It’s 2016, and in case you missed it, if you’re pregnant it is no longer enough to be simply growing a mini human inside your womb.
You might literally be growing a pair of eyeballs, a few kidneys and 20 toes while you sleep, but unless you’re up at 5am to run a goddamn marathon, it would seem you have fallen pathetically short.
Enter: The ‘fit mum’.
If you have a little-known app named ‘Instagram‘, you’ve no doubt seen her in her natural habitat.
The pregnancy questions we’ve been too afraid to ask. Post continues below.
She’s six months pregnant, and her stomach looks much like mine after a burger.
She’s always in a bikini, with no stretch marks to be seen.
She’s lifting weights days before giving birth, and SOMEHOW boasts a fully-fledged six pack over the top of her discrete baby bump.
Allow me to demonstrate.
Some days I miss being prego it was around this time last year when I was #36weekspregnant #9months with James A photo posted by ????SARAH STAGE (@sarahstage) on Mar 8, 2016 at 11:45am PST
Medicine Ball Workout! 1.5 weeks till due date! Sports bra: @cakematernity #fitness #bbg #fitnessaddict #instagramfitness #fitgirl #fit #fitfam #fitmom #gym #workout #workouts #booty #cardio #squat #squats #homeworkouts #cardio #hiit #fitpregnancy #fitgirls #tiuteam #fitspo #fitspiration #pregnant #tiu #weightloss #weightlossmotivation #bbggirls #fitpregnancy
The ‘fit mum’ became a cultural talking point two years ago, when Maria Kang, who titles herself as a “fitness philanthropist and social entrepreneur”, released her No Excuse campaign. The poster featured her and her three sons, and was infamously captioned: “What’s your excuse?”
Maria Kang, author of "The No More Excuses Diet". Image via www.mariakang.com.
But, as it turns out, Kang is far from an anomaly. The #fitmom hashtag currently boasts more than eight million posts. Most are images of heavily pregnant women engaging in intense physical activity, or lean, taut tummies.
Sia Cooper, or @diaryofafitmommyofficial, is one such mum. Cooper is a 27-year-old personal trainer and mother of two. Last week she told People magazine:"The day I went into labour, I actually did incline training for an hour along with dumbbell curls and barbell squats...I got a great last workout in before my daughter decided to make her grand appearance!"
Postpartum photo update. 10 days PP, 4lbs away from my pre-pregnancy weight. Feeling great and ready to start up my workouts again. For the last several days, clean eating has been my focus, but I did a light workout today to ease me back into my fitness regimen. I will be starting my Fit For Life workout program in a couple of weeks! Click the link inside my bio to view it. A photo posted by Sia Cooper (@diaryofafitmommyofficial) on May 23, 2016 at 12:43pm PDT
There seems to be something irresponsible about promulgating such a message to over 139, 000 Instagram followers. I have no doubt that women are well and truly capable of critical thinking, but for many women, pregnancy is a particularly vulnerable time. Women are bombarded with conflicting information. Their bodies change drastically over a short period, and control is very much forfeited.
The message seems to be that pregnancy and motherhood are "no excuse" to let oneself go - which in itself is an extremely problematic expression. Throughout our lives priorities are constantly changing, and I'd imagine that a new mother is probably focused on, primarily, keeping her baby alive.
The social impact is one thing, but excessive exercise during pregnancy also carries physical risks. Workouts that are too intense can reduce blood flow to the baby, and doctors recommend that women shouldn't increase or change their exercise regime once they fall pregnant.
In addition - a small baby bump is hardly a sign of health. In fact, some health professionals suggest it could indicate the opposite. According to Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, 30 per cent of women do not gain enough weight during pregnancy, which can lead to stunted fetus development in utero, and even infant mortality during the first year. In fact - one study even indicates that women who do not gain enough weight during pregnancy are more likely to have an overweight child.
Of course - staying fit while pregnant is far from a crime. If these women have practiced rigorous exercise all their lives, then continuing to work out will pose no harm to their babies.
The issue, however, is when we see the saturation of one image over another. And these women are absolutely not the norm.
Big or small, baby bumps are as beautiful and diverse as the mothers who carry them, and the babies within them.