Warning: I’m taking a break today to talk about postpartum issues. If you have trouble with body talk, please don’t read this post!
Postpartum has been a real “thing”. I have struggled with PPD. I’ve been haunted by my ability to get back to “normal”. I found that the things I needed to hear about a lack of “progress” which I should have expected I didn’t hear until 6 weeks out. I wasn’t cleared to do anything exercise-wise until 8 weeks. My doctor was so confused as to why I expected after a heinous pregnancy that my exercise abilities would just return, I would feel great, and I’d have all this energy. She was also really upset that people had told me that my stomach would bounce back. And, you know what, most of my friends say their tummies were forever changed and that’s okay. I grew a human. I worked really hard to do it. I destroyed what was “normal” in the process. There was no “bouncing back”. “Mom bod” should be a thing if “Dad bod” is but it’s not.
So, thanks to societal expectations and a history of disordered eating in college, I was really, really struggling. Add to this a stupid thing at work which is encouraging a biggest loser style competition that has public weigh ins and people asking me why I wasn’t joining and I was reeling. Suddenly, people were comparing notes on how to starve themselves, drink only vinegar for 5 days to “win” a week, etc. And they were actively pressuring me to do the same – all despite the fact that I had lost a ton of weight when pregnant with my daughter. I finally started telling people, “Hey, you guys should lay off this weight talk and stop assuming that is my goal”.
I was not cleared to run until 12 weeks postpartum and 3 days after I was cleared, I ran. I started Couch to 5k (C25K) at the recommendation of my OB. Having been an ardent running and an endurance athlete, I was like, “This is too freaking easy and won’t do it for me” but I really didn’t have a choice if I didn’t want to harm my health, according to her. I cut myself a break. And, with the encouragement of my brother-in-law who runs Ultramarathons, I made plans to run a 5k in May. It was totally doable. And while I thought running would come really easily back, the first 2 weeks were brutal. Once I got over that point, I notice that my stride was coming back, I was physically capable of so much more, and my runner’s high returned.
I would prefer to be on my bike (as usual) but running is what I am capable of doing quickly (you just can’t do a short ride where we live without putting your bike in the car and driving off and my daughter is far too young to be in a kid seat). I will get back to that next year. I plan to buy her a bike seat for Christmas. But, until then, I run.
I’m now hedging on Week 7 of C25k. And while one person has made me feel crappy and believes my OB is “placating” my “laziness” I’m mostly ignoring it. My brother in law says she’s a nutjob and other runners have been encouraging. I feel like I’m doing it well and doing it for the right reasons.
Moreover, I feel like I’m mentally more capable than ever before. I’m more present and I’m less daunted by a challenge. I used to abhor hills. However, it’s not no big deal to climb them. I work on my form and chug along hills because I live in a place where there are hills everywhere. My route is almost always a climb or descent. One hill, in particular, goes on for half a mile. I just dig in. My body and mind were tested mightily in my pregnancy. I have sheer determination and can blow through the block most runners get half way or 2/3’s of the way through a challenging run. I used to routinely fall in the trap of “I cannot do this” and would spend weeks to climb over that wall. I have hit the wall and I have refused to back down.
In May, I’m running two 5k’s. First, the HER 5k I will run for HG. I’m completing it here remotely since I can’t get to Chicago yet, I’m shooting to finish on Mother’s Day. My time won’t matter to me. Then, I will do the Zoo Run which I will run “with” my brother- and sister-in-law. I will not keep up with their pace but my goal is to run a sub-35 time if I can.
I have more goals, though. I bought a jogging stroller so my first goal is to run with my daughter regularly to build up my core. My second goal is to run a 10k in July. I plan to use my daughter as my resistance training on my short runs and then do my long training runs on the weekend. I have run a 10k before and trained basically all the way up to a half. My running partner bowed out and I didn’t want to have the expense, so I didn’t run it. However, I think I may be able to do it again. I don’t see myself ever running a marathon but I do see myself continuing on a healthy path and maybe doing a half.
The real goal that I have is to run the 5k in my husband’s hometown (complete with hellacious hills) while pushing my then 9th month old in her stroller. Last year, I couldn’t even walk during that 5k. I cheered on my BiL who won the whole thing while standing next to my husband and hurting. I took pictures of finishers but god I was beat by the end. This year, I will come back strong as ever. I will run fearlessly. I will do this thing. I will do it in under 35 minutes, damn it. I will finish strong. Next year, maybe I will run a half marathon in Indy or Bloomington. I’ve always wanted to do either. And my absolute “must do” will be that 5k in Chicago where I can meet women in person who battled (and survived) HG. I will do it for myself and my daughter.
If you are interested in finding more info on the HER 5k, you can find it here. The race will be run in Diversey Harbor on May 20th in Chicago. The 5k starts at 9 AM and there is a family friendly option fun run that starts at 10 AM. There are some fun events planned on race weekend, too, and some hotel rooms still available for cheap (especially by Chicago standards) but book soon! The HER foundation supports research and education for women and families coping with hyperemesis gravidarum, something that plagued me my entire pregnancy. The disease is fairly common but there are a lack of good providers out there with knowledge. Women are often misunderstood by doctors and family members, so education and advocacy are key parts to making life with HG easier. You can read more about my battle on the blog. In the meantime, help HER by running either in Chicago or virtually with me and make a donation to a great cause in the process!