Yesterday an ad popped up in my Facebook feed suggesting that I “commit to [my] pre-baby body.” The ad, the ilk of which I have been seeing since a few years ago when my friends started having children and posting pictures of them on Facebook (I am smack in the midst of an extreme baby marketing segment of the population, following years of being inundated by the wedding industry), featured a woman with washboard abs doing a pushup, smiling at a happy baby next to her.
Today I saw another ad with the same message encouraging me to “get that pre-baby body back,” showcasing a pretty blonde in perfectly formed side-plank next to a muscle-y headless hunk holding a bouncing bundle of baby.
I get it. Since about 3 weeks postpartum, I was ready to get back to my regular workout routine. I wanted very much to shed the baby weight and slide back into pants without an elastic waistband (Disclosure: That’s not entirely true. I think yoga pants should be perfectly acceptable attire for any occasion, but that’s just me in general, unrelated to pregnancy). I applaud my fellow writers who are seriously committing to being fit and healthy. And yes, there are things about my pre-baby body that I miss (remember sprinting without peeing a little? Those were the days, I tell you!). But the more I think about it, the more I am troubled by marketing that suggests I should be obsessed with a “pre-baby body.”
The truth is, if you have had a baby, there is no such thing as returning to a pre-baby body. Further, the suggestion that the next step, after going through the metamorphosis of growing another person (or two or three…) inside one’s body, ejecting said person (people) out of one’s body, not to mention the whole child-rearing thing, is to snap back into the shape of someone who has never gone through such an experience is both preposterous and insulting and dangerous.
Let’s consider the latter, shall we? What are we saying when we tell someone to commit to a pre-baby body? What are we asking of ourselves when we internalize the notion that the ideal physical form is one that has never had a baby in the first place?
Committing to a pre-baby body means erasing the experience of pregnancy, the journey where motherhood begins. It means feeling ashamed of our battle scars – the widened hips that made room for growing life, the breasts that have nourished our children, the stretch marks that came as a result of the incredibly quick changes our bodies went through over a relatively short period of time. It means an ever increasing anxiety over struggling to balance the addition of one or more people in our lives — people wholly dependent on us for survival — along with work, partners, cooking dinner, writing for a blog (!), mowing the lawn, trying to keep up a social life, a church life, etc. with finding time to hit the gym in an attempt to reach an impossible ideal.
We come from a long standing tradition of shaming women for their bodies that continues today. This marketing to moms telling women they should return to their “pre-baby bodies” only reinforces the destructive myth that we have been used and damaged, that we are somehow wrecked. This lie is the language of oppression and it doesn’t serve us.
Nevermind the pre-baby body. I’m going to commit to my post-baby body, for all its worth.