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Coach MK on Performing While Pregnant

Our Coach MK is currently pregnant with baby #4. Her experience has not been as smooth as it was with the first three. We know that there is a range of experiences that women have with running while pregnant. Sometimes, it’s a piece of yummy cake; sometimes, not so much.

Dimity (the tall one) and Coach MK (in blue shoes) in January of this year. MK knew she was going to try for baby number four after the Pittsburgh Marathon in May.

“God, you make this look so easy. I mean, yay for you,” she said without looking me in the eye.

I thought for a moment then said that thing I’m not supposed to say: “That’s because you don’t see much. Who wants to see vomit photos on Facebook? If Cheyanne had been this difficult, there would be no RJ much less a Shiloh. I’m really struggling.”

She sat up straighter and smiled right at me. “Oh THANK GOD! I mean, no offense. I thought something was wrong with me,” she said as she gleefully refilled her wine glass. “I always thought I would have two but I just cannot go through that again.”

Inwardly, I sigh with relief, thinking I can let my guard down. “My body is changing so quickly this time. It’s uncomfortable and I just don’t enjoy it.”

She cuts me off to enthusiastically tell me that I look GREAT and will be back to my former self in no time and something about how babies are ‘worth it’ (but not enough for you to do again?). Shamed back into place, my brain quickly fills with all the things I am not supposed to say and the conversation quickly reverts back to banal coffee-mug platitudes.

I no longer want to be here.

MK racing in November 2016. About this picture, she says, "November. Dimity took it as I was passing her at mile 25. I love this picture. What's funny is at first sight, I saw the little pouch on my belly. At 140, I was still 10 pounds over my pre-babies race weight. Now, I look back and realize I was ridiculous. This photo is incredible. "

Personal interactions are guided by a huge set of complicated unwritten norms that can be difficult to articulate. A few of these norms explain why a subversive statement from a man is viewed as ‘brave’ and the same statement from a woman is viewed as brazen or whiney. Cultural anthropologists describe this adherence to society’s invisible-but-rigid operating structure as ‘Performance.’

If you’re a mostly functional member of society, you probably Perform pretty well most of the time. You know how to give the ’right’ answers without realizing it. But the right answers aren’t always the honest answers. We say we are ‘fine’ when we are not fine at all. Women are supposed to be calm at all times; emotional women, women who cannot ‘suck it up’ or put on their ‘big girl panties,’ are labeled illogical, irrational, or crazy no matter what we are responding to.

When you’re pregnant, these same rules apply. We’re supposed to focus on the prize, that beautiful baby at the end, and ignore the day-to-day suckiness of being pregnant because to do otherwise is verboten.

I’m exhausted. I suck at Performing and always have. And I am CRAZY. Let’s break some rules, y’all.

At the time of this writing, I am nearly 19 weeks pregnant with my 4th baby, and I am bigger now than I was at 25 weeks with my third child. I am bigger now than I was at 32 weeks with my first child. I know this, because I still have bridesmaid dress measurements from those days. I have 21 weeks to go and am only gonna get larger, which seems impossible since I still cannot keep food down.

My thighs touch. My knees touch. My butt touches my thighs. When I look down, I feel rolls forming on my neck. These feelings are not normal for me and feel gross. These aren’t things I notice in other people. These are changes in the body I live in. I know what caused those changes — but we cannot talk about my pregnancy without talking about my body’s new shape.

MK demonstrating scissor kicks for a TLAM video. She’s about 15 weeks along here.

Worst of all, these changes have made it impossible for me to run. It is no longer painless and meditative. It physically hurts. My last run was six weeks ago. In November, I ran a respectable marathon in Philadelphia; now I can’t even climb stairs without panting. It makes my heart ache, I miss running so much.

Beyond painful, running is just not smart because I am hypermobile to begin with. My physical therapist is worried I’m going to push the running too much and do permanent damage to the ligaments in my feet as well as my SI joint. I have to treat this like my generic HRT marathon race strategy, “Reserve, Conserve, Preserve, SERVE.” With this pregnancy, my fourth, I skipped right to the ‘preserve’ phase. I need to hang out here and make sure I’m not breaking anything before crossing the finish line.

So, I walk. I walk and I try not to hate it. I try to ignore the way my underwear feels, how gross and odd shorts feel. I try to not fester in my jealousy of the super-pregnant woman running 8-minute miles while pushing three kids in a jogging stroller around Wash Park. I try to remember to run my own race and not compare this pregnancy to my previous pregnancies.

Believe it or not, I also practice Performing. I still suck at it — but I practice giving the ‘right’ answer instead of the ‘true’ answer. I'm just not comfortable in my big girl panties.

9 responses to “Coach MK on Performing While Pregnant

  1. I feel like cheering for you as if we’re at mile 15 of a marathon, Coach. Like, I’m totally not going to shout, “You’re almost there!” because we both know that’s bullroar, and there’s lots more discomfort ahead. But I will shout, “You’ve got this, you tough mama, you!” I have baby #4 napping in the next room right now, and that sweet little no-goodnik is STILL wreaking havoc on my running–I scuttled a fall half because at 7 months, he’s still chopping up my sleep, big time. (I was in your HR group, and plunged outta sight after I owned my not-readiness a few weeks ago.) But now that I have this 4th babe, my family feels just right, finally! He’s the person I’ve been waiting for to complete my crew. And we’ll get back to the running and the feeling good and the physical autonomy. It’ll suck in the meantime, and you have every right to complain, vent, mope, and grouch. Those words have a negative connotation, but I fully believe that they’re essential activities. Share those things with us, because we’re still behind you, captain.

  2. Just want to send you hugs and positive thoughts. My pregnancies (four of them, three live children) got harder and harder with each one. But they are temporary. And then you have this amazing baby to love and add to your family. It IS worth it. The pregnancy is temporary. And there are silver linings to it – that maybe are difficult to see right now (except for the obvious). I believe it’ll make you an even better coach than you already are. Hugs and positive energy coming your way!

  3. I love what you say about Performing. I am also really bad at it, which is why I avoid large gatherings and would never be able to run for political office, both places where people don’t really want to know what you are thinking. On the flip side, my friends never have to ask me “Really?” When I say something to them, because they know that I am saying what I mean. Really. I am the truth giver to my friends, and the moral compass in my office. There is something to be said for that, sometimes. I suspect that you are same. Know that there are others out there who hear you. Keep feeling what you feel, you have earned it. And keep saying what you say, because they are truths that other women need to hear, so that they know they are normal and what THEY are feeling is 100% ok, no matter what society tries to tell them otherwise.

  4. Oh, I so relate. I had such a harder time with #4! And I was stupid and mowed the lawn, cleaned the kiddie pool etc and hurt those ligaments. For the remainder of my pregnancy, I hurt every time I mopped or anything. I also hated everything sticking to everything else and the only glowing happening was my overheated face. I adore my kids but I didn’t adore getting them here. I hope all goes well and you can stay sane. It’s been 15 years but I remember and I feel for you

  5. I LOVE this! Proud of you for being real and authentically you. Just going through my first pregnancy and it feels so crazy to not feel like myself, especially when part of my identity is a runner and running doesn’t feel the same anymore. I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. Thank you!

  6. Fourth pregnancies are hard. Period. Not only are you older than the first time around, but there are three other little people needing you while all you can do is roll out of bed to the bathroom floor. I’m sorry you’re in the middle of the rough patch…but there is a sunny side! No woman has been pregnant forever (yet – lol too much?) and the mental strength you’re gaining right now as you trudge through the depths of pregnancy will serve you well when you return to race!

  7. I worked out but didn’t run when pregnant- the journey to hace our 3 kids was very challenging. not running was so hard for me. I did it but I missed it desperately. hang in there. it is worth it but not is it hard mentally, physically and emotionally…

  8. Thank you for keeping it real, MK. Our experiences are all different and all valid. Thank you for your example and reminder. I am sorry it sucks right now.

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