When I was in high school, I managed the track team. I sucked as an actual runner; despite my long legs and slim build, I just was neither fast nor did I have any endurance.
I did run for a few months, though, before taking a manager’s job. I remember how hard it was. When it was time to go, I remember believing so much that I was fast, that I could win. I would start, and the first few seconds would be good. Then all of a sudden, my legs were like lead and I could hardly get one foot in front of the other, and everyone was passing me, especially on the curves. Straightaways were easier, although I still got beat. I would land at the finish line last, ashamed not just because I felt physically worn, but because how I looked made everyone expect something out of me that simply wasn’t there. I was a long-legged skinny black girl in Philadelphia (home of the world famous Penn Relays) and I couldn’t run.
I hope you don’t think I’m crazy when I say that pregnancy has felt like a 400-meter dash in my 16-year-old body. Everything says I should be doing well – I’m (relatively) young and in good health. Although I know I’ve gained 40 pounds (!), no one else seems to think so. To most folks at most times I have my ish together – I’ve been through this twice before with no complications. But I feel like my legs are made of lead and my heart can’t keep up.
I had really high hopes when this pregnancy began, just like how I used to feel at the beginning of a race. But as it moved along, I realized that my stamina was not what I thought it would be; I realized that the vision of me in my head did not match the reality of my experience and existence in the real world. I had to come to terms with the fact that just because I *looked* like a superstar, it didn’t mean that I actually was one. Pregnancy has been kicking my ass, and even though I’m close to the finish line, I feel like I’m just catching up.
When I was 16, I learned that one can be a part of the track team without being a track star. When I moved to my position as a manager, I fetched water, timed races, and put spikes into track shoes. I wasn’t out front being the star, but I surely wasn’t dispensable either. My classmates needed me to do these tasks, and I needed to feel like I was a part of the team. And I did.
As I come around this final bend of my pregnancy, with only 3 weeks till my due date (although I’m trying to negotiate an earlier eviction date with both my baby and God), I realize that all this pregnancy I’ve been running like I did when I was 16. I’ve been caught up with this vision of who I should be and how I should be doing this, even long after I’ve realized that my legs and heart can’t keep up with the fantasy pace I’ve set up for myself. And it’s only now that I’m starting to catch up, starting to catch my breath, starting to let me legs rest.
And now, instead of a sprinter, I’m managing. Managing to rest, eat well, participate in therapy, and rest some more. It’s actually nice not having to run.