When I saw Molly-Mae Hague’s picture of herself working out less than a month after giving birth, my heart sank far more quickly than the steps on the climbing machine she was plodding away on.
The 23-year-old influencer sounded perky enough when she captioned a photo of herself, ‘So beyond excited to get my fitness back… never felt so ready to get my body back moving again.’
And she certainly looked amazing, fresh-faced in her gym kit, with no sign of a post-baby bump in sight.
Yet, it was her other caption, the one which accompanied the picture of her from behind while she was working out on her stair climber, which left me in despair.
‘These videos made me realise how much my bum [peach emoji] has tripled in size from having Bambi… some serious toning needed but I’ll get there in time!’
I wanted to scream in frustration. Why on earth isn’t she celebrating her body and how incredible it is to have created and carried her beautiful baby, rather than focusing on the fact that her bum – which, even at its current size, most women would kill for – is slightly bigger because of the experience?
Molly-Mae clearly anticipated a certain level of backlash from her Instagram post, as she posted an explanation immediately. ‘I consulted with my midwife before starting to exercise again! The last week I have felt fully recovered and ready to move my body gradually again. Just wanted to clear that up.’
There are so many reasons why exercising after giving birth is a good idea. As well as of course the physical benefits, there are the mental ones too. Taking some time for yourself, enjoying the freedom of no longer having a baby inside you, feeling those oft-talked-about endorphins.
And, just three and a half weeks after giving birth, she may well be fit enough to start exercising.
Yet, it is incredibly worrying that she is already so focused on – yes, I’m going to say it – ‘snapping back into shape’ so soon.
Not only is that an immense pressure to put on herself but one that she, maybe unconsciously, is passing onto her 7.1million followers – many of whom will be young women, possibly new mums themselves, who may be feeling painfully conscious of their own post-partum bodies.
I still remember how horribly aware I was of my body after I had my first baby, Theo, back in 2017. Of my bump that took weeks to go down, my swollen breasts that leaked regularly and my c-section scar that remained so tender that I continued wearing my maternity jeans for months after I gave birth.
I found it so hard to accept the way that pregnancy and labour had physically changed me that I literally stopped looking at myself in the mirror.
Thankfully, I wasn’t on Instagram back then. Because although I like to think of myself as being a pretty grounded, self-assured person, if I had seen Molly-Mae’s post, in my vulnerable new-mum state where I felt completely out my depth and was floundering even on my good days, I can’t help but suspect that I might have started to question myself.
‘Should I be exercising now?’ I can easily imagine myself wondering. ‘If she looks like that and feels she should, I should definitely be doing something about the way I look…’
Thankfully, having not succumbed to the picture-based social media platform, I avoided most of that pressure and, even though I struggled with the way I looked for weeks, maybe even months, I still remained amazed by what my body had done – not to mention grateful for what it had given me.
And throughout, I was confident that my body would, in time, return to a semblance of what it had been before. I’m still confident of that now, five years on.
But now I see Molly-Mae, a gorgeous young woman who is every inch the classic yummy mummy, I find myself asking why, why, why is society so consumed with women ridding themselves of all signs of having carried a baby the minute they have birthed it? Why, in 2023, does the stigma still remain to admit that, yes, being pregnant does change your shape and size?
Of course, Molly-Mae isn’t the only celebrity mum to drop their baby weight in front of our eyes. This month, Blake Lively also posted a picture of herself looking impossibly slim in a tight black tank top presumably after giving birth to her fourth baby and Chrissy Teigen was snapped in a white sports bra with a completely flat tummy just a month having her third child, Esti.
It devastates me that new mums are seeing these pictures and feeling bad about themselves that they are not living up to these impossible standards. And maybe not even realising that they are impossible.
Please, remember that it is entirely normal for your bump to remain after you give birth – your womb stretched for nine months to cradle your growing baby and it takes time to reduce to its normal size.
It is entirely normal that, after most likely reducing your exercise routine and slowing down in general, you may not be as slim as you were before you fell pregnant.
And it is entirely normal to not – and to not want to – get straight back on a strict diet and rigorous workout regime, when you’re sleep-deprived, sore and still in your baby bubble.
So… don’t. Just enjoy your new baby, without putting that additional pressure on yourself. Hold the baby your body bore, feed it with the milk your body is producing and realise that you are so much more than just how big your bum now is.
Your baby already knows that, we just need to allow ourselves to accept it too.
Molly-Mae, I beg you, please, step off your stair climber and enjoy another cuddle with your new baby. For you, and your followers.
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