Taking a break from running during pregnancy

Earlier this year I ran my first marathon. Now I probably couldn’t even run a mile. It’s been seven months since I last ran – the longest stretch I’ve gone without running in 15 years. Running has always been an integral part of my adult life. It’s been my outlet for stress, my connection to the outdoors, my time to reflect.

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Feeling strong during my marathon at Walt Disney World earlier this year.

Soon after I found out I was pregnant, I tried to go running. Something about it didn’t feel right, though. Maybe it was my first trimester nausea or my motherly instinct already kicking in and telling me to slow down, to stop sprinting through life.

Early on, I realized I was embarking on a new marathon of sorts, a nine-month one that would push my body and mind in ways they had never been pushed before.

I’m seven months pregnant and people still ask me, “Are you continuing to run?” I’m often surprised by the question, especially when I look down and see my growing belly — a protrusion that sometimes makes it difficult to walk, let alone run.

“No,” I tell them matter-of-factly. “I haven’t really run at all during my pregnancy. It just never felt right.” Surprisingly, I haven’t felt any shame or guilt when admitting this. I thought I would, given my tendency to cling to my identify as a runner, a marathoner.

I think I'll be eager to return to running after Madelyn's born. Already looking forward to using my new BOB jogging stroller!
I think I’ll be eager to return to running after Madelyn is born. My aunt and uncle bought me a BOB jogging stroller, which I can’t wait to use around St. Pete.

Pregnancy has been an ongoing lesson in learning how to be more gentle and patient with myself. Instead of running, I’ve been walking, swimming, and taking prenatal yoga classes. Exercising every day helps me maintain part of my routine in the midst of so many physical and emotional changes.

Sometimes, I get frustrated during prenatal yoga. It’s a flow class, so the instructor keeps us moving throughout the entire 75 minutes, with the exception of a few minutes at the beginning and the end.

Some nights, my belly feels huge, my body heavy.

Another downward dog??? I’ll think to myself after the 10th one in class.

I don’t want to bend down and touch my toes again; my belly won’t let me.   

Is it shavasana time yet? 

Despite my frustrations, I’ve been thinking a lot about how yoga and pregnancy have helped me to become more accepting of my body’s limitations. I’ve learned to embrace modified poses, realizing I don’t have to fuel my ego and my competitive side by always doing the fullest expression of every pose.

Madelyn seems to like yoga; she kicks a lot after each class.
Madelyn seems to like yoga; she kicks a lot after each class.

So what if my dancer pose isn’t quite as graceful as it used to be? Or if my tree pose is a bit lopsided? Instead of lamenting my imperfect, sometimes wobbly poses, I’ve embraced other ones. During every class, I channel my inner goddess, warrior, and happy baby.

I’ve sunken into child’s pose, not with guilt but with gratitude for a pose that gives me a temporary reprieve. I’ve also challenged my body, doing poses that strengthen my arms, my legs, and my pelvic floor (a body part that becomes a greater part of your vocabulary when you’re pregnant!)

“Breathe into the discomfort,” my yoga teacher says, reminding me that discomfort is not the same as pain. I know that in two short months, I’ll have to breathe into a lot of discomfort during labor and push through pain.

I’m almost 30 weeks into my pregnancy and I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to go to yoga. I plan to go for as long as I can, so long as I feel safe and (mostly) comfortable. Everything I’m doing now is preparation for the big day.

This nine-month marathon is challenging, but it’s the most rewarding physical endeavor I’ve ever endured. The finish line is getting closer, and I’m walking toward it with more excitement each day. 

We can't wait to meet Madelyn!
Troy has always been my cheerleader during my races. That’s now the case more than ever during this nine-month marathon. This isn’t the best quality photo, but I love how happy we look in it.
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In the wake of tragedy, the hardest question to answer is ‘Why?’

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As a child, I was always in search of answers. I was curious about the world around me and my favorite word was probably “why.”

Aware of my inquisitive nature, my mom bought me a series of books titled “Tell Me Why: Answers to Hundreds of Questions Children Ask.” I recently flipped through the books, which are now sitting on the bookshelf in Madelyn’s nursery, and saw dozens of questions popping off the pages.

Who invented the pencil?

What caused the Tower of Pisa to lean?

When did people start cutting their hair?

Where did dolls originate?

Why was the Great Wall of China built?

How can a snake move without legs?

I loved finding answers in books as a child. But there came a time when I realized that my mom and dad didn’t have all the answers, and that some questions will always remain answerless. Why? is no doubt the hardest question to answer, especially in the wake of tragedies like the terror attacks in Paris.

I try to live in the present, but I often think ahead to the future, anticipating what’s to come. I wonder how I’ll answer the tougher questions Madelyn will ask me — about why people die and where they go after, whether the world ends, why people with different colored skin don’t always get along, why people would want to hurt one another.

Sometimes the best answer is “I don’t know.”

What I do know is that most people in this world are inherently good — a message I’ll try to relay to Madelyn. I hope to teach her about the the everyday people who commit small unnoticed acts of kindness, not violence. I know I won’t be able to shield her from tragedy and trauma, but I’ll teach her what it means to develop strength in the face of weakness, to become resilient in the aftermath of hardships.

In the wake of the attacks in Paris, I’m reminded of a Mr. Rogers quote I’ve always loved:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

Someday, I’ll read Madelyn this quote and will encourage her to look for the helpers in the world. They’re there, I’ll tell her, even if it feels like they’re sometimes playing hide and go seek. And even though I won’t be able to answer all her questions, I’ll let her know that mom and dad will always do their very best to make her feel loved, to keep her safe.

 

Three months to go before Baby Madelyn arrives

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Today marks the beginning of week 27, also known as the start of the third trimester! (Some measure the start of the third trimester at week 28, but I’m sticking with week 27.)

With each passing week, I feel more confident about Baby Madelyn’s health. She is at the age of viability, meaning survival outside the womb would be possible. At 27 weeks, she’s the size of a rutabaga, or a bunch of bananas. She’s about 14 inches long and a little over 2 pounds.

Her tiny lungs are developing, and she’s practicing breathing by taking in amniotic fluid. She has just started opening her eyes at this stage, and her eyelashes have formed. Her brain is rapidly developing, too, and will nearly triple in weight during the third trimester. (Can you tell I’ve been reading a lot about her development?)

I recently finished the book “Brain Rules for Baby” by molecular biologist John Medina. It’s a fascinating read that’s filled with scientific research and practical advice about how to provide the best environment for your baby’s brain development, inside the womb and after birth. (Here is a roundup of related tips.) It’s a pretty easy read, so I’d recommend the full book. It’s the one baby book I’m encouraging my husband Troy to read.

Thinking about Madelyn’s brain development and growth motivates me on days when fatigue follows me around like a shadow, and when my protruding belly makes it uncomfortable to walk, sleep, or eat a hearty meal. Despite these and other not-so-fun symptoms, I’ve loved being pregnant and haven’t had too many aches and pains. (We’ll see how I feel at the end of the third trimester…)

My desire to have a healthy baby motivates me to make better choices — about how much rest I get, what I put into my body, and how much I work. I still have to watch my stress levels, and I need to make a conscious effort every day to not let weight gain distort my body image or my relationship with food. But overall, I’m amazed by how my pregnancy has helped me to be healthier and happier. It has also helped bring me and Troy even closer together.

“We’re going to be parents … eeeeek!” is a common refrain in the Tarpley household these days. I’ve always wanted to be a mom, now more so than ever. I recently learned that I’ll be able to take 11 weeks of maternity leave once Madelyn arrives. I love knowing that I’ll have so much time to focus on my daughter — to care for her, to get to know her. Until then, I’ll keep playing her music, reading to her, and patting my belly when she turns it into a punching bag.

Less than three months to go, my little one…