Often times, when someone has a baby, most of the attention is understandably on the actual pregnancy and birth itself–however, we often forget (or neglect ourselves) when it comes to the post-baby body. One mom knows this only too well. After having two babies 15 months apart, Olympic hopeful Stephanie Rothstein Bruce realized the hard way that her post-baby body was just…different.
Post birth, she developed diastasis recti, which is when the abdominal muscles split during pregnancy to make room for a growing baby, creating a cavity in the middle of the stomach. While Bruce was absolutely thrilled to have her two sons, getting used to her body again was more difficult than she imagined. She told PEOPLE:
“It was really hard physically on my body and mentally, and as I was going through some things trying to get back into training, I was like, ‘Does this happen to all women?’ No one told me all of this.
So as it was happening to me, I felt like I just wanted to be real about it, and put it out there.”
Because of this, Bruce has been sharing photos of her postpartum progress on Instagram as she prepares for the Olympic Trials in the 10,000 meter run. It’s been an uphill battle, but she’s been making tremendous progress:
“When I started back running again, I could barely run a 9 minute pace, versus when on easy days when I’m in shape I could run 7-7:30 pace, and I was having a lot of bathroom issues, I couldn’t control peeing, I had bowel incontinence, so I was going to the bathroom on a run.
And it wasn’t just not feeling like a pro athlete, I didn’t even feel like a functioning human at that point, because that was just so demoralizing and a little humiliating to feel like, that I couldn’t even control going to the bathroom.”
It still looks like a hot mess but the stability and strength is coming back to my core. The big 3: bird dogs, side planks, McGill crunch performed twice a day, everyday with extreme precision. It’s boring, monotonous but gets the job done. Stretch marks are here to stay! #14weekpostpartum #diastasisrecti #keepingitreal
Sharing her photos with the public has been rewarding for her–as it has allowed her to realize she isn’t alone–and has allowed her to make other women feel connected:
“It’s been amazing to see the feedback from women. I don’t think I’m that inspiring, but a lot of women kind of felt like it is, and I just hope that other women feel that confidence, and post their baby bodies, and don’t feel ashamed. These issues happen to all of us so I just hoped I could get the conversation going.”
As of now, she’s preparing to make the track and field team for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Regardless of whether or not she makes the team, she’s already a winner in our hearts.