Why We are Better for the Celebrity Bump

Having just spent some time deep in The Baby Bump (which, if asked, I would have titled, Bumping up Careers, One baby at a Time) in today’s New York Times, I want to first commend Jacob Bernstein for a well-researched, engaging piece and then slap him for missing the other side of the story. All he shares is true – he does a careful job of tracing the history of the thriving Bump Business. Mr. Bernstein tackles the profit center, career booster questions with savvy. What he misses is the positive side of the equation. He fails to examine how celebrity pregnancies, played out in public view actually give back  and otherwise contribute to the experiences of more than 4-million pregnant women in this country. And so while, yes – there is a way to interpret celebrity pregnancy though the lens of commercialism, I suggest we take a bit of a deeper dive.

In defense and even appreciation to these celebrity gestaters  – a quick inventory of what they are giving back along the road to baby:

  1. Normalized Pregnancy – Out of back rooms and suddenly on full view, while sometimes extreme, these very public pregnancies open the windows and doors WIDE and allow us to see a broader view of pregnancy (for better or for worse). And with that there is a change in the candor, content and scope of dialog – not just on-set but around water coolers as well.
  1. New Vocabulary, Confidence and the rise of the “Experiential Pregnancy” – The Hollywood bump-set give pregnant women a sense of confidence, style, and a new view to a range of real, radiating beauty. Since early aughts the style community has risen to the occasion as well – suddenly maternity fashion (thank you Liz Lange) and nursery décor (check out project nursery, for example) were elevated to meet the desires and aspirations of main street parents (In reaction to the new view of Melrose and Madison avenue parents). Our new vocabulary included (and does to this day) glow, maternity chic, fourth trimester, etc. – making the challenges and triumphs of one’s changing body and lifestyle a shared, open experience.
  1. Expectant Parents – before the celebrity baby boom hit, we did not include Dad in much of the baby talk. This wave of celebrity family has certainly played a part in bringing Dad into focus and view – what used to be “her” pregnancy became “our” pregnancy. And with the birth of a Dad came a new version of Dad, in a wide range of populations. This year saw the first male breastfeeding blogger, for example. And many a Diaper Dude is carried with paternal hipster pride.

AND MY BURRIED LEAD – PHILANTHROPY, EDUCATION and CARE

  1. Celebrities have loaned their voices, status and energy to critical work focused on raising much needed funds and awareness for issues effecting all populations of families. I have been honored to work on a wide range of projects with expectant and new celebrity parents and remain grateful for all they have given back. They have raised their voices and pointed attention to causes that need it most.  When Christie Turlington throws herself into Every Mother Counts or Jewel donates nursing bras in her name to Baby Buggy’s efforts in her adopted home state of Texas this ignites change. When  Gwyneth Paltrow or Melissa Rycroft openly share their battle with postpartum depression (PPD) or  Jennifer Garner discusses breast-feeding and back-to-work challenges it increases awareness and care around issues that were once quiet and cloaked.  The list goes on and on – and it should!  These celebrities have marked their entry into parenthood with very meaningful and powerful gestures that help to advance not only the conversation around key issues but also the outcomes for all families.

In the end, the story is that of a bigger picture, both sides of the equation and how the game is advanced for all parents with celebrity parents on the front lines.