In our 24-hour, bloggy, never-stopping, celebrity-saturated culture, which seems obsessed with the "baby bump" hunt, it's hard to be pregnant without knowing which stars you are pregant "with."
My first time around, I was pregnant at the same time as Jessica Alba, who I'd previously given little to no thought to. But knowing we were due around the same date, I felt warm feelings toward her knowing we were both having this experience, pseudo-together. Her daughter was born just a few days before my son … and three months later she was photographed in a bikini frolocking in the waves looking just as fit as before the baby. And I kind of wanted to kill her. But whatever, I was just enjoying my baby, not embarking on a "321 Baby Bulge Be Gone" plan. (No, really, that's what it was called.)
This time, 3.5 years later, I was way too busy (and way too realistic) to care that much about how the stars' lives were aligning with my life. I didn't even realize until baby Blue Ivy was born just a few days after my second son that Beyonce and I had been due at the same time. I mean, I noticed when she announced her pregnancy during her performance at the VMAs, but she was coy about due dates, and I had too much going on to try to do the math.
I expected to see her on some magazine cover a few weeks later showing off her miracle post-baby figure (and I was dreading that day), but that didn't happen. I was impressed when the first pictures of the baby showed up on Tumblr instead of some staged tabloid cover. She looked great at her public appearances, don't get me wrong, but even her see-through dress at the Metropolitan Gala was corset-friendly. Not something the average mom could get away with, but in celebrity land, almost realistic.
This weekend, her maternity leave ended, as she kicked off her tour with four performances at Revel in Atlantic City. She might not have been frolicking in the waves, but it certainly looks like she was frolicking on stage -- and like she's been working out hard core in preparation for the tour. She reportedly told audiences over the weekend that she'd been working hard, eating lettuce and hitting the treadmill, to get her body back in shape for the skimpy costumes.
As it turns out, our maternity leaves wrapped up at about the same time. She looks awesome. I look like … a woman who just had a baby a few months ago. And that's OK. But I can't say that there isn't still the instinct to compare, to beat myself up for not hitting the gym more, for not eating better the past few months. (It didn't help my self-esteem much when some jerk found some of my pictures online from a formal event I went to with my husband in April, barely four months post-partum, and made a horrendously offensive comment that I can't repeat but that can be paraphrased as, "Yep, you're fat." Deleted and blocked, of course, but I wanted to say, "Don't you see the BABY in all the other pictures, you troll?")
So yes, it's part of Beyonce's job (and Jessica Alba's job and all these other stars' jobs) to look good. So these celebrities must feel like they have to do these crazy things to get back into shape in no time at all. This is just one of many, many times that I'm glad my job doesn't hinge on my looks or my shape. But these post-baby articles set an expectation not only among celebrities, but also among average women that getting your body back fast fast fast is supposed to be a goal, and that to do so quickly is somewhat normal.
It's not, and it's dangerous, and it's yet another thing that can make a new mom feel bad about herself. Especially one without a cadre of nannies and personal trainers and with a real, regular life and a real, regular body. Especially one who is trying to focus on her baby and her family and not how her pre-baby jeans are fitting.
Forbes had a great article by Liz Garcia a couple of weeks ago that said that the obsession with celebrities' post-baby bodies is a further step in the war on women:
Scrutinizing these women, praising them for rapid weight loss, stalking them in the weeks after their babies are born (or, in the case of poor Jessica Simpson, stalking her every outing up 'til and including her arrival at the hospital this morning to give birth to daughter Maxwell), it all sends the message that a) their bodies are objects for public consumption and judgement b) that sort of weight loss is an option for every woman and c) that it's something to aspire to. That, three weeks after having a baby, when most of us are still learning how to breastfeed, and some of us still can't move around without assistance, we should be aspiring to weight loss.
It's a great read; I highly recommend it, and it helped me direct my criticism at celebrity culture and its obsession with women's bodies rather than at myself. I'll let Beyonce do her job, and I'll do mine and leave the comparisons behind. As much as I can.