Monday, October 12, 2015

learning to run again.

Or, "How I've spent over 780 days trying to not lose my mind over how infertility treatments and having twins wrecked my body."

To recap, in May of 2013 we started the testing at CCRM (aka "the magical island of fertility and Cabela's") to hopefully be on the road to having a baby. By August of 2013 we were actively trying, and actively trying to conceive via doctors and a dandy little price tag at one of the top facilities in the country means ish gets serious, fast. Outside of vigilant hormone monitoring and wanded ultrasounds on the daily, I was also asked to keep my heart rate below 140 at all times. There are many studies on heart rate and conception and miscarriage, with mixed results, but as I have gotten used to telling people, you don't take any chances when a) your chance at having a family is on the line and b) your are spending oodles of cash on that chance. So, starting in August of 2013, my heart rate stayed below 140. 

For a lot of people, that's likely no big deal...whether because they don't care to work out all that intensely, or because they have crazy awesome respiratory systems that allow them to jog or even run and keep their heart rates below 140, it's not a life altering requirement for some, maybe even many. For me, however, it most certainly was. For the much of the last ten years my sanity has been fragilely tied to my health and fitness. I spent 2007 and 2008 getting up at 4:30am to run or workout at the gym before heading to school to teach. I spent the summer of 2009 in Hotlanta and ran every afternoon in ridiculously humid heat, without fail. For several years, intense 80 to 120 minute workouts happened at least 5, usually 6 days a week. In 2011, I ran 8 half marathons and in 2012, I ran two full marathons. Over the course of 2010 through 2013 I completed multiple Beachbody programs, including Insanity twice. The very nature of my mental health relied on something called "Insanity," yes, that is correct Mr. Trubeck. Somewhere in there I also got my personal trainer certification. My life and well being revolved around my heartbeats totaling more than 140 beats per minute, continuously, for at least an hour, almost every day. 

All that's to say, this whole "keep it under 140 thing" initially felt like I was getting a death sentence. Of course, it was for a ridiculously awesome cause, so I was invested in it - I mean, it was only going to be a month or two, anyway, right? Then I'd be a happy little pregnant lady who ran everyday up until she gave birth... 

It was all a pretty rosy picture, then - we were blissfully naive, to say the least. By the time November of 2013 rolled around it felt like we had already been at this for ages (initially I had a typo there and it said "Bovemeber," can I make that a real thing?!). It had only been three months. Just three. On that third IUI we had the ectopic pregnancy, which brought my activity level to zero. The risk of a tube rupturing and having internal bleeding was too high. And clearly, losing a tube was the last thing I needed (little did I know...).

Fast forward another seven months, and by the time I recovered from my tubal ligation surgery and we pondered our only option left, IVF, it was June 2014 - almost a year of under 140 and still nothing to show for it. June and July included a lot of self-inflicted ass kicking while I could - it had never felt so good to sweat. Then, in August, the process for IVF started and we were back at under 140bpm. At this point, even if I did get pregnant, I wasn't going to be able to continue running during it, because doctors only let people who were runners keep running, and I was over a year stale from being able to call myself a runner. Furthermore, we were crazy-lucky enough to end up being pregnant with twins - aka a "high risk" pregnancy - and I likely wouldn't have been allowed to run either way. 

After a terrible scare due to a subchorionic hemorrhage around 8 weeks (terrible scare, in my opinion, includes anything with blood involved), I was restricted to no activity until the first trimester was over. No 140bpm, no 100bpm, I was allowed to walk as needed, and that was it. If I wasn't ridiculously grateful for being pregnant, this is the point at which I would have just been saying: Kill. Me. Now.

But I was pregnant. That was all that mattered. And, let's be honest, I was so queasy that first trimester I wasn't eating enough to warrant the energy to even get close to 140bpm, anyway. Oh, and the daily 5:00am shots with a giant needle to my rear usurped some considerable energy, as well. Life was ridiculous, but I was still just so damn happy. Around 12 weeks I went back to walking. I had become the queen of walking in the past 16 months, but being four weeks further along, with twins, and four weeks further out of shape, it was slow going. My marathon running body was struggling to walk 4 or 5 miles. But I kept on, and walked 2 to 5 miles a day all the way up until the doctor finally put me on real - only get up to go the bathroom - bed rest. 

Again, it was worth it. I was sporting a baby bump and planning a future for two girls. I considered myself the most fortunate person on the planet. I was ready to give up anything to be in this place just months before.  I wasn't sure it was ever going to be possible, and there I was, awaiting the arrival of not just one, but TWO babies. 

So, as it turns out, I spent my pregnancy not just dreaming about snuggles and their future careers, but longing for going above 140bpm. When I drove or walked by a runner I stared wistfully (and creepily).  My mental health and well-being had fragilely rested on physical activity for just shy of 10 years now. But, in light of this infertile ludicrousness, I realized something had dramatically shifted. Running, sweating, and getting my heart rate above 140 wasn't a fairytale because I couldn't wait to burn calories and psychologically convince myself I wasn't the f-word that rhymes with democrat, but because I just wanted to RUN. I just wanted to feel strong. 

clearly there might
be a small piece of
me mourning to not
have just swallowed
so. much. belly.
(To be fair, that's like 98% true. Because I am human, when I was 8 months preggo and looking like I had swallowed two regulation size basketballs there was certainly a small piece of me longing for that pre-pregnancy body. But it certainly wasn't a big chunk, just bite-size. Win.) 

I started walking again about two weeks after I gave birth. I didn't start sooner because I was exhausted. Utterly, and completely, exhausted. I had never imagined that breastfeeding would be the hardest part of having two babies (at the same effing time) - waking up every 2 hours (and having to wake them up) for an hour (plus) of what I considered torture was the most mentally and physically challenging thing I have EVER, ever done. (And, 5 months later, still an extraordinary feat to accomplish every day - but that's a whole other story.)

By July I was doing strength training again (the infamous "July Challenge: the 2015 edition"), and when I went back to work on August 31, I started running again. It was my reward for having to go back to work - I was going to be able to run every day again. Freshly empty of milk (yes, it's weird, but yes, it's real - going for a run required CONSIDERABLY more planning than two years ago), I laced up my shoes on the morning of August 31 and set out on a two mile run. A distance I wouldn't have considered worthy of the title "work out" two years ago, now looking rather beastly as I set out.

Humble pie is delicious, friends. Mmmm, humble pie.

I did it. I ran two miles that day (and immediately texted my brother to inform someone of said run, proudly). (Also, "run" being a loose term to roughly represent the concept of going faster than walking. Next to Usain Bolt I was actually traveling backwards, but that's neither here nor there.)

I ran two miles the next day, too. No, I didn't run two miles the day after that, because I was pretty sure I had left all of the parts required to birth babies on the sidewalk the day before, but I went on a five mile walk instead. And then I ran the next day, and the next. Pretty soon I started running three miles, and I started to look like someone actually running (ok, let's say jogging), as my pace quickened. 

My heart rate? Definitely over 140bpm. Pretty sure my slow jogging is causing my heart rate to almost max out, in fact. But again, neither here nor there.

I finished out the month of September having run exactly 40 miles total (and having walked 40+ miles, as well, as long as we're counting). I ran the last two miles (of the 40) in the evening on September 30, determined to reach the even 40 for the month (even though I despise evening work outs, with a passion). While two years ago I would have cheered on any friend or family member (loudly) for getting in 40 miles in a month - it's a great number and any activity is more brave and courageous than no activity - I would have been extremely critical of that number as my own personal mileage total. I was accustomed to running anywhere from 70 to 150 miles in a month. But, I was extremely proud of myself, with humble pie smeared all over that smiling face of mine as I ran back up the walk to our house that night. Forty miles was a big deal, to me, in this time and space. 

I've always been able to preach to other people that some activity is better than none. I'm the biggest cheerleader of anyone who is just starting out running or working out regularly. Physical activity works MAGIC on your physical and emotional health - regardless of whether it's running a mile a day, doing a seven minute workout, doing 50 squats every day, or running marathons. Just be brave and do something that you can do regularly/consistently is generally my mantra I try to push out. It doesn't have to be 5 miles a day or Insanity. Find something you like (or at least don't hate), something that challenges you, and turn up the music and do it often. You'll be proud of yourself. You'll feel strong. You'll feel happy. Magic.

I have not, however, always been able to understand the idea of knowing my own limits or the idea of balance/good decisions when it comes to training and working out. So this whole idea of having limits (the 140bpm heart rate cap, a wrecked body from carrying and birthing twins, etc.) has and will continue to be quite the learning experience. As someone who preaches empathy from the rooftops in my day job, and in pretty much all other aspects of my life, it has been a hell of an immersion experience in understanding what other people face when it comes to embarking on a journey in the realm of physical activity. I'm getting there, though (the wifey is helping). We celebrated forty miles in a month like it mattered, because it does. 

I spend a lot of time thinking about the values and mindsets I want my girls to embrace and embody as they grown up, and I would want them to be proud of themselves for accomplishing any feat, no matter how big or how small it may seem to others (or even their past selves). When it comes to fitness, I see a lot of people give up on themselves because they set unrealistic goals and when they can't meet them, they just give up entirely. Which, in my opinion, is far worse than setting more reachable (and reasonable) benchmark goals - even thought they may be less ambitious. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about BIG, ambitious, goals - it is in my blood at this point - but when it comes to fitness they can be toxic and demoralizing if they are ill-informed (i.e. unsafe, too much to soon, etc.) or if you don't have the right supports in place. 

So, forty miles. I did it. I don't need to qualify it with excuses (i.e. recently gave birth to twins, etc.... I mean, just saying), I need to just be really effing happy about it, and use it as fuel for a bigger, better goal this month. What's this month got in store? While I love running, and am planning to run a half marathon before the girls turn one, I'm going to take my running down to once or twice a week and focus on strength and high intensity endurance for the month. This month's challenge is about getting through the first month of Insanity work outs. Took the fit test last Monday and was already out ahead of the last time I took it, so cheers to a month of new records - just the encouragement a wrecked-but-soon-to-be-stronger-than-ever-thirty-year-old body needs.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

shake it out.

"We have twins. No, that word should be banned. You know what twins are? Two fucking babies at the same time." -This American Life

I've struggled to figure out how to put into words the range of emotions and experiences I have been "privy" to in the last 5 months. That, itself, is always a red flag warning for me. Writing is my outlet, my processing machine - without it, I fill up with anxiety, apprehension, and other frustrating emotions. Writing, especially completing a piece (and by piece I mean amateur blog post, but allow me some elegance here), floods my body with relief. It is as if someone opens up a dam in my head (and heart) and lets all the dirty bath water drain out in a rush. But sometimes writing is complicated, especially writing a blog. The last time I struggled to write, I found myself wishing I had a private blog, one just for me. I was consumed with self doubt about publishing my writing for others to read. Nothing I could have written could have been both honest and genuine without burning some bridges. 

I never started that private blog, although I likely should have. While, in some ways I simply waved my arms in the air like I just didn't care and wrote on in spite of all, I held a lot in, leaving some complicated emotions unprocessed. 

I find myself sitting in a similar place as of late - although not due to any single person or incident, but rather as the result of a much more general anxiety around writing about topics that are potentially polarizing for people for a variety of reasons. I don't mean anything crazy like my political views (which happen to not be all that crazy) or something as controversial as whether or not I prefer my grilled cheese sliced diagonally... I mean the simple act of being a mom - a lesbian mom to twin girls conceived through IVF due to infertility - but simply being a mom, no less. 

I follow a few "mommy blogs," I'm hesitant to admit. And when I (ignorantly) sometimes go to view the comments on a post that seems perfectly harmless, perfectly honest, I'm caught off guard entirely by the amount of negative backlash a well meaning, vulnerable, and genuine post can be subject to. This mom just poured her heart out around finally being able to admit X about herself, child, and/or marriage and friends and people crucify her. Crucify. And here I am left sitting dumbfounded with my iPhone in my hand (thumb doing that crazy twitch thing I'm pretty sure means our generation of smart phone users is totally effed and that evolution and/or God is somewhere deeply regretting the opposable thumb gift),  wondering what the hell is wrong with people?! Patience? Grace? Empathy? Good lord, people. 

Oh well. Haters gonna hate, as my girl T-Swift says. If I can manage to find time between having two babies (at the same time), working full-time, and being a wife to write, I'm going to shake it out as much as I damn well please. Am I right, Tay Tay? Amen.