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?