I saw the photos. You probably did, too: Jennifer Aniston in a bikini in June 2016 with a rounder-than-flat belly, alongside the text, "She's pregnant!"
Truthfully, it did look like a baby bump to me, someone who's been pregnant and has written extensively about pregnancy. Plus, there were multiple pictures from multiple angles that seemed to confirm the 47-year-old stunner is expecting. "Hooray!" I thought.
But that was so unfair of me. In an essay for Huffington Post, Aniston explains that no, she's not with child, but she is "fed up" with everyone speculating about whether her none-too-taut tummy is the result of carrying a baby.
"This past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status. The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant (for the bajillionth time... but who’s counting) points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children."
She's 100% right. While I've discovered a lot about myself since becoming a mom, the person I was before I had my son wasn't incomplete. Just different. And as the question, "When are you going to have another baby?" comes up more frequently, I can't emphasize enough that the way someone's life is right now may be exactly as she wants it. And when we put a magnifying glass on a lady's midsection in search of proof that her life may be morphing into what we want it to be, we're doing a disservice to that person and girls everywhere who are still learning what it means to be a woman.
Aniston goes on to admit, "Yes, I may become a mother some day, and since I’m laying it all out there, if I ever do, I will be the first to let you know." So there you have it--motherhood isn't off the table, but this leads to a whole different point: let's not put a baby in anyone's belly before there is one, or she's ready to announce that there is one.
Having always had a belly that rivals those of 5-months-pregnant women, I'd been asked if I was expecting long before I was ready for a child--and then again during the seven months I desperately wanted a baby and hadn't yet been successful. Surprise, the question didn't make me feel good on either occasion, but when someone wanted to discuss how sure she was that I'd be pregnant by now when it was the one topic I was specifically avoiding because I hadn't already conceived, it took all my might not to break down in tears. What if Jennifer Aniston has been attempting to get pregnant for years and doesn't want to talk about it? We've just forced her to do something that I can attest is truly painful.
Here's another scenario: What if Jennifer Aniston WAS pregnant in those beach photos and she lost the baby? What may have been a vacation to celebrate impending joy is now a series of photos available for public perusal that reminds her of a miscarriage.
And what about this: What if one day Aniston does become pregnant and a website breaks her news before she's ready for her state to be common knowledge? This is someone's uterus we're talking about, and she should decide when the world knows what's happening inside of it. I remember how exposed I felt when a well-meaning acquaintance congratulated me via Facebook on my pregnancy 9 weeks in. It turned out that my close friend, a physician whom I'd called in hysterics when I was bleeding at 5 weeks pregnant, comforted me and then shared my news with that mutual pal.
Sure, Aniston can go home and cry into a pile of money while her personal stylist assures she looks enviably glamorous two seconds after her pity party. But she's still a person, a woman whose feelings likely aren't that different from mine or yours. So that's why no matter how convincing the photographic evidence or how many experts confirm Aniston has a baby on the way, as long as I'm working at FirstforWomen.com, we won't report on it until Aniston herself says, yes, I'm becoming a mom.
(UPDATE 11/8) -- Jennifer Aniston has again powerfully denounced the judgement she has endured about her personal choices. In a candid interview with Marie Claire, the actress revealed that she's fed up with the cruelty.
"My marital status has been shamed; my divorce status was shamed; my lack of a mate had been shamed; my nipples have been shamed. It's like, 'Why are we only looking at women through this particular lens of picking us apart?" she told the magazine. "Why are we listening to it?'"
She also defended the jaw-dropping essay she wrote for the Huffington Post back in July about the obsessive pregnancy rumors haunting her.
"I just thought, 'I have worked too hard in this life and this career to be whittled down to a sad, childless human."