Jessica Simpson is recovering from delivering her daughter Maxwell (congratulations!) — hopefully, friends of hers are bringing some other distraction besides guilty-pleasure tabloids to the hospital for entertainment. Stories about stars “bouncing back!” after the birth of their children are the cover stories of more than one this week, for example, People magazine celebrating post-baby Beyonce as the world’s most beautiful woman. To avoid getting behind my lectern to talk about ALL the problematic issues with this (not with calling Beyonce beautiful — she is, and from colleagues’ reports of their interactions with her, she’s lovely from the inside out), I’ll direct your attention to an awesome short essay published recently on Forbes‘s website. Liz Garcia talks about how her new motherhood (congratulations to you, too!) shifted her opinion of glowing “advice” articles that detail the exercise and diet regiments that go into making the stars presentable after life’s greatest achievement. Before she’d had a child, she saw the articles are instructive, helpful even, paragons for mothers everywhere to aspire to. Now that she has been in the postpartum period herself, she recognizes the INSANITY of pushing women to look like pregnancy never happened that quickly after birth. Most doctors tell you not to begin exercise until after your body has recovered (and at three weeks after birth (TMI SPOILER), you’re still expelling uterine blood, your hormones are wildly fluctuating, and you may still be getting the hang of breastfeeding, or if not nursing, enduring serious pains as your breasts rid themselves of unnecessary milk). And if you’ve had a C-section (and more than one-third of U.S. women deliver this way), you’re not supposed to do much of anything for SIX WEEKS after the surgery.
This goes beyond the banal irresponsible behavior tabloid journalism celebrates or encourages — these kinds of articles risk the lives of new mothers by making it seem that zealous exercise and severe caloric restrictions are the good and healthy thing to do. Those efforts aren’t just unnecessary post-baby (believe me, breastfeeding for six months depleted all my fat reserves, to the point that concerned friends were pulling me aside to make sure I didn’t have an eating disorder), they can harm your body’s recovery, prevent you from making adequate milk for your baby, and if you had any complications in your pregnancy or delivery, jeopardize your life. It wasn’t that long ago that the number one cause of death for young women was childbirth. Let’s not tread back to the bad-old-days in a fake attempt at “health!”