In early September I completed my double bridge run (Manhattan Bridge to Chinatown, Brooklyn Bridge back to Downtown BK) for the first time in over a year. It felt terrible and amazing at the same time. I haven't been chubby since college, when sophomore year I lost 30 pounds by teaching upwards of 10 aerobics classes a week, packing my meals out of necessity and by well, being nineteen. I had completely forgotten what it felt like to run (and breathe) while carrying the equivalent of a toddler. Exercising while chubby and out of shape is different than exercising while pregnant, which I did until the week I gave birth. I’ve managed to run an average of once a week since returning to work post maternity leave. I am slow, and the stroller limits my route options (no bridge run with my Craigslist behemoth BOB that’s for sure), but I run when I find the time and the energy, which unfortunately, isn’t that often. I am trying my best to be okay with being a little big and less cardio-active. I remind myself that two miles are better than no miles and in the meantime I get to feed my kid dinner and give him a bath after work and nurse and snuggle in the middle of the night and enjoy all the precious moments instead of leaving him yet again after a long day of daycare so I can go struggle to get skinny.
The societal pressure women are under to "get that pre-baby body back" is oppressive and unrelenting and living in a place like New York City where a disproportionate number of the 1% resides certainly is no help to my personal daily struggle to stay body-positive. (No, I don't have a nanny to watch my kid while sweat it out at Soul Cycle nor do I have unlimited funds to purchase daily Sweet Green salads).
Pressure (self-inflicted and otherwise) and the two working parent, real life reality of constant sleep deprivation and honest-to-goodness total absence of free time aside, my body has had to maintain an extra 25 pounds of jiggle to be able to make milk. When I first returned to work I pumped four times in eight hours just to make enough for two of the four bottles my kid drinks at daycare. After gaining 8 pounds I was able to increase my pump output significantly. I made a promise to my son and to myself that I would breastfeed for a year, and if fulfilling that promise comes with extra cookies and delayed weight loss, okay fine, make mine peanut butter chocolate chip please.
Popular magazines and websites only feature the women who experience the "slimming" benefits of breastfeeding because no one wants to hear about the other half of women (or is it more?) for whom every ounce of milk made requires constant high-calorie consumption. Definitely no media company is about to put a chubby post-baby mama on a magazine cover, what with her bald spots, weird flyaway hair regrowth, mushy midsection, and dark under-eye circles.
I fear this post has come off as a whinny rant, or an advertisement against mamahood (as my coworker Camille says, “You’re really selling this parenthood thing Anna”). Please know I mean it to be the opposite. Let this be a rallying cry for mamas everywhere to not just accept, but love their post-baby bodies, and be done with the guilt and shame. It took almost a year to grow my son, so it goes to reason that it may take a year (or more in my case, over a year) to get in shape. I won’t even say back in shape because that is NOT the point, parenthood is a new chapter with changes for all aspects of my life, butt and boobs included.
And in the meantime? I will run as often as I can, be it once a week, or once a month, heavy breathing, sore knees and all, because the sun on my face, rhythm of my feet, and calming of my mind feels magnificent, not because it banishes the belly that grew (and continues to nourish) a loving little human. And while I’m at it, I’ll take the always-stunning view from the Brooklyn Bridge as an added little bonus.