How do you think being active influences pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery?
PR: Being fit definitely helps. Even if you have a complicated pregnancy, the fact that you're fit is still going to help your body handle that situation. And I think that being fit through labor helps. The mental techniques you know from getting through races help to keep the concentration and stay focused. You come back stronger because you're happier, because you have a child that you love and cherish, and it's something you really wanted in your life. You probably become a little bit more focused as well, because your priorities are sharpened. And the time away from intense training means that you come back more refreshed. There is a flip side, though, because you are so used to being in tune with your body, and having this body that responds so well to what you ask it to do. You can't do that during pregnancy. You feel frumpy and fat. You kind of have this anxiety because you know you have to put on a certain amount of weight and hit the target so the baby is healthy, but it's hard to get fat and to go through that.
Paula, how did the pain of labor compare to racing?
PR: The pain of labor is more intense. But I found that it was just not comparable. When you run a marathon, your body is working with you and you've trained and prepared for it. With labor, for me, my body seemed to be working against me. But you handle it because you're in shape and because you have that mental outlook of getting through training or a marathon.
KG: My husband was tossing around the idea of a natural, at-home birth, so he rented this video, The Business of Being Born, and it had the exact opposite effect that he was hoping for. I'm open-minded. I definitely want to deliver in the hospital, and I want the option of the epidural. But I'm in denial about the whole birthing process still.
Paula, you had a pelvic stress fracture after Isla's birth. What did you learn from that?
PR: I had too much inflammation in the pelvic area, and labor probably caused some damage. I've learned that the elliptical machine stretches the sacral area and I didn't realize that. I thought I was being safe, so I was doing more than I should have done on the elliptical. I was maybe a little too eager to get back into things, and certainly I set goals for myself a little bit too soon. I shouldn't have set them then, because then I wouldn't have pushed through warning signs and little pain signals. This time, I won't set those goals, even in my own head. I'd rather get back to feeling good and to being in shape to run a race and then pick a race, rather than say, "Okay, I'm going to do that race," because that's dangerous for me.
What advice can you give Kara and other running moms?