It seems thereâ€™s a growing trend in our culture to not let pregnancy change you. In many ways I think this trend is a reaction to the “old school” way of thinking that you had to “eat for two” and “rest” during pregnancy. Or maybe this generation of mothers is reacting to the experience of their own mothers and wanting something different for themselves. Whatever the thrust behind it, there is a very real and present pressure to return quickly to the body you had before having a baby.
Iâ€™ll be first in line to admit Iâ€™ve created this pressure for myself, not so much with my first pregnancy which was a time of healing in and of itself (you can read more about that HERE) but most definitely with my second pregnancy this past year. I was just coming off a fantastic year of running and racing when I found out I was pregnant with Jack. I had PRâ€™d in every distance and was a little disappointed to know that Iâ€™d have to work so hard after giving birth to get back to that place. I didnâ€™t want pregnancy to change the runner I was becoming. I ran and raced throughout my pregnancy and thoroughly enjoyed it. I love to run, pregnant or not.
But my plans to return to running after baby were too aggressive. I laugh now when I look at those posts I wrote back in July, they were uninformed and unrealistic. I thought (wrongly) that if I ran up to my delivery (which I did) that Iâ€™d be able to pick up right where I left off after giving birth. I didnâ€™t pick up where I left off, in fact I did a bit of damage. I think many women (especially bloggers) are in the same place as I was: heaping pressure on themselves to be who they were before giving birth.
Just this fall the story of Anna Bretan was all over running websites and blogs everywhere. She was the woman who ran (and won) the Oakland marathon 6 weeks after giving birth. Most of the feedback I saw regarding her race was praise: So amazing. I wish I could do that! I didnâ€™t see much educated critique of what she did. In an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle Bretan said, “It didnâ€™t hurt as much as I thought it would.” Iâ€™m not sure if she was talking about her quads or her pelvic floor, regardless your body still takes a beating when you run a marathon. As my physical therapist mentioned in our interview, there are no studies out there on the long term affects of running so soon after having a baby. It seems that the generation of women who are giving birth now are really the first to push the boundaries and preconceptions of what can be done during and after pregnancy. But at what cost to our own bodies? Twenty, thirty years down the road will there be an epidemic of women with prolapse issues?
In our drive-thru, hurry-up, instant, fast paced culture pregnancy and birth are being treated as a speed bump. Instead of embracing the change of motherhood and allowing ourselves to heal completely, we rush through in a hurry to get on with the next thing. I now this is true of myself, all you have to do is read my old posts and you can see for yourself this distorted perception.I wanted to be THAT girl who wouldnâ€™t let anything stop her or slow her down, but the truth is I NEED to slow down. We all need to slow down. Life needs to flow at a natural pace, free of pressure; a pace that allows for healing.
If you are pregnant or were recently pregnant do/did you feel pressure, either external or internal to get back to who you were before pregnancy?
How has becoming a mother changed you? In what ways have you not wanted to change?
Want more of RunFarGirl? You can find me here too:
I definitely feel the pressure to get back to my “old self” as soon as possible. I plan to rest as long as I need to recover but that doesnâ€™t mean Iâ€™m going to like it or I wonâ€™t try to push myself into something before my body is ready. There is so much pressure on women after they have babies to just return to “normal”. This is my first but I guarantee, normal, is not at all what it was before I got pregnant.
I also had an awesome race year prior to this pregnancy, coming off a miscarriage I pushed my body harder than Iâ€™ve ever pushed it because I was mad at it. Iâ€™m afraid with body image issues that the desire to do that again will be very strong.
Iâ€™ll also be expected to go back to work and grad school being the same person I was prior to pregnancy. Iâ€™m terrified of the balance I will or wonâ€™t have in my life but when going back to work women are just expected to pick up where they left off and pretend that they donâ€™t have other priorities now. Where Iâ€™m working 50-60 hours a week now I do not see myself commiting to that with a newborn at home. He will be so much more important. It will be an adjustment and hopefully I wonâ€™t collapse under the pressure.
I wrote mostly about the “body” piece of the pressure women feel, but the pressure to return to work or a certain lifestyle is just as great. I went back to work part time after my first, 20 hours a week and I canâ€™t imagine working beyond that. To go back to work now, with two…Iâ€™d have to hire someone to do the cleaning and the laundry. Thereâ€™s no way I could keep up. And its true that when youâ€™re holding that newborn, everything just melts away and your priorities shift:)
Great post, Sarah! I put pressure on myself to lose the baby weight. I felt I would be better able to maintain the life I had before baby #2 (chasing after my 4 year old and having enough energy to get things done) if I was back to pre- pregnancy weight. It is interesting to compare how I felt after baby #1 when I rested more and indulged more.
I was much more “gracious” with myself after baby #1. But this time around I was not, in some ways it was self inflicted pressure, but I also had a three year old who is crazy as all heck and I need to be present with her. Juggling two kids is definitely a challenge. I didnâ€™t want it to slow me down, but I had to LET it slow me down because to try and keep up with the pace of life before two kids was killing me.
Muscle Up Mom says
You know I love this post. I also think the pressure to go back to a “normal” life is intense. A lot of my racing/running friends, many of them male, wanted to know when I would race again after this baby. My answer was, Iâ€™ll think about it in a year and the reason is: sleep! I know after one baby how long it takes for them to regularly, reliably sleep at night and I didnâ€™t want to set any expectations or pressure on myself until Iâ€™m sleeping close to normally.
I have a female friend who before her first baby was talking about racing a couple months after the baby, going to triathlon camp, etc..I didnâ€™t want to burst her bubble but I just kept thinking, this poor woman has no clue whatâ€™s in for her!
In terms of the prolapse issue, I think there already IS an epidemic, but we are talking about it in ways our mothersâ€™ generation didnâ€™t AND a few decades ago it was considered normal to sort of become incontinent and droopy after kids. Now women rightly expect more of themselves and their bodies and they want to stay super-active for years and years to come. Before it was kind of an “oh, well,” fatalism about it.
Sleep is a huge factor! Simply getting through the day on 4 or fewer hours of sleep is a task in and of itself, forget about actually training for something! I definitely agree that there is a level of, as you said, fatalism out there. I certainly encountered that with my battle with bulimia, everyone said Iâ€™d just have to deal with it for life. But I think we all deserve better and the more we talk about it openly the better chances there are of our generation finding the solution to some of these health issues.
char eats greens says
I had to stop running at 29 weeks pregnant because of pelvic girdle pain and only returned to it after my baby was 7 weeks. It is what it is, and I tried to not beat myself up too badly. Itâ€™s so true. We should be able to do what we want as we please, but we put pressure on ourselves. Iâ€™m just slowing integrating working out back into my routine and Iâ€™m 100% fine with it!
We can block out the external pressures, but itâ€™s that internal pressure that gets us:) Luckily my husband is great at “pressuring” me to take time for myself and he helps me make it happen. I think sometimes weâ€™re out to prove to everyone that we can do it. Maybe its because most runners are type A and competitive:)
I felt ashamed for “getting back to my old self” so quickly. I didnâ€™t gain much weight during pregnancy (I just walked and did weights maybe 2x per week, some weeks I just napped!) and people definitely told me to drink a milkshake or “eat for two”. I had a healthy pregnancy, and my doctors werenâ€™t concerned at all about my weight gain or the babyâ€™s health or anything. I also lost the “baby weight” plus more after Adeline was born. I took maybe a few VERY SLOW strolls with the husband and the baby before the 6 week mark, but the weight just disappeared. Iâ€™ve defnitely gotten lots of comments like “you donâ€™t look like you had a baby”- but i did. I carried our daughter for 40 weeks, I delivered her. My insides are definitely still healing. I find it kind of odd how people feel compelled to comment on how it “didnâ€™t look like” I had a child. I just think that the comments that Iâ€™ve received from friends and strangers alike point straight to our societyâ€™s obsession with getting back to our “pre baby bodies” after we have a child.
I love your different perspective. My sister in law had a similar experience as yours: she hardely gained any weight and left the hospital weighing less than she did pre-pregnancy. Everyoneâ€™s body is different, but I think that taking it slow after birth is probably wise for everyone.
Kim @ Healthy Nest says
Any pressure to lose baby weight came entirely from myself-everyone else acted shocked that I was able to put a load of laundry in two months after having a baby. ðŸ˜‰ I also had a hard time taking the “you look SO GOOD for just having a baby!” compliment, because I felt like everyone HAD to say it.
Also, I had NO IDEA the pelvic floor pain was going to be so intense and long-lasting…that made getting back into running super challenging. But everyoneâ€™s experience is so different!
Anyway, great post!
Nicole Culver (@NicoleCulver) says
great post. you know i wrote about feeling similar. I worked hard to be kind to my body after pregnancy and Iâ€™m trying to continue with that mindset. Having a baby has helped me feel even better about my body and what it can do. It also allowed me to let loose a bit and not worry about being “perfect”. <3
Such a great, helpful, freeing post! Iâ€™ve never been a runner, but I can attest to the mental side of things - feeling that pressure to be smart and on-point and somehow not effected by the total lack of sleep. (!?!)
I remember a specific example… Before our 1st we were part of a church group that distributed food and spent time in conversation with homeless people outside one night a week. The next week after the birth of baby, we were back out in the January snow showing her off (a little hard as she was so bundled up!). The next week I wasnâ€™t feeling up to going, but felt this pressure that I wanted to show everyone, especially all our single, childless friends, that having a baby didnâ€™t have to make you resign from everything. My husband said, “Look, we donâ€™t have to prove anything to anybody. Please stay home and relax.” It was a little thing, but one of those moments I can look back and see a big mental change took place.
thank you for writing this! I am 17 weeks post partum, having run throughout my pregnancy (until week 34 when I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios!). Hearing stories of women who ran without difficulties immediately following delivery, I figured Iâ€™d be the same! Instead, I am dealing with pelvic floor issues and feeling overly freaked out about the thought of taking on the Dopey Challenge (Iâ€™ve completed 7 previous Goofys, so it seemed logical…) in just 70-something days! It is reassuring to know that I am not alone in both the pressure I placed on myself to be “my old self” but also the pressure other people place on women to be back to “normal” within weeks of delivering a baby! I will seek out a pelvic floor PT immediately!