Wednesday, October 22, 2008

childbirth and marathons

I am an anxious person. I had relatively easy pregnancies. But, both times, I was so anxious about giving birth that the experiences became harder. I dreaded the actual day. How was I going to get through it, be strong enough, remember all the advice and training? I feel as if all the latter went out the window once actual labor began.

Both times, my blood pressure went way up (it is usually low), either when labor began or in the day or two before my due date. The midwives did not think “preeclampsia,” though they monitored for that. They, and I, knew it was anxiety. My mind over body powers are enhanced by anxiety. I swear that the anxiety prevented regular, productive contractions during my second labor, which was induced. The monitors did not help. When I was un-hooked from them, my contractions improved (if “improved” can possibly be the right word here). In the end, the painful pitocin was necessary (but quick!).

Unfortunately, I am feeling the same way about the Philadelphia Marathon on November 23. I have not run a marathon in six and a half years. I have started three and finished two marathons in my lifetime. The first was the best experience and time: New York City in 1999. The second, New York in 2000, I did not finish (calves turned to stone at mile 19). I ran the third, the National Marathon in DC in 2002, with a pace group; the pace leader was focused on catching us up to the clock (isn’t that what the chip is for?), that we ran each mile 20-30 seconds faster than advertised, and I had to slow way down and even walk some after mile 20.

I want to get it right this time. But my anxiety may psych me out. I know I am a strong, determined runner. And I’m even kind of fast. I followed my training schedule and am well-trained. (Though I do feel a little beaten down by the training, but that is why we taper for three or more weeks, right?) People do this all the time and even have fun – which is what I want. (And I’ve not heard anyone call childbirth “fun.”) So I need to calm the heck down, right?


runningfor3 said...

Definitely try to relax! Realistically, you're not going to be first or last, so does it matter exactly where you finish? It is not your first marathon, so I think that you'll find that your body will remember.

Spend a little time reading about people who run Ultramarathons and you'll start to feel that 26.2 is less daunting.

I've done 4 marathons and have had 3 kids without any drugs at all and I agree that "pain" is really a function of fear rather than physiology. In fact, I might call my last birth pretty fun. The first half of it qualified as a date (i.e. going somewhere in the car with my husband and no kids)!

morgan said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I suppose if I have given birth twice with no pain meds, I should be able to complete a fun race in 4 hours or so, right? Part of me is all psyched up. Part of me is all anxious. The psyched up side will have to win out! So, the goals: under 4 hours and have fun!

Crumbs said...

When you turn to running to work out anxiety, how do you work through anxiety caused by running?!?!

Lamaze breathing, maybe? Take yourself off the machines (your watch) and resign yourself to the fact that this baby (finish line) is coming whether or not you want it to.

Good luck! And at least your medal won't keep you awake all night!

morgan said...

Crumbs, you have put your finger on the problem. Running does work out anxiety. If I didn't run, then I'd probably need major psychotropic drugs. What does happen when running makes me anxious? Hmmm.

(And my second child, who is now 16 months old, still keeps me up at night. Unlike the medal you mention.)