Extraordinary and Ordinary

I’ve lived more, and harder, in the past six months than I have my whole life. My heart has been like a sponge cake that’s just sopping wet and oozing all over with strawberry sauce, only the strawberry sauce is, like, tears. Or just emotions, really.

I’ve always been able to write a lot about pretty much everything I’ve been going through. Whether I kept my thoughts to myself under lock and key in a paper diary (1986), or in Microsoft Works documents (1995) or shared them with a few secret friends on LiveJournal (2001), or now in this blog, the words almost always oozed out with as much vigor as the strawberry sauce.

Not now.

In the spectrum of noteworthy experiences, experiences that are worth writing about and sharing with others, having a child is probably one of the biggest ones (and yet, also, the most ordinary thing ever). So big that I’ve found myself completely unable to write about it. Or even think about it, because thinking about it just made the tears flow faster. The hormones are a bitch. Up is down, down is up, on is off, and the pain of the chronic sleep deprivation always brought to mind this image:

new baby sleep deprivation: ultimate suffering

new baby sleep deprivation: ultimate suffering

But to counter the ultimate suffering is ultimate joy. And Jimmie has been that. He was born of average length and weight, but didn’t gain weight his first month of life, leaving him looking like a small, hairless shar-pei, all skin and wrinkled forehead.

Skinny puppy

Skinny puppy

He looked so worried back in those early days

He looked so worried back in those early days

Turns out I wasn’t able to produce enough milk for him, or the transport mechanism wasn’t speedy enough, and at 4 weeks old his weight was at the third percentile. He Got Milk, just not enough. I spent a few frantic weeks taking nasty tasting tinctures, making lactation cookies and pumping my brains (my boobs?) out, on a round-the-clock schedule, but it still wasn’t enough so we began supplementing with formula.

He thrived.

four weeks old,18th percentile

8 weeks old, 18th percentile

November 6, 19th percentile

9 weeks old, 19th percentile

December 13, 75th percentile

4 months old, 75th percentile

January 6, 75th percentile

5 months old, 75th percentile

February 27, 88th percentile

6 months old, 88th percentile

Suffer Like a Mother

For months two through six we would breastfeed five times a day, so he still got a little of the good stuff, then immediately followed it up with a bottle of formula. Even without the horrid pumping machine, it was a tiring schedule leaving little time for bikes, pedicures, emails, phone calls, or even showers. It’s weird feeling like you have to ask someone if you can take a shower. Especially when you used to be a girl who would just put her motorcycle in her van and drive to Las Vegas.

Nothing prepares you for motherhood. Not even reading “nothing prepares you for motherhood” over and over and over again prepares you for motherhood. Everyone’s experience is so different, and yet so much the same. I like to think that my experience was particularly challenging, as I moved from San Jose to Santa Rosa in my first trimester and got married in my second trimester. But every new mother has her challenging story and I’m slowly learning, thanks to the rigors of marriage, to stop competing for who has the hardest job or the hardest story. It’s all hard, so we just accept that and move forward together.

It takes a village to raise a new mom. Well, if that new mom is me. Thank god I’ve had my parents, my husband, his parents, my cats, my age, my experience. I’d have been hopeless without any of them.

Secrets of the Baby Scheduler

I’m a baby scheduler. It started when Jimmie was around four or five weeks old. Rather than trying to decipher his cries, I fed him and changed him on a regular schedule, and this transitioned nicely into a nighttime sleep schedule, and then a daytime nap schedule. He has been sleeping through the night since he was around 10 weeks old; or, rather, I’ve been sleeping eight hours a night since then. He’s gotten me up maybe four times since then? He’s a brilliant little sleeper and I’m beyond grateful. The trauma of the first few months of sleep deprivation turned me into, like, an abused dog who bites hard any time my sleep at night is threatened. Jimmie’s health and well-being always comes first, but second to that is an aggressive dedication to my slumber.

What scares me? Everything. I like to think that my neutral, even cheerful calculation of the worst that could happen helped keep me safe on motorcycles. Unfortunately, this is not a very cheerful process anymore. I imagine the worst that could happen to Jimmie and it leaves me feeling wrung out and sad, even if we’ve had an outwardly cheery day. I wage constant battles in my mind against future nefarious high school friends wielding drugs, tumbles down the stairs, drunk drivers, creepy neighbors, pointy furniture corners, earrings on the floor, and the worst, the biggest…WHAT IF HE STOPS LOVING ME? Or, just…doesn’t call me that often?

On good days I have all these problems solved in my head. I’m tired, but feel accomplished. Other days I feel buried and hopeless. Killing myself on the motorcycle racetrack is one thing, harming this perfect, gorgeous creature that I brought into the world is a WHOLE NOTHER THING ENTIRELY.

It's like he can see into my soul.

Perfection

Perfection

At least I’m still able to get out and ride my bikes, and sometimes even with my husband:

The funny thing here is that we both had lullabies stuck in our heads.

The funny thing here is that we both had lullabies stuck in our heads.

Motor bikes and baby

Motor bikes and baby

The sad days happen less and less often. Things are looking up.

Mommy & Jimmie

Mommy & Jimmie

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Preggo Adventures in Not Real Sports

Two and a half weeks until my due date and my baby on board is breech. Meaning, instead of readying himself the traditional head-down way, he’s mostly been hanging out in a kind of diver’s pike position, a baby-sized “V”, pointing his little butt towards the door.

I’ve been trying every alternative method known to woman to get him to turn. The gist of most of these methods are to get yourself upside down and confuse the baby as to which end is up, hopefully startling him into the correct ready position once he assumes it. So I stack up four thick pillows on my couch, sit on it, and then let my upper body lean back onto the couch. I get on my hands and knees on the end of the couch, then lower my upper body onto the floor. I’ve also been seeing a chiropractor for what’s known as “The Webster Technique,” a series of adjustments designed to open up the pelvis and uterus, giving the baby more room to maneuver.

My doctor, not a quack or goofball or alternative medicine man, but a legit Kaiser doctor who has the 2013 Bike Monkey calendar up in his office and loves riding his mountain bike at Annadel, also suggested moxibustion, an eastern medicine technique related to acupuncture that involves the burning of mugwort root over each pinky toe. I have actually been doing this. Once I got past feeling silly, I started to enjoy the peacefulness of sitting in my newly trimmed up backyard, lighting the little nubs of packed up root, and watching my cats eyeballing me from the living room.

Dr. Sacher also suggested dolphin dives in the pool, and it’s long been known that swimming is a great late pregnancy workout. I’ve been wondering if the gentle touches of my thighs on Baby Mayhem’s house walls while pedaling two hours a day has him thinking that’s not a good place for my head, so, I decided to go swimming yesterday.

Swimming is like a sister sport to cycling and running, the trifecta of true fitness domination; it all makes me think of this scene from Eastbound and Down:

“I play real sports…not try to be the best at exercising.”

Too bad I don’t know how to swim. Too bad I don’t like the water. I don’t like getting my head wet or submerging it. I like to wear makeup and keep it mostly on while I exercise. My hair is fragile and my skin is pampered; chlorine is the devil. And swim caps…ugh.

I know how to not die from drowning, but I don’t know how to swim a freestyle stroke. During my pregnancy I’ve been keeping an eye out at my gym and in the community for swim lessons for adults, and have found nothing. There’s abundance of swim lessons for kids, but how is a grown-up supposed to start from square one? We have all sorts of cycling lessons and clinics out there, as well as friendly bike shop employees who’ll help get you started when you buy a bike. What gives, swimming?

In a fit of optimism about turning this baby, I went to REI and bought a purple TYR swimsuit and a swim cap (I already had some goggles from a previous failed attempt to become a swimmer). And then yesterday, I showed up at my beautiful gym barely knowing where the pool was. I slithered my whale-like pregnant body into the swimsuit and waddled outside, listening for splashing noises and following them.

I also don’t like cold water. I found a lane with a child on a kick board in it, the other lanes being populated by actual lap swimmers, and I dipped a toe in. I got in up to my neck, felt a quick, cold rush of unpleasantness, but once it passed, I was comfortable. I started out with the only way I really know how to maneuver through the water, and that’s a sort of casual breast stroke, head resolutely above the surface.

After a few minutes my arms and inner thighs were feeling the strain of the new body movements. I looked around at all the other swimmers, observing their strokes. Stroke-stroke-breathe. So I tried a half lap of flailing freestyle at first, then a full lap. It was exhausting, and I constantly felt as if I were sinking. I tried some kick board. Some more breast stroke. People were not friendly.

It felt like I’d been swimming for hours, but only five minutes had passed. I kept swimming. I’d originally planned to swim for an hour. The child on the kick board continued to swim circles around me, carefully avoiding the splashes of my helpless, jerky movements.

About 15 minutes in I stopped on the side to do a manual measurement of my heart rate. I was out of breath, so surely I was doing work, but my heart rate was barely 100.

“This is stupid,” I thought. I missed my bike. I sneered, in my mind, at the snooty swimmers, thinking about how much they would suffer on a mountain bike. It made me feel a little bit better, but not much.

When I was done, I found a woman standing on the side of the pool who looked like a coach of some sort, and asked her about private lessons. She said to leave my name and number at the desk and she’d be in touch. I’m not optimistic, I’ve actually done this before, and never got any calls.

Again, I ask, “what gives, swimming?”

It’s hard enough on your self-esteem to be pregnant in the first place. Going swimming yesterday, by myself, no support from friends or anyone, and then sucking horrifically, might be the hardest thing I’ve done in a while. Like a fish out of water, or a lost bike monkey who fell in a swimming pool, this chick definitely did not belong.

Annadel XC 2013 Promo from Bike Monkey INC on Vimeo.

Posted in Baby Mayhem | 13 Comments

It’s a…Motorcycle!

Pretend that in two months you’re going to be racing motorcycles. Every day.

How to go from girl racing spectator...

...to girl racer. IN TWO MONTHS.

You’ve never raced motorcycles before. You don’t even have a motorcycle. Your brother and sister have a few, but that’s about the extent of your experience with them. You’ve been told that your motorcycle will be a Yamaha, but you don’t even know what model, nor do you even know what day, exactly, the motorcycle stork will drop off your new baby and your racing career will begin.

You also have nothing by which to transport your motorcycle. You’ve got a van, but no wheel chocks, tie downs, or canyon dancers. You don’t even know yet that you want canyon dancers. You don’t have any tools, tires, gas cans, spare wheels, tire warmers, extension cords, or a generator. You don’t have that thingamabob that keeps the rear caliper together as you change the wheel. You don’t know what thingamabobs, thingamajigs, and gizzywhizzes you really need, and which ones are a waste of money. You don’t know that having a lap timer is really awesome, which bike stands are the highest quality, or if you’ll have access to natural fuel, or be required to supply it with formula.

Zero to racer in two months. Of course, I’ve had seven months to prepare, but the first three were spent planning a move. The next three, a wedding. And now it’s time to shop.

No, I’m not actually considering a return to motorcycle racing; the stork is actually bringing me a human baby. But I’m trying to register for my baby shower right now, and feeling a little overwhelmed. As the analogy suggests, we have absolutely nothing baby related. A few hand made bibs that my aunt made for me, and a Raiders onesie that a colleague of James brought him. I did pick up a seriously bad ass Bob Revolution SE jog stroller off Craigslist a few weeks ago, but that won’t even become useful until a couple months after the big day.

As for racing technique, I’ve been reading some books, and James and I will be taking some classes. Pretty incredible that the worst case scenario is, well, not having a baby anymore, and all you can do to prepare are take some classes and read some books. The reassuring thing is that people have been having babies for thousands of years, and most do an adequate job of it, at least well enough to get the child to one day procreate himself.

Here’s a photo from the last day I ever raced a motorcycle. California Speedway in Fontana, January 2012. I’m not sure I remember exactly what was going on that day, aside from the vexing cold and wind, but the look Amanda Upton captured here is not too dissimilar from how I feel right now. Searching. Trying to piece together clues to an uncertain future, perhaps.

So, what are your favorite baby thingamabobs and gizzywhizzes? Baby gear advice. Bring it.

Posted in Baby Mayhem | 2 Comments

Preggoland: not quite as fun as Christieland (or even Legoland)

“I’m so good at running downhill!” I thought as I floated down Annadel State Park’s Canyon Trail, a wide, rocky dirt road. I checked my running watch to see my pace on the mile dropping steadily, heart rate moderate at 143, approaching a total of 7 miles.

Rocky Canyon Trail

Resplendent in my new Lululemon running outfit, it was an afternoon filled with love and triumph. I’d jogged past a pair of turkeys involved in a mating dance, and even ran into my husband out biking with friends. I returned my gaze to the trail, soaking in the beauty around me, the wonder of the world. High on life and feeling rad for my 22 weeks of baby on board.

And then it looked almost exactly like this, only without the lashes, and with sneakers:

My right knee hit first, square on a rock, then the left, then the left palm, then the right, and my momentum carried me into a little roll. I saw my iPhone rocketing away from me, still blasting some cheerful disco. My Vanderkitten water bottle was rapidly rolling off the trail. Had one of the other trail users been taking my picture, I would have hissed, my mouth in the dirt, “stop fucking taking my picture!”

I got up and knew that Baby Mayhem was fine; he probably had a wilder ride when his parents recently consummated their marriage than he did from my 3 mph somersault. But my knees hurt; I was stunned and humiliated.

Like me, only smaller and way more cute

Naturally, as soon as I got up, a super rad chick I’d recently met appeared on the trail, climbing up Canyon on her mountain bike. My dusting of dirt revealed the ugly truth. We commiserated briefly, high fived like Carrie and Heidi, and off I went, wallowing in shame: Pregnant! Dumb! A bad mommy! Slow! Clumsy too!

Being pregnant makes you clumsy, only I’ve been way too arrogant to admit it. Even the great Pink tweeted about her preggo clumsiness.

Your center of gravity changes as your belly grows

So, now what? I shouldn’t mountain bike anymore, and now I’m so clumsy I can’t even run. I could run laps between my house and the grocery store, on nice smooth pavement and from one potty to another, but how fun would that be? And what if I had rolled over, belly first, onto a pointy rock?

I was really starting to enjoy trail running. I was discovering an empowerment similar to that I felt while improving at mountain biking, and motorcycle racing, the kind of flabbergasting joy that comes from seeing yourself do things you never thought possible. Now, my knee took such a blow I couldn’t even run or bike for several days, making me a whiny, cranky wreck.

“Just…slow down,” said James. “Enjoy being pregnant. You’re making a baby! That’s pretty rad. It’s only a few more months.”

“Yeah,” I said with a sad smile, thinking to myself, “but you don’t understaaaaaaaaaand.” But I wasn’t sure that I understood either. I’m not afraid of losing my body. I can get that back. I’m not afraid of losing my fitness (well, maybe I am a little).

I’m afraid of losing my soul.

A friend recently posted a Facebook link to coverage of Rebecca Rusch doing the latest astonishing feat of pain and endurance on a mountain bike, and posed the question, “have you ever strived to be something bigger than yourself?” My answer to that is always, well, “always,” but my next question was:

Why?

Why am I not content to simply be myself, and settle on pursuing fulfillment in doing something I’ll always be better than the boys at?

I still don’t know the answers to WHY. People ask me what keeps me going, why I’m doing so much, how do I find the motivation. I’ve exercised, either biking or running, 8-12 hours a week since I got knocked up (albeit all at a lower intensity). Why? I honestly have no idea.

But, why?

Because I have to. I love it.

Why?

Because it makes me feel good about myself.

Why?

Because I like seeing myself improve; I like finding out how hard I can push, what I’m made of.

Why?

Because then I feel stronger than other people. Harder. Faster. And that makes me feel happy.

Why?

Because I’m too competitive. And don’t have anything other than sports that I draw self esteem from.

Why?

Because my career is in this weird transition point between real job, consulting, and mommyhood, and I’m kind of just drifting along in the universe looking for meaning.

“Well, why not just draw competitive satisfaction from the fact that you even got pregnant?” a friend asked. “Most women would be jealous! To get pregnant so quickly at 37 is kind of like its own QOM.”

This is happening more and more these days

“Being pregnant is like a hobby for some women,” another friend explained. “They get attention, gifts, they start reading all the books and really get into it.” I’ve never understood this. We are people. This is what we do. Why should I be admired for doing what is expected of my species? Teenagers with double digit IQs get pregnant. It happens all the time.

This, however, does NOT.

Neither does winning motorcycle races with sixty stitches in your hip (from a bicycle accident):

Yes, yes, yes, pregnancy is a wonderful, miraculous, amazing thing. That just so happens to happen EVERY DAY and has for HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF YEARS. It’s incredibly exciting when it happens to a loved one, but it’s incredibly boring in the macro, history of the world sense.

And it’s incredibly exciting when it happens to me. I am excited to bring a child into the world. I just sometimes wish that someone else could bake this bun. Would I really hire a surrogate? No. But my body is how I express myself, how I experience the world, how I have fun, how I make my own little life seem less insignificant. But it’s someone else’s body too right now, which makes me a little cranky and sour sometimes. Not only is my body Baby Mayhem’s body too, it even feels like it belongs to James, and in a weird way, with how judge-y everyone is about pregnant women and mothers and how we, as women, so often internalize these real or perceived judgments, to the world.

I recently went on my honeymoon to Maui. It was super awesome sitting around being pregnant and watching James drink mai tais and ride his bicycle up and down volcanoes.

Glory. I miss glory. James at the top of Haleakala.

But this too shall pass, and I’ll have an amazing baby boy at the end of it all who I’m sure I’ll love more than drinking mai tais and shredding trails and glory all rolled into one. It’s only three more months, and with the way time is flying, it’s going to be, like, tomorrow when he’s graduating from kindergarten.

I promise that I’m following doctor’s orders about what’s safe for baby and what’s not (if the speed limit is 65…I go 65…point five). I’m pleased by my new status as breeder. I’m thrilled to have James in my life, and I’m overjoyed by his excitement and how he loves to snuggle me and feel the baby kick.

So I’m making myself enjoy the quiet moments while I still can; in three months’ time, maybe a little more, my world is going to get a lot noisier. A lot less “alone.” It will be a lot harder to just pick up and go to Annadel for a run or a ride. I guess it’s just a bit of a surprise to me how it feels like this little dictator is already ordering me around!

It's a honey badger, and he says no more trail running

How far along? 25 weeks
How big is the baby? Rutabaga, according to BabyCenter.com, but given that a few weeks ago he was already almost a week ahead of schedule, and with how huge I am feeling, I’m pretty sure he’s at least a head of cauliflower by now.
Weight Gained: 15 pounds. REALLY feeling it going uphill on my bicycle.
Waist Size: 36″
Maternity Clothes: Pretty much living in stretchy workout shorts and pants, and my new favorite Lululemon Cool Racerback tank tops: long enough for a long-torsoed pregnant lady, and super cute. Also have some gorgeous maternity friendly summer dresses.

22 week bump

Exercising: Still biking and running an average of 8-12 hours per week. Rode 80 miles this past weekend! Here’s my friend Kelly and I after crossing the finish line on the route of the Amgen Tour of California:

A really perfect day, almost felt like I was a real human again!

Stretch marks? Please, please, please, no. My abdominal muscles have separated though, it’s this freaky thing called diastasis recti. If it doesn’t return to its original condition after birth, heads will roll.
Symptoms: Massive, unrelenting congestion. Allergies are kicking in HARD up in Sonoma County too. As if being pregnant weren’t sexy enough, my husband wakes up to find me snoring, or mouth wide open, fast asleep. Emo. Experiencing the delights of a slowed down digestive system. Starting to feel waddly.
Sleep: 7-8 hours a night
Best moment this week: Snuggly, happy moments with my baby daddy.
Miss Anything? Drinking, shredding, hot tubbing.
Number of times I get up to pee each night: 2-4
Movement: tons
Food cravings: pizza, waffles, pancakes
Anything making you queasy or sick: Nope.
Have you started to show yet: Yes, a week ago a stranger asked me if I was pregnant!
Gender: Boy
Labor Signs: No
Belly Button in or out? Partially out!
Mood: Not loving being pregnant. Getting uncomfortable too.
Looking forward to: Not being pregnant, having a baby, and being on the road to recovery back to a normal human!

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14 1/2 Weeks

Like 9 1/2 weeks, only five more, and way less sexy. I’ve always heard that pregnant chicks “glow,” but my body is having none of it.

My life is a whirlwind of work, exercise, extreme nesting in the new Santa Rosa home, and wedding planning. Now that we’ve survived the tenuous first trimester (first trimester miscarriage rates are as high as 1 in 5) and cleared the chromosomal testing, I’ve been breathing about a hundred sighs of relief every day.

Now I’ve just gotta not screw it up. So, Tuesday was my last “interesting” mountain bike ride; a 20 mile, two and a half hour jaunt around Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa. Making it extra special were my pal Diana, and two new pals, Julie and Kelly. The risks are just too great; one false move down a trail like Lawndale, one burped tire, one kamikaze squirrel (of the animal or human variety), one unlucky landing, and baby mayhem could be history.

Funnily enough, my doctor told me with great vehemence that I am not to go skiing. I did, in fact, go skiing, in Breckenridge a couple weeks ago. I’m not a confident double black diamond skier, but I’m pretty damned confident everywhere else, and don’t crash (a lot). Besides, there was so much powder that the couple times I tipped over (at, like, 3 mph) it was like landing in a little cloud.

She breezily said that I could continue to ride my bike until 28 weeks. I’m not sure that she’s aware of that fact that to me and my friends, bike riding usually means this:

This is Diana filming yesterday, with me here and there just ahead of her. I was playing it very safe, but still having some fun. So, goodbye “interesting” mountain biking. I’ll continue to ride road, carefully, and some boring, safe trails, as well as jog, hike and get into the gym.

Belly Pic:

Haven't found a great place or outfit or system yet for these belly pics - house is still a mess!

How far along? 14.5 weeks
How big is the baby? Lemon
Weight Gained: 5 pounds. Really feeling it going uphill on my bicycle.
Waist Size:
Exercising: I’ve been biking and running an average of 8-12 hours per week. Last week, it was ten hours even. 3 road rides for 90 miles, one 20 mile mountain bike ride, and a fun hike/jog with my sister for five miles at Quicksilver Park in San Jose. She motors!
Stretch marks? No
Symptoms: Bloated! Congested! Dry skin. Bad skin. Not fitting into my jeans anymore.
Sleep: 7-8 hours a night
Best moment this week: Best moment of the last couple weeks: learning that baby mayhem is in perfect chromosomal condition, and, a boy. Seeing him kick and thrash in the ultrasound.
Miss Anything? Wine, pushing myself on the bike, feeling like I can ride down mountain bike trails with abandon
Number of times I get up to pee each night: 2-4
Movement: not that I can feel yet
Food cravings: waffles, cake, bread, cheese
Anything making you queasy or sick: Not really. I’m fortunate to not have had any morning sickness.
Have you started to show yet: Sort of. The girls on my ride Tuesday commented on it!
Gender: Boy!
Labor Signs: God I hope not.
Belly Button in or out? In!
Mood: Definitely more emotional than usual. Sad songs, even happy songs, make me cry. I’ve been having to listen to a lot of news radio lately to preserve my eye makeup.
Looking forward to: Going backpacking in the Santa Cruz mountains with Nikki!

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