Monday, 20 June 2011

Baby Body

My body, my machine, my engine and now my baby carrier and nurturer. Its been put through the mill the last five years. Firstly with four years of full on triathlon training plus full time working and then pregnancy, birth and breast feeding. It has stood up and answered every demand I have placed on it and yet I feel I am only just winning this love hate battle I have been fighting with all my life. I am beginning to feel at peace with what I have been given and to let the bonds and unrealistic expectations of modern society slip away.

My body has always been strong and powerful, it seems to have never ending powers of endurance. It's never suffered a major injury despite training repetitively week on week out. When asked in a big race, its always performed and apart from falling apart in the closing stages of the World Champs in Kona, physically it got me to the finish line, though I left any coherent thoughts out on the Queen K!  Most importantly, it grew, protected, nourished my baby and then delivered it (with a little help!) safely into the world. And only now, am I able to look in the mirror and accept and be happy with what I have been given.

My body is in no way its tight, muscle bound shape it used to be. Bits sag (sorry), are wider, smaller, stretched, scarred and yet it is serving its natural function and finally finding its natural shape - not something I am forcing it into being to fit my demands or the expectations of others. Over the past few months as I battled with the realisation that I just wouldn't be able to train and compete (at the moment) it has slowly dawned on me that my body does not need to be punished for the shape it is. It is what it is and no one apart from me (and my lovely friend Vickie!)  really cares. My son and husband both love me for being me, I am their rock, their nest and their comfort, they do not judge me for my shape, their love is unconditional and unjudgemental.

I am sure other Mums feel the same way. Life is suddenly not about you, in fact you are very low in the pecking order. That reliance on you by another or others makes you realise that body shape is really not worth worrying about. Time is so precious and seems to be going so quickly and I want to enjoy every last minute!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Jumpers For Goalposts

I saw the most brilliant thing in the park yesterday. Four boys in their 20s playing football with jumpers for goalposts; two little lads, cant be more than 8 years old came up to them and asked if they could join in. Without batting an eyelid they said, 'of course, you go on one team, you on the other,' and off they went. I watched them for a bit, all completely immersed in the game. There was no talk of rules, offside, fouls, they were just all playing for the love of it. I don't think they even knew each others names. The PE teacher in me was delighted! This is what sport should be like, we put too many rules, restrictions and expectations on young people to perform and achieve, when really all they want to do is play.

Lots of people, in jest (of course I take it quite personally!) have said, what am I going to be like on the sideline when watching my son play sport or even worst, what if he doesn't like sport?! (well that is hardly going to happen!) The truth is, though I am freakishly competitive myself, I have seen the products of one too many pushy parents. I have fielded the phone calls on Monday at 8am asking why I haven't followed up on the e mail sent last night sent at 10pm demanding Fifibell be put back into the U12A netball team. These children are nearly always mortified by their parents behaviour.

Those children that do achieve and continue to achieve throughout their life are nearly always the ones whose parents support, but in the background. They are there to cheer the victories, but also to pick up the pieces in defeat. They understand the role of sport and its importance in their children's life, but they create a balance where personal or team achievement is celebrated rather than winning.

And so this week I have set myself a number of personal challenges, no competition with anyone else (though I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE 'chicking' guys while I am running with a pram!), just me, myself and my baby.
For those who know...getting to this post hurt a lot!

Run 5km in under 20 minutes
Cover 50 miles in total throughout the week
Run to a new coffee shop (!!)
Do 1 double figure run
Max out up every hill to the 'post'

I wont lie to you, previously I have always been motivated completely by winning and being the best I can be. I love racing and now that I dont have that in my life these mini challenges keep me heading out the door and they entertain me greatly, only clarifying what I already suspected I am a complete loser!

And so I have ticked them all off, apart from the 50 to 46 and couldn't face one more mile with the pram and probably nor could baby, though he hardly has an opinion as sleeps through most of my epic victories!

So now without races all my energy really is focused on being the best Mum I can be. I am learning not to take it personally when he wont sleep, wont eat, just wants/needs to have a good yell, when pulling everything out of the cupboard is all he wants to do (again and again) or being carried around is the only thing that will settle him. I am learning this doesn't mean I am a failure or not winning, but its all part of our learning curve. Watching him this week now rocket round the flat, pulling himself up, cruising round the furniture, I know it wont be long till he is one of those little boys asking to play football in the park, and you know what? I cant wait!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Closing The Door

For the first time yesterday post baby, I had to get up and go to work in a suit, on a train. I left the baby crying for me as I shut the door and it broke my heart. How do people do this everyday? I am sure it gets easier and you settle into a new routine. I had to tell myself strongly, not to express my adult emotions onto my baby, but I was torn up inside with this innate desire to rush back inside and hold him to me, never letting go. I felt sick as I boarded the train, glancing around, waiting for someone to accuse me for being a terrible mother and hearing his distressed cries alongside my rapid heart beat. Of course, women have to do this everyday, and for this I have a new found respect, doing the job is the easy bit, leaving the baby is the real challenge.

More and more I am now having to face up to people who ask 'when' am I going back to work? Normally there is an uncomfortable silence, which I fill with reasons... blah blah, oh I'm doing this, I'm doing that, we are getting by etc etc. All empty excuses and in my head I am shouting at myself-tell the truth! I cannot bear to leave the baby with someone else, in someone elses care. I don't actually  think I am strong enough to go back to work. Funny for someone who all their life has competed, trained, worked their body to the limit that this little person has weakened every resolve I ever had!

It does seem that I have lost part of my identity now that I am unemployed. Am I of any value to anyone apart from my family now? Will I lose the ability to communicate with others; by taking my foot off the treadmill of employment will I be left forever wiping the floor and putting on the washing machine? !
But then, do you know what I did today? I went for a run with my baby (ha my legs were tired from standing in heels all day yesterday!). After we sat in the sun and shared breakfast, listened to the trees rustling and the skylarks singing overheard. I realised that everyday with my baby feels like I put together another part of our jigsaw. We put the pieces around each other (getting them in the wrong place, more than the right), but when they fit, they fit beautifully.  I just know taking some time out is right and one day when I see the whole picture my son and I have created I will know every precious minute of this time together was worthwhile.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A River Day

Its hard when you have been up since 5am with a teething sad baby to get your butt out of the door for a run. I try and think of every reason in the book not to go. Come on you are tired, go back to sleep (fat chance, I often give hubby an extra lie in, but if baby gets the faintest sniff that mum might still be in the house and better still in bed he is onto me like a shot!) or better still just stare into space with a cup of tea.

But I know if I go out now I will feel better, I don't like to run with the pram more than four times a week. I know my running action shortens, my knees get sore and well sometimes its just so nice to be out and by myself.

So I headed out this morning, cranky in my head and in my heart. I didn't want to spend another day with the whiner, I was tired.  Put the trainers on, out the door, don't think about stiff legs, hungry tummy or itchy eyes. Just get the legs moving, get the blood pumping and the lungs working. In moments like this there is only one place to go. The river. The Thames, the artery of London. In and out it ebbs and flows all day, my constant companion, always different, but always the same.

Standing on the banks, hands on my hips, I take deep breaths, I am not running hard enough to be out of breath (I hate running hard in the morning), but it feels so good to fill my lungs with almost fresh air, savour the almost silence of 6am, feel my shoulders relax, my back straighten and my head lift.

My feet turn for home, lighter, faster and stronger. The pavements are filling with grey suits heading to the bus, as I run in the opposite direction, back to my work, which I love with my whole being.

Friday, 3 June 2011

It is by chance we meet by choice we become friends

As my life has changed in so many ways over the past year, one thing has remained constant and that has been my friends and family. Having a baby turns your world upside down, no one can prepare you for the huge range of emotions you go through daily or the exhaustion you feel day in day out. Not working, means you lose that network of friends you have inbuilt at work, daily 'hellos' become a lifeline as you realise its 3pm and the postman is the first other adult human you have seen all day. And that's when your little support group of friends comes into its own. Some are new, some are old, some were forgotten, but all hold a dear place in your heart as they provide a vital lifeline to the outside world and the person you used to be!

I really struggled in the first few months with terrible loneliness, we have just moved back to London, I wasn't training and could hardly walk to the shops with battered abdominals. No one told me that babies never stop crying. I had lost my network of training friends and without the routine of school timetables, training sessions and goals I felt lost.

Then I was invited to some postnatal sessions. Jumped at the chance, cant remember anything about the class, but here I met 6 other women who have become dear friends.  I would never have met these women in my 'former' life, but they have proved to be my life, my therapy and my support network through the tumultuous first few months! I know some of them will be friends for life.

Training friends have come and gone, those working towards big goals are understandably single mindedly training, I look back and think was I like this? Must have been and for that I apologise! Some-mainly those with kids themselves-totally understand what its like to be at home days on end and one in particular has gone above and beyond to meet for a quick coffee or take the baby for a walk so I can have a smash fest run. I have felt almost tearfully grateful at this simple act of generosity.

Finally my husband and family have proved to be invaluable. Hubby is my absolute rock, supported me through everything, from the labour, the terrible pain of initial breastfeeding and then kicking my wobbly butt out the door to get in shape again! Every morning he asks would I like to go for a run and rushes home at night so I can get out or so he can cook dinner. I know how lucky I am and how little I show my appreciation. Your relationship complete changes with your loved one once the baby arrives. Life is no longer about us, its about him, what he wants, what he needs, but he has brought us closer together-we've laughed, cried and clung to each other as we stumble our way to become the parents we so want to be.
It is funny to make new friends post baby. I feel now, having reached the grand old age of 31, I am finally becoming me. So different now I have this little man by my side all day. I feel stronger, more stable and happier within myself and in my body (that's a whole other post!!). I do still struggle with my new identity as a Mum. Some times I am not really sure who I am or who I am supposed to be. And I suppose that's why friends are so important, they love you for who you are, just the way you are.