Monday, July 13, 2015

Coping with a miscarriage... finishing a 70.3 half ironman


It's been a learning curve the last few months.  It wasn't really a hard decision getting pregnant again with our 7th child.  We had our concerns since we would need a bigger vehicle and our house seems to be shrinking but Luke and I opened our hearts to a new little one with relative ease.  I had some nervousness about telling society we were having yet another baby.  I knew the news would be baffling to some since we already had our baby girl.  I can't tell you how many times I've been asked "So are you done" in a tone that sounds like I'm finally finishing a prison sentence.  I don't really mind the question so much as I just don't really see it that way.  I love love love this stage of being a woman.  I don't want it to go away, I'm not wanting my kids to grow up too quickly and if I could freeze time along the way here and there I would.  So the thought of being "done" doesn't make me feel free... it seems like an inevitable thing that will happen but I don't pine for that end or plan for it with excitement.  Feeling peaceful about having another baby made the miscarriage more... confusing.  I wasn't mad at God when I miscarried, but I did try to find the meaning in it all.  In the end, I feel like I am a more rounded mother now...because I've grieved the loss of a little one and sadly, that is part of being a women for many.  It's part of the fabric of this broken universe and I'm not bitter that I had to walk it.  Sad-yes, confused-sure, hormonal-definitely, bitter-thankfully no.

One thing I was really missing was being able to show my little one love.  I have faith that I will be able to see what the baby looks like some day and I'll know that baby's true name...but I didn't get to love and nurture the baby earth side.  I didn't want to see the baby when I miscarried, which later made me feel guilty...like I rejected the child in some way.  but in my more sane moments, I know I was just scared and a bit in shock.  I also know that it made no difference to my little one and it's really all a head game for me to work through.  I still wanted to show my lost child in some way how much I loved him/her though and so I decided to run the Muncie 70.3 again.  The year I signed up for it 3 years ago it had been shortened because of crazy extreme heat that day, so it seemed like unfinished business.  It seemed like something I could focus on.  It seemed like therapy to cross a hard won finish line.

I knew I couldn't get ready in 8 weeks by myself, 16 weeks (or more) would be more typical for a race that long so I called my cousin Brant who is a triathlon coach and told him I needed to train for something to cope with my loss.  He was all encouragement and support.  Everything I needed, but he must have wondered if I was going to be able to pull it off in such a short time.  I set my goal to finish before the cut off (8 hours depending on waves) and got to it.  I had a lot of bleeding from the miscarriage (to the point of passing out cold at one point) so I started taking a liquid iron supplement and tried to eat really well and kept taking my vitamins.  I was feeling really well during training.  Brant started me off slow and built up the distance little by little each week so it seems quite doable.

If you don't want to read about blood loss...skip the next paragraph and my apologies in advance :)


Race weekend was fast approaching and I was getting excited.  I even started to think I should set some ambitious time goals for additional motivation - but then.... I started bleeding again.  Not "Oh, my body is getting back to normal yay" bleeding...like "what is my body trying to do to me, I'm going to die" bleeding.  Obviously my uterine lining was not back to normal after the miscarriage because I had major clotting issues which led to free flowing bleeding Thursday.  Then again on the way out to get my race packet, everything broke loose again and I had to stop at a Cluvers to use the bathroom.  Only, I didn't make it in before I became indecent for public exposure.  I was literally standing in a stream of my own blood in the parking lot with my jeans completely soaked through and down my leg.  I kicked off my sandals in shock trying to figure out what to do.  I knew I needed to massage my abdomen like they do in the hospital after you have a baby...but it didn't stop the bleeding.  I draped a blanket across the door that I had in the truck and using some clean shop clothes of Luke's and some black yoga pants, I finally was able to tie a shirt around my waist and slip inside without looking like I was dying to get things under control in the bathroom.  I thought about posting a picture of my pants for you that Luke took (he's an EM doc...so he reflexively takes pictures like that) but you may have a bad dream or something so I'll spare you.  Luke estimates I lost at least a pint and a half of blood if not two from Thursday through Saturday when the race was.  A human has a pint of blood for every 10-15 lbs of body mass approximately...you can donate a pint of blood and go about your business...but running a race right after may not be the best idea.  I didn't change my race plans though and no one seemed willing to tell me to (not that I was really telling too many people how much blood loss I was experiencing).   I grew more and more determined as the memories of the miscarriage seems all the more real and relived.  I had a heart rate monitor and planned to heavily rely on it to race safely and avoid a black out.  But basically my muscles where all built up and primed to go...but now I was running on less juice.

My first cousin Brant... aka Coach

gathering all the gear the day before...

The night before the race, our babysitter we've had for years came with me to spend the night at a rather seedy hotel that still had a room when I tried to find one late in the game.  I later regretted booking it after reading a review about a guest getting bed bug bites, but they wouldn't allow a cancelation on the race weekend bookings.  So I checked the mattress from top to bottom and it looked new.  So we decided a "how bad can it be" attitude would get us through the night and started to settle in (which included bringing my road bike into the room and setting up a blender... :).  Later when I tried to hook up the phone jack behind the bed for a 4:30 am wake up call, I found a bug on the wall.  A bed bug...on the wall.  We left to stay at the friend's house where Luke was with all the kids in a hurry (30 minute drive).  On a positive note, I got my money back for the reservation. ;)  I was on a couch trying to sleep by 12:30...but laid there awake until about 3am worrying about surviving the race.  I was mentally plotting survival strategies involving water bottle wash downs and port-o-let stations along the bike and run routes...I couldn't sleep.  I dozed for an hour before getting up at 4am to make a shake and head to the race site.  I felt awake, I felt like I was okay to race... but knew I was running on adernaline.  It was becoming more and more of a mountain to climb...I grew more and more determined to finish.  I stuffed an ultrasound picture into my race jersey pocket and mentally pictured taking it out once I got to the finish and got into the truck to head to the reservoir.

 This is after the race...but it's kind of the face I made when I saw the bed bug too so...
It's dark when you arrive at the race site that early.  Usually the excitement of all the other racers kind of oozes into the air and makes it feel like it's day.  follow directions and people waving flashlights to park...check your gear in the bags and air up the the bike tires to 120.  Start walking to the transition area.  I was doing everything in steps...like someone telling me what to do from outside of my own head and I would just follow along.  I talked through the possible stress triggers with a girl that had never been open water swimming before...calming her down helped calm me down in a sense.  Then we were in the water...I had trouble regulating my breathing for ten minutes when it normally takes a bout five minutes to chill out and just swim.  I was pretty high strung at the start and didn't trust my physical state...which you mentally have to trust yourself in open water or it's just too scary.  The water is murky and if you imagine passing out and sinking...it's just too much and your heart rate spikes.  I started thinking about all the regrets I had related to the miscarriage-let my mind muse and wonder...things that I could control, things I couldn't and let them go one at a time.  I imagined them sinking... I'm going to try to leave them in that reservoir.

swim time: my watch split said 42 minutes, official time said: 46:34
swim distance 1.2 miles

I had trained on the bike up to 40 miles and the bike course is 56 miles.  So I paced myself and tried not to burn out my legs saving some for the run.  At around mile 40, my bike chain dropped off the ring while shifting...this has never happened to me before during a race or training and I've never put the chain back on myself.  I didn't do the best job of it...I tried to get it back on without flipping the bike over, got it jammed...got it unstuck and took a deep breath-remembered to turn the crank shaft backward instead of forward from some youtube movie I watched on greasing a chain...got it back on but was leery of changing to the big ring for the rest of the bike course.  All my gatorade had dumped out of my tank when I flipped the bike.  I decided my bottle with plain water was enough for the last part of the bike leg.  Only...I dropped it when I tried to take a drink and I had already passed up the aid station bottles of gatorade because I felt kind of queazy and just wanted water and salt stick tablets.  Now I had nothing for about 50 minutes.  I got a little nervous when my vision seemed like things were brighter.  I didn't know if it was just getting more sunny or if I wasn't seeing normally.  I'm still not sure because there was a lot of cloud cover early on.  I saw everyone along the side of the road when I came in on the bike finish, Scott, Gigi, Luke, the kiddos and our babysitter and close friend Rebekah...they had planted folding chairs out along the road and were cheering for me.  I got really chocked up and emotional.  Got to love those hormones...

bike time: 3:47:10
bike distance 56 miles

The only thing that worked for the run-Honey packets...
At transition I had some strong abdominal cramping (maybe due to dehydration-who knows) and I stopped in at one of the port-o-let things.  I feel bad for whoever used it after me because I was still bleeding some (less than before but still too much).  I stole some gatorade from someone's bike since they didn't need it anymore then sat down to put on my running shoes and was quite sad to discover that I didn't want to stand back up once they were on.  I told myself to just watch my heart rate monitor and to run just one mile.  If nothing else...just one mile.  If I needed to ride back in an aide vehicle ...fine....if I passed out...fine...if I needed an IV...whatever...just run one mile.  So I got up...stretched my legs and started to run.  I'm not sure if I could have finished without my honey packets.  I ate about a tablespoon packet of honey every 20-30 minutes.  I ran the first two miles, dumping water on my head and walking the aide stations kept my heart rate in check.  After mile 6 though my heart rate wouldn't go down even if I walked for a stretches.  I basically crawled along until mile nine or ten thinking I wouldn't make the cut off anyway.  Then I saw a girl that had been in my start wave and she said we had an hour left before the cut off... I could see the mile 10 marker ahead...I started to think I could make the cut off...I caught up to Robert who was running with two pacers to get him to the finish before his earlier cut off.  He had a kicking cancer jersey on...I determined to stick with him if it killed me.  And we ran together.  I told him about our baby we lost...he told me about kicking brain cancer.  We made it to the last hill before the finish line and I ran ahead to give Noah a high five, Scott was pointing to the turn off...pointing to the finish...and so I yelled "I want it!!!!" and pulled the picture of our baby out of my jersey and ran.  I saw Brant's smile and felt bad it had taken so long for me to finish...but I didn't die...that's a testament to his coaching. :)  Brant finished the race fast enough for both of us anyway...I think he finished 6th or something crazy fast like that.  After getting a hug and picture with Robert the brain cancer survivor x2 and making sure he made his cut off time (he did by minutes) I tried to eat something but couldn't.  The endorphin rush of finishing only lasted so long and then I had to sit down.  My stomach couldn't handle anything.  I fell asleep on the way back to the house and got a big dent in my arm from my bike helmet box.  Comfy.  I ate some melon.  My throat hurt when I took deep breaths.  I slept on the coach with the kids jumping all over the place.  I still couldn't eat anything when I woke up but was able to get stuff together to head home.  Rebekah drove, I ate some potato chips and dozed.  By 11:30 pm I was ready to go to sleep but suddenly was ravenously hungry.  Luke made a run to Stake and shake to get me a cheeseburger and chocolate shake...the two food items that I desired most in the world. :)

run time: 3:11:39
run distance: 13 miles

Rob telling me he was proud of me and that "it will be different next time"...so so sweet... :)  Rob says not to say "hope" it will be...just say "it will be" and leave it at that. :)  When you survive brain cancer twice...you can say whatever you want pretty much and it sounds like a great motivational speech. ;)  
I got the ultrasound picture over the finish line picture :D  I didn't die or pass out smile! :D
Rob's finished the race face... he asked if it was okay to do his "face" for the picture ;) haha  People are great...I love people like him.

I made the cut to be in the video at second 33-standing in the water looking pretty freaked out about swimming :D

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28 comments:

Jenny Gutwein said...

Proud of you though the miscarriage & race. Well done.

J and A said...

So I've only made it half way through, because I can't see with the tears in my eyes. But I'm so proud of you for pushing through (and thankful for that early picture of you and Brant with your medal to know that you did!). I can't believe how many various trials (even bed bugs... seriously?!) you faced, and yet you didn't give up. Praying for you.

Aubrey said...

What an amazing story! Your courage and race are an awesome tribute to your sweet baby in heaven. Maybe yours is playing with my two. ;) Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Prayers as you continue the healing process!

Rebekah said...

So inspiring Andrea. I experienced my first miscarriage last summer...such strange emotions that come with that...especially after having a few kids. Thanks for sharing.

L, Ann and boys said...

Jen, Amber, Aubrey and Rebekah-thank you so much for these comments and for your love and support. I was a little nervous to post this and the comments were so encouraging. You are all amazing strong women that I look up to and respect in so many ways.

leah said...

this is beautiful in so many ways. thanks for sharing and letting us listen in. praying for you as you continue to heal.

sarah.flyingkites said...

Oh my word!! I enjoyed this post - from beginning to end - SO MUCH!!

I am proud of you - this is an accomplishment!

Hope that shake was worth it ;) haha...kidding!

smw said...

This made me teary. I think I feel similar emotions about children. I think it is a beautiful thing everytime new life blossoms. I skipped the bloody paragraph, but this was an amazing feat and had to feel so good with the motivation behind it. Amazing! I will pray for your healing all around.

smw said...

Ps-love the 'bed bug' face. :)

sandra said...

Emotions to miscarriages are so real and all so different. Congrats on accomplishing the race. Enjoyed this post. Sure hope healing goes quickly for you from here on out!

sandra said...

Can I ask how far along you were??

Heather Hoerr said...

wow An - I think I would've been too scared to go through with it after all the bleeding! you are so strong and determined - way to go!

L, Ann and boys said...

Sarah...the shake was good...but not sure it was worth the risk...!!! :D

Shar- I'm glad to hear the little warning worked for skipping that part. I actually didn't write about it but had Luke read the post and he said it should be part of it. So that was our compromise -the warning label. ;) ha

Sandra- I was at 11 weeks but the baby measured 8 weeks and 3 days. I should have mentioned that somewhere. :)

Heather- I'm not going to say that I was thinking through things very logically the night before the race...the wheels were in motion and I just rolled with it hoping for the best. :) I really wanted to carry that picture over the finish...

L, Ann and boys said...

oh and Sandra: there is a "faces of loss faces of Hope" button/link on the side bar with a very detailed story of the miscarriage. I didn't feel like it was right for the blog setting. :) You would have to search back in early May...

Kristi said...

thanks for sharing, Ann! I love how you can make me laugh and cry all at once.

L, Ann and boys said...

awwww, thanks Kristi :)

bri said...

You go, girl! :) Prayers to you for your loss :(

sandra said...

Just read you story on the miscarriage on "faces of loss/hope"! Wow! It brought back the crazy amount of bleeding I endured too. I too was suppose to be 11 weeks but measured at 8 weeks. I remember flushing the toilet and wishing I could back up time a minute just to NOT flush. Thanks for sharing on that neat website. Had no idea there was such a thing.

emilykate said...

Wow. Incredible. Congrats on finishing! That's huge. So sorry for your loss.

Meghan said...

This post hits all too close to home for me. I was due Dec 4th of this year with our second child and also just had a miscarriage in May. My third and it does not get easier! I am in awe that you finished such a physical feat just a short time after such a traumatic experience. Praying for your continued healing and comfort! xoxo

L, Ann and boys said...

Oh Sandra- I'm truly sorry for you similar loss and experience.
Emily-thanks :)
Meghan- I'm so so sorry for your recent loss. I hope you recover quickly physically and that you are finding peace amidst it all.

Ashton said...

That was so well written and beautiful. I'm a little mad at you for attempting the race in that condition! But proud of you too :)…for the race but even more for the faith and peace you've shown the entire way through this loss. I love you!

L, Ann and boys said...

Awww, Ashton, I love you sister. Can't wait to see you soon.

walking by faith said...

Dear Ann! God bless you for walking through the loss of your baby with such peace and joy. All of these children we bear are the Lord's for His glory and purposes. You availed yourself to Creator God so HE could usher another eternal soul into being. Your child will worship at the Throne of Jesus forever. How beautiful. My Matthias entered into the presence of the Lord 4 years ago. And I still long for him - I still grieve from time to time. There is such rejoicing though.

L, Ann and boys said...

Thinking of you Erin and I pray for your peace as I'm sure the longing never really dies away to see a lost little one.

T and M said...

wow, some amazing grit to get thru that race!
I am so sorry for the loss of your baby. I am behind on blogs, so I didn't read this before camp, so I missed the chance to tell you that in person.
I hope you continue to heal in every way. M

L, Ann and boys said...

Thanks Mandy! :) So good seeing you and you darling little ones. :)

Mindy said...

Just finally getting caught up on blogs. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your story! I'm so sorry for your loss. Congratulations on the race...I love that you could channel your emotions into it and run for your baby!