The Marathon/Childbirth Discussion: Why Don’t We Celebrate Both??

One of my favorite cousins is a runner.  She ran in high school.  She ran in college.  She runs now.  I admire people who run.  Their determination and focus.  Their endless goal setting for a faster time or a further distance.  Their passion for running only truly shared by other runners.  It is to be admired.  

I on the other hand am no runner.  I will walk a few miles in the name of exercise and personal fitness, but running has never been me. I remember vividly when I was a little girl, I ran a race in the middle of the street, as I tried out for the track team at the neighborhood park.  I fell.  HARD.  I scrapped my hands, my knees, and my ego. I was so embarrassed.  I don’t think I ever ran another street race, and I certainly never grew to like the sport/activity.  Regarless of my lack of interest in running, when I hear someone is training for or interested in running a marathon;  I am happy for them and admire their fortitude. I will admit however, running a marathon is NOT on my personal bucket list.  

What IS on my “bucket list?” Experiencing a successful full term pregnancy and home birth.  I do want the experience of birthing in a way that leaves me exhilarated, empowered, and full of pride.

Its well documented that “The sense of personal empowerment, accomplishment and achievement that comes with it is simply amazing.”

Yes, its hard work:  “You have points where you want to sit… and cry.  Points where you don’t think you’re going to make it any further…  But when… you’re able to say ‘I got through it and I’m OK,’ there’s no feeling of accomplishment like it in the world.” 

I recently read someone say:  “I haven’t found any other experience in life that bestows the blending of mind, body and spirit in as positive and powerful a way… It changes people’s lives”

But wait a minute…  What exactly am I writing about here?  Is this about birth or about running a marathon?  Well BOTH actually.  You see, the quotes above, each came from a recent article I read about running a MARATHON!!  As I read the article I was reminded that I promised my cousin, the one mentioned above, that I would write a quick post re: the comparison between running a marathon and giving birth without the aid of medication.

I mentioned to her during a previous conversation that posts and articles about this topic were plentiful. In fact, I just googled “Natural Birth Marathon” and got over 20,000,000 results and the first page is full of great articles. Unfortunately, while the preparation, the attitude, the mental capacity, the final feelings of accomplishment and elation have long been compared, the disparity of responses to each continues.

When individuals announce “I am going to run a marathon.” They are greeted with hugs, cheers and congratulations.  At the same time, women who say “I am going to have an un-medicated birth” are often laughed at, discounted and some are even shamed as they are asked “WHY on earth would you do that?!?!”

What’s most interesting to me are the women who run marathons themselves yet simultaneously think that an un-medicated birth is a crazy idea. I met such a woman a number of years ago in California.  The woman was being admitted for an induction.  She let me know she was DEFINITELY planning to have an epidural.  She told me about her friend who had a natural birth and she could not understand why her friend would put herself through so much pain.  I had recently read an article comparing natural child birth to a marathon and I mention this article to her. She then admitted that she had run not one, but TWO (maybe 3) marathons!! I was like REALLY!!?? In my opinion I told her jokingly… YOU are the crazy one.

I won’t go into detail about the endorphins that are experienced and used by both marathon runners and women in labor alike to endure pain and experience a life changing experience. 

I will not go into detail describing the physical and mental preparation, the need for focus, determination, and a support system and a plan.  I won’t discuss the way mind over matter makes them both a reality.  I will not go into detail about the potential for pain, injury and disappointment that comes if the desired outcome is not realized.  i.e. the marathon is not finished  or the birth ends in cesarean. 

Instead, I will refer back to the quotes above. The ones that came from an article on running a marathon and at the same time can be used easily to describe natural birth.  My favorite:  “I haven’t found any other experience in life that bestows the blending of mind, body and spirit in as positive and powerful a way… It changes people’s lives”    REALLY??!!  Obviously that person has never experienced or witnessed natural child birth which I would argue can do all of that and MORE!

What I really want to do is challenge you to change your opinion of women who desire “natural” child birth.  Celebrate them as you do the marathon runner. Embrace their goals like you do the marathon runner. Support their efforts like you do the marathon runner.  Tell them you are proud like you do the marathon runner.  

Women who choose un-medicated birth are no more “crazy” than the individual who chooses to run a marathon.  Just as I can appreciate the hard work, dedication and preparation that goes in to running a marathon, it’s time we celebrate the hard work and effort that goes with an un-medicated birth.

Somehow I believe if men could birth babies and chose natural birth, it would be looked upon differently.  I believe like the marathon, the triathlon, the decathlon, and the iron man it would be celebrated and not made into a societal joke.  That’s really sad, because the reality is, with no disrespect to Marathon runners:

“I haven’t [witnessed] any other experience in life that bestows the blending of mind, body and spirit in as positive and powerful a way… It changes people’s lives.”  And I am talking about childbirth!!!

Did you have an un-medicated birth? Have you ever run a marathon? Which one was more difficult? Share your story!!

Nicole

Lets connect on Twitter I’m @SistaMidwife

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9 responses to “The Marathon/Childbirth Discussion: Why Don’t We Celebrate Both??

  1. Great post! I’ve completed a 1/2 marathon and I’m currently training for a 2nd. I’m sure a full marathon is much different, but my 4 natural births gave me more exhilaration and feelings of empowerment than I think any run ever could.

  2. Love this article!

  3. Elita – that is a GREAT point!!!

  4. Great post! I’ve never thought about the comparison, but it’s apt in many ways. Especially considering that one can do either with the support of professionals to guide them to success and intervene for their safety.

  5. Yes, I’ve done both! I agree that they are parallel experiences in so many ways. I do have to respectfully disagree with one point– that people don’t say disparaging things to someone training for a marathon. Unfortunately there are a lot of negative crazies out there ready to bring you down a notch. Or they just don’t ‘get’ why anyone would want to do that, etc. But I definitely agree with your main point that a marathoner is MUCH more likely to be celebrated than a birthing woman. I also completely agree that it boils down to sexism. I think we devalue birth and breastfeeding because it is something women do. Instead of being like OMG, you are GODDESSES!

    Both experiences were completely amazing and life-changing! I wouldn’t change either for the world and I’m so proud of myself for these accomplishments. Big props to all marathoners and all birthing mamas!

  6. Totally agree and have used this metaphor many times myself. In addition to people thinking a woman is crazy for wanting a natural childbirth people will also actually tell her SHE WON’T SUCCEED. You would NEVER say that to a friend who was training for a marathon. “Oh, it sounds good but I know a lot of people who have tried to run marathons and none of them were able to finish so you shouldn’t even bother to try.” That’s not acceptable but telling a mom not to try for natural birth somehow is.

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