Tomorrow I am due to run my first half marathon. I cannot say I am set, as it implies “prepared”… which is something I feel far from. But I thought I should post this now and hopefully, sometime 18 hours or less from now, I will have good news to report.
THE POWER OF VISUALISATION
So, anyway, when I left you last time, I was in India. It was February 2008, I had recovered from my medical mishap and was able to enjoy the rest of my time there with a newfound appreciation for my health, travel and my life in general.
I returned to Stockholm to be greeted by the comforting smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns in Arlanda airport, the cold, crisp, clean winter air outside, and the promise of new opportunities. Thankfully, despite having recently been through some intense and tumultuous times, it seemed that as soon as I visualised something positive, it manifested in my life. Remembering an exercise I had done around the time I first started exploring self-healing and meditation, I had created a visualisation mood board (I am a big fan of these, as you can see here and here) in January 2008. It featured cut and pasted images of smiling, happy young women, artists/designers at work on pretty projects, bowls of fruit, healthy, yoga-loving people, exotic travel destinations and shiny new Apple Macintosh computers. I won’t say that scoring my dream job was easy. In fact it felt like I was having some surreal pop idol reality TV experience… sans a stage and cameras. Each week I was called to a new interview or asked to undertake creative/IQ/personality tests. I would make it through to the next “round”, only to discover a new challenge facing me. And week after week (the interview process took around 6-7 in total), I found myself making the cut.
By the time I finally walked through the office doors for my final face-to-face interview (there was still one more to go, via phone!), I was certain I was destined for a desk there… somewhere. I knew without doubt that it was the right fit for me and that I “belonged”. Apparently my soon-to-be-manager thought likewise and has since told me that as soon as she saw me, her voice of intuition said “She’s hired.” My first day of work was the official opening of the Stockholm head office and, my word, did the company put on a show. I entered the reception area to find a cocktail bar complete with ice sculptures being set up, there were generous gift bags, visiting dignitaries, multiple venues hired (that myself and my new 350 + colleagues moved between over the course of the day), meals, drinks, entertainment, hugs from the 5 fellow Aussies I discovered amongst the crowd, Sahara Hotnights playing as surprise after dinner guests, etc. It was a rather unusual first day on the job… but an amazing way to enter a new era of hard work actually paying off!
I found myself in an all female team with women that were lovely, talented, creative and fun to be around. There was a bowl of fruit stationed behind my desk that was replenished daily by a fruit delivery guy, there were in-house yoga classes and I had a shiny new Apple Mac, complete with an IT support team’s help, should things go technically awry (the relief!). Less than 2 months later I was sent to leadership training and found myself in a swanky hotel in Moscow, literally jumping on the bed out of the sheer excitement of being there. A couple of months after that, I received a promotion. There were even bigger things to come that year career-wise and, in hindsight, I should have stuck a picture of a mansion, a million dollars and J.Lo’s butt on that mood board!
ALONG CAME TTC
Obviously India had fuelled in me an even greater interest in taking care of myself. But, somewhere in amongst all the busy-ness and success of that year, the desire to take care of someone else snuck in too. In fact, that little whisper of longing eventually became my focus for everything, namely because TTC (or trying to conceive as it’s known in non-TTC circles!) wasn’t the proverbial bed of roses I expected. I might elaborate further in a future post, but I will say now that the road to motherhood was a long and, at times, heartbreaking one for me. Somewhere in amongst landing my “dream job”, TTC, miscarriage and trying to improve my health, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a condition for which I am on medication to this day. A string of bad luck in the health department saw a broken arm and mild pneumonia thrown into the mix. I was fortunate that, by this point, I had a solid foundation upon which I could rely in terms of a support network, self-knowledge and an increasingly healthy lifestyle.
ALONG CAME PREGNANCY #1 (EVENTUALLY)
My world changed forever on the morning of the office summer party in 2010, when a little pink line appeared on a pregnancy test. I had been so scared to find out the result of that test myself that I had sent my husband, with the test, out of the bathroom while I tried to distract myself by washing my hair.
“It’s positive…”, he said shakily as he reentered the bathroom a minute later.
“What?”, I responded, almost rudely. “What? What?…”
“It’s positive.”, he said again with more conviction, as I collapsed in tears in the shower. He sprang in to hug me, still wearing his clothes.
My pregnancy was joyous beyond words, but gifted to me not without some difficulties, including 40 extra kilograms of weight, chronic edema, carpal tunnel syndrome and, eventually, sick leave. Yes, despite being health-focused, caffeine-free, doing prenatal yoga 5-6 times per week from week 13 through to 9 months pregnant, taking pregnancy dance classes during the second trimester, eating organic, mostly home-cooked, vegetarian food, and being generally overjoyed to be pregnant, my pregnancy was hardly free of issues. A traumatic birth experience involving an emergency c-section, blood loss of 3.2 litres and subsequent transfusions, meant a longer road to physical recovery than I would have liked, but I bounced back. I started going to a local womens’ gym, working out for as little as 15 minutes per session (depending on baby L’s napping), but going consistently… around 5-6 times per week. I did little to change what I ate, sticking primarily with homemade, vegetarian food. Within less than a year, I was more or less “back to normal”. I had a brief “pit stop” back at work and then…
… and with it a whole world of complications. I had my first major hemorrhaging episode during my second pregnancy literally the day after announcing the big news to my parents and in-laws over dinner. I was devastated when I awoke the following morning, drenched in blood. In the ER, I was told point-blank by the doctor that there was no hope for the pregnancy. She couldn’t see any sign of a baby in my uterus, I was clearly bleeding heavily and my endometrium was “too thin”. Concerned about a possible ectopic pregnancy, she scheduled blood tests to check my HCG levels. I went home, crawled into bed and grieved and cried for days. I suffered terrible cramping and heavy bleeding and, when it was over, I returned to work determined to throw myself into a huge project and be as massively distracted as possible. Sitting at my desk one day, I received the surprise phone call of a lifetime from a doctor at the hospital. My results had been delayed for some reason, but my HCG numbers had risen from 186 to 960.
He continued by saying that, based on those numbers alone, he could predict that my pregnancy was not only viable but “normal”.
By this stage in the conversation I had moved from my desk to a corridor, where I stood shaking and on the verge of a panic attack… not so much from any renewed hope or joy, but from absolute shock and confusion.
Another ultrasound brought more confusion and anxiety. The doctor (a new one) seemed perplexed and told me that he could see “something” but it was not the shape/form he would want or expect to see. My heart sank yet again. A specialist was called in and another ultrasound was performed. The verdict? That everything looked just as it should in the case of a perfect, viable pregnancy. I burst into tears. Again.
The next 4 weeks went by and the shock and trauma gave way to happiness… and nausea… and regular pregnancy stuff .
During my next ultrasound we saw a precious little heart beating. I was told by the doctor (yet another one) that everything looked perfect and that I shouldn’t have to worry anymore. Relief! I was beyond happy.
At around midnight that very night, I awoke from a horrible nightmare that I was losing my baby, to find myself laying in a pool of blood… yes, I was bleeding (and cramping) again! I couldn’t believe it. Back on the phone to the hospital, I was told that I could indeed be losing the baby and if I was, there was nothing they could do to help me. I was crushed again. This pattern continued; bad news following good news, bleed following bleed after bleed. 13 weeks brought contractions my way (yes, contractions!) and hemorrhaging so extreme that I ended up hospitalised and on medication after being told (rather tactlessly) “We will be keeping you here for observation and will check to see if your baby is alive in the morning”. Try to sleep after hearing those words!
At 16 weeks I put myself instinctively on full bed rest. I had already been on modified bed rest for 3 weeks at that point. I asked that my anatomy scan be pushed forward as I really wanted to have some peace of mind before heading back to work. We looked forward to good news and to finding out whether we were expecting a boy or a girl.
Then, almost half way through my pregnancy, I finally discovered (after 13 ultrasounds!) the truth of my condition and that, although my baby was doing well, I had a large blood clot inside the wall of my uterus (larger than the baby) that could threaten to cause “spontaneous abortion” and a host of other very nasty complications.
The SCH (subchorionic hematoma) extended all the way from behind the placenta to the cervix. There was nothing that could have prepared me for that shock, nor hearing the high risk specialist say that “some babies make it, some babies don’t”. I was told that there was nothing I could do (other than rest and wait), nor was there anything the hospital could do to save my baby at that point should the worst happen.
As I lay there on the examination table I was too devastated to bring myself to ask the baby’s gender. I began spiraling into a depressed state and I felt like the SCH was a ticking time bomb inside of me.
Just when I needed to hear this message more than ever, I watched an interview with Deepak Chopra where he said “You can believe the diagnosis, but not the prognosis”. Those words were a light in the darkness. And they changed my perception of my condition.
All in all, I ended up having a whopping 23 ultrasounds during my pregnancy, I was on sick leave for over 28 weeks, I was on bed rest (modified and full) for 10 weeks, on pelvic rest the entire pregnancy, I didn’t lift my 2 year-old son for at least 15 weeks (which broke my heart at times), I drank an absolute ton of water, I did lots of healing visualisation meditation, I donated money to various charities, I blogged (thank you WP friends for being here!) and I did what I could to stay positive, even whilst laying in bed. I believed that my baby was a fighter and it was my duty to fight too.
The good news is that, in my case, the SCH did shrink. With every ultrasound, it got smaller. But slowly. And it never fully resolved.
At 40 weeks and 2 days, after going into labour naturally, I delivered my miracle Baby Cupcake via VBAC only 4 hours after arriving at the hospital. The labour and delivery were a dream come true for me and I loved the whole experience, including watching MasterChef Australia while crazily baking Garry Mehigan’s scone recipe during active labour! Unfortunately I had some serious complications following the birth, the result of which led to 4 liters of blood loss (approximately 8.5 pints… or a generally terrifying amount!) and I had to undergo tricky postpartum surgery.
AND THAT BRINGS ME TO RUNNING
In June 2013, around 4 months after Cupcake’s arrival, I put on a crappy pair of decade-old running shoes, stepped on a treadmill, sputtered along for 3 minutes… and felt like I would die. But something in me acknowledged the privilege of such freedom of movement (after all the restrictions and limits of my high risk pregnancy). Something in me told me that maybe, just maybe, if I could push through that pain barrier, running would get easier… maybe even enjoyable.
And then Blodomloppet came along; a 5 km fun-run held annually in Stockholm to raise awareness and encourage sign-ups for blood donation. I was far from fit back then and weighed close to 15 kilograms more than I do as I sit here and type this tonight. But the cause was one close to my heart, given all the blood loss I have suffered and the transfusions I have been the recipient of. So I “run-walked” it with my Stockholm bestie. And it felt great.
I have continued to run since then, sometimes very regularly, sometimes not so much. But I can actually say that I like running now… and sometimes I even love it.
Still, when I think about tomorrow’s half marathon, I am hit by waves of anxiety. At this point the longest I have run is 18 km, which I managed 2 weeks ago. I haven’t run since! And I wouldn’t recommend my training schedule (lack thereof) to anyone. But I have been following my intuition. My body has said “rest” and “yoga”. So that is what I have done. I just hope I have made the right choices.
Wish me luck… and thanks for bearing with me during these incredibly long and winding posts.
I hope it is beyond clear now why not only my health, but the mere opportunity to be able to run, means so much to me.
Have a wonderful weekend!
❤ MM xx
*Update January 2016: this post contains an affiliate link to the IQS8WP which I had been doing during my preparation for the half marathon. I recommend only as I have found it beneficial to my own health journey.