I have been a mom for one week, but I’ve been a runner for several years. Since 2008, I have run five full marathons and many other shorter races. Long distance running makes me feel healthy and alive.
Over the course of my pregnancy, I heard over and over again, “You’re a marathoner, so childbirth should be a walk in the park for you!” To be honest, I think I heard this so often that I almost expected it to be true.
Boy was I in for a rude awakening.
Here are three ways that childbirth is NOT like running a marathon…
1. Marathons have scheduled dates. Unless you are being induced or having an elective c-section, childbirth is this giant looming unknown that hangs over you and your calendar for months and months on end. Parents want to know when to visit, people want to know if you’re in labor yet, and all the while you just have to keep saying, “I don’t know when he’s coming!” Races are different. You put it on a calendar and it stays there. Rain, shine, tsunami, whatever – the date remains and you can plan accordingly.
2. Marathons have a concrete finish line. I know what you’re thinking – childbirth has a finish line too, right? I mean we all know there is a baby at the end. But having now been through it myself, I know that this finish line feels more like a mirage or a practical joke than a reality when you’re in hour 50 of labor. When you’re running, you are passing mile markers knowing that with each one you are one mile closer to the end. You know there are only 26 of these until the finish. In childbirth, each passing hour is bringing you closer to the end, but you have no idea how many more it will take until you reach the finish. For some of us, that answer is 55 – ouch.
3. In childbirth, you are not in charge. As a self-proclaimed control freak, this was probably the hardest thing for me to accept. No amount of breathing, relaxing, focusing, or other technique could have prepared me for how out of control my body would feel during childbirth. Your uterus takes over, your adrenaline surges, and for better or for worse – your baby and your body are calling the shots. When running, there does come a point when your body may feel like it’s giving up, but for the most part it is up to you to push through. I have always thrived in situations where I push my body to the limit, but having someone else in charge humbled me into realizing that childbirth was about much more than me.
At one point during my labor, my nurse looked at me and said, “Girl, after this you’ll be able to run a marathon with no problem!” I looked back at her and said, “Actually, I DO run marathons, and this is so much harder!” She was right about one thing though. Now that I’ve survived three days of labor and delivery, I really feel like I can do anything if I stay dedicated enough to see it through. Even in my lowest points of labor, and most painful part of delivery, I never gave up or lost sight of the finish line.
Oh, and the biggest difference between childbirth and marathons? The reward at the end of delivery is so much sweeter than a finisher’s medal. And that makes all the other differences more than worth the challenge.