Life with a tiny dictator

Well that was left as a bit of a cliffhanger wasn’t it? Five days until due date and then no word for nine weeks… First of all you can rest assured that I’m not some kind of medical miracle and I haven’t gone nine weeks overdue. I was grumpy enough at five days over and would more than likely have killed someone by now if I was still full of baby.

To cut a long story short and avoid going into too much detail (when you’re pregnant, the simple question “how are you?” elicits a Pavlovian response to hand over a pot of wee and start discussing your, as the daytime telly adverts put it, ‘intimate area’), I had a little ‘encouragement’ from the midwife on Friday morning and labour started that afternoon. I did however, remain in denial about this (convinced that my contractions were Braxton Hicks) until the evening when Ginge pretty much gave me an ultimatum to ring the midwives or else. Eventually I did ring the midwives and (after a warm bath, some paracetamol and a TENS machine) was admitted an hour later.

The birth itself didn’t exactly go according to plan, but I assume that very few people’s plans end up with a set of forceps being wielded by a gentleman that your mum would later refer to as “Doctor Big Hands”… Personally I was well away on the gas and air, so it all flew by for me and it was poor Ginge and my mum who suffered (their hands are still recovering from the Incredible Hulk-like squeezes I gave them).

So from that initial phone call at 7.30pm on Friday, via a birthing pool, a blue-lit ambulance up the M6 (at the slightest hint of risk they transfer from the midwife-led unit to the delivery suite at another hospital), a midwife who broke half the the room, Dr Big Hands, another more fabulous less cack-handed midwife and her student, and Ginge cutting the cord, at 8.34 on Saturday 12th October we became very proud parents to a 6lb 11oz baby boy.

Hal (or as he will be referred to on here, Mini Ginge) is a lovely little chap who is very laid back as long as the milky buffet isn’t too far away. However, although he is only tiny, he completely rules the roost (and quite rightly so).

One of the reasons for my lack of posts is that I was planning to write about his arrival and then at week six, document my triumphant return to running. Unfortunately at week 6 I was being advised by both my GP and my physio that high-impact exercise shouldn’t feature in my life for at least 3-6 months. I shall explain more about this when I have decided how much information is too much information…

Excess baggage – what’s in my hospital bag?

Five days until d-day and my hospital bag is packed and ready to go. But what should you pack for your trip to the delivery suite? Like everything else to do with pregnancy advice, if you ask google, there are a million and one different versionsĀ  (mostly seeming to require luggage the size of a steamer trunk). As I read through the lists, I realised that all I needed to do was apply my runner’s head to the problem, so in my bag there is…

Kit – This has to be something comfy and it can’t matter if gets sweaty and mucky. Ideally, it should be long enough cover all your bumpy bits (my running kit does not involve anything cropped), this is not the time to live out that anxiety dream of being out in public wearing something inappropriately short (or is that one just me….?).

Footwear – Something appropriate for the terrain. I have mostly been wearing flipflops since May (fat feet and an increasing reluctance to have to deal with laces) but have invested in a cheap stretchy pair of slippers from Tesco. I encountered hospital issue slippers and want nothing to do with them, mainly because I would trip over them and end up in A&E.

Unglamorous underwear – The top half requires supportive, well-fitting specialist scaffolding with technical bits (flaps in this case). Like sports bras, in terms of design and fabrics nursing bras do come in a variety of styles ranging from the practical to the more exotic. Like sports bras, I think you need a certain type of confidence to carry off one in leopard print. Especially as a novice. Bottom half (if you pardon the pun) requires large comfy pants. Let’s leave that one there.

Snacks – I’ll admit that my bag packing started with the snacks. This was a combination of the fact that food is usually a priority for me and it was less traumatic to consider food than some of the stuff that’s required for the business end of things. Snack-wise, the books stress how much energy you use during labour and are full of suggestions that sound familiar from long runs. For this reason, I have dried fruit, jelly sweets and cereal bars stuffed in my side pocket. I am willing to share these with Ginge if he asks nicely (if only to avoid the risk of him following the example of my friend’s other half who disappeared for a quick chicken kiev and chips in the midst of her labour).

Drinks – It has to be my usual race day selection – water for during, orange Caprisun and chocolate milk for after. Do not judge me.

Change of clothes – Something warm and comfy to change into after the event. Hopefully I won’t have to do this in the car park.

Safety pins – Oh. Actually, I don’t need those, must be force of habit…

Counting down – more running and pregnancy comparisons…

I have less than two weeks to go until my Expected Date of Confinement (when I expect to be swept behind some heavy velvet curtains and only receive visitors by appointment) and I’ve been musing about the similarities between this point of pregnancy and running. Clearly this has little to do with my physical appearance and abilities (I nearly got stuck under the stairs the other day) but bear with me.

Taper Madness
If you taper before a long race, you inevitably go a bit stir crazy. I have been stuck in the house waiting for deliveries (which I appreciate is somewhat apt…) and workmen, which does little for my mental health at the best of times. I want to be doing stuff but circumstances, tiredness and risk assessments (getting stuck under the stairs again would be embarassing) mean that I can’t. There is this a nagging feeling that I should be doing something. I don’t like enforced not doing stuff, however choosing not to do stuff is different….

Good intentions
As race day approaches I always have good intentions. I intend to eat well, abstain from alcohol, stretch, roll and cross train my little heart out. Inevitably, none of this happens. At the moment, I intend to do some yoga at home, practise my breathing and get to grips with my tens machine. Inevitably, none of this has happened. I can’t blame not having enough time to do this, I am just procrastinating.

Acute hypochondriasis
Alongside taper madness sit a few nice imaginary ailments. Am I getting a cold? Is that a niggle in my back/hip/foot? Does my knee always make that noise when I do that with it? Pregnancy is just the same. I have been fit and well for the last 38 weeks and yet in the last few, I have self-diagnosed invented pre-eclampsia (bit of a headache), symphysis pubis dysfunction (been sitting in a funny position for too long) and DVT (wearing unfamiliar heels to a wedding). Add to that the fact that at this point every twinge could be the onset of labour (especially at two in the morning…) and it’s all one big bucket of fun.

Making comparisons
I know that we all run our own races, but it’s easy to get sucked into comparing ourselves with other runners (and usually not coming out well). We choose our training plans, we do what’s right for us…but then we talk to someone else and the self doubt kicks in – should I be doing something else…? Have I made the right choices…? Have I done enough…? Physical comparisons are also hard to avoid; it’s funny, as soon as you get pregnant there are pregnant women everywhere and you start looking at their bumps. I love my bump, but it was a watershed moment when I looked round the ante-natal yoga class and realised that I was the biggest one there that day (I’m also the next but one due date which is even scarier…).

Getting familiar with race day
Whilst I can plan my race day strategy as much as I want, I have absolutely no control of what happens on the day. What we have done though is get to know the course metaphorically (by going to our ante-natal classes) and actually (by visiting both of the maternity units that I might go into). Having worked at both the hospitals, I knew whereabouts in the building they are (and more importantly, where they are in relation to the canteen) but nothing about what goes on in the unit. If you’re expecting, I would definitely advice having a look round your maternity units just because it means there’s one less unknown to worry about. Also, check the parking situation and start saving up when you have your twelve week scan…

Ante-natal yoga class (part one)

Ever since I found out I was pregnant, I intended on going to my normal yoga class for as long as possible. I wanted to be that woman that makes everyone nervous by being so heavily pregnant that they won’t put their mat down too close, just in case… Unfortunately my yoga teacher had other ideas and disappeared off to spend six weeks with one of her teachers (I’m filled with both pity and envy for the class when she comes back brimming with new knowledge. It will hurt). My plan had less to do with commitment and grim determination, and more to do with the fact that I’m very very comfortable in my class.

Personally, I think that yoga has a lot to offer to a lot of different people, it’s just a question of finding the right class with the right teacher. If you end up at a session that’s not right for you (see Hels’ experience during Juneathon) or with a teacher that you don’t gel with, inevitably you’ll not enjoy it as much as you should and I’ve known it to put people off yoga for good. I struck lucky with my teacher and it’s been kind of interesting to see how her practice has developed over the nearly five years I’ve been with her. I’ve always gone for a fairly physical class (though not as physical as her power yoga) but have been doing a slower class while I’ve been pregnant (stretchy pregnancy ligaments mean that it’s not safe to hold postures for as long).

This all meant that I was faced with the prospect of ante-natal yoga. I was dubious about ante-natal yoga. I was even more dubious about going to a strange class with a new teacher. I took a deep breath and emailed my teacher to find out (a) if she knew of any local classes and (b) they weren’t all going to be whale music and visualising my placenta were they? Luckily she knew exactly what I meant…

Work and anxious procrastination got in the way for a couple of weeks, but a couple of weeks ago I girded my loins, finished work a bit early and drove to a strange class at a leisure centre that I’ve never been to before. After not being able to get into the room and having to stand at the doors, rattling the handles and flapping my hands at whoever could see me, things improved from there.

Obviously, it was a class full of pregnant ladies and weird as this might sound, I’m still a little unnerved by being in a room full of pregnant ladies. At work and at home I am generaaly the only pregnant lady in the room, rock up to anything ante-natal (or Mothercare) and there’s bloody loads of us waddling around…. Anyway, I had had a long debate with myself about whether or not to take my own mat. On the one hand, I didn’t want to turn up with no mat and have to do the yoga equivalent of doing PE in your knickers and vest, but on the other hand I didn’t want to turn up with my mat and look like I was going “See, I do yoga me. I have a mat. And a mat bag. I am Serious About Yoga…” (this is why I tend to stay in my comfort zone). I ended up with my mat (mainly because it lives in the boot of my car) and explained to the teacher that I usually go to a normal class, but my teacher is in France for six weeks. Immediately she knew who I meant, which was a strange relief to me, and said “you’ll find that this is a lot more gentle than you’re used to”.

And she was right. For starters, we had cushions to lean on. I wasn’t so keen on this because I have a tendency to sit with a lazy slouch unless I pay attention to my posture and I’m still comfy enough sitting on just my mat. We did some relaxation breathing, focussing on being an “observant witness” to our bodies (handy if I need an alibi for the last two Monday afternoons). The postures were all familiar (if a little slower and more gently done than I’m used to) and there was no whale music to speak of (though we did get into a bit of a battle with our sitar and chimes trying to compete with the banging tunes from the fitness class next door). The only visualisation that we did involved seeing an emerald light enveloping our bodies and I did try to focus on this, but kept being distracted by thoughts of Lord Percy’s nugget of purest green in Blackadder II…

I enjoyed it enough to go back for a second week…


Waddle, waddle, splash

I appreciate that pregnancy is a binary state – you either are or you aren’t, there’s no being ‘a bit pregnan’t – but over the last week or so, I have felt Very Pregnant. Certain movements, bending forward to reach something when I’m sitting down for instance, are somewhat hit and miss and are often accompanied by a chorus of ‘ooooofs’, ‘bloody hells’, or sometimes even ‘ooooof, bloody hell’.

It’s a bit of a cliche, but one of the times where I feel slightly less lumbering is in the swimming pool. Just as the penguin is a bit ungainly and waddly on land, but sleek and gymnastic in the water, I am a bit ungainly and waddly on land, but a bit less ungainly and waddly in the water. I am still managing a nice 20 lengths on my trips to the baths, albeit a bit slower than before, and am now 65% escaped from Alcatraz. I think I would like to complete my daring swim to freedom by my due date.


Me at the pool

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve also been looking ahead and doing some forward planning (conveniently ignoring the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, the actual birth and the first couple of months with a newborn baby). This has partly been triggered by other bloggers (particularly the inspiring words of I run because I love food) and hearing about Australian cricketer Sarah Elliott, who was back in the gym after six weeks and scored a Test century in between breastfeeding. I will concede that it’s probably a bit late in the day for me to contemplate an international sporting career and if I’m totally honest, at the moment the concept of running for a bus is as unimaginable as running an ultra. However, there’s only me that can make it happen when the right time comes and so I’ve been pondering my return.

My ultimate goal is an autumn half (to keep up my ‘half-marathon a year’ that I’ve done accidentally for the last three years). This might be helped along by the Lancaster Race Series Wagon and Horses 10 miler. We were up in Lancaster a couple of weeks ago when we saw the organisers setting up this year’s race, and I’ve always got time for an event that starts and finishes at a pub…

The other news that’s made me a bit excited is that I have a new local parkrun at Cuerden Valley. The inaugural event was last Sunday and I did consider having a waddle down, only to fall asleep instead. I’m not sure how the route works, but it looks intriguing and I assume that it will be somewhat undulating. Either way it’s a lovely setting for a run (it’s where I did one of the Badger 10k seriesĀ  and I last ran there in the snow during this year’s Janathon) – country park rather than municipal park, and it’s handily close to the M6 for all you parkrun tourists out there.