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Pregnancy’s Equivalent of an Ironman

Jennifer Schlozman recently wrote about getting rid of mommy guilt and embracing fitness post-baby. She’ll be contributing more around here, so say hi and get friendly! Jennifer’s a former Weight Watchers Leader Ambassador and has lost 40 pounds pre-baby and 82 pounds post-baby. She’s a runner, triathlete and completed her first half marathon this year.


It’s scary to get excited about the baby shoes sometimes… Credit: _-0-_, Flickr

My first sprint triathlon was in 2009. Leading up to it, I stuck to a strict training schedule consisting of strength and all levels of intensity. My body was ready, race day was here. I checked all my gear and made sure to set it all up in my transition spot accordingly. Looking around I found my markers, I knew how many rows to count from the lake to my bike and where my exit and re-entrance points were to transition from bike to run. Every movement was calculated, every action accounted for. I got this; I was ready.

I didn’t voluntarily sign up for an endurance event in the winter of 2010. My husband and I were married a few short months when we learned we were pregnant. We were nervous and excited; we couldn’t stop smiling and talking about what our life would look like in nine months. My mom flew in from Chicago for our first sonogram, and the sound of our baby’s heart was the most fascinating noise my ears have ever heard. Each thump felt vibrant in my body; this is happening. There is something inside of me that I was ready to help flourish. I am strong, I have trained, I am in excellent health. Our appointments and blood work all looked great. We were ready.

February 2011, my Dad was stuck in Kansas City because of a blizzard. This was great news for us, as his flight wasn’t leaving for a few days, and he’d be able to be part of a sonogram. I’ll never forget the sound of my dad’s silence. You could hear noise in complete silence. I guess it doesn’t matter how many years out of the fire department and paramedic squad one is, my dad never forgot how to read an ultrasound. He knew the news before us — and I read the words right off of his face.

My appointment turned into a consultation regarding choices. My choice was to start a family, my choice was to give my husband a child; that was the choice we made. I knew my choices, I didn’t need the doctor to give me a list to choose from. I was ready, my body was ready, I was healthy. The doctor’s voice began to fade, I didn’t even notice any movement in the room. In the beginning of a race, you begin to ask yourself if you really trained as well as you could have. You start to think back to your schedule and wonder if you missed any mileage. What did I do wrong?

A few weeks and one heart breaking surgery later, I was recovering. At least physically. Finishing an Ironman is the highlight of any triathlete’s career, so we dusted ourselves off and began another race season. When I called my mom to tell her I was pregnant — again — it felt like a motion. It didn’t feel special, or exciting, it felt completely staged. A sigh of relief came over me when I heard that heartbeat, but I’d been there, I’d trained before. My sonogram was like watching a familiar movie: you recognize the moves the actors will make and you’re all too familiar with the story. There are no surprises, no mysteries, you know this one by heart. We didn’t schedule our follow-up appointment; we checked out of the office and scheduled another D&C.

There are many training options that are specific to each category of the race. We needed answers. When my first due date approached, I was meeting with a perinatologist. Instead of meeting my baby, I was learning about different blood factors and what it means to test positive for ANA and lupus. Rather than going out to buy more diapers, we were now on our way to the rheumatologist appointment to take a closer look at these results. I do not have lupus, I have methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase — its street name is MTHFR. The blood in my uterus was forming clots, and my body was feeding the clots and not the baby. My body was treating the baby as a foreign object and destroying it months later.

No matter how hard you train for a race, you never know if your body is really ready. All too often, I was told this was Mother Nature, an act of God. It wasn’t, and I was exhausted from the self-blame game. My body did this, my body didn’t protect those two babies, my body destroyed them and stopped their lives before they began. I can’t help but wonder who they would have been? A dancer? A basketball player? Would they have my husband’s warm eyes or my crooked smile? Those two due dates will be forever imprinted in my heart, and I ache each time the days come and go. Their due dates stop me, and my surgery dates were a funeral. I’ll never forget, I’ll never let it go.

No matter how exhausted I feel towards the end of a race, I always get a burst of energy when I cross the finish line. For 36 weeks, I prepared for Evan by taking a baby aspirin each night to thin out my blood. My pregnancy wasn’t easy. I had edema to the tune of 75 pounds (mixed with pancakes and Oreos) preeclampsia and pregnancy-induced hypertension towards the end. Instead of a normal appointment turning into the ending to a familiar movie, we were entering the unknown. For 37 weeks, I didn’t rub my belly. I didn’t get attached. I didn’t connect — I was just pregnant. When we were admitted to be induced, I was tired and emotionally and physically drained. The finish line was three weeks in front of me, but I was finishing the race early. My body told the doctor it was time.

August 25, 2012: My husband and I welcomed our baby boy Evan Cole into our lives. He is perfect. He loves hard, smiles crooked and stands tall. It is true: this is the highlight of my career, my life, my everything.

Did you have trouble staying pregnant? Feel like your pregnancy was a triathlon? —Jennifer

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