Mother runner

When I entered the ballot for the 2019 London Marathon I don’t think I really expected to get in. I’ve entered now for a number of years and I assumed that this year, as in previous ones, I’d receive the ‘sorry not this time’ email and, with feelings of disappointment and relief in equal measures, I’d shrug it off and plan to enter again next time around. I suppose at the back of my mind was the thought/fear that the year I gave birth would be the year I also finally made the cut, and of course, that’s what happened.

So I now have a dilemma: on the one hand this is a race I’ve wanted to take part in since becoming a “runner” (of sorts). As a Londoner there is something totally iconic and wonderful about the London Marathon and the atmosphere on the day is incredible. On the other hand I have a sea of doubts and questions over whether I’ll have the time, energy and support to train for a marathon? Do I risk doing damage to my body by running so soon after undergoing major abdominal surgery and while pumped full of relaxin from breastfeeding? Is it fair on my husband for me to spend hours at the weekend out on long runs while he looks after our baby? And am I prepared to take that time away from my daughter who, at the moment, I can barely leave for half an hour at a time?

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I am also aware that I’m not running the same engine as I was pre-pregnancy. I’m heavier now, with a squishy tummy, some abdominal separation and milk-filled breasts! Nor am I getting the same quantity or quality of sleep that I was. 

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Yet while I know I could defer my place for a year, something inside me is reluctant to take this ‘out’. Having a target is such good motivation to get me on the road, and the London Marathon is certainly a good target! Moreover, running makes me happy and I love the sense of satisfaction after a Sunday long run, particularly as I watch my mileage creep up into double figures. At the moment, running is also one of the only times when I’m on my own. I love my daughter more than words can express, but when you can’t go to bed, take a shower or even go to the toilet (sorry for the overshare!) without a set of beady eyes watching you, the value of having some alone time is not to be underestimated! 

My husband is also infinitely supportive. He knows how happy going for a run makes me and how, in turn, that happiness makes me a better wife and mother. 

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So for now I’ve paid my entry fee and have a place guaranteed. My plan is to rebuild my strength and fitness over the next couple of months, gradually increasing my weekly mileage and continuing with a range of activities from swimming and yoga to the Warrior Mums repair and Buggy Belles cardio classes (which I can do together with my daughter), and then reviewing the situation again in December. My target is to be comfortably running 10 miles by the end of the year so I am in a good place to start formal training come January. 

I will keep you updated on my progress and would love to hear your thoughts and advice on postpartum marathon training, running as a mum and managing multiple priorities. Also if you have a place for the 2019 London Marathon do get in touch – if I make it that far it would be great to have some friendly faces on the start line on the day! 

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Figuring out parenthood

We are now just over four weeks into being parents, and every day we are learning a little bit more about this new, exciting and utterly terrifying role. A big lesson for me has been to let go of my routines and accept that we are now on Florence-time (and I’m not talking trips to the Uffizi and aperitivo hour). I’m also ensuring that I remain humble in my role as a mother, because the moment I think I’ve got something down, or we seem to have a routine nailed, it immediately changes (and I suspect this is something that will continue to be the case for the next 40 years!).

This week I’ve been thinking about these lessons and what other tips I would give myself if I could travel back in time to my final weeks of pregnancy.

My list so far:

  1. Remember that accepting help isn’t the same as accepting defeat. This applies in so many areas. You can’t do everything and you won’t be the perfect mum, wife, friend and family member immediately/ever/all of the time. Let go of this idea of perfection now and remain open to help and advice. 
  2. Don’t worry about trying to regulate feeds to begin with. They will start to regulate themselves in the coming weeks so to start with take your cues from Florence and feed her when she wants feeding. Be patient when feeds stretch out for an hour or more, or are demanded when you have visitors/want to eat a meal yourself/would rather be asleep, and remember that hunger, satiety and wind are all new feelings that she is learning to respond to.
  3. Sleep deprivation may mean 4 hours a night, but it may also mean 2 hours…in 30 minute chunks. Be mentally prepared for the bad nights and remember, good nights will follow.
  4. The sling will be both of your best friends. It will let you hold Florence close and make her feel safe and secure – remember she has been close to you for nine months and has never been alone before now – and it will also give you back your mobility and the use of arms! 
  5. Keep in mind the you of the future – whether that means picking out both hers and your outfits the night before, expressing milk in the middle of the night, putting the washing machine and dishwasher on before bed, or preparing your packed lunch during her morning nap – ‘jobs time’ is at a premium so if you have time to do something, do it. You don’t know when the next window will come up and the you of the future will be infinitely grateful to the you of the past for this.
  6. Bobbi Brown will be your other best friend. You will look tired but you will feel infinitely better after a shower and with some concealer and mascara on. It’s ok to want to feel like yourself as well as feeling like a mum and a bit of makeup can help with this.
  7. Keep water and snacks to hand – breastfeeding creates a thirst like no other, so make sure you have a full water bottle within reach at all times, and I mean literally within reach, as there is nothing worse than getting into a comfortable breastfeeding position then realising you can see your water bottle but can’t quite get hold of it! Likewise with snacks. Other people may ‘forget to eat’. You have never forgotten to eat and won’t start now. As you watch the time tick away while stuck to the sofa breastfeeding you will just get increasingly hangry if you don’t have a snack to hand. You have been warned!
  8. Remove all of the things that you don’t need from your surfaces. When you are juggling a breast pump, Haakka pump and bottle of water while breastfeeding the last thing you want it a load of ornaments/books/papers in the way on your coffee table. 
  9. Remember that babies cry, especially in the evening. Change, feed and burp her and hold her close; she likes movement, shushing noises and being cuddled. When the crying wont stop, remind yourself that at the moment crying is her only form of communication and her only means of telling you something is wrong. 
  10. Enjoy how tiny she is, because she is growing fast and will never be this small again. Spend all of the time you can looking at her little face, hands, feet and chubby little legs. Kiss her a hundred times a day and remember that even when it’s really hard and you are so tired and depleted from the lack of sleep and all of the feeding, she is your beautiful little girl, that you wanted her more than anything in the world, and for every tough moment there will be hundreds of wonderful ones.