Ah, pregnancy! The glow. Motherhood. Smiling children.
Sleeplessness. Weight gain. Lifestyle changes. Ugh!
I love being a mom. But I would be lying if I said it was all easy. Women today are used to being active... but how can we combine motherhood with our need for an active lifestyle? In this area, at least, can we have it all?
My story is somewhat typical of moms who grew up under Title IX. A year before getting pregnant, my husband and I rediscovered our competitive athletes within. I was a former Division 1 collegiate soccer player, but when my husband decided to do a triathlon, I decided to join him... despite a full-time job, a part-time MBA program and an economy crashing around our ears.
We loved training together and thrived on each other's energy. We did our first triathlon together -- after my nine-year hiatus from the sport -- and were hooked. Then, two days after MBA graduation, we found out I was pregnant. Now, I would be lying if I said that I was thrilled to see those two little blue lines show up. I just graduated, finally lost my "first year" marriage weight (after 4½ years), and was really enjoying being active again. Plus, the inevitable pregnancy weight gain scared the crap out of me.
We figured our doctors would be supportive of a healthy lifestyle. Our first doctor basically stated that I should limit my exercise to walking, despite a strong athletic base. After second and third opinions, I decided to stay active. And then I completed the Chicago Triathlon four months pregnant. And just like any logical, active, first-trimester woman would do, I went out and purchased a $500 BOB jog stroller. Yes, my first purchase as a soon-to-be first-time mom was a jog stroller, months before I could use it.
After having my son, working out had changed. It looked like this: me pushing a 30+ pound stroller with my baby bundled in his car seat, attached to the stroller. Breathing heavy. Sweating profusely. Peeing on myself anytime I tried to pick up the pace. Working on my core exercises at home -- most gyms won't allow a baby under six months old in daycare. On weekends, my husband and I took our son out for runs in the stroller.
Eventually, I became stronger. Before I knew it, I was able to run eight + miles with the stroller and feel good. My lingering concerns were starting to dissipate.
My son loved the jog stroller; the jog stroller was freedom for us. Eventually, we were that couple that fought over who would push the stroller in order to get the "harder" workout.
I celebrated my first Mother's Day -- 10 weeks after giving birth -- by doing a triathlon. One of us was on baby-duty while the other raced, but that was hard too. Once my husband started training for his first Ironman, that became impossible. The only way I could race (or even keep in shape) was with my son in tow. Yes, this is what balance looks like in the modern family! I really enjoyed racing with my son and wanted to do more, but finding races that were stroller-friendly was extremely difficult.
Furthermore, we were in the "baby-making" phase of our lives, which meant my athletic goals took the back seat to pregnancy, breastfeeding and taking care of a newborn; therefore, I would be the one training and racing with the baby.
As much as I enjoy and love my kids, I'm envious of my husband. He doesn't have to worry about pregnancy, his body changing, giving birth and being out of "commission" for an undermined time. He would ultimately complete an Ironman. I wanted that too!
I felt anxious and goalless. I struggled to answer the question of when would I fit training in with work, caring for a newborn and training for a race. Was the right thing to schedule something between pregnancies, or wait until we finished having babies?
Ultimately, both scenarios above that we "planned" for did not happen. My husband completed his first Ironman 20 months after our son was born. During that time, we were pregnant with our second child, but ended up losing our angel. Then we got pregnant a third time, and our daughter graced us with her presence the next year. While on maternity leave, I started training for my first Ironman, which I completed last year. And, yes, my husband cheerfully took a break from his races to watch the kids while I trained.
It wasn't easy, but it gave me a new appreciation for motherhood, fitness and competition. Maybe I wasn't the fastest woman on race day, but I did get the best hugs and kisses after I finished. And it all started with that impulse to buy the jog stroller. While some might think pushing around 30-80 extra pounds as a burden, I still see it as a time-saving device, and one that allows me (and other moms) to have it all in my little active corner of the world.