Emily Ratajkowski celebrated her thirtieth birthday on a beach this week, with gorgeous swimsuits and her beautiful family.
Instead of basking in the joy that comes with celebrating a milestone birthday—the start of a new decade and her first as a mother—the model is facing backlash for a photo she shared of herself holding her son Sylvester.
Internet trolls, most notably Piers Morgan, have already dashed off their comments and insults over how she's holding her baby.
We're here to say: Emily Ratajkowski doesn't need your mom-shaming.
There it is—the photo that's got the internet all worked up over how Ratajkowski is holding her son.
This photo is a single second in time; a fraction of a moment where a mom is holding her child with one arm, not two.
To be clear, in the same Instagram post, Ratajkowski shared photos of herself holding Sylvester with both arms.
So, let's break down the fury brought on by this photo. Piers Morgan took the photo and shared it with his Twitter account with a caption that read, in part, "That's not how you hold a baby." Other detractors echoed him, saying it appeared unsafe.
Well, in that singular moment, that was how Ratajkowski held her baby. Does she hold Sylvester like that all the time? Certainly not. Again, in the same post she shared images where she was holding him with two arms.
Other commenters suggested she was holding Sylvester awkwardly to show off her body.
If that's true, would it really be deserving of all these criticisms, all this anger?
I have two toddlers. When I know I'm about to be photographed holding one, I instinctively suck in my stomach. Sometimes I pull my arms away from my body to make them look slimmer. Or I'll raise my head over my child's, hoping to avoid the appearance of a double chin.
None of those adjustments are natural. They're all born out of insecurities and a desire to see a photo of myself with my child that I'm pleased with. One that makes me feel confident and happy—as happy as I was in that moment. Even with that vanity admitted—on the internet, no less!—I know that I'm no less of a mother if I once awkwardly held my child for a photo.
Ratajkowski's photo is unique in that it's both a singular image and part of a series. We can see her lovingly holding Sylvester to her chest. We can see her holding him one-handed, while adjusting her hair. We've had these moments. We've lived these moments.
But it's the first image, the one where she's holding him one-handed and her body is exposed, that caused the controversy.
But that's not the proper way to hold a baby! someone is still typing somewhere, I imagine.
And? Ratajkowski's not modeling for a campaign on the safest ways to hold children. She's not advising a new mother how to carry her newborn home from the hospital.
In that photo, Emily Ratajkowski is a woman in a bikini. She's a mom holding a baby. That's it. She liked the image, so she shared it.
She doesn't deserve your mom-shaming.
No one deserves your mom-shaming.
Instead, let's try to remember what it's like being a new mom. Do you remember the exhaustion, or the constant worry if you were doing things right? Do you remember how attacked you felt when a well-meaning friend or relative started a "helpful" suggestion with, "Well, can't you just…?"
Motherhood is complex. It's beautiful, messy, challenging, heart wrenching, chaotic, and more. It's what fuels us, what drives us. It should be what unites us.
We need to stop offering criticisms and start offering compassion, instead.