I knew well before getting pregnant that I’d surely be confronted with mom-shaming, mommy wars, and unsolicited advice after I became a mother. Even making the decision to (or not to) have kids comes with a good amount of judgement. I don’t have the thickest skin in the world, but most of the time I’m pretty good at letting things roll off my shoulder. I felt somewhat prepared for this kind of stuff when we found out we were expecting, but I also knew that being an unmarried couple, having a child, and also being an athlete would open me up to some extra judgment and pressure.
Even so, I was surprised by the judgment about my decisions to run or not run in pregnancy and after.
To Run or Not to Run During Pregnancy
As an avid and competitive runner before pregnancy, I mostly stepped away from the sport after becoming pregnant. After running a half marathon six weeks pregnant, I knew pregnant training wasn’t something that was going to be in the cards for me. I just didn’t have that drive to pursue running goals, and I was very much okay with it. By then, I’d been training hard for years, running 14 marathons and heaven knows how many other races. I was due for a break and growing a human was a wonderful reason for me to do that.
I expected questions about my running during pregnancy. I expected to get flack if I did run, but I didn’t quite expect flack for not running. Sometimes I felt like I was less of a runner because I wasn’t logging tons of miles, but rather intentionally taking time away and enjoying it no less.
I also found annoying the sighs of relief from people who felt it was so good of me to stop training during pregnancy. I’m pretty sure many people thought I was so obsessed with running that I’d never be able to step back from it. But that’s not why I backed off. I just wanted a break.
Bracing for the Mommy Wars
I was aware that once our little girl came, we would open ourselves up to a whole new realm of opinions and judgement for our choices — breast or bottle feeding, sleep arrangements, going back to work, childcare options — all seemingly controversial. As someone who does lots of research and is not afraid to ask questions, I felt comfortable in our decisions. I also knew that not everything is within our control and if we encountered something we didn’t plan for, them we would educate ourselves and make the best decision possible.
Hannah was born via emergency Cesarean five weeks early. Our world changed in an instant, as we knew it would. We were suddenly responsible for another human being. It’s amazing and scary and overwhelming all at the same time. I’m still trying to figure out how this incredible, little, tiny human is mine, how I got so lucky.
After she was born, as expected, some things went back to normal quickly and other things took time. I had a major surgery and a baby who spent a week in the hospital, and we went home with a whole new set of schedules and challenges. Running was one of the furthest things from my mind.
A few weeks into maternity leave, I started taking Hannah for walks in the stroller. It wasn’t about a calorie burn, it was about getting out of the house, getting fresh air, and also helping my body adjust to its new normal. As days went by, the itch to run started to return, but I was adamant about waiting until my seven-week postpartum checkup. I wanted confirmation my recovery was progressing normally, and I wanted to make sure when I started to run again that my body was ready. I also wanted to give myself that time to adjust to everything else in life and enjoy my new life with Hannah.
At that seven-week check-up, I got the A-OK to start running. I didn’t even run that night. I ran the next day, while Hannah was napping and loved coming home and seeing her when she woke up.
From the moment I returned to running, I consciously gave myself time to ease back at whatever pace felt right, and now several months later, I’m still gradually building back my strength and taking things a day at a time. But I’ve started talking about running progressively more, posting pictures on Instagram, and finding my own personal balance for myself of being a woman, a mom, a spouse, an employee, a friend and a runner. No one is perfect, but I’ve been pretty proud of how I have been managing the transitions and finding balance. I’m proud because I have done it on my terms, but that pride also makes me defensive about it. Maybe I was naive, but I never expected to get so much “feedback”.
Whenever we would see friends, family, or run into people at the grocery store I braced myself for all the questions. We gladly talked about Hannah and how she was doing, admitted that it was hard, but we loved being parents. We gladly talked about how going back to work was going to be a challenge but was the best thing for our family. Then came the questions about running. Are you running yet? Sometimes it felt like whatever answer I gave was the wrong one.
Hurry! Get That Post-Baby Body Back!
“Are you running yet?”
“When is your next marathon?”
“You didn’t run home from the doctor’s office?”
“What’s your excuse?”
Cool: people understand how much I love running and it’s a part of my life.
Not cool: running is now being used as a barometer for everything else in my life.
Why Are You In Such a Rush?!
Maybe this was the kind of postpartum pressure I expected, but even so, it’s not always easy to take. People implied that I do not love my kid or my family because I take time out of my day to workout.
OMG I leave my kid alone with her father to go run sometimes! He’s learning to “babysit” all by himself for an entire hour! What if he puts her diaper on backwards?!
Some implied that I started running too soon.
I probably should wait until Hannah is in college before I do anything for myself again. Even that could be too soon.
Some implied that by running again “so early”, I’m harming myself, and not respecting how much the changes pregnancy, surgery and new motherhood have had on my body.
Somehow I forgot that I had a baby and major surgery. The giant scar, my weak core muscles, and the baby haven’t been enough of a reminder, necessitating this intervention. Thanks?
Some implied that I am harming my daughter by taking her outside and running with her in the stroller.
Clearly Hannah’s pediatrician doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he gave me the OK with certain guidelines, which I follow to a T.
I swear I’ve heard it all. Some days have been easier than others to let things roll off the shoulder. I’ll admit that it’s a bit harder to do depending on the source of the judgement though. But, for the most part I stand firm in my decision and am still proud of where I am and where I’m headed with running and motherhood.
Next week, I’ll be back to share more about my philosophy about running after baby.
Did you feel pressure to hurry back to running after baby? How did you handle it?