The Very Public Post-Baby Body Reveal, Explored

Princess Diana, Beyonce, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Photo: Getty Images

Any day now, Kim Kardashian will stage a splashy post-baby body reveal, supposedly on her mom’s new talk show. Ten days ago, she released a video of herself, but it only showed her face. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there … I’m loving life a little bit too much right now,” she told her mom on camera. But the real message was implicit: She wasn’t “ready” to be seen yet.

Welcome to the new world of post-birth celebrity “slim downs,” wherein famous new moms promptly sweat themselves back into beach-body shape and display the results for all the world to marvel at. The best example of this was the 2012 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, in which three of the brand’s most famous models — Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Lily Aldridge — walked the runway just months after giving birth, their six-packs taut after months of well-publicized workouts. This was not abnormal. In 2009, the big story was Heidi Klum, who made headlines for modeling just six weeks after delivering her daughter Lou. The televised fashion show has become more than a parade of the world’s most famous bodies — it’s a show-and-tell of post-baby weight loss.

But Victoria’s Secret isn’t solely to blame for the public’s fascination with this subject. The post-pregnancy weight-loss success story has become such a popular celebrity narrative that it dominates newsstands and websites. Most famous women don’t even allow themselves to be photographed until they’ve returned to their previous weight. It’s also a profitable venture: several celebrities, including Jennifer Hudson and Jessica Simpson, signed deals with Weight Watchers post-birth. Others, like Snooki and Mariah Carey, have sold photos of their post-baby selves to magazines.

There are plenty of great reasons to lose weight after giving birth, like health. Leading medical experts recommend that new moms aim to lose about one pound a week, which ought to bring you back to pre-pregnancy weight after six months or so. And for women whose jobs are dependent on physical appearance, regaining their former shape is a matter of necessity. It’s also understandable that a woman might stay out of the limelight for a few months postpartum. But to promote a culture in which celebrity moms aren’t expected to reveal themselves until they’re proudly slim again creates a sad (and unrealistic) image of motherhood.

When Kate Middleton stepped out of the hospital three weeks ago, just one day after delivering Prince George, her still-swollen belly was visible, creating a flurry of discussion across the Internet. Her distended tummy was completely normal, but its display in such a highly publicized setting was a rarity. Her post-baby belly highlighted a notable blind spot in today’s rabid celebrity pregnancy and motherhood coverage — namely, the silence surrounding the physical processes that occur immediately after birth.

Sure, people may not want to hear about postpartum bleeding, and how some women have to sit on those inflatable doughnuts after a vaginal delivery, or how it sometimes hurts to laugh for weeks after having a C-section. But is this information really more disturbing than detailed descriptions of punishing workouts and kale-centric diets?

Click through our roundup of the most highly publicized post-birth appearances, and see where Kim might fall on the spectrum.

The Very Public Post-Baby Body Reveal, Explored