What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I really didn't give a hoot about the royal baby. The occasional celeb pregnancy might serve as a necessary distraction from work, but beyond the maternity fashion and baby name announcement, my interest typically stops after the first photos of the newborn are in print.
So it was no surprise that I didn't bat an eye when my Twitter and Facebook feeds were jammed with news about the royal baby. I didn't care about whether it was a natural birth or what sex they had assigned the baby before it could decide for itself how it wants to move through this gender-dichotomous world. But while doing my daily morning news scan, I came across a picture of Kate Middleton's post-baby bump—the still-protruding stomach she chose not the conceal when she and Prince William made their big reveal.
Now they had my attention.
“Is it supposed to look like that?” I immediately texted my sister who is also a pediatrician. (She is often the recipient of my random medical inquiries, mystery symptoms and ailments.)
“Yes,” she responded. “It’s the day after she gave birth.”
My fingers quickly moved across my iPhone screen: “But it’s so….round,” I typed back, this time also sending a screenshot as supporting evidence.
“Maybe there’s another baby in there,” my sister quipped, even though she knew better.
I was mesmerized by how a beaming Kate made no attempt to downplay her pudge. In fact, with two arms neatly crossed under stomach, she accentuated it. I was stunned.
As some of us hold our breaths at the first sight of Kim Kardashian and Baby North, rumors are swirling that Kim is in hiding until she undergoes a dramatic post-baby body transformation. If there’s any truth to the speculation, I get it. Her brand is her image. She makes money solely off how she looks (which I think says more about us than it does about Kim). This obsession with “bouncing back” doesn’t stop with the stars.
In fact, even with no baby on board or impending plans of pregnancy, I’m guilty of fearing what weight gain having a child might inflict on my body.
It feels horrible just writing that. A baby is a beautiful at times exhausting and icky miracle. Gaining some pounds seems like a small price to pay to usher in new life into the world. I mean, I did write about how much I adore my 5-year-old godson and how I instantly fell in love with him as a newborn. Heck, I even professed a newfound love for my flawed body.
But it’s this flawed body. The one with the stretch marks I’ve learned to embrace. The one with the perky bottom and still firm tits. The one with mile-long legs and a stomach I’ve, of late, become fixated with keeping flat. This body. Not one I feel like I’d have no control over after another being starts growing inside. I suppose post-baby, I would learn to love that body, too. It’d likely be a process and take time the way it took to celebrate the one I’m currently so set on preserving.
During a gym membership trial, an intrusive and assumptive personal trainer offered up some unsolicited advice. After assuming I was straight and referencing my fictitious boyfriend multiple times, he proceeded to presume that one day I plan on being a mother. His advice was to get fit now because, thanks to muscle memory, after childbirth you’ll get back where you were before becoming pregnant faster.
“That’s why some women never lose their baby weight,” he warned.
Dude was a douche, but his words stuck. It’s a soundtrack that often replays when I wake up on mornings and have to decide whether I jump on the treadmill or jump into writing. I hear it when I look at a menu or choose to skip the soft, fluffy bun that would accompany my burger at a summer BBQ.
Over the last year or so, I’ve noticeably put on several pounds. Fortunately for my ego and self-image, I live in a culture where gaining weight in my ass and boobs as a black girl gets you praise for packing it on in the “right places.” The weight gain, for the most part, hasn’t fazed me. Although I haven’t been thrilled at having to donate some of my favorite pieces, I’ve embraced this curvier me and started letting go of those too-tight jeans and buttcheek-baring skirts.
But the truth is, I don’t want to gain any more weight -- this coming from my feminist, pro-fat fingertips feels like treason.
I’m certain growing up around women who didn’t prioritize fitness and diet hasn’t helped. I’ve watched friends and family balloon in full-figured fortresses. And they look damn good. While I truly believe anyone can rock the hell out of whatever they want as long as that spandex dress comes with a pair of confidence in your size, I want to stay right here -- teetering on smedium and a size 20-something waist.
As plans to start a family become more of a reality and less of a fond memory of playing house in preschool, the only thing that motivates me to get on the elliptical these days is prepping my body for the possibility of becoming a mom.
Yes, I took that douchey gym guy's advice to heart and I feel like an idiot for letting him get to me. But then a part of me secretly feels better for being a fit and trim idiot. I can acknowledge the benefits of regularly exercising and eating right, but I can admit that it’s not high blood pressure, diabetes or stress relief that gets me going over 100 strides a minute.
I’m thankful to Kate Middleton for baring her post-baby pump. Whether she chooses to lose it, that’s her prerogative. But unless we’re playing pro-body tracks louder and more often than the ones that tell us to hate ourselves, we end up staying healthy for the wrong reasons. And that isn’t a good look. Sure I'm looking leaner and feeling better by working out but my motivation is more than a little skewed. Kate reminded me that it doesn’t need to be.
Follow Kimberley on Twitter @KimKMcLeod.