Infertilty and running

[[New on the Running Through It series, Marcella: an Arizona-based #motherrunner, dives into her journey with infertility—and then parenting triplets!.Check out her website: Tackling Triplets. ]]

“I work out. Just kidding. I chase triplets.”

This catchy saying went around a few of my triplet mom social media groups about 2 years ago. Our trios were starting to enter the Wonderful World of Toddlers, and we found ourselves having even less time for ourselves and running around after our kids even more.

I found the saying tongue-in-cheek cute and secretly hoped someone would order me one of the screen prints or mugs it adorned. But the saying wasn’t entirely accurate in my life. I’m able to fit working out into triplet mommyhood, but it’s hard—really hard. Especially depending on which stage of triplet life I’ve been in.

Pre-kids (circa 2012-2013), I had a solid weekly workout routine down. I pounded pavement 3 days a week, pumped iron 2 days a week, and rested 2 days a week. My strength-training regimen was built for my unique fitness needs by my personal trainer at Acosta Fitness, and my running regimen had me logging anywhere from 10 to 20 miles a week. I was cruising along—and even training for a half-marathon.

Infertilty and running

The last run Marcella took before beginning IVF—13.1 miles before what was supposed to be a taper to a half-marathon.

My fall-from-fitness grace happened in 2014—when our 19-month infertility journey brought us to the doorstep of IVF. In the information session, I learned that I’d have to curtail my workouts during the stim phase of the cycle to not overtax my stressed, hormone-riddled body. “Oh honey,” the nurse had said when I inquired about continuing to train for the half-marathon, “Kiss those plans good-bye.”

I left the session less excited about our next steps toward (hopefully!) starting our family and more angry at yet another thing my dysfunctional ovaries were robbing me of.

For the next 2 years, my workout routine was all over the place, ruled by various—dare I say it—dictators.

In the 8 months that followed, IVF directed my workouts. I walked during stim cycles and resumed my normal routine during non-stim cycles. The 2 weeks between our ET and first beta saw me sitting on my butt. I was cleared to do whatever I wanted after the first 48 hours following the ET, but I wasn’t going to chance having an errant lunge rip an embryo from my uterine wall.

IVF handed off its reduced-exercise baton to my multiples pregnancy, which was ruled equally by my doctors and my body. Ironically, my reproductive endocrinologist could get me pregnant with triplets, but he couldn’t advise me on more than a singleton pregnancy. So in the 8 weeks between learning I was pregnant and consulting with a specialist, my running shoes didn’t move above a walk. My maternal fetal medicine doctor cleared me for exercise—if it didn’t raise my heart rate above 140 beats per minute. So I bought a heart-rate monitor, walked, and found a pregnancy strength training regimen to follow.

Infertilty and running

Marcella went into labor a week after this picture.

My doctors weren’t the only ones who had specific rules about exercise during my pregnancy. My body also liked to throw its weight around. And as much as I had a history of pushing myself, I also knew that this wasn’t the time. When a little voice told me to stop strength training, I put the weights down where I stood in the gym and went upstairs to walk on the treadmill. When my body protested the walking, I demurred to simple stretching. I was determined to be as healthy as I could for the three tiny humans growing inside me, and if that meant sitting on the couch, then sit I would.

My workout routine entered a whole new level of nuttiness when my triplets, aka the Tagalongs, were born.

Working out was a fantasy in the Tagalongs’ first 6 months of life. Life during the babies’ 8-week residency in NICU was work, visit NICU, pump, sleep, repeat. When the babies came home, they were on a 3-hour feeding schedule. They were inefficient eaters, and we weren’t adventurous about trying to feed all three at once, so feeds took 1½ hours. Cleanup, prep for the next feed, and pumping took another 30 minutes. That left us with 1 hour in which to live life. One hour in which to shower and dress, eat, pay bills, run an errand, do housework, and complete other adulting tasks. I should mention that this schedule was 24/7. For the first 2 months the Tagalongs were home, we slept in 1-hour chunks we unaffectionately referred to as The Round of Naps—less during colic.

Infertilty and running

“What I look like after a full day with the kiddos + a workout.”

There were some bad@$$ moms in my social media groups who managed to get in workouts during that time. One mom won a CrossFit competition, competed in several road races, and even completed training for the Boston Police Academy. Me on the other hand … It took me over a year to make regular exercise more of a reality.

Even then, I had to baby step workouts back into my life. I started out with very light strength training a few days a week. Then we invested in an elliptical so I could run once a week. As I got my strength back and we finessed schedules, my workout routine increased so that by the fall of 2016, three years after our infertility treatment began, my workout routine was back to what it was in the days of yore.

But it hasn’t always been predictable or steady. I’ve had to juggle when I work out with ever-changing work and kid schedules. And I’ve had to learn to be flexible about whether those workouts happen. Sometimes, logging miles is eclipsed by the need for sleep after a long night with littles. Other times, workouts are interrupted by tiny people whose struggle to put themselves to sleep is much greater than one person can handle.

I’ve had to learn to be OK with this inconsistency and unpredictability. That’s been a hard and frustrating lesson to stomach. I’m a creature of habit, and I don’t get along very well with routine breakers. It’s hard to go from dictating the events of your life to having the events dictate you—particularly when you’re very passionate about something.

I’ve never been an uberfit fitness junkie, but exercise is important to me. It’s how I stay healthy—both physically and mentally. It plays a huge part in how I stay sane. Working out—running in particular—is my way of stepping back from the crazy in my life and regrouping. I’m a much better mom, wife, family member, friend, and person when I’m able to lace up my kicks and run or lift.

And that’s why I’ll continue to play Tetris: Adulthood Edition to fit exercise into my regular routine. My life is quite different from what it used to be, but that doesn’t mean that things I enjoy must go by the wayside. It just means that I must work a little harder to have them.

Infertilty and running

Running the redemption race: the 2017 Mesa-Phoenix Half-Marathon.

And that’s just fine by me. After all, hard work pays off. That half-marathon and I finally met in 2017, and it was everything I thought it would be—and more. I ran it again in 2018 and signed up for it again in 2019. And I’m flirting with the idea of a full marathon.

Some things are worth the wait.

Have you Run Through It—a challenging situation or stage in life—at some point? We want to hear from you!

Write up your essay (no more than 1,200 words, please), then email it to us. We’ll be in touch when we can publish it. Thanks!