By now I’m 6 weeks postpartum, and I would like to say I’m starting to get in the groove of things, but I’m afraid to say that anticipating a whole new set of changes in a few days. I gave birth to my son, William Rydell Gay, Jr., on Tuesday, August 6th at 11:35 pm. He weighed 5 pounds and 7 ounces and made a very dramatic entrance into the world, but we’ll talk about my birth story at another time. Today I’d like to talk about my experience throughout my pregnancy.
It was December 21st, and we were preparing to catch a flight to meet our families in Tallahassee, FL for the Christmas holiday. My cycle is usually very regular and when I noticed that I had been experiencing cramps but had no bleeding, I asked my fiancé, Will, to grab a pregnancy test on his way home from running an errand. Knowing how regular I usually am, and that we had had intercourse very close to my ovulation (even though I took the Plan B), I knew there was a possibility I was pregnant. The first test said positive, followed by the second one, followed by the third. Yes, we took three pregnancy tests!
I immediately plopped down on the bed feeling an array of emotions that I still can’t quite put into words. I knew I wanted a family just not right now. I was coming back from a knee injury and training for the season with hopes of making the World Champs team this summer. The plan was to get to Doha, try for one more Olympics next year in Tokyo, and then retire and start our family. Not now! Will on the other hand, I could tell was fighting back excitement, as he could see I didn’t have the same excitement that he had about this result. It was almost as if we both were afraid to say the next words, but we decided we were going to have this baby and share the news with our families when we saw them.
As I stated earlier, I was very concerned about what this meant for my career. So, although we agreed to tell our families, I asked that we keep it as private as possible. I needed time to process AND tell my sponsors. I knew, or rather believed, that people wouldn’t believe I was serious about my career and I could possibly lose my sponsorship. My first trimester was spent pretty much worrying about what my future looked like, and wondering if I would be able to maintain my sponsorship relationships in preparation for The Games next year. You hear a lot about postpartum depression, but no one told me it was possible to be depressed during your pregnancy as well.
While the first trimester was tough for a number of reasons from the all day sickness, the changes happening in my body that were effecting training, and being excessively tired, I felt like I fell into a mild depression. I was trying my best to remain positive, having already decided that I would continue to train through the pregnancy as I was determined to still give the Olympics next year a go. However, I was going through all of these changes and trying to hide what should’ve been an experience that I was shouting from the mountain tops about. I felt like I couldn’t really be excited for something that should’ve been a special moment for me and my family. Strangely, I did find comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone in feeling these emotions, and that many women face the same emotions and worry about their career in the early stages of pregnancy.
The second trimester was a bit easier. The morning sickness had subsided, and Will and I decided to get some traveling in while I was up for it. We visited my grandparents in Trinidad, and spent some relaxing time at their home and on the beach. When we returned home I finally worked up the courage to tell my sponsors that I was expecting and wouldn’t be competing this summer. I was literally trembling when I made the call, but to my surprise they were very supportive and happy for me. One of the praises that I have to give Under Armour, is that the Run department along with others are run by women. So, they understood where was I coming from, and one of my reps even shared that she had similar thoughts and fears with her first pregnancy. Another reminder that this wasn’t the “female athlete’s” plight, but a women’s problem as a whole.
By the third trimester, I had gained about 35 pounds and I was slowing down considerably, I adjusted training days according to my mood and how I felt physically. My hips and back were under more pressure than they’ve ever had to support. It was a constant reminder that I wasn’t myself, and someone or something else was in charge. I was the largest I had ever been in my life, and naturally I could no longer fit any of my pre-pregnancy clothing. I refused to buy too many new clothes or even shop in the maternity section. I resorted to wearing Will’s tops, and using the Maeband belt to extend the waist on my jeans. I didn’t have to buy a single pair of maternity bottoms, and was able to wear my favorite jeans throughout my pregnancy. It sounds like something small, but at this point every little thing that helped me feel like a normal person was a BIG win!
I made regular visits to the chiropractor. Anything that I thought might provide some relief, I tried. The one thing I couldn’t let go of was running. Will and my mom kept urging me to take it easy and asking when the final day of training would be. I couldn’t allow too many days to go by without getting some sort of workout in. Some days I did physically pay for it, but mentally I needed those days. I needed to feel like I was still working towards my goals on the track. Not to mention being cooped up in a house all day is no fun either. So, running was my sense of sanity. It was the thing that kept me calm and focused. I also believe it helped with my birth experience. As my coach said, we shifted into training for childbirth. I believe in the end, that paid off.
I ran up until the day before I gave birth. I didn’t even know I was in labor, but that’s a different blog. Hopefully, it doesn’t take me a month and a half to write that one. Yes, this blog took a month a half to write. My little Liam, is now three months old and requires lots of time and attention. I’m now trying to find the balance between motherhood and sanity, and it hasn’t been easy. I take it one day at a time though, and enjoy that little gummy smile and his little gurgles. I’ll share my labor story and what motherhood has been like in another blog. In the meantime, hopefully you’ll see it’s not just you, and this is hard for all of us. No matter how easy our moms made it seem.