There’s a certain hellish treatment that celebrity mothers are usually subject to, and it has to do with with the phrase “post-baby body.”
Sometimes there are other words thrown in there, like “post-baby bikini body.” The euphemistic “bounce back” is often in there, too.
However it’s phrased, it’s used as a tool to praise the women who prioritize weight loss over anything else when they’ve literally just had a baby, and implicitly punish the mothers who spend time, you know, keeping a baby alive rather than obsessively counting calories.
That’s why Ashley Graham is such a breath of fresh air.
The model, who welcomed son Isaac with her husband Justin Ervin on Jan. 18, posted a photo to Instagram of her belly on Monday. It looks about the way you would expect a postpartum body to look: her tummy is rounded, and the lower part is covered in stretch marks.
Stretch marks happen when the body grows faster than the skin can keep up with. It’s a pretty common occurrence during pregnancy, particularly on the belly — which expands because of the baby in there — and on the breasts.
About 90 per cent of pregnant women get stretch marks, usually towards the end of their pregnancies. They tend to start out bright red and then lighten over the course of about a year, although every pregnant body is different.
Weight gain during pregnancy is pretty individual, too. The amount of weight gained while pregnant varies wildly based on body type and the size of the baby, but the general range is between 15 and 40 pounds.
The weight accounts for a variety of things the pregnant body needs, like a placenta (usually two to three pounds) and the expansion of the uterus (usually between two and five pounds). There’s also typically between five and nine pounds of fat stored for delivery and breastfeeding.
Graham has been pretty candid about her experience with pregnancy and childbirth, particularly when it comes to the ways her body has changed. Her Instagram includes several photos and videos documenting the weight gain and stretch marks that naturally accompany any pregnancy, but that can still feel unsettling to a lot of women.
And since having her baby last month, she’s been upfront about some of the realities of mom life, too. “Raise your hand if you didn’t know you’d be changing your own diapers too,” she wrote in an Instagram post from last week.
On an episode of her podcast, Graham spoke about how she felt some hesitation sharing those photos with the world, and the insecurity she felt about her changing body.
“What you see on Instagram is all the information you get,” Graham told guest Shay Mitchell. Her goal in sharing wasn’t exactly in line with the body positivity movement, she said, because she wasn’t feeling pride or ownership on how she looked, but wanted to get to a place where she did.
“What I wanted to do was use social media to find a community that wasn’t just about body positivity,” she said. “It was more so about, I’m in this space that I’m not happy, but I’m gonna talk about it.”
In a more recent post-childbirth episode of her podcast, with her husband as a guest, Graham talked about how her female friends who had also given birth really helped her through her pregnancy, and her feelings about her body, in a way even her empathetic husband couldn’t understand.
“I can go to you as much as I want: ‘Baby... I feel crazy, my emotions are skyrocketing,’” she told Ervin. But, “my body was constantly changing. I’m glad that I had the support system of the other women.”
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