The stitch low in my side radiated down and around my belly. It was too low to be a traditional side ache, too high to be a muscle cramp and it wasn’t the first time I’d felt the tell-tale pinch.
But I kept jogging. The day was glorious. It was one of those spring days bathed in sunshine and fragrant with the smell of damp earth. My legs felt strong and the cool breeze wiped the sweat off my brow. Each turn of the trail seemed to reveal a path more beautiful than the one before. Those who live in Juneau will truly understand when I say, it was just one of those days ...
Yikes! There it was again.
“Ok, ok I get it,” I thought.
My legs slowed to a walk. For a minute I sulked, took a deep breath and reached an arm over my head to stretch my side.
I knew the pinch, a Braxton Hicks contraction, was a harmless one. I knew these infrequent contractions of the uterine muscle could be brought on by a variety of things. Exercising is known to increase the frequency and intensity of the contractions. Frequent fetal movement, dehydration, a full bladder, or even sex can also trigger these types of contractions, according to the American Pregnancy Association. They show up in the second or third trimester and are typically nothing to worry about. Braxton Hicks contractions, which were first described by John Braxton Hicks in 1871, rarely have adverse consequences. In fact, some doctors and midwives believe they actually stimulate blood flow to the placenta, which makes sense, as any contracting muscle needs extra oxygen and fuel to do so. Other experts say they are “practice” contractions, which help tone the uterine muscle. As mom gets closer to her due date, some experts believe Braxton Hicks can help to soften the cervix in preparation of dilation and effacement.
The best thing to do when they hit, if you’re exercising, is to stop, take a deep breath and try to relax. They are a bit uncomfortable, after all. I often feel them on one side or the other, so I’ll raise the corresponding arm over my head to gently stretch my side. Sipping water can help, as will a little break in the shade.
Keep in mind, however, if the contractions do not dissipate, increase in frequency or intensity or become rhythmic, it’s important to contact your health care provider. Better safe than sorry.
In short, they are a red flag, of sorts, to the mom.
On this day, during this glorious run, the last thing I wanted to do was take it easy. My legs easily had ten miles in them. The endorphins were pumping.
Regardless, I put my pride aside and took it slow.
I wanted to go leaping down the trail, but instead I walked.
Putting pride on the back burner isn’t easy. It’s like walking away from the second-to-last fudge brownie at a party. It’s like doing chores inside when it’s sunny in Southeast Alaska.
But that’s what being pregnant is often about and it’s important. From the moment of conception, life becomes about the “we” instead of the “I.” Everything the mom does is for two.
This way of thinking doesn’t happen overnight. Like most things, it takes practice. I’ve had a hard time watching my average pace slowly increase. I used to fly down trails at around 8 minutes per mile. Now, if I break 10 mpm, I’m happy. It's not easy hauling around 20 extra pounds. My mantra for finding peace with gaining weight and getting slow is simple: It’s for the best and it’s worth it.
Take building a house, for example. The best houses are build with a strong foundation, a solid exterior and the framing, electrical and plumbing to last decades. During pregnancy, I’m creating the foundation for life and now is the time to build it using the best materials I can. This means nutrients, rest, fresh oxygen and a mental outlook of clarity and peace. If I’m concerned or stressed, those hormones reach my baby. If I fill my body with junk food and sweets, I’m depriving myself and my baby of the vital nutrients needed to thrive. So, why bother? If you’re going to do it, do it right. One thing is for certain about being pregnant: It doesn’t last forever. Those skinny jeans will be waiting.
This week’s trail of choice is the Dupont Trail. It begins at the end of the Thane Road, south of downtown Juneau. The trail begins as a well-traveled track that traverses a hillside providing views across Gastineau Channel to Douglas Island. A few well-built bridges provide crossing over streams and the forest canopy above offers cool shade for hikers. As the trail heads southward, it becomes a bit rooty and earlier this spring a few downed trees slightly obscured the trail. Even with a soccer ball belly, I was able to sneak under them. After about 1.4 miles, the trail forks — the right fork heads to Dupont Beach, where relics from the mining days remain and the left fork heads to Point Bishop, which is just over 6 miles down the trail. The beach at Dupont is rocky, but on a sunny day lends itself well to a seaside picnic lunch.
• This week's mileage: 26.6 miles.Runs: 5.
• Pregnancy stage: 23 weeks.
• Trail of choice: Dupont Trail (Length: 3.6 miles round trip).