Sunday, 30 October 2016

A Year Later, Still Recovering

It was actually one of my patients who told me that it would take a full year to recover from a pregnancy and a C/section. I wrote an update at 6 months, and I had planned to write another when I hit the year mark. Not that it takes much to distract me from writing (I have one in draft that I started in March) but I delayed because I knew I wasn't where I wanted to be and I wanted to give myself a little more time.

Physical Recovery
While it's much better than where I was in January, I still have some pain around my incision. I'm sure my insides turned to cement when they healed after my surgery, which helps confirm our decision to have only one baby. I have the feeling the scar tissue would make a second C/section difficult. My scar is finally starting to fade in spots. My hair stopped shedding, as I noticed that it was taking longer to blow dry in the morning. For the longest time, I still had a bit of a high diastasis. Kate spent much time at the top of my uterus, which may have been following the old wives tale that girls are positioned high, or my low lying placenta prevented her from engaging in my pelvis, but it really separated by upper abdominals. It finally seems to be resolving.

While, I'm so relieved that a year of breastfeeding didn't leave my breasts with the deflated balloon effect, once I started losing weight, they were the first to go. It's actually been a bit distressing. I'm happy to have my flat-ish stomach back and I have a defined waist again, I look at myself in a swimsuit or certain dresses, and I notice that there is something missing. It's brought me back to my 13 year old self conscious state. I'm reliving my teen angst. We're talking this is an Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret "I must, I must, I must increase my bust!" situation. It took years to get over those feelings of insecurity and finally embrace my A cup status. My friends in England even formed a group called the Small Breast Club. The SBC. We figured that if we stuck together, we might actually draw some male attention. Now that I'm married and over 40, I shouldn't care about my chest size anymore. Except now, I've been to the other side. I had voluptuous curves! I had cleavage! I haven't started googling breast augmentation yet, but I am planning to do some Wonderbra shopping.

As a brief recall, I weighed 135 pounds when I got married 10 years ago. Like many new brides, I gained 10 pounds in our first year of marriage. When I took a new job that increased my commute and decreased gym time, I gained another stubborn 5 pounds. Then we bought our current house and for six months we devoted every measure of free time to renovation projects and ate a lot of take out and crappy microwave meals. My weight went up to 157 lbs. I found my way back to the gym, started swimming and distance running, but could only manage to get the scale down to 150 on a good day. I was happy with that, but as the years passed it was harder to maintain. Once we started fertility treatments, my weight ranged between 152-154. I decided to round up and used 155 as my pre-pregnancy weight. I gained 23 pounds during pregnancy and lost most of it within the first two weeks postpartum. Then the breastfeeding hunger took hold and I became a human eating machine. I found that in order to be a cow, I needed to be a pig. I went though a box of oatmeal raisin cookies per week. I kept them in my car to hide my secret from Husband and to keep him from eating any of my cookies.

I would go throught cycles of feeling guilt and shame over my cookie habit, so I would reduce my caloric intake. Then I'd have a low pumping session and would experience a different form of guilt and shame, so I'd chow down on the cookies again. I had decided not to weigh myself until I was in a position to do something about it. Then around the end of January, curiosity got the better of me. I stepped on the scale and felt a bit of relief that it was 'only' 165. (I was fully expecting to be in the 170s). I knew that the number and my reaction to it were not good in any way. While I knew I wasn't in a position to start losing weight, I figured I could plan my strategery and set my start day after I finished breastfeeding. Then I remembered Amanda at Beloved Burnt Toast (now Burnt Toast Life) wrote about her success with Whole 30. I emailed her and she quickly sold me on Whole 30, as she described, it's not a diet, but a method that teaches you to eat better.  I was hooked.

I'll write a separate post about my Whole 30 experience, but when I started my first attempt in June (which was a miserable failure) I weighed 161 lbs. I did back to back Whole 30s in August and September and finished weighing 151 lbs. (I feel compelled to mention that the focus of Whole 30 is on improving your eating habits and fixing bad relationships with food; not merely weight loss, but this is a section on weight) I can't believe I'm actually below pre-pregnancy weight! Just for fun, I'll step on the scale in the middle of the day, fully clothed and find myself still under pre-pregnancy weight. (At press time, I'm actually at 149. First time under 150 in years) During my heavier days, I had a 'Who Are You Kidding?' purge of my closet. I had been hanging on to a lot of clothes on the promise of "if I lose some weight, I'l fit into them again!" Some were from my days when I weighed in the 130s. That was over 10 years ago. I decided they needed to go, purely from a fashion standpoint. I also got rid of my going out clothes. It was time to face reality. I'm married, over 40 and I've had a baby via C/section. I figured that if I ever did lose the weight, I could treat myself to some new clothes. I'm not sure if it was accidentally or subconsciously intentional, but I recently discovered an old pair of jeans that didn't get tossed. (They didn't fit me pre-pregnancy, but my regular pre-pregnancy jeans are now too big) I decided to try them on, but prepared myself to be disappointed. They fit. It felt so satisfying,

Yet these numbers and clothes sizes only tell one aspect of the story. I recently did a body fat test. Every four months, our gym offers body fat testing in a water dunk tank (considered to be the best and most accurate form of testing). My prior test was in February of 2014, which was the month I ran two half marathons. My weight was 155 and my body fat percentage was 24.5. This time around (after a stim cycle and retrieval, 4 FETs, 39 weeks of pregnancy and 1 year of breastfeeding) my weight was down to 152, but my body fat percentage was 26.9% (which the guy administering the test graciously rounded up to 27%). I've lost 6 pounds of muscle and gained 3 pounds of fat. So, this news burst my bubble about old clothes fitting again and getting into sub 150 territory. Yet, I feel optimistic that I may actually reach my best body state after the age of 40 and after a baby. I have set some goals for my next body fat test in February.

Much like my pre-Kate life, I'll go in cycles with Cross-Fit. I'll go regularly for a while and work on a new skill or reach a PB. Then life gets in the way, I can't make it into the gym for a while, and when I go back, I feel like I'm starting over. I sustained a weird back injury in January and had to rest for a few weeks. When I ready to work out again, I started bringing Kate to the gym. Our box offers the option of 'open gym' where you can do a self directed work-out. I had felt intimidated by the people who do open gym, as most of them are elite athletes, for whom the Work Out of the Day (WOD) is too easy. Then one of the strongest female lifters explained, "No, it's just about getting in and getting your stuff done." I came up with 'The Baby WOD', I would give Kate a bottle or a pouch while I would row a 5K, then do 50-75 wall balls and 10 pull ups. I get in some cardio and strength and work every major muscle group. Sometimes Husband would join us and we'd trade off working out and watching Kate, although this was only feasible in her pre-walking days. Around the end of April, our WOD was an AMRAP (As Many Rounds as Possible) of pull ups, push ups and double unders. I was determined to Rx it (do the work out 'as prescribed' -no modifications) even if I did only one round. I actually managed 4 rounds (others in the class did anywhere from 5 to 7), but they clapped and cheered for me when I announced that my score was Rx'd. It was a good moment.

You can imagine how the rest of the story goes. We went to Hawaii in May, which meant I didn't make it in to the gym in the preceding week as I was running too many errands to prepare for our trip and I didn't go the following week as I was catching up on errands after being away for a week. Then I was diagnosed with pneumonia and like my back injury, it took a few weeks to recover; and then my return was delayed due to Kate's birthday party. When my parents came to visit in August, I was able to get into the gym more regularly. We've worked into a routine where I go on Thursday evenings and Sunday morning. After a few weeks, I was able to do a strict pull up again. (Our gym teaches kipping techniques to make pull ups faster and more efficient, but they require that you can do strict before you kip) A week or so later, I attended a class that involved doing 50 pull ups. I figured I would try to do 25 on my own, and the other 25 with bands, but thought to myself that 20/30 was probably more realistic. Working in sets of five, I was able to easily bust out four rounds to complete 20 pull ups. I felt pretty good, so I decided to keep going. I also noticed I was the only woman doing real pull ups.  I did two more sets of five to reach 30. I had to start breaking into three and two, but I brought my total to 40. At this point I was the last person still on the rig, but I didn't care. I was so excited about what I had achieved. It was a huge PR for me. I used the bands for the final 10 just so I would finish the entire WOD on time.

As the story goes, Husband left for the east coast for two and a half weeks (Kate and I joined him for one week), so once again my gym time has been limited. Yet to my surprise, on my first day back, I found that I hadn't lost my pull-ups! I've come to accept that I have to make my work outs more efficient and effective, since I don't always know if I'll be able to fit them in. There are areas where I'm still struggling. My stamina is lacking (and I can't blame it on breastfeeding) and there have been many classes where I've been the last person to finish. I'm trying to convince myself that I can only improve and I'll focus on one thing each class to use as a benchmark. I'm trying to lift heavier, even if it's just one kilogram at a time.

One of the things I knew I was going to miss most about maternity leave was being able to swim at noon almost every day. I coordinated Kate's nap to occur during practice time, so I could leave her sleeping poolside while I swam under the warm California sun. I was so determined to go back to swimming at 6 AM when my leave ended that I paid my monthly fee for November. It never happened. There just wasn't enough time in the morning to either pump or nurse. It just wasn't going to work out. When I started taking Tuesdays off, I considered going back to the noon class, but swimming just once a week seemed inadequate. Thus, I took a nine month hiatus from swimming while I was breastfeeding. Just as I was contemplating returning to the 6 AM class in August while my parents were visiting, my coach somehow convinced me to swim on a few relays in a meet. To my surprise, I actually swam faster than two other women who had been practicing regularly. Although, to be fair, I am a faster swimmer when I'm fit. Still, I know I would have resented someone who showed up out of the blue and was faster than me; so I acknowledge I had become what I hate.

So I started swimming in the morning, with the exception of Monday and Friday, as I start work earlier those days. Tuesdays I can stay for the entire class. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I'll get out at 6:45 and shower on the pool deck. I turn on the heat in my car to start to dry my hair as I drive home. I get home at 7:15 to find Husband giving Kate her breakfast (hopefully she's slept to 6:30 or later or else Husband may be grumpy. Oh well, too bad) Kate will play in the bathroom while I dry my hair, then I get dressed while Husband dresses Kate and then we're ready to go. On time. Sometimes actually early. Our morning routine is smoother and more efficient on swimming days. It makes me wish that I had gone back sooner. It's also easier than pre-Kate life, where I'd have to toss my wet towel and suit in the dryer when I got home at the end of the day. Then I'd have to pack my swim bag including my work clothes and make up as I'd leave for work from the pool. It was very time consuming. Now, when I get back from the pool, I can hang my towel and suit to dry in the garage and then I just grab it on my way out the next morning. On Tuesdays, I'll bring Kate to the pool at noon, and if I get a second swim session done, it's a bonus. We go to baby music from 10:30 -11:30, and she'll usually fall asleep on the drive to the pool. So far there's only be one day that she had a meltdown and I had to leave early. I'm not sure what we'll done once the colder and rainy months hit, but for now, this is working.

I soon found that while I was able to produce a decent sprint time in a relay, swimming for 45 minutes or an hour as a structured practice was a different story. It was humbling and reminded me of my early days where I could barely make it through a session or even needed a scaled workout. I've also discovered that my swimming is much better at noon than in the morning. I've struggled or hated a morning workout, but breezed through it at noon. I recently competed in a meet and overall felt satisfied with how I did. I had to accept that I was probably right where I was last year (I resumed swimming around August, I was three months postpartum, but I had been swimming during most of my pregnancy.) Last year, I had somehow managed to score a PR in my 50 Free, so I was hoping to set a new PR this year. I fell short of that goal, but I got my second best 50 Fly time ever (and event I haven't swam in two and a half years) so I was pleased with that. I'm determined that my times can only improve. However I'm now in a new age group with some fast 40+ year old women.

When my parents arrived for their month long stay in August, I announced my intention to start swimming in the mornings. Completely out of the blue, my mother said to me, "So there's no field hockey. There is no tennis." What the fuck? I haven't played field hockey in over three years. I was stimming/early pregnant and postpartum for the past few seasons and the league gained a lot of younger more skillful players and I was feeling out of depth. Additionally, I haven't played tennis in over two and a half years since I haven't really found a local place to play. I could have replied with a rational answer to simply acknowledge that no, I haven't played field hockey or tennis in years, even pre-Kate. However there was something about hearing my mother say 'no' to an activity that set off a trigger. I felt like a little girl who was being chastized. So, I replied with a nasty response that I was 40 years old and [my mother] couldn't tell me what to do anymore.

My Dad quickly jumped to my mother's defense, proclaiming that it wasn't her intention to tell me what I could or couldn't do. (Really? because it sounded a lot like that). My mother should have left it there, but she felt the need to hammer home her point. "You can't do it all Jane. There's just not enough time for everything." NO SHIT. That's why I'm not trying to do it all. I gave up those other two sports years ago. For some reason, Husband decided to support my mother's position by adding "Unless you want to be one of those women who never sees her kid." I DON'T. THAT'S WHY I'M NOT TRYING TO PLAY THESE OTHER SPORTS. WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU BRINGING THIS UP? Husband did feel the need to explain why I stopped playing hockey, by telling my parents that I'm not very good as the league standard has improved. Thanks honey, I am well aware of my lack of skill.

My mother started crying crocodile tears, as she thought my reaction was so harsh and unfair to her. As it seemed that Husband and my father were supporting her while I felt that I was the one being persecuted. I felt the need to establish that I was the victim. I threw back that I was hurt over the fact that she was pointing out what I couldn't do and not acknowledging what I AM doing. This was something typical for my mother. When I was growing up, she could give me a list of 10 chores to do while she was away. If I only completed nine by the time she came home, she would immediately pick out the one task that I didn't do before she would comment on the ones I finished. In turn, my mother informed me that I should be focusing on swimming as there are many health benefits to swimming, as well as Cross-fit as lifting is good for strength. (She proceeded to lift an imaginary barbell). Once again, I should have left it alone, but I felt compelled to remind her that she can't tell me what to do; and furthermore I felt it was completely insulting and patronizing to have a non-swimmer and non-lifter explain the benefits of these activities. I know their benefits. That's why I figured out on my own that I can work swimming and Cross-fit into my life as a working mother and I'm not trying to do anything else. I then abruptly left the table and excused myself to my room (because that's mature). If Kate hadn't been sleeping, I would have slammed my door. Yes, immature, but very satisfying.

Anyway, I'm recounting this story as I'm still pissed off (just in case that wasn't clear) and to emphasize that I've largely had to drop running. (Fortunately, my mother didn't bring that up, otherwise we probably wouldn't be speaking to each other today). I stopped running while pregnant as I had developed plantar fascitis and with my placenta issues, I feared bleeding on a long run. Without any training, I completed a 10K last Thanksgiving and I planned to do my traditional New Year's Day 10 K run, but freezing cold tempertures encouraged me to ring in the New Year from my nice warm bed. As my parents gave us a jogging stroller for a Christmas gift, Kate and I ran our first 5 K around Valentine's Day. We were also scheduled to run another 5K on St Patrick's Day, but there was an extraordinary rain storm that kept us home. A week later, I participated in a marathon as part of a relay team and truly struggled. At one point, I couldn't keep up with the 13 min/mile pacer who was running a half marathon. (I'm omitting the fact that he was probably in his late 60s). I used to be a faster runner than one of my teammates, but I have no doubt that she beat my time (on a harder part of the course too). I could no longer run a 10 K on a whim.

It prompted me to start training on a regular basis. After baby sign, Kate and I would take a 3 mile stroll around Lake Merritt. There aren't too many races scheduled in April, so our next race was over Memorial Day weekend. It was another struggle. Kate was completely fussy in the pram, so I had to stop often to offer her food or a bottle. I can apply some blame to Kate, but I felt relived to be walking in bits. A few days later I was diagnosed with pneumonia and felt relieved to have another explanation for my performance.

After recovering from pneumonia, I decided to resume training (with Kate and the jogging stroller) by starting from the begining. Going out to run just one mile, next week two miles. That didn't last long as Kate's birthday party fell upon us. I signed up for a 10 K in early August and talked my parents into pushing Kate along for the 5 K distance. I actually felt really good for the first four miles, but then began to slow down and wished I had signed up for the 5K. Then I saw an elderly runner fall in front of me. I was the first responder on the scene. He wasn't responsive, but I could hear he was breathing, it actually sounded like he was snoring. As I was trying to feel for a pulse, I saw his face turn purple. I was struck by the fear that this man was dying in front of my eyes. I've participated in code situations, but it's always been in a hospital setting or on my ambulance ride along. I had other professionals, medications a defibrillator, access to a cath lab, cardiothorasic surgeons...This time I was all alone as I started chest compressions. Fortunately I was soon joined by two other runners who helped perform CPR and summon emergency services. The man started breathing again and we were able to regain a pulse. He was alert by the time the EMS crew arrived.

As this race took place on my usual training course, I recently questioned if I had been avoiding doing any training as I don't want to pass by that spot and evoke the memories of witnessing someone's near death. Then I questioned if that wasn't the case at all and I had just invented a convenient excuse as it was easier than facing two other fears. My mother is right. I can't do it all. [Please note, I didn't share the story to seem heroic, I was actually told by one of the other responders that my chest compressions were too slow. She did provide a good tip if you're in the situation. Follow the beat to the Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive. "Staying Alive. Staying Alive. Ah, ha, ha, ha Staying Alive, Staying Alive."] Then I remembered the words of one of my swim teammates, "there's no such thing as 'I can't do something'. You find modifications." So my modification is that Kate and I will stick to 5K distances for now. It will be a while before I can think about doing a half. I signed us up to run two 5K races over Thanksgiving weekend. We'll try to fit in a training session.



  1. I also struggle a bit with the knowledge that I can't do everything as a mom that I did before I was a mom. I know (as do you) the reasons why (time/energy/conflicting commitments) but it is still distressing to feel like I've lost that piece of myself or that I'm losing skills in an area or not gaining them. Like you I focus on one thing (dancing, on my case) where I know the commitment is doable (for me that's one hour a week and no obligation to practice LOL). Sorry to hear your mother wasn't supportive of your choices for sports. She sounds out of touch with your feelings and daily life. I hope you continue to meet the fitness/weight loss goals: sounds like you have a very healthy approach.

  2. I'm also below my pre-pregnancy weight, but I'm sure a body fat analysis would tell me that I've lost a lot of muscle. I don't get a chance to work out at all, unless you count my dance classes, which I don't. My abs are mush. But despite the fat gain, I HAVE NO TITTIES. AT ALL. I guess the silver lining is that there's nothing there to sag, but...sigh. I feel your pain.

  3. I managed to get back to pregnancy but not pre IVF med weight. I just can't seem to bust that number, granted I'm not really trying which could have something to do with it?? haha How long was it before your hair stopped falling out? Bowen is almost one and it is still falling out like crazy!! Driving me insane!

  4. You may not be able to do everything, but I am still super impressed by what you do accomplish! Makes me feel like a slug. No, not really. I already felt like a slug! ha! Seriously though, your post does give me a little nudge, making me think I should load the kids in the stroller tomorrow and go for a nice long walk! I'm a long ways away from my pre-pregnancy weight and fitness level. Taking care of myself is definitely something I need to start doing.

  5. I'm back to just below pre-pregnancy weight but that's not as great as it sounds as I am still about 35 lbs above where I would like to be (when I got married). I am doing my best trying to fit in a workout when possible but it is REALLY HARD with two kids. I am thinking that it will be this way for a few more months while I still have to pump and nurse in the morning and then once I get that time back for myself I can start working out in the morning.

    It's hard work getting your body back in shape after a pregnancy so congrats on all of your hard work! Especially after a c/s I feel like our bodies will never be quite the same. :-)

  6. I'm back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but not to where I was pre-fertility treatments, etc., which is where I want to be. I use my menopausal symptoms as an excuse, but I need to stop. Good for you for setting goals - I'm doing the same. Keep us posted.