At about 4 weeks before my due date, I’m gearing up for the final push and getting ready for the biggest finish line of my life – you know, the one with the stirrups and IVs, the hospital gown and that itty bitty newborn that’s all mine (oh, and my husband’s!) who might look like an alien for the first few days, but he’ll be the cutest gosh darn thing you ever did see, obviously.
As I near the finish line, I’m reminded of how I sometimes feel at the end of a marathon. Kinda tired, pretty irritable and getting impatient. So, today, I bring you my insights on how these last few weeks of pregnancy mirror those last few miles of a marathon.
#1: Taking deep breaths is darn near impossible. By mile 24, breathing may become irregular and seem unnatural, not just a by-product of our brain stem. Breathing may become more shallow or rapid and the more your chest heaves, the more you struggle. Better breathing equals more oxygen for your muscles, which equals more endurance. Belly breathing, not chest breathing, should be the focus and exercises like Pilates can strengthen the diaphragm (the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen) to help you breathe better at the end of a race.
Speaking of diaphragms, near the end of pregnancy, it is so smooshed by the baby, it is about the size of a pea – literally. The enlarged uterus pushes the abdominal wall forward and pelvic veins down, while pushing up on the bottom of the rib cage and diaphragm. The rib cage widens and shortness of breath is common until the baby finally decides to drop down before delivery.
#2: Just putting one foot in front of the other starts to feel really awkward. Remember that feeling you get when you’re nearing mile 23, 24, and 25? Strides feel a little unnatural and painful. It might become a chore, especially if you ‘hit the wall,’ like I have, unfortunately.
Taking simple walks around the neighborhood are starting to feel this same way at 36 weeks pregnant! I’m so off-kilter and awkwardly trying to keep my balance (thrusting my back out of place and trying not to topple over like one of those weird dolls I used to have as a kid).
#3: You might pee a little. Come on, we’ve all done it. You’re nearing the end and your body is using every morsel of energy that you just, well, lose control! Note to self: always wear black when you’re pushing yourself to your limits. I’ve learned that one the hard way.
As I got further along in my pregnancy, the whole bladder control thing went out the window. I sneeze a little, and a tiny bit of pee may or may not flow. I know, gross. And, as I hear from veteran mommas, the bladder control thing only gets worse once you actually give birth. Yippee!
#4: Your joints will ache like hell. You’re nearing the finish, and every ache and pain becomes more and more prominent. It always hits me in the hips near the end of a marathon. Similarly, in pregnancy, one day it’s my sciatica and the next it’s my IT band. As the baby continues to gain weight rapidly, pregnancy hormones actually relax the joints of the pelvis, which can cause back pain.
#5: Months of preparation will end in a HUGE RELIEF. You’ve trained for months and you’ve done everything right! You are nearing the finish line and right on pace; the final pain is worth it. You have dominated your marathon and the feeling of euphoria, relief and happiness is overwhelming.
Now, I haven’t experienced the whole labor and birthing thing, followed by the unparalleled feeling of love at first glance when the baby arrives, but I can only imagine that these feelings of PRing in a marathon and seeing a healthy baby as the fruits of your 9 month preparation are somewhat similar. The anxiety is gone. The happiness is there.
One big difference? At the end of a marathon you get a medal and a banana, but at the end of pregnancy you get a brand new human. Can’t beat that swag!