There was an article a few weeks ago that got a lot of play in the national media, about how new mothers are less healthy than women without kids.
First thought: no kidding, having a family takes a lot of time away from focusing on yourself. FILM AT ELEVEN.
Second thought: wait, really? What about people like me?
I’m using all kinds of apps to do this C25k thing, and one of them is linked to DailyMile.com, so I thought I’d check it out. On that site, it gives you a title. Mine says “Gretchen S, Athlete,” so I logged right into the settings to change that, because HELL-O I am not an athlete. Oh, I have medals from high school, absolutely! But those medals are from (no lie) county spelling bees and the Academic Decathlon. I was active in sports — I was the manager who calculated free throw percentages and kept my own score book for the coach. I didn’t wear sneakers, except in mandatory phys ed classes. I did wear penny loafers with francs in the slots because I was worldly like that. The only sweat I’d break into was from trying to avoid being caught smoking Camel Lights before and after school.
As an adult, I kept up with my uncoordination and dreaded the thought of being seen working out, would sometimes do a video in my own house, or go for a walk, but was paralyzed by the idea of doing any sort of public, group fitness. I had gained weight after losing the Camel Lights, but still…
Not. An. Athlete.
So when I logged into the profile for the Daily Mile site and saw that I could only choose from “Athlete, Runner, Cyclist, Triathlete, or Walker” I knew I was screwed. Where was “other?” Or my usual titles — mama, teacher, geek? Crap. So, I left it at “athlete” and every time I log in, I cringe a little bit, like I’m lying.
Here’s how I got here.
My daughter was born in 2006, and insert cliches here, it was all of those. Part of my mothering of her was that I chose to breastfeed, for all of the usual reasons one chooses to do that, and I was very lucky and successfully nursed her until she wrapped it up on her own terms at 15 months. As part of being a nursing mom, I wanted to be an advocate for nursing moms, and so I only pumped for bottles at daycare, and just nursed her everywhere else. In restaurants, at the goat farm, in airplanes, in my car on the side of the road, in stores, at a funeral, at a wedding shower, birthday parties, my backyard, her doctor’s office, my doctor’s office, on the coast, at a lake, at a zoo. And because I could never be bothered to haul a lot of stuff (I never had a diaper bag, for instance) I also never hauled a nursing cover (and to me, those might as well be giant neon signs saying “BOOB HERE! RIGHT HERE!”) so I just lifted up my shirt, dropped a cup, and fed the baby wherever I needed to.
When she weaned, I wanted to do something for ME. I’d devoted over two years to growing and nourishing her, so I figured it was my turn, and I signed up for classes at the Y, specifically, a Group Power class, which is an hour of group weightlifting, set to music to pace you, and I was terrified to go that first day, because no doubt, I would trip, or drop something, or be pointed at because the NON ATHLETE was daring enter the gym, where the REAL ATHLETES go. But, I figured, I’ve whipped my boob out all over this town, so if I can do that, I can attempt to move my body in a meaningful way in a roomful of people. I sucked it up, and went. And it was AWESOME. I looooved Group Power, and became a regular, twice a week, attendee. Then I started doing the elliptical before or after that class, and I started being recognized at the gym. RECOGNIZED! I was a regular. When spring came and we started thinking about another baby, I left the Y to save money, and then I got pregnant, and had my second baby last April. Like with the first, this one has been nursed all over the place, and is still nursing, but with the advent of spring, I wanted to get back into the game of some kind of fitness. I didn’t sign up at the Y because with two, I am finding that it is easier to have a flexible time for exercise (as opposed to a class meeting time) so I decided to do the C25K. It is my goal to get back to the Y and the Group Power class when it gets cold, but for now, it’s easier to just work 30 minutes into my day as I can.
But, in addition to all of THAT? Here are other ways that motherhood has made me a healthier woman:
My daughter has learned to ski, and loves to ski. I hadn’t skiied in 17 years, but when she looked at me with those big brown eyes and said “Mama, maybe sometime you could ski with me?” I jammed my legs into my mother’s ski boots that were a half-size too small and took a few (omg, painful) runs with my daughter.
I bought a bike. I bought a cool Mom Bike (go to Rose Bike in Orono if you are around here, they were so good to my Not. An. Athlete. self and were great in helping me pick out a sweet ride) because we want to do bike rides as a family. Of course, then I got pregnant about 20 minutes later and last summer the newborn meant that family bike rides were going to be more of a 2011 thing (still need to find the baby a helmet!) but I bought a bike. And rode it. IN PUBLIC.
And I run, outside. Not on a treadmill in my basement (like I could fit one there, anyway) or at a gym, but OUTSIDE. On a fairly busy thoroughfare, for our city, and I don’t care who sees me. I figure, I have never, ever, ever seen someone running and thought “ewww, gross” but always thought “I’m jealous.” And if it’s a heavy person running? I think “they are so much stronger than me.” So I run, outside, past people watching tv, with people driving by me eating french fries, and I don’t feel embarrassed when my app tells me it’s time to walk, and I slow to a walk, because I am still moving my body, outside, in public, and I am doing it for my daughters, as well as myself. Because I want my daughters to see their mama as strong and brave and capable, and I want to be strong and healthy for them. And when the 5 year old says “Mama, please can I run with you?” I take her, and we run to the park where she plays and I run around like a crazy person, or we run a little loop and then I run her back home, but she loves it, and I love it, too. I want her to one day see “athlete” next to her name and own it, and not cringe, like I still do.
I’ll get there, someday. But for now, I’m here, and learning to run.