Marathon Ready? Birth Thoughts Part I

Saturday night…my husband and I were making a list of things we’d like to try doing in the next few years and I floated the thought I had about running a marathon. His initial reaction was unsurprising being the most unathletically motivated sportsperson I know… ‘Why on earth do you want to do that?’. My feeble and not altogether unshakeable response of ‘it will be fun! And a challenge’ was met with the immortal words: ‘you’ve been through labour, why do you need to run a marathon?’.

Oooo, interesting! And far from putting me off the idea, it instead got me thinking about my ‘marathon’ labour. I totally could run a marathon in a few years…couldn’t I? I mean in many ways it’s not that dissimilar to giving birth…is it?

I trained for my birth…I walked a lot, I joined pregnancy yoga, I swam every other day. Ok I floated on noodles more than swimming laps, but those nine months were the one and only time I’ve ever had a gym membership. I was a regular…I knew the receptionists by name.

Then came the training for the mind! Positive visualisation is all the rage in sports psychology and pretty useful for birth psychology too. I was an anxious wreck about the thought of giving birth. What worked for me was to conquer that anxiety by not only acquiring as much useful and evidence based knowledge as I could, but also through mental exercises. I dabbled in hyonobirthing and we also took ourselves through a self guided mindful birthing course, including doing the amazingly useful ice cube pain practices. It was an incredible course and had a hugely positive impact on my birth preparation. Furthermore we had to be committed and focused and have a plentiful supply of ice cubes in the freezer.

I hired a personal (birth) trainer. Well I believe the common term is Midwife but whatever, Sharon was motivational, knowledgeable, committed and with me from beginning to end. Ok I’m highly unlikely to hire a personal trainer at any point in my life to run a marathon or otherwise BUT engaging an Independent Midwife was, for us, one of our best life decisions.

I laboured at home for almost 26 hours. A marathon is just over 26 miles is it not? A tenuous link admittedly but it shows I’ve got stamina (clocking 35 hours by the end). Ooo I wonder if the race people would let me have a big hot bath halfway round?

I consumed a lot of lucozade tablets and hydration drinks. Having had a funny turn (read panic attack) a couple of days earlier, I hadn’t eaten a great deal in the run up and was labouring without a lot of energy in me so needed all the help I could get. I’m a dab hand at unwrapping a lucozade tablet while pounding the streets. Oh no wait, while bent double holding onto the back of the sofa…

There was a crowd at the finish line. I was peacefully labouring away at home happily having my planned home birth with my running partners, husband and Sharon, then my son got completely and utterly lost (really darling, surely there’s only the one way out…sigh). He went right not left and in doing so got us sent to the local hospital and himself welcomed into the world by his father, Sharon, her partner midwife who had come to give her a break, two hospital midwives, a neonatal nurse, an anaesthetist, and a doctor. All in all a very upbeat group cheering me along like I really was crossing a finish line.

So there you have it, my own personal marathon. Of course I’m under no illusions that giving birth and running an actual marathon are similar, I mean for starters at my birth not one person even looked like offering me a medal or a foil blanket at the end. I think what giving birth has given me though is a confidence and a fierce pride of just what my body is capable of. After-all not only did it grow a whole human being, it also expelled it with some substantial physical exertion and then had the resources to sustain said human being for a good few months.

So I may not be marathon ready right now (as next chocolate biscuit is lined up to meet its end) but I’m certainly more confident than I was two years ago that I could be. And more than that, I finally feel not only deeply proud but really rather fond of this little body of mine.

I do know I’m one of the lucky ones to feel like this, although it wasn’t instantaneous. The facts about my birth could have resulted in a difficult and negative experience. I strongly believe that choices I made before, during and after birth gave me control of my experience and, clarity about my feelings and the conclusion that, while it wasn’t what I imagined, it was incredibly positive, life-changing and happy.

Part II of my birth thoughts will offer some suggestions to help others with this. It would be lovely to hear from other mothers out there. Do you feel more or less confident about your beautiful (trust me) body since giving birth?

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46 thoughts on “Marathon Ready? Birth Thoughts Part I

  1. Hi, this was a lovely post. Thank you. What pleased me most was your husband asking why you need to run a marathon when you’ve been through labour. He’s clearly in awe of your labouring prowess and that is lovely. X

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    1. Thank you very much. I’m glad that came across as positive, I was a bit worried people might think he was trying to put my marathon idea down…which he was and wasn’t!! I think women’s bodies have been built amazingly. X

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  2. This is a fabulous post. Being in control can definitely help with how you feel about your birth. Thanks for sharing x

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    1. Thank you so much. I completely agree about being in control. My next post (when I get round to it!) will have some things I found useful to help with that. Although possibly in hindsight more than at the time! Thank you again for reading and commenting x

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  3. Wow – 35 hours! I was ‘only’ in labour for 14 hours and thought that was bad enough. It’s amazing what our bodies can handle. I have no doubt you’ll run that marathon. 🙂 #bigpinklink

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  4. ha ha – if you can give birth you can run a marathon – done! Do it lovely. A really funny read – made me smile from beginning to end #BigPinkLink though would consider a different personal trainer for the running part though all those words of encouragement “Push, push, push” could come in handy!

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  5. I love this comparison! My friend actually ran the London Marathon yesterday and afterwards told her husband she would rather give birth again than run another marathon, so an interesting thought for you to take away…
    You also got me thinking that hospitals really should give medals to mothers post birth.
    I do find though that positive visualisation and preparation are key, which is why I am not so good at getting off the sofa because instead of thinking about the marathon I am thinking about the large desert I can have if I go running…

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  6. Aaah, what a great post!! I’m inspired by all the work you put into creating a positive birth experience for yourself, and that even though you didn’t get quite the birth you wanted, it still remained such a positive experience to you!! Great analogy with the marathon!! I would definitely rather run a marathon than give birth again!! And it’s also something I’d like to do one day too. I felt really ‘let down’ by my body after my first labour. I couldn’t handle the pain from about 2cm onwards, (the baby was back to back,) and I struggled through with gas and air for another 12 hours after this, before announcing I wanted to die… They gave me an epidural! I just felt a little lost afterwards, like so many things had gone wrong. But my second labour, I didn’t need the gas and air until 8cm (I was amazed at the difference between back to back, and non back to back baby!!) and he was out after about 20 minutes of pushing, and I felt much better about my body and what it could do!
    I have absolutely no doubt you can run a marathon!!
    #bigpinklink

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    1. Oh thank you so much for your lovely comment. I can completely empathise with the feeling of your body letting you down…that was probably how I immediately felt but worked through it a lot with my midwife and husband. I’m probably delusional but feel very positive about the whole thing!
      I am so reassured that non back to back is different, my first was back to back…I don’t think I can handle it again and I’ve already asked my midwife whether the position of my placenta this time increases the chances of back to back! Did you do anything to get your second into a different position? I mean any exercises etc? Or was he just naturally non back to back? Sounds like twelve hours on just gas and air is pretty amazing whatever you felt afterwards! But I’m glad the second birth experience gave you confidence in your body.
      See you at the start line!

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  7. This is such an inspiring post and I like the analogy a lot. My first labour was very long and protracted from Friday evening to early hours of Monday when I had to have an emergency c-section. I have always looked back at the birth experience as being quite negative, which I know is wrong because I got my amazing daughter but so much crazy stuff happened that we were all left a little traumatised. However, your analogy is brilliant and it is about how we look at our labour Comparing it to a marathon is the way forward and you are so right it is a bloody marathon! Yaaay! I made it over the finish line at the end I just needed a bit of help and I had a bloody big audience too 🙂 #bigpinklink

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    1. We all need a bit of help however straightforward or otherwise. I also think you should allow youself to feel as negative as you need…your amazing daughter and your birth experience are, in some ways (go with this) totally separate things. But yes, sounds like you went for the Eddie Izzard marathon approach…tried to squeeze in a few extra miles! I bet you rocked it lovely x

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  8. A great analogy and post! I was diabetic during both my labours so wasn’t really allowed most food, let alone energy drinks. Luckily they were brief even though they were inductions. The last one was 3cm to her in my arms in 23 minutes :/ I wonder what the analogy for that could be. It was intense! 😉 #KCACOLS

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  9. What a great post. The comparison between labour and a marathon is really good. I think the prep you did before you had your baby was awesome, especially the psychological prep. Mother meditated which she says helped her as I *may* have taken 36 hours to arrive. (I was taking the scenic route 😉 ) x

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  10. If I flip your post on it’s head, I’ve already run a marathon so I should be able to cope with labour! A reassuring thought! However I’m not doing 5 days training a week. I am managing a gentle run, an hour swim and pregnancy pilates – does that count. Plus, I am using my pregnancy to eat lots (one of the best things about marathon training)!
 It’s all about getting your head down and getting on with it, which you have no choice about during labour. I say go for it. I have no plans to do it again (the training was too time consuming) but it’s an amazing thing to say you’ve achieved – and crossing the finish line is awesome!

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    1. I bet it is! i think physically you need to train a lot harder for a marathon. Do you twinsmakefive blog? She has written a post comparing the two (she has done both…it’s very scientific and wise!). Thanks for your comment x

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  11. If it wasn’t for the fact that I hate running with a passion I could be tempted to join you. I like bike riding and once rode 180 miles across the UK (way of the Roses), my biggest sports achievement to date, and then there was birth. I too was in labour for 35 hours, so I know what you went through. I think you could definitely do it! #PuddingLove

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    1. Wow that’s an amazing sporting achievement! Cycling is such hard work! Ah yes, another 35er, tiring isn’t it!? I’m hoping to cross the line slightly faster with my next baby, fingers crossed. Do you know I’m not a massive fan of running actually…maybe I haven’t thought this through enough!

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  12. Personal birth trainer! haha love it!! You could totally wanna marathon!, I also think you should get a medal after you push a baby into this world yet another birth story, I love them! xxx 🙂

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  13. This is interesting, as in some ways I feel worse about my body and its “capabilities” since having Piglet. I also did hypnobirthing, yoga and read all the books, etc, and yet my body didn’t seem to catch up with my mind. I went very overdue and developed a complication which led to induction, then after failing to cope with the pain despite my rather pathetic attempts at hypnobirthing, ended up having an epidural which then seemed to almost immediately trigger some sort of foetal distress and had to have an emergency C-section. At first, I was fairly pragmatic about it and thought oh well at least the baby was OK, etc, etc, but actually the more time that passes the worse I feel about the whole thing, and I feel like a massive failure. What made things worse, was that Piglet was conceived through IVF, so I sort of felt as though his entire existence depended upon doctors and technology, and I played no part in it whatsoever. Luckily, I was able to breastfeed successfully, and am still doing it, so that has given me some consolation that I am not completely biologically inept! #PuddingLove

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    1. I can understand this…I didn’t feel too great about any of it after the birth, I had a lot of intervention and felt as though I’d failed so was upset about that but spent a lot of time with my midwife and husband going over it and seeing it in a new way. Your breastfeeding has been ace…a biological achievement of the highest order! But don’t you think in some ways that the help you had with conceiving Piglet, going through IVF plus what you went through at the birth actually makes you and your body more of a success…you wanted him SO much you did all that? As I think I’ve said on one of your posts before, I also believe that medical help at birth is very natural…surely people helping people is the most natural thing in the world. I hope that’s not too rambly. Thank you for commenting xx

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  14. After running a 10k a few years ago I know I don’t want to run a marathon! I also had a fairly short labour so I’d rather give birth again! So does that mean a marathon and labour aren’t the same for me!? Lovely well written post. #puddinglove

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  15. I think at some point in life, we have to let go of vanity. It’s a slow killer to ourselves. I always say love who you are today because tomorrow you will be older. I loved your description of your own marathon. I never went into labor so I can’t relate on that aspect but your husband sounds like a smart man. #bigpinklink 💋💨

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  16. A fantastic analogy – certainly think labour will have prepared you for some of the things required for running a marathon like mental endurance and the ability to keep going when there is no end in sight! I have heard there are quite a few blisters involved though… But on the plus side hopefully it wouldn’t take you 35 hours to run it. Personally I am more into a chocolate biscuit eating marathon than actually running, but if you do it you have my sponsorship! Thanks for linking up #puddinglove

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