by MIA FREEDMAN
I don’t know about you guys but straight after I have a baby, all I want to do is put on a bikini and high heels and have my photo taken for a magazine. I like to do this soon after coming home from hospital, even before my internal stitches have dissolved. Baby? Oh yeah. She’s around here somewhere but have you seen my abs? Let me tell you all about them along with my meal plan and how much weight I’ve lost. And have you met my personal trainer? He’s changed my life. Along with, you know, the baby who is also great obviously. So should I put on a different bikini for the cover?
Baby as after-thought. This is the perverse way we now see famous new mothers through the warped prism of air-brushed bikini covers and diet plan endorsement deals. The moment a celebrity pregnancy is announced, magazines and weight loss executives hurriedly write giant cheques while salivating over the fresh new-mother meat coming their way. Meat they can turn into money.
Let’s be honest, this whole post-baby-body caper is morally dodgy and a little bit weird.
Earlier this month, Katie Couric’s new TV show, Katie, premiered with a world exclusive interview. This was a big gig and a prestigious one. Couric could have interviewed anyone. So who did she chose? Jessica Simpson. And what was the exclusive? The ‘reveal’ of Simpson’s post-baby body. Not even her baby. Her body.
Yes, this is now officially a thing. We are unveiling women’s bodies to the world like new model iphones.
“I’m very nervous!” admitted Simpson after slowly walking the length of the studio to rapturous applause. “I just had a lot of pressure on me to lose the baby weight”. Possibly, she was referring to the US$3m deal she signed with Weight Watchers soon after conception. “Today was one of my goals: getting here, feeling comfortable. I feel beautiful today!” she declared, looking expectantly at the audience who cheered her wildly by way of confirmation.
Wait, what? We’re clapping the new mother for losing weight. Ok. That’s not at all strange.
“You’ve lost like 40 lbs, right?” asked Couric. “More” corrected Jessica triumphantly. “Can you tell me…?” probed Couric as if she was interviewing a world leader about something important. “No” replied Simpson with a coy smile confirming further world exclusives are available for sale. It’s understandable, this desire to keep a few lucrative‘reveals’ stashed in her Spanx because as Simpson explained, she doesn’t receive her Weight Watchers payola until she hits her goal weight. How’s that for a carrot? Literally.
Please join me in a helicopter for a moment to hover over this whole situation because from up here, it looks a lot like madness.
Are we seriously unwrapping new mothers’ bodies like Christmas presents to be held up and admired? And when exactly did a new mother’s body become something to be bought and sold by media outlets and weight loss companies?
Plainly, I have no beef with any woman, famous or not, doing whatever she likes with her post-baby-body, including and especially, resting it on a soft surface and passing out with her maternity bra open, norks flapping in the breeze. I did rather a lot of that in the early months. Whatever gets you through, sister.
So sure, I get that many women are keen to lose weight after having a baby but why has ‘getting your body back’ become so fetishised by the media? Why is it publicly feted as a more important accomplishment than having the actual baby? Why does weight loss trump maternal mental health or keeping your relationship intact or working out how to understand a tiny squalling thing whose sole form of communication seems to be producing its own body weight in poo?
And what sadist decided the “best” way to approach new motherhood is by exercising and dieting like a maniac until you resemble a Victoria’s Secret model? Even if you weren’t one before.
Jessica Simpson enthuses that “anybody can do what I’m doing” but then admits she works out with her celebrity trainer 4-5 times a week and wears a pedometer to ensure she walks more than 17 miles a day.
Pink, doing interviews to promote her new album, keeps getting waylaid with incessant questions about “getting her body back’. She revealed she’s worked out twice a day since her baby was eight weeks old. Kate Hudson says she had to work out six hours a day after giving birth so she’d be ‘red-carpet’ ready.
This is the point at which the men reading this column can no longer contain themselves. “For heaven’s sake, silly women!” they shout. “Why compare yourself to these celebrities? There’s no red carpet in your home! Paparazzi aren’t following you round the supermarket!” Too right. Good points you make there, Men. Pity then that this comparison takes place on a subliminal level without direct input from us. Somehow, maddeningly, all this body-after-baby nonsense has seeped into our collective consciousness and recalibrated our ideas about What To Expect Immediately After You’ve Finished Expecting. At least there’s not a bikini on the cover of that book. Yet.