It happened. The September cover issue for Vogue dropped this week and it boasts two different covers featuring the queen Beyoncé. As the final September issue under the editorial direction of Anna Wintour, Beyoncé was given “unprecedented control” over the process. The piece is in her own words and she chose the very first black photographer, 23 year-old Tyler Mitchell, to ever shoot a Vogue cover in its 126 year history. So many firsts!
Beyoncé voices the importance of self-care and body acceptance for postpartum moms. Shines a light on preeclampsia and her C-section complications with twins Sir and Rumi. Every mother needs support- period. She acknowledges ancestral wounds and matrilineal teachings. She revels in her blackness, in her woman-ness, mother-ness and it is not one bit contrived… it is not performative, it is deeply reflective, honest and authentic. Thank you Beyoncé for speaking these words, revealing your truth and for leaning into your vulnerability.
“After the birth of my first child, I believed in the things society said about how my body should look. I put pressure on myself to lose all the baby weight in three months, & scheduled a small tour to assure I would do it. Looking back, that was crazy. I was still breastfeeding when I performed the Revel shows in Atlantic City in 2012.”
The pressure Beyoncé describes is amplified when you are in the limelight. Our culture simply does not respect the postpartum period. Our culture does not respect women’s bodies and the work that it takes to grow human beings inside of you, give birth to them and recalibrate yourself as a new version of yourself once they are born. We don’t have the traditional systems of support that we evolved with. America is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have paid leave for mothers. I can’t imagine the heartbreak one feels to head back to work immediately after giving birth. Thankfully for Beyoncé the lesson from Blue Ivy’s birth was part of her reason for taking time for herself and embracing self-care.
“After the twins, I approached things very differently I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth to Rumi and Sir. I was swollen from toxemia & had been on bed rest for over a month. My health & my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section. We spent many weeks in the NICU. My husband was a soldier & such a strong support system for me. I am proud to have been a witness to his strength & evolution as a man, a best friend, & a father. I was in survival mode & did not grasp it all until months later. Today I have a connection to any parent who has been through such an experience. After the C-section, my core felt different. It had been major surgery. Some of your organs are shifted temporarily, & in rare cases, removed temporarily during delivery. I am not sure everyone understands that.”
Beyoncé provides healing and a rare insight into her vulnerability as a mother. She platforms an issue we see on the rise and one that has long been obscured, black maternal health. For a megastar of her caliber to undergo a traumatic birth experience with her twins speaks to the fact that birth is the great equalizer. Studies show that it doesn’t matter if you are college educated and upwardly mobile or if you are low-income, black women of all cross-sections of society are at risk in child birth. Why is it that both Serena Williams and Beyoncé – women who both have a plethora of financial resources, experienced such traumatic birth outcomes? Why is it that both of these women have voiced their stories on motherhood with Vogue? With the rising conversation about black maternal health, Beyoncé lends her voice to the discussion.
“I needed time to heal, to recover. During my recovery, I gave myself self-love & self-care, & I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be.”
What is the solution? Self-care is part of it. Slowing down is part of it. Not getting caught up in the illusion of hustle, but really embracing where you are as a new mother, with your new body, the magnificent grace of your body. Beyoncé took six months to rest and recover physically but probably hasn’t even scratched the surface on the emotional healing. Enabling those around you to become beacons of support, to rest on your throne and embrace the energy of ease. That is what all women deserve after birth. Time, patience and support. And it starts with us reclaiming our bodies as sacred and setting our own pace. Beyoncé learned the importance of mothering herself. Pacing one’s self is a gift.