How Maggie Got Her (Running) Groove Back: On Labor and Running

For the beginning of Maggie’s story, click here

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I went through a dark period after my first child was born because my labor didn’t go as expected.

I went into labor without issue, and we arrived at the hospital excited about welcoming our first child. As with most birth experiences, things quickly spiraled out of control. After a long and painful labor, plus a few hours of pushing for good measure, I found myself on the table for an emergency C-section when my blood pressure dropped.

I felt like I dropped out of the race halfway through and had to ride on the golf cart across the finish line. It took me a few years to get over this feeling of not actually “birthing” my child. I’ve since talked with many women who felt similar. And while I made peace with what happened once I got pregnant with my second, I still had it in my mind to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).

I picked a midwife and a birth center, instead of a hospital, to ensure there wasn’t even an option of crying uncle and asking for an epidural. I was convinced the epidural had dulled me the first time and that’s why I couldn’t push my son out. This time, I was determined.

The birthing center was a small house with 4 other rooms. Three of us came in that same evening, all in labor and all ready for the race ahead. I listened as the other two women gave birth in the other rooms throughout the evening.

I pushed until I had nothing left. At one point I looked around the room as the sun began to rise on my 2nd day of labor. My husband and doula were asleep on the couch. My midwife was out in the hall and asleep on the floor. The home was quiet, except for the other two mothers lovingly cuddling their newborns in the rooms across the hall.

I said uncle. I walked outside to the car and quietly got in, defeated again. My husband drove me to the hospital and my daughter was taken from my belly. I was exhausted. I felt again that I had failed.

My second child, my daughter, flushed with pink cheeks from a long and difficult labor that began as an attempted VBAC followed by an emergency C Section after 30 hours of laboring and pushing without drugs at a birth center.

I’ve never quit a race, even the tough ones. I’ve walked a few times but never quit. I don’t know why I felt there was some kind of badge of honor in pushing these tiny humans out of my body and why I felt something was taken from me by having them removed by a doctor. But I did. Honestly, some days I still do.

But motherhood and childbirth and running make us stronger. They change us and they don’t always work out the way we envision.

I finished my third half marathon on July 1. The course was much hillier than the description let on. I wasn’t happy with my time but I finished. I walked a bit, I cried a bit, and I hurt for a while after. But you know what? I got a medal and a beer token like everyone else. I crossed the finish line. As women and mothers and runners, sometimes we are too hard on ourselves. I have decided to let go of perfection and be at peace with imperfection. I’m finding my groove again with running.

Because if finishing 13.1 miles on a Saturday morning before most of the city was even awake and holding my precious babies in my arms was the result of this imperfection - even if it was hard and messy and ugly at times- at the end of the day I can say I’m a mother. I’m a runner. I’m not perfect, it’s not always as I imagined. But I’m a mother runner. And so are you.

10 responses to “How Maggie Got Her (Running) Groove Back: On Labor and Running

  1. I think many of us know exactly what you mean in your story – thank you for sharing what had to be hard – I know it’s difficult for me to put into words how disappointing labor, delivery, and racing can be at times – but you explain the positives very well, too

  2. I agree with Beth. So much build-up with the pregnancy and birth when the REAL part of being a mother is what comes afterward. My kids are 27 and 24, so I am older than most of you reading and commenting on the post. I just think it is sad that so much pressure is put on women to have a perfect delivery! When I had my babies, the process was just the means to an end–healthy babies and healthy mom. I think it might be better to reframe the description of “babies being taken from the mom’s belly” to “babies being saved from certain death.” If nobody “took” those babies, both mom and baby would not survive. I am grateful that modern medicine can save these moms and babies. Death during childbirth used to be a pretty common thing. I think it is wonderful that you are willing to share your story and help so many other mothers who feel the same sadness. I didn’t HAVE a c-section, but I am the result of a c-section, and I am grateful my mother and I were both able to survive. She went on to have her second little c-section girl (and fourth baby) and I went on to have my two awesome boys!

  3. My only child’s delivery did not go as I had expected either. In hindsight, now I say that pregnancy and delivery are to motherhood as engagement and the wedding are to being married. Which is to say, almost totally irrelevant. They are both events that have a tremendous buildup, and expectations, and focus, and drama, but in the end, really have nothing to do with the years of life that happen afterwards. Maggie, thank you so much for sharing your story.

  4. I can’t even begin to put into words how grateful I am, to you, for sharing your story. To know there are others in the world who have gone through the same struggles as we have, makes us feel less alone. I think I can finally move past all the disappointment, guilt, and un-worthiness I have felt since having to have both my babies taken from my belly, after reading your words. You, Maggie Palmer, are one heck of a BAMR.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. I also went through phases for several years after my twins were born where I was angry – it took me awhile to realize it was because I did not get to be a part of their birth. I also had an emergency c-section, but I was not awake during the procedure and my husband couldn’t be in the room. I felt robbed from the entire experience. I woke up four hours later and asked the nurse what the genders were. She said she couldn’t tell me. I was so mad at her for so long, only to come to my senses a few years later that she didn’t mean any harm. She had probably been in similar situations before where a spouse got angry that he didn’t get to share the news with his wife because the nurse did! So, I accepted that and moved on. I also didn’t get to see my kids until about 20 hours after they were born. Once again, I was frustrated with that, but later came to my senses that they probably wanted me to remember seeing them instead of being half aware of what was going on. I got to see my son briefly, and hold my daughter for a few minutes, and then was taken back to my room. They spent 5 weeks in the NICU, and are now big kids!

    Sometimes I wish the situation could have gone differently, but, it was all for good reason. I learned so many valuable lesson along the way, but it took me several years to figure it out. I have a different perspective than others, and a different appreciation for life and my kids because of the experience I had. Sometimes things don’t go ‘our’ way, but we have to accept that it is the way we got! We are all in this for the long haul. Parenting doesn’t just take place on the day they are born – we are in this for life. We didn’t ‘quit’, we just got off to a rocky start. But, I’m convinced we are all in the process of a big, long journey.

  6. My first son was born via emergency c-section. I was completely unprepared to have a C-section and had no idea how to care for my new baby and myself. I felt robbed of the experience I set out for myself and suffered through years of being upset over the birth experience. With the birth of my second son, I found a Dr. who would let me try to deliver naturally. It, again, did not turn out as I wanted and had another c-section but this time the Dr. was very kind and understood all the whats and the whys I was trying for a natural borth and talked me through making the decision myself to go ahead with the C-section. My kids are now 11 and 8 and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have two healthy, goofy, crazy boys and a beautiful scar that is now part of who I am.

  7. THANK YOU MAGGIE! I also tried for a VBAC but ended up with a second c-section. It was so hard for me, and even harder for my family/friends to understand why I was so upset. It didn’t help that I had to have knee surgery four weeks later (long story!), but now, eight months postpartum, I am just starting to make peace with my body for turning against me. I think it’s important to acknowledge our frustrations with our bodies. We don’t need to “get over it” … we need to get through it. It’s a tough battle – physically and mentally! Thank you for writing this and letting me know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  8. I wish for a change in the expectation of a complication-free delivery and labor. Women, without birth control, would have an average of 13 children in her lifetime. And since we’re on the top of the food chain, we have less to worry about predators and such. Which means that complications due to child birth are the thing that knocks that 13 child labor/delivery into the 2 child replacement value that is typical for our species. Does this make sense? Without modern medicine, women and children would just generally DIE during labor and delivery. The expectation that’s given to us is for the perfect labor/delivery. Instead, that expectation should be for a SAFE labor/delivery. We’re set up to fail. And feel like failures. But we just birthed a baby – that’s not a failure! And went through nine grueling months of pregnancy – whoa! We women need to give ourselves a break on unrealistic expectations. Glad you got your groove back…

  9. I had to have an emergency c-section after the Drs. found a large mass in my daughter’s abdomen. She had surgery the day after she was born and thank GOD for modern medicine and skilled professionals. Sometimes there is no control and you just have to do what is needed at the time. While she was in surgery I would have given my life and legs for her health and well-being, and not have cared if I ran another step in my life if it meant she was going to be ok. She is.

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