Pregnancy, for me, has always been this abstract idea. I’ve learned about it and appreciated it from afar. I had a very clear picture in my head for what my life would be like if I ever found myself pregnant. I imagined I would be able to carry on with life uninterrupted–that I would be an outlier who didn’t feel exhausted or sick, and that being pregnant would present no challenges.
Similarly, any time in my running career that I’ve found myself injured I’ve always assumed that the injury would not be a setback, that I would be able to continue running and going to the gym in the same capacity, and that I would be an outlier and feel minimal pain and recover overnight. Each time I have encountered an injury this is never the case, and yet each time I find myself injured I still have this very skewed idea.
In January I went for a hike and slid on the downhill. I felt something in my right knee tear. It was excruciating but as I continued down the mountain I put it out of my mind. By the time I got home that evening it wasn’t bothering me much. It was mildly sore and I went for a run, which doesn’t actually make logical sense in retrospect. For the next two months I had periodic soreness in my right knee that really didn’t impact my day to day life or running. The more I ran and the more I went to the gym, the more irritated my knee became. When it was irritated I’d rest it and then it was fine. By early March the soreness became a full fledged injury and I couldn’t walk straight. I quickly learned that I had a small tear in my meniscus. By the end of March I learned that I was pregnant and shortly thereafter I began to feel nauseous and tired.
I am fortunate because the injury was small enough that it would heal with physical therapy and active rest. I am also fortunate that I am able to experience pregnancy. However, knowing that I am fortunate has not helped me manage my emotions and it has not helped my mental health. Early pregnancy is very isolating; it isn’t safe to share the news and everything has to be a secret. My assumption has been that pregnancy is a magical time where women wander through life blissfully happy and joyful. The more I didn’t feel this way the more I felt guilty and undeserving of this experience. This has been a lonely time. I’ve missed my friends. I’ve missed waking up to run before work with the other girls in town. I’ve missed having the drive and motivation I usually have. Most of all I’ve missed being able to be open and honest with the people closest to me. I never imagined myself being injured with a small tear in my meniscus and growing a baby simultaneously. Finding myself injured and pregnant has been one of the most mentally and emotionally challenging situations I’ve ever been in.
I am a planner and I’ve been known to have several failsafe backup plans. I like organization and schedules. I also thrive on predictability. I like to know what is going to happen, when it is going to happen, how it is going to happen, and anything that could possibly go wrong so that I can prepare myself for how to handle it. Structure is a concrete pillar in my life and without it I crumble. Being injured and pregnant has removed all of the structure in my life. I never would have planned a pregnancy to align with a torn meniscus and I don’t know anyone who would. This situation has taken a toll on my mental health. It’s not the injury or the pregnancy alone, it’s the combination of being injured and pregnant at the same time. The social aspect of running adds so much joy to my life and that was suddenly gone. Having to keep pregnancy a secret magnified the injury and the miles I’ve missed out on. Eventually, we slowly started sharing the news with our family and closest friends. Each time we’ve shared the news I’ve felt less lonely, less scared, less worried, less overwhelmed, and less isolated. I may like plans and thrive on structure, but I value connection and relationships more.
Here I am at the end of the first trimester a lot less lonely and a lot less injured. I don’t have a plan right now but I have a jogging stroller and clearance to start running again, and that’s kind of magical.