I’ve written and re-written this about ten million times, because it’s so difficult to find the words to describe labor and childbirth. There is really NOTHING that compares, so when a runner friend asked me how similar it is to running a marathon, I kept thinking, and thinking…and thinking some more. I think about it most, and best, while I’m running. That’s the only time I’m actually able to find the words… which I usually forget as soon as I stop running!. But now I think I’ve finally found a way to answer her question…
As a runner and super planner, I approached my baby’s due date as if it would be like race day (except the big day could change at any time – baby comes when baby feels like it!). Instead of marking my calendar with how many miles to run each week, I jotted down notes for pre-natal yoga classes, how many Kegels/stretches/relaxation practices I needed to do each day, and the dates of Bradley classes. I was consumed with preparing my body and my mind as much as possible because learning, reading, exercising and practicing gave me comfort. I was doing what I could to be ready for something that nobody is ever really ready for.
Obviously, you can’t re-create what contractions will feel like (or the sensation of pushing a tiny human out of your vagina). There is no real “training” like with a marathon… where spending time on your feet and putting in the miles will be very close to what the main event feels like. But, being a distance runner does help you build a sort of mental toolbox, and that’s exactly what helped me so much during labor. Here’s what running has taught me:
- Positive self talk can propel you through a hard workout, and it can also help give you an extra push during labor. Negative vibes and doubt can even make labor come to a halt, so learning how to listen to the encouraging voice tucked away in your brain is essential.
- Approaching each mile one at a time can make a daunting distance feel more doable – just like meeting the challenge of each individual contraction feels less overwhelming than thinking of how many more there are to come (because you don’t really know how many there will be!).
- Playing games, day dreaming, counting breaths, and music can make time go faster. Opinions differ on this, but for me, distraction helped take me to a different world (also, I will never be able to listen to “Baba Hanuman” by Krishna Daas without thinking of the day my son was born).
- Relaxing your upper body and your face can conserve energy. Relaxing isn’t my strong point, but if you can master it, things are likely to go a bit more smoothly during labor. If I could go back and practice something more…it would be relaxation!
- Listen to your body and trust in its abilities. Just like your body knows how to move when you’re “in the zone,” you have to trust what your body is doing and feeling during labor. Fighting the natural processes taking place just makes things harder.
- Completing a distance you never thought possible can give you an incredible confidence boost. Crossing the finish line gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment and makes you feel like you can tackle anything. Holding your baby in your arms? Multiply that feeling by a million and throw in a surge of hormones – you literally won’t know what to do with yourself!!!
Long story short (because I could probably go on and on)… while the physical process of labor is nothing like running a marathon, being an endurance athlete (even one that covers shorter distances) can certainly help prepare you for the big day when your little one decides to make his/her entrance!