As it approaches a year since my beautiful baby boy was born, I find myself frequently reflecting about my pregnancy and birth experiences. The things I cherished about being pregnant, along with the things I’d hope to do differently next time.
When I first found out I was pregnant, it was a complete shock. Unplanned, unexpected, unsure. I was used to my period being very unpredictable, (anything between 3 and 6 weeks I would consider a 'normal' cycle), but when it kept not showing up and a couple of other telltale signs drew me out of my denial I finally took a pregnancy test. I didn’t even have to wait to see the result, before I could put it down a big blue plus sign was staring back at me. I was already nearly nine weeks pregnant.
I didn’t sleep a wink that night, instead spending hours replaying the last eight weeks in my mind. Alongside the shock there was an all-consuming guilt. Guilt about taking so long to accept and recognise my symptoms; guilt about having several glasses of prosecco at my best friend’s wedding a couple of weeks before; guilt about not having appreciated every moment of pregnancy I could have; guilt about falling pregnant without really trying, especially when so many couples spend so long trying to conceive. Looking back I should have known far sooner that a tiny baby Max was making himself at home in my tummy. Although I had a charity place in the Royal Parks Half for the following month (October 2019) to work towards, my motivation was close to an all time low. I’d already skipped parkrun a few weeks running which was pretty much unheard of for me! Throughout the last parkrun I had run at the end of August at Tilgate I'd struggled to plod along, feeling exhausted, nauseous and overheated.
My immediate gut reaction was to pull out of the half marathon. My training had already fallen behind and my uneducated self just assumed that when you are pregnant you can’t do high impact exercise. End of story. So I stopped running completely. When I went to my booking appointment a couple of weeks later I found the midwife to be so kind, helpful and reassuring in so many ways, but her answers to my questions about exercise left me still confused. “You can keep doing what’s normal for you.” But what was normal? Was it running, which I’d been doing more seriously since the start of the year? Or was it not running, as I’d spent most of the recent weeks avoiding lacing up? My pregnancy was declared low risk, I was young, fit and without any severe symptoms, but I still didn’t feel brave enough to re-start running. I think a major factor in this decision was also the lack of motivation I suddenly felt. The ultimate goal I was working towards was running the Paris Marathon in April 2020, now impossible with a baby due to make an appearance less than two weeks later.
Although I stayed active through my job and regular walks, not educating myself enough to know that it can be completely safe and, what’s more, beneficial to continue running throughout pregnancy is one of the big regrets I have. If I am lucky enough to have more children and experience similar pregnancies as I did with Max, I would really love to keep running for as long as I feel comfortable, especially as I have seen examples of so many inspirational pregnant runners online. My other big regret is having so few photos of me pregnant, and even fewer where I’m really showing off my bump. I really and truly loved being pregnant, feeling my little one move and wriggle inside me, taking him everywhere with me. I miss my bump so much. But I struggled, incredibly so, to shake off the guilt that I didn’t deserve this baby, that so many others were much more worthy of becoming mothers than me. I felt that I should hide my happiness somehow. Given the chance again I would unashamedly take countless mirror selfies, proudly hold my bump in public, and invite everyone who wanted to to feel the baby kick.
A little note on body acceptance. When I fell pregnant I was finally at a stage where I was beginning to feel comfortable in my body, accepting my natural shape and moving away from the idea of dieting and restricting. Was it the right time for my body to suddenly begin a journey of drastic change and growth? But I needn’t have worried. Pregnancy well and truly enhanced the way I feel about my body, I was (and still am!) in complete awe of what it achieved. I mean, I grew I person! So although there were little aspects I regret and reactions I would change in future pregnancies, I adored being pregnant and the way it changed my body. You can read more about my body acceptance journey here.
To be continued as I share my birth story next time. To receive an update when that post is published, subscribe by entering your email address at the bottom of the page.
To read about my postpartum running journey, please click here to see all my recent posts.