When the first edition of America’s best-selling pregnancy book What to Expect When You’re Expecting was published in 1984, it featured a dainty illustration of an expectant mother on the cover. Looking out at the reader, she’s sitting in a rocking chair with a basket of flowers at her feet. Her wavy, auburn hair is cropped and layered, and she’s wearing a floaty pink dress and a pair of purple ballet pumps. In one hand, she holds a book, while the other rests gently on her pregnant stomach.
By 2016, however, this homely-looking country wife had been replaced by a real-life woman and, as one Twitter user pointed out, she appears to have been yassified. Our fifth edition soon-to-be mother has porcelain skin and silky long hair; her makeup is subtle but impeccable — plump, rose lips, neatly filled-in eyebrows and smokey eyes — and her features are Instagram-filter perfect. She’s wearing black skinny jeans and a purple long-sleeved top that perfectly accentuates her voluptuous pregnancy boobs. She’s glam and glowing! She’s also ready to tackle all the important, “current lifestyle trends,” including juice bars, raw diets, e-cigarettes and baby bump posting.
This new mom-to-be hasn’t actually been yassified, though — that’s a real, living breathing person who actually appears to be the author Heidi Murkoff’s daughter, Emma. She just looks like that! She isn’t the first hot cover star of the What to Expect When You’re Expecting series, though. The book’s 2008 fourth edition expectant mother is also wearing a boob-accentuating long-sleeved top, and has been airbrushed so much that she almost looks like a drawing of herself. This transformation begs the question: Who’s asking for a hotter pregnant woman?
Presumably, the reader is supposed to think that she can look like this because — thanks to the book she appears on — she knows what to expect now that she’s expecting, and therefore has more time to make herself look gorgeous and chic. If you buy this book, you’re led to believe that you too can breeze through your pregnancy in an enviable state of constant elegance. Or, are these women — with their airbrushed skin and perky tits — supposed to be relatable?
As someone who’s never been pregnant, I can’t say for sure, but it doesn’t seem far-fetched that today’s young mothers would feel more of an affinity with a hot, made-up woman than they would, say, a watercolor drawing.
Before 2008, the three previous What to Expect When You’re Expecting women more closely resembled the original cover star. As well as being hand-drawn, each woman is depicted sitting in a rocking chair — apparently a beneficial seating choice for pregnant women. The 1992 second edition mother-to-be is wearing socks and a loose-fitting, long blue dress, and has her hair carelessly pulled back into a ponytail. By the third edition, it’s 2002, and our cover star has discovered trousers; like the first edition woman, she’s sitting with a book in one hand and the other resting on her belly, and there’s a basket of flowers next to her.
As many pregnant women today are also juggling work, relationships and the various trials and tribulations of living in the 2020s, the quaint image of a woman reading her book, sitting with her flowers and rocking in her (probably expensive) rocking chair (in the house she probably owns) doesn’t quite make sense anymore. Or, as one Twitter user put it: “She’s just a super sassy modern woman. She doesn’t need a damn rocking chair.”
Whether a yassified pregnant woman makes more sense, I don’t know, but it probably helps the publishers reach their newly intended market of Instagram moms better. And, at any rate, the image and role of women has changed since the book’s release in 1984 — why not have an up-to-date lady walk you through explanations of folic acid and childbirth? One can only guess who’ll grace the cover of the next edition, though. Waifu? VTuber? Sentient hologram?
Only time will tell.