I never expected to feel so lost without a big race to train for.
I’ve been training for big races for more than 10 years, and I haven’t had a summer in as much time where most of the weekends weren’t earmarked for hours-long workouts. As my pregnancy was coming to an end, I remember feeling giddy over the idea that this summer I had NOTHING on the calendar to feel accountable for. No races, no work. I’m on maternity leave until September and my only focus is on being a new mom.
The nice weather arrived and people began posting status updates on Facebook about long rides and runs, open water swims and the first triathlon races of the season. Though excited to be a mom, there were moments I stared longingly at my pink bike in the basement, sitting idle in a corner where it was promptly stashed after completing Ironman Mont-Tremblant last August. What I wouldn’t give to have my body back for one Sunday to soar over the scenic miles of the Syracuse 70.3 tri course with sweat glistening on my shoulders and delicious pain in my legs…
Then, in a shocking turn of events, Emmett came five weeks early. (There was plenty of pain to enjoy!)
And I never expected to feel so “found” when I held him in my arms.
I’ve heard about mom love. The “infinity times infinity” level of emotion that women realize when they have babies. Before holding Emmett, the only frame of reference that I had for feeling that level of love and protection over something was with regard to our dog, Reilly. She’s 22 lbs and spends most of her time draped upon my lap, staring at me adoringly with squinty eyes while I pet her six ways from Tuesday. Everybody warned me that when the baby got here, I’d feel one thousand times more attached to him than I did to the pug, and that my affections for the family pet would be redirected to my son.
“Yeah, yeah,” I thought. “I have enough love for my dog and my baby.”
My husband used to joke with me (I say joke, but his tone usually suggested he was on the verge of initiating a borderline serious talk…) that I gave the pug more affection than I gave to him. It was probably true. I’ve always been kind of a loner…someone that doesn’t need people around to be entertained or feel okay in moments of weakness or sadness. Historically, I’ve relied on experiences or inanimate objects to fulfill passions and find a sense of security, not people. Over the years, I’ve learned to find this affection with people. My husband will tell you that I’ve come a long way. I will tell you that I’m just your typical independent Aquarius that is being broken down by the maturing emotions of one in their mid-thirties.
On May 24, whatever barriers were still left standing were broken down by all five lbs and three ounces of my Little Man. He is almost a month old now, and I have gone from Ironman to Ironmush. I’d love to blame all the sobbing and sensitivity on hormones, but the truth of it is that I am forever changed. I’ve realized that I am part of him and he is part of me and that my husband and I have created a family that is so much more compelling and meaningful than any finish line in any race. That isn’t to say that I’ve lost my spark for multisport and fitness, just that I’ve found something that exceeds those passions for the first time in my life. And I’ve found it in people.
People scare the hell out of me. They can change, die, move, grow out of you, turn on you, break you. I think that’s what has always made me wary of letting “people” in. People can’t be measured in distances, prepared for through training, or a be a means to an end. People ebb and flow. They are unpredictable. They are deep. You can fall into them and lose your way. I never wanted to feel lost in that, because I’m a planner. I’ve always got a destination and road map to get there. People aren’t like that. People don’t come with maps. And people don’t always care where you’re going, or if you ever get there.
But I’m learning to be okay with that.
I’m learning to measure life in moments now, rather than miles.
I’m gauging progress by heartstrings, rather than heartrates.
I can spend an hour staring at my son sleeping in my arms and it has the same calming effect as a recovery swim across the Jamesville Reservoir.
This isn’t to suggest that I was void of any emotion or human connection before my son was born, it just didn’t come as easy to me before now.
As an athlete, mojo is that X-factor that helps me to be mentally present in the moment in order to perform to the best of my ability in a workout or a race. It sets the tone for every stroke in the swim, every pedal on the bike, every stride in the run. Without mojo, the body merely goes through the motions. With mojo, you allow all five of your senses to absorb an experience and maximize it for body and mind.
As a mom, I find that I still have that mojo… The same stuff that has powered my pink bike over thousands of miles, will power me through the rest of my life as Emmett’s mom and Krispin’s wife. It’s okay that I’ve got 20 lbs to lose as I recover from the C-section. It’s okay that my mascara is running because of tears rather than sweat. I’m alright with pushing the stroller as opposed to pushing the pace.
Maybe the most daunting thing about this new mojo is that I know I will never be able to turn it off. There is no finish line, no race day.
There is EVERY day. And if there is one thing that having HELLP Syndrome has taught me (other than morphine is awesome), it’s that EVERY DAY counts. EVERY DAY is what matters.