In the spring, a young mother’s fancy turns to thoughts of getting her body back. Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes explains why she’s joined a gym – and it’s not about getting in shape.
I decided to join a gym for a few reasons. I have developed “Co-sleepers shoulder” which is essentially a messed up shoulder from my ham baby always sleeping on it. And my back has developed “For the love of God you kids know how to walk fine I’ll pick you up but this is the last time back”.
I also sometimes don’t really like the way I look – my tummy so round, my thighs pressing against each other, my breasts low.
I had visions of myself lifting weights, developing abs after two gym work-outs, swanning around in summer looking like a promo girl rather than a woman who carried a ten pounder and a six pounder.
My gym foray hasn’t quite been as imagined. Firstly, I bought myself my first sports bra. Not a big deal really. But I’m still wearing a maternity bra despite the fact that I weaned my baby a year and a half ago (they’re comfy!) Not wanting to go through the trauma of trying the thing on, I just grabbed a medium.
Turns out I have not been medium for a very long time. Trying to get the damn thing on was a workout in itself. My maternity leggings sagged around my crotch. It was not a great gym outfit.
After a lot of huffing and puffing, I was dressed and ready for my first class. I chose Barre, because why not? Ballet seems pretty chill.
Ten minutes in and I was sweating from places I didn’t know I could sweat from.
Lift your leg like so? Honey, I haven’t been able to do that since I was three months old.
While trying to do a push up I fell flat on my face. The instructor kept telling me to pulse and basically my vision started to blur – so much for thinking I was fit because I run around after my kids all day.
“Doesn’t that feel good?” she said as she squatted nearly to the floor. My plié should have been illegal as I wobbled back and forth in agony – it was a crime I can assure you. It did not feel good at all.
How did everyone else look so graceful? I was a steaming elephant plodding along trying to get my leg higher than my knee without toppling over.
The woman next to me hadn’t even broken a sweat and I looked like an 81 year-old lifetime smoker with pleurisy.
Burpees? It’s the nicest thing ever that you think I can babe. But you should know the chances of me getting from standing position to on all fours that fast only happen after shots of tequila.
Pilates wasn’t that much better. “Feel your pelvic floor.” I’d rather not lady. That thing has been fucking ruined by carrying the Ham Baby – there’s no coming back for it. The kind of intense renovation and seismic strengthening it needs is far more than a 55 minute session can fix.
“And into The Crab now”.
Friends, I couldn’t get out of The Crab. Like a small whale beached on a thin and sweaty yoga pad I struggled and struggled desperately to get upright again. I lay moaning and looked around at all of those fit bodies effortlessly crabbing but I did not feel disheartened.
Because, dear reader, I had an hour away from my children.
I lunged and I squatted and I ran on the spot and I loved it despite how uncoordinated and wobbly I was.
I tried yoga. It was not for me.
“Clear your mind”
OK clear. My. Mind. OK *begins to list horrifying bugs that can crawl inside your ear-canal and mouth*
“Breathe in, think of nothing”
OK but it’s very hot in here is that a brain tumour? Is that the first sign of a brain tumour that you feel hot? Is that a thing? Do I have a brain tumour? Am I going to die I’m too young to die I need to learn how to do The Crab before I die. What if it’s not hot, what if it’s just larvae hatching in my skull and digging into my brain blocking my ability to self-regulate no that can’t happen I don’t think there would be a clear path for a bug and I am sure I’d feel it but maybe you wouldn’t what about those people who just go to the doctors because they can’t hear and inside their ear is a whole nest of maggots oh god what if I have a maggot in my brain no I’ve never been near a maggot but what is the most poisonous spider in New Zealand if it’s that one that gives you a flesh eating disease then my brain will be way more fucked by now…
“And breathe out.”
Nope – yoga is probably not the right thing for me.
I am terrified of spin class. I’d make a terrible submissive because I cry every time anyone shouts at me. I have a great fear that I will look like a beach ball on a golf tee on the bike. I know I shouldn’t care but I do.
So instead I go for a swim. It’s peaceful underwater. It’s silent but for the sound of water. I miss silence.
In the water my shoulder and back feel stronger.
My body hasn’t felt like my own for a long time.
They talk about getting your body “back” but what they mean isn’t the way I view my body.
Nobody told me how intensely physical mothering is. When I pick up the children from kindy they run to me and leap. They know I will catch them. They stroke my neck, play with my ears, pull my hair to steer me during piggy back rides. They sleep in the space between my chest and shoulder, arms stretched, framing this face of mine that they cover in kisses. They play tickle mum’s feet and they lift up my top to reveal “The Belly Monster”. My round tum has morphed from something I never liked into something that makes my babies scream with laughter.
In the shower they sit at my feet, they reach up for cuddles and hide their heads beneath my neck. I can hold a baby on each hip. They weigh about the same despite their age gap. They hold hands across my back which is stronger now than it ever had reason to be before.
My body held them and they haven’t let go of my body as their home. For now, I surrender. Soon our bodies will be so separate and I know I will ache for the times when they traced my jaw while sitting on my shoulders. I’ll yearn for one more “squeezy cuggle” one more pinch of my cheek or a tiny hand pulling an arm around them. Will I miss my body being theirs?
I am inelegant at the gym. Heaving and sweaty. But my body is mine there and it feels good.
After, I’ll put my mum clothes back on and surrender happy – this body is where it should be right now. Just the shape and way it should be.
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