A week or so ago, Eric and I were reminiscing about the 4 years of our marriage before we had children. We were smiling at the memory of Saturday morning long runs followed by a leisurely brunch out and maybe even an afternoon nap. We recalled different places we would meet after work to share our evenings over 5 or 6 miles and how our social calendar revolved around our weekend races. Running was a central point of our lives.
Then 2 pink lines appeared on that First Response pregnancy test and our lives (and mileage) were changed forever. Pregnancy and birth brought a new focus to our lives and suddenly our days and nights revolved around the 2 little people that were ours. Having been put on limited activity at 28 weeks and then bed rest at 31, my first run back was one of the most crushing experiences I’ve ever faced in the gym. At 8 weeks postpartum/post C-section/post NICU babies, I pulled up my very fitted workout pants and meandered across the street to my friend the treadmill. Unlike people that you can go forever without seeing and then pick up right where you left off, the black machine scoffed at me as if he had never seen my face. Starting at a walk I eased my way into a jog and it was everything I could do to fight back the tears.
I felt broken. Everything was off. My body, my gait, my stride – all wrong. It was the most uncomfortable, depressing, defeating run I have ever had in my life and it is a miracle that I didn’t kiss the sport goodbye at that very moment. I’m not a quitter, though, and so despite the 8 inch scar across my abdomen, engorged chest, extra weight, sleepless nights and postpartum depression, I kept going back. Back on the treadmill, back to the pavement, back to the trails to learn how to run in a new way… to learn how to run as a mother.
It has been almost 5 years since that fateful run. 5 years, 4 children, and many days where I’ve wanted to throw my hands up and say, “I QUIT!”. But quitting would have been the end of me. Running is my therapy. It’s my “me” time. It’s the friend that is always there to meet me regardless of what punches life throws. It has taken the edge off of moments of anger and has calmed the frustrations that come in waves as a mom of 4. There may be times where I’m not able to get my fill because I’m called to change a diaper in the Gym’s Childcare or because my husband is out of town, but the miles that I do get in revive me. They awaken my senses and remind me that there is life beyond diapers and almond milk, laundry and Swiffering. They help clear the cloudiness of my mind and refresh me so that when I walk back through the door, I am a better mother than I was before I left. They give me one on one time with the babe as I push her around the park and listen to her babble or quality time with my running buddies whom I wouldn’t see otherwise. They keep me fit so that I can carry my one year old around all day when she’s fussy and launch my 3 year old above my head and into the pool. They lend a good example to my almost 5 year olds of how keeping active is one of the most important facets of our lives. They give me something to look forward to at the end of a long day and they keep alive that part of me that is a person aside from being a mom. They keep me sane.
Motherhood is like the Ultra-marathon that never ends. You get blistered feet and black toenails, chaffed inner thighs and calf cramps and you apply band-aids, Vaseline and keep running. You smile at the fun moments and press on through the tough ones. You fight the tears with a smile because you know your children are watching and you want them to see you as the person you are underneath it all – happy. Happy to be a runner. Happy to be a person in this crazy ride called life. Happy to be their mother.