Is Birth Like Running a Marathon?


Running a marathon was one of the most challenging, rewarding, and empowering experiences of my entire life, much like birth, and I am so excited to share this incredible story with all of you! Yes it's 100% true that you do not need to be able to run a marathon to give birth. I should know, I gave birth three times without ever being physically able to run a marathon. However, we often hear that the physical exertion required is about the same. So now that I have done both, I am anxious to tell you everything I've learned about the mental and physical powers of our minds and bodies.

Training for a marathon and training for birth have SO many similarities!

  • In both cases, you know the approximate date of when you need to be ready. So, if you knew you had 9 months to prepare, would you start preparing right away? I don't think most people would plan to "wing" a marathon, and you definitely can't "wing" birth!
  • I had to be committed & consistent with my runs. You need to be committed and consistent with watching the birth course videos, and doing the exercises and assignments or you are less likely to achieve your goal.
  • In both cases, giving your body good nutrition will help it to perform optimally. Birth requires muscle work too!
  • You gain confidence as you continue to train. At the beginning of my marathon training, running 3 miles was WORK! By the end, 3 miles felt like a piece of cake. Similarly, at the beginning of your birth prep, the exercises and labor rehearsals we assign may seem challenging but you WILL see progress as you continue to consistently practice. 
  • Another key to my marathon success was having an amazing support system in place. My husband watched the kids so I could do my training runs. We both agreed that I needed to purchase the right equipment, and he was ALWAYS cheering & encouraging me. He made sure I had the right hydration & nourishment to complete my goal. I also had a training partner- we were together for our long runs and kept each other accountable by texting when we completed shorter runs separately. We had open communication & trusted one another, and when things got hard we knew what to say to help each other pull through. Your birth team MATTERS! You need great people on your side! A spouse or partner going through the birth course with you, mastering relaxation, encouraging you through milestones- things like being able to squat for 5 minutes or hitting your pregnancy protein goals for the day. It helps to have advice and guidance from someone who has already accomplished the goal you are pursuing. So, for example, if you want an unmedicated birth, we would love to guide you through that since we have done it ourselves & supported MANY women in doing the same.

As you get closer to the big day, you either feel ready, prepared, confident, and excited... or you feel nervous and unprepared. If you’ve done the training, if you know you’re prepared in every way, you’re going to feel all the good things. 

OBSTACLES happen though. I got thrown curveballs with my marathon. COVID canceled the actual race. I had been in California for 6 weeks helping my sister through birth & a new baby, and getting my runs in became a lot more challenging. I missed home. My running buddy was in Utah. We decided to run a marathon course anyway. 3 weeks prior to the marathon, I hadn't been able to run at all. The air quality was awful from lots of fires...

In other words, there are going to be challenges that make you feel not ready for the big day but if you’ve trained and done the work, you can do it!

The day finally arrived! We began our marathon run anxious & excited. "I can't believe this is it!" That's a lot like the First Stage of birth! You can see the road ahead is going to be long but you are ready to take it on.

Then, around mile 10, things started feeling a lot more challenging. During birth, your contractions will start to get longer, stronger, and closer together. The attitude during both of these instances changes to one of focus, but you can do it- you are doing it!

At mile 18.5 I tore my IT band & hurt my knee really badly. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get back up & carry on. I limped along for 1.5 miles. Maybe this is your “you’ve been stalled at 5cm for 6 hours despite intense, unrelenting contractions” moment during birth. I tried lots of options to work out the problem. Different shoes, rolling out my IT band, limping along...I could also quit and not finish.

During birth, you might be trying to work through a challenge as well- changing positions, resting. While you can't quit birth, what are your other options? If your goal is to go unmedicated, what tools do you have to make it just a little further?

Around mile 20-ish we realize we’re headed uphill until mile 25. It reminded me of Transition! Here I was, still nursing a busted knee and having to run uphill. The panic and sadness set in. “I can’t do this! I’m not going to finish. I’ve worked so hard!" Ironically, the things that got me through those 5 miles were similar to what helps a lot of women through the Transition stage of birth! Praying out loud, positive affirmations, and constant, loud support!

Coming up to mile 25 and we realize we’re going to do it! Hitting 10cm during birth you get a second burst of energy and you also realize- you’re going to do it! You’re going to meet your baby!

When you finally make it to the finish line, you have that rush of endorphins. You just did the hardest thing you’ve ever set out to do! You cradle that baby to your chest and listen to their sweet's the best feeling in the world!

 It's true that my marathon didn't go as planned. COVID canceled the actual race. I thought I would run faster & finish earlier, and I certainly never expected to get a knee injury mid-run. I encountered women running downhill when I was running uphill- making it look so easy. But comparison is the THIEF OF JOY.

Your birth may encounter some obstacles as well...maybe COVID has thrown off your plan for having a doula at the hospital. Maybe you got Gestational Diabetes. You'll have to create a new path to your goal. But you can do it!

It's so powerful to look back and think of what I accomplished with the marathon and with birth. There’s so much joy in that! There’s nothing wrong and everything right with getting to feel that joy. Part of why women choose to give birth without medication is for the experience. We want to feel everything, we want to do the hard stuff, we want to accomplish the challenge. When you do there’s nothing like it!

You do NOT need to go unmedicated to feel this way either. It's more about setting your goal and hitting it. Your birth may end up very different than the one you had in mind, but when you take all of the preparation and knowledge and put everything you have into it, you will be happy with your birth in the end!

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