Christina Pellegrini
March 20, 2016 7:38 am

A lot of female athletes think they have to choose between their pro careers and motherhood, but runner Stephanie Rothstein Bruce is proving them wrong. About two years ago, Stephanie decided to take a break in her training to have her first baby.

“Not many elite pro runners stop their careers to have babies and I decided to take a break to have a child in between Olympic cycles,” 32-year-old Stephanie told SELF. “It’s a journey not talked about very publicly as many women see elite runners as these superhuman women with super fit bodies and sometimes can’t relate.”

Today, Stephanie and her husband, Ben, have two kids (ages 21 months and 6 months), and Stephanie is right back in the running game: She is currently training for the Olympics, with goals to qualify for the 10,000m run. Stephanie records her awe-inspiring daily life on Instagram, where she has more than 20,000 followers, using the hashtag #journeywithsteph.

Stephanie is also using her Instagram to talk about the way her body has changed post-pregnancy—the “not so glamorous” part, according to her Instagram—including a weakened pelvic floor, stretch marks, and diastasis recti, a separation of stomach muscles that commonly occurs during pregnancy. Her messages are truly refreshing: Postpartum bodies are still something that women have difficulty talking about.

“Going through pregnancy and childbirth was very humbling and I felt that not many women… shared the real and raw part of it,” Stephanie told SELF. “I can run 5:20 pace for a half marathon, but I still pee my pants, have diastasis recti, stretch marks, and other postpartum issues. I share this so moms and soon-to-be moms know you can still get back to your athletic self, have big goals, be a mom, have imperfections, don’t be embarrassed by them, and have confidence in yourself.”

Coming from a pro athlete, it’s an important message, but one that many moms and moms-to-be are taking to heart. Changes come naturally with childbirth, but that’s no reason to love your body any less, especially after it’s done something as strong as having a baby! As for Stephanie, she recently placed second in her first USA Track & Field National Championship after becoming a mom, and her youngest is only six months old. How’s that for resilience?

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