It starts slowly. A feeling of disconnection you can almost ignore. It starts out foreign, as if there’s a portion of yourself you recognize, but only vaguely.
That thing in the fringes of your understanding, it murmurs into your head. A misremembering of the stasis of things.
It slinks into feet, finally. Tendons and stride and sinew once amenable to great distances are slowly constricting, tightening, bit by bit. So that when you test them again, they will wince just a little more, taut with newness, hastening you to stop while you are still comfortable.
A Moment That Changes Everything
How did I discover this? It’s last December, and I have been folding laundry. Abruptly, I am on my knees in our bedroom, sobbing into carpet fibers. Vibrations I’ve managed to fend off for my sanity’s sake suddenly crashing against my consciousness in what feels like a tidal wave of joy and terror and complete naked humility.
We are pregnant.
I feel like I’ve been trained my entire female adult life to be paranoid of this reality. Of squatting on a stick and having it turn out the way you’re scared to your bones it will. Of knowing, somehow, what the result is before you even open it. That I feel anything besides bald horror at this is surprising in itself. That I should harbor embers of love about it, buried as they may be in the storm, is equally unexpected.
Where Normal is Not a Thing We Recognize
I want to run to the place where sweat crusts up and cakes my cheeks, where quads burn again, and lungs wheeze for mercy. To remember exactly how that transformative place in the run offered solace.
I will try, and I will manage to get close, but the weight of this new normal will be ever-present in the back of my mind – a new sense of caution and awareness I have never experienced. We will have to wait for that place in the run, and it’s the hardest part – so far – of hewing a new human from your own insides.
There is the strangest sensation – a thudder of your heartbeat echoed back to you in perfect succession. The arrhythmia of it filling your chest cavity as it becomes a brand new rhythm – our rhythm. In all it’s tiny vulnerability, this little fetus has felled me to the quick. This dream that becomes more real by the day, but still manages to feel completely abstract.
I managed to keep a fairly normal running routine during the first trimester. I got lucky, I think, that I could maintain at least this portion of my life before. Between bouts of intense nausea, sleeplessness, and general physical dissociation, a mile or two into a run would be the only time I’d feel close to what normal had felt like before inside my rapidly changing muscely, jiggly, meat carriage.
I knew I would miss those moments. Those times I did manage to break through the fog and find the remnants of my running self. I tried to hold onto them, package them neatly in my brain for days I would need them. Days like now, when the runs are slowed before they even start, before they can even get close to that place I have taken for granted so easily, so often. As spandex itself becomes somehow not stretchy enough for this abdominal protrusion, as hip flexors strain, and muscles stretch in wholly alien ways, I wish for that place the most.
More than my straining abdomen or overtaxed veins, the weight of the worry slows my movements, anxious that I move for both of us now – that my hardwired clumsiness has consequences for more than just me.
Mostly from sheer fatigue, there are times I do not want to run. Grateful that I can still, I try to make myself, despite. The times I cannot, I often only discover after trying. After hugging the bridge in the park, hyperventilating and hoarse from breathing in tears and sucking wind.
Now almost 8 months pregnant, I like to think I’ve learned a few things. Three of them, to be exact:
- Start slow
- Be gentle with yourself
- Buy new shoes