COLUMN

HOW I SPEND MOTHER’S DAY

I love my infant son dearly, but this is one day that’s all about me

KAREN BRIDSON-BOYCZUK May 9 2005
COLUMN

HOW I SPEND MOTHER’S DAY

I love my infant son dearly, but this is one day that’s all about me

KAREN BRIDSON-BOYCZUK May 9 2005

HOW I SPEND MOTHER’S DAY

Over to You

KAREN BRIDSON-BOYCZUK

I love my infant son dearly, but this is one day that’s all about me

I IMAGINE many new moms wouldn’t miss their first celebration of motherhood with their child for anything. But on the day before my very first Mother’s Day as a parent, I handed my seven-month-old son over to my sister and drove 500 km away. I ached for Adlai the following day, but there was somewhere else I needed to be—behind the starting line of the Ottawa marathon.

It wasn’t that it was my first marathon. I had already run three of the 42.2-km races. And it wasn’t that I needed a weekend away from my little angel (although I did).

Running the race that day was an exercise in reclaiming myself—body and mind.

Even before my son was conceived and literally took over my life, he was the centre of everything. When would we start to try? Who will our baby look like? Where shall I set up the nursery? That baby was all I wanted to think about.

Once that little window turned blue, The Baby was nearly all I could think about. At first this was a result of the sheer elation of having a child on the way. But soon I was overtaken by an all-consuming nausea, an almost inconceivable exhaustion, and headaches that had me wishing I had the courage to smash my own head into the wall for some unconscious relief. The reality of what’s involved in becoming a mother had begun to hit me full tilt.

The morning sickness had just started to ease when my bum began to widen, my waist to disappear, and a sense of a foreign being pressing on me from within emerged. As the baby grew, that internal alien pressure had me almost panicked at times. Deep breathing helped this pass, but I couldn’t allow myself to think about this invasion of my body without some anxiety.

Feeling my son flip and kick inside me was ultimately exhilarating. But his acrobatics didn’t come without almost constant pressure on my bladder, reduced breathing capacity, a badly swollen left foot and one hell of a sciatic nerve problem in my right butt cheek.

By the end of my pregnancy, I was waddling awkwardly and bursting into tears if

my husband so much as looked at me the wrong way. I didn’t recognize my own swollen face in the mirror. I was no longer myself; I was a vessel. I couldn’t wait to get my body back. Yes, I dreamed of having a flat tummy again, but getting my figure back wasn’t what I meant. I wanted to be the only being in my body.

This is hard for me to admit. And don’t get me wrong—being pregnant was the most incredible experience of my life, and my boy is the best thing that ever happened

to me. But there seems to be this unspoken message that a Good Mother is not supposed to complain about the downside of pregnancy. Good Mothers quietly focus on the miracle that’s unfolding within them.

When I finally gave birth, my physical reaction was of tremendous relief. My post-partum belly shrunk by the minute. In the following hours, however, I discovered just how far I still had to go to truly reclaim my body. I was wobbly on my feet, felt sick to my stomach, urinating hurt, sitting up and standing were difficult. My new-to-nursing breasts found the remarkable suction power

of a newborn painful. And all this was followed by an exhaustion that made me hallucinate at times after getting no sleep for three days.

In the weeks and months that followed, I slowly recovered. While nursing kept my breasts shared property for 11 months, when my son was three months old I began the process of reclaiming everything else. That process was training for the Ottawa marathon.

Running five days a week, doing yoga two times a week, and performing core and abdominal exercises daily, I worked hard to feel in control again. And it did the trick. Five months after delivering Adlai, I had lost 25 lb., leaving me weighing less than I did pre-pregnancy. As my body strengthened again, the pain in my back, shoulders and arms from carrying the baby eased. I saw my face emerge. I fit into my old clothes. While hormonal changes continuedhighlighted by two bald patches on my head at one point—my runs helped ease my anxiety and fend off the Baby Blues.

Slowly, surely, I was taking back control of my body. And it was my goal of standing behind that starting line that kept me on course.

I suppose getting myself into that kind of shape would have been enough. I could have simply enjoyed my new/old body and stayed home with my boy on Mother’s Day. But there was something almost ceremonial about racing that day. It was my way of saying to the world and to myself, “I can be a mother and still be my own person.” And unlike everything else that had happened in the previous 16 months, that day was all about me. And while I’ll gladly give my sweet angel the other 364 days of the year, I’m going to make a habit of keeping at least one day for myself. I?il

Karen Bridson-Boyczuk is a Toronto-based writer and journalist. To comment: overtoyou@macleans