Sunday, August 24, 2014

On pregnancy and marathoning

Last month while visiting my sister in Minnesota, we were talking about Stevie's pregnancy, and pregnancy in general, when I said, "It's also hard for men..."  My sister's face lit up with indignation at how hopelessly ignorant her little brother can be before I hastily interrupted her. "Let me finish!  It's also hard for men to truly understand what women go through during pregnancy."

I won't say I have no idea what pregnant women go through.  Having just spent the last nine months living with one, I've been privy to all sorts of (completely justified) emotions, complaints, descriptions of bodily functions, and random food cravings that the average person is spared.  But let's be honest, I still have very little idea what it is like to grow a human inside my stomach for nine months.

I think it's natural for people to want to empathize, especially with those they love.  I want to understand what is happening with Stevie's body and connect with her on an emotional level. That's how I ended up grasping at the only thing, at least in my own experience, that compares to pregnancy: the marathon.

Sorry if you just rolled your eyes, but it's the only thing I've got.

But think about it: with both the marathon and pregnancy, a person spends months preparing for one event on a single day.  It's a months long process that slowly builds in intensity.  Both the athlete and the pregnant woman need to be conscious of nutrition and be careful of what they put in their bodies.  Both spend months changing their bodies physically, and readying their minds emotionally in preparation for the big day.  The preparation is taxing and often requires doctor's visits and massages.  Emotions run high and an occasional mental breakdown is not uncommon.

The big day itself will bring a lot of stress and physical pain.  There will be people there to help cheer and coach the pregnant woman and marathoner through it.  It will most likely be long and difficult, but all that preparation and pain become worth it for the end result.  The marathoner perhaps gains a new PR, while the pregnant woman gets to meet the child she has carried within her for so long.  One can bask in the glory of achievement, but after giving birth or the marathon, depression is also not uncommon.  So much effort goes into one day, and things don't always go according to plan.  Even if things go perfectly, it's a large physcial and mental adjustment after the big day, and that can mess with emotions.

A big difference between marathoning and pregnancy, among many I'm sure, is that pregnant women generally don't know when the big day is going to be.  Imagine if I entered a marathon a few months ago and the race director called me to say, "look, we're actually not sure when the race will be.  Do us a favor and just stay ready for the entire month of August, ok?"  Then I suddenly get a call in the middle of the month at 3am and he says, "ok, the race is starting in 30 minutes.  Lace up and get out here!"

That's kind of where we're at right now, and the anxiety is killing me.  Stevie, of course, is rather frustrated and uncomfortable and more than ready to be done with pregnancy.  The hard work is far from over, of course, but at least sooner rather than later we'll both be on the same page about what that hard work is like.

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