August the 15th
It’s hard to believe that this time last year, Dylan and I were on a train to Utrecht (outside of Amsterdam) with Dutch friend Susan and her husband Andrew “Krumo” Krumins for a Birthday burger by the canal. I was six weeks into my recovery from the Gold Coast Marathon and had embraced my time away from the rigorous routine of training and my accompanying focus on the one percenters. Whilst an October Marathon in Toronto was my next running goal, the path beyond this finish line was still very much in “planning phase”.
Fast-forward one year and I am sitting in a local café, waiting for my friend Amy Cure to arrive from training for a warm Birthday beverage. Winter layers hug a belly bump that I can officially now sit my mug on! I am excited to be celebrating my Birthday at home, given that I have been overseas for six of the last eight due to the Major Athletics Championships often taking place during the European Summer. I kicked off my morning with a cardio session on the Elliptical trainer at the Next Generation Health Club, which neighbours the iconic Adelaide Oval. Training at the beginning of the day, when my mind and body are freshest, has always been my preference. With a fan in my face and the Australian Birth Stories podcast playing through my earphones, I completed the Fartlek that I had created during my warm up (5 sets of 90/30/60 second moderate-intensity efforts with 1 minute recoveries). My weekly routine over the past three months has involved a morning training session (dictated by how I feel in the moment), a combination of physio work, Rundies duties, speaking or ambassador commitments throughout the day and usually a light walk in the evening. On Tuesday and Thursday nights I rug up and head out to training with Dylan and my Team Tempo squad. Whilst until now I have been able to join them for a two kilometre warm up lap or two, running is starting to feel more uncomfortable and so for the final trimester of pregnancy I plan to walk and watch instead. I will miss the group banter but will take any opportunity to get some fresh air! As I enter week 28 of pregnancy, I reflect on the experience so far….
Key lesson: The pregnancy journey is different for every person & every pregnancy. Since falling pregnant, I have enjoyed listening to friends, family members and Podcast interviewees share their unique stories. Whilst some elements of pregnancy, giving birth and motherhood are daunting, I believe that knowledge is power. During patches of uncertainty, confusion or fear, I gain confidence from self-education and open chats with my husband Dylan, family members, friends and health professionals. These strategies help me to gain clarity when logic becomes blurred and to navigate the new experiences that come with pregnancy.
Mad March: 1-12weeks. Dylan and I found out that I was pregnant in early March and were overcome with excitement, gratitude and intrigue as to whether we (meaning “I”) would be able to keep it quiet over the coming months. With a Hen’s celebration in the foreground, a Wedding on the horizon and a couple of stop-offs to visit our Obstetrician along the way, I was guaranteed an adrenaline-filled first trimester. We did our best to lay the foundations for a smooth ride and whilst I did wake with a feeling of mild motion sickness on most days it wasn’t too debilitating. Regular snacking and a fairly consistent 3am detour to the fridge seemed to ease my stomach but the best relief came from getting out for some light exercise in the fresh air. Morning walks became a daily routine during this phase. Following our Wedding excitement (and a slight Wedding dress alteration to create some extra belly room) we were able to take the foot off the pedal for five days on the Fleurieu Peninsula. A few tasty meals, mocktails and lazy mornings later, we packed the car and headed home for our highly-anticipated 12-week scan – the final destination of our FIRST TRIMESTER journey. It was a very special experience to see life in the making in fine detail on a screen!
Cross train to ease the pelvic pain: 12-16weeks. The beginning of the SECOND TRIMESTER saw an abrupt relief of queasiness followed by the arrival of a new discomfort. For the first fourteen weeks of pregnancy I had been happily jogging or walking on most days. One Saturday after the local parkrun I realised that I had better start looking into other training options. What began as little twinges on one side of my lower abdomen, became a localised pain in the pubic symphysis at the front of my pelvis, which reared its head when transferring weight onto one leg or stepping to the side. With a level of discomfort that affected my every day activities and walking capacity, I was quick to book an appointment with a women’s health physio for a clinical assessment. The next month involved Swiss ball pelvic exercises and a conscious effort to avoid “bracing” my abdomen, swimming, Elliptical sessions that got more creative by the day, spinning on a stationary bike and a modification of my twice-weekly strength and conditioning sessions. I also altered some of my postures and techniques i.e. when pulling on my shoes and socks and getting into and out of bed. What struck me during this period was how much I thrive on the social outlet that running provides. I missed my squad and the weekly running chitchat.
Bigger sizes and bleeding gums: 16-18weeks. By week sixteen I had purchased new jeans with a stretchy waistband and no buttons, some very elastic tops and a few pairs of leggings and crop tops in a bigger size than usual. I had also succumbed to storing away some of my favourite clothes that I knew I wouldn’t be able to wear for a while. My 3am hunger bursts had ended, however regular trips to the bathroom still got me out of bed more than usual and my first trimester aversion to nuts had thankfully dissipated. At one point I urgently booked into the dentist reporting bleeding gums every time I brushed or flossed. I learnt that pregnancy-induced gingivitis is quite common and was given a few simple strategies to help manage the symptoms, which only ended up lasting a couple of weeks. By now I was starting to really notice my body changing from its optimal running shape to a form that would best cater for my growing baby. I knew that these changes were healthy and positive for the pregnancy but it still took a period of adjustment to shift my mindset from “being an athlete” to “growing a baby”.
Turning down the heat & hitting the trails: 18-20weeks. At week eighteen Dylan and I loaded up my Suzuki Vitara and headed off to Waikerie for a camping trip with friends. Usually I would be nervous about the cold nights but throughout pregnancy, I’ve been the one constantly turning off the heater in the car and house much to Dylan’s angst! Two days into our trip, Dylan and his friend pulled on their sneakers for a light jog through the scrub. My running bug had been pestering me for days and given that I hadn’t experienced pelvic pain for an entire week, I decided to join them. This marked my gradual return to jogging which I was able to enjoy two to three times per week without pain for the next couple of months. Cross training still formed the bulk of my weekly exercise routine and whilst late to the Podcast party, I started flying through episodes in the gym.
In June I attended a 5-day intensive Women’s Health Physiotherapy Course in Melbourne. With a love for working with females who run and a strong desire to get back to running at the highest level myself at some point, I was feeling particularly motivated. I came out of the course wide-eyed and very keen to pass on my new learnings about the benefits of exercise and special considerations during pregnancy and postpartum. I have recently written a piece on Pregnancy and Exercise for my workplace (Physio Smart) which will feature on their website soon.
Half Way flutters: 20-22weeks. I had started to notice regular kicks in my lower abdomen, which I found very exciting and also comforting. Prior to this point I found it hard to gauge whether the little baby inside was healthy, as the only indicator that all was on track was my growing bump. In saying that, signs of growth were certainly evident. On one particular night I recall eating what I thought was a typical meal portion for me but spent the next twelve hours feeling as though I’d eaten enough to feed a small village. Between this experience and my shallow breathing when running it was clear that baby Stenson was taking up more stomach and lung space these days. This became even clearer at our 20-week scan, which was attended by Dylan, my Mum and my Mother in Law. We all stared at the screen in awe as the ultra-sonographer checked off the vital organs, blood vessels and other structures. Our Mums were amazed by the medical advancements that have occurred since our births in the late 80’s.
By week twenty-two, the little kicks were becoming more powerful. Dylan was also able to feel them with his hand on my belly which was special! We wondered whether our baby’s 10.30pm ‘party time’ pattern was an indicator of post-birth habits? Occasionally I would experience the sensation of my uterus suddenly turning rock solid for a minute or two. I discovered that these experiences were most likely Braxton Hicks (practice) contractions and whilst they are a normal part of pregnancy they must feel so bizarre from inside the uterus! I decided it was time to try and crack my well-established stomach sleeping ways. After battling through a few uncomfortable nights on my side, I was ready to hunt down a good pregnancy pillow. It was during a shopping expedition to Ikea that a long Lion soft toy caught my attention. It not only looked ideal for throwing an arm and a leg over when sleeping on my side but it was the type of toy that any child would surely love once it had fulfilled its role as a pillow! Having comfortably slept for eight to nine hours last night, I don’t regret this purchase at all.
Pregnancy P.B. & a Nursery: 22-26weeks. In early July I jetted to the Gold Coast for one of my favourite running events on the Australian calendar. It didn’t take much convincing from my friend Eloise Wellings, who is also pregnant, to sign up for a jog in the 10km event. Admittedly I was nervous as I hadn’t covered that sort of distance in months but amongst thousands of fired up runners and a downpour to keep up cool, we made it across the finish line together. My extra little passenger was demanding more strength from my muscles with each week that passed and my tired legs were the proof. By week twenty-four, Dylan and I started to put some thought into how we could turn our guest bedroom into a nursery – the bank account has taken a bit of a hit since. After consulting my sister and friends on ‘baby essentials’ to add to the collection of cute knits that Mum had already created, we bravely ventured into Baby Bunting. My knowledge on prams, bassinets, capsules and baby seats has gone from zero to one hundred over the past few weeks suddenly I’m noticing every baby carrier on the street! Until pregnancy I had never heard of the term belly button chafing. To be honest, I still haven’t heard of it but I’ve certainly experienced the phenomenon. At about week sixteen my belly button popped and looked as though it was going to remain out and about for a while. After a light jog on a rainy day with Dylan I had consistent BB soreness which turned to an intense sting in the shower. Having become familiar with chafing in the standard running spots over the years, I launched into to my go-to management strategies with a chuckle. Further laughs followed my attempts at this stage to bend down and tie my laces. My stance was becoming wider by the week and when I suggested to Dylan that I may need assistance with my laces down the track he replied with a grin “is that a thing in Pregnancy?”.
Bump updates, a ticklish bladder and a blocked nose: 26-28weeks. At week twenty-six I sent my sister a bump update and she replied with photos of her own from the same point during her two pregnancies. It was fun to compare and crazy to think how much stomach stretching was still to come. By now we had booked in a few Antenatal classes and a Tiny Hearts First Aid session. I wasn’t sure whether or not to be concerned that my bladder had become extremely sensitive over the course of a few days. From the moment I stood up in the mornings it was as though my bladder had the volume of a ping pong ball. After a few quick tests with my sports doctor it was put down to baby obstruction. Like some of my other random-onset pregnancy symptoms, this one fortunately cleared up within the fortnight. Sinus congestion was another notable symptom at this point and I started to question whether Adelaide’s pollen count had suddenly gone through the roof. I later read on whattoexpect.com that nasal congestion and light nose bleeds may be attributed to high levels of the pregnancy hormones Estrogen and Progesterone, which can cause swelling and softening of the mucous membranes.
Sugar high: 28weeks. Next Wednesday marks twenty-eight weeks. As I adjust the cushion behind my lower back and prepare to close my laptop, I double check the time of my upcoming Glucose Tolerance test to check for Gestational Diabetes. Whilst I’ve been doing my best to consume a nutrient-rich diet, I will be topping up with a few Birthday desserts this week. According to friends, a piece of Birthday cake will barely register as sweet compared to the sugar drink that is consumed during this test! I glance outside and see Amy locking up her bike. She makes her way towards the door with her characteristic smile from ear to ear : ).
Until next time!