The cold, hard truth is this: I approach pregnancy and childbirth the same way I approach training for a big race. That may sound odd, but hear me out: racing and birthing really do have a lot in common.
- They are both very physically demanding.
- They can both make you want to vomit. Or, they can both make you vomit even if you don’t want to.
- They are both much more comfortable if I am in better shape.
- They both end in an all out effort with a really great endorphin rush at the end PLUS(!) a fun prize: either a baby or a medal/t-shirt/goodie bag/PR/job well done.
- When they end, I have additional pain to look forward to: stitches/shrinking uterus/engorgement or blisters/sore legs/dead toenails. (Boo.)
Pregnancy and childbirth are a little bit less predictable than a race, I’ll grant you that. I have no idea when this baby will actually come (Manchild was 2 weeks early, Squish was a few days late). I could labor for 3 hours or 30 (20ish for Manchild, 5ish for Squish). I may or may not have back labor. Or, perhaps, the baby will be breech or there will be some other complication and I’ll end up having her surgically removed from my body. (This was a concern early in Squish’s pregnancy as I had placenta previa, but the placenta was out of the way by 20 weeks.) When I run a race, even if it goes badly I know approximately how long it will take me to finish. I can slow down or walk if I need to. If I’m in too much pain I can pull out of the race entirely and take a DNF (did not finish). Not so much when I get into the throes of labor.
But no matter what happens, I feel a genuine responsibility to take care of myself and my baby as well as I can, and that means staying active and eating well. I have run and cross-trained (mostly yoga) 3-4 times a week through 2 1/2 pregnancies. While I am pregnant I am more conscious of what I eat and make an effort to eat more vegetables and fruits and to exercise some self-control in other areas. I feel much more calm and at peace as my due date approaches knowing that my body is strong and I have done my best to look after my baby and myself throughout the pregnancy. That responsibility weighs on me more during pregnancy than it does in training for a race because it is not just me who is affected by my choices. I know the baby will take what she needs from my body no matter what, but I can provide necessary nutrients for both of us by choosing good, wholesome foods. I know that my baby will develop just fine even if I am unable to get off the couch for 9 months, but I consider it a blessing to be able to run or walk or swim or do yoga and I take advantage of that as much as I can knowing that the exercise I get is beneficial to her as well as to me (see here and here).
Over the next 16 weeks, give or take, I’ll share some of the things I’ve done and do that have helped me to stay motivated, to be comfortable, to make healthy choices, and to feel as good as I can — physically, mentally, and emotionally — for when the baby is born. If you have any questions or comments or thoughts about this topic, I would love to hear from you! I have several things I want to share, but it always helps to know what you would like to hear about. Plus I would love to do a post with readers’ tips and ideas. Leave a comment or drop me an e-mail: lizzie (at) motherrunner.com.