I didn’t always picture myself as a mom. Sure, there were times when I thought about it, wondered what it would be like, but I really loved my lifestyle and freedom that came with it. There was a part of me though that wanted the experience of creating, growing, and nourishing a little human. I’ve studied exercise physiology & nutrition in academia, and the human body has always been of interest to me. I would have felt incomplete if I’d not ever experienced being pregnant and giving birth to a little babe. It’s such an incredible experience and I’m so glad that I have the privilege of being a mom.
Pregnancy is a weird trip when you are an athlete. First of all, your body is suddenly out of your control. This was a really interesting thing to experience as someone who is used to having so much control over how I feel, what I do, what I eat, etc. Instantly, upon becoming pregnant, this all went out the window for me. I was extremely tired, nauseous, and not able to do much besides shuffle around. It was humbling. And all along I was suddenly growing this tiny little human that would someday be my son.
My pregnancy was actually not terrible. I mean, it wasn’t comfortable or easy, but I had zero expectations of my body. Some days I could hardly get out of bed while other days I was able to run or bike some pretty awesome trails. There was no pattern to the good and bad days though. I spent most of my first 16 weeks eating no vegetables and mostly salt & vinegar chips and white bread. For those who know me, I LOVE food, so this was really odd. But, I just took each day as they came and responded accordingly. Dare I say I enjoyed some of the slower days where it was just me and my little guy resting together. He was particularly active at night right about when I wanted to sleep. We had some good conversations about the appropriate time for karate practice.
"Pregnancy is a weird trip when you are an athlete."
My due date was January 5th, but turns out the little guy wanted to meet us earlier. On December 11th, 2020 after 4 donuts, a 6 mile shuffle run (where I *think* my water broke), 30 hours of labor, and 4 hours of pushing, Julien Axel Maravilla was born 4 weeks early on his grandpa’s birthday. It was the best surprise ever and my heart completed melted. I’ve never felt so much love for someone ever. That day changed my life forever.
Fast forward a couple months and we are figuring each other out. Turns out there are a million books, podcasts, and resources for when you are pregnant, but literally nothing for after you give birth. I remember walking out of the hospital with my new little baby and wondering “Now what?” I’m not someone who really stressed over doing everything right with a newborn, because I really didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. We just gave him a lot of love and fed him the first few weeks. During this time, I adjusted to my new body. I say new body, because I don’t think you ever go back to your previous self. Instead of getting “back” to where you once were, I think you progress with the body you now have. For me that included a nice tear and several stitches along with some pelvic discomfort. For some reason I had no idea that this would be a thing after birth. I guess I never thought about it, but here I was. Walking was suddenly really hard, and I had bleeding and night sweats for several weeks. No one told me about this. It passed and I healed, but I felt very unprepared for this part of the journey.
The athlete in me wanted to get moving as soon as possible, but again, I was not in control of my body. And I also had baby Julien ruling my schedule. Everything revolved around when he wanted to eat, sleep, cry, or need his mama. I had to be completely patient with him and surrender to not doing anything on my own time. I think that was one of the biggest adjustments I had to make and a mom/athlete, I can get out to run or bike, but I have to do it when the opportunity presents itself. That might be at 6pm at night or right after I just ate a huge burrito for lunch. Still, I’m thankful for the time I get to myself.
“Instead of getting “back” to where you once were, I think you progress with the body you now have.”
One of the biggest differences in pre-mom Stephanie and mom-Stephanie is my flexibility and adaptability in running and life. I just have to allow the day to roll over me like water on a beach. It will come, but it’s hard to predict when and how much will come at once. I can say that I enjoy this challenge though. And it makes my workouts that much more valuable. I don’t take this time for granted one bit. And while I’m out running, I think about baby Julien and then hurry home. I hate being away from him!
So, I guess I can say that I’m not really looking for a balance or a way to get back to my previous running self. Rather, I am moving forward with my life as it is and I love it. I love being the first person to see Julien in the morning, I love his smiles and laughs, and I love the late night feedings where it’s just he and I. It’s such a magical thing to be a mom and I love being the most important person to my little baby boy. I now couldn’t imagine my life without this little love bug!
To all mommas out there - you are doing a great job and I see you. Let’s support each other, especially on the other side, starting when you head home from the hospital without a manual….