This mom's photo of her stomach shows what it's like to be an athlete after childbirth

When Female Athletes Have Babies
When Female Athletes Have Babies

When professional runners Stephanie Rothstein Bruce and her husband Ben decided to have children, Bruce decided to take a break in her training for her first pregnancy. The 32-year-old started the Instagram hashtag #journeywithsteph to keep her friends and followers updated on the reality of being a pro runner and a mom at the same time. Today, the couple have two sons who are 21 months and 6 months old. Bruce is currently training for the Olympics, hoping to qualify to run the 10,000m race as part of Team USA. And her Instagram posts are encouraging other women.

"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," Bruce tells SELF in an email. "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."

Bruce's Instagram posts are honest and totally inspiring. One recent photo shows her stomach and insanely strong legs, and in the caption she shared how she feels about her body and how proud she is of what it can do.

Bruce says that while many other women are juggling athletic careers with motherhood, she felt that it was important to share the not-so-pretty side of her own experiences. For example, Bruce experienced diatstisis recti—a separation of the abdominal muscles—during pregnancy, and has worked hard to regain core strength.

"Going through pregnancy and childbirth was very humbling and I felt that not many women... shared the real and raw part of it," Bruce says. "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. 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."

In another recent post, Bruce shared that she came in second place in her first National Championship since having her kids, and felt like she had "won her own race."

"Coming back from pregnancy has been extremely humbling, embarrassing at times, but extremely rewarding," she wrote. "Not many women I raced today were pumping breast milk pre race. But it can be done. I hope more pro runner ladies don't wait for their careers to end to have babies. I hope runner mamas everywhere find belief and stength and humor in their post baby comeback. I hope men runners aren't weirded or grossed out by the realities of a mom runner. Because the mom strength and power is real ya'll."

Bruce says that she's received a lot of positive feedback.

"The comments I receive have been inspiring and encouraging and keeps me pushing through some challenging days as I'm raising 2 babies and trying to make the 2016 Olympic Team," she says.

Check out her amazing Instagram account here.

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