Nothing could have prepared for me the way I would feel after having a baby. Pregnancy was supposed to be my era of growth and transformation – and in many ways, it was. I spent exactly 40 weeks forewarned by all my apps, books, and prenatal yoga classes on how to grow a beautiful little being. But then what happens after giving birth? Do we go on to become angels and butterflies? Do we suddenly live happily ever after?
No one tells you that the story lingers on long after the final push of childbirth. I never would have imagined that even after the thank you notes were all written and the newborn baby clothes had become too tight, life would continue. But here I am in the New England autumn, watching my summer child learn to roll wildly around the carpet as if swimming in a pile of leaves. Here we are, from one person to two. And yet, I will never be the same.
Would I have signed up for this had I known I would feel as though I were inhabiting a stranger’s body for 3 months after birthing my child? Or if I had been warned that my freedom would no longer be a priority? Maybe not.
But what if I had known the feeling of the world coming to a halt when my snowpea beams with joy? Or the way any thought becomes laced with uninterrupted empathy when oxytocin floods my body nearly hourly some days? Or the fact that freedom feels trivial compared to my connection to this little creature? Or that I would finally understand what love means? These are things I couldn’t even begin to explain to my former self.
The true transformation for me was not during pregnancy, but the postnatal period. Amidst the daily mess of blood, sweat, milk, spit-up, baby poop, and hair that sheds like the falling leaves, I found myself. From fearing my uterus would fall out by merely moving an inch in the wrong direction to rebuilding my strength to run laps around the river at sunset, I discovered home in my body once again.
How is it possible to run faster, dream bigger, and be miles happier as a mother than before? Although comparison feels trivial now, here I am: grounded with my running shoes shuffling through the autumn leaves and flying with my magnificent imaginary wings of motherhood. This is how post-baby running feels to me.