My C-Section Birth

My c-section birth

Today was definitely full of learning.

The birth of my first daughter was a failed attempt at natural birth due to a fused pelvis post-fracture. I could feel exactly what was happening in the c-section although it didn’t hurt. This freaked me out more than a little going into c-section number 2.

There’s a blessing in not knowing when the baby’s coming. Trust me. I hardly slept a wink last night – covering every possible scenario in my head. Every possible one… outside of the smooth and relatively painless delivery of a perfectly healthy girl.

I was doing some light reading, as I do, on labour and delivery outcomes in the United States. It’s a decently well known fact that maternal and infant deaths are on the rise in hospital settings and that their track record is comparable to the better performing countries in the developing world.

Few people though realize that infant and maternal mortality are also on the rise in home births.

Though quality of care and existence if unnecessary intervention is obviously a huge part of the problem, I think it’s pretty clear from the statistics that there is a third factor.

Maternal health and fitness.

One of the major factors leading to a Caesarian birth is maternal obesity.

It would be interesting to look at the outcomes for natural and medical births for women who are healthy and fit. Everyone always assumes that “healthy” ladies pop a baby out natural in twenty minutes and then go for a jog. But in reality this is not always the case.

Fit women still have difficult births and face difficult situations. They are just better prepared to handle them.

I’d be dead right now if not for medical intervention. I’d probably have survived the crash that broke my pelvis – and just ended up very very disabled. But I’d never have survived childbirth… and neither would my two beautiful children.

My big epiphany today, if you can call it that… is to be grateful to modern medicine but never take it for granted. You never know what tomorrow brings, so be in the best form you can to confront it.

The freezing worked much better this time. No pain or sensations until the doctor started pulling the baby out. I couldn’t figure out how I could hear her crying since they didn’t cut a hole.

Which leads me to my second thought if the day: healthy moms make healthy babies. Even if birth did go sideways I’d hope she’d be better prepared to take it on.

It isn’t always easy but it’s always worth it

It isn't always easy but it's always worth it

I didn’t feel like running today. It was one of those “haul your butt out of the car and get moving at whatever pace your legs will take you kind of days.”

After a week of being sick, I have been chomping at the bit to workout – and with the gorgeous sunny fall weather, outdoors. But for some reason, when time came to put stroller rubber to road, the enthusiasm waned.

It wasn’t the best run, but it’s done and I feel just awesome having finished it.

What do you tell yourself to get through a tough workout and is it always worth it in the end?

Moving on… AKA inspiring the enemy

Moving on... AKA Inspiring the Enemy

I left for my first overnight trip without Ama. It was hard. I missed her. I missed John.

To make matters worse, it was to go to a Judicial Dispute Resolution for my accident in 2006. That’s stressful. The whole situation is stressful. And our offers were miles away.

Thankfully we came to a resolution fairly swiftly. I’ve come to realize that however inhumane the system seems, there are people behind that system. Sure they have different motivations… but they’re people with motivations.

The JDR oscillated between talking about how screwed I am, both now and especially, years from now… and talking about how awesome I am. What a weird fight to be in – and so often as a bystander.

So much of law is based on historical evidence. Historically though, people don’t “mitigate” their damages. They sit on their butts, get fat, get even more broken and give up. No one was arguing about my mitigation. But it complicates things a touch to say the least… when you are the most mitigatedest.

After the Mexican-market-style-bargaining-standoff, we agreed, shook hands and were fast friends.

Gloves off.

The lawyer and the adjuster told me that they were following my progress and that I was a constant inspiration to them and others in the firm who’s job it was to spy on me. He’d been waiting this whole time to thank me.

Wow. People. Really. Nice. People.

Fitness lessons from your toddler

Fitness lessons from your toddler

My two year old is an exceptional athlete. She’s not making any Olympic teams, but she an exceptional athlete in the way a Crossfitter is. All the way around. Yesterday my little peanut completed the 48 flights of stairs in the Climb for Clean Air. I didn’t think she would make it, but she did. Her 20 minute time might not have been the fastest of the day, but she, along with hundreds of other people, made it. It scares me that someone (barring the severely sick or disabled) wouldn’t. Yeah it might be hard, but it’s a serious red flag if it’s undoable for you. The latest ideas in fitness are all about looking back to look forward. So I am making a list of the things that I think all people can learn from their children.

1. Walk. Run. Jump. Ama, at 25 months, routinely jumps out of the stroller and walks for 2-3 hours. Just cause. And when she feels like running she runs (and makes me run too). She makes a game out of it and just enjoys moving her body. I wish we’d all do that. Movement is life… and life is to be enjoyed.

2. Squat to your heels people. It’s unnatural not to be able to sit in a deep squat. Ama squats down at every opportunity… and she had taught me that I should too.

3. Mobility before stability before strength. That’s how Ama did it. If you lack mobility, you cannot dynamically stabilize, and you’ll never be able to produce real world strength.

4. You are the sum of those around you. Ama is always copying my husband and me. For better or for worse. Darn did I really just say that to the dog again? People always ask me how I encourage such a young person to be so active. I don’t. It would be way more convenient to me if I could just stuff her in her stroller all day and go about my business. But I don’t sit in a stroller all day, so neither does Ama. It’s made me realize how much we all emulate our immediate circle. So choose wisely.

Crossfit Moms

Crossfit Moms

I tried the stroller class thing. The session was mostly walking or walking intensity effort with exercises woven in. I tried the stroller bootcamp thing. Better, but as Goldie Locks, I would have hit my second too small chair. As a runner, I am certainly not the epitome of well rounded fitness but do like to finish my workout feeling like I have really “worked out.” Not saying there is no a real need for low intensity postpartum exercise classes, but there is also a need for the high intensity type. To each their own I say.

I joined a friend at Crossfit Moms last year. I had reached the end of my doctor recommended personal trainer journey as my daughter was unable to go the gym with me and I could not afford babysitting on top of the training cost. Plus, I loved the idea of her coming along and engaging in the class. Which she loved too. Especially burpees. All kids love burpees.

It’s also great to have an awesome and supportive group of Crossfit Westside moms who also like to push their fitness, whatever that level might be. Some moms can rock the weights, some can out-kick in the runs, some have a broad base. It doesn’t matter though. We’re all there, after childbirth, as sleep deprived mothers, giving it what we got. Plus we can talk about engorgement and picky eaters and poop in class and get a warm reception. Our instructor, Tauyna, is also incredibly motivating. She herself is a rockstar Crossfit athlete, but transforms to a humble cheerleader coach, always pushing us encouragingly to where she knows we can go.

Over time I have really seen the progress. Functional movements marrying fitness and challenge is where I like to be.

As mentioned in previous blogs, I have a pretty severe set of physical restrictions that are hugely mitigated by fitness. Such as: two missing muscles (brachialis & anconeus) and radial nerve damage in one arm. This causes a comedic inability to control acceleration and deceleration in olympic lifting. I am sure I look like Mr Bean meets “my mom” lifting. I get over that though. Even though progress is too slow to see, you know it’s happening. And one of the best parts about Crossfit is that you can measure it. My elbow would at one point release on me every time I tried to do a chinup or pushup. Now I can crack out a few with no disengagement. Not bad.

It’s really not for every one though. Especially not the faint of heart or de-conditioned. DIzzy, red-faced ladies about to loose their breakfast decide this bowl of oatmeal is simply too hot for their tastes. Which is just why we need classes like Crossfit Moms. To each their own.

Unusual tips to take the stress out of the holidays

Holiday Tips

The holiday season doesn’t have to be stressful; in fact, it shouldn’t. Follow these tips to find more enjoyment, and less stress, in your season.

1. Do your shopping and wrapping early. Make sure each gift is tagged and organized according to where and when the gift will be given. The earlier the better – but if you don’t have it done yet, aim to have it done for Friday.

2. Spend one day super cleaning your house and decorating, and another super undoing and cleaning. Make sure to schedule it in ink and have fun. The decoration day is easy to make festive. The take down day requires work… pizza and movie night to cap it off? Make space for new stuff?

3. Think easy and healthy entertaining. Whole grain crackers and hummus for an appetizer, a lightly dressed bagged spinach salad, a one dish meal with lean meat and veggies baked in the oven or slow cooker, and a healthy dessert do the trick just fine. Try not to cut corners by purchasing dessert. They are normally laden with heart destroying fat and sugar. A fruit crumble is so easy and you can cut the sugar way back and use a healthy oil. You can even make some ahead and freeze them.

4. Do not offer to bring something to every party. Sometimes, you just have to enjoy!

5. Don’t over indulge. The holidays cover a very large span of time and if you do, you will likely end up feeling heavy, sluggish and without the energy you need to enjoy them. There is no such thing as over-enjoying. A big piece of cake is no more tasty than a sliver, but it will make you feel terrible. No enjoyment there.

6. Make time for your fitness! Now is not normally the time for big goals but make at least one SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) to keep you going. You can probably find a Christmas or New Year’s Day 5k in your area. These events work well since running is often the easiest way to maintain your fitness when you have no time for the gym. Experienced runners can also focus in on their speed and keep their calorie burn and fitness up with shorter, faster, interval based workouts when they can’t do the big mileage.

7. Every outing doesn’t have to be food related. Make plans with friends and family to do a Christmas-light tour or go tobogganing. The fresh air, fun and exercise might make for long lasting memories and give you a chance to escape the holiday stresses.

Baby Doping

I for one can testify that women, OK I, possess inhuman strength postnatally. I ended up gaining 35 pounds and ending my pregnancy putting shame to the term “runner” with my best waddley rendition of what I thought running looked like. I stopped at every port potty, gas station and tree to relieve my aching bladder and the rest of the time bounced around trying to ignore it’s crampy plight. The day Ama came was the first of our Sun Run training clinic. That would have been fine if I was participating, but I was coordinating. How could I miss the first run?

So when my water broke in the car on route, I knew it was going to be an interesting morning. After setting up, I slipped into the vacant stairwell to phone and ask the on-call obstetrician if he thought it would be OK that I go for a run. An old crankity fellow, his answer was as disbelieving as it was direct. “No. No, I don’t think it would be OK.” I went into the delivery room in taxed spandex and a pair of now-one-size-too-small New Balance 890s.

Post-baby I felt like I was dragging a tent trailer everywhere I went. But I kept going. I had a great running group who motivated me and supported me through all those breast-feeding walks and blanket shuffles. Plus, I always had to catch up. So as my fitness came back, it just kept climbing. I ran the Sun Run 3 months postpartum and made the top 100 list. I made attempts at training all summer, never surpassing the 3 hour mark for a long run and only on one occasion surpassing two hours. In 2006 I was in a serious accident that left me on a train of injury after injury. Maybe the imposed low mileage helped keep the injuries at bay. I ran a sub-90 half, and to my surprise, and the surprise of my coach at the time, a 3:09 full. The last 3/4’s was painful – but I kept some sort of pace up.

Many athletes have experienced similar situations. Colleen De Reuck set the world record in the 10-mile postpartum. Magdalena Lewy Boulet dropped her 10k time from 32:40 to 31:28, her half from 1:15 to 1:11 and her full from 2:30 to 2:26 post-baby. Catriona Matthew, a Scottish golfer, won the British Scottish Women’s Only 10 weeks after delivering. Kara Goucher PR’d and came 5th in the Boston five-months postpartum. Shayne Culpepper dropped her 1,500m from 4:08 to 4:05, her 3,000m from 9:17 to 8:54 and her 5k from 15:31 to 15:01 after having a baby. Sara Vaughn took her mile time from 4:58 to 4:11. Derartu Tulu dropped her 5k from 14:50 to 14:44, her 10k from 31:08 to 30:17 and her marathon from 2:30 to 2:23 after child birth. Ingrid Kristiansen won the Houston marathon 5 months after delivery. Of course, famously, Sonia O’Sullivan won silver in the Olympic 5,000m 14 months postpartum.

Of course, there are other unfavourable examples. Paula Radcliffe may have won the NYC marathon nine months after having a baby, but she hasn’t come within her twice bettered world record since child birth.

In fact, there is even a rumour that was humoured during the 1984 International Olympic Committee meeting about Abortion Doping. Apparently there had been some talk of known Eastern European athletes getting pregnant and timing abortions at three months gestation and close to a major competition to gain the positive cardiovascular effects of pregnancy and subsequent performance increases. There is at least one official report of a Swiss doctor being involved. The whole abortion doping story may have evolved from forced abortions in Eastern European athletes that became pregnant due to fears about the birth outcomes of babies whose mothers were on steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. Perhaps even the concern of babies born to mothers who exercised at a high level alone was enough to fuel fear about fetal outcome. Remember, this was a time when female exertion was still thought to be dangerous, forget the effects on a developing fetus. In fact, there were no women’s distance running events in the Olympics prior to the 1980s. However, the potential physiological boosts from pregnancy have been widely acknowledged and the theory that an athlete might “abortion dope” to gain a performance advantage is plausible.

Thank goodness there have been no rumours of the occurrence as of late. But it does shed a light on an interesting question, “Does having a baby make you weaker? Or stronger?”

Of course, there is a plethora of additional reasons beyond the physiological changes of pregnancy. Women may have a raised pain threshold and fearlessness after going through labour. They may find more balance in their life and ascribe less importance to the outcome of races. They may be happier. They may use their training time more efficiently. They may simply be tougher. We always consider relaxin’s* role in decreasing joint stability, but it may also increase mobility and tissue suppleness.

On the flip side though, if women are not taking care of themselves postnatally they put themselves at increased risk of musculoskeletal injury. If they do not take in enough vitamins, minerals and nutrients, they risk depleting their bones. The relaxin puts them at increased risk of soft tissue injury. Extreme fatigue and inattentiveness compounds these risks.

I personally belief that this superwoman lift in performance is a throw-back from when we had to keep up with the tribe. It just makes sense that women would get an edge to help them carry along the tribe’s newest and most critical members. So, postpartum mamas, what’s your take? Has anyone seen a major difference in their abilities postpartum for better or for worse?

*Relaxin is a hormone that is present in high levels prenatally that “relaxes” ligaments to allow the pelvis to expand and open up the birthing path. It continues to be present in the body until 6 months, and even up to a year postpartum. It has a global softening effect on all body tissues.

Paula Radcliffe – World Record Holder in the Marathon – and Super Mom

Paula Radcliffe - World Record Holder in the Marathon - and mom

Paula Radcliffe is not your typical mother. She is the fastest female marathon runner in world history. She is also mother to Isla and Raphael. Paula managed to make comebacks after both births with the help of a team of professionals. How does she manage to care for her children? Luckily, she has a team for that too. Headed by a stay-at-home-dad, they often call on nannies and extended family to pitch in. What advice does this superstar mom have for us regular moms? Just that. Build a team of support. Many of us juggle fitness, careers and family. You can’t do that on your own. “Take the support from the people around you, from your husband, from your partner, from your family so that you can get your time for your training. You talk about the sacrifices athletes make, I never really felt like I made a sacrifice for my career until I came away for a month without my kids. That was really hard, but at the same time, it was a huge motivation to make every second of the training count and make it worthwhile, being away.”