Losing my tiny passenger
This race report is not like the others on this blog, partly because I was pregnant but mainly because now I am not.
My husband and I have discussed at length whether I should write about this personal event. We decided I should because it seems to be so common, yet so infrequently talked about; it seems even to be taboo.
Although it was a little early to shout it from the rooftops, there were a few people I had already told about the pregnancy; as well as close friends and family, we had told my Triathlon Coach, Indoor Cycling Coach, Swimming Coach, Yoga Teachers. All of these people needed to be aware that something was different – I wouldn’t be going as fast as usual, I had modified workouts, no intervals or hard efforts, all fairly gentle, and of course… if the worst happened, they needed to be able to tell any medical professional.
This week we were very surprised when we told these people that we had miscarried, that so many of them (only a couple of exceptions) responded something like, “Oh yes, we understand. We have been through the same thing.” Many had even miscarried several times, but never spoken to anyone about it… and that’s the main reason I am writing about this. If it's happened to you, you're not alone and you probably know many, many people who have been through the same thing.
The Metasprint Aquathlon was going to be significantly slower than last year. I had a good run last year, 20:25 for the 5km. This year I was about 9 weeks pregnant and so the run would be at least 25 minutes sticking to the heart rate zone ceiling that we had discussed with Ben – letting myself be guided by my Mio Fuse. I would swim at a relaxed pace and stay wide at the start to avoid the “washing machine” as everyone runs into the water. I was confident that my tiny passenger would be happy with that strategy!
Little did I know, the baby had been dead already for about three weeks…
I thought I had been quite lucky up until then with only a couple of nauseous days and good energy levels. Now I realise that the reason I had little nausea was that the foetus had stopped producing HCG hormone (the one that makes you feel sick) because it was no longer developing.
The race was fairly uneventful. If you’re interested, this is how it went:
We got out of the taxi the other end of the 1km long Palawan beach where the race would be held and walked to the start, sipping my bottle of electrolyte enriched water the whole way. I found the Journey Fitness Team and left my bag with them while I went for body marking and to set up my transition – Altra 3sums, Julbo tracks, and my race belt.
The boys settled in under some trees on the beach playing and I hung around the start line – it was only 10 minutes until my wave start. There were lots of people around that I knew from work, Athlete Lab, Yellowfish swimming, Arrivo Primo Singapura and, of course, Journey Fitness Company. We had lots of nice chats, some wet hugs and in no time at all we were ushered into the start pen.
I stayed at the back of the crowd and when the starting horn sounded I stayed wide. I didn’t make contact with anyone until we rounded the first buoy, which was very unusual, but I also think I swam significantly further than the 750 metre course! Along the last straight 200 metre stretch I was drafting on the hip of a guy, got a bit lazy with sighting and as he swam very close to a lifeguard kayak, I swam headfirst, straight into it... I think he did it deliberately! Apart from that little hiccup it was a very relaxed affair with lots of breathing, no drinking the sea water and a nice rhythm. I was twelfth woman out of the water and fifth in my category in 14m38s.
Transition was good – from swim to run there’s not much to do… throw down the goggles and hat, put on shoes, grab glasses and race belt then run (making sure to have the race belt fastened before leaving the transition zone)!
The run started nice and steady, keeping an eye on my heart rate. I passed Tony and Vivian who looked like they were out for a run but had stopped to cheer on the race – that was a nice surprise! I saw Jacqui running the other way, well in the lead - she was out of the water almost 3 minutes before me: amazing woman! If her legs weren’t so good at running, you could almost believe she might actually be a mermaid! Shuwie came past a little while after Jacqui followed by lots more familiar faces.
At about 2km we ran past Jeremy, Ben and Jon cheering and taking photos. At about 3.5km Wini came past me, then less than a minute later so did Vicky…. It was REALLY hard. It had been hard watching everyone swim away from me at the start and just sticking to my own rhythm, but on the run it was so, so frustrating not being “allowed” to push myself, having to stay under my heart rate limit and just watch people overtake me. Backing off is not easy when you’ve spent so many years training yourself to be competitive and have your determination override the pain signals your body is sending when in a race environment.
I finished the race to the sounds of Jiajie and JZ’s cheering then had a chat with lots of the girls and the APS guys near to the drinks station. Wini had just come back from surgery for a slipped disc four months ago – such an impressive performance when you take that into account! We looked at the results – I was provisionally 3rd in my category, but these weren’t the final results and there were women in my category who had started in later waves. I was expecting there to be several women faster than me from the later starting groups, so would have been very surprised to remain at third. Sure enough, when the final results were published I had been bumped down to fourth!
I went into the transition zone to collect my hat and goggles and gave Byron a cheer as I saw him just coming in off of the swim! I gathered my things and went off to find the family. After a quick shower, change and a chat with our friend Allan we left to go to our friend’s daughter’s fourth birthday party!
Three weeks later I went to the hospital for the scheduled ultrasound and prenatal screening. There was no heart beat and the doc reckoned the little guy had been dead for about 6 weeks already. They scheduled me in for surgery the next morning to remove the dead foetus, amniotic sac and all associated tissues and signed off of work for the rest of the week.
We were all very disappointed and sad, but physically fine. We all agreed we would much rather it happened very early than in a few months’ time…
We’ve been through a few stages of emotions, but mainly guilt. My husband had a thought that it’s his fault because he had an x-ray of his lower back last year. It has crossed my mind that if perhaps I had stopped exercising immediately from conception, perhaps we would not have miscarried, what if I had started to take the prenatal supplements earlier, what if I hadn’t had that cup of coffee??
Then, logic – the level of exercise I was doing should not stop development of a foetus (and didn’t for my two previous pregnancies), one cup of coffee a week shouldn’t cause a miscarriage, plenty of mothers don’t take any supplements at all and there is no evidence that having an x-ray in the past should materially increase the chances of a miscarriage either. Apparently approximately 1 in 5 confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage during the first 13 weeks. I suppose it’s nature’s screening process.
The operation went very well – despite me being super nervous at having my first ever general anaesthetic – and I was home the same day. I had no pain except a bruised wrist where the gigantic needle had been put in for the drip. The staff at Singapore General Hospital were really first class, couldn’t fault them or how they handled the procedure.
In a few weeks I’ll be back to normal… albeit a little chubby! I’ll be back training and racing very soon!