Running Through Grief, A Mother's Story

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I started a running one month after I delivered my daughter Laila. She was stillborn.

I found out that she died at 26 weeks and 4 days gestation at my routine wellness visit. The doctors believe there was a blood clot in the umbilical cord. There was nothing I could have done to save her. In the hospital when I held Laila I didn’t know how I’d ever heal. I wanted to die. In the following month, grief crippled me. The only thing that kept me afloat was lacing up my sneakers and getting outside.

It was early summer. Running didn’t feel like it used too. I quit running halfway through college. I never wanted to run again. My body shut-down on me. It was painful, and my times didn’t get any better in college, it got worse by comparison to my high-school times. When I trained with the faster girls in college, I felt inferior, I’d never be the fastest on the team like I was in high-school.

I told myself I was slow. It made me miserable. I’d never be good enough, no matter how hard I trained.

 

It’s been five years since I quit running. On my first run, I felt incredibly winded. I gasped for air.  It was nine pm, too late to be on the trail unless you had someone with you. My husband and I just finished a long walk and I decided to try jogging. It was a foreign thought for me, but it felt familiar to want to run. Like a song, I haven’t heard since childhood. He didn’t let me out of his sight, I wouldn’t go far. I couldn’t go far. He watched me run to the lamppost and back.

 

My stomach, ached a deep pain, a pain from discomfort. My back was in sharp knots from the epidural. My thighs, heaved together, from the extra twenty-five pounds of baby weight still on my body. Still stuck on me. Exactly one mile.  I ran it in ten minutes and forty-two seconds.

It was an ugly run, but something in me struck like a match. Here’s an idea, get a new pair of shoes tomorrow, here’s an idea, start running. My husband encouraged me.

***

Five months have passed since Laila left us.

I’ve ran six 5ks, two half-marathons, and a 25k. I’m training for my first marathon this November. None of these races felt comfortable, and my pace was far from where I used to be, but something inside me changed. No matter how slow, how far, or how fast I go, I get the same results. I feel positive, I don’t feel depressed, I feel finally happy and proud of myself. Times don’t mean anything. Plus, my husband and our new black lab puppy that we rescued at a local shelter have cheered me on at every finish line.

My life has changed since I started running again, something that used to make me so upset, has now been critical in my journey of healing. And although Laila isn’t here on Earth, I know she would be so proud of me when I cross the finish line in November.

*For more from Leah, you can follow her on Instagram.