One Is Better Than Two

Greetings, friends! Its finally happened: The long anticipated merging of our two mediocre blogs into a Gestalt-like one. Figuring Jesse’s mom needed a break from switching from page to page (hi, Melinda!), and not wanting to lose Amy's three readers in South Korea, we have decided to keep our friends and family updated from the same internet home. This blog is a collection of pictures, recaps, and ramblings from a professional triathlete and passionate runner. Jesse has been racing triathlon since 2007, turned pro shortly after, and has posted several top-10 Ironman finishes. He is a sub 8:30 Ironman finisher and is still working towards his perfect race. Amy is a former division one swimmer turned triathlete turned runner. In 2011, she decided to stop cycling and swimming in pursuit of marathon glory. She has since won several races, including the 2014 PF Changs Rock n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. After just missing this goal in 2016, her sights are now set on qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The First Few Weeks

By Amy

Can I be honest for a second? I feel pretty foolish re-reading my last blog. Don't get me wrong, I think it was decently well written (especially considering it was done with one hand on an iphone and the other supporting a baby on my boob), and captured my birth story well. However, the part where I announced that labor was the hardest thing I’ve ever done made me laugh at my former self. Don’t get me wrong, labor was hard. However, I would re-do it every week if I could somehow bypass the sleep deprivation/breastfeeding on demand/postpartum mood swing filled days of caring for a brand new baby. The first few weeks with Frankie? Hands down, the new hardest thing I've ever done!

My girl.

A more realistic depiction of daily life. 

My mom left at the end of June, and I think I would have actually lost it without her support during Frankie’s early days. She constantly reassured me that Frankie was actually a very easy baby, and that I was lucky to have breastfeeding begin so seamlessly. Even with that knowledge, I found the first few weeks to be so incredibly difficult. Not sleeping more than 2 hours straight, combined with breastfeeding on demand at roughly the same time intervals, plus the soreness/bleeding/etc that comes after you push a human out of your body, left me in tears several times. How do people with less help/more challenging babies/multiple children actually do it? I have no idea.

I feel bad writing this because it seems there is no shortage of privileged moms complaining on the internet these days. Maybe I’m just writing for myself again. To have a written reminder that things will get easier and that in many ways, they already are. For example, Frankie has generously given us a few five hour stretches of sleep in the past week. I also started pumping and giving a bottle to Jesse so that I could get out of the house (going to Costco felt like a spa vacation, but that's a post for another day). I figured out how to get Frankie in and out of the infant carrier all by myself (for someone with zero experience with babies prior to her arrival, these small victories are significant to me). I even broke a 20 minute mile on my morning walk with her!

This took me an hour to figure out.

Speaking of walking, many people have asked me if I'm running again. My sleep deprived postpartum self had zero interest anything more than a nap during the first few weeks of Frankie's life, but I'm finally turning a corner. My walks are getting longer, and I'm less satisfied with a low heart rate than I used to be. I can feel the urge to run, but am trying to be smart and take a few more weeks off. I've started adding in some core training to prepare my body for the miles, and dreaming of long runs with friends again. Maybe someday, I'll even race with my daughter my cheering me on.

Morning walks are saving my sanity!

Being a mother feels like a life of contradictions. One moment I consider ending my maternity leave early, and the next I never want leave my daughter’s side. I can't wait to get out of the house, then can't wait to see her when I come home. I miss my old life, but have never been more excited about the future. There are so many things I can't wait to do with Frankie. Now, if I can just get her to sleep through the night :).

Family photo thanks to Jen Bee photography

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Birth of Frankie Susan Vondracek 

By Amy

Nine days ago, Frankie Susan made her grand entrance and our lives were forever changed. The past week has been filled with the expected: marathon feeding sessions, diaper changes, and crying (both her and me, postnatal hormones are a bitch), and the unexpected: feelings of awe, wonder, and amazement as I spend time getting to know my little girl. Even though I housed her for nine months and pushed her out of my body, it still doesn’t seem that she’s really mine. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to writing in these moments, despite functioning on broken sleep and having a million other things I could be doing. I want to remember these days before they pass too quickly, starting with one of the most significant days in my life, Frankie’s birthday. I’ve typed most of this blog on my phone over several breastfeeding sessions, and am confident it’s not my best written work. Still, it feels worth it to try, so here is the story of the day my daughter was born:

As the end of my pregnancy neared, time seemed to move at a snail’s pace. My original fears of an early delivery seemed laughable as my due date passed without any signs of labor. My mom (who had arrived a few days prior) and I passed the time with long dog walks, gym sessions, and takeout dinners. Jesse continued training and work as usual, because it seemed pointless for him to put anything on hold until necessary.

Post treadmill walk (with a 10 minute run) on the day I went into labor.

By June 14, I was convinced I’d be pregnant forever. After some spicy Thai curry and an evening walk, I climbed into bed ready for another night of fitful pregnant sleep.

Ten minutes later, my water broke. At least, I thought it did. It wasn’t a gush like you see in the movies, but a slow trickle that made me wonder if it had really happened after all. I also hadn’t had any contractions yet, adding to my confusion about whether this was the real thing or not. I woke Jesse up and he headed to the coffee pot while chugging a Diet Coke - better to be prepared in case this was real!

I soon began to feel some contractions, and Jesse and I called the birth center to update the midwife on call. She encouraged me to keep monitoring my contractions, and to stay home as long as I could manage well there. First time labor typically takes 12-16 hours, so there was no reason to think I’d be nearing the end soon.

As I’d heard from others, the contractions did feel like a stronger version of menstrual cramps at first, with a peak during and rest break between each one. Within the hour, however, the rest breaks disappeared. The contractions now seemed to be piled on top of each other and my body was overcome with pain. I had originally planned to breathe through each contraction and focus on the rest breaks between them, but I needed a new plan to cope. My entire belly and low back felt like it was being simultaneously squeezed and set on fire, and I suddenly doubted my ability to have an unmedicated birth. If this was the "easy early labor" everyone described, I didn’t know how I could endure worse for hours on end. I tried relaxing my face, deep breathing, and all the other coping mechanisms I’d learned in childbirth class, but was still pretty overwhelmed by the pain. I lay in bed making low noises (which I found to be the best technique for pain management) and tried to stay calm, reminding myself that I was strong and built to do this.

I had a hopeful feeling that my labor was progressing faster than normal and told Jesse I thought we should head to the birth center. We woke up my mom and they both helped me get dressed and walk to the car. Jesse grabbed our suitcase, which had been packed with soft lights, essential oils, and snacks for the past month. Little did we know we wouldn’t even have time to open it once we got there.

I felt like I was in another world and drifting in and out of consciousness as we began the five minute drive to the birth center. The car ride and walk inside were excruciating, and all I could do was moan loudly through the pain. As we walked inside, the most wonderful nurse greeted us and told me that I was doing great. We picked our room and she followed us in, turning the lights low as I sat on the toilet and let her take my blood pressure and monitor baby’s heart rate. The midwife came in soon after to check my progress, and as I had hoped, told me I was actually fully dilated. Baby was in a hurry to get out!

Feeling the primal urge to push was incredible, and it was a relief to be able to actively participate with my body versus just enduring the pain. I tried pushing in the tub (which was too hot for a Tucson summer night), then while squatting with my hands on the bed, but ultimately ended up lying on my side. The wonderful nurse gave me breathing and positioning tips, while Jesse held my hand as I pushed with everything I had. The midwife arrived soon after, and told me to get ready to feel my baby on my chest soon. Knowing that it would be over soon made everything so much more bearable. After a few more pushes, our midwife's prediction was right. Our baby was here and my body shook with post delivery adrenaline as she lay on my stomach. Jesse cut the cord and was able to deliver the surprise news we had been waiting nine months to hear. "It’s a girl," he said, and I couldn’t believe it. I had not so secretly wanted a daughter and here she was; healthy and perfect. I can’t think of a single better moment in my life.

less than an hour after delivery, hard to keep my eyes open

bonding with dad!

The next few hours were spent bonding, breastfeeding, and rehydrating/refueling (for both Jesse and me!). I had to get a few stitches, which wasn’t pleasant, but the midwife assured me that my tear was very minor. Less than five hours elapsed between my water breaking and baby’s 2:44 AM delivery. Unlike in a hospital, Jesse and I were able to bring her home at 8am that same day.

Before we left I caught a glimpse of my post delivery body in the mirror as I changed clothes for home. It would have been easy to focus on my saggy stomach, puffy eyes, and stretch marks, but I couldn’t possibly be upset with my body in that moment. It had done everything I’d hoped it would do over the past nine months - grow a healthy baby (while keeping me feeling good as well!) and allow me to deliver her naturally. I’ll be grateful for that for the rest of my life.

In her "going home" outfit

smiling already!

I'm also grateful to the amazing midwives and nurses at El Rio Birth Center, who fully believed in my ability to have a natural childbirth. With their support, as well as Jesse and my mom in attendance, I felt safe, calm, and capable. It's only fitting that Frankie is named after them both (for those who don't know, Jesse's first name is actually Frank).

In closing, to women everywhere who have given birth (with or without medication, vaginally or via c section), I hope you realize how amazing you are. It was the hardest thing I've ever done and I don't believe we give ourselves and our bodies enough admiration for being capable of it. With that said, it's time to snuggle my little girl!