Take it when you can get it

When I was pregnant, I set a goal for myself to run a marathon within a year of giving birth to Baby ‘Bee.   I was tired of being large, sluggish all the time, and unable to breathe.  I longed to get back to my pre-pregnancy self!  I was going to do it!

As with many things I said during my pregnancy, I just didn’t know what motherhood would be like and feel like.  Finding time to fit in a run between nap times, laundry, and breastfeeding is a feat!  Nobody told me that breastfeeding and working would be this hard.

Wait, that’s a lie.

Actually plenty of people did.  But until you are in it, living the daily routine of pumping and feeding, you just don’t know how truly hard it is.  Your body and your time no longer belong to you and you alone.

Whenever Fred and I see someone running at a bonkers time of day–for example, high noon on an 89 degree day, or in the middle of the soupiest humid day of the week–we often say to each other “really?  She has 12 hours of daylight and she’s choosing to run now?!”

Foot

in

mouth.

I was the crazy woman running in torrential rain on Labor Day.  Those crazy runners may be moms trying to sneak in a run before baby wakes up.  They may be moms that have a precious hour to spare before they have to feed the babe again.  Or they may have spent a half hour to pump a bottle just so they could have this next half hour of their body to themselves.  It may not be when they want it, or how they want it, but at least they get to run.

To fit in my runs, I am now sometimes that person running at high noon when I’d rather be at the beach with Baby ‘Bee.  I’ve run in humidity so thick I don’t know if I’m sweating or it’s raining.  I’ve run at 6am, 6pm, 9pm, and during plenty of happy hours!  I’m not going to make that goal of running a marathon within a year of giving birth–there [quite literally] are just not enough hours in the day.

So when I see those runners today, I’ll just give them a mental high five.  You go girl.  Putting on your shoes and getting out the door is a feat in itself!  And don’t we all deserve a little ‘me’ time?

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Transition and Adjust

While out for a [rare] run together a few weeks ago, Fred and I confronted a huge hill.  We were running in uncharted territory while on vacation with my family.  And this hill?  I’m talking steep and long–maybe a quarter mile or more.  Per our usual agreement, I let him power up and we’d meet at the top.  I diligently put one foot in front of the other, keeping my eyes glued to the ground.  After a whole song on my ipod, I did what I try never to do: I looked up, thinking I must be almost at the top.  Wrong!  Fred was distantly ahead of me, and he wasn’t even at the top yet.

But, gluing my eyes back to the pavement, something strange started to happen.  My breathing slowed.  My footsteps got lighter.  The hill got easier.  And I began to close the distance between me and Fred, which never happens.

Throughout the rest of our four miles back home, I kept asking myself why–how–did the hill get easier?  We don’t run hills often.  Heck, we don’t even run often.  The hill was steep, and nearly half a mile long when I mapped it afterwards.

So how did it get easier when it should have been the worst part?

The only answer I can think of is transition and adjust.

If you keep going uphill long enough, your legs will get tricked into thinking that this is the new normal.  Your muscles will transition, and your stride will adjust.  What was once hard gets easier.  Uphill feels flat.

So why the story about running on a blog about motherhood?

Transition and adjust seems to be the only thing that is propelling Fred, Charlotte, and me forward these days.  Just when we seem to get a handle on routines, something gets in the way… work, or a new developmental phase, or extended family and special events.  We mastered breastfeeding and it was soon time to transition to bottles and pumping.  We conquered the nighttime routines, and it was necessary to transition Charlotte to her own bedroom, and then go on vacation.  We developed a feed-nap-play schedule, and suddenly it’s time for solid foods and teething.

I’ve often said to Fred that just when I gain my confidence and get a handle on one thing, there is something new to tackle.

If you go without good sleep for long enough, you will get used to the lagging blurry feeling.  You will perform on less sleep than you ever thought possible, and you’ll even find time to work out even though you really could be napping.  Sleep deprivation is the new normal, and so you trick your mind and body into handling it.

If you pump often enough at work, you will get used to the prickly feeling that anyone could walk in at any second.  You’ll find tricks to clean your pump faster, pump your milk faster, and get your work done too.  Pumping has to be a part of the routine, so you transition and adjust.

After my first few days back at work, I tearfully told Fred that I couldn’t do it.  I was drowning in a sea of pumping at work, washing 500 bottles a week, carting Charlotte to and from daycare, and still trying to be a decent teacher and a good mother.  “I can not make all of the milk, make some of the money, make dinner nightly, and make us all happy too.”

To be completely transparent, summer vacation hit just around the time of my breaking point.  We are more than surviving right now.  We have free time!  We run!  We do fun things!  So this is not a success story {yet} but rather a harbinger of things to return in September.

A big transition and adjust will have to occur, perhaps our biggest yet.  I’m not sure what that means.  It may mean take-out more than cooking… or a less than clean house… or even a compromise between a little bit of formula and a lot of breast milk.  But Charlotte will be seven months old, and we will have successfully made it through seven months of exclusive breastfeeding.  A huge steppingstone toward the 11 months that we’re aiming for.

At the moment though, we’re working on introducing solid foods.  It’s not always smooth.  Milk is no longer 100% of the menu, and I’m having a harder time with that than Charlotte is.  But, transition and adjust.  Just when things get easy, they get hard again.  We do nothing constant, except the constant transitioning and adjusting.  Being a mom is like running hills multiple times a day/every day.  And I used to think marathon training was hard?

Two men, two ladies, and a baby

It was an ugly day, and I think all four of us were prepared for an ugly run–but it wasn’t!  Team “Gott Follansbees” ran the Maine Marathon Relay last weekend in the rain and wind, with 2 fearless cheerleader-drivers and 8 very soggy sneakers.

The plan for this marathon relay was hatched months ago, back in May at a family wedding.  Before I was pregnant, before Aunt Lauree had her ankle/foot issue, and before Dad had knee surgery.  (Fred, of course, was fine.  Always is.)  Miraculously, all four of us made it to the starting line AND the finish line!  You laugh, but there were doubts!

Here are some pics from the day, documented because it was very likely my FIRST and LAST pregnant road race.  Hanging up the running shoes until spring, because my joints and bladder can’t take it anymore!

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Aunt Lauree, leg #1. She’s so fast the camera couldn’t focus!
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Fred ready for Leg #2
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Dad brings home Leg #3. Knee surgery? What knee surgery?
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Leg #4.
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Becky and Mom, fearless cheerleader-drivers
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Post-race pizza and medals.

We’re already hatching the 2013 race plan: Dad, Betsy, and Lauree run the half marathon.  Tom flies in from Chicago to run with us.  And Fred runs the full marathon.  Baby ‘Bee will join the cheering section!

How pregnancy is like marathon training

It’s a big change from my marathon training days:  lately I’ve been doing a lot less running, and a lot more sitting, stretching, walking, and …… okay, eating.  And I’ve done a lot of thinking about how this 9 months of pregnancy actually has a lot of similarities to training for a marathon.

1) Change in diet.  Or, eating your weight in food.

When training for a marathon, you find yourself eating…and eating…and eating.   When 20 weeks pregnant, you find yourself eating…and eating…and eating.  In both cases, you do your best to make it as balanced and healthy as possible.  Whole grain oatmeal for breakfast, turkey sandwich and fruit for lunch, and fish for dinner.  That part is easy.

But it’s the in-betweens that get you: chocolate milk between breakfast and lunch, a handful of pickles and cheese before dinner, or some gooey, greasy pizza and beer (okay, after a long run but not during pregnancy).  Basically anything you can get your hands on that tastes good and fills your empty-sounding stomach.  Until it starts rumbling again.

2) Running can feel like torture. But you know it’s good for you.

While training for the Boston Marathon, I remember waking up one morning and thinking “I just ran yesterday.  And the day before.  And the day before that.  Do I REALLY have to run today?”  The answer was always yes, because marathons don’t run themselves.  You have to put the time and the miles in, months before the big day.  It often felt like torture.

The difference between then and now, is that 10 or 12 or 18 miles used to feel like torture.  Now it’s just 4 miles.  Four measly little miles, and not usually more than twice a week.  It’s painfully slow, I have to pee the whole time, and it definitely feels like torture.  But I know it’s good for me and little Baby ‘Bee.

3) Your body starts to ache in the weirdest places, at the weirdest times, for no discernable reason.

Knee pain, tight hips, sore back….marathon training AND pregnancy woes.

4) You are constantly tired.

6am wake up calls for an early weekend run leave you just as tired as tossing and turning all night when your belly and your back can’t seem to get comfortable.  Yawning on the job, falling asleep on the commute, and daily naps were, and are, part of my daily regimen.

5) You find yourself often thinking “I can’t believe I have X more months of this….”

At least marathon training was generally a four month spurt.  Pregnancy is more than DOUBLE that.

5a)  You find yourself often thinking “Once this is over, I’m NEVER doing this again.”

But hindsight has a way of ‘forgetting’ the worst parts and remembering the good ones.  So, there is a very good chance that you WILL do it again.  Willingly.  Morning sickness, tendinitis, dehydration, constipation.  Pick your poison.

6)  People often tell you how good you look.

I’ll admit it, I love this.  When running 40 miles a week, I was in really good shape.  While 5 months pregnant, I love hearing people tell me that I have an adorable belly, or that I’m a cute little mama.  It makes me feel less round and awkward and orb-like.  Anything to help a pregnant lady feel better!

7) It’s all in preparation for a multi-hour athletic event.

There is so much preparation, visualization, planning, and getting-in-shape that happens during marathon training and pregnancy.  It’s a necessary part of the physical and mental process that leads you toward the finale.  There is also a sense of community that naturally grows out of this shared endeavor.  You compare splits with fellow runners just like you ask fellow preggos about their registry items or their day care plans.  Whether it’s a four-hour marathon or a multi-hour labor, your entire being is focused on preparing your mind and body for this one big event.  And I’m hoping that when the labor is over, I’ll feel as exhausted but thrilled and content as I did at the marathon finish line.

Which reminds me, I’ve been meaning to take a poll of runner-mamas.  Which was harder? Running a marathon, or birthing a child?