[[This is the fourth in our Running Through It series; today, we hear from #motherrunner Carrie Meconis and how her running played a part of her pregnancy and having premature twins.]]
The only thing I could think about for almost every hour of every day was making it to 37 weeks.
You see, when the doctor looked at me and told me it’s not one baby but two in there, my mind immediately jumped to all of the complications of that news. I was eventually happy, sure, but that took many weeks to sink in. My first reaction was tears...and fear...and panic.
After the knee-jerk question of “Are you sure?”, the second question out of my mouth was “Can I keep running and for how long?” I ran all the way through my last pregnancy and there was no way I was going to make it through the following months if I couldn’t at least keep moving forward.
And for me, moving forward means any pace faster than a walk. My sanity was literally going to depend on it.
I ran. Almost every day in the beginning, I woke before the sun and hit the sidewalk. I would let my mind wander but ultimately it always came back to the two babies growing inside me. Two babies. How was I going to do this with two already at home? And with a husband that is never home and whose schedule is the complete opposite of mine?
I’m not a single mom by any stretch of the imagination, but I do solo parent about 95% of the time. Not to mention, how were we going to afford this living in New York City thing when our daycare costs were already through the roof? The questions would not leave me alone.
But the one that haunted me the most wasn't about logistics: Was what if I had to deliver these babies early? I had heard the horror stories and when I first found out I was a pregnant with twins, I stupidly read about even more preemie stories. I tried not to think about it and I certainly would not allow myself to think that was going to happen to me. So I ran to quiet my mind. And I kept running until my body couldn’t anymore.
At 22 weeks,the weight became too much on my hips.
The many weeks that followed were long and uncomfortable. I tried to walk and stay active but over time even that became difficult. I ended up having to go to a chiropractor twice a week to dull the pain just enough so that I could keep getting up and going to work every day. It was my longest stretch without running since I started way back when. I have always been active in some way, shape or form. But now any movement at all was painful; the lack of doing anything active was detrimental to my mental state. I had a difficult time getting through each day.
And that was only the beginning.
33 weeks arrived. Something was off but I ignored it. Saturday was a normal day, taking my oldest to ballet, naptime and movies on Netflix so Mommy could stay horizontal. But something was not right. Before bed I stood staring at the mirror and had a long chat with my belly. “It’s not time yet folks. It’s too early. You two stay put, you hear me?!!”
They didn’t listen.
That night, my water broke about 20 minutes after I fell asleep. It was a fast and furious and a scary few hours that landed us in the neonatal intensive care unit, NICU, for the next chapter of our journey.
For the next 38 days, the NICU was my second home. I was juggling two kids at home and two kids in the hospital. Leaving either duo was hard. I wanted things to remain as normal as possible at home but both girls kept asking when they could they meet their brother and sister. The big kids weren’t allowed at the hospital since it was flu season—another extremely frustrating fact of the situation.
I longed to go for a run but since I was healing too, that wasn’t an option. The NICU is a strange place where times seems to stand still. I would enter their room and feel like I was transported to a whole other planet. Then I would exit the hospital and be thrown back into the realities of the traffic and people and New York City. What's more, my job didn’t expect me to be out that early so I was trying to tie up loose ends there as well as take care of everyone else. I had no outlet for myself or my fears.
Finally, it was time to bring them home. I had my 6-week checkup on the same day they came home, and my doctor cleared me for exercise as well.
My first run back was exactly 8 weeks after they were born. It was a 2 mile slow walk/jog. I’ll never forget how my whole body ached and hated each step. It was as if I had never run before. But my mind was free. My soul was happy. And I cried pretty much throughout the entire run.
All those weeks of worry and fear and anxiety all came out in those 2 miles. It was then I realized how much pain I had been holding in my body and my heart. I was supposed to be the strong one through all this and hold it all together for two older children, my husband, and of course for my helpless babies in the hospital. I wasn’t allowed to show fear or sadness to my girls. They needed me strong. So in those 2 miles, it all came out… I allowed myself to feel weak, scared and sad.
I ran again the next week and the week after that. Slowly building up to twice a week, then three and so on. It took a long, long time. Longer than coming back after my first and second child. Longer than I expected. About six months in, I finally started feeling a bit better. I also had an amazing support group of BAMRs that I run—and drink—with on a regular basis and that made all the difference in the world. One in particular that had experienced the NICU as well.
I also revived my Another Mother Runner podcast feed that had some timely messages about getting back into training and finding your groove. Finally a year after that first run back, I ran the NYC Marathon for the second time. My fifth marathon in total.
I am still suffering from a minor case of PTSD from the time in the NICU and still have moments of fear or panic. When I feel it bubbling to the surface, I try to get out the door as soon as I can. Running for me is not about running away from it, but running to find peace with it. I let my mind and my body really feel it. The run takes care of the rest.