If you follow a female celebrity who happens to be a new mother of any age, you’ve likely witnessed the post-baby-body craze taking over social media.
Post-baby diets and workout routines dominate tabloid stories, and models, celebrities and social media figures are known for racing to flaunt their quickly lost baby weight.
High-profile women have amazed fans with their incredible waists and taut stomachs by employing strict trainers, like Kim Kardashian’s Melissa Alcantara, following the Dukan diet or by religiously using waist trainers, as Khloe Kardashian did.
These female celebrities are only a few of the many whose names and photos are plastered on Snapchat headlines. And although the work that the women put into their bodies is worth praising, the monster of social media is in the process of creating a post-baby bragging culture.
For the sole purpose of making news, paparazzi follow and antagonize new mothers to get a glimpse at the progress of their “post-baby bodies.”
But in the meanwhile, a lot of celebrity and non-celebrity women have openly embraced the less picture-perfect side of their postpartum bodies by sharing unedited, real photos of themselves after pregnancy, effectively balancing the disproportionate amount of “flawless” figures on Instagram and Snapchat.
Beyoncé, in an interview with Vogue, unashamedly said: “I have a little mommy pouch, and I’m in no rush to get rid of it. I think it’s real.” The hashtag #PostpartumBelly on Twitter is filled with encouragement by mothers for mothers explaining that there’s no shame in being unable to bounce back to your prior weight shortly after having a baby.
In July, Victoria’s Secret model Candice Swanepoel responded to those who criticized her for wearing a bikini following the birth of her son, Ariel.
On her Instagram Story, the model said: “This is me 12 days after having my son. If you have something bad to say about it … check yourself. Society can be so cruel to one another. Beauty standards are sometimes impossible for women these days.”
Swanepoel didn’t hesitate from also reminding the public of the wonder of childbirth and the idiocy of ridiculing a postpartum mother. “I’m not ashamed to show my postpartum tummy. I am proud actually,” she said. “I carried my son for nine months in there. I think I’ve earned the right to have a little tummy.”
Amid two vastly different mommy movements, it’s important to know five things about postpartum journeys that aren’t always explained on social media.
1. Dieting and Fitness Can Only Do So Much
View this post on Instagram
Am I ever going to be on the cover of a fitness magazine? Probably not. . . Do I think more people with stretch marks and “real postpartum” bods should be better represented on magazines and in society? Heck yes! . . Can we still have that magazine cover photo confidence and a “mom bod”? YES!!! . . No matter what shape, size, color, figure, or whatever we are, we let’s feel comfortable in our own skin, love who we are for what we are right now, not what we wish we could be! . . Be the star of your own LIFE magazine! Stand up and be proud! Love your bod and know you rock! #takebackpostpartum #diastasisrecti #stretchmarks #fitnessmodel 📷: @oohlalaaphotography
The health and fitness journeys of celebrities postpartum are equally inspiring to other mothers as they are to men and people without children. Eating healthily and being a fit individual is mentally and physically restorative after the stress of being pregnant and for some women serves as an outlet during a time of crisis.
Even perfect fitness, however, cannot undo some of the physical aspects of pregnancy, including stretch marks and sagging breast tissue.
Although eating well and exercising are a great choice for mothers and new babies, those steps alone usually won’t completely restore a body to the way it was before pregnancy, despite what Instagram models want you to believe.
2. Postpartum Plastic Surgery Is More Common Than You Think
For some women, plastic surgery is the best way to restore confidence after childbirth. Liposuction, tummy tucks, breast lifts, repigmentation, vaginal reconstruction and reduction of stretch marks are all procedures included in what some companies call “mommy makeovers.”
Recently, on Instagram Live, Cardi B admitted she’s considering liposuction to help restore the body she had before her baby. She said, “I still feel like I got a lot of love handles… It’s not much but it’s like — I’m used to having, like, a real tight stomach.”
“Mommy jobs” sometimes get a bad rap for suggesting that mother’s bodies need some kind of renovation, but Melissa Doft, a clinical assistant professor of surgery from Weill Cornell Medical School, acknowledges on her website that plastic surgery is about restoration and confidence.
But the problem with such surgeries, comparable to any other solution, is that they are not permanent if the patient plans on having more children in the future.
3. Many Women Embrace the Bodies They Have
In the midst of all the postpartum bragging on Instagram, it’s important to also see posts and stories of mothers who are unafraid of society’s impossible standards and that refuse to feel ashamed of their body’s battle scars. Plenty of women learn to employ self-love by accepting what it means to be a mother, body changes and all.
Because women in the limelight have the opportunity to make use of fitness coaches, waist trainers and cosmetic surgeries, there are added pressures and expectations on mothers who view such images online and don’t realize that their postpartum journeys won’t be as glamorous or easy as those with more money and more influence.
As with all things, social media can be a green monster of envy, increasing body expectations through edited Instagram photos of people who most will never meet.
But social media has also become a platform for women to stand together and share the ups and downs of being a mother in the modern world. Through hashtags such as #PostpartumBelly, mothers can help one another not be discouraged by their reality after delivery.
If bouncing back is an inspiration to women aspiring in fitness and health, then unabashedly accepting your postpartum self is an inspiring lesson for anyone in the world of self-love.
4. Postpartum Is Powerful
View this post on Instagram
I have seriously tried to post this picture maybe 4 or 5 times? Every time I close out of Instagram, feeling sick to my stomach. This is my postpartum body. Being plus size, I was already insecure about my stomach. I was already overweight and wasn’t where I wanted to be health wise. Then, I got pregnant. And I knew I was only going to get bigger. I struggled with my pregnant body but soon accepted it and truly began to love it. Around 34 weeks, I felt my skin stretching and getting itchy. I couldn’t imagine my stomach growing much more. But it did. 5 months after the birth of my baby girl, this is what I’m left with. Extra flab. Twisting and winding stretch marks. Love handles. A droopy belly button. And a handful of insecurity. I’ve started dieting and (hopefully soon- motivation where you at?) exercising. I took this picture to be my “before” shot. But as I stared at it more in disgust, the more I found myself shutting the inner me up. I grew a human being inside of this body! I nourished her and kept her safe. I changed my entire diet and gave myself shots for her. And this body continues to nourish her as we have been exclusively breastfeeding for 5 months now. I am beyond thankful for this belly of flub. I’m thankful for every stretch mark and every roll. My body is a bad ass. And no one can change that. • • #takebackpostpartum #mypostpartumjourney #mommyvlogger #momblogger
One of the most important parts of the divide in the world of mothers is that neither choice is less empowering. If a woman chooses to embrace the marks and scars on their body as evidence of the love, time and life energy they dedicated to ensuring the healthy development of their baby, then they are the picture of strength and nurture.
However, a woman who chooses to give herself over to fitness or to spend money on surgery that makes the mother feel her best and gives her confidence, then she is no less powerful and nurturing. Both decisions are postpartum and by nature carry the bravery and achievement of one of humankind’s most incredible abilities: creating life.
5. At the End of The Day, It’s an Extremely Personal Choice
Ultimately, whether mothers choose to strive for a body comparable to the one they had before giving birth or embrace the changes that happened with pride, it’s their decision alone, and no one’s right to ridicule or shame.
No matter how transparent social media makes people’s lives, it’s never the place for anyone else to assess the success or progress of a mother’s body after she grows a tiny human for nine months and then gives her life to nourishing and raising it.
Every woman’s postpartum journey is her own, and there’s no “right” or “wrong” decision when it comes to doing what makes you feel most comfortable.