This is the continuation of ‘The Thirteen Days of Arthur,’ a series of writings by Melissa Mouzin-Bennett, mom to Arthur Hancock…
I really never thought much about fitness before Arthur came into my life. I have dieted, worked out to make myself look better, yo-yo’d with my weight, size, and fitness level, but never wanted to get strong, healthy, and balanced until I met him. Actually, it wasn’t until some time passed after I lost him that I decided this is what I wanted to do, and I’m not even sure if this was something I did want for a while.
After I delivered Arthur, it took no time at all for me to return to my pre-pregnancy size, I even dropped about nine pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight by the time I returned to work six weeks after I delivered. I’ve always said that birthing a baby is the best weight loss program I could possibly try, I was about twenty pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight six weeks after I delivered Marena. The difference was, after Arthur was born, I just wasn’t hungry. I would eat some strongly-flavored foods here and there so my breastmilk would have some variety in flavor for Arthur to try, but for the most part, I would only eat if Roy wanted to not eat alone. This was likely my first sign of depression, not only postpartum, but overwhelming dread of taking care of a special needs child. I was afraid that he would die at any moment, but I was also afraid that he may live for a long time with no real quality of life. I knew I was prone to depression, so I had my physician order an antidepressant. Since I am a lactation counselor, I knew the medication was safe to take while I was nursing, I had the resources to back it up, but my physician wasn’t so sure about this and essentially gave me a choice. Of course I chose to nurse my son over medicating my baby blues away. Once Arthur passed, I mourned him deeply. I felt like my sadness was to be expected and ignored some basic signs of what I now look back on as major clinical depression. I was weepy and irritable at inappropriate times. I was always mad at Roy because he wasn’t feeling the same way I was. I was short with the kids, and really just ignored them because I didn’t want them to see what I was becoming. The idea of being institutionalized actually sounded like a comfort to me, I really just wanted to escape reality. I also really didn’t want to be on this earth anymore, the only person I wanted to be with was Arthur. From February until October, I managed to gain about forty pounds, I was heavier than I was the day I delivered Arthur. I refused to seek medical attention, I also refused any sort of chemical to medicate myself. I wanted to feel the open, raw wounds in my soul. I enjoyed the pain and hated everyone and everything that wouldn’t allow me to hurt. What I found out later in grief counseling is that you have to hurt to begin healing, and I had this hurting thing down pat. My job performance was suffering and I was holding onto friendships by a thread. I wanted to just drop dead, and at the rate I was going, I would have probably gotten what I wanted one way or another pretty soon.
I was pretty close to rock bottom when a coworker, Mindi, suggested an absolutely insane idea. She is an avid runner and said there was a half marathon coming up in May and that I should think about training for it. I reminded her that I didn’t run, she countered with the fact that there is also a walking division. It doesn’t matter how I do it, it only matters that I finish. Of course Mindi happened to mention this idea in the presence of Courtney who thought it sounded like a load of fun and that of course I should do it, and of course she wants to do it, and we could both totally do it (sometimes her enthusiasm is hard to say no to). Next thing I know, I’m signing up for the half marathon and the local training group. I received my training packet and decided this was it. If Arthur, a baby who was never supposed to have lived long enough to be born could live for thirteen days, there is no reason that his mother, who was morbidly obese and clinically depressed couldn’t walk for thirteen miles.
The first day of training was terrible. I didn’t realize how out of shape I had become, I was huffing and puffing and hurting, but I walked a whole mile. Roy looked at me when I walked through the door and thought that he wouldn’t blame me if I never went out again, but I did. It was a sixteen week program and I decided that if it was too hard after a month that I would quit. The first month passed and I thought yes, this program is just too hard. But I had no intention of quitting. It hurt to log all of those miles, but I liked that I could pair physical pain with emotional pain, and would always set goals to make myself hurt more on the outside than the inside. I discovered that when it was just my thoughts, the road, and me, I felt a sense of peace and well-being that I’m not sure if I ever have had before. There were days when I would go out and come back frustrated, crying, and in pain, but I never stopped. Looking back, I feel like the tears and pain were just the anger, depression, and hurt flowing out instead of continuing to poison me. I ended up completing the half marathon without setting any land-speed records or hurting myself. The most amazing part of the end of this story is that it wasn’t the end of the story at all. I continued to walk for long distances even after the race was over. I live 2.5 miles from my office and I try to commute by foot most days, logging about 25 miles a week in commuting time plus I like to go for longer treks on the weekends. I have now completed a total of three half marathons and my times keep improving. I have also, just recently, taken up jogging and would like to run at least a good portion of my next half marathon. The best part of this story is that I am enjoying an internal peace and tranquility now that I have never known. I feel that that big open wound in my spirit that I liked to leave exposed and show off to whoever would look is now closed. Yes, there is an ugly scar there, but scars tell a story just like I am telling Arthur’s story.
During the innocent time that I thought I was pregnant with a healthy baby, Roy and I would imagine what Arthur would be like, and I would say that I just knew that he would always be in trouble at daycare for using his running feet instead of his walking feet. We were crushed when Arthur’s prognosis was to never be able to run, let alone walk. Since Arthur never got the opportunity for his feet to walk or run, I will do it in his honor every chance I get.