by Ingrid Middleton
Since I turned 14 some 19 years ago, I have been running. Running in marathons, running over mountains, running from marriage. Not until I became pregnant did I think I might have to stop for awhile. But stop, I could not.
Since the day I found out about baby Cate, who was a mere eight weeks along, already waving her legs in the ultrasound, I noticed an increasing desire to run - not a hint of DingDong cravings or sofa spud sitting. My body, a trained, lean 95 pounds from years of pounding pavement and pretzels, found the baby less of a burden than an energy boost, and I noticed during my customary six-milers that my legs felt lighter, not heavier, that my breathing was deeper and easier.
The doctors told me to take it easy, that running was something I did at my own risk - but every time I thought I could miss a day, the rest of me said no, no matter what, I had to go!
Many don't understand the sense of peace that comes from breathing the air and moving the body with persistent motion. Without it, I am not productive or happy - it is harder to get going, it is harder to get done. I reasoned that the baby could grow from more oxygen - and grow she did, every day and every week.
Running did become more of a soulful experience, however. My oceanside runs became times of meditation and contemplation rather than competition. My longer street runs were a chance to reflect on what my body was feeling, as the growing baby seemed only to sleep when I put my Sauconys on. I developed a stronger urge to lace up my shoes when I knew she needed rest, and the only thing that would quiet her down was the running trail I took when I was a little bit tired. My training became a time for spiritual connection to the life growing inside me - and knowing what her patterns were, even before she was born.
Happily, only once did I cramp up - at the mere thought that, come nine months along, I wouldn't be able to do this, or that my belly would grow so big I would go into labor at the grocery store.
The doctors still worried, despite the fact that a specialist flew in from Mississippi, happy to report that the baby's lungs were strong and clear and, even if she did come early, she'd be fine. He had never seen a runner in the ninth month still going at it with just a little walking in between. But he also seemed pleased; I was adding to his own studies on women who ran during most of their pregnancy and had healthier babies.
The day came for delivery and all five healthy, happy pounds of her disappeared from my body. Two days later, my shoes were on again and I thanked my body for giving me the energy to keep moving, breathing and giving Cate the life that she is now living. Her little legs are as strong as they were in my womb, and I watch them kick as if provoking me to get outside with the jogging stroller.