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Letting Go…

I am happy, really happy. I feel I have finally reached a place where my heart doesn’t ache with the decisions I have made. I am still missing my sport and my job, but loving my changed life as a Mummy and a better wife.

Baby is now almost a year, some people say that it takes 9 months to grow a baby and 9 months to get over having the baby. Well physically I recovered really quickly and though I breastfed for 6 months, I quickly felt my body bounce back and my legs and lungs regain their strength. However mentally I did not realise how much it would take getting used to having this little being in our lives. Not only the demands he has placed on us, but also the indescribable love I feel for him. He has totally encompassed and enchanted us and turned both my life and my heart upside down.

I have adapted my training so I can now still fit in a good enough leg smashing that I feel I am improving my fitness, but still have the energy to cope with a very active 11 month old. I have come to terms with the fact that I cant compete at the level I would like to and no longer feel a twisting of my stomach when I see riders go by, rather I am enjoying coaching others to fulfil their dreams and enjoying a while new set of dreams  myself. I miss my work and my work friends, but other opportunities are beckoning and I am so glad that I stuck to my guns in not returning especially when I get to witness every major milestone that are coming thick and fast.
 I understand that these are personal choices and everyone has a different idea of how they want to bring up their children, though it still irks me when friends who have gone back to work comment…oh I wish I could sit around drinking coffee all day. I wish! The choices I have made make my life hard work. Limited funds means a  limited material budget, but for everything we are lacking in monetary value we make up for in finding the joy in living a simpler and quieter lifestyle.

We recently spent a blissful week in Scotland, introducing baby to the highlands and our favourite pastimes of epic adventures combined with epic pie eating! I managed to squeeze in just under 100 miles running which plus with walking left me feeling suitably back to my original ‘bouncing’ self. I haven’t been running over these familiar trails and hills properly since pre baby and it was so exhilarating to be back where I really feel I belong with the added bonus of sharing the magic of some of the hills to our son.
And it was up there, in the pouring rain with both my boys by my side that I realised I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else or doing anything else in the world. Life was pretty much perfect. I have no medals or trophies to show for my past years work, no  money in my bank account, but  I have the most important thing in the world, a wonderfully happy and contented family.

Baby Steps

Momentous times in our household this week……baby not only now standing on his own, but walking! He has been getting braver and braver by the day, till yesterday, hands went off the cupboard and he walked his first four steps into my arms. What did I do? Burst into tears of course! Which Mummy doesn’t on seeing their first baby take his first steps into a whole new world. We spent the rest of the evening taking little steps, even surprising Dad when he arrived home early from work. Of course today he has totally refused to even stand up, but spent most of it sitting in a corner sucking his thumb…I wonder if this is a by product of his sudden found independence or his legs are feeling the fatigue from last night and he is just resting up ready for our next training session tonight?!
 On my run last night after watching baby walk for the first time it got me thinking of this sudden grasp of independence. Time has just flown by…..in 5 weeks time baby will be a year old.  I’m not ready to have a toddler yet, I want my little baby who I can still dress in cute sleep suits (fat chance of getting those poppers up now!), cuddle with and carry around. In honesty I love the fact that he relies on me for everything, that the bond we share is so strong I can tell what he needs almost before he does. But I guess from the moment the umbilical cord is cut, that thick, strong lifeline has to be slowly shredded in order for your children to grow into strong, confident people. Watching him walk really was the highlight of my mothering career so far, his legs lifting, bending and muscles flexing for the first time. And the look of pure delight and astonishment on his face (and mine I am sure!).

Every day I see him becoming more and more independent. From stuffing food in his mouth to knowing exactly what toy he wants and when! Being at home every day, day in day out, is wonderful and I wouldn’t change it for the world though there are times when I want to stick forks in my eye!  Now I see him becoming a little man every single 4am wake up, meal thrown on the floor, wash hung out, is worth it. By giving up some of my independence I feel he is gaining his in return.

And so while running last night I let my mind wander to where those very strong legs of his might end up walking him to. Mine have been such an asset to me-not my most attractive feature, but strong, tireless and healthy they have carried me to all sorts of adventures and I have and will continue to work at making them the best mummy running legs they can be.
So little baby….take your time with your next steps. Mama is in no rush to see you off into the sunset, but know this, wherever those legs take you, I’ll never forget those first steps,  I’ll always be there for you and I’ll always be proud.

I Do!

We have entered the wedding season. Our mantelpiece has been strewn with invitations for months, gifts have been bought, accommodation booked, outfits scrambled together and now we begin the weekends of
wedding extravaganzas. 
Husband and I enjoyed our first night away from the baby at the first wedding this weekend. Leaving the baby in the crazy, but capable hands of his beloved aunts we headed off.  Hubby was best man and I was going to be set free from my 5am wake up call. We planned a few drinks, but after the initial excitement of the reception and the bubbly (I always guzzle and then realise too late that I am peaking way too soon) we decided we couldn’t face the 4hr drive home with hangovers and we were very happy to just have an evening together.  How grown up and boring are we? Or is that the way all new parents feel?

I love a wedding, I want to cry the minute I sit down, you cannot help but get caught up in the electric emotion of the day, feeling the nervous tension in the room as the groom squirms in his seat awaiting the first sight of his future wife. I remember that moment of walking up the aisle so well. It hadn’t really dawned on me that all these people would be in the church and  my bridesmaids have never forgotten the look I gave them as I realised that this is it!

Over the past few years I have often thought of that moment and all our lovely friends who gathered to celebrate our wedding. When times are tough (and they are, I may be married to a saint, but I am still quite high maintenance!) I think of the vows we made to each other and the promises we made in front of all our friends. They believe in us and we can draw on them for support and love whenever we need them. When I am tired, fed up or just plain bored of the endless round of chores I let my mind wander back to that blissful day, when I married my best friend in front of all our best friends.

And so though we have entered a treadmill of weddings, I know how important our presence is at each and every one. By attending we are saying to our friends we believe in you, we support you and we love you. Go for it!
We drove home, refreshed, renewed and ready for our bundle of destruction to be waiting at the front door for us.
The wedding is just the beginning, it may only be a day, but the memories will be drawn on forever and my vows to my husband will last for all eternity.  So here’s to all the husbands out there. The support they give us, especially as new mums is invaluable and that cup of tea handed to us at 3am will never be forgotten. I love my husband, I love him more everyday as I see the wonderful parent he is becoming and I love being lucky enough to be his wife.

The Everyday Race

An early waking baby has started to leave me feeling really drained, days have become weeks that I am up before 5am. We have tried every bit of advice to get him to sleep later, but nothing works and I have succumbed to the fact that’s its us, not him, that has to change our body clocks in order for our lives to work in tandem.

There is so much information out there and as more and more of my friends have babies you see everyone go through the same realisation- first few weeks of bliss as baby sleeps for most of the time, just waking to feed or stare nonsensically at a visiting face. Then WHAM the baby wakes up and suddenly evenings become a screaming match and days blur into a milky reality. Slowly you and the baby swing into a routine, whatever works for you, works (in my opinion). It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you always do the same….as the months go on I am realising more and more that all babies really require is stability and predictability just like us.

I have struggled with this stability over the past few months as my life is repeatably thrown off kilter. And it doesn’t seem acceptable to say out loud that actually life with a baby is exhausting! Bring back ironman training and full time work any day….this is never ending! The cleaning, the wiping, the washing, the cuddling, the playing, the demands are 24/7 there are no rest days or easy days for this athlete! You have got to be on full time race peak all day till that blissful evening moment when you shut the nursery door and switch the kettle on (or pop the cork!) and sit down…..oh no wait the washing machine needs unpacking!

Trying to fit in any serious training is not that tricky with such early get ups and light evenings, but I just cant cope with the exhaustion a long session brings to my day and I don’t feel its fair to not be in great shape to look after my baby. Without quality sleep the muscle repair and rest just isn’t happening and as I saw in the last few weeks I end up going into deep exhaustion with nothing really to show for my efforts apart from crankiness and tears!

So while we are going through this phase I have cut down my training to let my body cope with the demands a very active 10 month old is placing on it. To most the amount I am still doing would seem a lot, but getting out of the mindset of ironman training is tough where if you are not doing at least two sessions a day its hardly worth talking about!

All of this is so new to me, being an athlete has meant being selfish for the past few years and people (notably my husband) fitting in with me and my schedule. Suddenly the tables have turned and I am fitting in with someones else schedule. I am learning to do this and am enjoying seeing how much he is flourishing with this care and security. I realise it really doesn’t matter whether I can smash out a 5km in record time or fit into my size 10 jeans, but what matters is our little family is happy and healthy in our own little training schedule where everyday is a race and everyday is a prize.

To my Mummy

One of the best parts of becoming a mother has been the change in my relationship with my mum. We have always been close and apart from a regrettable incident with a bottle of Archers and the school disco we have never had more than a few tense words between us. She helped me plan my wedding to perfection, so much so we nicknamed her ‘J-Lo’ and through these actions I began to realise how much her daughters meant to her. Now as I am taking my first tentative steps into motherhood I have this new found respect for her. I never realised how hard being a mother was. Never realised the endless drudgery, chores, sleepless nights, manic days and she had 3! What makes me so proud is I never realised…she never complained, never moaned. All I remember of my young childhood is many blissful days in the garden, endless rounds of meals and endless games with my beloved sisters. I know both my parents were very busy, but Mum was always there in the background to pick up the pieces when we fell and to tuck us in at night.

Now as I watch baby and ‘Granny’ together I am in awe at her ease with both my son and to how well she has adopted to her role as the ‘supporter.’ Never once has she judged me, criticised or contradicted my mothering skills. For this I am so grateful. She is there to help with baby and they adore each other already, but I know equally importantly she is watching out for me, her daughter and her baby. I have always loved her dearly, but now I feel our bond is changing, life is moving on and I am stepping into her shoes as she is moving into a new pair.
I know I am lucky. I know others have strained family relations…but don’t worry she isn’t all perfect! She HATES all things Ironman related and so I have kept many a race and result to myself. I didn’t tell her about the 40 mile run I did a few months ago (though had to confess the next day when she saw me walking down the stairs). She doesn’t get my need to push myself to the limit and cant understand why a good dog walk isn’t enough!? But in some ways this has served its purpose, I have nothing to prove, no pressure doing my sport, it is purely for myself and no one else. When I go home I can just be me, her daughter and now the new mummy.
I love you Mooms x

Baby Body

My body, my machine, my engine and now my baby carrier and nurturer. Its been put through the mill the last five years. Firstly with four years of full on triathlon training plus full time working and then pregnancy, birth and breast feeding. It has stood up and answered every demand I have placed on it and yet I feel I am only just winning this love hate battle I have been fighting with all my life. I am beginning to feel at peace with what I have been given and to let the bonds and unrealistic expectations of modern society slip away.

My body has always been strong and powerful, it seems to have never ending powers of endurance. It’s never suffered a major injury despite training repetitively week on week out. When asked in a big race, its always performed and apart from falling apart in the closing stages of the World Champs in Kona, physically it got me to the finish line, though I left any coherent thoughts out on the Queen K!  Most importantly, it grew, protected, nourished my baby and then delivered it (with a little help!) safely into the world. And only now, am I able to look in the mirror and accept and be happy with what I have been given.

My body is in no way its tight, muscle bound shape it used to be. Bits sag (sorry), are wider, smaller, stretched, scarred and yet it is serving its natural function and finally finding its natural shape – not something I am forcing it into being to fit my demands or the expectations of others. Over the past few months as I battled with the realisation that I just wouldn’t be able to train and compete (at the moment) it has slowly dawned on me that my body does not need to be punished for the shape it is. It is what it is and no one apart from me (and my lovely friend Vickie!)  really cares. My son and husband both love me for being me, I am their rock, their nest and their comfort, they do not judge me for my shape, their love is unconditional and unjudgemental.

I am sure other Mums feel the same way. Life is suddenly not about you, in fact you are very low in the pecking order. That reliance on you by another or others makes you realise that body shape is really not worth worrying about. Time is so precious and seems to be going so quickly and I want to enjoy every last minute!

Jumpers For Goalposts

I saw the most brilliant thing in the park yesterday. Four boys in their 20s playing football with jumpers for goalposts; two little lads, cant be more than 8 years old came up to them and asked if they could join in. Without batting an eyelid they said, ‘of course, you go on one team, you on the other,’ and off they went. I watched them for a bit, all completely immersed in the game. There was no talk of rules, offside, fouls, they were just all playing for the love of it. I don’t think they even knew each others names. The PE teacher in me was delighted! This is what sport should be like, we put too many rules, restrictions and expectations on young people to perform and achieve, when really all they want to do is play.

Lots of people, in jest (of course I take it quite personally!) have said, what am I going to be like on the sideline when watching my son play sport or even worst, what if he doesn’t like sport?! (well that is hardly going to happen!) The truth is, though I am freakishly competitive myself, I have seen the products of one too many pushy parents. I have fielded the phone calls on Monday at 8am asking why I haven’t followed up on the e mail sent last night sent at 10pm demanding Fifibell be put back into the U12A netball team. These children are nearly always mortified by their parents behaviour.

Those children that do achieve and continue to achieve throughout their life are nearly always the ones whose parents support, but in the background. They are there to cheer the victories, but also to pick up the pieces in defeat. They understand the role of sport and its importance in their children’s life, but they create a balance where personal or team achievement is celebrated rather than winning.

And so this week I have set myself a number of personal challenges, no competition with anyone else (though I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE ‘chicking’ guys while I am running with a pram!), just me, myself and my baby.

For those who know…getting to this post hurt a lot!
Run 5km in under 20 minutes
Cover 50 miles in total throughout the week
Run to a new coffee shop (!!)

Do 1 double figure run

Max out up every hill to the ‘post’
I wont lie to you, previously I have always been motivated completely by winning and being the best I can be. I love racing and now that I dont have that in my life these mini challenges keep me heading out the door and they entertain me greatly, only clarifying what I already suspected I am a complete loser!
And so I have ticked them all off, apart from the 50 miles….got to 46 and couldn’t face one more mile with the pram and probably nor could baby, though he hardly has an opinion as sleeps through most of my epic victories!

So now without races all my energy really is focused on being the best Mum I can be. I am learning not to take it personally when he wont sleep, wont eat, just wants/needs to have a good yell, when pulling everything out of the cupboard is all he wants to do (again and again) or being carried around is the only thing that will settle him. I am learning this doesn’t mean I am a failure or not winning, but its all part of our learning curve. Watching him this week now rocket round the flat, pulling himself up, cruising round the furniture, I know it wont be long till he is one of those little boys asking to play football in the park, and you know what? I cant wait!

Closing The Door

For the first time yesterday post baby, I had to get up and go to work in a suit, on a train. I left the baby crying for me as I shut the door and it broke my heart. How do people do this everyday? I am sure it gets easier and you settle into a new routine. I had to tell myself strongly, not to express my adult emotions onto my baby, but I was torn up inside with this innate desire to rush back inside and hold him to me, never letting go. I felt sick as I boarded the train, glancing around, waiting for someone to accuse me for being a terrible mother and hearing his distressed cries alongside my rapid heart beat. Of course, women have to do this everyday, and for this I have a new found respect, doing the job is the easy bit, leaving the baby is the real challenge.

More and more I am now having to face up to people who ask ‘when’ am I going back to work? Normally there is an uncomfortable silence, which I fill with reasons… blah blah, oh I’m doing this, I’m doing that, we are getting by etc etc. All empty excuses and in my head I am shouting at myself-tell the truth! I cannot bear to leave the baby with someone else, in someone elses care. I don’t actually  think I am strong enough to go back to work. Funny for someone who all their life has competed, trained, worked their body to the limit that this little person has weakened every resolve I ever had!

It does seem that I have lost part of my identity now that I am unemployed. Am I of any value to anyone apart from my family now? Will I lose the ability to communicate with others; by taking my foot off the treadmill of employment will I be left forever wiping the floor and putting on the washing machine? !
But then, do you know what I did today? I went for a run with my baby (ha my legs were tired from standing in heels all day yesterday!). After we sat in the sun and shared breakfast, listened to the trees rustling and the skylarks singing overheard. I realised that everyday with my baby feels like I put together another part of our jigsaw. We put the pieces around each other (getting them in the wrong place, more than the right), but when they fit, they fit beautifully.  I just know taking some time out is right and one day when I see the whole picture my son and I have created I will know every precious minute of this time together was worthwhile.

A River Day

Its hard when you have been up since 5am with a teething sad baby to get your butt out of the door for a run. I try and think of every reason in the book not to go. Come on you are tired, go back to sleep (fat chance, I often give hubby an extra lie in, but if baby gets the faintest sniff that mum might still be in the house and better still in bed he is onto me like a shot!) or better still just stare into space with a cup of tea.

But I know if I go out now I will feel better, I don’t like to run with the pram more than four times a week. I know my running action shortens, my knees get sore and well sometimes its just so nice to be out and by myself.

So I headed out this morning, cranky in my head and in my heart. I didn’t want to spend another day with the whiner, I was tired.  Put the trainers on, out the door, don’t think about stiff legs, hungry tummy or itchy eyes. Just get the legs moving, get the blood pumping and the lungs working. In moments like this there is only one place to go. The river. The Thames, the artery of London. In and out it ebbs and flows all day, my constant companion, always different, but always the same.

Standing on the banks, hands on my hips, I take deep breaths, I am not running hard enough to be out of breath (I hate running hard in the morning), but it feels so good to fill my lungs with almost fresh air, savour the almost silence of 6am, feel my shoulders relax, my back straighten and my head lift.

My feet turn for home, lighter, faster and stronger. The pavements are filling with grey suits heading to the bus, as I run in the opposite direction, back to my work, which I love with my whole being.

It is by chance we meet by choice we become friends

As my life has changed in so many ways over the past year, one thing has remained constant and that has been my friends and family. Having a baby turns your world upside down, no one can prepare you for the huge range of emotions you go through daily or the exhaustion you feel day in day out. Not working, means you lose that network of friends you have inbuilt at work, daily ‘hellos’ become a lifeline as you realise its 3pm and the postman is the first other adult human you have seen all day. And that’s when your little support group of friends comes into its own. Some are new, some are old, some were forgotten, but all hold a dear place in your heart as they provide a vital lifeline to the outside world and the person you used to be!

I really struggled in the first few months with terrible loneliness, we have just moved back to London, I wasn’t training and could hardly walk to the shops with battered abdominals. No one told me that babies never stop crying. I had lost my network of training friends and without the routine of school timetables, training sessions and goals I felt lost.

Then I was invited to some postnatal sessions. Jumped at the chance, cant remember anything about the class, but here I met 6 other women who have become dear friends.  I would never have met these women in my ‘former’ life, but they have proved to be my life, my therapy and my support network through the tumultuous first few months! I know some of them will be friends for life.

Training friends have come and gone, those working towards big goals are understandably single mindedly training, I look back and think was I like this? Must have been and for that I apologise! Some-mainly those with kids themselves-totally understand what its like to be at home days on end and one in particular has gone above and beyond to meet for a quick coffee or take the baby for a walk so I can have a smash fest run. I have felt almost tearfully grateful at this simple act of generosity.

Finally my husband and family have proved to be invaluable. Hubby is my absolute rock, supported me through everything, from the labour, the terrible pain of initial breastfeeding and then kicking my wobbly butt out the door to get in shape again! Every morning he asks would I like to go for a run and rushes home at night so I can get out or so he can cook dinner. I know how lucky I am and how little I show my appreciation. Your relationship complete changes with your loved one once the baby arrives. Life is no longer about us, its about him, what he wants, what he needs, but he has brought us closer together-we’ve laughed, cried and clung to each other as we stumble our way to become the parents we so want to be.
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It is funny to make new friends post baby. I feel now, having reached the grand old age of 31, I am finally becoming me. So different now I have this little man by my side all day. I feel stronger, more stable and happier within myself and in my body (that’s a whole other post!!). I do still struggle with my new identity as a Mum. Some times I am not really sure who I am or who I am supposed to be. And I suppose that’s why friends are so important, they love you for who you are, just the way you are.