Ahead of Mother’s Day, InStyle explores how women are navigating motherhood in 2018, from the role of the pregnancy selfie to new legislation empowering the working mom.
Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, and if there’s one mom out there who knows that to be true, it’s Hilaria Baldwin. The 34-year-old mom of three, who’s currently expecting her fourth child—a son, with husband Alec Baldwin—isn’t afraid to show off her growing bump. But while her Instagram feed is brimming with photos of a toned and lingerie-clad Baldwin in different stages of pregnancy, she hasn’t always been so comfortable putting everything out there for the world to see.
“Before I got married, I was just a yoga teacher and led a very private life,” she tells InStyle. “Then, all of the sudden, I had no privacy. I went from being really open and happy to guarded and shut down, and I just didn’t feel like myself anymore.” Slowly, Baldwin began sharing more on her social media accounts. “It took me a while, but eventually I decided that I wasn’t going to let people on the outside scare me,” she says. “I wasn’t going to close myself off to the world anymore just because I was afraid of what other people thought of me.”
As she started to share a more intimate look at her life, Baldwin encouraged her followers to embrace a healthy lifestyle by posting skin-baring photos of her own yoga-filled workouts. “I always want to show people that they can be a well-oiled machine as long as they take care of themselves, physically,” she says. “I want them to normalize the feelings they have in their bodies.” While that includes the feelings that come with pregnancy, Baldwin chose not to overshare when she was expecting her daughter, Carmen, back in 2013. “I didn't really post a lot, because I was such a first-time mommy and scared about everything,” she says. “I was also still nervous about the outside world, and all of the reporters seemed so scary to me. They could just write anything about you and people would believe it.”
When she was pregnant with her son Rafael in 2015, Baldwin was more confident in her approach to social media. She posted images of her bare baby bump, showing off her yoga-toned frame in nothing but underwear as she revealed her progress each trimester. Baldwin’s goal? To create a positive and open conversation about the changes a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy and promote healthy self-esteem for women of all shapes and sizes. So she was shocked when some followers deemed the photos too “sexy” for a mom-to-be to share with the world.
“In the beginning, I got a lot of negativity,” says Baldwin. “A lot of comments were like, ‘You're a mother. Why don't you cover up?’ And there were people who said, 'Why don't you ask your husband for permission to do that?' That was especially funny to me, because my husband is often the one taking the pictures—plus, you’ve got to be kidding if you're telling me that I have to ask my husband permission to post a photo. We don't have a misogynistic relationship where he's telling me to cover up all the time. We're very comfortable with each other, and even the kids know that I’m really the boss. But I would get a lot of comments like that.”
Pregnant or not, Baldwin, of course, has an undeniably thin and toned body type, and while reception of her posts have garnered a mixed reaction, it's not difficult to imagine that women of different sizes who post images of their own lingerie-clad pregnant bodies might receive different reactions. Women have been fat-shamed and skinny-shamed during and after pregnancy, celebs and non-celebs alike. Baldwin's philosophy, though, applies to all mothers: Feeling maternal and feeling sexy, she posits, are not contradictory. And she wants that to sink in.
“I started taking screenshots of people’s negative comments and putting them up on my Instagram,” she says. “It’s not like these were private emails, and if they wanted to say something mean, then clearly they wanted attention. I thought, ‘Well, here's attention!’ Now, three pregnancies later, Baldwin has found new ways to cope with haters—although these days, they’re few and far between. “Every once in a while, I’ll still call someone out—but it’s very rare now, and I block out their name when I do it,” she says. “People can be very protective and the troops align, but I don’t want anyone to get hurt. So the best thing, I've learned, is to ignore it and be consistent in spreading my own positive messages. My job is to clean up the litter that's on my page, so I just block someone if they say something mean.”
One accusation that Baldwin still finds particularly frustrating? When strangers assume that they actually know the details of her day-to-day routine. “People tend to think that my entire life is all of my Instagrams put together, and they’ll claim that I don't actually spend time with my kids,” she says. “They think that I just come in, take a picture, and then leave to go get lunch and massages all day or something. They can think whatever they want, but they’re so incorrect. It’s painful when people say things that aren’t true about you, but I don't have the energy to spend my whole life trying to change how someone feels. So I just continue on, one step forward.”
During her current pregnancy, Baldwin’s followers have reached out to tell her that they’re inspired by her candidness and the authenticity of the photos she shares (which often show her reflection in the bathroom mirror). “I don’t use filters, because I just want to be real and show who I am,” says Baldwin. “If my pictures inspire people, great. But if the smallest thing that comes from it is that my friends and family can see how I’m doing and that my belly’s getting bigger, then that’s great, too.”
For Baldwin, the bottom line is that whatever she chooses to share, it’s completely up to her—sexy or otherwise. “I’m in control of my own page and, ultimately, I just want to be myself,” she says. “I’m not a supermodel, and I’m not trying to be. I’m just me.”