As Kate Middleton looked pristine in a public appearance barely seven hours after giving birth, many women took it upon themselves to post pictures post-birth and show the truth about pregnancy. The perception of an ideal body has always been dictated and perpetuated by the society and even the women who have gone through the nine months of pregnancy, coped with childbirth, and are struggling with sleepless nights have a template set for them. Their hair is expected to be salon perfect, clothes coordinated, skin glowing, and those extra pounds knocked off quickly.
Counselor and life coach Suneel Vatsyayan strongly believes that the media concealed the details and processes behind Kate’s public appearance. “We always look at people from a distance so we miss the details. How a woman accepts her body as a mother is important and not to forget, culture-specific. But when we identify ourselves in comparison with others, we undervalue ourselves and motherhood.”
A homemaker, Samriddhi Suri, who recently became a mother feels that it is a constant battle between body, mind and soul. “It’s around the clock job without any appreciation or incentive, purely based on personal contentment. It’s the most fulfilling experience for any woman but the societal pressure of being a “perfect mom” adds to the mental stress. Adding to the agony, celebrity mothers set unrealistic targets for being an ‘ideal’ mother,” shares the 26-year-old.
To each his own
Author Meghna Pant gave birth nine months ago and within few weeks she was busy shooting for her show. “I realised I was giving myself a hard time with those extra pounds and I became self-conscious. Despite being evolved and being a feminist, you are not used to seeing slightly larger women on screen, whatever the reason be,” says Pant, who asserts the need to normalise body shapes of all type. “If you are a mother and want to shed the extra weight, then it is your prerogative. The same way we shouldn’t judge Kate or any women for looking the way they want to. And if it is the profession that requires you to look thin, then good for you. Trust me it is a lot of work to get your body back in shape.”
At the same time, author Kiran Manral says, “We have to realise Kate is not the typical new mother. She is a royal and there are expectations of certain perfection. She definitely has help, even her stylist went to the hospital to make sure she is well groomed before she steps out. Whereas, we are least bothered at the time of pregnancy as to how we look. I think to each his own. While there are some who care to look presentable, for some it is not even a point of concern.”
Stealing the thunder
But the folly lies in expecting every mother to be immaculately groomed after delivery. There have been articles floating around telling women how to look like Kate after delivery. Why are these unrealistic expectations being set? “If one wishes to look like Kate well and good, if not let her be. Whats important is not to downplay how difficult the process of giving birth is by shifting the whole focus on looks post one’s pregnancy. Giving birth is the most difficult experience. By changing the entire narrative of how a woman looks after delivery and ignoring the fact that her body has changed drastically, you are doing a disservice,” says Kiran. She blames the social pressure and the constant fear of being trolled for the same. “People can be snide but women should remember that it was your body that has nurtured a life for nine months despite a lot of stress and changes. This is the body you should respect instead of belittling it. Sadly, our society doesn’t accept the fact that motherhood is the toughest part of a woman’s life — a matter of life and death — our society diminishes the entire experience,” she adds.
The image created by the celebrities often makes people yearn to reach the beauty standards that talk about glowing skin during pregnancy. But they often find themselves falling short of these expectations and standards. Shahnaz Husain feels that the rise of social media has had a part to play in raising the standards that one wants to achieve. “People post happy pictures of their pregnancy and motherhood. But in reality, there is a dark side to it, with anxieties about coping with the new motherhood status, the post-partum blues, weight gain, stretch marks, lack of sleep, the stress of managing children and so on. However, help is not far away. We must first accept the fact that we do not have to conform to any standards and expectations. Talk to your doctor or consult a psychologist. Counseling, a nutritious diet and breathing exercises can help you get back on track and enjoy this wonderful phase of life,” says Husain.
A sacred and personal moment
It’s all about embracing the pain and emotions a mother goes through while giving birth. For Aashmeen Munjaal of Star Salon and Academy, a mother of two, giving birth to a child was like going through a valley of death. “It’s not a moment of media exposure or glamour. It is all about emotions when a new life is developing in your womb and you hold a big responsibility to bring the child into the world,” says 41-years-old Munjaal and adds, “During pregnancy, a mother’s body and skin also goes through a lot of transformation. But giving birth is above all that — a very sacred and personal moment for a woman and the family, something that should be kept away from the media and social media platforms.”
Today, there is a lot of emphasis on appearance, size and presentation. “Its time to change the way we look at everything and perceive reality as being beautiful and not always the other way. Pregnancy and motherhood are such experiential periods in one’s life that everything else becomes secondary and needs to remain that way. The unnecessary pressure of appearance and competition with the glamour world should be put aside and focus should be on the newborn,” shares 56-years-old, Punam Kalra, creative director at I’m, the Centre for Applied Arts and a mother of two.
Dr. Rita Bakshi, senior gynaecologist and IVF expert, International Fertility Centre says that there is more to it than what meets the eye. She says, “We see what media expects us to see. Like every pregnant woman, they too have hair in places, breasts at least two sizes up, stretch marks and loose skin. Showing people who get back in shape within a few hours of giving birth puts pressure on all the mothers because they think that this is not the way they should look. They stop eating to shed weight and start working hard to maintain the body. It takes 6 weeks for the organs to recover, also when you’re lactating you’re supposed to eat well and not bother about how you look. Media showing all these ravishing women post birth is an absolute myth.”
With inputs from Kavi Bhandari and Nirtika Pandita