When we started our journey of trying to conceive, we did not imagine that it would take as long as it did. We both thought we would get pregnant relatively quickly because I have an extremely regular menstrual cycle, and my mother and sister were able to get pregnant easily. Despite being 33 years old (now 34) and knowing that the reality for most women in their 30s is that trying to conceive takes a year or longer, I assumed that my journey would be quick and easy.
My wife and I began trying to conceive with a known donor and at home inseminations in January 2021. As many of you in the trail and ultra world know, you have to plan races pretty far in advance to get into most of the best, competitive races. Because I basically planned on being pregnant and giving birth by the end of 2021, I didn’t sign up for anything “big” and kept most of my mileage low (low for me at about 40 miles per week) and continued to train and run *almost* normally. I did scale back a little around the time of implantation each month, just in case, but otherwise, I knew that if you have a healthy cycle, you shouldn’t have to change much with running.
We got pregnant the second month, which quickly ended in a loss. That gave me even more hope that we’d be pregnant again quickly and easily, so I still refrained from signing up for big races and was on a monthly roller coaster full of two-week waits and planning the next try. Being in a same sex relationship, the tries with our donor took a LOT more time and effort than it would have if we had specimen readily available at home, which also made me want to be careful with running and not overdo it. After four months, we had to redirect our efforts, find an anonymous donor, and moved to a fertility clinic to (hopefully) speed things along.
Long story short, May through October, we tried some fertility drugs that resulted in a number of issues for me, including causing an episode of shingles. Overall, the drugs did NOT make me feel good. We tried to conceive with 5 rounds of Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUIs) with anonymous donor sperm at the doctor, some medicated, some unmedicated. During that time, I only signed up for last minute races I could squeeze in before the next try for a baby. So, I raced H9 Marathon in early August. I raced hard and ended up winning first overall. It was so much fun, reminded me how much I loved the long, hard efforts in the woods, and brought me back to my trail community. That experience made me wish I hadn’t already put off so many opportunities to enjoy racing, but I didn’t change my process because I thought that pregnancy must be closer than ever.
Around the same time, I planned a trip to Oregon to run around Mt. Hood over two days for Labor Day weekend to try to focus less on pregnancy. I just wanted to do something fun and epic before I became a mom and feel like myself again. If you were to ask me or my wife, we would both say that it was at the forefront of way too many conversations, plans, and resulted in more excitement and disappointment (on repeat) than we would have preferred.
We did get pregnant for the second time in August right after H9 Marathon, but it became a scary loss that was suspected to be ectopic due to rising HCG after a period and my progesterone had plummeted. However, with the stress of that loss and the pain of what my body was going through, I canceled the Oregon trip the day before my flight. Again, trying to conceive crushed my ability to go out and enjoy doing my favorite thing - playing on trails for extended periods.
Eventually, we had to make the decision to move to IVF. Originally, I didn’t want to do IVF because of how invasive it is, but it ultimately made me feel like I had slightly more control over the process and hope for a good outcome very soon. We were lucky to have good insurance that would cover the cost, and at this point, the monthly cost of quality sperm from California Cryobank became too much.
Despite the egg retrieval process in early November being quite the toll on my body, it ultimately didn’t last that long (a couple of weeks of no running), and I was able to return to running quickly. So, I squeezed in some track workouts and signed up for a December race in North Carolina, set for the week before I was to start the drugs for the frozen embryo transfer. Despite it being a rough race for me, I was so grateful to be out there in the woods - I wish I hadn’t spent so much time planning on NOT racing.
Good news - I’m pregnant! And I’m lucky to feel great during this pregnancy, so I signed up for a beautiful 50k in March (which will be around 16 weeks of pregnancy). If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to just plan on your life, including running events and races, without thinking about the “what ifs” - especially the question of “what if I’m pregnant?” because you may not be, or you may still be able to enjoy the running journey WHILE pregnant.