Actress Ashley Tisdale, whose breakout role was as Sharpay Evans in the 2006 hit “High School Musical,” recently shared her nuanced experience of the ways that pregnancy has impacted her body image.
In a March 19th maternity shoot post on her lifestyle website Frenshe, the first-time mom, who welcomed daughter Jupiter Iris on March 23rd, commented, “I have to be honest, I haven’t gotten the whole warm and fuzzy feeling about my pregnant body being beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I am so proud of my body and I’m so grateful to be able to create a home and grow my little one. However, seeing my body look so different is still a little startling to me… I think change can be hard, but I continue each day saying I love you to my body because it’s doing so much, and it’s creating a beautiful miracle.”
She added, “I don’t know what my body will be like after the baby comes, but I do know I’m going to give it time, let it heal, and take really good care of it. I wanted to share this because I’m sure that like a lot of other people, I felt ashamed that I was uncomfortable at first.”
Tisdale’s candor struck a chord with readers, eliciting coverage from PEOPLE and Buzzfeed. Her words ring particularly true because in many ways our “inclusive everything” society is still lagging behind when it comes to portraying non-pregnant (and furthermore never-been-pregnant female bodies) as the norm, particularly in fashion and lifestyle magazines.
It is no surprise, then, that ordinary women are unsure of how to feel about their pregnant and postpartum bodies when they are consistently shown airbrushed images of other women — or, alternatively, pictures of celebrities whose flat postpartum stomachs come as a result of personal trainers, nutritionists, and other resources unavailable to the average woman.
Sandra's stretch marks are a loving reminder of her kids. That's why she uses Dove Body Wash. Its NEW formula gently cleanses for instantly soft skin & lasting nourishment. pic.twitter.com/dR37BnmljN
— Dove (@Dove) April 13, 2020
Yet, pregnancy, which Guiding Star Project founder Leah Jacobson considers a “feminine superpower” (along with the ability to breastfeed and to ovulate), is not an aberration. For many, it is also a privilege that sadly not every woman who wishes for it is fortunate enough to experience.
For most women, pregnancy leads to certain physiological changes — sagging skin, stretch marks, and varicose veins, to name a few. Dove honored this reality with its 2020 marketing campaign for Dove Body Wash, featuring a model with visible stretch marks on her abdomen, accompanied by the words, “My skin tells a story of motherhood.” As many mothers can attest, expecting to return to a pre-pregnancy state is often not realistic, whether because of a widened pelvis, a larger shoe size, stretch marks, or other permanent changes. And that is okay.
Rather than striving and hustling to return to “the good old days,” women would be better served by being taught from an early age to view their ‘miraculous’ capacity for motherhood as a gift meant to be received and appreciated, or as a ‘superpower’ with the connotation of possessing an extraordinary gift or ability, which is also worth valuing. Motherhood changes a woman’s body, but it also changes her heart and mind in amazing news ways as she welcomes and nurtures new life.
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