Fifteen children (but a “core” of 13) call me “Mom” so your confusion is understandable when I tell you that, from the age of 15, I didn’t think I could have children. Short story… Seven infertility surgeries and LOTS of medication later I did have a child. It was enough of an experience that I knew if things didn’t happen on their own, I’d just adopt. I did everything up to invitro fertilization which I felt was not an option for me. I grew up surrounded by dysfunction, so offering my home for foster care and adopting children within social services touched an empathetic chord for me. I was one of those children. For nine years I was licensed as a foster parent and for 3 more years I did foster care without getting paid. I feel blessed my life was touched by the children that came through my home. I was ultimately able to get pregnant without additional “help” a total of seven times. The last pregnancy ended in the miscarriage of twins at 19 weeks resulting in 3 more surgeries including a hysterectomy. Yes, it was trying to say the least, but I believe in a bigger plan and to count the blessings I have. I was 33 years old at that point and I felt contentedly done with that chapter in my life. I was blessed to be able to stay home with my children for 12 years – less than I had hoped for but worth everything I might have “given up”. I home schooled for years, made my own baby food, breastfed for 11 years (not consecutively) and had my babies at home with a midwife. In the end, the children I am Mommy to consist of 4 biological, 4 “step” children, 5 adopted and 2 that were with me in long term foster care. From the scared 15 year old at my first OB/GYN appointment wondering what was going on inside me to a 43 year old woman with the equivalent of a football team living in my home, I have grown considerably.
Many things have motivated me to stay in physical (and mental) shape. Being raised by parents who are addicts taught me a lot about what I didn’t want. I graduated high school a year early and at the tender age of 17 went on my own to figure out this thing we call life. My first concern was to not perpetuate the cycle of my parents. To stay healthy and age gracefully. Sure, vanity and shallowness are fantastic motivators but I also wanted to always have fun with my children. Staying active during and in between pregnancies allowed me to keep up, keep sane and never get discouraged. Having exercise equipment in my home when the children were small was a huge help as were using videos during naps, and a gym that would accommodate my volume of children while I snuck in some work outs. Fitness competitions motivated me for a few years as well as access to an amazing trainer who has gotten me through some nasty plateaus, but the one thing that was always a part of my life to some extent or another was running. Inexpensive, portable and done in nearly any weather running not only keeps me in good physical shape, it gives me a chance for my head to clear. It’s time to think, problem solve and plan but mostly it’s time for me.
“But it’s the truth: For an overstressed, overtired, overextended mother, there are few other sensations that rival a delicious run. Once the sweat starts running down my temples, I daydream, analyze, smile, wonder, channel something cosmic. I feel alive and, perhaps most importantly, like myself again.” From the book: Run Like a Mother.
All that’s necessary is a pair of my current favorite running shoes and a supportive sports bra and running can be done anywhere at any time. I run with the kids to encourage them and distract myself. The comments from them while riding their bikes next to me like, “Dude, Mom. Your butt jiggles when you run.” Or “Mommy are you running to get your abs back?” keep me very, very motivated for myself and to be the best example to them as possible. Running is a place where I can be the diva that I am while at the same time it’s perfectly natural to snot rocket, pee outside, sweat profusely and swear. I can run on bike paths, the road (which, when there’s no traffic, I’ll be the one running down the middle…) or trails. I allow my kids to map out routes driven by their buses to mix things up. I’m not afraid to get lost. I’m strong. I’m confident. I’m embracing being the woman that I am. Being on a running team has made a huge difference. Huge. The team brings out my best and works on my worst. I’m proud to have “Endurance Reno” plastered on everything from my running gear to my vehicles. There are times it feels refreshing to relinquish control. Being my own coach was fine – to a point. Having a team with me and a coach behind me has given me the structure and drive – not to mention support – to push myself more, to achieve more. To stay focused, balanced and cared for and to offer that to my fellow teammates. It has allowed me to be better than I am on my own.
Now that my children have gotten older – Only ten are at home now – many of them have started running. Twelve have completed at least a 5K. My children have tolerated my breaks to take a run, knowing I’m a better person when I return.. We eat healthier than many of our friends’ families and I’m thankful the kids are learning how important that is. My kids run at least one race a year and volunteer in at least one race per year. It’s bound us more closely as a family and hopefully has instilled in my children the value of staying healthy and active, regardless if they catch my running bug or focus their energy somewhere else. In the meantime, I’m going out for a run!