Weeks 36-39: The Taper (and midnight thoughts on labor)
I had a rather serendipitous encounter with a running coach who came to my work as client during my last week. We got to talking, of course, about running and how I was maintaining a few miles every other day. He said that the best recoveries he has seen are the women who were able to take a couple of weeks off before the birth – in the vein of a taper for a marathon. Hey, labor got its name from somewhere, and as with a marathon, you need to be in peak physical condition but also refreshed and rested. It’s not worth it to tire yourself out before you cross the start line.
I have remained quite active over this past month, even if my Garmin didn’t track a lot of it. We have had big shopping days, spent time in the garden, and some of my nesting has required me to walk up and down our two flights of stairs a heck of a lot. I have kept up 2 miles here and there as well, although I admit I have taken a week off running at a time because of my extracurriculars.
Walking is harder than running at this stage. While running I can engage my core and essentially float forward with gravity. Walking doesn’t have the forward lean that I’m accustomed to and I bounce and heelstrike (and waddle) a little more. Alignment needs to be constantly considered either way, since I can see my tailbone swinging out behind me now. I engage my core, but what has really helped is keeping my ribcage over my lower back, shifted forward a little. I’m noticing throughout the day that I really do want to arch my upper back to compensate for the belly in front.
No matter how big you thought you were a month ago, how uncomfortable you think you felt a week ago…each week you manage to get bigger and more awkward. I’m told it’s a preparation for labor too, you think you can’t handle another contraction, and then you do – until you are finally holding a baby. In my mind it’s comparable to that first marathon. Your body and mind are beat up and fragile…and then you pass the 18 mile marker….SO many more miles to go. You don’t know what lies ahead, if you’ll hit the wall, if you’ve trained and fuelled properly, if you will even make it or how you will feel crossing that finish line. At least with a marathon you GET mile markers!
I imagine it’s a leap of faith to keep going during labor. The gruelling 40 day meditations I have inflicted upon myself in the past required a leap of faith of sorts. Many of them include arm movements or held positions and mantras that test your perseverance mentally and physically. Ideally you lose your “self” in the movement and the mantra, surrender your pain/pleasure/intense feeling to God or the universe. It wrings out your emotions and brings the junk to the surface so you can scrub your mind clean. You never know what will come up through those 31 minutes across the days but it’s always worth it in the end.
If marathons and meditations have taught me anything, it’s that if you persevere you will be rewarded, and in ways you could not have imagined possible. Nine months is a long journey, especially when you can only guess how it ends. You are changing the world around you by bringing a piece of God, a part of the universe, out of your body and into existence…to grow and live and experience the world for itself with you as its first guide. Indescribable, unpredictable magic.