Imagine you have decided to run a marathon in 6 months.
You reason, “People run marathons all the time! I don’t need to do anything special to get ready for it; we all cross the finish line in the end.” So you don’t train. You don’t change your diet or exercise; you don’t recruit a running buddy or put together a playlist on your ipod.
The morning of the race, you join the mass of other runners. Your husband is on the sidelines to cheer you on, but otherwise you’re alone in the crowd. You start at a good pace, full of adrenaline and excitement. But pretty quickly, your body starts to weaken. After all, you haven’t run long distances before and you’re feeling parts of your body that you never really knew existed! There are pit stops along the course, but when you check in, you’re not offered any water or energy drinks. Instead, someone checks your pulse and blood pressure, reads off some stats, and sends you on your way.
It doesn’t take long for your muscles to cramp up and for you to experience an intense amount of pain. You seriously doubt you can run another mile. When you look for your husband, instead of feeling reassured, you grow more worried because of the anxious look on his face. In fact, it seems like everyone around you is concerned that you aren’t going to make it. At each pit stop, a volunteer mentions that you aren’t doing too well, aren’t running very fast, and politely suggests that you might need some ‘help’ finishing.
You decide to push on but every muscle in your body is fighting against you and your husband looks desperate. The moment you arrive at the next pit stop, you leap onto the stretcher that’s offered. You know you cannot run a single moment more. A kind volunteer offers to push you, on the stretcher, to the finish line, where your husband greets you with happy relief.
Yes, you completed the marathon. And your body recovered from the shock and pain of it. But most people would consider you foolish for neglecting to train the past 6 months, and you will most likely want to push this experience far from your memory.
Giving birth is like running a marathon.
If you properly train and prepare for it, then you can actually enjoy it! Just like marathon runners, women can experience the exhilaration, power, and accomplishment of giving birth, if they have wisely disciplined themselves ahead of time.
"I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible." - John Hanc
Training for a marathon does not eliminate the pain of running it. Your muscles will still ache, you will still doubt along the way, and you will want to eat a horse once you’ve finished! But proper preparation teaches you how to manage the pain and puts YOU in control of how you will finish.
Sadly, too many women in the U.S. approach giving birth in the way I described this marathon runner. Then, they are left feeling cheapened or cheated by their experiences. In subsequent posts, I will share what I consider to be the most necessary information for women to consider as they approach pregnancy and birth.
In the meantime, I have almost completed my own training! It helps that I've done this before. My body is healthy and strong; I've gathered my running team and prepared the course. Now, I just have to run!