Just a few days after giving birth to her first baby, a little boy called Arnold, Tiffiny Hall had a choice to make. Would she take the big cheque and the opportunity to super-charge her new business? Or would she be true to herself, her new baby and thousands of other women she didn’t know?
Magazines were calling and waving their chequebooks in her sleep-deprived face. Would she pose for the ubiquitous, “How I Bounced Back After Baby” photo shoot?
There were a few conditions that came with all the offers and the conditions were essentially the same:
- The photos had to be taken before her six-week post-partum check up.
- She had to be wearing swimwear or activewear or underwear….anything where her body and especially her stomach, would be clearly visible to the magazine’s readers.
- She had to have lost the vast majority of her baby weight and her body had to pretty much look like she’d never had a baby inside it. Her stomach had to be, you know, flat.
It’s the same devil’s bargain that’s offered to every famous woman who has a baby. Every one. Many say yes. Maybe they need – or just want – the money. Maybe they feel like it will be motivating. Maybe their career depends on them being seen as slim and sexually attractive and they need the world to know “I’m back in the sexy game” as soon as possible after being so visibly…..maternal-looking for nine months.
All of this could have applied to Tiffiny. Less than a year earlier – right before embarking on an incredibly and unexpectedly tough pregnancy where she vomitted dozens of times a day, every single day, until the moment her baby was born – she had started her own business. TiffXO is an online fitness program and just like any Ladystartup, Tiff needed to market her business and her number one marketing tool was…herself. A splashy feature or cover of a magazine showing how fast she had ‘snapped back’ (shudder) after putting on 30kg during her pregnancy? How good would THAT be for business!
But Tiffiny said no. She told them she would be happy to pose with her baby wearing tracksuit pants and a loose t-shirt because like every new mother, that was her uniform. She might even be able to wash her hair for the shoot as a special treat! 'No thanks' was the response from the magazine. Well, how about she does a story in six months time or so when her body had had time to heal from a brutal pregnancy and a tough birth that included an episiotomy? 'No thanks', the magazines repeated. 'We want you pre-six-week checkup and we want you skinny' or forget about it.
So she forgot about it.
Tiff Hall tells Mia Freedman why she decided to upload those pictures to Instagram. (Post continues after audio.)
Except she didn't because it emphasised to her how damaging this idea of 'bouncing back' is for women. And how the media - and social media - perpetuate this myth of the post-baby body with the emphasis on 'body' instead of 'baby'.
Baby as after-thought. Hot body first.
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.
Here is another kind of now and then, and you know what? I couldn't be happier. I look at Arnold and it's me who created that little Ninja! My body did that. So, the way I see it, I’m the strongest I’ve ever been ???? Ninjas come in all shapes and sizes, the goal is to work on the happy just as much as the fit. It is sooooo important to be happy and healthy and imperative to be a Ninja and to have the support of an amazing community. Today is last day to become a Ninja and I would love it if you would join me getting #happyfit together ????❌ ⭕️️ ~ #tiffxo #thisishappyfit #imadeanArnie #bodylove #ninjascomeinallshapesandsizes #2weekspostpartum
When celebrities get pregnant, they often sign four-part magazine deals. The first part is the pregnancy announcement, next is the halfway interview, then there’s the birth story with newborn pictures and finally, the inevitable “How I Got My Body Back” splash within the first 6-8 weeks. This is that uniquely sadistic type of story where the new mother poses in a bikini with a baby under one arm soon after giving birth, insists she’s too busy to exercise and that the weight just ‘fell off’.
When reality star and former Hugh Hefner girlfriend Kendra Wilkinson had her first baby several years ago, she signed such a deal. However, when it came time to do the ‘My Hot New Baby Body!’ story a few weeks after giving birth, astonishingly, Wilkinson's baby body was neither new nor hot enough. She begged the magazine for more time to lose weight but they refused because the speed with which you ‘bounce back’ has a direct correlation to magazine circulation. There aren't nearly as many (any) sales to be gained from "I Lost Weight Slowly Over A Period Of Two Years After Having My Baby And My Body Still Looks Different And Who Cares Because My Value Is In More Than My Body."
"It’s a huge experience, labor is such an athletic event, there’s a lot of recovery - and that’s why I’ve posted pictures of my body postpartum to show women that we don’t have to bounce back...why do we need to have pressure to do that?” @tiffhall_xo tells @miafreedman on the latest episode of the #NoFilterPodcast Tune in now via the Mamamia podcast app or download via iTunes ????
Don’t worry, the magazine reassured Kendra, we’ll make your weight fall off with a computer. The digitally altered shot of her New Baby Body ran alongside Kendra’s ‘tips’ for losing weight after pregnancy which bore no correlation to the photoshopped images.
I guess Tiffiny could have gone that route too. There would have been immense financial gain for her - in terms of the money offered by the magazines and the instant boost it would have given her business. But what would it have taken to do it? She would have had to sell out her principles and agree to radical Photoshop or else punish, deprive and torture her body with a crash diet and extreme exercise regimen at a time when her baby is depending on her fully as his sole source of food.
I get that many women are keen to lose weight after having a baby but why has ‘getting your body back’ become so fetishised? Why is it portrayed as a more important accomplishment than having the actual baby? Why does weight loss trump maternal mental health or keeping your relationship intact or getting some sleep or working out how to understand a tiny squalling thing whose sole form of communication seems to be producing its own body weight in excrement?
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.
But every time a celebrity like Tiffiny or any woman on social media chooses not to take the money, the attention or the "oh you look so hot!" empty compliments in the comments section and instead be honest about what it's like, what it's REALLY like after you have a baby, well, I reckon that's an act of generosity that deserves our gratitude and applause.
It may just seem like a silly bathroom selfie but what Tiffiny did for other women was so much more than that. And in the process? She now has a legion of new fans, followers and women who think she's almost as great as little Arnold does.
For more body realness, check out Mia Freedman's #confrontingstomach hashtag on Instagram and read the story behind how her stomach was called "confronting" by the Daily Mail here.
You can listen to Mia Freedman's full interview with Tiffiny Hall here. (Post continues after audio.)
Mia Freedman is the co-founder of Mamamia Women's Media Company. She is a proud patron for Rize Up, the charity supporting women and children fleeing from domestic violence, an ambassador for Share The Dignity, the charity which provides sanitary products to vulnerable women who are homeless, disadvantaged or the victims of domestic violence and an ambassador for Sydney Dogs and Cats home, a no-kill shelter where thousands of animals are rehomed with forever families. She is also a proud supporter of Ladystartups, an initiative she began to support women who have started their own business.
She is the author of the best-selling book Work Strife Balance for every woman who feel like she's the only one not coping (you're not) and the host and co-host of three podcasts: No Filter, Mamamia Outloud and Tell Me It's Going To Be OK (even though Trump is President).