Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The joys of running....and birthing!

It's been a very, very long time since I've made a blog entry but I'm back!  Here's a little explanation of my latest entry.  I wrote this almost 2 years ago and within a few days of writing it, before I had a chance to post it, my laptop died!  I meant to re-write it but it just never happened.  I recently bought a new laptop and was able to recover the original document so here it is!  I hope you enjoy and I hope to post more often!

You Run? (Have a baby without medications?) You’re WEIRD!
Why would you put yourself (your baby) in danger like that?

I’ve often compared childbirth to running but recently as I was struggling through a particularly difficult run I really gained a new appreciation for the similarities.  This epiphany took place during the “To Bone and Back Relay.”  For those of my friends that don’t live near me, a brief explanation (bear with me, locals).  Each year on the fourth Saturday in June, hundreds of runners gather for the To Bone and Back relay.  It starts at the office of the orthopedic surgeons that sponsor the run (get it…BONE, BACK, orthopedic surgeons…??) it then goes 20 miles up Sunnyside Road to a little farming town called Bone, Idaho (yes, there IS a town called Bone, Idaho) and then back again for a total of 40 miles. Teams of one to eight runners form to split up the five mile legs of the race. This year, I ran the seventh of eight legs.  The advantage of leg seven is it is all downhill (stay away from leg two, it’s all UP hill) the disadvantages are it is all desert with no shade and since it’s at the end of the race it is usually run in the afternoon when temperatures are approaching triple digits, oh, and it’s all downhill.

All morning I anticipated my run, I prepared by packing a small bag with sunscreen, water, PowerBars, extra socks, Band-Aids, flip flops for after the race, sunglasses and a CPR mask complete with “how to use” instructions.  I hydrated carefully so that I would be adequately hydrated but not over hydrated.  I ate light so I wouldn’t be nauseated during my five mile run.  When the big moment finally arrived my dear friends dropped me off at the starting point and the leg six runner passed the bone to me (yes, it’s really a bone-a fake bone but a bone nonetheless) and I was off.  I was excited, relaxed and felt great.  I had my iPod on with my preselected inspirational music and I had a firm plan for getting through the next five miles.  I had planned a run/walk regimen because I knew I would never get through running in that heat for that long.  I was actually amazed when I heard the voice in my ears tell me I’d reached one mile.  I was not tired, I was feeling amazing and I was every optimistic about the next four miles, this was nothing!
This is often how women begin their labor experience. They prepare ahead, packing items they will need before, during and after. They make a plan that they are sure will work well for them.  Early labor is often motivating and exciting.  Progressing a centimeter or two feels easy and the next six or seven centimeters feel like they should be a breeze.  The plan is easy to follow to the letter. 
As I approached mile two I began to see that I may need to alter my plan just a little.  The heat was getting to me, I think I may have gone out too fast in the first mile.  I could feel I was struggling but I was still determined to finish the next three miles. I began to walk a little more often than I’d planned but still maintained an acceptable pace.  I still felt motivated and excited.
Often as women progress through labor they begin to realize that although they are determined to stick to their plan, they may need to make some minor adjustments.  Maybe walking the halls isn’t as easy as they had envisioned and sitting on a birth ball or in a tub of warm water is more helpful. 
As I approached mid mile three I was beginning to doubt my ability to even finish.  I was hot, I was tired and uncomfortable.  It was as I approached mile four that our support vehicle pulled up next to me. Two friends jumped out and began to run alongside me.  They brought a bottle of water with them and handed it to me.  I was so grateful for that water!  I wondered how I would have completed the five mile run if I had not been allowed to eat or drink anything.  Such a physically taxing event requires food and drink.  I didn’t want a prime rib dinner or a large pizza but water and fruit were refreshing and gave me the energy I needed to complete the task at hand.
I’ve often wondered how we expect women to go through labor and not eat or drink.  Women in labor, also don’t want prime rib or pizza.  They usually want fluids and light snacks.  Now, the reason food and drink is generally withheld from women in labor is the risk of aspiration should she require a c-section or other emergency surgery.  As I was running, an ambulance passed me.  I later learned that there were at least two people treated for heat exhaustion and taken to the hospital.  This could have happened to me, I could have fallen and broken my leg and required surgery, yet the race organizers didn’t require that no one take foods or fluids in.  They also didn’t require that I run with an IV in my arm. 
Earlier I mentioned the friends that joined me on my run.  Oh, my dear sweet friends.  They meant well, they really did…but honestly if I would have had the energy, I may have inflicted bodily harm on them.  Their cheery “come, on, only a mile and a half to go” was not extremely helpful.    At that point I couldn’t think about a mile and a half, I could only think about the next step, then the next and the next.  One of my running buddies later apologized to me after her leg of the race. I handed off to her and by the time she was three and a half miles into her leg she was also struggling in the heat and realized that if someone told her “faster, only a mile and a half to go” she would have probably ripped their tounge out!
Often “supportive” family members mean well when mothers are in labor but are often very annoying! The grandmother that chooses this time to share the story of the eleven pound baby she delivered that “ripped me in two” or the mother that decides while her daughter is having a contraction is the right time to mention that her labors were much harder than what the daughter is now experiencing-well, they are truly risking their safety.  These comments do not belong in the labor room!
As I approached mile five and could finally see the hand off area, I began to feel hopeful.  I wish I could say I had a renewed burst of energy but truly, I didn’t.  I was still taking it one step at a time but the one step at a time no longer felt like it was a never ending journey.  I also wish I could say I felt great relief when I finished the run but I didn’t.  It took some time.  When I run at home and have a particularly tough run, I usually come into the house and drop to my hands and knees where I will breathe heavily and loudly until I can breathe easily.  Because I finished the race with nothing but asphalt, gravel and sagebrush in sight, I was not able to drop to my knees and feel comfortable.  I had to walk around slowly and my recovery took longer than when I am able to do what I need to do to get through it.
The end of labor is tough, pushing a baby out is hard work.  It is intense and it flippin’ HURTS!  Women need to be able to do what they need to do to get through it.  They need to be allowed to move around and change positions.  They shouldn’t be restricted to one position or one “way” of doing it.  They shouldn’t be yelled at and made to hold their breath while trying to struggle through the last few minutes (or sometimes hours) of labor.  No one should tell them they have to withdraw from the race because they aren’t running fast enough.  No one should tell them they should withdraw from the race because someone else is tired of waiting for them.  They should only be told to withdraw from the race when their health is truly in danger.
Once the five mile run was over I was sore and I was tired.  I didn’t earn a prize, I didn’t earn a medal, I didn’t earn fame-nor did I expect that I would when I signed up for this race. What I did earn was the satisfaction that I finished a very physically demanding challenge.  I set a goal and I reached it.  It inspired me that I can do other things that are difficult.  It gave me confidence that I could set bigger goals.  The fact that I ran five miles in the heat is very insignificant to most people.  Some people would tell me they’ve done better.  Some will tell me that it’s crazy that I run at all.  Some will tell me I’m “stupid” “crazy” or even worse-for running five miles.  So, it’s a good thing no one else’s opinion is important.

This holds true for women that choose to birth their babies without medications.  It’s not for everyone and no one expects it to be but for those women that choose to do so, they deserve respect and support, not criticism and hindrance.


  1. So glad to hear a nurse midwife with that perspective! I have only one daughter, and she was over 9lbs, a natural birth with 30+ hour labor. It was my "goal" to avoid a c-section so I diligently avoided all suggested interventions along the way. I felt like I had been run over by a truck afterwards, and my primary OB, who had been supportive of my birth plan, raised an eyebrow when I mentioned how sore I was - "maybe that was because you pushed for four hours." Years later when I decided I wanted to run my first marathon, I knew I'd have no trouble with the mental part exactly because of that birth experience. I agree, there is a lot that transfers from running to labor and vice versa. And you are totally right - your individual experience may seem crazy to someone else, but it is valid all the same. I am trying now to apply my birth experience to something new - recovering from injury. I am facing a months-long layoff to recover from an injury I developed during marathon training, and I am trying to stay patient and persistent, remembering that even when it *felt* like I was making no progress during that long labor, I *was* slowly, incrementally moving towards the goal. Best wishes to you!

  2. Thank you for your comment, Angela! It is true that the techniques we learn in labor can be applied to many areas of our lives! I have had many women who have practiced the hypnobirth method tell me that they have used the skills in many different situations, not just birth! Women truly are amazing!