Recovery

This week, I’ve made several journeys. Once into London to see some friends, once to a local town for some shopping, and once to Paris. While that is hardly a new experience for me, these trips were different: I did them by myself.

For those who’ve been following my adventures, a brief jaunt on a few trains and the underground hardly seems adventurous. The thing is, all this time, there was someone else to carry the extra weight.

Just the two of us on the train

As we would be going across town on both occasions in London, I decided that the best option would be to take the sling. Of course she isn’t as small as she once was, but carrying a pram and the stuff I needed for either one day or two weeks was a fairly daunting prospect. I opted for a sling/wheely suitcase combo in order to make it as easy as possible to get up and down stairs.

But it wasn’t just the organisation that bothered me. For months now, I’ve been struggling with my pelvic floor muscles. At one point, on the streets of Mexico City, I was crying after a long day’s walk because I was in so much pain. I had to resort to sleeping with a pillow between my knees, just like when I was pregnant. The longest run I’ve managed since giving birth was just five minutes long, after which I had to stop because it hurt so much. And that was last week.

At this point I wasn’t carrying anything because the weight was too much.

The thing is, I didn’t think that much about how my body would recover in the long term. I was far more worried about the actual birth, and its immediate aftermath. People talk about stitches, and wobbly bits, but rarely does anyone mention how your body might look or feel a few months down the line.

Exciting things in London!

While we were away, carrying extra weight on the bad days made it so much worse. I’d weigh up the baby and the bag, deciding which was lighter, then go with that. And of course we walked, usually at least a few miles every day, so I didn’t have much respite.

On our visit to Teotihuacan, we were looking around a museum that showed the stunning paintings that were discovered there hundreds of years ago. They were amazing. Trying to imagine the enormous expanse of the ancient city covered in these colours and patterns was mind-boggling. But all I could think of was that there weren’t any chairs. I was desperate to sit down. In Valpairiso, we scaled up and down stairs, marvelling at the street art. But I needed to stop every ten minutes or so to rest.

I was so grateful there was somewhere to sit!

I’m hardly an inactive person. I’ve run two marathons and countless half marathons, so I was really looking forward to getting back out there. Four months, maybe five, I thought, until I could strap my feet back in and start working on getting my mileage up and my split times down.

As the months stretched on and things didn’t seem to be improving, I started to despair. What if this was it? What if having a baby meant that, from now on, I would be extremely limited in my ability to walk, to run, to lift things? I’ve never been so aware of a tiny group of muscles in my life.

So for me, that was the real achievement on my recent journeys. Yes, I did them on my own, but by the end of the day, having a baby in a sling and dragging a suitcase around, I wasn’t desperate to sit down. I didn’t need to take painkillers or sleep with a pillow between my knees. There’s a tentative hope brewing that now, over nine months since giving birth, I might be back on the road to recovery, to having the body that I used to have.

Oh running shoes, how I’ve missed you

In the media, we always hear about women who ‘bounce back’ after the baby and are up and rushing about a matter of days or weeks after the birth. There is the phenomenal precedent set by Serena Williams, who was playing in a Wimbledon final at about the same time that I was able to spend a day carrying the baby without significant pain.

It’s important to see these people, to be reassured that it’s possible, but at the same time more needs to be made of the recovery, of what that might look like, and how truly battered your body gets from carrying and having a baby.

It hasn’t all been about travelling this summer

For those who could use a bit of help in this area (and let’s face it, most of us do), I recommend this amazing website, as it’s the only thing that, along with time, has really made a difference for me.

Here’s to the miraculous female body that can grow and deliver a person, but a reminder that it needs to be treated with just as much care and attention afterwards as it did while it was pregnant. With any luck, my next run might be six minutes long.

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I'm a writer, teacher and drummer based in London. Short fiction and reviews are my main staples, along with some dabbling in novel writing.

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