Ah, the miracle of life.
With the prevalence of parenting products, mommy blogs and pregnancy-themed reality shows, it’s often easy to forget what an insane accomplishment it is to create a human being from scratch.
I’m still a long way off from embarking on the baby-making journey, but I’ve seen many friends and relatives weather nine-plus months of ups and downs in order to produce an actual brand-spanking new person to the world. Cheesy as it sounds, it really is a miracle. But there’s an insidious epidemic affecting new moms, worldwide. It’s upsetting, unsightly and it’s threatening the very institution of motherhood. It’s excess body fat. And it must be stopped.
Luckily, media outlets and snarky bloggers the world over have committed themselves to ending this hideous plague afflicting new moms. The antidote? Public ridicule, of course.
It’s no secret that celebrities are held to an inhuman standard of aesthetic perfection. And a little thing like conceiving human life is certainly no excuse for physical flaws in Hollywood. But these unfair, unrealistic, unhealthy expectations are (unbelievably) getting ever-exceedingly out of hand. And the repercussions of wide-spread baby-weight shaming are not only affecting the actresses and models targeted, but the non-celebrity moms who are bombarded with the unflattering, invasive paparazzi photos and scathing headlines.
Like most toxic messages aimed at women, whether media-driven or inspired by cruel anonymous commentators, this one is seeping into the cultural consciousness. It’s become completely unacceptable to exclusively devote postpartum time and energy to baby bonding. Pilates classes, personal training sessions and juice cleanses better be scheduled before the due date, and pre-labor workouts are a must to ensure an easier bounce back from the havoc wreaked by that insensitive, fat-making newborn.
Yes, we’re all marveling at Beyoncé’s lightening-fast post-baby body transformation. Losing 60 pounds in less than five months is undoubtedly hard work. But her quick weight loss is overshadowing the reason she put on those pounds in the first place—to become a mother. Blue Ivy was hot news for a week or two, but her mom’s newly-redefined abs are the real headline-makers now. Sorry, Blue.
And I don’t know where to begin with Jessica Simpson. When has her body not been the subject of scrutiny? It was only logical for her pregnancy weight gain to be documented, analyzed, criticized and publicized for the world to see.
But in what may be her savviest business move to date, Simpson’s jumped on the Weight Watchers bandwagon, reportedly to the tune of $3 million. I’m almost tempted to give the woman a virtual high-five because the joke seems to be on us, or at least on the gross blogs and magazines that relentlessly picked on her throughout her pregnancy.
But despite being initially impressed by Simpson’s table-turning body reclamation, I can’t help but wonder if this really is the only way a woman can truly reclaim her post-pregnancy body; not by bucking the instantaneous weight loss trend completely, but by simply setting the terms and finding a way to at least profit off the stringent standard to immediately drop pounds.
So what happens when a celebrity mom really does eschew post-pregnancy Hollywood body norms? She’s raked over the coals, naturally. Exhibit A: Bryce Dallas Howard. As Jezebel reported, a Mother’s Day post on TMZ showing the actress “exercising her post-pregnancy legs” on a walk with her daughter four months after giving birth seemed to not only invite but encourage vicious comments.
“Damn, I think they left a baby in there” said one reader, who incidentally, chose not to upload his or her own photo. “Wow, she still looks pregnant!” added another observant commentator. “1 word=LAXATIVES!!! STAT!!!” offered yet another photo-less TMZ fan, who undoubtedly has the extensive medical background to confidently prescribe such a surefire weight loss method.
Did I mention Howard bravely chronicled her struggles with postpartum depression for GOOP, revealing how “mortified” she felt after gaining 80 pounds with her first child? Surely TMZ and similar gossip sites thought creating a forum for hateful readers to spew hurtful comments could only motivate her to drop the pounds quicker and spare her repeated postpartum pain, right? Even women known primarily for their seemingly superhuman beauty aren’t safe if they dare to pack on and retain pregnancy pounds. In fact, they may even be held to a harsher standard.
Exhibit B: Aishwarya Rai, the strikingly beautiful Bollywood actress and former Miss World apparently ignited a controversy in India (at least, according to always-accurate, never-hyperbolic media reports) when she dared to step out at the Cannes Film Festival looking less like a picture-perfect starlet and more like a woman who had just given birth six months earlier (which she had).
The Sydney Morning Herald claims “One website posted a video, complete with elephant sound effects, entitled ‘Aishwarya Rai’s shocking weight gain,’ which has been seen more than 500,000 times.” I thought about Googling it but quickly realized I couldn’t bear the thought of giving the site any more traffic.
Perhaps none of this is shocking or even upsetting, given the frequency with which we see women held to impossibly strict and narrow beauty standards. But that in itself is a major issue. This increasingly common expectation for new moms to prioritize slipping back into skinny jeans over child-rearing is ridiculous, and the window of time in which they have to do it is getting smaller and smaller.
I’m certainly not chastising women like Miranda Kerr for shrinking quickly post-pregnancy. But besides being genetically programmed in a particular way, women like Miranda Kerr are models who make a living off fitting into sample sizes. If she seemed to be in a particular hurry to shed pounds, she very well may have been, just to make a paycheck. Or maybe her body naturally slimmed down quickly. And what if it hadn’t? Would she have stirred up a heated international debate?
If she had, I hope she wouldn’t have cared. I’d rather believe that all the agony and energy spent suffering over post-baby weight gain could be channeled into something positive. Like caring for that new miracle. And feeling pretty kickass for having had created it.