Sunday, October 18, 2009

Running into pregnancy

Every Sunday in the fall, I train with a running club to prepare for a half-marathon in December. when I decided to start trying to get pregnant, I mentioned my plan to my acupuncturist during a regular visit. She started at the thought, and said firmly, "Oh no, you can't run when you're trying to get pregnant. It can prevent implantation--all that pounding, you see what I mean?" In that moment, I was just as shocked as was my acupuncturist. I'd never considered giving up any physical activity in order to get pregnant or really even during a pregnancy, unless it became medically necessary. The notion that I'd already have to start compromising and "giving up parts of myself" for the sake of my unborn child was upsetting to me.

I started running to help myself deal with a series of losses a few years ago, and I found that it has helped my mental health more than anything besides hiking and camping. Although I still find it difficult and uncomfortable, I keep up with it as much as possible and set goals (like the half-marathon) for myself in order to maintain a routine that steadies my emotions. When I imagined giving up running for as long at it takes to get pregnant--and possibly for the pregnancy itself--I actually felt scared; how can I be comfortable in my skin without this hobby?

Naturally, I researched the topic online and found plenty of medical evidence confirming that, as long as you've been a runner, it's quite safe to continue running into your pregnancy (with a few reasonable restrictions later in the process). The OB-GYN I visited concurred, as long as I keep my heart rate below 140. So, I've been jogging in my usual pattern and have felt 95% sure that it was the right decision. I figured that my acupuncturist was being over-cautious since she primarily deals with couples dealing with infertility; I bought new running shoes and hit the road.

All has gone well, until this morning. Today, we did a 2 hour and 10 minute run, which turned out to be about 12 miles for me (we run very slowly in this phase of the training, much to my delight). I started feeling queasy around mile 10, and walked a while, but continued feeling "off" for the rest of the run. Even though I'm confident that the nausea was a natural reaction to the length of the run and the Lara bar I noshed on along the way, the feeling did make me pause. I wondered if I was depleting my reserves too much--am I hindering my chance at getting pregnant just so I can keep up my "hobby"? Is this a wise choice, in terms of my mental health, or a needlessly reckless one?

Several years ago, I read a book (which I THINK is called Baby Love by Rebecca Walker, but I can't quite tell based on the excerpts I've perused on Amazon) and in it, the author grapeled with the decision of whether or not she should continue to take her anti-depressants whilst pregnant. She was afraid of the affect the pills could have on the fetus, but she was also afraid of the affect SHE could have on the fetus, her life, and herself if she didn't keep taking her meds. In the end, she chose to take the medication and I remember thinking, wow, motherhood doesn't have to be all about sacrifice.

Now, here I am facing a (slightly) similar situation and I'm feeling guilty for making a similar choice. Running is my anti-depressant of choice in the autumn and I really do think it's better for everyone involved (myself, my husband and our potential child) if I just keep on moving. So, why do I feel still feel so conflicted about this decision? Uh-oh. I think I feel a mother's guilt before I'm even a mother! That sounds like me. I'd better go for another run...

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