(circa 2006) We're calling to confirm your appointment with Dr. X who will be doing an ultrasound to check for fetal sac/heartbeat/cause of bleeding/size of baby/soft markers/placenta previa/whateverthehell.
(circa 2008) We're calling to confirm your appointment with Dr. Y who will be examining your foot regarding your plantar fasciitis.
Please drink a gallon of water within 5 minutes of your appointment, and don't you dare pee an hour before coming to our office. Oh, and leave at least 20 minutes early, 'cause there's this construction outside that's just a bitch with the traffic.
Please bring a pair of running shorts and your running shoes with you to your appointment.
I should probably shave my legs for this.
I should probably shave my legs for this.
I played soccer from age 10-30. Somewhere around age 18 I got a whiff of maturity, and thought it would behoove me and my game if I did some extra-practice running. And a funny thing happened: I loved it. I looked forward to late afternoon, around 4:00, when I'd drop whatever it was that I was starting to slow down on anyway, lace up my shoes, and get outside for 45 minutes, regardless of the season. I started running in NYC and decided at the time it was probably unwise to run with a walkperson, so I ran sans soundtrack and reveled in it: No phone. Turning off my brain from whatever historical paradigm I was trying to wrap my head around. Letting my mind float. Listening instead to traffic, birds, footsteps, dogs, airplanes, snippets of passing conversation. It became a life habit and my own little daily intra-personal therapy session. It also kept my slow metabolism in check. Eventually I got brave enough to run a few 10Ks and a marathon.
And then in early '02 I had a miscarriage. I began charting shortly thereafter, and noticed my luteal phases were an average of 10 days or so, frequently less. And when I went to the RE, he wagged his finger: no running. He threw me a bunch of articles about women who overexercise and how it diminishes their progesterone. (May I just clarify that "overexercise" is relative; if you are in wicked shape, and have a "normal" body, training for the iron man while attempting to get pregnant counts as overexercise. If you are me, and your body already has some issues, 20-30 miles/week can mess you up even more.) So I slowed down to less than 10 miles per week which made me feel like I might as well bring a vacuum to push along or something, so insignificant was it, but it worked. When I got pregnant with Bella I swam the miles instead of running them. When Bella was born, I counted days to getting back outside, strapping on the shoes and pushing her in the jog stroller. I remember my first run without her, a rare weekend when Mr. ABF could spare 45 minutes so I could run solo and I thought I'd fall flat on my nose with nothing in front of me to push.
It made sense, then, when we started trying to get pregnant again that I'd slow down. Which wasn't hard, because we were insanely busy now. My "job" was caring for an active 1.5 year old, and we were selling our house in a quickly sinking market and buying a big old house that demanded a lot of attention. There was no swimming during Maddy's pregnancy; not only did I not have the time, but my instructions were to lie around as much as possible. I settled for the occasional long dog walk.
After Maddy died, I holed up in the house for three months. But the first thing I did that made me feel "better"? Was go for a run. I cried the whole way through one mile. It felt terrific, in that "crap this is lousy" way that things feel terrific during that initial period, when just going through the shower feels like an excessive expenditure of energy stores. Over the summer I ran on the occasional weekend, exploring paths around my new house. And when Bella finally (finally!) started school in the fall, I made it a routine to drop her off, drive around the corner to the lot, and run in the woods. I loved the endorphins. The sounds of leaves. The quiet. I thought about Maddy. I especially loved getting this old piece of my old self back. And before I knew it, I had worked my way back up to 4-mile runs, three to four times a week. Perhaps most importantly, the weight finally started coming off.
And then the pain started. In October I noticed a dull ache in my heel. Before long, I couldn't make it through a run. And then I'd wake up in the middle of the night, step on my foot, and it felt as if every bone in my foot was broken and it couldn't support my weight, and I'd grip the doorknob and stifle a scream. I knew exactly what it was; I had hurt my plantar fascia when I overtrained for the marathon, stupidly thinking I might qualify for the Olympics or something on my first pass. Back then, when I was young and considerably lighter, I simply rested my foot for a month and wore arch supports around the clock and it went away. This time it did not. I took my self-diagnosed foot to physical therapy where they assign me endless amounts of stretches and exercises, and massage away the scar tissue. I went to see a highfalutin orthopedic sports doctor who recommended surgery. One of my therapists, who has the same problem, took me under his wing and asked me, in one last ditch attempt, to try a podiatrist-of-the-stars before agreeing to having needles stuck in my heel.
What the heck? Might as well. So off I went, hoping someone could give me something to do to make the pain go away so I could run again. I desperately want this piece of my old identity back, and no amount of stationary biking, weights, and sit-ups is taking this weight off. I need it gone too. I'm tired of it, tired of being heavy, tired of my gut, tired of not being able to move like I used to. All because of a child I no longer have.
When I go through my history for these kind guys who ask me up front, "so, what happened?" I give them the condensed version of this -- how long I've been running, injuries I've had in my past, my mileage,
and then I took a year off
and the mileage when I started again, and the lousy shoes I was wearing, and the onset of pain. I tell them all this so I don't present myself as some dilettante who ate too many donuts and decided to take up running in a fit of pique. Not that it matters.
No one has ever asked why I took a year off. I guess runners take time off for different reasons -- kids, jobs, relocation, "personal reasons." No one notices the catch in my breath, or how I sigh my way through that phrase or bothers to question that I'm clearly a bit heavier than a runner of my past should be.
But today, the doctor seemed personable, and when trying to get a sense of my hip to ankle alignment, he asked, "I'm sorry, did you say one child or two?" And out it came. I didn't. Two, but the latter did not end well.
I'm sorry, we had one that ended that way too. Stillbirth at seven months.
I'm so sorry. Ours died when she was six days old.
It was terrible; we had a dead baby in the maternity wing . . .
We don't know; could be infection, could be genetics.
It was so hard on the marriage . . .
Not sure; 1/4 chance this will happen again with no way of knowing and I'm 39 . .
And we had to tell the little guys at home . . .
And you have to tell everyone else . . .
So you know how badly I need to run again and lose this weight, right?
There have been a few points in my life, where, based on the way a person asked a question, my miscarriage radar has gone off and we wound up commiserating. I'm sure there are other deadbaby parents out there, but this was the first time that I knew -- perhaps my guard is finally down far enough? -- that this was a person I could somehow trust with this information. At least trust to handle it well, if nothing else. I did not expect to find a fellow mourner. But he asked me what my short and long term running goals were (4 miles a day, at least four times a week; and before I die I'd like to do a 10 miler and a triathlon), and he treated me with the respect and seriousness that I expect he reserves for the well-paid athletes who adorn his walls.
Maybe it was the promise of custom orthotics that will arrive in two weeks, or the cortisone patches for my heel, or the chance meeting of another deadbaby parent, but when I left, there was a definite spring in my step.