One Month Postpartum

A month ago I was super pregnant and mentally prepared to still be pregnant halfway into March. Instead, little girl is a whole month old and my life is completely different now.

Although she isn’t sleeping through the night I like to think that my years of Army training have prepared me to function on little or poor quality of sleep. I did lose 30 pounds in the week after delivery which was pretty cool and I’ve lost another five since then. I haven’t been cleared for strenuous physical activity but I have been doing walks around the neighborhood with the dogs and stroller. I also joined a postpartum yoga class on post which of been a lot of fun even though I seem to spend a lot of the time either breast-feeding or trying to call me fussy baby. In a few weeks she’ll be old enough that I can leave her in childcare at the YMCA and then it will be a little bit easier to get my workout in.

She’s grown a whole pound and some change in a month and is a little taller than the height/weight ratio but she’s gaining both pretty evenly so I wonder if she got the tall genes that I didn’t get. It’s also a little humbling to think that had she cooked longer this is how big she might have been full term.

I’m still holding off signing up for races until I’ve been cleared and have a base again, but I DID sign up for the 2018 Peachtree Road Race again. This year I was quick enough to get an Atlanta Track Club membership and a guaranteed entry.

A (Really Long) Baby Story

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Pictures by Rachel Tesch Photography

Annemarie Jo Keller was born February 9th at 04:14 am and weighed in at 7 lbs 5 oz and 22 inches long. My water broke Thursday February 8th around 5 pm at 37 weeks and 3 days and ramped up pretty quickly. I’d been feeling sort of off all week-still swollen, and just sort of irritable and not very hungry but I was so surprised when the gush happened.

I’d just fed our two dogs and all of sudden, there it was. P was outside talking on the phone to a friend so I opened the door to tell him either my water had broken, or I had massively peed myself and either way we were going to the hospital.

We tried going to Steak N Shake for dinner but they took forever so I ended up getting it to go and drank my shake and took a bite of the burger, all of which I threw back up a little while later. Funnily, when trying to get them to hurry our now to-go order my husband told the cashier that we were on our way to the hospital. Her eyes got big and she asked if I was having contractions and her eyes got even bigger when I said yes.

Food didn’t come any faster, though. >. <

I was 3 cm and I think 70% dilated when I was finally admitted. I had planned on going without an epidural as long as possible but I’d also planned on a slow, gradual labor. So I asked for the epi and it took about 2 hours go get it. By the time I did, I was 6 cm and 90% effaced. It really helped take the edge off so I could try to nap throughout transition. Even then, we didn’t really understand how the epidural button worked so a couple of times it got pushed and nothing happened. It was wearing off so we had the anesthesiologist come in and give another dose and then he showed us how the button worked and it worked out for me because by the time my epidural meds ran dry, it was time to push.

Eventually my labor changed and I started feeling a lot of pressure. I had another cervical check (NOT FUN) and she was about 0 so they had me do some practice pushes to get the hang of it.

Pushing was HARD. SO HARD. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything and was getting pretty tired and the docs were worried that I was going to exhaust myself and so they pulled out the vacuum. Well, Annemarie has big shoulders and got stuck for about three minutes and all of a sudden there were a ton of people in the room all screaming at me to breathe and push. They were yelling, I was screaming, there were 3 doctors with their hands in my vagina all trying to pull her out.

Our hospital does skin to skin but when she finally got freed, they had to take her over to the Panda and start working on her.


I’ve only recently been able to look at this picture without crying. 

I could tell my husband was really worried and also didn’t hear any noises coming from her. Also, my doula was next to me and she was straight up praying which probably worried me even more than anything else though also made me not worry either. I didn’t really understand it then but I was sure it was all going to be okay. My husband just kept saying how great I did and then when she finally started making little noises he kept saying how we could hear her and telling me he could see her kicking and how she had so much hair.

They did great and she perked right up but they took her over to the NICU because she was still having some respiratory distress. She was on the CPAP for about 70 minutes and my husband went along with her while I stayed with our doula and the nurses massaged my uterus. I had a small second degree tear inside the vagina from the vacuum and having that stitched up super sucked, especially since I had no fresh baby on my chest to distract me. The stitches were the second worst part of the whole ordeal, second to the part of having three men trying to maneuver a baby out. I cried and whimpered and was just generally awful while getting stitched up.

Once that finally done I was feeling 100% better since I’d first come in so once they got me cleaned up they wheeled me down to the NICU to see how she was doing. They were just finishing up their evaluation of her (her Apgar scores were 2,7, and 8) and we got to wheel her back down to our room. I’m not a very emotional person but I couldn’t stop crying when I saw her and my husband was crying, too. Shoot, I’m crying now while remembering how I was crying.


One of the nurses helped me work on getting her to latch and we’ve been working on getting a good latch for her and me. It’s getting there.

I was ready to be discharged but my blood pressure was still elevated and so they ran some labs and sure enough, I have a variation of preeclampsia called HELLP. Some more background- my legs and feet and hands started swelling like crazy a month ago but my BP and everything else was fine. I’m military so I see a group of doctors and one ordered labs. They came back showing elevated liver and lowered platelets, basically possible HELLP, and ordered more labs. But the labs isn’t get ordered and the doctor I had at my next appointment wasn’t concerned. My doula was surprised he didn’t want to at least check my urine for protein given how swollen I was and I was going to mention it at my next appointment.

HELLP is pretty serious if untreated but is easily treatable. Most women have symptoms that help diagnose it but I had nothing other than swelling and then high blood pressure.

They put me on a magnesium sulfide drip for 24 hours and confined me to bed. I could still breastfeed, which was good. I also got the option of a bed pan or a catheter. I opted for the bed pan because I like independence, though I guess having to call to have someone help you pee in bed isn’t very independent.

At one point I wanted to change my mind. I had to pee so badly and was trying to breastfeed without much success, I mean, it was only Day 2 so neither of us (me or Annemarie) was very good at it. I buzzed the nurse and asked for a catheter but when she came in and began the prep work to thread it, I realized how much more sore and tender that area was and apologized but changed my mind back.

By the next day, my blood pressure was significantly lower and my labs were also significantly better. I had a follow up check and my platelets in particular, were so much better. A normal count, the doctor said, is between 150 and 400 and when they checked me at the hospital, I was down to just 107. Not great when you’ve just delivered and are bleeding afterbirth.

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Photo by Rachel Tesch Photography. I love it because it’s hard for me to imagine how she managed to fit inside there, she’s all arms and legs now.

All in all, I knew labor was going to be hard, but I’ve always been so healthy that I never had any reason to think I was anything but until I obviously wasn’t. The doctors told me that the shoulder dystocia Annemarie had has a reasonably high chance of a repeat in subsequent pregnancies, especially since she was near-term and already pretty big, and that I’d be a good candidate for an elective C-section as a result. Also, the HELLP makes me a high risk patient for any subsequent pregnancies and I’d need to be seen by a specialist in obstetrics; there’s one in the Army as far as he knows, and he is currently deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (because that’s a good place to put an obstetrician).

Another thing that is still surprising to me – I’ve always believed I was blood type O Negative. Except, I’m not. I asked the nurse how Annemarie could be O Positive when I and her dad are O Neg and she looked surprised and told me I was O Pos and where I’d heard that I was O Neg. Um…the Army? It’s on my dog tags? I don’t know, but maybe this is kind of a thing that you want to know, especially with a low platelet count?

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Photo credit Rachel Tesch Photography

Any way, after 24 hours my labs and blood pressure improved enough for them to release us both. It was so nice to sleep in my own bed, well, when I’m allowed to sleep anyway. It’s been a week since Annemarie joined us and she’s already just two ounces away from her birth weight and getting chunkier by the day. I was absolutely set that I never wanted kids and now here I am on the other side and I can’t imagine not.

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Photo credit Rachel Tesch Photography



Keeping It Tight

I fully expected some swelling later in pregnancy, but I never imagined my feet would swell to proportions better suited to a Cabbage Patch Doll. I tried soaking them, putting them up, but nothing made a dent or still does so at the recommendation of a friend, I turned to compression socks.

My legs and feet are still swollen, but the compression socks help to minimize the swelling. Or they just push the fluid elsewhere. I’m not really sure anymore.

Putting them on is a huge challenge every morning and once they’re on, that’s it. I’m sometimes tempted to leave them on overnight but that goes against my firm beliefs in airing out of feet so usually I have P help me strip them off in the evening. Since I’m wearing them in uniform, I went for conservative colors so that way when they show it’s not embarrassing trying to explain why my socks are patterned or hot pink or something like that. Though I already feel pretty ridiculous-looking in my maternity uniform as it is, I’d like to at least pretend I have some control over my appearance.

Compression sock tip: Measure your calves! Either use a piece of string or a soft measuring tape. I gained at least an inch in each calf with pregnancy and it makes a difference when buying socks.

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  1. CEP Women’s Performance Recovery+ Socks// $50// I bought these and the 2XU socks at my local Fleet Feet because I was desperate for something to help my feet fit into shoes again. My biggest complaint with them is that because my calves are swollen and huge, the foot size doesn’t quite fit me and they have extra room in the foot and toe, which invariably my body fills with fluid and tissue. I couldn’t find the exact model I bought, but mine aren’t solid black and have a hot pink section that runs around the heel. It wouldn’t be a problem with normal shoes, but I was wearing Converse sneakers last week and sometimes the pink would peek out.
  2. 2XU Women’s Compression Performance Run Sock// $49.95// I also bought these at Fleet Feet. They’re not bad at all and very comfortable and not that difficult to put on. I also like that they’re solid black so I don’t have to worry about showing any funny colors.
  3. Zoot Women’s Ultra 2.0 CRX Socks// $12.95// The price isn’t a joke, they’re really that affordable, though I did have to go up a size because of my monster calves. They’re more expensive at other sizes so it really depends on how big your calves are. These are probably my favorite socks of the bunch, and not just because of the price. They are super comfortable and tight, but also a complete bear to put on. I timed myself last week and it took me six and a half minutes to put on both socks, including breaks because putting on compression socks when you’re over eight months pregnant is no joke. It’s more like a workout.

Things No One Tells You About Being Pregnant

And probably because if they did, you’d think a little harder about whether you wanted to do this. I probably still would have, but more of a warning would have been nice. You read all sorts of things about other sports, hitting the wall in the marathon, open water swim panic, but there is no one there to tell you about the things your body will do while pregnant.

I definitely am not a pro. I’m a first time mom (FTM lingo for all the baby boards I’m now subbed to), but STILL.


  • It might just be my doctor, but every time there’s a new complaint the answer is not ibuprofen, drink water, and change your socks as I’ve been conditioned to expect by the Army, but instead “let’s do some labs” which means I get to go down and wait in the lab for them to draw more blood and sometimes provide a urine sample. I’m in the third trimester, I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen my “undercarriage” except in a mirror. The other day I had to provide a urine sample, no big because I pee every 10 minutes anyway, but since I couldn’t see what I was doing, I also peed all over my hand. PREGNANCY.


  •  Speaking of pee, I’ve been religiously doing my kegels and anything remotely rumored to help. It didn’t stop me from peeing a little when I sneezed a couple months ago.


  • Do you know what GBS is? I sure didn’t. Apparently it’s Group B strep. Why this matters is because something like 25% of all women have it. It’s no big except it can kill your baby, and also the way they test for this is to swab your vagina and/or rectum. Since this is the Army, you can guess what they swab.


  • I really think there’s a crew of vampires employed by the hospital with all the blood tests they require. Right off the bat I think I provided something like five vials of blood, for what, I have no idea but they didn’t tell me the baby’s sex which would have made it all worth it. And then I still had to get more labs done for a HIV test even though I have an updated one from two years ago and the only person I’m making babies with is my husband who you know, also has an updated HIV test. But you know what? I did it again because in the State of Georgia there is apparently a HIV threat and if your baby comes out with any sort of possible illness, they will immediately start that baby on antiretrovirals. Of course, it’s entirely possible I could somehow get HIV between that test and my baby’s birth, but we won’t talk about that.


  • How about no one warns you about the lack of sleep WHILE pregnant? I love sleep. I miss sleep. I expected this after the baby but not while she’s still cooking. This would be fine except I can’t chug coffee like I used to.


  • Pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel syndrome is a thing and it sucks. I work with computers for a living but also you sort of need hands to do every day things like pull covers up, do your hair, wipe yourself after using the toilet.



  • On the plus side, I feel like universally everyone is just nicer to pregnant ladies. I like the parking spaces up front at stores and how people are just generally kinder to pregnant women. I was craving a tall juice from Panera one day at breakfast after drinking all my hot cocoa and the cashier just let me have it for free. Day. Made. At this point, I am also appreciative of people letting me have a seat when space is limited and moving out of my way in narrow spaces because I don’t have much proprioception anymore, judging by the bruises on my thighs and also all the food that gets dropped on my shirt on a daily basis.


  • It’s hard to tell but I could also swear that my pets love me more. I say it’s hard to tell because due to my shift work, I’m able to spend more time with them than I used to and they seem to be slightly preferring me over my husband (with the exception of my cat who can’t help that he’s a jerk because he’s a cat). Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming but mostly I love having extra-cuddly dogs.

All in all, it’s not the worst thing ever but I really don’t think I fully understood what I was signing up for along the way. I don’t think it would have stopped me from wanting to have kids, but I think I could have been better informed.

Spinning Babies?

I wrote a couple of entries ago about some of the more labor-focused exercises my doula was having me do. She also referred me to a site called Spinning Babies, which is not at all like the Exorcist scene I pictured of babies with their heads spinning around. Instead, it’s a compendium of exercises designed to position babies optimally for labor as well as help strengthen the pelvic floor for birth.


For me, I’m interested in it because it claims that it can help ease back labor, avoid c-sections, and decrease the labor time even for first time moms. Possibly best of all hardly any of the exercises require any equipment and mostly use bodyweight to achieve its goals. I also really like workouts with point to them – one of the reasons I have a hard time with free form cardio workouts as opposed to lifting.

The site goes over all the exercises with clear pictures, but they also offer videos for a fee if workout videos are more of your thing. I feel pretty comfortable with my current range of exercises, but it’s fun to read about others and what else I can do even in late pregnancy to help my baby get into an optimal birthing position and also reduce fatigue for myself in labor.


2018 Goals

I love setting goals and also making lists just so I can check things off of them. It’s so satisfying. Resolution goals are really my jam. Over the years I’ve gotten better at goal-setting and making things intentional and realistic as opposed to just saying I’ll do more of something or less of something else.

For 2018, my goals are a little different than in years past.

ONE // I want to try to make it to breastfeeding for six months

A year would be better, but I’m not even remotely in control of my work schedule and there’s a chance I might be on a long work trip this time next year, so I’m trying to make flexible goals as well. I really would like to meet this one, if only because breastmilk is free and formula is so expensive.

TWO // Pass my postpartum APFT

I have six months after giving birth to take the Army Physical Fitness Test which I’ve never had an issue passing before, but I’ve also never given birth before and never weighed as much as I do now. I already feel slightly stressed and panicky at the thought of trying to drop all this baby weight and get back into shape in six short months.

THREE // Study for and pass the CompTIA CISSP exam

Every year I try to do something to professionally improve myself. I almost failed in 2017 because I got busy with a major training exercise at the beginning of the year and then moving and learning an entire new job, bur fortunately my job enrolled me in a two-week course so I got some professional training I otherwise would not have gotten. I’ve been respectful of the CISSP test for years and a little intimidated by the breadth of knowledge it tests which also makes it difficult to study for.

FOUR // Finish the Augusta Ironman 70.3

This is a rollover from 2017 because I wasn’t comfortable cycling while pregnant. Looking back, I feel like I was overly concerned and probably would have been just fine, but it’s my first rodeo so I’m trying to be forgiving of myself as well. I’m also hoping this will give me some motivation for passing the APFT as well.

FIVE // Get back down to my pre-pregnancy weight

I don’t actually know if I can do this in a year, but I want to put this down because it is still a goal. I was at a healthy weight before I got pregnant but my body really loves being pregnant and was more than happy to pack on the pounds, so much so that we thought I might actually have gestational diabetes (I didn’t, which was both a relief and a discouragement because then at least I’d have a reason for why I blew up so much). This is also probably my vainest goal of the bunch so I won’t be too hard on myself if I don’t achieve it by the end of 2018 as long as I’ve made some progress in dropping the weight.

2017 Favorite Moments

I’d be a little sadder to close the chapter on this year if I wasn’t so excited for this next one to start. I love crossing things off lists, but I also love starting new things.

To help wish 2017 goodbye, I thought I’d count down my five favorite moments from it.

5. Buying our second house

As much as I like calling it our “second home” it’s our first single-family home together. About a week after we found out we were moving to Georgia, we flew down to go house hunting. 11 months prior we had closed on our houses in Alaska so it felt very familiar (and a little nuts) to be buying a second house less than a year after our first. We bought our first as an investment property and although this one we still bought as an investment, we’ve spent more time making it our own than we did with the Alaska houses. I’m also not sure if it was because our ducks were still in a row or if it was our realtor who made all the difference, but buying our Georgia house was night and day from our Alaska experience. We had an accepted offer and completed home inspection in less than a week – and it’s a good thing, too because the houses in our neighborhood are now selling for 10-20k more than what we bought ours at.

4. Leaving Alaska

I liked living in Alaska, but I realized last summer or fall that I was ready to leave and go do something different. I also knew I wanted to take the ferry and drive cross-country again and do some sight-seeing. Although it was the same way I came up to Alaska, it was so different going back. The Alaska Marine Highway system had gone through a lot of changes, I had two dogs with me and was traveling alone, and I felt like I was different as a person, too. I had a great trip and loved it but I was more than ready to get to work on some small renovations in our house when I finally got to Georgia.

3. Rev3 Triathlon

I also wanted to get back into triathlon since living in Georgia where I had options for racing and training was a lot easier. I signed up for a whole mess of races around the state and then as my travel race I registered for the Rev3 Olympic Triathlon in Williamsburg, pretty much right before I found out I was pregnant. I still felt comfortable and strong but dropped all my goals other than to see how it went and finish and had a great time. I don’t know if I’ll make it out to any other Rev3 races this coming year because I’m also going to be juggling a baby, but I’d really love to see if I could swing it.

2. Visiting my brother sister and two of my closest friends

One of the best things about moving around is all the people I get to meet and new experiences I get to have, but I also miss my family and friends when living so far away. I managed to visit both of my siblings as well as two of my best friends from college all in the same year, which is just more impressive to me when I think about how none of them live near each other.

1. Baby!

By far the best part of 2017 was finding out that we were expecting. I had mentally settled in for a long course of trying to conceive when I found out we had, actually. I was a little flustered initially in trying to research just what I could still do as far as training and racing and ultimately decided to pull out of a lot of late-season things I’d signed up for because I couldn’t maintain the training level for it to be a safe idea. As it stands, I’m seven months along now and in a few days I’ll be able to say that my baby is due next month.

Pregnancy Exercises

I completed a “Confidence in Childbirth” class through my hospital recently and while it was a definite commitment, 2.5 hours a class and five classes spread over six weeks, I learned so much. One of the things the instructor really emphasized was doing your exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and make space by doing kegels and also squats. Lots and lots of squats.

She recommended two an hour. Well, I work full time and I already feel a bit like a balloon with two legs and feel even sillier trying to do squats at work, so I’ve really been neglecting those even though I know I’ll pay for it later with interest.

We had our first doula prenatal meeting last week and one of the things she went over was also exercises including, you guessed it, squats. Lots and lots of squats. But also pelvic hip thrusts, standing lunges, and exercise ball hip openers. I don’t know if it’s because I’m paying for a doula and the birth class was free, or if just hearing it again from another person, but I’ve been doing a lot better with my exercises.


Awkward pelvic thrusts made more awkward by the near-constant dog presence

I’m supposed to do three sets a day so I do one set when I wake up and before I eat, one around lunchtime, and one before I leave for work. I broke my squats down into two big sets so I get those done before I leave for work as well. This also doesn’t excuse me from my normal exercise so I still need to get in some light weight lifting (light only because my strength seems to have taken a hiatus) and low-impact cardio. Running officially sucks too much to try anymore so I’ve switched to an elliptical-like running machine at my gym that hurts less but still makes me feel tired.

I’m also supposed to spend some time sitting on the floor in different positions. I’m not really sure how these help prepare me for labor, but it’s not too uncomfortable and my dogs think it’s fun when I’m down on their level.


I’ve got about two months to go so I’m ready to put in the work and see how it benefits the labor process and also recovery.

Framing Bathroom Mirror – Easy DIY

Both of my bathrooms were gifted with enormous, beautiful mirrors held up by clips. I knew I wanted to frame them and looked up a couple of online tutorials to see how I wanted to do it.

I opted not to do a miter joint because I’m not all that handy with a saw and I thought a more casual frame would go nicer with my style and decor.

I picked up my materials at Lowe’s. In all, I used 6 (4 were needed, but I miscalculated and wasted two) 8-foot molding strips plus 2 8-foot sections of paneling for the sides of the mirrors to keep the mirror edges from being visible. If my mirrors were sandwiched between walls I wouldn’t have bothered.

Plus, a caulking gun (no idea where mine went), some Liquid Nails, some paintable caulk, and I still had plenty of high gloss white trim paint leftover. I didn’t buy a saw because we have something like 3, but they had little miter saws for sale for about $20 that would get the job done.

I used the miter saw to cut the edges and then used blue painters tape to tape the pieces up on the mirror to make sure I liked how it looked before I committed. That’s how I figured out I needed the center pieces to be about and inch longer – back to the store for more molding.


I tend to hang my swimsuits in this bathroom to dry.

The backs of the molding was primed light so I just glued them on with the Liquid Nails and let dry. I had to tape some pieces up and brace them to make sure they wouldn’t wiggle out of place as they dried.

Once dried, I caulked up the seams and smoothed them as best as I could. Once that had dried, I painted two coats of Sherwin Williams high gloss Ultra White before removing the painters tape and using a razor to scrape off any paint spatters on the mirrors.


No swimsuits, just microfiber towels for drying the cars.

You can see some of the Liquid Nails if you peer into the corners, but overall the mirrors look great and I’m happy with how much fresher the bathroom looks with this easy update.


Playing it by Ear

Around this time each year is when I start planning my race season for the following year. Mainly because it’s fun but also because it keeps me motivated through the winter (which was really important living in Alaska’s Golden Heart of Darkness). I started doing the same thing again recently when I got a shot of reality from a fitness and pregnancy group I follow.

Namely, I may not be able to bounce right back like I naively think I can. What if I have a c-section? That’s six weeks at least just to be able to heal not to mention the lack of sleep and if I’m able to breastfeed, having to feed her frequently.

And if there’s other factors as well, I have to take that time off to let my body heal without straining it or injuring it further by trying to push it too soon. I’ve recovered from marathons but this is something totally different. I’ve never recovered from birth before, plus I have no idea how different my life is going to be. It’s sort of like traveling – even though I can read all the guidebooks, it’s still going to be different experiencing something for the first time.

It’s hard to hold back from registering for a bunch of races, but even if I lose out on early bird discounts, it’s still better than having to choose to not start and feeling like a failure for it. I registered for a lot of races this fall and winter because I didn’t really think I would get pregnant and now even though it’s dumb, I feel like I’m failing myself by not doing the races.

So instead, I’m going to focus my efforts on keeping myself active and healthy through pregnancy, taking the time and put in the work to recover safely, and stay involved in sports through volunteering. That way I can still be a part of the race and honestly, races and events rely so much on volunteer support.