For Kylie and Khloe, The Postpartum Phase Is An Opportunity For Body-Positivity
The other other shoe dropped on Sunday as Kylie Jenner released a birth announcement video, confirming her pregnancy by presenting the story of its grand finale. Kylie's pregnancy was defined by a choice to shelter from the intrusive gaze of the media; now that her baby is here, the cameras are back on. And now that we know that we are to be #blessed with three Kardashian babies in a year (Kim Kardashian via surrogate, Khloé Kardashian at an undisclosed time in the coming months, and Kylie on Feb. 1), I have one really big ask: Kylie and Khloe, please be real about your postpartum bodies.
Celebrities are notorious for “bouncing back” after pregnancy; often, tabloids are filled with headlines about their science-defying postpartum bodies almost immediately following delivery. Stars like Blake Lively, Olivia Wilde, and Gwen Stefani have been praised for fitting into hip-hugging outfits mere weeks after giving birth (or, in Olivia Wilde’s pre- and post-body case, just a few days). And it can be hard on “regular” moms to see your favorite celeb on the cover of US Weekly wearing a body-con dress just a week after popping out a baby when it feels like we’ll never be wearing our skinny jeans again. Even Kim Kardashian has been open about disliking her postpartum body, posting flashback photos on her Instagram timeline with wistful captions like "#TBT skinny daze #imissyou."
Of course, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes with those famous moms — details that usually fail to make it into the magazines. Huge stars like Lively, Wilde, and Stefani likely have personal chefs, a trainer, and a rigorous workout plan. (Mila Kunis attributed her post-baby weight loss to breastfeeding, but it’s safe to assume she had some professional help, too.) Some stars have opened up about the tricks behind the curtain; Jada Pinkett Smith confessed that while a lot of moms struggle with postpartum body changes, “celebrities just know how to conceal it.” She added, “While motherhood is a beautiful thing, it's traumatic to the body and the mind. I had some really down days after my kids were born. I thought I would never recover, even though I had a lot of help.”
Luckily, there are more and more stars lately who are honest about the emotional and physical effects of having a baby. Talking about the pressure to lose the baby weight, Kristen Bell said that she’s “proud to sit out of the baby weight rat race,” adding on Twitter, “I like my Lincoln Leftovers because they're proof I did something extraordinary.” Kerry Washington described her postpartum body as “the site of a miracle,” explaining that she doesn’t want to be “pre-miracle” ever again. And Kate Winslet said she refused to weigh herself for years, telling The Sun, “I so didn’t want to be one of those ‘Oh wow, she’s back in shape after 12 weeks!' women. When I read things like that, I just think, ‘Oh for f*ck’s sake. That’s actually impossible.’”
Even though we know that Kylie and Khloé will have access to the best resources after giving birth, they’re still people. They will still go through the physical and emotional process that all other moms have gone through.
But even though we know that the celebrity “bounce back” has a lot of hidden magic to it, it can still sting to see that photo or that headline. And for some women, it can trigger a lot more than just a nagging pressure to get back to the gym. Personally speaking, I know firsthand how the postpartum expectations for women can be dangerous.
I struggled with an eating disorder for most of my time in high school and college, and was officially diagnosed with anorexia during my senior year. I was really worried that being pregnant would trigger harmful thoughts about restricting, but luckily I was so focused on keeping my baby safe that I was able to eat healthily without the old eating disorder “voice” creeping in. I gained about 35 pounds during my pregnancy, and it was the most I’d ever weighed in my life. But it was also the first time ever that stepping on the scale didn’t give me anxiety, and it was almost like a temporary vacation from my E.D.
However, postpartum life is another story. I gave birth in September, and my body doesn’t feel like my body anymore. There’s softness in places where there used to be sharp angles. My favorite clothes fit oddly and my go-to pair of jeans dig into my hips, leaving marks on my skin because I insist on wearing them anyway. And while I’m conscious of trying to eat enough to keep up with the demands of breastfeeding, there’s a tiny part of me that would love nothing more than to start restricting again in order to “get back” to where I was before. Of course, deep down I know better; I know that my E.D. isn’t something I can turn on and off when I want to, nor is it even a choice at all. Rather, it’s a rabbit hole that can quickly spiral out of control if I’m not careful.
And so that’s where Khloé and Kylie come in. The Kardashian-Jenner fam are undoubtedly the faces of pop culture today, and if they were actual royalty, Kylie would be considered the heir to the throne. It’s safe to say that the Kardashian-Jenner sisters are pretty “packaged” — especially Kylie. Everything about her public persona — from her social media presence to her new reality show — seems airbrushed to perfection. And that’s exactly why it would be so damn refreshing to see her and Khloé be honest about what postpartum life is really like.
Of course, celebrities aren’t under any obligation to share their personal lives with fans — and pregnancy and postpartum is as about as personal as it gets. But there’s no denying the fact that stars have a huge impact on the public, and so when celebrities are candid about struggles that their fans may also face, it helps others feel less alone. (Take, for example, Chrissy Teigen’s openness about battling postpartum depression.)
And Kylie and Khloé have a lot of fans. Combined, they have over 170 million Instagram followers — which is more than half the population of the United States, for comparison. There’s no denying that the impact of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters is huge, and their physical appearance has a lot to do with that. In 2015, a U.K. cosmetic surgery group reported that they saw a 73 percent increase in patients who wanted procedures to look like the Kardashians. And they also added that after Kylie Jenner revealed she had lip fillers, there was a 700 percent increase in inquiries about the same procedure… overnight. The trend has also been seen in the U.S., with more and more patients seeking cosmetic surgery after being inspired by the famous family.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with getting plastic surgery if that’s what makes you feel good, but it’s important to note that there's an element of privilege that goes along with taking those concrete steps to actually look like Kylie or her sisters. While some might have the means to undergo plastic surgery, many do not (lip fillers, for example, can cost $1,000 a pop — or more). So for a lot of people, these celebrities represent unrealistic and unattainable beauty standards — and that's where the danger lies.
The bottom line? Even though we know that Kylie and Khloé will have access to the best resources after giving birth, they’re still people. They will still go through the physical and emotional process that all other moms have gone through. And while they may be super-famous, they’re not super-human. It would mean a lot to see them admit it, and it just might help other moms feel seen.
So, Kylie and Khloé, if you're listening, here’s what I want you to know:
Your voices matter more than you might ever think they do. A single Instagram post that gets ~real~ about postpartum life could have a huge amount of impact. It’s okay to lower the curtain for a moment and show your fans what’s underneath all the Hollywood magic. Your honesty will be a breath of fresh air for new moms who are struggling to come to terms with a body that doesn't feel like theirs. It will be a reminder that everyone — yes, even the biggest celebrities in the world — feels this way, that this too shall pass, and that ultimately we aren't alone. And that's the biggest gift you could ever give your fans, hands down.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder, you can reach the National Eating Disorders Association helpline in business hours Monday to Friday on (800) 931-2237.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.