A tale of two screens
After competing in the Olympic Marathon Trials in February 2016, I set my sights on another special goal which my husband and I had in mind for a long time: starting a family! After the biggest race of my life and before spring and fall marathons, the timing felt perfect. We started trying that month... and, spoiler alert, it didn't happen like we thought.
In preparation for getting pregnant, I didn't sign up for a fall marathon and I cut way back on my mileage and races. I thought the reduced stress and lower mileage would put my body in a better position to conceive, which it certainly does for some women. But not for me. Month after month, my digital pregnancy tests showed two words: "NOT PREGNANT." (BTW, do they really need to put those words in ALL CAPS??) We grew more and more disappointed each month, and it was especially hard when the fall marathon cycle came and went. I couldn't help but think, "Man, I could have run one of those, I could have been training this whole time, if I had only known I wasn't going to get pregnant this year." I felt let down.
Almost a year later, in January 2017, I decided that I couldn't wait around any longer hoping to get pregnant. I had to go on with my life, do what I would normally do and what I love, and if it was meant to be it would work out. That meant getting back to running. So, I decided to sign up for the 2017 Boston Marathon. I knew my 2:40 qualifying time would put me in the Elite Women's Field, and this gave me something to be excited about during this difficult time. We made long-term plans, too: I signed up for the Chicago Marathon in October and Ian signed up for the NYC Marathon in November. If we had to alter those plans then we would...but I wasn't going to let another year of my favorite sport pass us by without putting myself back out there.
Meanwhile, I made an appointment with my OB-GYN to see what the next steps were for us. Were we doing something wrong? Was it time to discuss fertility treatment? Did running have anything to do with me not getting pregnant? My doctor assured me that my regular menstrual cycle was a good sign (especially since I run a lot, which can result in infrequent periods) but then she asked: "How are you tracking your ovulation?" I told her I had been using an iPhone app, P. Tracker, which gave me a week-long fertile window based on the information I entered into the app (my menstrual cycle, sleep, diet, exercise, etc.). She told me to try an ovulation kit instead, which means peeing on a stick every day after your menstrual cycle to find your two most fertile days every month. Well, it turns out that my most fertile days were two days after my period ended — we had been way off!
The next month, instead of dreading taking a pregnancy test as I had come to do, I couldn't wait. So when, once again, it said "NOT PREGNANT" on the screen, I was crushed. A friend had recently shared the news that she was expecting, and as thrilled as I truly was for her I couldn't help but think: "Why can't that be me?"
I saw my OB-GYN again to start the fertility treatment talk. She was supportive, but a little surprised to see me again so soon, and told me that sometimes, when women come in to discuss fertility treatments, they have already conceived. I shrugged it off, that "NOT PREGNANT" screen fresh in my mind, but she gave me hope that my day might come soon.
Four days later, on February 12, the period icon popped up on my app saying that I should start my period on this day. But no period. I waited all day, and still, it didn't show up. I was worried to take another test; I didn't want to be let down. Again. But I went for it. I peed on the stick and then hopped in the shower, not wanting to look at the result. After about 10 minutes, I got out, took a deep breath, and there it was on the screen, a single word in all caps: "PREGNANT."
I stared at it for a good two minutes and turned it around from every angle to make sure I wasn't seeing things. And then I took another one. Same result. I had spent around $200 on pregnancy test kits over the last year, so I've seen a lot of negative results. This one was definitely positive. I burst into tears. I was excited, terrified, shocked, and overwhelmed all at the same time. Was it really my time?? Still in disbelief that I was really pregnant, I was strangely nervous to announce the news to Ian. What if the test results (plural) were wrong? We'd been let down so many times before. It was only 7:00am, and Ian wouldn't get back from his long run until noon. I wasn't sure how to tell him; should I wait until Valentine's Day?? I had always imagined preparing some big surprise when the time finally came — but now that it had, there was no way I could wait 5 hours let alone several days!
I ran out to the store and found a card that read: "When was the last time you thought, 'This is the best day of my life?'" Inside I wrote, "TODAY at 7:01am! We are pregnant!" When he arrived home from his run and discovered the card on the counter, I explained that I got him a Valentine a little early this year. He opened it and immediately teared up. "Really?! You're pregnant?!" He was also in disbelief. A year's worth of ups and downs, and constantly thinking, "Will this ever happen for us?" And now, it finally had!
Later that day, I received another important message on another screen: an email from the Boston Athletic Association saying that I was officially in the Elite Women's Race, with bib #W34 — 34th seeded female. I had worked my ass off for that bib, and to be in that race. I had also worked my ass off to conceive. Finally getting pregnant was a dream come true, but a piece of me still felt sad to miss out on this opportunity. I didn't even know where to start. Should I run at all? Do I train still, and how? How do I cover up the fact that I'm NOT training for a marathon PR, when everyone knows that I am supposed to be running?
And then, it hit me again: I'M PREGNANT!!
Coming soon: follow my journey through marathon training during my first trimester.