How exercise taught me to get through childbirth
“You can do this, keep pushing on. You’ve been through childbirth.” This is the mantra I repeated in my head over and over again when I pushed my body to its physical limits climbing three of the highest mountains in the UK in 24 hours.
My mind and body were both at the point of total fatigue on the second mountain. I felt slightly delirious with exhaustion but through it all I reminded myself of the amazing things my body is capable of.
Before I had children, and when I had the benefit of an abundance of free time, I took part in a few half-marathons. I also climbed the highest mountains in Wales, Ireland and England. The breathing techniques I had always used during intensive exercise I took with me into the delivery room when I gave birth naturally to my two children.
After a long labour with my first child, staying focussed on my breathing and keeping in my mind that I was only moments away from meeting my baby was the best way for me to deal with the pain. Every hour that went by I would tell myself that it was almost over. I’d try to imagine that I was doing the last few miles of a long run and coming to the home stretch.
It is such an incredible moment when you can feel your baby’s head. To know that you’re so close to meeting your tiny human being who, from this moment, will be the most precious person in your life. Every push after the head finally crowned felt all the more worth it. I suddenly felt reenergised and ready to have my baby in my arms.
My first baby was born into water and was lifted from the birth pool in front of us to reveal that I’d given birth to a gorgeous baby boy. I felt beyond exhausted, but elated and so proud of this new life that my body had delivered into the world.
My second birth experience was quicker and for that reason I wasn’t as exhausted going into ‘active’ labour as I was the first time round – I’m sure the first baby pathes the way for the next. But again I felt like what helped most was really tuning in and focussing on my breathing until eventually my little girl shot out into the world. Interestingly, like in birth, my son is always the slowest to get ready to leave the house, whereas my two-year-old daughter is a little firecracker.
This year I finally felt ready to once again, take on some endurance type challenges. I lost my dad to suicide when I was pregnant with my son. He had competed in the Three Peaks Challenge and in the spring of this year a friend had said she was going to do the Three Peaks (the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in 24 hours) on the 25 June. A shiver went down my spine, the 25 June is the anniversary of my dad’s death. I decided I had to take part and raise money for the mental health charity Heads Together.
The challenge is gruelling and extremely draining on your mind and body, but I truly believe that having been through the intensity of natural childbirth I can take on anything. Our bodies are capable of so much more than we think. Just as the techniques I learnt through exercise got me through labour, childbirth has most certainly helped me to dig deeper and talk my body into pushing itself that little bit further when I feel like I’m running on empty. You have to mentally prepare yourself that you’re going to be physically uncomfortable for a while, but that you can do it!
On the 1 October I did my first half marathon since having my children and once again, the mantra of “You can do this, keep breathing, keep pushing on” came into my head as I battled with the final two miles of the race.
It’s important to me to continue to do more challenges to raise awareness of mental health issues and to also support the pregnancy charity my clothing company donates to, Kicks Count. Kicks Count aims to improve people’s understanding of baby movements during pregnancy and help save lives.
I recently launched my website Mama Life London, which aims to tackle subjects on mental wellbeing and offer guidance and support. If you or anyone you know suffers from depression or anxiety, there are some useful blogs on www.mamalifelondon.com that give advice and tips for coping, as well as links to organisations that can help.
I feel extremely proud of what I have achieved this year. Having been through childbirth, the loss of my dad, and these two challenges I feel like I can achieve what I set my mind to. My dad always taught me to have self-belief and stay positive. Whatever you want to do, give it your best shot! If you really believe you can, then you will.
By Beth Campagna
Mama Life London
@mamalifelondon on social media.