We’ve just celebrated my eldest child’s 9th birthday. It’s a well-worn cliché, but time really does fly. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I sat me and my enormous preggy-belly down in a wicker chair, in the typically first-child decorated nursery, and imagined how my life would change with his imminent arrival.
Like many soon-to-be mothers, the images I had in my mind at that moment, in that wicker chair differed considerably to what became my reality.
Prior to falling pregnant, I worked full-time (in a job I wasn’t really enjoying), I also worked on the weekends and some evenings as a fitness instructor and gym supervisor, I ran religiously four mornings a week and my husband and I “pumped iron” every second evening and most Sunday mornings.
When I was picturing my life as a mother, I accounted for a little downtime on the fitness tools, but was feeling meekishly confident I’d be pounding the pavement - pushing the pram I’d bought specifically for jogging - and bench pressing well before my baby boy started rolling over.
Didn’t QUITE go to plan.
Breastfeeding was a bee-atch. He’d feed for anywhere between 40-70 minutes (I have it documented) and even then he wasn’t entirely content. And according one of the dozen or so books that I had within an arm’s reach at any given moment, he was only supposed to be awake for an hour at a time. That didn’t leave me much time to change from my vomit covered tracksuit into some appropriate activewear (thankfully that craze hadn’t gained full flight yet) and head out for a jog.
The one time I did manage to test out the jogging-viability of my so called jogger pram, I ended up injuring my ankle, because the force required to steer the thing one handed (I think I was using the other arm to wing-clutch my tender milk jugs) threw any proper running technique I had into disarray. Not to mention I had to stop every 50 metres to pick up a dropped shoe/rug/rusk/beanie/teddy/drink bottle/other shoe.
Jogger pram became a regular pram from that day forward.
One night a week, my well-meaning parents would come by so that hub and I could go to the gym. Whilst it was supposed to be an evening of carefree bliss and fitness induced endorphins (and gawd 9 years on, I am truly questioning WHY THE HELL DIDN’T WE WAG THE GYM AND DO SOMETHING MUCH MORE COOLER WITH OUR TIME?!), it was far from it.
After cleaning up from dinner (of a cold steak and overcooked vegetables) which my husband and I had tagged teamed between bouncing a screaming child, I handed said screaming child over to my parents. They had a look on their face that said “really, we’re really doing this?” and I’d wave goodbye, close the door, pretending to be all gym-bunny-mummy, get in the car, practically in tears and tell my husband we had 30 minutes tops before my anxiety really hit the roof.
We’d flail through some sort of workout; me usually walking a slow pace on the treadmill (because you know, you shouldn’t wear an evil sports bra with all that constriction and underwire when you’re breastfeeding, and if you sweat the child may not feed from you afterwards because you taste different…... HOLY MOTHER, my poor what-to-expect-when-you’re-expecting brainwashed mind!!) and my husband, would usually be bicep curling and shoulder pressing as best he could with my hurry-up-we’ve-got-to-get-home eyes drilling into him.
Needless to say, gym nights didn’t last long.
I tried to do some work outs at home. But after 45 minutes of rocking a 6 month old boy (who weighed about 8kg) off to sleep and then commando rolling out of his room, I was hardly in the mood for aerobics oz style. So I just ate as many spoonfuls of milo I could in the 40 minutes I had before he woke up (read the books: 40 minutes isn’t the “ideal” amount of time for a 6 month old to sleep).
We welcomed my baby girl into the world when my son had just turned 2 years old. The pram remained joggerless, the gym nights remained absent and I continued to eat milo from the tin in my darkest moments.
Eventually, I started going to the gym one, maybe even two mornings a week. The kids went into the crèche where the staff were unperplexed by a screaming child, I wore a sports bra and raised a decent sweat (and my daughter didn’t resent me for the taste of it).
I started working as a fitness instructor again.
A friend invited me for a short weekend jog and I’ve been jogging 2, sometimes even 3 days a week ever since. (Actually, just recently I even amped it back up to 4 days a week. Look. At. Me. Go.)
My husband and I don’t pump iron together because we aren’t wankers anymore but we cherish any opportunity we have to go for a nice long walk.
My boy is 9 years old. My daughter is almost 7 years old. While I celebrate all the wonderful, amazing things that my children have brought into my life over those 9 years, I also celebrate the fact that I have waded through some pretty disappointing-not-as-I-imagined-it-moments.
Some people have babies that they can take for jogs in the pram (and they must have better jogger prams). Some people have babies that will sit and watch while their mums do exercise. Some people have babies that sleep for longer than 40-bloody-minutes at a time so they can handle a few rounds of an in-home workout.
But some people don’t. For some people getting a sense of regular wellbeing back into their lives takes YEARS.
If there is a reason I am passionate about women’s health and fitness, this is it. Ignore Pinterest and its booty circuits and “don’t stop when it hurts, stop when it’s done” kind of quotes. Shield yourself from Instagram accounts that flick you before and after body shots, #fitspo images and 15 second exercise clips.
Ignore what you once could do, thought you could do, imagined you would do.
And just do what you can, when you can.
Because time really does fly and one day the jogger pram will be sold, your dinners will be warm and the Milo will be just for hot milk drinks on a cold winter’s night. One day, you might even be able to do more than you could have ever imagined anyway.