Camera shy isn't a phrase one would use to describe Nikki Bella.
Throughout her pregnancy, the mom to weeks-old Matteo Artemovich Chigvintsev continued to climb into the proverbial Instagram ring, serving up countless bump photos, lust-worthy maternity wear and even one totally bellisima July nude shoot with her equally pregnant twin sister Brie Bella.
And yet when she clicked open the social media platform Sept. 7—a little more than a month after she and fiancé Artem Chigventsev welcomed their first son together—she copped to being "super scared" to let her more than 9 million followers in on "the raw and real me."
This is what to expect when you're no longer expecting.
The post-baby snap-back has become standard amongst the celebrity set. The assumed combo of childcare help, a professional chef and a personal trainer at your beck and call creates such impossibly lofty expectations for sleep-deprived, battle-scarred new moms that stars are practically asked to share their postpartum weight loss goals in the same breath as their ideal birth plan.
Which means, at a time that they're simply figuring out how to feed their child and get them to sleep for a stretch longer than your average Real Housewives episode, celebs are also made to feel as if they need to focus on their waistline as well.
For WWE hall of famer Nikki—used to notching victories in the ring—the pressures to lose the weight she'd gained while growing a human set in well before she felt a single contraction.
"I already started to say in my head, 'Okay, January 2021, Nicole, you better have your abs back, you better be this weight, you better be in this shape," she admitted on the July 22 edition of she and Brie's Bellas Podcast, some 11 days before Matteo made his grand entrance. "Because so many women in the spotlight get their body back so quick, I'm, like, holding myself to this level that everyone's expecting it, so I better deliver it."
Then she delivered a 7-pound, 3-ounce baby and realized that just maybe her body had done enough for the moment.
"I feel like sometimes on social media, with people in the spotlight, we truly don't showcase how hard postpartum can be, and the journey of getting your body back," she explained in a Sept. 7 Instagram story, stripping down to her underwear to underline her point. "So I want to bring you all along in the realest, rawest way possible. So here I am."
Putting her (still impressively toned, TBH) belly on display was terrifying she admitted, knowing she was opening herself up to supporters and detractors alike. But with so many celebrities waiting until they've dieted away the last ounce before showing off their "post-baby bod", she felt it important to lift the veil off of a process that for most people (save for those blessed with good genetics) is really freakin' difficult. It just, as the Total Bellas star put it, "felt like it was the right thing to do."
And speaking of the right thing...
While she's certainly committed to losing the last 18 pounds—some of which she attributes to Artem's gourmet-level home cooking and a few pizza nights, because after months of dealing with the morning sickness she likened to a daily "hangover" a girl deserves some carbs—she's not looking to fast-track the process. For now, rediscovering her abs will take a backseat to making sure she's filling Matteo's belly with the right nutrients.
Eager to get back in the gym, she stressed to her followers that she intends to approach weight loss "in the most healthiest way possible because I'm breastfeeding, obviously, and giving my son the most amazing nutrition is number one." So that means "there's going to be no crash-diets," she continued. "There's gonna be no starving myself."
And even if she's not ringing in 2021 with a perfectly taut tummy, there still will be much to celebrate, every day with her "crazy freakishly strong" mini Artem bringing a new joy. "It's worth all the curves, all the changes, the hard work to get my body back in shape," she shared on social media. "Because I have the most amazing little boy ever."
That's the message Brie intends to continue repeating as she attempts to sweat off what she's labeled as the last 13 pounds. Having already put herself through the post-baby body wringer once before, she vowed to go just a little easier on herself this go-round.
Back on the Total Divas set two months after welcoming she and husband Daniel Bryan's eldest, Birdie Jo Danielson in May 2017, she was "around all you women who were wrestling and wearing your crop tops and in killer shape," she recalled to Nikki on The Bellas Podcast in July. "I really was hard on myself, which I think led me to a little bit of a postpartum [depression]. I just was tearing myself apart. And I'm not doing it this time!"
That's not to say she hasn't been quizzing her fans about how they've safely dropped a few pregnancy pounds or expressing how she's "dying to work out," making plans to push herself through an intense walking session.
"Someone told me yesterday that I could do 30 minutes of hardcore walking on a treadmill, so I'm gonna try that, but if there's any other stuff, DM me," she noted on Instagram. "I'm dying to figure out some good tricks."
But she's also going to treasure every minute of snuggles with 7-week-old Buddy Dessert Danielson, named for her husband's "best friend" and father Buddy and her grandmother, born Alice Marie Dessert. (As in the arid landscape near their Arizona home, not the slice of pie you might enjoy after dinner.)
Because as much as outside expectations on celebrity moms are unlikely to completely disappear—some people still clinging to the notion that women need to immediately erase any signs of the work they did to literally create life—the twins need only watch their tiny cousins gurgle and lie next to each other to appreciate how truly #blessed they are.
"Buddy is the sweetest, calmest baby," Brie marveled on The Bellas Podcast Sept. 2. "The way they came to us—like Nicole and I both having surprises—I feel like the fact they're both boys, the fact that they wanted to be born right around each other—I really feel like there's they're so connected and there's something special to these two boys."
For Artem, it's that his little man "will have a best friend for the rest of his life—that's something that you don't get unless it's your legit blood brother," he shared on the podcast Sept. 9. "But that's the whole cherry on the cake, that they will have each other. They will hang out together and be best friends. Just having that in Matteo's life...like what's to come, I'm super excited, I'm super pumped for that."
Agreed his bride, "He'll always get to go through things with Buddy. And to be honest, he has an older sister! Birdie's gonna keep these boys in check and I can't wait to watch it."
Catch up on all Total Bellas episodes here.