Why was I saying this, I wondered. Could I possibly have forgotten how much I loathed the public commentary on the growing size of my pregnant body and then the post-delivery comments, or worse, lack of comments, on how I was getting rid of the baby weight. The lack of comments was almost worse than the forced declarations of how great I looked because no comment, in my mind, only affirmed what I knew but hoped I was able to cleverly disguise, which was that I wasn’t looking quite like Heidi Klum yet.
This woman, to whom I was gushing like an idiot, cut me off and said “I should tell you, I used a surrogate.”
That shut me up. And note – I just met her that minute – so who was I to even comment on her post-baby body.
But we do it. We all do it. Even if we don’t all stick our foot in our mouth and sound like idiots. And we do it because, like it or not, we are a culture that praises thinness. We view extra weight as a sign of laziness and “giving up” and we applaud women who shrink back to their pre-baby bodies in weeks. They get magazine covers and TV attention. They are talked about online. We hate them but we still watch them. How often does anyone talk about the fact that spending all those hours in the gym to lose the baby weight means all those hours aren’t being spent by the mother with the new baby? Or about what the potential damage is on a postpartum body to exercise so vigorously or eat so restrictively? Can we hear more about that instead?
And yet, setting logic aside, if you’ve had a baby, you know just how rotten it feels to discover it actually takes a really long time and a lot of hard work and energy to lose that baby weight. And did anyone warn you that you were going to be short on time AND energy as soon as you have a baby? I didn’t feel sufficiently warned that first time, as I shoved crackers and chocolate into my mouth throughout the pregnancy.
Even though my youngest is now almost 3 and I am anxious to give-away all my maternity clothes and baby gear, I am always interested in reading articles about women’s body images post-babies, so I was delighted to stumble upon an article in the Australian media called “Ignore the hype, real women don’t ‘bounce back’ to their pre-pregnant shape.”
I almost didn’t need to read any more. I just wanted to shout “OH HELL YES”
“SAY IT AGAIN”
“SHOUT IT LOUDER, SISTER”
Should I keep going? Do you feel me?
It’s because of
jerks celebrities like Miranda Kerr on the runway a few months after giving birth, that I felt horrible when I was still putting on maternity clothes 8 weeks after having a baby, and when I was shoving myself into my suits like a sausage, 12 weeks post-partum. It is so defeating and it is not a time in a woman’s life when she needs something else to make her feel defeated. I think we can all agree that the baby does a good job of that.
The findings from the land down under fascinated me. The author studied how the Australian media idealizes the pregnant woman by focusing on celebrities, sound familiar? I think we can all agree that phenomenon is hardly unique to Australia. Though Nicole Kidman’s miraculous shrinking body days after the delivery of her first child was even fast by celebrity standards.
The writers of the piece found the subtext was that women should prioritize regaining their pre-baby bodies “with the same effort they would employ when recovering from an illness.” And not shockingly, the incessant praise heaped upon celebrities for “bouncing back” so quickly perpetuates this idea that we all can do so, if we just tried a little harder and had some discipline.
Because, again, we aren’t trying hard enough to just keep a baby alive and catch a few Zzzs along the way.
The other insightful finding was this chatter on the benefits of breastfeeding for losing weight – and I find that’s very common here – Angelina Jolie loved to tout how nursing helped her regain her pre-baby body. The Australian piece links to a recent study finding that breastfeeding may not promote weight loss.
I can tell you that for me, breastfeeding promoted EATING. Never in my life was I ever as hungry as when I nursed. I never knew such hunger. Add that kind of hunger to a sleep-deprived and hormonal mind and body, and I wouldn’t dare say no to chocolate or chips or ice cream. I DESERVED IT.
Needless to say, nursing didn’t do a thing for me and my elusive enemy, weight loss.
Though dated now, the old Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy book series notes 9 months up, 9 months down…and while it took me a bit longer than 9 months to go down, that seems like a much healthier approach than idolizing celebrities who hide their personal chefs and trainers behind the scenes, and very publicly return to their pre-baby weight in a matter of weeks. Liv Tyler is one of the few celebs I can think of who took a while longer to return to her thin self and frankly, it was refreshing to see. It actually made me like her a lot more because I felt I could relate. She seemed normal and not super human.
Now about that pre-baby body, I’d like to add my own argument into this discussion (cause I haven’t done that enough already). Just the idea of getting our “pre-baby bodies” back is mis-leading.
BECAUSE THE BABY CHANGES THE BODY.
So why do we keep talking like they don’t?
Are you with me? Doesn’t the media praise heaped upon celebs for achieving what almost no one else can – hitting the runway weeks or a few short months later – erode our own perceptions of what is healthy? Furthermore it dilutes what is really praise-worthy, which is the miracle that is pregnancy and the gift of a healthy baby; it shouldn’t matter what we look like and worrying about getting our “pre-baby bodies back” should be the last thing entering a new mom’s mind. Unfortunately, all too often, it’s at the top of the list.
Not sure what we can do about it beyond committing to not buying the magazines that heap this praise when it’s happening? Thoughts?
“Like” the Wired Momma Facebook page…I totally give away the secrets on how to lose all that baby weight on there…