This Body Can guest post #4. I am really excited to introduce my friend, Paula. Many of you reading may already know her. She and her family are very active in the Elk Grove/Sacramento (and ALL over) running community. I actually think we “met” via Instagram or some other form of social media, and the first time we met in person was at the SacTown 10 Miler race. I caught up to her and her husband and ran with them for a few miles – I remember thinking if it wasn’t for them that race would have been more of a struggle than it already was.
What I love about Paula is that she is real. Real about running, life, the struggles of a mom (and dad) raising 4 boys, and real about her love of family, running and community. I don’t have kids of my own (unless you count my cats, which I do) but seriously, I don’t have human children so sometimes I don’t get it. I don’t get how hard it can be to train for a race when you have others needing you. I don’t get how hard it can be to raise children to appreciate their bodies and what they can do. I also don’t get how rewarding and fulfilling it is, but knowing Paula I have gotten a glimpse of that life. I have nothing but major respect and admiration for the moms (and dads) out there making fitness a part of their family life. Here is Paula’s contribution to the This Body Can Series:
Media is both an optimistic mirror of possibility and a cruel beast. In one moment it can be a source of inspiration and motivation; in another instance it can be a contributor to self worth and self esteem. Women and men are inundated with images of perfectly coiffed bodies, gorgeous “natural” hair, glistening skin, just the right amount of muscle and tone. Young or old(er), no one is immune. Even the person with the best self esteem will have moments of looking at magazine covers or watching their favorite TV show or movie and feeling just a twinge of “wish I could…”. The saying is “Comparison is the thief of joy”, but in reality, comparison is natural. It is just how one choses to use that comparison. Think about it, think about those individuals who you follow on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or their blog. You look at them and their results and you are motivated. There is some type of comparison, but positive. You see the possibility in yourself through them. Yet, there are times when that comparison truly is the thief of joy.
As a mom of 4 boys, I know this awkward, uncomfortable, struggle of a relationship with oneself too well. As you have read in previous #thisbodycan posts, as young girls and women we are told what the ideal perfection is – behavior, emotions, appearance, etc. (I must add that young boys are also sensitive to what their ideal image should be, but I digress). Yet, when you become a mom the push for “perfection” is taken to new height. There are magazine and entertainment news shows that profess headlines such as “How (fill in the blank) stunned 4 weeks after giving birth” and “(fill in the blank) got her before baby body in record time”. There are also mommy bloggers who seem to capture the perfect life in a small square on social media, not only able to look perfect in their workout gear 6 weeks after baby, but their house is clean, food made from scratch and all done before nap time. Oh the pains that new moms go through when comparing themselves to others.
I have been through all those emotions, the multiple times a day weighing myself and wondering how to make the number on the scale lower. Heck, after my first son was born, I weighed myself the day I got home. Ladies, I highly advise against that. DO NOT DO THAT! I did cardio and strength training before my body was ready. I will admit I did damage. I had ab separation after each pregnancy, but didn’t know until after my second. So you can imagine all the crunches, sit ups and planks I was doing only aggravating that Diastasis Recti further. Ok, yes the rational side of me told myself that these women had resources I didn’t, told me that everyone is different, that I had no idea what they were going through as new celebrity/blogger moms. Yet, the emotional side of me questioned why I couldn’t look so great a week after I gave birth? I worked out during my pregnancy and although I did indulge in cookies at times, I ate healthy. By my last two postpartum experiences I learned to listen to my body and returned to exercise at different times and different ways. I refrained from the scale. After my 3rd and 4th child, I made a huge effort to focus on ability, on what I could do after baby in a healthy way to return to what was normal life for me with 1, 2, 3 and eventually 4 children.
Throughout my life I, like many others, have had insecurities about my body. Post pregnancy only amplified those insecurities because my body looked drastically different and let’s be honest, all those erratic hormone emotions and lack of sleep does not help. For decades, I hated the way my thighs looked. In my youth they were too skinny and I was made fun of for my “stick legs”, after children they became “thunder thighs”. After 4 kids I have stretch marks and extra skin that no amount of exercise will make go away. I have learned to be ok with these things, but that’s not to say I don’t have days where I am insecure.
My body can birth 4 boys. Yes, I have stretch marks and extra skin. My belly button used to be an inner, that is no longer the case. Ha! And I will say this is huge that I am even putting a picture out there with my stomach exposed. But I am learning to value what my body can do rather than what it looks like.