10 reasons why giving birth is like running a marathon.

Preparing for, and giving birth, is much like training for, and running a marathon. 

I make this comparison so often during my course, and it often causes lightbulb moments for my clients. (Especially those who have ran marathons before!) 

Why preparing for birth is like preparing for a marathon

Ok, so imagine you are going to run a marathon, 26 miles in one go. 

You would envisage that it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a mental and physical challenge. So you would train, and prepare.  It’s highly unlikely that you’d turn up at the starting line having done zero training. Can you imagine! You’d be in for a very very tough time!

It’s exactly the same with birth. Giving birth is going to be a mental and physical challenge. It will likely be one of the toughest things your mind and body has to do. So it’s advisable to prepare beforehand! (This is where hypnobirthing comes in!)

How can hypnobirthing help prepare me for birth?

Hypnobirthing prepares you mentally and physically for birth. 

Sticking with my analogy, I’m not saying that if you do the best training plan and you eat all the right foods etc that therefore you will win the race or break a a world record.  That’s not how it works. You could sprain your ankle, you could have eaten something dodgy the night before. There are lots of variables which come into play which we can’t control. 

It’s the same with birth, I’m not saying that by doing a hypnobirthing course it will mean that you’ll have the most textbook beautiful birth where baby glides out and there are doves flying around. Again, it doesn’t work like that. There are plenty of variables which are in play, which we can’t control.

However, by doing a hypnobirthing course, you can harness  all of the things that  are within your control: Your mindset, your environment, your birth plan, your choices, (the list goes on) By using hypnobirthing, you can be much more prepared, confident and knowledgable  to be able to navigate birth on the day. 

What happens if I don’t prepare for birth? 

I hate the saying, ‘fail to prepare and prepare to fail,’ because i don’t believe that there is such a thing as ‘failing’ at birth. But I agree with the sentiment to an extent. If we don’t prepare for birth, then we’re not helping our body to do one of the toughest things it will ever do. Preparation is essential in order to have a positive birth.  

10 ways why giving birth is like running a marathon.

Having given birth twice, (you can read about my first homebirth here, and my second homebirth here ) and ran one marathon, I personally believe that we can also draw many comparisons between, not just the preparation phase, but also actually giving birth and  running a marathon. (or any long distance or endurance sport) 

  1. Your physicality is important but mindset is half the battle. You must have heard runners talking about hitting ‘The wall.’ The moment when you reach a point when you feel like you can’t go any further, the moment you feel like your mind and your body could give up. This isn’t a physical wall, it’s a mental wall. A moment in time, in your head when you feel like giving up. For some women, this happens during birth. Some women may have various points during their labours where they doubt themselves and their ability to birth. Speaking from experience, this happened to me in both births, during the transition phase. The great thing was- because of hypnobirthing and the practice I’d done on reaching this stage and how to navigate it, I  recognised it as the transition stage, reminded myself not to panic and pushed through. I got to the wall, and ploughed through it using my hypnobirthing tools. 
  2. It’s a marathon not a sprint.  This isn’t the case for some women, however, for most women, birth takes time. Hours if not days sometimes. So just like running a marathon, reserve your energy, don’t immediately start bouncing on your ball, walking around, using all your hypnobirthing tools straight away. Take it slow, you may need a lot of fuel in the tank! 
  3. Our bodies were designed to do this! Our body is designed to give birth, the perfect system is in place. Birth is an involuntary act (like being sick or sneezing!) Same with running, our bodies are designed to run away from danger, or run to safety. So just like running, we needn’t doubt our bodies ability to do it. We needn’t fear it or question it. Do we ever question any of our other bodily functions?  Do we think we’ll need help with breathing, or going to the toilet? No, same with birth, we should trust that our body will know how to do it. 
  4. If we practice, we can grow in confidence and ability. Like I mentioned before, if you turn up at the starting line of a marathon having done no training, chances are, it’s going to be a rough ride. If you prepare in advance, then you’ll grow in both confidence and ability. You’ll learn how to support your body to birth and  are therefore more likely to have a more positive birth as a result. 
  5. Nerves are normal. The day before the marathon I was SO nervous. I had done all this training, but I’d never actually ran 26 miles in one go before.  What If i fell over, what If I hit the dreaded ‘wall.’ What if i needed the loo half way round. Same with birth, I had done so much hypnobirthing prep, read all the books and geared myself up for a homebirth.  What if i couldn’t do it, what If  I couldn’t handle the pain, what If I needed an emergency caesarean.  Gosh the nerves were very real. Personally, I found that my hypnobirthing preparation (coupled with the fact that I had a straightforward pregnancy and no medical issues) got me through. My marathon training and my hypnobirthing training carried me through both experiences, mentally and physically. 
  6. Confidence is key. Nerves are normal, but confidence is key. You need to trust that you can do it, otherwise you’ll fall at the first hurdle. Your mind has to be in the game. Preparing for the marathon, I was nervous that I wasn’t a real marathon runner, and that I would fail. I remember setting up my Just Giving page and worrying that I would have to refund everyone if I couldn’t do it! I had to knock this attitude on it’s head, otherwise there’s no way my head would drag me out on a cold Sunday morning to do a 20 mile practice run! Same with birth, you have to prepare in advance so that you can grow your confidence. Many of us,  are scared of giving birth (Thanks to the media etc) So we have to chip away at this and instead build our confidence. Like I’ve said before, birth is a physical act, but it’s also a mental act. It’s  physical and psychological.
  7. Knowledge is key. Training for a marathon involves a blend of physical and mental prep. Over the 3-4 months you spend training you build banks of knowledge. Knowledge in the form of strength in your muscles and fitness. You are providing your body with physical ‘knowledge’ so that it can call upon this during the marathon. You are building knowledge in your mind that you can mentally do this, you are mentally strong enough to run consistently for 20+ miles.  The more you train, the bigger the banks of knowledge, this then has the wonderful effect of increasing your confidence. You have shown yourself that you can do it.  Same with birth preparation, the more you prepare, the more you will build knowledge and subsequently confidence. This in my opinion is one of the key elements needed in birth, confidence. Confidence in our body its ability to birth. Confidence only comes through training, preparing and building your knowledge banks. 
  8. If you practice, you put yourself in the driving seat. If you don’t prepare for a marathon, you run the risk of ‘just dealing with whatever happens on the day.’ You can’t make informed decisions, you can’t control how you’re going to do it. You won’t have control. Same with birth, if you don’t prepare, it means you run the risk of being at the mercy of the system, you won’t be able to make any informed decisions and you won’t be in control. On the flip side, do your homework, hypnobirthing and preparation, and you can go into birth feeling knowledgable, informed and prepared. A much better plan if you ask me. 
  9. If you don’t prepare, you can still do it. If you turn up at the starting line of a marathon having done no prep whatsoever, newsflash, you will still be able to do it. It might take you 3 days, a toe nail might fall off, you might have the worst aches and pains you’ve ever known, but you could physically do it, even if you walk for 24 miles of it. Same with birth, if you do no preparation beforehand, your body will still give birth, however, you might have a much tougher ride. 
  10. The euphoria at the end is indescribable. The emotions you feel when you cross that finishing line and when you hold your baby in your arms is like no feeling on earth. So the runners high is high, but the feeling you get when you hold your baby in your arms is off the charts. There’s no feeling like it. From personal experience it’s a mixture of euphoria, pure relief, disbelief, joy, sadness, happiness and shell-shock and eventually pride. 

So I suppose my key takeaway is that preparation is absolutely essential. 

If you don’t believe me, try turning up at the starting line of a marathon having only ran 1k before. 

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