Four months ago, when my baby was just a few weeks old, I decided to embark on a journey. An unending marathon that began with putting on jeans for the first time in months and ended with me gasping for air, in severe pain. And despite the two maxi pads and mesh undies—wet pants.
This epic trek is one I will look back on for years to come, not as one of my greatest triumphs but rather the most ridiculously humbling memory of my body's postpartum limits. I feel that I accomplished the equivalent of summiting Everest that day. What I really did was walk the one mile down the road to Starbucks for my one cup of coffee as my days reward.
As a marathon runner, this realization of my limits came as a bit of a shock. I had read nothing about what to expect from my body post delivery and anticipated a full and easy recovery early on. Sure, friends had told me to expect not to be able to do things like run (or even walk!) for the first while. But I was going to be different. My body would handle it. My friends weren't marathon runners and had no idea how resilient my body would be. Oh, how naive I was as a first time mother!
With little Joseph in tow, I stood in line, breathless and thankful that I had worn black pants so the wet mark between my legs was not terribly noticeable. I saw a woman in front of me who looked to be almost nine months pregnant. She was glowing like the sun. Of course, she gushed over my newborn and began telling me about her pregnancy and due date.
“I told my husband, as soon as this baby is out of me, I'm going to start running again! I've already signed up for a 5km race a month from now. I'm determined to get my body back!”
I smiled at her, tiredly nodding and dreaming of coffee and a bubble bath. I thought about telling her of my journey, of my pee stained pants and all of my ignorant pregnancy wishful thinking. But then I remembered my brain at that time. I didn't hear one darn piece of advice or insight. All I heard was what I wanted to hear and I was convinced the rest of it was not going to happen to me.
I listened, said “Good for you!” and wished her luck. She asked me how having a newborn was. I knew I could say all of the true things I was feeling, things like “You'll never sleep,” or “Get ready for some crazy night sweats!” But I didn't. I told her about the joy Joseph brought me and how wonderful it was to add a new person to our family. She could figure out the other stuff when her time came. Encouraging words are always best.
A month later, I saw her again. She was not in running shorts with six pack abs and a bright smile. She was disheveled, in pajama pants, pushing a baby girl in a stroller slowly but surely to Starbucks. She was not the perky postpartum self she imagined. She was a first time mom out in the world with a brand new baby.
And she was beautiful.