Dear Mommyish essayist: It seemed like a good idea at the time. You wanted to write an essay about society’s expectations that women lose their pregnancy weight immediately after giving birth. You wanted to lampoon those tabloid cover stories on “how she got her pre-baby body back!” You wanted to make a point that new motherhood is often hard, and it doesn’t help when women set unrealistic goals for themselves.
But the essay you chose to write, “On open letter to the woman who ran a half marathon weeks after giving birth,” just landed wrong. Here’s why.
For starters, your letter was whiny. If you’re fine with wearing maternity pants 7 months after giving birth, why make a big deal of it? Your fashion choices have nothing to do with me or anyone else, which brings us to the second point: most people don’t train for long distance races with the goal of making random strangers feel bad about themselves.
This gazelle-like woman with the newborn who you are gazing upon with envy is not thinking about you. She’s probably thinking about her pace, or not tripping, or her baby, or how much she loves running, or the scenery, or whether there’s a bathroom nearby. But I’d wager she is not thinking “I trained my butt off for this half-marathon in order to make another woman feel fat and out of shape.” If she wanted to make other people feel bad, she might write an open letter about how awesome she is and how anyone who doesn’t sign up for a half-marathon postpartum is lazy. But she didn’t. She just signed up for a race and ran it. Live and let live.
But what makes this all even stranger is that you didn’t stop with the observation that pregnancy treats some people differently than others. This is true. Some people are incapacitated. Others aren’t. Most likely, this woman ran through her pregnancy and so was able to resume distance running shortly thereafter. Heck, for all we know, she’s a professional ultra-runner, and running 13.1 miles is the equivalent of most of us doing 6 sit-ups.
No, you kept going and projected a host of your other insecurities onto this woman’s life. She must be having more sex than you are! (Really, you can tell that by how someone runs?) She makes you look like a liar since you told your husband you’re not that into it right now!
If we are happy with our own lives, then other people’s personal decisions don’t make us burn with envy. If people ask for advice, that’s one thing. Indeed, a majority of blog posts may be based on this phenomenon! But this runner didn’t stop mid-race and come over and say “Listen, I don’t want to be running a half-marathon, but I feel powerless to stand up to the people in my life who think I should look different than I do!” If she’d done that, then one would be justified in pointing out that the postpartum period is a great time for doing whatever is necessary to stay sane. If that’s sitting on the couch watching episodes of My 600-lb Life while drinking Guinness, great.
But it’s also possible that running soon after giving birth is what makes some mothers feel more like themselves, and not just like someone’s milk supply. I know that the 23 minutes I spent on my treadmill yesterday were some of my most Zen moments of the day. It’s not a half-marathon, but if someone wants to run one a few months postpartum, I don’t think she deserves anything but a thumbs up. Sincerely, Laura
In other news: Once I scanned the 180 comments on the essay, I was happy to see that many agreed with me.
Photo: Mommy… are you running a half-marathon?