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Why The Obsession With Baby Weight Hurts All Mothers

In her recent Forbes article, “Baby Boom: Who Really Wins The Baby Weight Game?” Anushay Hossain writes about our cultural obsession with “bouncing back” from pregnancy vis-a-vis the massive criticism Bollywood icon Aishwariya Rai drew for not losing baby weight fast enough:

“Now not only do we expect celebrities to show no evidence of having grown a human being in their body, we expect the same of ourselves. The price of failure? Scrutiny and shame. While regular folks suffer in the hands of friends and family, celebrities suffer in our hands… When Rai failed to drop her pregnancy pounds fast enough for her fans, the wrath unleashed upon her was loud and clear. The news even made headlines beyond India in Western press.

Ironically, the disappointment and disgust people seemed to direct at Rai demonstrated more about ourselves than it revealed about her… If this much pressure is put on us to lose weight, where is the time to celebrate what we have just accomplished?”

When you give birth it’s a monumental life-altering, stunning and physically profound and body-quaking process. It’s not a day or an “event” it’s a process: The physical and emotional transformation for women takes much more than 40 weeks. We’re often told that babies have a “fourth trimester,” but so do moms. That baby may be out, but there’s still a very intertwined physiological process taking place between mother and baby’s bodies.

I get into this because I find it so depressing to think about the pressure on women to give birth and then be “back” to their “pre-pregnant” shape as soon as (in)humanly possible. It happens right out of the gate, right as you’re falling in love with you baby and coping with so many new things. You can’t go back. You will never be pre-pregnant. But you did so much work to get here, no? Maybe, as Hossain suggests, a bit of celebration is in order? An acknowledgement of how impressive you are/your maternal body is.

I don’t want push a kind of overzealous, unreasonable amounts of self-love here. I get it. It’s tough, especially, at first. And if adolescence has taught us anything it’s that it’s awkward to inhabit a changing body. But our culture has gone way too far. We all have to collectively inch a little closer to some kind of reasonable appreciation of what we are and what we are capable of doing.

Here’s Dr. Jessica Zucker, one of my favorite writers on the psychology of new motherhood, talking about the politics of the postpartum body:

“The intimacy I experienced with my body and my developing baby during pregnancy was perhaps the most compelling transformation I have ever known. It became, in a way, a metaphor for how I feel about parenthood — a striking awareness of loss of control, simultaneity of surrendering to change on a moment-to-moment basis while experiencing more joy and more fear than the heart can contain. Pregnancy and parenthood invoke an unprecedented heightening of anxiety — excruciating awareness of vulnerability, altering one’s perspective on the fragility of life, as well as a depth of love that redefines the concept. Why would we erase all of this complexity- the physical and psychological makings and markings of pregnancy and parenthood?”

Indeed.

Hossein finishes her piece by saying that she had to make a conscious decision not to internalize negative messages about her maternal body. It sucks that we have to put up that kind of fight, but we do. And I think it’s worth it.
For some inspiration:

Anushay Hossain’s Baby Boom: Who Really Wins the Baby Weight Game?

Jessica Zucker’s The Politics of Postpartum Bodies

Also check out TheShapeofAMother.com to see the vast array of experiences, shapes and sizes.

 

Ceridwen Morris (CCE) is a certified childbirth educator and the co-author of the pregnancy and parenting book From The Hips. Follow her blogging on Facebook.

 

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