That being said, I did find the Introduction very interesting. Min spent six years at Us Weekly as editor-in-chief, and she comments on "the beginnings of a seismic cultural shift" that she and her colleagues were noticing (about 10 years ago). The cultural shift? The fact that many celebrities were not only pregnant, but flaunting it, and ushering in the age of the "momshell," the fashionable mom. Min points out that just ten years earlier even celebrities like Madonna avoided the limelight while pregnant. Now, high profile women were giving birth and then posing for bikini shots weeks later, apparently physically unaltered by the ordeal that is nine months of gestation and labor and delivery.
In this age of lower birthrates (and therefore a lower number of women who have experienced pregnancy, and even a lower number who have experienced multiple pregnancies), it seems to me that our culture tends to approach maternity in two contradictory ways. On one hand, it's portrayed as the end. The end of a desirable body. The end of being fit. The end of being anything other than saggy and lumpy and unattractive. And if one pregnancy doesn't do you in, several will ensure that your body is "ruined." In gestating, our bodies are destroyed in what is [at least implied to be] an unnatural state of things.
On the other hand, there is the cultural shift that Min mentions. A part of this shift is that pregnancy is portrayed as inconsequential in the physical sense. One should have a flat stomach weeks after giving birth. Not only will the weight come off immediately, pre-pregnancy jeans will come on immediately (wider hips who?). Anything less is unacceptable, and should be fixed.
I have experienced both of these contradictory attitudes to pregnancy, and strangely, sometimes even simultaneously. As a person with body image issues in my past, my first pregnancy was plagued with apprehension. Would I immediately gain fifty pounds? Would I be covered in stretch marks? Would I be stuck with the pregnancy weight forever, even if I exercised and ate right? Basically, would my body be "ruined"?
After making it through the pregnancy with a healthy amount of weight gain, I was left with some stretch marks, and hips that were a bit wider, but all in all, intact. Better than intact. But I couldn't get my jeans on. And my stomach was soft, and rounded. I admit that I was discouraged and tempted to take some immediate food restriction measures even though I wasn't overweight and I was nursing. Thank goodness I have a really affirming husband, and an addiction to the Google, which informed me that it is normal for the uterus to take four weeks to return to its pre-pregnancy size.
What is the correct way to view pregnancy in this age of appearances and impossible expectations? That it is both radically natural and radically altering. The female body is equipped to get the job done, albeit with changes, some permanent, some temporary. A healthy view of the female body sees these changes as a normal part of life. I mean, what's the alternative? The end of the species?
The dichotomy between motherhood and being attractive is a false one. And it is just as false to portray motherhood as carrying no physical affects. But every body is going to age, and therefore change. At some point your bosoms will begin to sag a bit whether or not you have birthed a child. So, believe in your body, be good to yourself, and be not afraid!