My daughter was only one day old when I received the first comment about my post-baby body.
I was standing by her humidicrib feeling a mixture of trepidation, fear and joy when a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit said, “My, didn’t you get your figure back quickly?” Pulled out of my reverie, I struggled to answer her. I muttered something like, “Huh, what? Oh, thanks.”
I’m sure it was meant as a compliment at a tough time but really, the intensive care unit is not the place for post-body baby talk. At a time when I should’ve been thinking solely about the health of my first-born child, I instead became acutely aware of how my body looked to others.
Similarly, a friend was rendered speechless when she attended her first mothers group meeting when her baby was six weeks old. Another first-time mum stood up, clapped her hands together and announced to the group she had done some research and had found a nearby twice-weekly personal training session that also had a nanny service for the babies.
“Who’s in?” she inquired.
Expecting the group to be as bewildered as her, my friend was shocked to see seven other mothers raise their hands and talk excitedly about losing the weight they’d gained. Did I mention this was only six weeks after the birth? As most mothers would attest to, the thought of leaving the safe cocoon of the house at the six week mark is daunting enough without being enlisted into commando style fitness training – needless to say she didn’t return.
I think the reason why we are all so focused on regaining our pre-baby figures is due in part to the way celebrity post-baby bodies are treated in the media. Yesterday Jessica Simpson appeared on a US talk show to “reveal” her post-baby body four months after the birth of her daughter, Maxwell.
"I've just had a lot of pressure on me to lose the baby weight, and today was actually one of my goals: getting here, and feeling comfortable in a beautiful dress," admitted Simpson.
Simpson most probably appeared as a contractual agreement to promote the fact she is launching a campaign with Weight Watchers – immediately cementing herself as the new poster child for mummy weight loss. I think it’s gotten to a pretty sad state that there is enough interest for a woman (female celebrity or not) to appear on a show to reveal what her post-partum body looks like.
An article on Jezebel yesterday counted the amount of headlines (over their summer) focused on the “Jessica Simpson Baby Weight Loss narrative” and counted a ridiculous 109 articles on sites such as Us Weekly, Hollywood News and even the Sydney Morning Herald (full disclosure here: two on that list were from our US counterparts).
Simpson isn’t of course the only celebrity to flaunt her post-body baby. Beyonce recently appeared at a concert four months after the birth of Blue Ivy stating: "I had to lose 60 pounds (27kg). They had me on that treadmill. I ate lettuce."
There’s also been models Gisele Bunchen and Miranda Kerr appearing on catwalks weeks after the birth of their children and locally former Spice Girl, Mel B fronts a similar Weight Watchers campaign to Simpson.
There’s no point pretending women don’t want to lose the baby weight gained over pregnancy and regain some semblance of the figures we once had, but previously there was no time limit. It is advised by most health professionals to take a year (and that’s if you push them for a date) but now the expectation is that your stomach can magically shrink back by the time you leave the maternity ward. The pressure now to “bounce-back” is immense and the number one question asked by my single friends post-birth was about my body: How’s your stomach? Did you get stretch marks?
The discourse around body image and the expectations of losing baby weight needs to change, the immediate focus post-birth should be about coping mentally and learning how to take care of another human being not how much lettuce you should eat to lose weight.