The Marathon of Labor (3)

You have probably heard labor referred to as a marathon or at least endurance emphasized as a key component the woman needs for labor. These comparisons appealed to me very much as I neared the time of giving birth to my first child. As I discovered, there are a lot of parallels between completing a marathon and giving birth naturally. There are also some big differences…but over all I believe having trained for endurance events benefited my physical and mental conditions during labor.
As the last weeks of pregnancy came I found myself (out of comfort) preparing for my “big run” as I would if I was preparing for a marathon. I bought Gatorade, I read up on the best food to eat the day of labor, I rested more (tapering in a way), and I mentally tried to hold on to positive thoughts, “I can do this”, and even let myself get that anxious excitement for the challenge ahead that comes before my races. One big difference, though, I had no idea what day this “run” was actually going to happen. The build up and waiting was hard for me. After a couple false labors and feeling sick for almost a month, I was feeling pretty worn out and excitement turned to wishing pregnancy was just over.
It was the early morning of my son’s due date…2:30am. I was awake feeling him wiggle inside me. When all of a sudden a strong popping sensation made me jump and us both be still and attentive. I had read about your water breaking and feeling this way. I followed what I had read about lying still for half and hour and then trying to see if it was my water. I was uncertain if this was really the beginning, but the popping sensation stayed fresh in my mind. After four long hours of bouncing on a medicine ball and slowly gather last minute things to take to the hospital I called my doctor. Sure enough she confirmed what I hoped…she was pretty sure it was my water…and told me to come to the hospital to have tests done. I woke my husband as calmly as I could and we both got ready. I prayed and prayed that this would finally be it…how many more false labors could I let sap my energy?
At the hospital I felt as if I was lining up at the starting line. Excitement and nervousness filled my mind again. The doctors confirmed my water had broken, put me on a small dosage of petocin to get my contractions going and in my head I started my long run. The first stage was so long…longer than I expected. When I thought I was about half way through, I was told I had just been warming up for the last 7 hours. Already feeling pretty tired I started to realize that to make it through this run I would have to stop dwelling on “how much further” and just stay focus on getting through each stage I was at. The doctor re-popped my water and then the run really got going. I feel my body finally found its pace. No more walking, time to run.
As the contractions got stronger I no longer felt as if I could just push through this experience. I relied more and more heavly on my husband’s encouragement and support. “you can do this” was a phrase he told me over and over. He was with me, attentive through each contraction. I have never witnessed a person being so attentive and selfless for so long. I was amazed at his love for me. I was not running this race alone…Philip was right there with me. It reminded me of the Salida Marathon when he would drive to give me Gatorade at mile 21 and tell me to keep going. But this time he was with me the whole time right next to me. Our prize was going to be for both of us too!
Many ups and downs in labor, as in long runs. Thoughts of doubts, thoughts of fear, excitement, anticipation, impatience, and just wishing it was all over. At least I was familiar with each of these mental phases and new better than to let myself dwell on any of them too long. Instead I turned my attention to each contraction and the sound of my baby’s heart beat steady on the monitor. The constant 150 bpm beat was a metronome and a pace for my run. I laughed and joked and smiled as much as I could in the beginning. It helped relax my anxiety. Kind of like shaking out the tightness in your arms and legs and neck as you run.
Then the hard miles came. The contractions were so strong I could hardly talk between them. I kept thinking, “I need more of a break. I need to just stop for a sec and regain my energy”…but unlike running, you can’t just stop. You have no choice but to go on or find some kind of medication to help. The medication sounded tempting but I had the same thought I did as I considered walking in my marathon, no matter what the miles to be run would still be there. And if I had do run them anyway I knew I would be more proud of myself and get through it faster if I kept my pace. The other big difference between running and labor, you speed up as the race continues. You don’t get the choice to slow down until your final sprint. Your body just works harder and harder.
As my energy was running low I began to think more often, and even say out loud, “I am not sure if I can do this”. Philip was quick to encourage me. But his concerned look made me realize he was thinking the same thing. Suddenly, I was dreaming. My body was hurting but relaxed. Philip told me later I fell asleep during the really strong contractions for about 20 minutes or so. I don’t remember sleeping, just strange dreams. Another big difference with labor, your body knows how to protect itself. My body helped me rest when I had nothing else to consciously give. The fact that I could sleep through such pain was evidence that the body knows what its doing and that God was guiding me through this whole thing to deliver a boy into the world.
After the nap and intense contractions I started feeling like something was moving down in my body. I started pushing involuntarily at each contraction. The nurses were like my coaches on the sidelines. Coach started yelling, “Don’t push. Your too early. You will hurt yourself”. With all the mental energy I could muster I followed Philip’s guidance as he helped me pant through each contraction to avoid pushing. But it wasn’t long before I could not pant at all. I told Coach, “If you want me to not push you’ll have to drug me.” She moved quickly to check with the doctor about giving me an epidural or something to relax my body. The few seconds she was gone my pushing got more intense and I got louder to let her know time was not on our side. She checked me and I heard the most beautiful phrase, “You are 10 centimeters! Go ahead, push, you don’t need medicine”. I felt as if someone just said, “I see the last couple miles. You are almost there. Go ahead and use the rest of what you got to finish this up.” The infamous mile 23 was passed. Only a 5k to go.
With coaches approval I gave everything I had at each contraction. My doctor came in and took over coaching me. My husband repeated all her instructions to me. She talked me through how to use my body to do what it needed to do and when to rest. I listened and followed her instruction as carefully as I could, knowing it would be much easier to trust her than do what I wanted to do. I had one goal at this point…to get this baby out of me! The 5k was much longer than I ever expected. 1 and half hours of pushing and thinking between contractions, “I have nothing left to give” and then pushing again. This was different from running. No matter how much I thought, I will just stop and let them take over and finish this, my body wouldn’t allow it. Each contraction started and I had no choice but to push. This helped calm me and made me realize I may actually be able to finish this. Letting my contractions and the doctor guide me, letting Philip’s face be my focus, letting my voice be my outlet of how much I disliked this part, I pushed and pushed. I kept hearing people say, “you are almost done!” It was the same sensation as when you are finishing up a run and a mile or two away people say, “you are almost there, just around the bend”. You think, “yeah right, do you know how long a mile is?!” But with updates from my husband on how far I was I kept going. In one intense burst of energy I found myself pushing (as the doctor coached) even after the rise of the contraction. “Keep going! Go, go, go!” The cheers of my supporters was loud and helped me to focus. This was it. I felt my child leave my body in one last sprint. Everyone around me was running around and acting quickly doing different things. They picked up my prize and put him on my chest. The most beautiful thing I had ever seen! Two little eyes looked into mine and I was amazed. “Look! Look! Oh my goodness! It’s a baby! It’s my baby! It’s our son!” I exclaimed over and over. My husband was at my side rejoicing with me and telling me how proud he was of me. I had finished the most amazing race of my life. Relief and thankfullness flooded my heart. But even more than that, I was awed at what came from this race…suddenly finishing the race was not that important. My “accomplishment” and comfort was pushed to the back of my mind as I realized I had a child! Love and joy were bursting out of my heart. “Way way better than a marathon” I told Philip.
The best race I ever have and ever will run was this long day of bringing my son into the world. It took a team of two devoted parents and the faithfulness of God in the details. But at the end of it a new life began…and the wonder and possibility of things to come outweighed any cost spent in getting here!

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