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.
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.