Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Surprise, Surprise

Alright, so we are having a baby. A few weeks ago, Audrey goes in for the AFP triple screen test. It is a normal thing to do and is intended to help determine whether the baby might have Down's Syndrome, spina bifida, and things of that nature. We had the test done when Audrey was pregnant with Noah and didn't see any reason not to do it again. I believe it is voluntary, but why not know this kind of thing in advance if you can, right?

So, the results come back and one of the indicators is a bit high. Not far out of whack and not something that couldn't be caused a number of normal conditions. For example, if you get the test done outside of a particular window, the results will have a high potential for false positives. Of course, the test already has a decent potential for false positives, so the timing is everything. Since we already had some concern regarding the inaccuracy of the due date, we figured it was likely that the test results were due to being outside the normal window in which the test should be administered. Armed with a good explanation, we still worried like crazy through the weekend. We were able to get an appointment with a perinatologist early the following week and just tried to keep our emotions in check until then.

So, we go see the perinatologist for a Level 2 sonogram. I can't really tell what the difference is, but it seemed like a stronger machine that produced a much more detailed picture of Audrey's insides and all. Again, the point was to look for signs of something being wrong that would explain that would explain the test result. Well, it was instantly apparent what the cause was. In addition to a mistaken due date and actual birth defects, one of the reasons that test can produce non-normal results is if there is more baby in the womb than you were expecting when you took the test. That's right...the test was done with one baby in mind, but the sonogram clearly showed two! We were totally floored. Suddenly, at 18 weeks pregnant, we found out we were having identical twins. I think my jaw hit the floor. Audrey and I just kept looking at each other in disbelief. Never in our wildest dreams did we even consider this as a possibility. Before you ask, no it doesn't run in our families. Besides, there is no genetic predisposition for identical twins. Identicals are just a random fluke of nature - the cells split at just the right time and you get two matching sets of cells, each with the exact same DNA and each set independently growing into a human being.

We giggled and held hands and just tried to integrate what this all would mean for us. Twin infants means big, big change is coming and we hadn't planned for that degree of change, of course. Is the house big enough? Where do they sleep? Can we fit all the kids in the car? How will we get through the first few months? All sorts of questions popped up. But, the story isn't over yet.

So, after identifying that we are having twins, the sonographer starts looking for the membrane between them. I'm no expert, but there are a number of different configurations for twins. There are fraternal twins, which are two eggs and two sperm and nothing shared between them, including different placentas and all that. Then there are identical twins which can have varying degrees of shared stuff. In our case, the twins are sharing just about everything. They share both the outer and inner sac, otherwise known as monoamniotic twins. This means that there is nothing keeping them from touching each other or from swimming around each other, tangling up the umbilical cords and cutting off their own blood supply. And that is where the issue lies. There is some risk of the babies doing exactly that or of tangling the cords and compressing them at some point in their growth. And, cord entanglement could result in the babies not making it.

What does this all mean? We are having twins, but this is a high risk pregnancy. Up until 24 weeks, babies just aren't viable outside of the womb. So, until we hit that point, there is nothing we can do other than tell these two kids to play nice in there. At 24 weeks, Audrey will likely be admitted to the hospital and basically put on bedrest for the remainder of the pregnancy. The reason for this is that she can be monitored regularly in the hospital, or rather the babies can be monitored, and the doctors can do a c-section in the case that there are signs that something is wrong. The babies would then be kept in the NICU until they were healthy enough to come home. If all goes well, they don't come out until 34 weeks or more and won't be that premature. Then, they will probably only need a few days in the hospital. Earlier than that and they'll need some degree of care and monitoring.

No matter what happens, this is clearly going to have a big impact on our family. Hospital stay, twins, potential risks and complications...it has been a lot for us to digest and deal with. But we are in good spirits and holding up well so far. Whatever happens, happens, but we are very hopeful that everyone involved comes out fine at the end. And, we know right now that we have two healthy babies, so we are planning for their impending arrival.

We will soon be a family of five. Wow.

Visit from an Old Friend

It was just for a few hours, but an old friend stopped by for dinner last night. Our friend, Dan, was in town visiting his family for the upcoming holiday and had some time to come over in his way into DC. He lives in LA and is very, very Hollywood. Okay, I don't know what the hell that means exactly, but I am writing it because Dan reads this blog sometimes and I want to tease him a bit.

I think I gave him too many veggies at dinner. I liked them and was excited about the prospect of eating roasted brussel sprouts and squash, but I am clearly a huge food dork and most people would not be that interested in either item. In any case, I must have piled too much on his plate, although he valiantly ate it without complaint. Veggies are good for you, Dan! Audrey didn't like them much either, so more for me in the end. I'll be eating the leftovers tonight, I imagine. That choco chip banana bread was freaking good, though...you can't deny the wife's baking skillz.

It was great to see Dan. It has been several years since his last visit and since we are sucky people who never travel very far, we haven't had the chance to see him in LA. The amazing thing is that we've all known each other for almost 15 years now. That is unbelievable and makes me feel really old. When Dan hits the big time with one of his screenplays, we'll be able to say we knew him when he was just a guy from Parsippany. While I'm sure he'll be busy with all those A-listers and moneymen, drinking weird icy cocktails and eating oddball foods made with essence of this and foam of that, I hope he'll be willing to take a meeting with us if we ever come out to visit Disneyland.

In any case, thanks for coming over, Dan. We had a great time catching up and hope to see you again soon. We don't have loads of friends, so we really need to keep the ones we've got.

All Sorts of News, One Post At A Time

The easy stuff first, I guess. So, it has been a few weeks since the marathon. My farts still stink and my gut is still a bit weird. But, I am close to feeling normal. I've been running once a week, each time out feels a bit better than the last. I am hoping to get a few runs in over the next several days because the lack of exercise is really starting to bother me. I've been doing some weight training at home, but it just isn't the same.

In other news, we are heading to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving tomorrow. I love the idea of Thanksgiving and I really enjoy this time of year, but I can't say that I actually enjoy the practice of spending time with family. I want to, but our relatives always drive us nuts and make us want to just go home early. It doesn't matter whether it is my family or Audrey's family...they are both crazy in their own, amazingly irritating ways. We'll be back this weekend and probably need a day just to recover.

There is more news to share, but it requires a post of its own.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Marine Corps Marathon Report

It has been a week and a half since the marathon and I think I am finally getting back to normal. My gut was a mess for days, but it has also taken a while for my legs to feel okay. I was sore for a few days and walked a bit funny, but nothing major. It wasn't until I tried to run this past Sunday that I could tell that I wasn't quite right still. I had terrible shin splints in my left leg and my right knee has been achy since then. I took a few quick laps around the parking garage today and feel better, so I might just try to go for a jog tonight.

Anyways, so for the marathon. Support from friends and family raised my spirits leading into the event, but I could have used a tow truck to get me through the last few miles. It was an amazing experience, hands down. I guess I knew it would be, but I imagine that one doesn't walk away with the sense that it was "amazing" if the marathon you ran was a smaller scale event, with less pomp and pageantry and far fewer spectators. I don't like big races, but MCM might have changed my mind. I've seen estimates that there were 100,000 people lining the course. I don't know if that was true, but it certainly felt like it. I hastily wrote my name on my shirt prior to the start and it turned out to be a very good decision - I got cheered for 26 miles straight. Lots of "Go Dave" and "Looking strong, Dave"...you get the picture. It really made my day and kept my chugging along whenever I started to lose focus. I also met a number of really friendly runners and was able to have conversations with them during the race, a big reason never to wear an iPod to a marathon. Those folks just isolate themselves, but the rest of us got to bond and make friends, even if for just a few miles. And, the Marines themselves were really, really supportive. They had somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 Marines participating in mostly support roles and they were the most vocal, most enthusiastic, and most helpful people on the course. So, long story short, they don't call this the "People's Marathon" for nothing.

It was cold in the morning, but it wasn't hard to get around or to get into a Porta-John or anything. I just waited around until things got close to start time and then I moved up in the crowd to try and get near the Clif Bar Pace Team that was shooting for 3:40. I think they were too far up in the pack, frankly, but more on that in a minute. In any case, I got into a good conversation with a guy named Marc from Brookline, MA and we ended up chatting for several miles until we got seperated at a water station later on. The crowd was thick for several miles, in fact I think it was fairly think up until about mile 10 or so. That is what you get with 34,000 registrants. I found that hanging by the Clif Bar Pace Team was problematic since so many other runners wanted to be with them. It created a logjam on the course and it was difficult to run comfortably next to them or right behind them. I think a fair number of runners who started behind these guys were running faster races and had to work their way around the crowd. So, after a fair amount of frustration, I took off around the side figuring I'd be better off trying to just stay in front of them. Even if it was just by a 100 feet or so, it would give me some room.

I was drinking, but I don't think I was drinking enough. I ate my first pack of Sports Beans (a "special" version of jelly beans for energy and salts) at about 6.5 miles and a second packet around 13 miles. For some stupid reason, I never ate another thing after that - I really regret this. I know better, but the Sports Beans were turning out to be a real pain to eat this time around. I've never had an issue with them in the past, but the chewing was making it a bit harder to breath right and after I went through that twice, I just didn't want to do it again. Of course, I had no gels and I didn't grab anything along the course. So, instead, I switched to drinking Powerade when I got the chance. But, as I said, I don't think I drank enough fluid along the course and I am pretty certain I got dehydrated. I get fooled by cool weather and my thirst mechanism doesn't often kick in until it seems too late. I hydrated well prior to the marathon, but I'd be surprised if I took in much more than 50 oz of fluid during the race itself and that wouldn't be enough to even get me through 20 miles in one piece. The wind on the course was a killer too. But, I didn't really lose much time during the windy stretches. I did lose energy though and could feel myself running out of gas as I passed over the bridge and worked my way towards Crystal City.

By my calculations, I ran my fastest miles from 20-23, at a 7:40/mi pace. This was the stretch Audrey and Noah were going to be in, so I guess I just got excited and took off looking for them. I was rewarded with a chance to see them twice, but I hit the wall not long after that and ran 10:00/mi pace for the last 3.2 miles or so. I bet it was more like a 9:00/mi pace that quickly fell into an 11:00/mi or worse. By the end, I felt like hell and kept wishing for it to just be over. It was at this time, and only this time, that I thought about never doing another marathon. Oh, and that hill at the end just sucks. It is short, but it is like the final little torture, one last reminder that a marathon just isn't a walk in the park.

Here are the general splits from the race website (I didn't do my own and my math skills break down dramatically when I run):

Mile 5: 42:30
Mile 10: 1:23:44
Half: 1:48:40
Mile 15: 2:04:23
Mile 20: 2:46:45
Mile 23.5: 3:13:41
Finish: 3:43:36

I'm a bit disappointed in that I think I was on pace for more like 3:36 or 3:37 and I believe I could have done that if I had been smarter when it came to energy and fluid. I know I got dehydrated because I was stumbling like a drunk at the end. I was totally coherent, but very dizzy and I needed to lay in the grass for several minutes before I could move on and head for home. That has only happened to me a few times before - always on long runs when I got dehydrated. I think I dropped 6-8 pounds in weight during the race and I usually get light-headed (or worse) in that range. The wind didn't help and I wonder how much of an effect that ultimately had too. But, it was my first and I had a wonderful time overall. So, after this soreness wears off, I'll be back running and it will be time to plan how to do a faster marathon. I think I learned a few lessons and I can only get better. Oh, and those guys running with the Clif Bar Pace Team for a 3:40? It looks like they paced properly and got it. Their pacer, a guy named Greg, came in at 3:39 and change. So, maybe I should have just stayed with them.