I am feeling a bit pissy today about all the attention celebrity moms get for bouncing back from childbirth quickly. Photos of the svelte figures of newly post-partum mommies, and the captions lauding their perfect bodies, make me sad and angry. For as progressive as our culture claims to be when it comes to women and their rights, at least in comparison to some parts of the world, I feel that those photos put us right back to 1950. Or, worse, perhaps we never really left that decade. It’s bad enough that the appearance of any pregnant mother (celebrity or no) is fair game: who hasn’t heard the –you carry it well–you’re all belly–you’re getting huge–you’re about to pop– commentary that folks offer up freely and without solicitation? But now, after bringing new life into the world, we are subject to scrutiny for the speed with which our bodies “recover”. By recover I mean, the amount of time it takes for us to look as though we never had a child.
I have had 3 babies. After they came into the world, my body bore all the marks. I had a soft doughy belly where our children spent 9 months living. I had stores of fat in places they were supposed to be, to accommodate the caloric demand for milk production. I carried excess fluid that my body spent 9 months creating, to sustain not just the life of our babies, but my own as well. I had leaky breasts, bleeding nipples, and everywhere I went in public I had to wear nursing pads and also menstrual pads. Newly post partum mommies bleed. They bleed for weeks. Should I even mention what it’s like to go to the bathroom after childbirth? Not really that fun. Our lower backs and pelvic muscles and bones feel like they were hit by a truck. I had nerve pain and back pain for months after childbirth. And of course, none of this touches on the emotional fragility of new mothers, in part the result of wildly fluctuating hormones but also due to the enormous life changes that take place when you realize you are responsible 24/7 for a totally helpless little creature.
But in the media all of those things fall by the wayside. The only thing that doesn’t get ignored is the physical appearance of mommies. Now, I get it. When you are a celebrity your physical appearance is fair game. In fact, much of one’s success in the public eye is based directly on appearance. But is nothing sacred in our society? I feel that those same celebrities who parade out in their fabulous post-baby bodies are doing a disservice to mothers and to women. They are drinking the kool-aid, when they are in a truly unique position to tell those judgemental folks to f*ck off and to show some respect to the post-partum mothers out there.
By parading their new bodies around with such pride, they are contributing to the concept that the relevant and takeaway point in pregnancy and giving birth is how we look after it’s all said and done, when the truth of the matter is that that is the very least important aspect of everything we go through in that 9 months of pregnancy and the early months after.
Very sadly, the standard seems to be that we should have our babies and then look as though we never did as quickly as possible.
I think that is outrageous.
How is that forward thinking in any way? To me it is an antiquated, sexist and demeaning standard.
The truth is that in our society the appearance of the woman continues to be the single most defining characteristic– our number one currency.
And here is the truth mommies, all those soft post-partum bellies, all the post-partum funkiness, the leaking of fluids, the pain, the hormones, the good, the bad and the ugly, all of it make us more profoundly beautiful than any svelte figure or flat tummy. We bear the marks of our children and their journey into the world. What could be more beautiful than that?
There was a time that I looked at my figure that is significantly altered from my pre-baby days, and wondered if I should consider plastic surgery to repair the “damage”. Now, I can’t believe I ever thought that. I am proud of the beautiful and miraculous thing my body did 3 times. So very proud. I wouldn’t trade that for a flat stomach or perky boobs any day of the week. Nor will I seek to undo the marks it left on me. I would never want to look like I never had kids. Because I did. And I couldn’t be more proud of that.