Before I place myself on the altar of personal Internet attacks, let me clarify a few things:
- I love pregnancy.
- I love lifting weights and working out during pregnancy.
- I love selfies of cute pregnant bellies, and I usually even love the people who take them.
Over the weekend, I read this article and felt a little conflicted. The article is about a professional fitness model who posted Instagram before-and-after shots of her first singleton pregnancy and her third twin pregnancy. The “before” shot is of her in a winter sweater and leggings, pregnant with her first child in 2008. The “after” shot is of her in her bra and panties showing off her baby bump during her twin pregnancy in 2015 after becoming a fitness model.
What I see in both photos? A beautiful pregnant woman. What the social media world sees? “Wow, her belly is so much smaller now that she eats healthy stuff and exercises.”
Keep in mind, this woman is a fitness model. Her diet and workout regimen are both far from ordinary. And yet thousands of non-competitive women are looking at her photo thinking, “Wow. I didn’t look like that when I was pregnant,” or, “Wow, so maybe if I eat really healthy I won’t gain as much weight during this pregnancy.”
These are irrational comparisons that don’t have any positive benefit.
I just had a baby two months ago, so admittedly I might be a little sensitive. But here’s the thing: I’ve had four kids now, and with each pregnancy I have gained more weight. My first pregnancy weight gain came in at barely over 20 pounds. My fourth clocked in at 41 pounds. Twice the amount of weight, but just as many people commented about how I was “all belly,” if not more.
That fourth pregnancy was my easiest and healthiest yet. I did kettlebell workouts, ran, and did yoga until the end. I did cave in to my donut cravings from time to time, but for the most part I ate well. And now, two months later, it’s been the easiest recovery yet.
When you start posting about things like pregnancy weight gain and the size of your baby bump, you move into dangerous waters. Inevitably, your viewers – because that’s what your IG followers really are – will be tempted to judge themselves based on your image. They might even start to believe that a tiny baby bump and low weight gain necessarily translate as healthy pregnancy – but they don’t.
I’m not saying Sophie is doing any of these things intentionally. I think her Instagram account is inspiring. It shows a happy, healthy mother loving motherhood. Nothing beats that.
The problem isn’t Sophie, or any other pregnant woman who posts cute baby bump selfies. The problem is how people read the Internet, and the inevitable fact that the photos we see so easily become unreasonable ideals. When you see that post, by all means – be happy for Sophie. Applaud her for keeping up with herself while being a mom. We all know that’s a huge challenge and something to be commended.
But don’t assume a tiny baby bump is a marker for health. Let’s keep this whole #fitmom thing somewhat real.