If you’re a parent, chances are you’ll have attended antenatal classes (back in the days when drinking a hot cup of tea was not a luxury, and you didn’t have an audience every time you went for a pee!) During these classes, someone may well have uttered the words: 'Giving birth is a bit like running a marathon.'
While I get the part about it being an endurance event, not a sprint, I have run a marathon (two, in fact) and I have also given birth (twice). And I can tell you that one is absolutely nothing like the other.
Training for the event
A marathon-training plan is usually 16-weeks long. If you’re a beginner, it can take you from those very first run/walk outings right through to the 26.2-mile event itself (how cool is that?) The final few weeks of the plan, however, are the ones that really freak the hell out of runners.
Because this is the bit when, instead of increasing your mileage, you need to drastically cut back your training, to ensure your body is fully rested and recovered in time for the marathon. It’s called the taper, but is more commonly known in running circles as a total mind f*ck. Why? Because you will start to panic that you’ve lost all your fitness, question whether you’ve done enough in the first place and basically feel like you are not in the least bit prepared. Don’t panic, though. You are.
Before having a baby, there’s all manner of preparation you can do – those NCT classes to attend, the hypno-birthing sessions to breathe through, the birth plan to write, the hospital bag to pack and the baby books to read. In fact, by the time you have done all the above and are standing in your newly painted nursery, next to a pristine white cot and a stack of teeny tiny sleep suits, you will probably be feeling pretty damn prepared. You’re not. Trust me.
Advice from the experts
If you’re training for a marathon, you’ll probably find that lots of people have lots of advice. This advice all tends to go along the same lines – eat a tried-and-trusted breakfast a few hours beforehand; start slowly; listen to your body; drink when you need to – because often the same race-day strategy works for many people. My top tip? If runners are happy to share their experience of how they got to that finish line, then listen up, because you might learn something useful. After all, it’s 26.2 miles, people.
If you’re pregnant, you’ll probably find that lots of people will want to give you advice. Usually lots of conflicting, confusing and utter crap advice. Here’s the thing: if it works for one baby, it absolutely does not mean it will work for your baby. Your best bet? Smile politely, nod and do your own sweet thing. Your baby will thank you for listening to their needs, rather than to your second cousin’s wife’s neighbour, who swears Cry It Out is the ONLY way to get a baby to sleep through the night. (Note: it’s not.)
Everyone is different. But my personal experience is this: I ran my first marathon in five hours. I was in labour with my first baby for 30 hours. 30 FREAKIN’ HOURS. Enough said.
The task at hand
Yes, it’s difficult, yes, you have to run a really, really, really long way and yes, it hurts. BUT, at no point during a marathon are you expected to push a fully formed human being out of your vagina. That said, at no point during a marathon are you able to request an epidural, or get off your face on gas and air, so I guess it evens out a bit in the pain department.
You’ve done it – you ran 26.2 miles and crossed that finish line! Next, someone will hand you a medal and you can then hobble off to find your loved ones, who will no doubt shower you with praise and help you onto the nearest form of public transport. Someone might even offer you a seat on the train (result).
You will then be expected to do nothing more than sit on the sofa, while people bring you food, water and maybe a cheeky prosecco, before you pop a couple of paracetamol and go to bed, where you can sleep soundly for 12 hours, if you so wish. After all, you’ve just run a marathon!
You’ve done it – you have been in labour for Christ knows how long and you now have a baby! Think you might be able to close your eyes for just two minutes? Erm… not exactly. Because now, regardless of how many hours you’ve been awake, how many indignities you have been subjected to over the last 24 hours – hell, even if your stomach has just been ripped open by a surgeon – you are now called Mummy.
And in your new role as Mummy, you need to learn how to latch your baby onto a boob, rock your baby, soothe your baby, wind your baby and change your baby’s nappy. Approximately every three hours. For the next six months. Oh, and you will then be on call 24/7 for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Good luck.
But there is one way giving birth is just like marathon running!
However tough it might be; however painful; however challenging; and however many tears are shed during the process, you will never, ever regret it.