I had a similar revelation earlier this year, but not about childbirth.
When I was younger, I possessed very little (if any) natural athletic ability. I was short, clumsy, and chunky, which made most sports pretty much impossible. On top of that, I am not particularly competitive and I don't enjoy team sports, so there were very few activities that captured my interest or attention. I have a handful of vivid childhood memories involving learning to ride a bike for the first time (at age 11- yes, you read that correctly), running the mile in gym class, and attempting to exercise at the gym my family belonged to. And when I say vivid, I mean terrible. Needless to say, sports were not my thing. And you could tell by looking at me.
When my husband and I got engaged, I was 20 years old and at my heaviest weight ever, a solid 35-45lbs heavier than I am today. As part of our premarital counseling, we discussed some of our expectations for the future, among them that we would each do our part to stay physically healthy for as long as possible.
Somewhere in the course of these conversations, it dawned on me that I was not doing my part. Diet and exercise had never been a priority for me, but out of love for my husband (and a desire to look good in my wedding dress) I joined Weight Watchers, started hitting the gym, and dropped about 30lbs in time to walk down the aisle. I felt good, but even at that point, it had nothing to do with fitness. It was about diet and dress sizes. At the gym, I gravitated toward the bike or treadmill because I knew how they worked, and that was pretty much the extent of my thought process.
After my daughter was born, I struggled with putting the pieces back together physically. During the first year of her life, I was decimated by an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's thyroiditis. It took almost a full year to be correctly diagnosed and begin treatment, and to this day I am still in the process of fine-tuning my medication levels. Hashi's rocked my world. Here I was at age 22, losing my hair, perpetually exhausted, and throwing up until I quite literally would pass out. Sometimes I couldn't form full sentences because I was in such a constant mental fog. Forget about exercise. I was happy just to make it through the day.
There have been other times in my life where I've felt uncomfortable in my skin, but never like that. I was angry at my body. I felt betrayed. I guess I thought that I was "owed" good health, despite no effort on my part to earn it. Not to mention the extra baby weight that wouldn't budge, and the scars of pregnancy. It was not the body I envisioned spending my life in. It was a huge wake-up call for me.
For the first time in my life, I started to really work out. I started running with a jogging stroller. I dropped those last few pounds of baby weight. I bought workout dvds. I asked a friend, a figure competitor, for tips. She directed me to My Fitness Pal, an online community for people who are trying to lead healthier lifestyles. In October 2011, I bought a gym membership.
I dropped 15 more lbs, meeting and then surpassing my ultimate weight goal. By January 2012 I was in better shape than I ever dreamed I would be. I started running more, and signed up for my first 15k with my sister-in-law.
That was when I fell in love with running. The more I ran, the harder I fell. I started to replace all those feelings of hatred and betrayal with gratitude for my body, in all of its weirdness. My petite frame that has never been able to carry an ounce of extra weight (at least not without me looking like the Michelin man)? Turns out, carrying less weight has protected my joints. My legs, which are long (too long) in proportion to my torso, let me run faster than other women my height. My flat feet that have never felt quiet right in heels, but feel oh-so-at-home in my running shoes. The list goes on and on. Suddenly my body makes sense to me. I was built for this. I was born to run.
There have been a few truly passionate loves in my life: God. My husband. My incredible daughter. All of them have knocked the wind out of me, taught me things about myself that I had never known before. They've shaped me into the woman I am and the woman I will become. I have loved each of them more than I thought possible. And I never, in a million years, thought I would say that there is a sport that could help me realize some of those same things, but running has done that for me.