When the two lines appeared on the pregnancy test, it all became so real. Even so, I took another test the next day just to make sure it wasn’t a faulty test. The result was the same. Visions of cuddling a happy and healthy baby raced through my mind and adventures as a family of three dotted through my head. But first I was going to have to get through the obligatory 9 month incubation period.
Jonathon and I deliberately waited awhile before considering starting a family. While I was aware of the risks of starting a family past the age of 35, there were just so many other things to do like – get established in our careers and complete some personal climbing and travel related goals. At the ripe age of 36, I decided it was time to begin this process. I had considered a life without children and knew that it was a possibility given my age. But I kept thinking about what life would feel like as a 50 year old. Would I be satisfied with my career, my climbing and my travels? And I knew the answer was no and so that is how I knew that I wanted a baby.
I was fortunate to get pregnant two months after having my IUD removed. While I feel lucky that I was able to get pregnant so quickly, it was initially a big shock to both myself and Jonathon that we would be parents much quicker than we had anticipated. That being said, the first several weeks were a little rough given that we were experiencing a big adjustment. While pregnancy often brings up feelings of joy and happiness, in addition to these feelings, I was simultaneously nervous and anxious about what this big change would mean for our lifestyle and for our marriage. Would we be able to handle this big change, continue our careers and continue to travel and climb around the globe?
Aside from these anxieties, physically I felt pretty good. Jonathon and I were sport climbing in Southern Spain when we got the positive pregnancy test. After an initial freak out that I had already sabotaged the pregnancy with my frequent wine drinking, ibuprofen taking, swordfish eating and lead falls, I was able to continue climbing at my limit most days. There were some days when I felt lightheaded, fatigued and had some back cramping, and on those days I just did more top-roping and belaying. I admit to feeling a bit frustrated with the changes my body was experiencing but also felt grateful that I was on vacation and not at work when I was feeling crappy.
When we got back to the US, we went to see to the midwife and an ultrasound confirmed that there was in fact an eight-week old fetus growing in my uterus. It was another reality-check moment for us. But I continued to feel quite good physically and most days in the first trimester I forgot that I was growing a tiny human. The Wasatch was experiencing one of the best winters in years, and I subsequently had one of my best ski seasons. While I felt more short of breath than I normally felt and moved slower than I normally do, I was able to tick off some new lines (to me) and skied lots of 4000 foot days. Highlights included skiing Sidewinder and Aethies Line in Broads fork, the West Coulior off Kessler and several days skiing the South side in Little Cottonwood.
Around this time, I also started a new job in the ER at the University of UT. I had planned on changing jobs for several months prior to getting pregnant and this change still seemed like a good idea, so I went with it. Turns out there is a lot less lifting as an ER nurse but a lot more exposure to pregnant women miss-carrying. Miscarriage seems to be a taboo subject but about 20% of women experience a miscarriage and it can be a sad and emotionally draining loss. So with this exposure, my anxiety about miscarriage was heightened. I love working in health care but sometimes the increase in knowledge and especially exposure to worst-case scenarios, can be anxiety provoking. On my part, I tried to engage in a lot of positive self-talk, relaxation exercises and physical exercise outside as a means of stress reduction. Most of the times, these were successful coping strategies but some nights I would toss and turn thinking of worst-case scenarios.
Since I hold the diagnosis AMA (advanced maternal age), I opted to get genetic testing at our 10 week visit. It is covered by insurance if you are older than 35 years. With just a simple blood draw, the most common fetal abnormalities and the mother’s genetic information is all tested. The tests are 99% accurate and results take a couple weeks to come back after the initial blood draw. Our results came back normal and we learned we would be having a boy. We also learned that I am a carrier for biotinidase deficiency, a rare genetic condition that effects the bodies ability to metabolize fats, proteins and carbohydrates. We learned this condition is commonly screened at birth and easily managed with appropriate treatment and so we opted to not have Jonathon tested. I felt like it was one of those situations, where more information was not entirely helpful. But so it goes and it was just another opportunity for me to channel my inner zen and suppress all those negative thoughts that sometimes meander through my mind.
When the first trimester ended without a miscarriage, I had a mini-celebration. From my reading, people often feel best in the second trimester and while I never actually felt too bad in the first trimester, I was still looking forward to these months. I was still skiing a lot and was able to lead climb easy routes in the gym and a couple easy trad routes outside. I even followed Jonathon up The Standard Route on The Thumb in Little Cottonwood, which is one of my favorite features to climb on in the Wasatch. It felt quite a bit harder than I recalled and I was mildly frustrated with my changing body but also feeling rather fortunate to be spending time outside.
By week 16, I decided I was done leading outside as my harness wasn’t fitting as well and everything felt much harder and I was subsequently more nervous about falling and injuring myself. By week 19, I decided I was done leading in the gym as it started to feel hard and not fun. I could sure feel that extra 10 lbs! Top-roping was still quite fun. I wore my regular harness until about week 24 but I probably would have switched early to the full-body harness had I had one.
Around this time, I was also working quite a few night shifts at the hospital. I came down with a bad cold at the end of March and was pretty much useless for about a week. Work was more tiring than I had anticipated. I had never had to spend time recovering from a shift but now that I was pregnant, I felt like I needed a rest day after my work day. This was a hard adjustment for me as I am usually a very active person and didn’t previously get tired from working. That being said, I still found time to hike and climb a bit, just at a much slower pace than what I had been used.
The highlight of the spring was spending a week in Zion with my family and showing them around one of my favorite places. My sister was 31 weeks pregnant at the time with her first baby and I was 20 weeks and we bonded about pregnancy woes and dreamed about our boys becoming best friends.
The second trimester ended with about a 20lb weight gain and the discovery of some new hobbies – hiking, baking and gardening. I had embraced a slower lifestyle and didn’t find that I was missing my previous hobbies all that much. I think partly this was attributed to feeling very content with my climbing goals over the past couple years. I had been very focused on my goals and my training and it was nice to just literally let things go for a bit. It was refreshing to have down time and not worry about the calories consumed. Plus my elbows were so sore in the winter after my 3 month rock climbing vacation that it was impossible to climb at a high level. So despite my fatigue from working a lot and working lots of variable hours, I felt good on my days off and content with life’s new pace.
To be continued…