Pregnancy and Post-Pregnancy Selfies: Hurting or Helping Moms?
I remember looking through old pictures long ago and seeing a snapshot of my mother when she was pregnant with me—my dad being the photographer. She was glowing, her hand on her belly and turned sideways for maximum impact. The only real difference between her pregnancy pictures 34 years ago and mine today is the ubiquitous cell phone in my hand … and, of course, a mirror.
Where there is social media, there are selfies; where there are pregnant bellies, there are pregnant-belly selfies. And now, where there are post-pregnancy bellies (whether toned or scarred), there are post-pregnancy-belly selfies.
Social media has changed pregnancy, childbirth, and new motherhood in many ways, but body image during and following pregnancy has been in the news lately. Maria Kang, mom of three, posted a shot of her washboard abs while she was surrounded by her kiddos, ages 2, 3, and 8 months—a post that got her temporarily banned from Facebook. Fitness blogger Caroline Berg Eriksen was under fire late last year after she posted an Instagram shot of a skinny, perfect body supposedly three days after giving birth. Even Princes Kate was criticized for a flat belly three months after giving birth to Prince George. (Not long after, she was celebrated for seeming “normal” just after his birth.)
If pregnant selfies (and post-pregnancy selfies) make us so uncomfortable, why do we continue taking them and liking, sharing, and commenting on others' pics (either positively or negatively)? Some say it’s because the images surround us every day, making them nearly impossible to ignore. Others, like blogger Stephanie Dulli, say it’s because women determine their worth by beauty. She commented in a CNN article, “It’s culturally ingrained in us that our worth is graded by our beauty … The first thing that’s said to us is, ‘Aren’t you cute? Aren’t you pretty?’”
In my own life, the pregnancy selfie has taken on a different form. I used it to document my second and—most likely—last pregnancy. Before I became pregnant, I lost almost 30 pounds naturally, and looking back on pictures is the only way to see the change in my body. I remember how good it felt to be able to button my pants after I had my son, and if I had Instagram way back then, I probably would have taken a selfie of that moment, too. I believe women can't turn away from pregnancy and post-pregnancy selfies because the feeling of transforming into a pregnant woman and then into a new mother is universal to all pregnancies, and seeing others in the same spot can help us feel a little less alone in the whole process.
I asked a few friends about their thoughts and was surprised to find they weren’t nearly as concerned about the “celebrity” and “fit mom” weight-loss selfies as some news articles may lead us to believe.
Elisabeth Arthur, West Virginia mom of two, recently lost almost 50 pounds, and said these post-pregnancy selfies made her feel better, not worse. “Seeing everyday women who don’t have the luxury of a personal trainer or chef be able to lose weight on their own is what helped me! Granted, I waited almost three years after my youngest was born to start losing the weight, but knowing that it was possible without the ‘Hollywood luxuries’ was such an empowering feeling!”
Greta Funk, blogger and mother of four, thinks the personal aspect of social media trumps the mainstream media’s view of bouncing back from pregnancy weight. “It’s so much better than just seeing the celebrities in magazines, who take all of a week to get back into shape. Now, on social media, I see beautiful, real pregnant bodies, and beautiful, real new mamas with their newborns.” (P.S. Greta is wrapping up her own 2013 fitness journey with more than 500 miles under her belt; She will be running a half marathon in early 2014!)
Liz Jostes, mom of two and social media consultant from Memphis, said, “I still feel like there's a lot more ‘good' than ‘bad' out there. From following others' DIY-fitness journeys, to learning about fitness programs and healthy recipes, social media provides so many resources for moms looking to lose baby weight and get fit. Also, there's the far-reaching, supportive community available online that you typically don't get offline. Simple blog and Facebook comments, or Facebook groups dedicated to losing baby weight can make all the difference.”
Sam Kanatzar, mom of a toddler, said, “Social media is a way for modern-day mamas to form their ‘tribe' of support and find accountability.”
Courtney Anne Bland, a mom from West Virginia, believes there is beauty in the so-called “imperfections” of a post-partum body. “It’s perfectly fine to embrace your c-section scar or stretch marks. These are evidence[s] your body did something amazing.”
So, expectant mamas and new mamas alike, next time you find yourself in front of a mirror and on the fence about whether or not you should snap that selfie, just remember that your personal story can help other mamas find strength and encouragement—and that’s truly what it’s all about.
Lauren Edwards, blogger and mom of one, said social media helped her become more active: “If not for social media I wouldn't be where I am fitness-wise now. I joined a healthy mom group with a bunch of other mothers who had children in the same month as I did. If not for their motivation, I probably would have never started running or cleaning up my diet. I was perfectly comfortable in my own skin before and had lost my baby weight, but the changes I made this year toned everything up and I lost an additional 30 pounds.”
Did you take pregnant selfies? What about after baby to document your weight-loss progress?