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If you can do a 5km while pushing a pram with one arm and holding a crying, screaming baby in the other arm, then you can do just about anything.
So, Joe wasn’t too keen on the 5km this Sunday.
I signed up for the race about 1 1/2 months ago. At the time, I thought that the 9:45am start would be OK. Joe was taking short morning naps back then. Of course, as is often the case with little babies, his schedule started to change and he began taking longer and longer naps. By the time we were a week away from the race, I was worried. Joe usually slept till 10:15am by that point. Doing the 5k meant that we'd have to catch a bus at 9am, which meant that Joe could only take a 40 minute nap… at most.
Things started out fine. Joe was happy and smiley on the bus ride over. We arrived at the rendezvous point about 10 minutes early, and I considered nursing him. In the end, I decided against it for two reasons: (1) I wasn’t wearing a nursing sports bra, and (2) Joe wasn’t hungry. Joe has had mornings where he's gone 4 hours stretches without showing interest in nursing. I crossed my fingers and hoped that today would be one of those days, but in truth, I was more worried about him being tired. Turns out that my worry was well-grounded.
We queued up with all the other 5k participants and started on our way. Right as we rounded the first curve, Joe began to fuss. I was nervous and really wished that people pushing prams were allowed to run instead of only being able to walk. We made a few pit stops for other mums in our group to tend to fussy little ones, but generally moved along at a fairly good clip. Joe had settled and seemed to be enjoying himself, so I started to relax.
That changed as we got to the halfway point. We'd just passed the water stand when Joe's fussiness resumed, but this time at a whole new level. I began to walk faster and started jostling him in the pram. I gave him his pacifier. I stopped to smile at and talk to him... nothing was working. By the time we reached the kids’ fun-run area, he was wailing. I tried all sorts of things: sunshade up, sunshade down, sitting upright, laying back in the reclined position, pacifier in, pacifier out, jostling the pram, and pushing it smoothly. I made 2 sideline stops to see to Joe, but no amount of sweet talk would get him to stop crying.
Finally, I let the other mums go on without us. Joe was full-on screaming to the point where he'd started to cough with exertion. Other participants were sympathetic and offered words of encouragement, but I wasn’t listening. I did the “lip check” to see if Joe was hungry and was fully prepared to sit down right there on the side of the race and nurse him if that was what it took, but he wasn’t. I figured he wouldn't be - he had that glazed over look in his eye that he gets when he’s exhausted. One of the things that I’ve learned about Joe is that no matter how tired he is, he does not like to fall asleep in his pram. He’ll sleep in his pram, but he doesn’t like to fall asleep in there. Big difference.
In the end, I lifted him out and snuggled with him, pushing the pram with my free arm. Joe ripped the race ID off my t-shirt and nuzzled his little face into my neck, grabbing my clothes with his tiny fingers. I just kept on walking, trying to navigate the City Mini Jogger through the streets of Auckland, around other runners, and into the right part of the race track as we met up with the Auckland Marathon.
Just before rounding that final curve, Joe started to scream again despite being held. I decided to heck with it and put him in the pram – nothing that I could do was going to work. So, into the pram he went and we crossed the finish line to the well-wishing shouts and cheers of on-lookers, none of them quite loud enough to drown out my son’s cries.
I tossed the race ID into the nearest rubbish bin and turned in my timing chip. I said good-bye to my friend who, bless her, had stayed to make sure that we crossed the line. Then, I pushed my still-screaming baby through the throng of people in Victoria Park. Of course, most of those people had just finished running a marathon, so they weren’t in any hurry to move. We slowly but surely made our way to the playground. I plopped myself onto the first open spot of bench, right between two guys who quickly vacated the area once they saw me and heard Joe.
Joe still wasn’t interested in nursing. He was plumb tuckered out, that’s all. I rocked him and shushed him, kissing his forehead and apologizing for having put him through that. I returned Chris’ calls (he’d called me twice during the 5k - naturally I didn't answer!) and told him where we were. Joe eventually stopped wailing and settled into a whimper, all curled up and snuggled in my arms. I held him for a further 5 minutes and Chris pushed the pram as we made our way back home.
Am I glad that I did the 5k? Yes, I am. Am I aware that some people won't agree with how I handled it. Absolutely, but to those people I say, "You weren't there, and you don't know what works best for my child". It would have been better if Joe hadn’t had such a rough time, but the route was beautiful and he was fine in the end. I was able to hang out with a friend and meet some new women. I also got to experience another taste of motherhood and learned a bit more about myself in the process.
Believe it or not, I’ve actually already agreed to do another 5k in the next few months. This time, though, I’ll be running it. And Joe? Well, Joe will have to spend it in his daddy’s arms on the sidelines, cheering me on!
Read more of my experiences as a new mom living overseas at http://www.practicallyperfectblog.com/