Kim Kardashian and Everything That's Wrong with Postpartum Body ImageMorgan Shanahan
Over the weekend, I was catching up on the breaking news in the supermarket checkout lane when I spotted it: An old photo of brand-new mom Kim Kardashian emerging from a swimming pool in a bikini, airbrushed to high heaven, with a headline alleging, “I GOT MY BODY BACK!”
Sometimes, I feel like, as regular women, we are locked in this battle with the tabloid machine for our own sanity and body image. Am I being dramatic? Not really.
Once upon a time, women had babies during the allotted reproductive years and postpartum moms weren’t expected to squeeze into Spanx before their lady bits had healed. But then, as science caught up with our imaginations, those for whom money was no object were able to circumvent those tried-and-true human traditions. And the tabloid machine became increasingly obsessed with those women, whether or not they had done anything newsworthy at all. Pregnant at 46? No problem. Back to work seven days after bringing your baby home? Hire a night nurse, get an industrial strength breast pump, build a nursery in your office, and suck it up, woman. This is, after all, the age of having it all.
My best friend ran through both of her pregnancies and never broke 30 pounds of weight gain. Within a week she was back to her pre-pregnancy weight but had to borrow my jeans for a few months until her hips shrunk back to their original position. My labor buddy (our first babies were born on the same day while we texted in solidarity) has skin elasticity like I’ve never seen and hopped on the INSANITY train after her second child was born. Six months later, she could rock the cover of Fitness magazine with the best of them. And basically every other woman I have ever met who has borne a child fared worse on recovery time than those two very hardworking and genetically blessed friends of mine. I’m not saying every woman who has borne a child is wrecked beyond repair. Stretch marks fade, weight can be lost, and YES, most of us get our bodies back eventually. But this Star magazine cover? It’s not doing postpartum mothers any favors. Or mothers in general. Or would-be mothers. It’s not doing women as a whole any favors because it is a bold faced lie that supports this crazy damaging myth that having a child is not a life-altering experience. It is. It deserves to be.
I gave birth on a Thursday. In the days leading up to labor, I had been working my butt off to cram in one last screenwriting pitch. I really wanted to land this book adaptation I was up for, and I wasn’t going to start my life as a parent by sacrificing my own dreams. When labor started I called my agent’s assistant to cancel the meetings I had scheduled that day, and insisted that while I’d give myself TWO WHOLE WEEKS before rescheduling the general lunch I had been planning to do at nine months pregnant, I wanted to pitch on the adaptation the following Monday.
Four days later, boobs leaking, Percocet keeping me from feeling the stitches holding my nether regions together, I locked myself in my daughter’s nursery (living in a two-bedroom, I no longer had a home office) and held at least three executives hostage through what had to be the most unintelligible pitch in Hollywood history. When I nearly fell asleep in my quinoa scramble at the lunch meeting two weeks later, the producer I was meeting with, a successful tour-de-force in chick flicks with two kids and nearly two decades on me, put her hand on my arm and said: “Honey, you need to go home and bond with your baby. Hollywood will be here.” The meeting became about something else entirely.
The thing is, what Kim Kardashian has allegedly done is no different. It’s her JOB to look good. She’s a trendsetter. A mega-influencer. A celebrity for celebrity’s sake. In order to lose 50 pounds in 40 days, Kim had to have gotten back to work IMMEDIATELY after giving birth. She would have had to instruct her personal chef to keep her menu limited to 1200 calories a day from the start. (Which, for a breastfeeding mother, is the equivalent of 700 calories a day — only slightly more than I personally stuck to while being shot up with daily hormones on the HCG diet before my wedding when I lost 30 pounds in 22 days. And I felt and looked like I was going to die in the process.) During the most physically and mentally fragile time of her life, if Star mag is to be believed, Kim is pushing her body to the brink and being celebrated for it. (I have no idea what Kim’s workout regime has been, but many OBs recommend waiting 3-6 weeks to resume regular exercise after a vaginal child birth, for the uninitiated.)
We’re not doing ourselves any favors with headlines like these, Women of Earth. Having my first baby changed my life in amazing — and terrifying — ways, but most of all I learned the very hard way that motherhood isn’t something to be penciled in on your agenda. There’s no need to shorten our maternity leave. There’s no need to spend less time bonding with our babies. There’s no need to starve ourselves and drive ourselves half-crazy for fear of doing a lap on the Mommy Track. There are enough unattainable ideals without putting more pressure on our reproductive successes/failures/fallout.
This isn’t the first time the tabloid machine has thrown fuel on this fire. Below, 10 other instances of potentially dangerous celebrity aspiration.