6:15 and were to report to the hospital by 8:00 -- oh, and hadn't eaten, packed, showered, or picked up my stepson from his after school care. After a whirlwind couple of hours, we arrived (barely) on time, ready to do this thing.

Once we got settled in to our birthing suite, things were much calmer. We delivered my stepson to his mother. We organized our belongings, having been told that induction can take days. My cervix was checked, and I was hooked up to a fetal monitor and given a couple of doses of misoprostol, a cervical ripening agent. I was checked periodically throughout the night as I began to have period-like cramps, but they were easy enough to sleep through, for the most part.

In the AM, they started me on Pitocin, which by noon had ramped up the contractions to fairly uncomfortable. I ate lunch and walked around the nurses station a bit. Greg went for a run, and by the time he got back I had quickly devolved into a bad place, vomiting and shaking with the contractions. Our doula was invaluable, suggesting positions and coaching me though the contractions that seemed to be coming fast with little opportunity for rest. After some time I labored in the bath, where my water broke, I continued vomiting, and ultimately managed to mutter the word "epidural". What felt like five minutes later the anesthesia team was there, providing blessed relief (I had gone into labor wanting the "opportunity" to labor unmedicated -- and as it turns out 5 hours of that is plenty for me). I was able to sleep for a couple of hours, which felt like heaven.

Around 7:15PM, the OB team came in and told us they were observing signs of fetal distress that they didn't like to see. They gave us a metaphor we could relate to: "Your baby is running a marathon at a 100m pace." They gave me 15 minutes of low-fi interventions to change things: an oxygen mask for me, extra saline in the IV, turning me on my side. When these didn't change the fetal monitoring metrics, they made the call: a C-section.

I was a little teary at the prospect of surgery and the change of plan from what we had anticipated, but also intensely focused on doing what was best for our son. The decision was made around 7:30PM; after a flurry of activity on many fronts, Samuel John was born via C-section at 8:15PM weighing 6lbs 15oz and measuring 20 inches long. Everyone in the operating room expressed great surprise when they found that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck four(!) times -- the purported cause of the fetal distress. The neonatal team toweled him off and checked him over, then he was brought to me to nuzzle while the surgical team sewed me up. He came out hungry and tried to feed on my chin and cheek, to no avail.

The ensuing two and a half weeks have contained lifetimes for me and Greg. New parenting is hard, recovery from abdominal surgery is hard, breastfeeding is hard. There have been (blessedly few) moments of near despair. Overwhelming all the sleep deprivation and bewilderment, though, I have a fierce love and desire to protect this little peanut, come what may, and to fix these fleeting moments in my mind.

Tiny feet.

2016 Goals Recap

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As usual, the evening of December 31 has got me thinking about goals. Goals for the new year, goals from last year. I've been AWOL from the blog for many months, but there's always time for an eleventh hour check in, right?

Last year I decided to make a public goals list, hoping for some accountability. Here's how I did:

1. Run consistently, including one speed session per week

I did this! Well, for a small part of the year (January, March, and April) -- and those were really great. I felt fast (for me) and fit. I had to take time off from running the remainder of the year because of injury, medical procedures, and pregnancy. Once the first trimester was behind me, and I could peel myself off the couch, I had another month or so of running without speedwork before things were too uncomfortable and I started walking my mileage instead.

But I remember how good running, and speed, feels! I'm excited for 2017 for lots of reasons, and one of them is getting back to that feeling. Here's to mama fitness in 2017!

2. Strength training two times per week

This was the goal that ended up most like traditional resolutions for me in 2016. I had about 6-ish weeks of good behavior on this one (Oiselle dirty dozen, among others), then fell off the wagon. I'm hoping to incorporate this again into my fitness routine as I get back to running post-partum.

3. Save for a down payment on a house

This one was a home run! I have to admit I unironically *love* saving. We are almost there, although we've decided to wait on the actual purchasing of a house. My husband is going back to school and we can make our current situation work for a while even with a new baby, but the nest egg is there waiting for us (incubating?) when we need it.

4. Be vulnerable and Wholehearted

This is a hard one to assess (no milestones, ya know?), but I think I've done a good job here, too. There have certainly been lots of tears (both before and after getting pregnant), and I've tried hard to dig deep into my values: love, family, hard work, decency. I know lots of people are fearful and cynical about what might occur in 2017; I'm going to double down on these values and try to live them louder than ever before.

5. Blog at least 1-2 times per month

This post brings the grand total to 7 for the year, so... not great. Not sure it will be more frequent with a new baby, either. Oh, well... the blog is still here for when I need a (very small scale) platform, I suppose.

Taking stock of the past year inevitably leads to thinking about goals for the new year... coming soon!

UW Fetal Brain MRI Study

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I do (kidney) research for a living, so when I found out I was pregnant, I was excited to experience clinical research from the other side. A few weeks ago baby Z and I participated in a cool study currently being conducted at the University of Washington that was seeking pregnant volunteers to build a high resolution fetal brain MRI database.

When fetal brain abnormalities are detected via ultrasound during a pregnancy, an MRI could provide additional useful information to women and providers. However, since you can't instruct the little nugget to stay still for an hour, up until now 3-D imaging has been of limited use. But researchers at the University of Washington have developed technology that is both high resolution and that can capture images even when the baby is moving (I'm imagining something like video stabilizing technology, but who knows?). This project aims to build a database of different baby brains throughout pregnancy for comparison. 

A few weeks ago, in my 19th week of pregnancy, I spent about an hour in an MRI at the UW Roosevelt clinic. I changed into scrubs, got rid of my jewelry (no metal allowed except rings), and was fed into the machine. It was rather close, although I was only enclosed up to my mid-torso. I was also provided earplugs and earphones with which to listen to my choice of Pandora stations (Gillian Welch). There was a rather loud clanking noise from the machine the majority of the time, but honestly my life is so hectic I welcomed the opportunity to lie there doing nothing for an hour, and I almost fell asleep. 

For me, the best part was after the MRI (and getting the $50 Amazon gift card!), when the radiology technician showed me some of the images and even a video (I also received a CD with images/video a couple of weeks later). I was astounded to see my favorite little alien moving around in there -- it looked like he was having quite the dance party! It put a huge smile on my face the rest of the day to have a mental image of what was going on down below every time my stomach turns and tickles. Here is the video -- taken over about 90 seconds but speeded up slightly below. I figure that, with those moves, he'll either be a runner or a dancer, or maybe both!

If you are interested in participating in this study, you can find more information here. Women must be between 18 and 36 weeks pregnant and between 18 and 45 years old to enroll. You can participate in the study up to three times, and there is an optional "phase II" to the project when your child is 19-21 months.

Update: we did the study again at 24 weeks! Here's our little guy, much more developed but much less active on this particular day:

Happy birthday, baby!

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Yesterday I celebrated my 38th birthday. As is my tradition, I spent part of the day taking stock of the year that has passed, and part of the day taking stock of the things I want/hope/expect will happen in the coming year. And this year has been a big one. Apart from the small daily triumphs and tribulations that make up a life, I finished my PhD (at long last) and got a "big girl" job, struggled with infertility, and ran faster than ever. In terms of having the opportunity to experience the full range of human emotion, it was a slam dunk of a year. It was a year full of being rewarded for years of hard work, and of learning to let go despite my best efforts to control outcomes.

My birthday afternoon, and the forecast for 38 looks just fine by me.

And now: what's new and what's ahead? Well, there's one small clue in my birthday present from my beloved husband: an original composition entitled "Here We Go".

Another clue is that I've spent most of the summer on our couch, and that now I'm finally feeling well enough to get excited about the fact that I'm 17 weeks pregnant! It's only just sinking in that this is for real, and that there will be a project deliverable at the end of this process, on or about Feb. 5. There's much, much more to say; but for today, let's leave it at next year's birthday reflection: 38 -- that was a very good year!

2016 Pre Classic

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I so wanted to attend the US Olympic Trials for track and field happening the first week in July, but we have (awesome!) family commitments in Eastern Washington, so it was not in the cards this time around. I unilaterally declared that we should still have some hot track action in 2016 as a consolation prize, so we headed down to Eugene over Memorial Day weekend to attend the Prefontaine Classic.

Greg in front of historic Hayward Field
Traffic out of Seattle Friday afternoon was extra horrible (2.5 hours from Seattle to Olympia), and we were lucky to make it to Hayward Field in time. First up Friday night were three tasty races (plus some field events): a W 800m race composed of all US studs, and a Diamond League W 5K and M 10K. They were all amazing in their own way. In the 800m, Oiselle athlete Kate Grace (2:01.16) came in second behind Alysia Montaño (2:00.78), aka "the Flying Flower"... two of my favorite athletes, so I was delighted! Next up, Molly Huddle ran 14:49.14 in the 5K and came within a few seconds of her own American record.
Kate Grace gets ready to roar.
Women's 5K flying with Lauren Wallace out front rabbiting.
The final event Friday night was the men's 10K. Although it's a lot of laps around the track, I found it thrilling to watch the race gradually unfold, building to a fantastic finish of Mo Farah and Williams Malel Sitonik sprinting neck and neck the final 200m. Mo Farah eked out the victory in 26:53.71, extending his 10K winning streak that extends back to 2011(!!!). I've heard it talked about endlessly, but it was incredible to hear an entire stadium of true track fans urging the athletes on in full voice... Hayward Field -- respect. 
Mo Farah gets ready to go!
Saturday was no less amazing (except in that Friday was FREE, y'all!! And Saturday we had to pay), but for me the standout race in a day of standouts was the women's 3K steeplechase. We stood near the water barrier and it was so inspiring to see the grit, speed, and grace with which the athletes leaped over it. Ruth Jebet ran 8:59.97 (holy guacamole!!) for the win and Emma Coburn ran a new American record of 9:10.76. Chills, y'all.
My favorite event, the steeplechase (Shalaya Kipp rabbiting)
Two other extremely cool things about spectating at Pre was that 1) we got to meet up with fellow Oiselle Volee members Liz Anjos and Sarah Matsumoto (thanks, Twitter!) and 2) we spent the day spectating just a few feet from a bunch of profesh runners including Will Leer and Alan Webb (American record holder in the mile). As you do. And you know what? They were cheering just as hard as anyone.
Cheer squad!

Eugene, I'll be back. :) 

My mother (f***ing) journey

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If you were to see me on the bus, or out running, or at work, you might see me as lots of things. Tall. Smiley. Generous. Nose in a book. One eyebrow cocked about some odd thing I notice. You might have noted my laugh, or my mothering spirit. One thing you probably wouldn't guess is that I'm infertile.

It's a label that I avoided for a long time. Officially, it takes a year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive for a woman under 35, and 6 months for a woman over 35, to earn this designation. Both of those landmarks are unfortunately but a distant memory for my husband and me. When I was eventually diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), it came as a huge shock. I am healthy, active, educated (which really has nothing to do with anything, I know, but felt like it should be good for something), and come from a family of 4 children. Despite all those advantages, I have never been pregnant, to date.

It's an intensely private issue, and perhaps because of this, many women (myself included) feel extremely isolated when they encounter infertility issues. In fact, I didn't really want to write this post, and have found endless ways to postpone writing this. However, this week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and 1 out of every 8 couples struggles to have biological children. I had zero idea of any of this until I was living that reality, and I guess I'd like there to be a little more sensitivity and awareness around this issue in the world.

Now that I've said that I'm infertile, what more is there to say? Well, lots. But that's for another day. So for the time being, I'll just say this: be kind. The grief of infertility is like none that I've ever known. So, unless it's a close friend, don't inquire about family planning. Don't tell them to relax. Don't complain about your own pregnancy. And please don't say "you can always adopt" or talk about God's plan. I have found this website to be a pretty stellar summary of infertility etiquette (and a wealth of other infertility information and education), if you're interested.

For my husband and me, the journey continues. We are doing what we can to get pregnant and stay sane, and beyond that are just trying for serenity. It's hard fought, but it's coming. In the meantime, if you see me out and about (and heaven forbid if you should see me on that Yom Kippur of infertility, Mother's Day), give me a smile, a wave, a wink of solidarity. Talk to me about the wide, wonderful world out there, and please don't ask how many children I have.  

An Athlete Defined

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Just in time for the New Year, the powers that be at New Balance unveiled a new ad campaign, featuring badass middle-distance star Jenny Simpson, to thrill and inspire the masses (and sell some apparel and shoes along the way):

Oh, wait. Except this doesn't do any of those things... #adfail

When I saw this ad making the rounds on social media, I wasn't sure whether to laugh, shout, or cry. On the one hand, I was completely puzzled. How on earth would any business person think this message is a good one to sell clothes and shoes? I feel as though I've been punked by New Balance. I'm envisioning ex-collegiate marketing blowhards sitting around the NB New Year's Eve party, getting plastered: "Yeah, man, everyone thinks they're an athlete now...WTH?" Someone is dared to put this up on the website, and so it goes...

Assuming this was a soberly considered decision, however, makes it all the more absurd. It's clearly elitist, condescending, and offensive. Strangely, this ad would have you believe that entering a competition itself (along with the requirement of corporeal form) makes you an athlete. Again, absurd. My husband, an athlete by both New Balance's and any other standard, and I have had this conversation again and again: what defines a "serious" runner? And roughly, we have come to this: a person -- of any ability or pace -- who takes an interest in training for their own personal self-improvement. Not measuring progress against the current world record, or even against your best friend. I think the criteria to be an athlete are even more broad. Or as Sally Bergesen, founder and CEO of Oiselle, recently put more succinctly on Twitter:

One of the parts of this ad I find the most strange is the statement, "Which is unfortunate, because it means actual athletes are left without much of an identity." Who are these "actual athletes" whose sense of identity is so fragile as to be shattered when someone with a New Year's resolution laces up their shoes to go for a run? It strikes me a bit like the straw man argument we heard for so long against same-sex marriage: "If gays are allowed to marry, what value does my [heterosexual] marriage have?" Allow me to put it plainly: neither others' athletic goals and habits, nor sexual preferences, can make you more or less of an athlete, or more or less married.

I've had these thoughts tumbling around in my head intermittently for a few days, and only today have had a chance to write them down. And when I went to get a link for the ad shown above? I found this current version:

Same tagline, photo, and background; brand new copy and message!
The message on the new version is almost completely antithetical to the previous one. "Take performance to the next level... push yourself like never before." "Track your progress." "Supportive running communities." There was quite a negative reaction on Twitter to the initial campaign, so I was pleased to see that in the end New Balance is not quite as tone-deaf as they might seem. In the end, New Balance took a note from its own prescription, showing their once ill-conceived ad campaign to have "performance driven by data".