This professional runner wants to empower moms to embrace their post-baby bodies
It’s hard to feel good about your postpartum body, especially when there are images everywhere of seemingly perfect models and celebrities who are back in their pre-baby jeans in an instant. That’s why one professional athlete has made it her mission to empower moms and show people the truth about “bouncing back” after baby.
Stephanie Rothstein Bruce is a 32-year-old professional runner and mom of two who uses her Instagram to get very real about life after birth. She frequently shares photos of her stretchmarks and sagging skin post-baby, and she posts openly about everything from diastasis recti — abdominal muscle separation caused by pregnancy — to getting back in shape to peeing herself.
Bruce has two sons, ages six and 21 months, and she’s currently training to qualify for the summer Olympics in Brazil after taking a long break from competing to focus on her family. She’s been sharing updates of her training using the hashtag #JourneyWithSteph, and she was recently featured in Self magazine for her inspiring and honest portrayal of what it’s like to get back in shape after childbirth.
Bruce tells Self she wanted to show other women and moms that it’s totally normal to experience physical changes after giving birth, and it’s okay if you don’t just immediately bounce back. “Going through pregnancy and childbirth was very humbling and I felt that not many women … shared the real and raw part of it,” says Bruce. “I can run 5:20 pace for a half marathon, but I still pee my pants, have diatstisis recti, stretch marks, and other postpartum issues.”
More than anything, Bruce wants women to embrace the body they have — “flaws” and all — and just focus on being the best possible version of themselves. In the caption on one of her photos she writes, “When I look down I see stretch marks that are here to stay, ab muscles that need continued strengthening, legs that are powerful, and feet that are ready to fly!”
It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re taking stock of your post-baby body and thinking about all the things you’d like to change. My youngest child is two years old, and I’m just finally starting to accept that I might never have a flat or smooth stomach ever again — no matter how hard I work out. Pregnancy and birth come with huge physical changes, and accepting those changes is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight.
When people like Bruce — a professional athlete who’s in crazy, amazing shape — dare to show their imperfections and to tell the world that they’re struggling too, it makes women feel less isolated. It makes it easier to grieve that things will never be the same, and to embrace what’s still beautiful, strong, and amazing about our bodies.
As Bruce tells Today, that’s her ultimate goal. “Whether you’re 105 pounds or 200 pounds, I encourage women to not be afraid of flaunting whatever body you have,” she says. “I don’t think I’m this super inspirational person. I just keep it real and I want to share with women that they’re not alone.”