Mom Talk

“In Miami, the fiercest way for a woman to demonstrate her unyielding individuality in motherhood… is to remain hot.” On social media mothering, “sexy” pregnancy, and getting paid to have it all.

Alexa Ferrer

When I became a mom a piece of me died, I suppose. I grieved for the kind of girl I thought I should be. The kind that does something really great before marriage and long before babies. Under the impression that mother and person were mutually exclusive, I braced for my inevitable disappearance, surrendering to the first flutters that preceded my small bump.

I had assumed I’d spend my twenties fulfilling every possible thrill in the realm of my desires. I swapped my Finance degree for a Wilhelmina contract and spent my Tuesday mornings on South Beach, floating in the ocean in between castings. One summer I’m 23, walking Swim Week at the Setai. And then I’m 24, in a plague and I’m pregnant. I can forgive myself for thinking this was somewhat like a disappearance, a suicide. But really I only killed the part of me that hated me; I let go of the person I thought I was supposed to become.


I had my first baby during the pandemic, along with what felt like thousands of my peers. I enjoyed watching the transformations, on Instagram, of models known and unknown to me. Some kept things private, not daring to take away from their preexisting brands. I’ve seen some girls dive into motherhood proudly, sprinkling their children into their Feed. Others who have drowned in it. Posting photos from the top of this social pyramid, however, are the not-just-a-mom moms, the ones who kept themselves so perfectly put together that their online brands were never compromised, only enhanced by their children — as if by a chic new handbag. They might be moms, but they’re not mommies.

You might think you have a decent grasp on online mom culture from what you’ve seen on Instagram. We have the Mormon moms that live in Hawaii, the Bible Belt blondes, the influencers who keep “fashionista” in their bio even when “motherhood” appears there too. If Instagram is an expensive, homogenous private school, then TikTok is your public high school. #Momtok, the mom-based TikTok trend, is quite varied. You have the insecure freshmen (first time moms with newborns), the used-to-the-chaos sophomores (toddler moms), bold juniors (currently have a toddler and are pregnant again), and the condescending seniors (those with multiple children of different ages). Which school each mom pertains to depends on the algorithm: silky, crunchy, bougie, almond…and there are thousands upon thousands of creators for each niche.

Of course, we also have the messy moms who found solace on TikTok from the unrealistic aesthetics of Instagram. The ones who don’t have nannies or cleaning ladies. Claire Edwards, whose husband is a doctor, stays with her toddlers and redecorates her home DIY style. She’s funny, relatable, nice. Then there is the mom with four boys who leaves the house every single day with all of them in tow. Couldn’t be me.

Finally, we have the popular girls, who dominate both platforms. Hannah Neeleman (@Ballerinafarm) has 9 million Instagram followers and competed in the Mrs. World Pageant just two weeks after giving birth to her 8th child. She is a former Juilliard ballerina that traded in city life for (a very expensive version of) ranch life. I’m not sure why so many people hate her. Maybe it’s because she’s beautiful. I think it’s because she has decided to have eight children and cook from scratch for her family in a day and age where most people can barely afford to take care of themselves.

At a high level, there have always been two types of mothers on the internet. Less-aware “mommies,” who disappear into children, tupperware, and the suburbs. Meanwhile, “moms,” the cool kind, exist outside of their children at all costs. When a currently-cool girl gets pregnant, the easiest way for her to signal that she plans to be a “mom,” not a mommy, is to conceal her pregnancy. Vogue will tell her how, sharing outfits favored by the stealthily-pregnant Sofia Richie Grainge. Another method is to protest the deterioration of her personal sensibility by shirking maternity clothes, in the style of Rihanna. If a woman is A-list enough to resist the extra attention often provided by pregnancy and motherhood, like Gigi Hadid, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Ashley Graham, she will often opt not to post her children’s faces online.

In Miami, the fiercest way for a woman to demonstrate her unyielding individuality in motherhood, regardless of her personal circumstances or parenting style, is to remain hot. Mothers can be hot despite being mothers, bodies springing back from birth and children stashed away unseen. Or they can be hot because they are mothers. When they post nude pregnancy photos, like Emily Ratajkowski, or string-bikini shots featuring baby, ab lines, and overflowing breasts, they remind us exactly how they got pregnant in the first place. Nara Smith is a creator that has the online world in such a chokehold she has managed to slip out of the maternal algorithm and into the mainstream. She is 22 years old, with three babies, married to a model named Lucky Blue Smith. Mr. and Mrs. (Lucky) Smith. Nara is notorious for an ASMR style narration of her cooking — showing how she satisfies her family's cravings from scratch every day — in full glam. She wears long, slinky dresses, gold jewelry and cowl necks, crop tops with silky bows, and the voice of a woman in bed at night. As for her cooking, we’re talking homemade vanilla ice cream and brownies, sandwiches which start from dough, yogurt and applesauce and kids’ cereal from zero, artisanal versions of Cheez-Its; there is not a meal that she does not make more complicated, with compotes and sides, for she makes money for every second of every video we spend watching her. Every meal is elaborate, she cooks with all her jewelry on, and yet her kitchen, and nails, stay pristine. I thought I was impressive with my spicy rigatoni, but she makes me look like Adam Sandler, and I’ll never make pasta that isn’t dried and box-derived. Her sex appeal is palpable, especially during pregnancy, and she is always fulfilling her husband’s wishes, culinary and probably otherwise. She takes “requests” from her toddlers, too. Ratajkowski's version of sexy mommy is more familiar. Smith’s feels dangerous to us.


The obsession with sexy pregnancy is as old as millennials. Before the 90s, any sexiness a woman had came in spite of pregnancy. The less she showed while she was pregnant, the better. If she followed certain rules, she could even have her sexiness back after she was done. Never gain weight in your face, while pregnant; allow your belly to pop modestly, respectfully, but never steal the show. Nowadays, there is a sexiness to pregnancy. Many photoshoots attest to this fact. In 1991, Demi Moore posed nude on the cover of Vanity Fair at seven months pregnant, followed by Cindy Crawford eight years later for the cover of W, just a month before having her son. In 1997, People shared Hollywood's "hottest new moms" in May, for Mother’s Day. I wonder how the new moms in the Publix checkout line, shirts stained with milk, felt seeing those air-brushed idols. I had just turned one, and my mom’s clothing was never stained. She was, like the moms on the magazine covers, still envy inducing, in her pencil skirt, acrylic nails, and lips lined dark. My mother, always perfect-looking, gave birth to me, unmedicated, and hopped back to her real job at a real bank — no pump, no fuss.

In 2001, the eighth season of Friends became the most watched of the series, with nearly 25 million viewers per episode, while Rachel Green, played by Jennifer Aniston, was pregnant. My mom was pregnant with my little sister at the same time “Rachel was pregnant with Emma” and she’ll never let us forget it. Rachel’s maternal glow, her sex appeal and swift return to the office added to my mom’s confidence — that she could do it all. The only difference was that Jennifer was never actually pregnant. She styled her prosthetic bump with the crop tops and low rise fashion of the early millennium.

A sexy woman does not necessarily make for a sexy pregnant woman. Take one of the sexiest women of the 21st century, Kim Kardashian. Out of her four children she carried the first two and had surrogates for the rest. She considered pregnancy the worst experience of her life, publicly sharing how gross, insecure, and unsexy she felt. In August of 2023, Cosmopolitan asked 20 men what they thought of their partners’ pregnant bodies. Many of them were more in love than ever, enjoying the changes and surprises that come with creating life. Though I pitied the woman who procreated with, “I won't lie, the bigger boobs thing was pretty nice too. I could have done without the mood swings, but I knew that was just part of the deal and tried not to take it personally.”

When I, to my surprise, discovered I was pregnant, I looked to online bloggers and podcasters for tips. Step 1, find a doctor you trust. I looked up the best female OB-GYNs in Miami and came across stunning reviews of a New England native who works at a very popular South Miami practice. I was absolutely star struck. She rocked a perfect blowout and leather jacket at the time of my consultation, and I was sure that I had found the perfect fit. She sized me up and down and proceeded to tell me I should plan to omit all carbs — because her “Luh-tina” patients tended to eat “too much bread.” She said that she didn’t want to deal with a giant baby given my small frame, and mentioned that I should plan to gain between 25-35 lbs. She wanted to know if the father was involved. When the 12 minute consultation was over I went over to the front desk and told them to cancel all future appointments.

I was looking for a female doctor that reaffirmed my continued sexuality in her coolness. But what she reflected back to me just made me feel weak. The thing is, it’s hard to feel neutral about a pretty girl with a baby on the way. Doctors are entitled to their bad days, as much as I’m entitled to my grudges.

I ended up feeling safer in the hands of a male Cuban doctor, Dr. Carlos Peña, who told me to trust him to do his job but that I had to do mine. He went on to explain that because I had been blessed with the gift to carry a child into this world, I must wake up every morning and hold space for that gratitude. He told me to focus on strengthening my psychological muscles with phrases like, "I am strong. I am capable. Everything will be ok. We are safe and healthy." In addition to prescribing affirmations, he told me to eat all the bread my heart desired. I gained 60 lbs during pregnancy, falling more in love with my body every month.


Models look like they bounce back fast, but it’s only half true. Over time, the pressure has intensified and language has evolved from “keeping your figure” to “getting your body back” to the “bounce back” culture of today. The thing is, there is no such thing as bouncing back, whether physical or mental. There’s just no going back. Although I was on set less than two months after giving birth, by no means had I bounced anywhere but to work. And I brought my pump to the makeup trailer.

During that first postpartum job, I had a mental breakdown trying to remove the three inch acrylic nails they had put on for the shoot — long enough to fully spell out “Steve Madden” — because I couldn't even touch my newborn. I don’t understand how anyone can change their baby’s diapers, let alone get them in and out of their car seats with nails like that. Paris Hilton revealed she did not change her son’s diaper for his first month of life, because she was scared. In the age of micro media consumption, new mothers have shifted their gaze towards “real” people, and a new, increasingly popular kind of mother online, with all the coolness of a “mom” but all the child-obsession, and full-time domesticity, of a mommy.

Not long ago, when a woman became a mother she was neutralized, like a threat. Cast aside to perform domestic duties and keep tiny humans alive, a mother turned too busy to be sexy, a rival, to play the game in any way or outshine you. She slipped into dowdiness, joining another category of life. “Having it all” — career, sex, motherhood — was reserved for celebrities, the Angelina Jolies of the world, who had trainers and a staff to help them pull off the illusion, and yet remained so obviously otherworldly they failed to inspire the resentment that comes from real comparison. Momfluencers are disturbingly like and unlike us. Similar backgrounds, educations, and values, and yet they’ve managed to create a career out of doing the things we all do for free. And they sensualize tasks which are meant to be dreary, tied as they are to oppression. They never retire, leave the game, or the playing field. The only thing more annoying than a hot woman is a hot woman who will stay hot despite reproducing. Will stay hot for life, maybe. And she can have, while being somewhat normal, everything.


Nara Smith, who has two toddlers and a newborn to take care of, wakes up and spends time and energy every morning to make herself camera ready. She is, to be fair, putting on a show, and the discourse she inspires serves to put more eyes on her, making her richer. The kicker of it all: her husband Lucky Smith is modernizing the bit by cleaning up after her. She not only feeds into the rage bait but also takes it a step further by showing her husband cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children. Because it’s a modern dream to be able to preserve your femininity, take care of your home and family, and have the help of the person you married. And all the while to be working. It’s a job. How many women would take the offer: raise your children, groom yourself, bake yourself into oblivion, and still call yourself a successful professional? Still have all the status that comes from working, supporting yourself, but not actually having to do so in any stereotypical way? The extent to which Nara triggers the general public suggests the answer is many. Many, many more women than we’d like to admit.

When Emily Ratajkowski poses obscenely with her child, she’s affirming something about her sexual worthiness. When Nara Smith looks sexy doing what some might call the least sexy things on earth, she is making us think about what we consider worthy in the first place.

Have I been triggered by a grilled cheese made from scratch? Sure, but I can admit that it’s because it makes me feel lazy, and move on without leaving a comment. Did I attempt and abandon my own version of a mommy blog? Yes. Did I post and delete TikToks attempting to infiltrate the scene? Absolutely, I was pregnant during the pandemic. It was a bleak time. 

The real secret that many, not all, but many, moms are keeping, and that these influencers are exposing — is that we’re happy. There is something extremely triggering about taking something that is miserable for some and making it look fun. Women are used to dramatizing “the struggle,” uniting to affirm our shared misery. The truth is, for many of us, having a baby is actually euphoric. The first four months of my son’s life were the happiest of mine, a high I hoped to never come down from. The more I shared my bliss with my friends, and online, the more paranoid I grew, fearing mal de ojo, the evil eye. The journalist Elizabeth Bruenig, who has been on the receiving end of her own dose of happy-mother hate, was right when she said “that deserting yourself for another person really is a relief.” Having a purpose outside yourself and a reason to get up in the morning is a privilege — a liberation from the anxiety of options and endless comparison. Everything is downstream of my son and that makes me as powerful as a river. I had never spent so much time in my body, creating somebody, and that purpose freed me from the paralysis of having the whole world at my fingertips. Now I just focus on the good things in my hands. I have never done better work, actually, or more of it. The voice in my head became kind, loving, protective. It’s not easy, but life is a buffet of hard options. I’ll take tired and happy over jealous and miserable any day.


As for me, my favorite creator is a Miami Native. Her name is Nikki, @nikkiii0602, and she has a manageable 10,000 followers. She is what I’d refer to as an expander, a constant reminder of my real priorities. She makes the same meals my grandmothers made for me. She wears a comfy t-shirt as she beats the sugar to form the perfect espumita for her coffee. Whether or not money is tight, she prioritizes weekly date nights with her husband, and makes them special by doing her hair and makeup. They go outside together, fire up the grill, and she dances while he plays the guitar behind her, a glass of white wine in hand. She homeschools her son, keeps him close, keeps him safe. Her parents help her. Her village keeps her healthy. I want to be like her — satisfied, patient, and grateful. That’s my dream, and it’s ok if it’s not yours.

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