First of all, congrats on the newest addition to your growing family. You and Alec (Can I call him Alec? Mr. Baldwin? Daddy? ) must be over the moon. I came across a selfie you shared on Instagram, a candid shot exposing your mom-bod at its most vulnerable: 24 hours after giving birth. You hoped that by highlighting the hint of your former baby bump, you would give other new mothers a glimpse at what a “real” body is, and end body shaming.
Some women will admire you for this photo. “She’s so brave for putting herself out there.” “She’s imperfect, just like the rest of us.” “She’s showing her post-childbirth body like it really is.”
I am not one of those women.
Your selfie is an important document of your birthing process, one that you should keep and treasure. My problem isn’t with how you look in the photo. It isn’t even that you shared your beautiful post-birth shot with the world. My issue lies in your motivation, which I suspect has nothing to do with empowering new moms through inclusive body image.
I see your photo for what it really is: a vanity project. In fairness, you have reason to be vain; your body is toned and slender, your hair sleek, your complexion clear. My first response to your photo isn’t “My goodness, this woman is brave.” It’s “Damn, this woman is smokin’.”
For most new mothers, this is not the comment we’re looking to elicit. We don’t want to compliment our bodies for looking good; we want to compliment our bodies for surviving trauma. For creating life. For not pooping on the delivery table. Your intention may be to “normalize a real body and promote healthy self esteem,” but your post stirs up the opposite reaction.
Oh, your choice of postpartum garb: a black lace bra and matching bikini briefs. No mesh underwear, no pillow-sized pads to catch your postpartum drips, no compression socks, no nursing bra to stave off engorgement as your milk supply comes in. Just a wisp of lace, a hint of nylon, and poof! You’re a freshly-minted MILF, trying to pass off your boudoir photo shoot as a morality tale for the masses. I’m sure all the new moms swathed in plastic underpants and unsnapped hospital gowns are nodding in solidarity.
I don’t begrudge you your figure. It takes a certain amount of self-control and discipline to maintain a svelte pregnancy body while growing a small human inside you, and you’ve clearly earned it. And yes, many women maintain their fitness regiments during pregnancy and practice healthy lifestyles that allow them to bounce back reasonably quickly afterwards.
However, your faint trace of tummy is not relatable to the hordes of new moms whose bodies display actual evidence of having carried and delivered a baby: c-section scars, episiotomy stitches, tearing, collapsed veins, swollen feet, hemorrhoids, flaps of stretched-out skin draped artfully over formerly-taut abs.
When I see your lingerie-clad, blood-sweat-and tears-free body, with blown-out hair and matching accessories, I don’t feel better about myself. I realize that your post-baby body looks way better than my pre-baby body. 24 hours after delivery, I was still recovering from a c-section, nursing round-the-clock, and hadn’t eaten or slept in quite some time. Even if my cell phone still had juice (which it didn’t), I probably wouldn’t have thought to take a selfie. To my relief, I was finally given permission to turn my attention outward instead of inward.
You do raise the valid point about how women are constantly judged by our appearances, and I truly don’t want to join the ranks of bitter, insecure mothers by doing just that. But your glamour-shot-disguised-as-revelation, sans any trace of grit or humility, may do more damage than good to the esteems of so many moms struggling with their changing bodies. I wish you luck on your journey through parenthood- we will always have that in common. But your selfie makes me feel shame.
For both of us.