I freaking hate to run. But I started running anyway.
By Kate C.
I’m about two months out from my loss, and one month out from the due date. Life goes on, and I engage with more and more of it as the weeks go by.
From an objective standpoint, my body is recovering well. However, I find it impossible to be objective. I am impatient on this matter. Again and again I have to remind myself, “Kate, you had a baby two months ago. Remember how you looked and felt two months after having your LC? You’re doing great. You will get your body back, but it takes time.” When you’re carrying a baby on your hip, everyone tells you how great you look. Without the baby, nobody knows you’re only two days, then two weeks, then two months postpartum. Without the baby to explain it, you just look as though you’re letting yourself go. I don’t like it. It takes all my decade’s worth of practice in yogic detachment to deal with it. Some days it works better than others, but it’s the best coping mechanism I’ve found.
I have started running.
Let me backup: I freaking hate to run.
But I started running anyway.
Every morning, I roll out of bed, put on a sports bra, and I run. I jog to the athletic fields, then I take off my shoes and I run some fast sprints around them, walking in between. It feels like being a kid again, wet grass on bare feet, making my body move as fast as I can, because I can. Running ’til I can’t run another step, then doing it again. When I’m finished, I do 10 minutes of yoga right there in the field. That part is very quiet and meditative. It’s my 10 minutes a day where I let myself think about my baby. I usually end up with tears running quietly down my cheeks. The dignified, silent kind of crying where it’s under control and I don’t need to pack tissues.
When I’m ready, I pull myself together and jog home. It’s a very short workout. It involves a lot of rests. The goal is to elevate my heart rate for 20 minutes total. The point is to keep myself from slipping into depression. It’s working. The days I run are the days I feel well. The days I don’t run are the days I feel depressed. Very simple equation, and all the motivation I need to exercise, whether or not I enjoy it.
Cooking was a lifesaver for those first few weeks. My task, every day, before I was ready to run, was to feed myself well. It involved making a shopping list, going to the grocery store, and going through the motions of preparing a meal. I highly recommend this kind of mundane work for anyone who has suffered a loss. It gave me a purpose. Feed my body well. Keep my brain healthy. Keep my family healthy. Simple, and do-able, even when life is hard.
Cooking is no longer a coping mechanism. I’ve moved past that. But it’s still important. Healthy food still helps.
A woman I met through my loss told me that she lost 70 lbs after her loss. She couldn’t control that her baby was sick. She couldn’t control that her baby died. She couldn’t control her bad genetics or the fertility problems that came with them. But she could control what she put into her body. I’m sure it sounds like a red flag of disordered eating, but in her case, it wasn’t that at all. Just the motivation she needed to make healthy changes. Losing the weight was the side-effect of choosing better living. I get that.
Before my loss, I was winding down work with my therapist. I had gone from seeing her weekly to seeing her every other week, and was just about ready to stop regular appointments and call on an as-needed basis.
The need has arisen.
I was lucky that I had someone good lined up before my loss. Very lucky. Not all therapists are created equal. This one is the first who ever really helped me. I started seeing her last summer, after my friend’s murder. She was a referral from someone at my university and ended up being an excellent fit. She challenges me without alienating me. It’s quite a skill she has. She makes me work.
There’s a lot to grief. A lot of feelings. A lot of thoughts. A lot of stages. It’s just a lot to deal with. I compartmentalize these days. That is to say, I don’t let myself fully feel this most of the time. It’s part of the reason I’m such a high-functioning griever. I can put it away, and I do. If you see me at the park or at the grocery store or if we go to the beach together, I can carry on normal conversation, I can laugh and I can joke, or I can talk about my baby in a very composed, matter-of-fact way. I can do this because I have put my grief away for a little while. It’s not that I’m faking it, it’s just that I’ve separated it out from other pieces of my life. The technique mostly works, but depends on reserving safe places and safe times to experience the grief fully. My 10 minutes of stretching in the morning is one of these safe times. My weekly meeting with my therapist is another, more intense example.
“Hub is a rock.” I tell my therapist.
“And you’re a rock, too.” She reminds me, knowing the way I deal with my grief. “Hub is a rock, and you are a rock.”
She has a point.
My favorite interactions since my loss are those in which other people tell me their own stories. “Favorite” is a funny word. I’m not happy that other people have losses like mine, but it does bring me a great deal of comfort to hear other people’s experiences.
I found a support group. First I found one online, then I found one in real life. They both fill this need for shared experience, but I get more out of the in-person one. More connection face-to-face.
In some ways, it’s so wonderful. I feel embraced and accepted, loved and supported in this group. In other ways, it is extremely difficult. Some of these women have been coming for decades. It’s a reminder of the bad news I don’t want to accept: that I will never get over losing my baby. That loss does inherently change a person. That anniversaries are always going to suck. That the journey has only just begun.