From the moment I held my little girl, Emma, I dove headfirst into motherhood.
To say I love being a mom is an understatement and I can confidently say I am pretty darn good at it. That’s not to say it isn’t challenging. It is without a doubt the most challenging thing I’ve ever undertaken. But it is also the most rewarding and brings the most happiness. As a first-time mom I often question myself, but I’ve gained a new level of confidence that I never had before.
When describing myself, the title of Mom trumps everything. I am a wife, daughter, friend, coworker, etc. but first and foremost, I am Mom. There is not one person who would tell you differently or tell you I’m not excelling at it. But therein lies where I’ve struggled over the past nine months.
I have been so focused on and entrenched in being Mom that Wendy has taken a backseat.
I know this isn’t a unique challenge to me and that many moms struggle with it. I know it’s something I need to focus on. It certainly isn’t for lack of support either. I have a fantastic support system. And my husband really encourages me to remember Wendy, and to take some time for myself.
I knew for quite a while what I needed to do – running. Figuring that out was the easy part. Pre-baby I was an avid runner. It was my activity, my stress reliever, my challenge, and what made me feel good. Running allowed me to push myself, both mentally and physically. It was such a large part of who I was. I was very dedicated to it.
I had run races of various lengths, from 5ks to a relay to a few half marathons but my ultimate running challenge was completing a marathon in March 2015. I joined a running group and trained throughout the winter, battling the cold, snow, and injury. I changed the way I ate, what I drank, sacrificed sleeping in on the weekends to get up for early morning long runs.
I cannot fully express how it felt to complete my marathon. For 4 hours, 8 minutes, and 40 seconds I ran, through the rain, without stopping. I had tears in my eyes as I crossed the finish line and I still get emotional thinking about it. It easily ranks as one of my greatest accomplishments (after having my daughter of course). I became a better runner and a better person that day.
Even with all of the encouragement and knowing how good I would feel, I both purposefully and un-purposefully delayed my return to running and taking time for myself. Part of that was guilt, part was due to not wanting to be without my daughter. And in all honestly, a big reason for my resistance had been trying to figure out how to get started again. Even the seemingly simple things, like finding a sports bra, were discouraging. I couldn’t find anything supportive enough for my new well-endowed chest.
Running post-baby presented its own unique challenges.
I did not expect to be back hitting the pavement within six weeks. That wasn’t realistic for me. I know my body and my body needed rest. I had just completed a marathon of a different kind – childbirth. In the weeks leading up to delivering I even compared it to a marathon. I ultimately only pushed for a half hour, but I was prepared for it to be several hours.
My focus was on recovery and bonding with this new, beautiful human being. And to be frank, I definitely wasn’t ready to get back out there when simply running in place while trying on workout clothes resulted in peeing myself and leaking milk, all at the same time.
As the months progressed and winter turned into spring, I started to get the itch to be outside to engage in something that had been such a big part of my life. One day I came across an ad for a 4-miler, and not just any 4-miler. It was taking place on Mother’s Day. Just as one day I decided I wanted to run a marathon, I decided I wanted to run this race. This would be my motivation to get back out there. This would be my starting point. This would be for me.
So, for my first Mother’s Day, I did something for me, with the person who made me a mother.
For four miles I ran/walked, pushing a stroller. And crossing that finish line felt just as good as crossing the finish line of my marathon. My daughter won’t remember that day, but I always will. That’s the day that I did something I love with someone I love. The day that really reminded me why running is so important to me and resurfaced the feeling that I get from it and the confidence in my body to be able to do it.
It was also a day that really reinforced that I need to take time for myself. I can and I should. It’s not being selfish, it’s valuing yourself. I’m a better me and a better mom for it.
Since the Mother’s Day race I’ve made progress. And I’m proud of that progress. I’m exercising more. I’m rebuilding my endurance. My runs still consist of walking, but that’s okay because I feel better both mentally and physically.
Sometimes I push Emma in the stroller. It’s an added challenge to running these days. But I enjoy it. I still consider it ‘me’ time, with the added benefit of having time with her. Sometimes I go out for a run by myself. On those days I challenge and push myself a bit more, resurfacing the marathon runner in me.
I’ve picked out a few races of varying lengths to participate in so I have some goals to work toward. A few allow strollers so I can push Emma. For others, she’ll be at the finish line cheering me on.
Becoming a mom doesn’t mean other parts of you have to disappear.
Sure, things will change and will more than likely be different, but change doesn’t equate to an end – it’s not an end to who you were before. It’s a continuation of you, with the incredible and wonderful addition of being mom.