By Mary Elizabeth Williams June 1, 2012 9:30PM
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13: Beyonce Knowles attends the J.Crew Spring 2012 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at The Stage at Lincoln Center on September 13, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\124833753.jpg
Updated: June 2, 2012 4:02PM
Dear New Celebrity Mom:
I understand your desire to get your famously hot body back. Even we mere mortals, who somehow managed to get impregnated despite never once making it to the Maxim 100, have gazed longingly at our pre-pregnancy pants and yearned to set our draw-stringed maternity clothes on fire. And we never had to get in shape for a Victoria’s Secret show.
So, Beyonce and company, I can only imagine the disconnect you feel, seeing yourself all squishy after having that baby of yours, and the pressure you must be under. But I am begging you all, knock it off. The world already will hold you under a cruel microscope the second you dare to step out in public. So, Miss Sasha Fierce, you don’t have to joke, as you did last weekend, “Y’all have no idea how hard I worked! I had to lose 60 pounds. They had me on that treadmill. I ate lettuce!”
This is what one does after having a baby: One gets on a treadmill and eats lettuce.
The stampede from sexy, pregnant and naked on a magazine cover to instant bikini body has become a celebrity rite of passage. Last year, Mariah Carey promptly flaunted her abs for Shape after giving birth to her twins. After having her two children, Melissa Joan Hart dropped down to 113 pounds and did the bikini cover for People. Jamie Pressly did one for Shape. Kendra Wilkinson did it for OK! a mere eight weeks after giving birth.
Elisabeth Hasselback appeared on Fitness, swearing she “lost weight without dieting.” Jennifer Lopez showed up on Us, smiling that she had her “best body ever” after her twins. And Heidi Klum, a multi-time champion of the Skinny Mom Olympics, did a Victoria’s Secret show five weeks after having her daughter Lou.
At five weeks after giving birth, you’re still sitting on inflatable donuts. If you’re breastfeeding, your rack is engorged, and your nipples are cracked and caked with Lansinoh. Your abs look like raw pizza dough. And if you don’t have a personal trainer, it’s going to be like this for a while. That’s the reality of new motherhood.
So what’s the hurry? You could instead be like former Shape magazine cover girl Jenna Fischer, who, after the birth of her son last fall, sanely said:
“There’s so much pressure on you as a new mom that the last thing you need to have hanging over your head is some expectation of what your body is supposed to look like. I actually think that the scrutiny of new mothers’ bodies has gotten out of control. . . . . Who cares if our boobs are hanging low and we have a little more junk in the trunk? We created a human being, everybody. Let’s celebrate!
A woman can have a baby and, in time, be just as fit as she was before. But it’s not a competition. It’s not a race. And the tabloid obsessiveness about mothers and their bodies — and the celebrity culture that feeds into it — is not just unnatural, it’s unhealthy.
It tells women that their value in the world, even after the miracle of childbirth, is always exactly how attractive they are. Right after having a child, any woman — even Beyonce herself — should be entitled to a little extra jelly.
Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon, where this essay was posted.