A year ago I sat down with Amanda and Michael Lovato for a special Valentine’s Day edition of Dispatch. We chatted about Amanda’s heart surgery the prior November to correct a condition known as SVT (supraventricular tachychardia), about their triathlon careers and about their unshakable love for one another. Just a few short days after our interview, on Feb. 13, 2013, the Lovatos’ lives changed forever–when they received proof positive that they had a baby on the way. I visited with the now-expanded family again this week to learn the sweet story of baby Valentine’s arrival in their lives, the scare they experienced during the pregnancy wherein Valentine–now 16 weeks old–earned her name and what the future holds–athletically and otherwise–for these proud parents.
AL: I had the heart surgery in early November, and as soon as I recovered from that procedure, Michael and I decided to begin trying to get pregnant. We tried to keep a relaxed attitude, and told ourselves we’d be happy if we got pregnant, and we’d be happy if we did not.
I did not know it yet, but by January I was pregnant! By that time, my heart doctor had told me to test myself with some hard workouts, so in early February I was on the track running with my friend Glenn. We were doing 8 x 800s with 90 seconds rest, and despite being caffeinated to the gills (my doctor had told me to push it!), I was going 20 seconds slower per 800 than my normal times. And I was working as hard as I could! Glenn stopped and looked at me and said, “Is there any chance that you’re pregnant?” I hadn’t told him that we were trying–I hadn’t told him anything! His question really made me think, so I took a pregnancy test that day, but the results were negative. Then about three days later I was up early to do a 6:00 a.m. swim, and I took the test again. It was positive! And so I went to the bedroom and said to Michael, “Are you sure you don’t want to go swim with me?” He said, “I am positive, go!” He wanted to stay in bed. So I said, “Well, I need to tell you that I’m pregnant!”
ML: I jumped right out of bed! I was so excited. And I felt this overwhelming desire to get to work. Suddenly, after finding out I had a baby on the way, I had to start organizing my life. And to me that was sort of indicative of what my priorities were. Here it was February, it was cold, it was dark, Amanda was going to the early morning swim workout and there was no way I was going. But tell me I have a baby on the way and I’ll get out of bed!
AL: I remember thinking while I was swimming: Oh my gosh, I’m having a baby! I’m pregnant! I can’t believe it! I wish I could tell everyone but I can’t tell anyone. And all of a sudden I just became so careful of everything I was doing. I was so happy. Nothing could put a damper on my mood. When I was officially at six weeks we went in and they measured the heartbeat, and there she was–the size of a sweet pea but with a little heartbeat! That was probably the greatest day of our lives.
Valentine Lovato was born on Oct. 23, 2013. Amanda started the day with a swim session, captured here on video, and later headed to the hospital to give birth. Perhaps her mother’s final trimester pregnancy swims influenced baby Valentine, as she already exhibits a propensity for the pool (“She absolutely loves the water!” says Amanda). However, for much of the nine months of her pregnancy Amanda was restricted from any exercise at all. In fact, the story of how Valentine earned her name is less about the tie-in to Valentine’s Day, and more about how she proved herself a strong, healthy little girl right from the start, despite a frightening situation that occurred when Amanda was 13 weeks along.
AL: I was going to meet Rinny for coffee, because I had just started telling my closest friends that I was pregnant. So while I was waiting for her I went to the bathroom and discovered that I was bleeding. A lot. I didn’t know a lot about pregnancy, but I knew that was not good, and I thought for sure I was miscarrying. When I saw Rinny walking in, smiling and saying, “Hi!” I blurted out, “I’m pregnant,” and she said, “Congratulations!” I said, “No, I’m pregnant but I’m bleeding heavily. Call Michael, tell him I’m on my way home and we need to go to the emergency room.” It really wasn’t the way I wanted to tell any of my friends!
ML: It happened just two days after we had a checkup where they told us that Amanda had the fetus of a 19-year-old–that our baby was one of the healthiest fetuses they had ever seen–so it seemed like there was no way something could be going wrong. We were in disbelief.
AL: We were in the ER for what felt like forever. Michael was on the phone with our OB and she kept reassuring us that our baby was healthy and everything was going to be OK. Meanwhile there was blood everywhere, they were giving me an IV and I was just trying not to get emotional because I knew that whatever I felt, the baby felt, too. A few hours later we finally got an ultrasound and they said, “There’s her heartbeat! It’s a strong and healthy heartbeat!” Basically the amniotic sac had pulled off the uterine wall and it needed to reattach [subchorionic hemotoma]. I was immediately placed on two weeks bed rest, no questions asked. When we went home from the ER that day, I looked up girls’ names that meant strong and healthy. I found the name Valentine, and it really resonated with me. The whole theme of our pregnancy was “strong and healthy”, and that’s exactly what Valentine means. And since it was Feb. 13 when we found out about her, Valentine just had to be her name.
Amanda and Michael anticipated the ways in which life would change with a child, but they say that nothing truly prepares you for parenthood until you’re fully immersed in it.
AL: I think we’re pretty lucky–we have a really sweet, easy child. I think the hardest thing for us was just getting used to the fact that if we’re tired we can’t just flop down on the couch and close our eyes. If she’s crying, she’s first. She’s before me, she’s before Michael, she’s before Luna [the Lovatos’ beloved dog]. Her needs always come first.
ML: I think that we as pro athletes get very used to really taking care of ourselves. You’re the central focus in your life, and you have to be to succeed. You do everything for yourself. If you’re hungry, you eat. You sleep when you need to sleep. And you have to change that immediately upon having a baby. You have to take care of her first, then yourself. I think we were prepared for that change, but I don’t think you realize exactly how dramatic it is until it happens.