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I’m Lewis’s Mom! (But also, still just Rach)

I’ve played various roles in my life: a medical student, scientist, sailing instructor, waitress and professional trail runner, but my favorite job of all is being Lewis’s mom.  

A woman sitting next to a running track holding her baby in her arms Image via Steven Mortinson

Since becoming a mother in the fall of 2022, I’m overcome with joy and love for my new family member, but have also been contemplating and, at times, wrestling with my shifting identity.  

As we honor mothers and motherly figures this Mother’s Day, we of course celebrate the nurturing, care, and work they put in to this monumental task. Let’s also honor and respect the complicated challenges that come along with this role. I’ve been a mother for less than a year, so I’m certainly still learning the ropes. 

Identity 

Becoming a mother has been full of joy and wonder, but I’ve also been reflecting on my new role and what means for my identity as a whole. I’ve been questioning my role in the world and what I’m contributing to my community.  

For the majority of my existence, it was easy to pin down my identity. Being a medical student, I was furthering my medical knowledge and learning how to take care of people. As a scientist, I was contributing to our understanding of disease processes at a molecular level in an attempt to make a more widespread impact on population health. As an athlete, I was promoting healthy habits of exercise and nutrition and feeling tremendous amounts of satisfaction pushing my limits.  

A woman looking into a microscope Image via Steven Mortinson

Suddenly, within a single moment, I was a mother!  

While being a mother is my favorite job ever, I’m realizing that it is not the singular thing that brings me joy. I’m slowly coming to recognize that being a mother is not an exclusion criterion for being a competitive athlete or dedicated doctor in training. Rather, motherhood can complement these other endeavors. 

Leveling Up 

Having Lewis in my life has elevated all of my other roles in my community. When he was five months old, I did a medical rotation through the intensive care unit and while I would’ve occasionally been a few minutes late in the morning, I was consistently early. This might not sound like much, but these subtle shifts were a reflection of my desire to be the best student I can be and represent my family well.  

I know Lewis certainly wasn’t paying attention to my punctuality, but it felt important to me to be the best I could be for him. In order to continue to feed Lewis, I had to pump breast milk before seeing patients with the team. This meant losing precious pre-rounding preparation time. Ordinarily I would’ve complained about this and felt sorry for myself. Instead, I practiced presenting my patients in the lactation room and checked on recent labs.

 

A woman working in a medical lab Image via Steven Mortinson

Being a mother has also allowed me to better connect with my patients. My new perspective allows me to better empathize with parents whose children (even adult children!) are sick.  

Lewis has enriched our lives in ways we would’ve never imagined. We took him to the Canary Islands when he was five months old and he made that trip so much richer than if would have been without him. It was so soul filling to see him connect with people and witness the joy and laughter he brought to other’s lives.  

Modeling Work Ethic 

I’ve also noticed that I’m a lot more focused with my training. I feel more motivated and committed to my running than ever. This might sound contrary to my current life situation with the natural increased commitments of having a child as well as persistent metabolic strain on my body that comes with nursing.  

I think a large driver of my athletic aspirations has to do with my desire to directly model hard work and dedication for Lewis. I’m currently dealing with a running- and postpartum-related sacral stress fracture and anyone who has dealt with an injury knows how much additional work is required to get better. Lots of physical therapy, sleep, nutrition and patience are all required for a successful return to sport.  

Lewis watches intently as I struggle through my physical therapy and strength exercises. Over time, these exercises become more facile, and I move on to a more challenging movement pattern. I want Lewis to see this gradual cycle of work and improvement as well as the habit of challenging yourself beyond your current abilities.  

A man and woman trail running up a mountain, with snowy peaks in the backgroun Image via Steven Mortinson

Relinquishing Control  

Another aspect of pregnancy and mothering is loosening my grip on control.  

As an athlete, I was accustomed to having control over my body. Training for mountainous races led to improvement in climbing and descending, accretion of muscle mass and the feeling of being able to move swiftly across technical terrain like a monster truck. Training for road races led to improved efficiency with my stride and smooth speed. Training as a pregnant and postpartum person taught me to be flexible.  

Some days I’d go out on the trail with a plan to go a certain distance or run a certain pace and have to quickly pivot to something else depending on how my body was responding. I’ve been reflecting on the ability to modify the “plan” and how perfect training is really just being tuned in with my body, being honest with where I’m at and having the confidence to modify accordingly.  

A man and woman loading up their packs before a run Image via Steven Mortinson

Looking Forward 

Being thrust into motherhood has required me to refine certain character traits. Patience, diligence and flexibility among them. I’m honing these skills and applying them to my jobs as a medical student and professional athlete and feeling grateful for the unexpected harmony between these roles.

A man and woman standing in front of the Portland airport with their luggage, and their tiny baby Image via Rachel Drake