Yesterday, Hilaria Baldwin, yoga instructor and wife of Alec Baldwin, shared a picture of herself in the hospital 24 hours after giving birth to her third child, a son named Leonardo.
While she first made sure to say that posting such selfies makes her “nervous,” she feels it’s important to do what she can to “normalize a real body and promote healthy self esteem.” From there, she went on to issue a call-out for her followers to join her in her challenge of “getting back in shape.”
Listen, I don’t begrudge Baldwin’s decidedly in-shape body, nor her lacy black lingerie in the hospital, but I do think her selfies point out a larger problem: that women still feel the need to focus first and foremost on how they look, even within hours of giving birth, while saying it’s a matter of “health.”
Baldwin is no stranger to the selfie, sharing many different images of herself during her pregnancy — and she’s not alone. Many other celebrities post glamour shots of themselves right after giving birth. Usually, the captions focus on health and how women can love themselves right into a better body with just a little bit of inspiration. But even though they are talking about “eating clean” or “living healthier,” they are still putting forth their best images — no bleeding pads or mesh panties in sight — to pair with those words.
Naturally, the message seems to get lost in translation when the focus of everyone’s attention gets stuck on how good that particular mom looks.
Now, I’m not saying that motherhood turns you into a monster and ruins your body. I’m not saying that you have to look like crap when you go through labor. I’m not even saying that only rolls and cellulite make you a “real” mother.
But I am saying, can we please, for the love of all that is good, not perpetuate the message that what you look like after birth even matters at all? Because it truly does not matter and I wish so badly that women, most of whom struggle their whole lives against the notion that their self-worth lies in their appearance, didn’t feel the need to waste their time worrying about how they look after giving birth.
These kinds of glamorous post-birth selfies shared on social media just are not necessarily.
You want to talk about health? Let’s talk about health. Let’s talk about what it takes to eat healthy when you’re so tired you can’t think straight.
Let’s talk about how you fit in exercise with a baby and no money for a babysitter.
Let’s talk about the fact that you know what? You don’t have to look like a supermodel if it’s not your job. You’re allowed to exist with a few extra pounds on your body and you are even (gasp) allowed to be happy even if you happen to be overweight at the moment.
You are allowed to do what you need to do to feel good in your own skin. But in general, that doesn’t mean you need to snap a picture of yourself hours after birth to share with the world, because I promise, motherhood is about so much more than how you look in your underwear.
I think that all of us know instinctively that every mother is different. All of us know a mom who had flat abs after giving birth and all of us know a few moms who still look pregnant, even though their “baby” is three years old. We all have different body shapes, strengths, struggles, and appearances. We know this and we do not need selfies to teach us this. Instead of spreading an encouraging message, I can’t help but wonder if this new trend of post-birth selfies is simply reinforcing the message to women that appearance is our #1 priority, even after birth — except now it’s wrapped up in a shiny new “inspirational” package.
I’m no stranger to posting about my own body-image issues postpartum, but I still wonder if these immediate post-birth selfies are getting out of hand. Current mothers certainly don’t benefit from seeing postpartum selfies that don’t represent their own bodies and pregnant mothers can’t possibly know what to expect from their own journey, so it may get discouraging to see how different your own body will look. Add in that social media can be extremely deceiving, full of angles and filters and Photoshopping, and it can be hard to know what’s “real” and what’s not.
At the end of the day though, there is no such thing as a “real” post-birth or postpartum selfie, because the truth is, every woman is different. No picture can accurately represent what that journey will look like for the woman who has postpartum depression or the woman struggling with breastfeeding or the single mother or the mother with medical needs. The only thing real is what’s real for you.
Baldwin’s reality may be looking thin and perfect after birth and that’s great for her, but how is that helping other women? My reality may be looking like a train rolled over my stomach and left it ten feet in front of me on the floor after birth, but again, how is that going to help another woman? No photo of a person in their underwear — mesh or not — can accurately show how healthy they are.
So from now on, the only postpartum selfie I am interested in seeing is one that highlights the truth about a healthy recovery after birth: a woman sleeping, resting, eating nourishing foods, and not giving a crap what she looks like because she already knows that motherhood looks pretty darn good on her no matter what.