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Dispatch: Baby Valentine

Michael and Amanda Lovato share the story of baby Valentine’s arrival in their lives and what's next for their careers.

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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.

RELATED: Michael Lovato’s Top Run Tips

The couple isn’t shy about their pride in their daughter, though they share a good-natured giggle when I ask whether Valentine exhibits any early signs of athletic talent.

ML: Oh yeah!

AL: She’s a superior child!

ML: Totally!

AL: She’s in the 95th percentile of her height and her weight. We can’t stop bragging about her. [It’s at this point that Amanda shows me the video of Valentine kicking in the pool.]

ML: So the real answer is no. We like to think that she has extraordinary ability, but it’s still a little early to tell.

I ask the Lovatos what the future holds in terms of their own athletic careers and they smile toward their daughter and the array of toys, baby wipes and teeny tiny cowgirl booties scattered about the room.

ML: You’re looking at it!

AL: This is it. It’s over for me. I want a second child. And I waited a long time to have a baby, because I knew the demands of training full time. There was no way I wanted to train like that while being a mother. I mean I’m running 20 miles a week right now, and I have to be careful not to overdo it, because I don’t want to be too tired to give her what she needs. And honestly, it was time for me to move on. I’m really happy in my new life. I mean I’m 41 years old, so if I really wanted to race I could–but why? I wanted to be a mother first and I didn’t want that to compete with my own athletics or anything else.

ML: I want to have a second child also! For me, like Amanda said, I was ready to put aside my goals and dreams athletically for the sake of my family and for the sake of being with Valentine more. I’ve been doing this sport for 22 years now, and I was ready for new challenges. Even if we didn’t have Valentine, I would have been transitioning this year. And it’s something I’m excited about. We have a lot of other endeavors that we’ve thrown ourselves into. We have two main businesses going. One is Amanda’s real estate business that she’s had part-time since 2006. She took that up full time as soon as she got pregnant, and she’s been really busy. I’m actually getting licensed so I can be her assistant.

AL: If we have a second child I’ll need backup. And I can’t imagine working without Michael–we do everything together. Even though he’s not licensed yet, he already helps me a lot.

ML: It’s been really fun, and also really different. I went out to San Diego last week and it wasn’t for anything triathlon related. I didn’t take a bike. I went to a real estate productivity conference, and it was fascinating. It was such a motivating and informative seminar, and I’ve been able to apply a lot of what I learned to my coaching business. Coaching is something that we’ve both done since we moved to boulder in 2001, and Amanda had a coaching background before that at the collegiate level. We have a couple training camps that we enjoy putting on, we coach a handful of professional athletes and another group of age group athletes. It’s amazing when you scale back from being a full time athlete, how much energy you can put into other endeavors.

AL: Now that we’re no longer training 25 hours a week, the energy we have is huge. I do a lot more things now, because I have the energy to do them. Even if it’s going to coffee with friends or going out to dinner because we don’t have to be in bed at a certain time.

ML: It’s an exciting time in our lives and we love it. One of the most important things for us is that we get to do all of this together. We’ve always done triathlon together–we’ve always traveled to races together and trained together. We’re entering our 15th year together and we’re used to that togetherness, so now, both with the coaching and the real estate, we get to still be partners. That’s huge for us, because we enjoy being around one another and we complement one another very well.

AL: He’s the yin to my yang!

Amanda and Michael don’t plan to entirely abandon their fitness lifestyle, however. Amanda has been hitting the gym and is considering some for-fun sprint triathlons in the future. Michael did renew his pro license, but only out of respect for the age group ranks.

ML: I’ll do some fun stuff, but ultimately I’m not going to train. I’ll get ready here and there if there’s an event I’m invited to, but I’ve wiped my whole year of athletic goals–that’s the best way of putting it. We didn’t retire from being athletes, we’re just not full time professionals anymore. We’ll be athletes until we drop. But this is the next stage of our lives together and we couldn’t be happier!

RELATED – Dispatch: Michael And Amanda Lovato’s Love Story

Follow Valentine’s adventures growing up Lovato via her parents’ twitter feeds: @michaellovato and @amandalovato. Interested in a camp or being coached by Michael or Amanda? Visit www.lovatoperformance.com