These days, pregnancy is generally accepted as a beautiful thing, but that wasn’t always the case. Not too many generations ago, pregnancy was largely kept under wraps. As our grandmothers carried our parents, their changing bodies were kept hidden behind tent-like dresses that shapelessly draped over their bodies. They weren’t very figure-flattering, and that was precisely the point. Pregnancy’s many physical discomforts and details that we now openly (and even humorously) discuss were then considered impolite conversation, effectively rendering women silenced and isolated during an already overwhelming experience.
Thankfully, times have changed. We now celebrate our baby bumps, showcasing them proudly under our form-fitting tank tops or bikinis at the beach. Celebrities pose naked on magazine covers, baring their pregnant form in all its glory. But where, I wonder, are those same celebrities and their bellies a week after the baby is born?
I would wager a guess that they are already beginning to focus on losing the baby weight. (Jessica Simpson and her Weight Watchers deal, anyone?) Why are our rounded bodies considered adorable when there’s a baby inside, but suddenly grotesque the moment the baby is born?
We may have come a long way in our views about pregnancy, but we still have far to go when it comes to women’s postpartum bodies.
There is way too much “shoulding” on female bodies, pregnant or otherwise, and too much mystery about what an actual post-baby body really looks like. Before I had my first child, I had literally no idea what would happen to my stomach after the birth. I remember asking my mom about it using the words, “Does it deflate?”. That was an actual sentence that came out of my actual Ivy-League-educated mouth.
We simply never talk about it, let alone see it. We use language like “bouncing back” that implies that pregnancy ruins our bodies, and we see magazine images that normalize an impossible standard for what a new mom should look like. Rather than emphasizing the importance of bonding with our babies, our fat-shaming society pressures us to be back in our skinny jeans before we dare show ourselves in public. (Just think of all the money people spend on tummy tucks, control-top jeans, and Spanx!)
Rather than emphasizing the importance of bonding with our babies, our fat-shaming society pressures us to be back in our skinny jeans before we dare show ourselves in public.
I want better than that for my girls, and as their mom, that starts with me. So here is my attempt to balance things and put some truth out into the world. I encourage all of you to do the same, in whatever way is right for you. Just like we’ve done for pregnancy, let’s remove the veil from the postpartum experience. Let’s let our daughters and friends and fellow moms-to-be know exactly what to expect. Let’s stop hiding our post-baby bodies, and instead, push realistic images into our mainstream media. Let’s raise our sons to accept these bodies as normal and wonderful so they can be supportive partners to the mothers of their children one day.
I hope that by the time my daughters are adults, our views will have changed and men and women both appreciate our bodies for what they do during pregnancy. They are not ruined. They created and sustained life itself. There is no shame in that, only beauty.
So moms, be proud of your new bodies. They were your precious babies’ first home. By all means, exercise and eat right, and try to be healthy so you can enjoy a long life with your family. But let go of the shame or guilt or embarrassment. Cuddle your babies on your squishy skin. Wear those stretch marks like battle scars. Show them to anyone who will look! You are not fat. You are not damaged goods.
You made a brand new life, and that makes you a goddess.