It might be hard to believe when I say I couldn't have done this race without my three children, but it's true, even though I ran alone.
Before I had babies, distance running was a chore, I always did it, but I never really enjoyed it. I even ran a few 5k's here and there. I was much better suited for soccer or short sprints, something that didn't leave me alone with my thoughts, I already had plenty of time for that. When I was somewhere close to eight months pregnant with Sam and had curtailed my Crossfit workouts because I could no longer do cleans out and over my belly, I promised myself and Paul that I'd never complain about running again after he was born and for the most part, I haven't.
Pregnancy is a gift (for a million tiny and one big obvious reason) but is also a big, fat and (usually) temporary glimpse of why we should be thankful for our health and our mobility. It also proves to an unappreciative (of my body) naturally slim, childless woman-child that this body is not just a vessel for navigating life, it is a tool and if used correctly it is capable of absolutely amazing things. For me it took a supportive and infallibly encouraging husband, a few children and a handful of awesome friends to recognize this.
Among the many reasons I decided to give birth to Clementine at home, naturally, was to use my body to its utmost potential, to prove to myself that I could do it the way it was meant to be done, because it is (in all normal healthy pregnancy circumstances). When it comes to my body, I always hold back a little, afraid to push the limits, to do "too much." But, I've learned that you have to push a little past your comfort zone and when you do you often open up a whole other chamber of your potential that you would have never known possible.
I struggled with my body image after the births of each of the boys (plus a little anxiety and a gripping bout of postpartum depression with another), I don't know who doesn't, but mine often takes on an unhealthy form of self hatred executed with extremely negative self talk. In an attempt to sideswipe this on the third go around, during and after Clem's birth, I set up a good plan for myself: I would keep working out in some capacity, running--->walking---->crawling until the bitter end. I would have an easier recovery (as I had previously learned was possible after having had Peter in the hospital, naturally, accidentally, after having a really tough recovery after Sam's birth with an epidural in the hospital) and I would be able to get back on the road earlier.
After three healthy pregnancies, three healthy babies and a completely natural home-birth, I had finally realized the respect that I should have had for my body all along and I finally began to make peace with it and trust it...and I won't lie, it is still a process. Of course it doesn't hurt that this time around we are living in Brazil, where bodies are celebrated no matter their size, healthy and "robust" is better than "crazy-skinny" like we value in the United States.
Just three weeks postpartum I went for my first run. It was slow and it was not very pretty, but it felt good:
Body: 1, Self Hatred: 0
Just three months postpartum, I ran my first 5K...in a Brazilian, spandex, floral unitard with a keyhole cutout at the back to feature all my hard earned pregnancy back fat. Yes, I did:
Body 2, Self Hatred 0
(Ok I didn't exactly love my postpartum body in that unitard, but I rocked it anyway)
This past Sunday I finished (I had run one previously, but bailed at mile four due to a crippling side stitch) my first 10k ever, part of a four person marathon relay team, USAwesome....and we were. Four moms, a collective eleven children and let me tell you if there is any more thankful runner than a running mom, I just don't know who it might be.
I find myself out on the road now so thankful for the peace and quiet, just my feet pounding the pavement. I don't run with music, but I do talk to myself and I tell myself, "You gave birth to a baby! In a bathtub! You can keep running. So do it." And I did.
Body: 3, Self Hatred: Still at bay.
In addition to the motivation from my friends and Paul and my kids, I'm also reading this. Which is beyond awesome.