Tiger Lady. That’s what my oldest son christened me as soon as he could talk, thanks to my knees-to-navel stretch marks. (Note: that proud day was also the day I decided he was too old to shower with mommy anymore.) So I will be the last person to tell you that you can have a baby and bounce back to exactly the same shape you were in before having a human erupt from your loins. Even if you do get down to your pre-pregnancy weight – a touchy enough subject – most likely things will settle into new positions. (We won’t even talk about the disasters that befall your nipples.) For every Heidi Klum in her Victoria’s Secrets, there are a hundred Charlottes in our control-top tights.
And yet it still rubbed me the wrong way when Jillian Michaels said in a recent interview with Women’s Health that she didn’t want to get pregnant because of the effect it would have on her body:
There is no doubt that “The Biggest Loser” trainer Jillian Michaels has one of the best bodies in America, and given her childhood history of being overweight, it’s something the 36-year-old has worked ultra-hard to achieve. So hard in fact, that she’s not willing to let it slide even to become a biological mother.
“I’m going to adopt. I can’t handle doing that to my body,” Michaels told the new issue of Women’s Health magazine. “Also, when you rescue something, it’s like rescuing a part of yourself.”
Not being an adoptive mother, I’m going to let that comment about “rescuing something” slide (okay I can’t let it slide: Children aren’t puppies. And also, adoption is not about fixing yourself. Now I’m done.) but I’m always a little leery when women tell me they don’t want to biologically have children for fear of marring their bodies.
While there are many good reasons not to have children – and I am in no way saying that all women should start popping out young ‘uns like a Pez dispenser (oh, if only labor was that easy!) – I don’t think fear is a good one. Especially not fear of losing your looks.
Jillian may be in a particularly unique position due to her job depending primarily on her physique but she certainly isn’t the first woman who has voiced this concern. In a society that trades in sexuality and abhors aging it is often seen as a woman’s currency to stay looking as youthful is possible. (The irony of living in a culture that worships sex but freaks out over the product of sex – see: men who love looking at boobs… until there is a baby attached to them and then they’re “disgusting” – is a different rant for another day.) The problem with that is that everyone, even Demi Moore, will age eventually. The laws of physics will not be denied: Your body will move towards entropy. Not having children may buy you a few more years but in the end, everyone’s boobs sag and their butts droop and their tummies deflate to bread dough.
Whether or not Jillian (or anyone else) ever has kids, or even wants kids, is none of my business. I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash if she’d just said “I don’t want to have children” or “I’m planning to adopt.” Likewise I would have been fine with “I have a family history of illness I don’t want to risk passing down” or “I don’t have the resources to support a child” or even “I have a deep-seated fear of Ronald McDonald and the chance of running into that evil clown is exponentially higher with wee ones around and I’m just not willing to risk it.”
Putting the blame on her body bothers me for two reasons: 1) I think her stance reinforces the view that pregnancy is an illness or a condition to be feared, rather than a natural bodily function for women and 2) It reads as if she is saying that women who have had children are inherently less beautiful and that our self worth should be tied to what we look like rather than who we are.
My last point may be purely speculative based on the wonderful experiences I’ve had with my kids but I also worry about regret. Call me biased (I did birth 5 of the little nippers after all) but I just think that if the only reason you choose not to have kids is fear of stretch marks and loose skin then there is a good chance you’ll regret that choice when you realize you have stretch marks from puberty and loose skin from aging anyhow.
I’m not trying to come down on Jillian for speaking honestly; I just don’t want her to miss out on an amazing experience because of something so ephemeral. You tell me – is Jillian just saying what everyone else is thinking? Did I misinterpret Jillian’s meaning? Does fear of ruining your body impact your decision to have a baby? Do you feel like pregnancy has wrecked your body? Any thoughts on “rescuing yourself” by adopting a baby?
UPDATE: Jillian Michaels has taken to Twitter to further explain her comment. Like many of you suggested might be the case, she clarifies by saying “I never said I was anti-pregnancy or taht pregnancy ruins a body. I said that ‘I can’t put my body through it.’ There are emotional issues and physical LIMITATIONS that have resulted in that conclusion. Some I have discussed publicly and some I haven’t.” [emphasis hers]
I want to thank Jillian for taking the time to clarify her comments and to apologize for misunderstanding her intent.