Saturday, August 25, 2012

The New York Times tackles the issue of postpartum bodies

In Celebrity Climate, From Bump to Paunch, Pudgy Moms Can't Get a Break

Although this piece was run almost a week ago, I somehow missed it (despite perusing the NYT daily!).

And I'm honestly not sure what to think.

As someone who approached pregnancy with a great deal of trepidation, having heard more than enough about the horrors of both postpartum bodies and society's expectation that mothers to 'bounce back' ASAP after giving birth, I (admittedly) spent more than my fair share of time googling "Miranda Kerr pregnant" and "Adriana Lima pregnant" during my first trimester.  These image searches returned literally hundreds of hits, and I pored intently over pages of them, searching for signs of irreversible changes to their bodies during and after pregnancy.  There were none to be found, and I crept only slightly reassured into my second trimester after more than doubling the recommended weight gain for the first.  "It can't be so bad," I thought on my good days, "I can still fit into my pants."

It appears I was not alone, either in my morbid fascination with celebrity pregnancies or in the belief that gaining visible non-bump weight was unacceptable.  The author describes her horror being asked by a nail technician when her baby was due - four months after she gave birth.  Although personally comforted by the fact that she was, in fact, forty - two years old and the mother of three home-grown children at that point, she found the task of conveying this to strangers with critical eyes embarrassing.  I spent most of my first thirteen weeks of pregnancy worrying neurotically about how I would respond to such a question, knowing I'd be back at work six weeks after giving birth.  Weighing in at eleven pounds heavier than pre-pregnancy, I rounded the corner on second trimester unable to shut up on my bad days about how terrified I was of returning to work before my body had returned to "normal."  I vowed to gain no more than thirty pounds, finding comfort in the fact that when my grandmothers were pregnant, women were told that they shouldn't gain more than fifteen.  I vowed to start tracking my caloric intake.  And I vowed to work out regularly through as much of my pregnancy as humanly possible.  I was going to do everything I could to avoid being stuck with a postpartum body past my six week maternity leave.

Here's the thing though.  While the shitstorm surrounding Jessica Simpson's seventy pound gain last spring was, in fact, impressively venomous, it was hard to feel all that bad for someone who was a) famous for being famous, and b) openly admitting to eating buttered PopTarts.  The author alludes to this, conceding that "There is no virtue in letting oneself go after giving birth."  Further, "If our livelihood depended on wearing a swimsuit in front of millions, we’d probably put down the doughnut too."  No weight gain goes unnoticed in Hollywood, amongst those who (more than) pay rent with their faces and bodies - why should pregnancy be an exception?  Jessica Simpson posed nude for Elle magazine while pregnant.  By the time the photos were published, it was painfully obvious from her size that they'd been taken months earlier and also heavily 'touched up.'  I'd have pitied her if she weren't trying to use her pregnancy to resurrect her moribund career. 

While the nagging fears of first trimester persisted into the second, I found as it progressed that my mother had been right in saying that the weight gain would slow down.  The workouts I'd sworn to continue had evolved into an honestly enjoyable four to five runs a week, and the calorie - tracking had become more of a means of making sure I consumed enough protein to grow a baby than an attempt to stave off weight gain.  I was more fit than I'd been in years, and eating more healthily than ever before. 

The author laments how society's expectations, dictated by Hollywood starlets with millions to spend on trainers and diets and surgery, have made it hard for ordinary women like herself to feel ok with (much less love) their bodies after giving birth.  It's funny though - as someone who, at thirty-five weeks pregnant, is on track to gain the (medically) recommended amount of weight, I'd venture to say that society is far more forgiving than she thinks.  The sheer number of times a day I hear "you're all belly" or "you've barely gained anything" or "you can't possibly be due in five weeks" leads me to believe that most people expect the pregnant women in their lives to exceed the recommended twenty-five to thirty-five pound gain.  Customers' reactions to the fact that I'm still running lead me to believe that society expects the average pregnant woman to be far more sedentary than the average person (despite official recommendations that all pregnant women exercise for thirty minutes a day, seven days a week).  I've been averaging twenty minutes, four days a week - nothing amazing or extreme.

My point?  While I've done my best to have an active and healthy pregnancy, I haven't exceeded (or even met, in some instances) the official recommendations for all women with uncomplicated pregnancies.  I exercise regularly, but not as much as I should be.  I generally eat healthily, but that hasn't stopped me from indulging in ice cream weekly or eating out more often than I should.  And people are amazed by how little pregnancy has changed my body.  If society's expectations for most of us actually mirrored those they have for Hollywood, this would not be the case. 

Hollywood is, was, and will be Hollywood.  And life for the rest of us is, was, and will likely continue to be just, well, life.  I don't think the two are nearly as entangled as this piece would have us believe they are. 

No comments:

Post a Comment