The ABC of a post partum recovery

At 6.5 weeks post partum, I might not have the visibility into everything. But I wanted to write this because a lot of people who have come to see Arhan have asked me, in a hushed, confidential tone, how I am doing. I say I’m doing great. It’s like, there is an epidemic out there of post partum depression. That’s the image cultivated by the media too. I don’t disagree it’s hard for some more than others. Sure, there’s some physical discomfort, challenges with breast feeding, getting comfortable with the baby etc. But I didn’t expect this to be a walk in the park. I didn’t expect to be miserable either. And more importantly, I’ve had tremendous amount of help and so really, truly, frankly it’s been great.

So here is what I think about having a healthy, positive post partum recovery.

A is for acceptance.

If 10 months of pregnancy didn’t teach you patience and acceptance of a body you ceased to recognize, you better get it straight now. You’re not going to be running marathons just as yet or drinking with friends in the pub. But it will happen, slowly and surely, you will be going back to doing those and more. Moreover, post partum is WAY better than the last 4 weeks of pregnancy, where you’re pretty much a beached whale playing the waiting game. It’s also about accepting that everything is not going to be the way it was. EVER. I am not talking about having the efficiency around housework. Its having to accept that there is always going to be someone and something more important than your immediate needs that will need more attention. And it’s about being happy about it. Pregnancy is like an idyllic time sometimes that prepares you naught for what parenting is really like. There’s nothing glamorous about less sleep, diaper changes, incessant feeding, learning to cope with baby and other aspects of life. But overwhelming that it is, the first thing you have to do is accept it for what it is and only then can you actually enjoy the smaller things. Like the way your baby calls out to you when he needs something. Mine is a man of few words. He just calls once and you will be at that beck. He won’t cry and bring the house down but that one yell can be heard anywhere in the house. He knows he’s boss now.

B is for bonding.

Not just between you and your baby. But also between you and your baby and everyone else. I’ve had incredible support from my husband and mother-in-law. Early weeks into post partum we established a routine of sorts. A neat division of labor. I was responsible for feeds and some diaper changes. Bharath took bulk of diaper changes, bringing the baby to me when he needed feeding, helping with calming Arhan if he was fussy and most importantly, taking care of me. And Amma took care of the household and Arhan during our off times, namely early mornings and afternoons. She is exceptional when it comes to MILs.  I have never felt judged by her and genuinely gives me the same care she gave her own daughter. From preparing my meals carefully, to making sure I had enough food as I was feeding constantly, to  taking amazing care of the baby – she spends long hours babbling to him, she will change his diapers, put him to sleep, calm him. To us, this seems normal. But many people asked me why I didn’t have my mom come help instead. To that my answer was always that my MIL was the best equipped to help. She had seen two recent new borns, Arhan’s cousins and she is one of the most tireless, selfless people I know. My mother, who is coming in later months to help, was missed in her presence but not because I was lacking in affection or care. So I have grown closer to my husband and mother in law like never before.  My FIL had a chance to stay with us too and for the first time in his life, he held a newborn. We have also spent lots of time with my sister-in-law’s family. I feel as a family, this child has already brought us so much closer in these few weeks.

I feel closer also to my friends. We were accepting visitors from day 1. I was so touched with all of our friends who wanted to come and showed so much love for our child.  I can’t say I was this loving towards other people’s babies before. I have a great group of close friends, some of them first time moms. They dropped by with food or just to hang out with the baby and me. Thank god for social media! Thank god for Whatsapp! and Facebook. I am constantly chatting with my FTM mom friends on Whatsapp! about every little challenge. I have 2 or 3 Whatsapp groups with mom friends. Its amazing knowing that no matter what, I am not alone in this. No problem is too insignificant and we revel that our kids will grow up together.

B is also for breast feeding.

Whether it is for you or not, whether you have too much milk supply (I did) or too little (too many other women I know), get help early.  And if you’re not, no big deal. I found a great lactation consultant who gave me solid advice and advice I could work with (she said I could drink yeah!). She was knowledgeable but flexible. I spoke to her several times after the visit too and it’s the best money I spent. I could write a whole different post on breast feeding but the long and short of it is, yes it’s natural and yes, its bloody hard. It’s both. And because it’s not easy, get all the help you can early on. You may exclusively breast feed, pump and feed, breast feed with formula or just formula. Whatever you do, remember the long term picture – too much hullaballoo on breast feeding these days – your baby WILL grow, he or she will have normal brain development and his or her success as a human being in life will not hinge only on whether you breast fed enough. (It does hinge however on who you are). Formula is not evil. So I would ask women everywhere, to stop beating themselves up over breast feeding and just do what works. I for one, had over supply which came with it’s own issues – engorgement, gassy baby from excessive let down (flow), baby in distress during feeds (imagine drinking from a fire hose), hard for baby and mom to feel comfortable feeding. Everyone assumes that its easy just because there’s enough milk and he’s growing well. It’s hard with too much milk too. I remember one night, howling in pain from engorgement, trying to figure out how the pump works. That night my son was my champion. He fed every hour, helping to assuage the quantity and pain. He is such a good kid.

And finally, C is for challenges.

There will be those everyday especially with breast feeding, diaper rashes, baby not sleeping, baby sleeping too much, not enough poop, too much poop, sick baby, sick mommy etc etc. And you will overcome them all with the help you have. So get all the help you can. And no help will be redundant. Challenges also mean sometimes you’re going two steps forward, one step back. For example, after 6 weeks my OB okayed me for exercise. How excited was I after staying homebound for 6 weeks. So i went to post natal yoga (which was fun – yoga with the baby – more on that later) and a long walk with Amma and Arhan in his brand new Bob stroller (love it). I promptly fell ill the next day. So I spent the remaining time in bed, quarantined and handing baby off to Amma. And that’s fine too – I just hope he doesn’t forget who I am. That I doubt – now that he has begun to recognize me and my voice, he makes lip smacking sounds at me. It is extremely endearing.

So if you can let go and just let your baby and life take over, let the days meld into nights of feeding but also spending lots of time looking at your baby’s hands and feet, marveling at how you made something so beautiful and perfect, let everyone who wants to help you, do so in their own way – whether someone brings the baby to you, feeds you, helps with laundry, helps clean the house/kitchen and even when things are in no shape or form the way you want them to be, let it go. Because these days are not coming back. The first smile, that yell he gives us when he needs a diaper change, even him crying when he is fussy – every little thing he does makes me want to crush him with love. I am extremely lucky to have had the support system I have but I am also lucky to have a calm baby who is reasonably fussy. But even if your baby is unreasonably fussy, you still need to hold onto those moments because they’re not coming back.  Always remember, that it’s harder for them than for you. You’ve had a lifetime of coping with challenges. For them, even the basic act of feeding is work. That’s why we laud babies that feed well – they’re doing their job well! For them, things are changing and they’re growing every single minute of every single day by leaps and bounds. And, that’s the first thing I have learned about being a parent. C is for Change. Change is eminent and constant. So live every minute of it well.

The birth report

This blog has seen a lot of race reports. Here’s a first birth report. What’s it doing in a blog about running and fitness, you wonder? But this blog has kind of morphed into something which is related to running and fitness but more about my thoughts in general. And there are so many parellels with a race, I think it would be appropriate to write about it here. Anyway, read at your own risk, some gory details included :).

You’re also wondering how do I have the time to blog now, 20 days after birth, the days and nights are melting together into feed times, burping, changing diapers. It’s also full of lovely moments where I nearly crush my baby in my arms, heart exploding with love. I look at him and wonder how he was in my tummy and how incredible it is that we played a part in creating something so perfect. No one is perfect until you give birth to them. Fact. But I can do it because of the incredible support from family (husband and mother-in-law) during these post partum days. My main job is to feed Arhan and bond with him. Cooking, cleaning, laundry is handled by MIL and I help when I can. I cannot even imagine having to do this on my own. So I get some time to blog and internet :).

Anyway, this post is more about my weeks prior to birth and labor. I always wanted a natural delivery but given that I was having a lot of fake contractions through pregnancy I had all but given up exercising in June, my 8th month going into 9th. Also work was terribly busy and I was having 10 hour days. So working out, including yoga was distant in my mind. I rationalized it thinking I didn’t want to go into early labor. Maybe it was prudent. But, I don’t recommend it. Even with frequent and irregular Braxton Hicks (fake) contractions I recommend all to-be-moms to continue some form of exercise routine. Even if it’s at home and about 20-30 minutes of yoga (the best) or walking (second best). Yoga really helps tone the birthing muscles (pelvis, thighs etc.) and bring baby into position. Walking helps in those last few weeks to help baby descend.

I stopped working 2 weeks before my due date. And that’s when I went back to exercise. The baby had dropped I felt (called, lightening) and I felt a new lease of energy. The pressure against the chest had eased. I took to taking 2 mile walks a day interspersed with 15-30 minutes of yoga a few times a week. My baby wasn’t in the right position (right until birth) so that’s what I was doing.

I completely believe he got down to zero station (head on cervix) due to my walks. The walks were exhilirating and inconvenient at the same time with all the pressure his head put on my pelvis. Yet I do not doubt it worked, as my mom and my doctor and midwife told me it would. But it didn’t start labor.

Contractions continued intermittently but not regular. Finally due to a minor complication in the final week of pregnancy, I went in to get induced. I was devastated. I thought this may snatch the natural delivery from me. Oh how I’d researched and studied labor comfort positions, my husband was well prepped to be my birth coach and I shuddered at the thought of an epidural making my lower body go numb. In my head, induction (using pitocin, a drug to induce labor that mimics oxytocin that brings on labor) implied epidural and could lead to c-section. Countless women’s stories had tested this hypothesis. I won’t go into the details. I viewed pitocin as the drug that brought on strong and regular but unnatural contractions and I thought I might not withstand the pain.

But I was also secretly excited. I was finally ready to meet my baby! We were ready with all his stuff and everyone at home was just waiting.

When I went in to get induced, the doctor on call started with non-drug interventions. They started with a foley bulb that helps with cervical ripening. At the end of that procedure (overnight), I was 7 cm dilated. We were elated. Maybe I would start labor! They broke the water and I spent the whole day walking, doing yoga poses to get labor started. But labor did not start. Finally after nearly 24 hours of being in the hospital with no labor (was a great time actually, like being in a hotel, we listened to music, watched shows on Netflix and ordered dinner), they started the pitocin drip at 6 pm on Friday Aug 2.

And  in an hour labor began. I knew this was it. The contractions were spaced 3-4 minutes apart and they came strong. My husband was phenomenal during this time. We used ALL the tools we came to hospital with – the myriad positions, the birthing ball, the yoga mat, and tips from the birthing classes. It was going really well. The thought of an epidural didn’t even cross my mind. I knew exactly when a contraction would come (pitocin doesn’t give any relief like natural labor) and knew how long my breaks were. I’d relax during the breaks and think about eating a burger, P Terry’s in particular. We had hindustani classical music playing to help through the relaxation.

Things suddenly began going downhill when the nurses couldn’t get the baby HR monitor to stay on my rotund belly. They kept poking and prodding and we were getting very agitated with this unnecessary disturbance. All we wanted to do was work through the contractions. But they kept coming in and prodding the monitor. Finally, my doctor came in and explained we might need internal monitoring. That’s when they insert an electrical thingy and stick it on the baby’s head and the electrical charges help with monitoring the heart rate. We were appalled and against it. But we quickly understood it wasn’t much of a choice between that and being supine to have the monitor do its job. So finally we acquiesced and that’s when she said I had progressed  in terms of dilation. But I was close to 8 cm. That was great. Things were moving.

I tried to sit on the floor on the yoga mat to lie down. The bed was too soft. As soon as I sat on the floor, I felt an incredible urge to go to the bathroom! Yikes, it was already time to push. I’d been in labor only about 2 hours. I kept saying, it’s probably too early but we should call the nurse. I got back on the bed and as soon as I did, I felt the baby was coming. Pushing was the hardest part about labor. The contractions were the most painful and the urge to push was so strong I had to scream to manage the pain. That was probably the only time I might have wanted to epidural. I told myself, it was too late. The midwife came in and began instructing me. She was absolutely amazing. Bharath says my connection with her during this noisy time was quite remarkable. He kept me hydrated and kept encouraging me, saying I was doing just fine. But I zoned everything else out and it was me and the midwife. They got the delivery table ready with what looked like torture implements. I looked away and just kept focus on pushing. I was fading at this time. In between contractions I drank water and the nurse got me an oxygen mask which felt like heaven.

The final push, I will never forget. When we knew it was time,I asked Bharath to change the music to a vedic chant we liked, the Gayatri Mantra. Neither of us are very religious but we wanted Arhan to come into calm amidst the hospital chaos. The music also helped my mood change even though the pain level just spiked. I knew it was time. It felt like a ball of fire came through the birth canal. The midwife told me not to push hard and to calibrate the push. I almost stopped pushing for fear of spilling out the baby on the floor. I tried a little harder and like a ball of fire he came out. Oh my, what a relief it was. There wasn’t a minute to feel anything except extreme relief and exhaustion. The nurses helped Bharath cut the umbilical cord. I don’t know what else was going on. Then they put him on my chest. All gooey from the birth canal in a towel. He came out bawling but as soon as they placed him on me, he went quiet and began starting wondrously at the lights in the room. Everyone kept saying, what a beautiful baby. But I was still too dazed from the whole experience and how fast it happened. Labor of 4.5 hours including pushing! Unbelievable. All the things that I imagined that could have gone wrong with drug induced labor, none of them happened. I had pitocin. I had internal monitoring. But I hadn’t needed the epidural. (Had I been in labor a few more hours I don’t know how this story would have gone I hope I’d have done it without my spine getting numb).

Holding Arhan in my arms was pretty darn awesome. I silently thanked him later for making it easy on me. He was kind to his mother. He was a good baby through the pregnancy but he was especially remarkable for how good he was to me during labor. I’ll forever be thankful for that.

So my continued advice to all to be moms – exercise, eat well, sleep well. And make those last few weeks count – get on the floor, sit on the floor in Indian style, squat, cat-cows and lots of walking. There is no guarantee your labor will be short but these things help, tried and tested!!

arhan

Sitting on the fence of parenthood, and thinking about my parents

In my 28th week of pregnancy, I’m literally on the fence of motherhood. This is not a fence of indecisiveness, but more of a time mandated eventuality. In another 12 weeks give or take, I hope to be a mother. And between reading up on what I need to buy, should I bother setting up a nursery, should we co-sleep or put the baby in his own room etc. etc., it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that parenting is going to be way more difficult than making mundane choices on gear and feeding and diapering.

For instance, what kind of a parent will I really be? If my personality is any precursor, I’m probably going to be loving, stressed out and impatient. I’m going to have to learn a few things about myself. What really makes me sit down and think, a little bit in fear almost, is that I’ve never had to be a role model for anyone until now. I’ve never had to watch how I behave, react to situations but now I will because my child will not just learn from what I say, but from what I do. I don’t think there’s anything scarier than that. Me, as a standard for human behavior.

This makes me think back to my own parents, about whom I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. For one, I think my parents were perfect, of course. How else would they have made me perfect? (that’s not an original, it’s from Mindy Kaling). But jokes apart, as it happens with time, you only remember the big important things about your childhood. And mine was a very happy one. Sure I remember not having that Rs. 100 Barbie doll because my father couldn’t afford to splurge on that stuff but look at how Barbie is viewed today! The best memories I have of my childhood is our dinner table. We always ate together and I always finished last and cleaned up the table (not so memorable at this point). But more importantly, when I think back to my parents what I really remember is who they were. My father was always a practical idealist with strong, soft hands. I read a lot about different parenting styles – attachment vs detachment, DIY and what not. My dad was all of that rolled into one. It was almost like he was just born to be a dad. He did it, it seemed like, effortlessly. He was always home by 6 (which became a pain when I was a teenager and wanted to stay out late, he was ALWAYS waiting). He hand-fed us, bathed us and I remember falling asleep on him as a child of as old as 6 or 7. My mother cloth diapered us, because it was cheaper not because it was an environmental fad.  My parents didn’t baby wear but they carried us around for as long as they could (no, we didn’t have strollers or prams, those were for rich kids). And we were forced to finish everything on our plates, which for as long as I remember, was the food that everyone ate.

Despite all that, was I a spoilt brat? Yes, in today’s world if I met myself as a child, I’d think I was an ill-behaved brat. I had tantrums but no one paid attention to them, except my mom. But all I remember being that child, was happiness. I felt loved and smothered with affection and attention every single day.  We grew up with other families and kids so my brattiness was not tolerated eventually. We went to tons of family parties all the time, learned music, art but it was never a big deal. We spent hours playing outside, but always within safe confines. And I like to think that eventually, I turned out fine. I do have friends and family who love me and put up with me. So my parents must have got something right.

I also remember strong parenting, corporal punishment (my dad was picky about the body parts he would whack – usually my butt or pull my ear lobes, more annoying and insulting than painful, which was the purpose). I also remember never being pushed to accomplish anything. Of course I had to have academics under control, but once when I was in sixth grade, I slipped from 2nd position to 7th position and I thought all hell would break loose at home. My father was unfazed. All he asked was why do you think that happened and if you feel bad about it, what are you going to do about it. As a 11 year old I was dumbfounded. I mumbled something about working harder and he went back to his tea and cigarettes. He was no tiger parent. But oddly he wasn’t so casual when he caught me lying about something incredibly trivial. He asked if I drank my milk, I said yes and he found traces of discarded milk. To him that was a major transgression of trust. It became a huge brawl and I went to bed, crying. I just didn’t get why it was a big deal. But I know now that he hated nothing more than lies, however insignificant they were. And that told me he cared far more about the kind of person I was rather than what I would achieve in life.

He never pushed me on any of our big life decisions. We eventually married who we wanted, studied what we wanted. My father always asked questions about why we thought we asked for something we wanted. He even asked me why I wanted to marry my husband! At our wedding, he behaved like he was the father of the groom, was far more jovial and relaxed than my FIL who, was the host in this case!

Yes there were bad memories too, but they somehow don’t matter as much. Of course, there were resource constraints but somehow growing up with those resource constraints, we always knew they were there and we chose accordingly. My mother was a lesson in frugality and saving, although neither my husband nor I are keen savers. Something about growing up as middle class kids in India, when we’re finally on our own, we save enough but we also enjoy the fine things. I know our parents would have wanted to when they were young but they had bigger burdens of worry then. We’re lucky that we are far more fortunate than they were. I learned how to cook, fret and worry about loved ones from my mother. But I learned how to let go, how to really be independent from my father and my sister.

So now when I think how I’m going to do as a mom, I must say I have no idea. Because I’m also one of those over-educated, over-thinking types that feels the instinctive need to Google every thing. That’s the bane of my generation. That’s unlike our folks, for whom becoming parents was not a choice, but a natural progression of life, that continues to give them joy for years into their old age. For whom, it appears to me, that parenting came naturally, that they made us into good people effortlessly. I bet there was sweat and blood and toil behind all that, but like good parents they never let us see it. I just hope that despite living abroad for a better part of my adulthood, being an over-educated, slightly older new-mom, I will always remember how to be a parent like my parents.

Pregnancy update: yoga is my best friend

I had started with yoga not so long ago, probably sometime in the middle of 2012 to supplement running and weight training. I instantly loved it and it made me think of my best friend from college, Sasha who is a yoga fiend and is quite traditional about it. Anyway, after I got pregnant of course I was all about getting to find a prenatal yoga class as it became obvious that regular yoga classes weren’t cut out for me.

A lot of times I get asked, are you still running. And I shake my head, no. Not with any regret mind you. Basically all the weight I’ve gained is sitting right around my uterus. Yeah it’s probably my baby and all the stuff around him. So I find my belly quite heavy and uncomfortable . When the belly was smaller, I ran till about 19 weeks after which I decided it just wasn’t worth it. You see the uterus is held together with these muscles called round ligament and mine would ache like crazy after/during a run, sometimes even after an extensive walk. And I had never read anywhere that running is good for your baby or pregnancy. Yes, exercise in general is a must and you can/should continue unless risks are posed and you don’t feel good about it. I just didn’t feel good running and I know how running made me feel good before I got pregnant. So I stopped.

Instead I supplemented with yoga, LOTS of yoga and some swimming when I can make the time. Both of these made me feel great, unlike post-run when my tummy hurt. The midwife made it clear I needed to exercise about 5 times a week especially if I was keen on having a normal childbirth. Which I am so I got my ass off the couch even on days I felt exhausted. First success was finding the prenatal class. Once I had gone to a few classes I realized prenatal yoga wasn’t that different from a hatha or a flow/mellow class. A few poses were missing, inversions distinctly and full torso twists. But overall, all the exercises that come recommended for a healthy child birth will be an integral part of any yoga (prenatal or not) class. These include the cat/cow poses, the warrior standing poses, bricks and back bends, lots and lots of squats – prayer and yogi squats, downward dogs, child pose, the triangle pose etc. Luckily these are poses I’ve been doing ever since I began yoga, which albeit is not very long ago and I regret not starting earlier. But ever since I started, it’s only made me feel amazing during and after. The poses I mentioned above focus on all the right muscles – the pelvic muscles, upper legs, back etc. – that you need to focus on for a healthy pregnancy and child birth.

My buddy Kanika who is also pregnant and I exchange daily (nay hourly) tips, and everything to do with pregnancy and our journeys to becoming mothers. Kanika who is extremely keen on a natural birth introduced me to the book by Bradley of the famous Bradley method of natural child birth. I’d like to have one but I am not sure I can handle it yet. However I would still like to be aware of the tools I’d need to do so. So I got the book on Kanika’s recommendation as I’m too lazy and cheap to sign up for the classes (no less than 8 weeks!). Anyway, the book has a bunch of exercises to prepare for natural birth and lo, they’re ALL yoga poses. From sitting in padmasan or simple sitting pose (which the book calls tailor pose!) to squats to cat/cow etc. Nothing new there. Moreover, every experience  I read online about women having a positive birth experience, they sang eulogies to their prenatal yoga classes and practice.

So natural or not, pregnant or not, yoga is great great great. But it’s even better for pregnancy. There’s lower chance of straining especially if you have some practice from before and know how to slow down the pace of your practice to suit your body. It really helps with back aches and tight hips – a couple of pigeons or double pigeons will stretch out those hips and IT band issues like I have. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to get to a class. I’ve been doing some form of a 30 minute class at home nearly everyday, ever since I decided I wanted to be prepared for birth and stay healthy/fit.

There are tons of yoga videos online but I would recommend finding those suited to prenatal yoga. For instance, Lara Datta has a great routine and I’ve done this one quite a few times. It’s not un-challenging but very easy pace. There are some which are more strenuous – like one where this lady who clearly is an alpha yogi – does a bunch of the usual poses but she makes you hold them longer and does back to back standing poses which can be hard (like a warrior right after a bunch of squats). But I do those on days I feel relatively more energetic. Anyway she has a series of 3 classes online all of which are challenging but great. I would just recommend doing it at your own pace than trying to keep up with the crazy yogi lady. And finally this is a class I found today, it’s a very easy paced video, is quite technical in the way it progresses. This also has a series of 3 videos and I haven’t done them all yet. And no prenatal class is complete without kegels so that’s a good sign for a good yoga routine. Even if you don’t find it in a routine, it’s easy to add in while doing any of the sitting poses like simple sitting or butterfly sitting. I like to mix up the routines to get the feeling like I am actually going to a new class. I wish there were more full class length videos online and I know I can always buy dvds but I’d get bored of the same routine.

In any case, if you find yourself reading this and you may want to become or are pregnant I highly recommend yoga. It never feels bad – in fact if it does you should stop – like some other forms of exercise (Bikram yoga is included here – I like yoga for how it makes me feel and I can’t ever imagine feeling good at 105F heat). In fact many weight routines do incorporate many yoga poses too. And the best part about yoga is that it just keeps getting better with time. You get more flexible and the same poses can generate so much more incremental benefit over time. If there’s anything India should be proud of it’s definitely yoga!

 

 

5K race at 16 weeks

I finished 16 weeks this week. Baby Chandoo seems to be doing okay per the OB visit. I’ve been gaining weight steadily but not rapidly, thank god. Weight this week has been hovering around 117 lbs/53 kgs. I’m supposedly on-track but of course I’ve been monitoring the scale. Food-wise, I am of course less consistent because I am so hungry so quickly. In that sense pregnancy is like running – you have to plan the food/fuel in-take and hydrate well all the time or you feel like crap. You also feel incredibly tired and fatigued at any moment of the day. That burst of energy that people talked about during the second trimester – I am still waiting for it.

It has been shades better than the first trimester. Firstly the nagging feeling of nausea at the back of my throat is much less now. There is some energy. So given that this was Austin marathon week, I thought why not sign up for the 5k. I asked Itisha to sign up with me, knowing that if I was running alone, I may not make it out there. Bharath wasn’t too excited – he thought I’d be pushing and feeling awful afterwards. I knew I would I would feel awful afterwards. But that’s part of running for me. To feel that discomfort and to be reminded that I did something I liked doing a lot. However I of course understand any concern that I shouldn’t be harming the baby. On that, I trusted the wisdom of my doctors who said as long as I feel good I can do it. And I did.

I stayed over at Iti’s and we were excited. I told her there would be a lot of walking. Iti herself has bad knees so she doesn’t run much outside. She agreed for the 5k and it’s a fun race to do in Austin. We got parked and began the race. It was really nice and cool was the best day to run out there. We had decided to do a 3 min run and 1 min walk to make sure we weren’t pushing. Me for the pregnancy and she for her knees. But once we started running I think we both felt good, with the energy of those around us. We kept chatting and running and walking when anyone needed it. We wanted to finish before 40 minutes and we managed to finish at 37 minutes. Of course we sprinted towards the end that’s inevitable :). There’s nothing more exhilarating than a strong finish, no matter how the race was. We finished around the same time as the half marathon winner. That was pretty cool.

Well I won’t say running has been easy. I think I’ve lost stamina in more ways than one. I can’t really pinpoint to what it is that is specific to my body that’s made running harder. Actually, it isn’t the running that’s been hard. It’s the recovery. The last post I had on the 4 odd miles I ran on the trails took me 2 days to recover from, including a massage and pedicure! The 5K took a whole day – combination of less coffee, less sleep, not enough hydration and a certain amount of exertion that I think my body is no longer used to. After all it’s busy making a human being! There’s a lot of blood flow and oxygen going to the uterus, so when I pull those runs, it’s that much less to me. That’s why it takes longer to warm up and longer to recover. Not to mention loose ligaments and hips that ache for days after a run. Simply put, as much as I love running, it’s heartbreaking to admit that I should probably rest up the running shoes till the baby comes.

Based on this I’m probably going to tone down to brisk walking, yoga (prenatal yoga has been great though the timings suck for working women). It is important to keep moving and exercising but also important to listen to your body’s cues (not the kind of listening that makes you sit on your couch and gorge because sometimes you need to push). I’m always curious about pregnant women who ran half marathons and what not, they’re likely far fitter than I was when I got pregnant. I do not believe one should not be moving/exercising but I also believe in low-intensity frequent workouts to the extent your schedule allows.

Knocked up and still running (or at least trying)

Running during pregnancy is not as easy as it is made out to be. First, there are 100 opinions on it, like ANYTHING regarding pregnancy. You really only need to listen to your OB and nurses. Everyone else can take a hike (or run). Here’s my experience with the first tri.

I was pregnant in India on vacation for 2 weeks without knowing it. Well I had some strange suspicion I might be so I took a test at home and it was negative (too early). That was encouraging and I continued to eat and run and drink like I normally did. Which is, I watched what I ate like a hawk (except at the wedding in Kolkata), drank a lot and ran some. My best friend Sasha from college was training for a half marathon and it was fun going running with her. We didn’t run on the road but in the park and I taught her a few tricks. I don’t have a gym in Bombay so I also ran around all the old neighborhoods where I grew up and that was awesome. All the way down Mt. Carmel Rd, up Mt. Mary steps and past the church down to Bandstand (where I caught my school bus in third standard) and back to Mt. Carmel. Felt totally awesome. Also, Bombay has a lot more runners than it used to so people think it’s less weird now. So not many stares. Even in Kolkata I had to do it once. We stayed at the Saturday Club and I went running down Shakespeare Sarani all the way to Victoria Memorial – where I had to make change for my Rs 100 with a local cop for the Rs. 4 ticket to enter VM. In typical WB Govt. fashion the ticket clerk was first incredulous and then indignant about the Rs. 100 I handed him. I even offered to pay for some girls to make change but they thought I was crazy and recommended I go buy some ‘cheeps’ (potato chips) at the local baniya to make change. Little did they know I was low-carb. Despite those hiccups, the run inside VM is one of the memorable ones I’ve done, right up there with running in Rio!

Anyway, I came back home and voila I was pregnant. Until then I felt no symptoms but somehow the knowledge of it made me queasy and tired immediately. Also I googled running and pregnancy and lots of stupid advice out there – don’t get your HR up beyond 130, don’t run hard or you’ll pull a muscle because pregnancy makes them woozy etc etc. Anyway, went to the OB and she said, if you’ve been running keep on doing what you did. I could have kissed her!

Except, I couldn’t run much! I was so fatigued and queasy (and those stupid paranoid HR tips never left me) I took to doing some home workouts instead. I kept up my pushups routine whenever I could. The first 8 weeks weren’t so bad. After 8 weeks I was more tired. Mornings were hard and after work, I was SO HUNGRY I couldn’t manage the energy to workout even after a light snack. Oh, I kept up with going to Black Swan Yoga until I realized those instructors had NO CLUE what to do with a pregnant lady. Until 8-10 weeks it didnt matter – I could downward dog and chataranga – I did downgrade to Flow and mellow as the Power class was too intense (sad face). Eventually I realized I was too nervous to keep myself at the mercy of inexperienced yoga instructors with respect to pregos. I still need to go join a pre-natal yoga class. That’s this week.

Good thing is that weight is still under control – I have gained about 3.5 lbs from 110 to 113 and it’s now stagnated at that. I’m eating a lot and low-carb has become medium-carb now (too hungry). Haven’t been doing much weights but continuing the push-ups and side crunches/obliques while I can (read, not feeling nauseous or tired). YouTube is GREAT for pregnancy workouts. Here’s my fave.

So, running has been off and on sporadic. Finally this morning I determinedly made it out to the trails with my trail buddies. It was great. Running with Liz (more like hiking) was awesome cos she was full of interesting tidbits about her kids and how she dealt with all kinds of stuff. I really liked listening to her – the advice was sound. I ran about 4 miles – took 2 hours nearly because we hiked so much – and I need to pack more food on these runs even if they’re less than 5 miles. Here’s a pic from the run this morning (I look very different from the pic from 3 months ago :)). There’s me at 14 weeks, 113.5 lbs and a fuller face!

pregorunner

‘real food’ and how I learned to love weights

This post is dated circa Fall 2012. Guess I never got to publishing it. Well here it is.

It’s been a while since I posted but a lot has been happening in the workout/nutrition/diet part of my life. Let me update on each and finish with a nice little speed workout I made up for myself on the treadmill.

‘Real Food’

In the last year or so I’d begun changing the way I ate and I saw dramatic results. In the last few weeks I’ve changed that completely and while I don’t know what to attribute the results to, but something is working and it works well. So back in the day, when I started running, I ran a lot, ate a lot, didn’t lose much weight. Then I went to Brazil and for one, I ran a lot but much shorter distances so I ran fast and less. I also began to watch what I ate. Importantly my diet in Brazil actually became quite high in protein relative to carbs (and I watched the fat intake as well). I ate a ton of fruits but not much veggies (not good). I lost about 10 lbs after I got back. I continued watching what I ate but back home, living with a vegetarian husband, my diet went back to being sort of carb-heavy – not heavy but it was there. And then I began talking to some friends about food. It changed the way I thought about food. First, I stopped eating at the point I felt full. That immensely made my GI issues a lot better. Additionally I began watching what gave me GI distress. I’ve been dealing with post meal tummy aches for a while and it was beginning to annoy me.

My friend Kanika introduced me to this blog. This guy writes about ‘real food’ versus processed food. And in the realm of processed foods lies the whole grain myth, along with legumes etc. So I decided to give it a shot. I watched how I felt every time I ate whole wheat/legumes and I decidedly had some stomach cramps. So I cut it down immensely. So far so good. I still wonder how it will be when I get back to training long distance again but we’ll see then how to deal with then when we get to it. I highly recommend checking the blog out about a lot of interesting myths about what’s healthy what’s not. My basic takeaway which makes sense to me is that it’s not fats that make us fat. Its carbs/sugar. So even when you think fried food, it’s fried carbs that kill you not the fat per se. Sure you can eat fat but not unlimited but fat’s not the bad guy. So far, whatever I’ve been doing is making me feel a LOT better about my GI issues and overall health.

So instead of granola/cereal for breakfast, we’ve turned to having fruit/veggie smoothies and 2 eggs. At lunch I’ll prefer salads or even vegetables/meat with a little helping of rice. Brown rice turns out is low bioavailability of nutrients, so I’ve turned to soaking it overnight and then grinding to dosa batter with soaked lentils and fermenting the batter to make dosas. It tastes awesome and it feels better. Gone are chapatis and other whole grains (unless I have the time to soak/ferment well). Definitely gone are daals and lentils to a major extent. Oh and I eat FULL FAT everything. Full fat yogurt, whole milk, don’t shy from cheese and dairy, I cook in butter/ghee. And 5 months later I am no fatter (neither is my husband), our BP/lipids are great – healthier than ever.

So remember: low fat is bull-shit, low-carb/full-fat/high protein is the way to go!

Weights

I’ve never understood why people did weights. I found weight training boring and uninspiring. Where is that runner’s high? But since the diet change and thinking that yes, I’ve been a runner a while but where is that dramatic impact on my body? My legs look awesome but I still needed to work on ‘problem parts’ – belly, arms, hips etc. So I met Hena. She’s a UT grad student who is to say one of the hottest South Asian girls I’ve met. I must admit I had a girly crush on her for a bit. Went to the gym with her a couple of times and she showed me some very specific routines. Somehow once school started Hena disappeared into her schedule but all through fall I kept up with that routine. And oh boy, now I know why people love weights. I saw results within weeks. The workouts were never longer than 30-40 minutes. I combined it with short runs here and there as well as yoga (power/hatha etc.) and the results were drastic. I went to India on vacation and the only people who thought I looked unhealthy were my parents (they wanted their tubby daughter back). Even if I didn’t exercise a lot, as long as I watched what I ate, I was easily able to maintain my energy and body weight at about 110 lbs and body fat ratio at less than 15% (yeah I got one of those cool scales).

So my lesson from this – it’s not how long or much you run, it’s about 80% what you eat and 20% light to short intensity workouts that help. Since that works really well with a busy work life, it keeps me happy and healthy (and hot).

me-Sept12