Sunday, 14 April 2013

This one is for you

It was the 4 x 100 Medley Relay, the final relay and penultimate event of the three day annual XYZ Masters Swimming Championships. I stood on the starting block awaiting Phelps to finish the final strokes of her butterfly leg. Sounds of cheers from the crowd echoed around me. As she was inches away from touching the wall, I whispered, "this one is for you", before I sprung off the blocks and plunged into the silence of the water. I know I wrote in my previous post, Just keep swimming that I need to use the experience of sensory deprivation during swimming to get past the various milestones encountered in our conception journey, but it was harder this weekend as the meet brought back many memories and held so much meaning for me.

Fast dolphin kicks, stay submerged as long as you can, then burst into four fast strokes before your first breath...  My first memory flashed back two year ago when I just started swimming. I could barely finish a modified version of our set with fins, but I was determined to finish the ten week course. The instructor had just established an official US Masters Swim team and had some tee-shirts made up for the few swimmers who were performing at this championship meet. She was desperate to off load the extras that she had ordered, so I decided to buy one. I wanted to do a favour for her, since she was so gracious to keep me in the class and I desired some type of souvenir for myself as a reward for completing the session. I told her that I would buy one if she agreed that I never had to swim in competition. "We'll see about that." was her answer.

Coming up to the first turn, tight streamline off the wall and work on building your speed... The next flashback brought me back to last year when I was finding out that procreation wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. The Plan B incident caused a slow start, and most recently we missed having timed intercourse due to my parents' visit. I was starting to feel discouraged as Myrtle had just announced her pregnancy and I sensed my parents' jealousy. Additionally, I knew we has also missed the opportunity to have a baby born in 2012 (remember, that was important to me at one point in time...) Even then I acknowledged that these issues were petty, but I couldn't escape this premonition that we would have trouble conceiving. I needed to suppress these emotions in front of my patients and my parents, but during the fifteen minute drive to the pool each morning, when I was alone in the sanctuary of my car; I could cry.

It was quite ideal actually; soon my red puffy eyes would be covered by my goggles and if anyone ever asked, I could attribute it to the chlorine. I arrived one morning and tried to avoid making eye contact with anyone, when my coach called out to me, "Jane, did you sign up for the big meet yet?" she asked in a sing-song-y tone, "You know you want to..." Oh, fuck it. Why not? I thought to myself. If anything it was just a nice distraction from the futility of our conception efforts, and at the same time, fertility concerns were still so much on my mind that I didn't really process the fact that I was a 35 year old novice swimmer about to swim in her first meet and wonder what I had gotten myself into. I entered one event -the 50 yard freestyle and found out I was swimming in two relays when I showed up at the pool. Without any nerves or expectations, I just went out and swam my events. I would find that the thrill of competition and the rush of adrenaline through my veins is as addictive as any illicit drug. My only regret that day was not entering more events. More so, swimming had me even more hooked than before. This meet transformed me from a recreational into a competitive swimmer. I had new goals; improve my strokes, get faster times.

The wall -we meet again! Half way there...continue to resist don't need air...just build more speed... Now my mind is flashing back to the past few weeks. If this pregnancy had been successful, I would be 22 weeks at this point in time. Presuming I had a normal amniocentesis and anatomy ultrasound, we would be sharing the news with my parents. My plan was to coordinate with Myrtle to find a time when she and her parents would be visiting with mine. I figured if we couldn't tell them in person because of the cross country distance, I wanted them to be with their extended family when they received the news. I would text Myrtle after sending an email to my dad. She would approach him, "Hey, I got an email from Jane with a picture, but I can't open it, can you check on your iPad?" There he would find an attachment of an ultrasound photo with the words, "Baby Allen, due 5 August 2013". Yet, rather than working out these details with Myrtle, my last few weeks have been focused on starts and turns.

Final lap! Stop breathing and kick into overdrive... Well, here I am in the present. I'm not standing on the sidelines cheering on my teammate, wishing I were swimming as I place my hand on my bump to remind me. I'm in the pool now and I've been kicking ass. I've done four events and four relays and established new personal bests in every race. I scored points in each event and have more ribbons to hang on my wall. Co-worker tried to discourage me from swimming days after my IUI "Just walk on a treadmill if you need to exercise..." she advised. Fuck that. I was determined to compete. (For the record, my RE did clear me to participate. Although technically, I just asked if I could 'swim'...I didn't exactly mention what I would be doing...) There it is! the wall is insight, head down, no breathing, go hit that fucking pad!

I got out of the pool 'like a champion' and soaked in the congratulatory hugs and high fives from my teammates. As I started my warm down in the practice pool, I had to answer the question -who was I referring to when I dedicated my swim, this one is for you? The generic ultrasound image on my Dad's iPad that would represent his wish for a grandchild? The potential embryo that could be making it's way to my uterus as we speak? That sounds so corny, I am aghast as my fingers type those words. No, my comment was directed to myself. This swim was for me. This meet was for me. It may look insignificant, I'm truly still a novice swimmer. I'm not a threat to place at the top of any event. I have a lot of technique errors; disaster would be a generous word to describe my backstroke and my breaststroke kick is barely legal. Yet, I've managed to surpass swimmers who have been swimming much longer than me. I'm getting closer to some of our faster swimmers and I feel that I can improve even more. In two years, I've been able to achieve things that I never imagined could be possible, which is how I feel about my prospect for motherhood. At least I know that what ever happens with our fertility treatments, I can always look forward to this meet every year.


  1. I loved this post, start to finish. So well written. It brought tears to my eyes. Amazing, Jane!

  2. I'm so glad you were able to swim for YOURSELF. In this crazy journey to motherhood that so many of us are unfortunate to have, it's too easy to get caught up and not do something for ourselves. Congrats on your PR's. who cares if you are a novice? You have goals that you are working toward and you are accomplishing something every time you get in the pool.

    Makes me think of all those people that worked so hard toward their goal of running in the Boston Marathon. The sense of accomplishment and pride they must have felt in running the race. It's just awful that some crazy person(s) had to steal their joy in being able to savor their memories of today.