Being a new mama, I’ve started paying more attention to the the way pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood are portrayed in the media. I find it really unfortunate the way that the media builds up pregnant celebrities with headlines like “baby joy,” “eating for two,” “pregnancy glow,” but then is so quick to tear them down after they give birth with language like “crash diet,” “getting her body back,” and “shedding those pregnancy pounds”.
I find it even more unfortunate that some women really believe in this notion of having a baby and then suddenly and magically erasing pregnancy from your body. The mixed messages being aimed at new mothers are ofter confusing, damaging, and hurtful. The shift from “you’re pregnant/have just given birth – eat whatever you want, rest, indulge” to “you’ve had the baby – you should be exercising and shedding that weight” is too drastic for any new mother to be able to tolerate. It goes something like this:
1 month pregnant – “indulge your cravings, eat whatever you can tolerate”
3 months pregnant – “go ahead, you’re eating for two now, have some more”
6 months pregnant – “make sure you’re making healthy choices – your baby needs healthy nutrients”
9 months pregnant – “you’re gaining too much weight, don’t eat too much junk. Watch the sugar. It’s going to be really hard to lose that weight. It’s not good for your baby.”
Then it happens. You have your baby after a long and hard labour. You go home with your brand new little bundle of love. You do your best to meet your little one’s needs around the clock while you yourself are feeling physically broken. Your emotions are running wild and your body is healing. You get emails and notifications from various websites and apps telling you to stay in bed, bond with your baby, and only worry about nursing and resting. You look at yourself in the mirror after getting out of the shower and are shocked at your postpartum naked body. Everything is different, but you don’t even care. You feel proud at what this body has done and you feel grateful that it has not let you down.
A few weeks go by, visitors come and go. They adore your little one and commend you on what you’ve done. They bring you treats and tell you that a breastfeeding mum needs to eat well and often. You’re on a high – life is amazing and you’re in love like you’re never been before.
A few more weeks go by and you’re at the 6 week postpartum mark. Now the emails and notifications change. You start to get bombarded with information about post-baby fitness, diets, nutrition. You start to see photos of celebrities with babies the same age as yours look nothing like you do. Motherhood and life with baby is still so new to you, but suddenly so much more is expected of you. You should be back to the way you were before pregnancy. Friends and family start asking how much of the baby weight you’ve lost. You look at yourself again in the mirror after your shower and all of a sudden, your body disgusts you. All of a sudden, this body disappoints you instead of amazes you.
A certain celebrity who shall remain nameless (she is on a particular show about a particular family who has a thing for a particular letter of the alphabet) recently gave birth. I read somewhere that she is now in hiding until she drops all the baby weight. This same celebrity loves taking photos of every bit of her life and sharing on social media. Her two-month postpartum body however is something she’s too ashamed of to show. This sends such a sad message – that a woman’s body is to be praised and admired for its sexuality, but shamed and hidden away for its ability to do the greatest thing of all – give life.