In a guest post today, my wife Katrina Hull responds to the criticism of women who ran right up to giving birth.
I’d like to think I’m like Amber Miller, Susie Weber, or even Sue Olsen.
Miller and Olsen ran marathons late in their pregnancies and delivered healthy children. Weber biked to the hospital through her contractions. She gave birth to a healthy girl.
Like Olsen, I completed Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota in just under five hours, although a year, not days before giving birth. She was still about 10 minutes faster. (Yes, I run slower than a pregnant woman).
In all honesty, my path to motherhood was more sedentary than that of Miller, Weber or Olsen. I spent the last six weeks of my pregnancy in bed on doctor-ordered house arrest. I logged miles back and forth from bed to the bedroom and the kitchen.
Like the more-active ladies, however, I listened to my doctor and had the extremely good fortune of delivering healthy babies. This is why I find the judgmental criticism of Miller and Weber unfair. We all consulted our doctors. Mine advised me to take it easy. Miller and Weber were advised to continue their fitness habits.
These women should be celebrated, not excoriated. They gave their daughters incredible birthday gifts. They modeled a healthy, active lifestyle, even if viewed to be extreme by the masses. Keep in mind that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 72 million Americans are obese.
Setting a healthy example has personal benefits, as well. Running helps me view my body in a positive light. After conquering hills, my legs feel strong, not fat. My body carried me 26.2 miles with minimal discomfort in June 2010, and carried two babies for 37 and half weeks.
Running also strengthened my friendships with other women as we bonded over long training runs and shared race-day stories. Those friendships run deep in a way shared lattés could never match.
Training for a marathon taught me to embrace challenge and to enjoy a run for the experience of being in motion, not for success. I am a slow runner. I finish at the back of the pack. But I enjoy fresh air and the challenge of running farther than I ever thought I could.
My post-pregnancy runs have been short; no more than three miles.
I take great joy in pushing a double stroller on walks up to six miles, along my old running routes from our Bay View home to Lake Michigan and back. These routes now include a coffee stop to counteract the nightly interruptions in sleep.
My daughters turned four months this week.
We’ve shared a wonderful summer together. Though they usually nap during our long strolls, I like to imagine that deep in their subconscious minds they will remember from their first months the sounds of ice clinking in a glass (an iced coffee in the stroller’s cup holder) and the gentle lapping of Lake Michigan waves; and these sounds will bring them peace.
Though Evelyn and Eleanor will likely have no conscious memory of our walks together, I hope to provide them with the gift that Miller, Weber and Olsen gave their children. I hope to share with my girls a sense of adventure, the willingness to embrace life’s challenges and the internal peace of a long journey by foot.