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Embracing Motherhood : Attitudes: The Demi Moore photo may shock some people, but it reflects a change in the way women feel about pregnancy, observers say.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wearing nothing but diamonds and a clear-eyed gaze, Demi Moore is causing more clamor than any nude since Godiva. She is seven months pregnant in the cover photo of the August Vanity Fair magazine. And she is unashamed. That alone, in some circles, is cause for shock.

“It’s tacky,” says Liz Miller, 23, of Sherman Oaks, who can’t imagine “why anyone would want to display her swollen stomach like that--and why people would want to look at it.” Miller gave birth to daughter Amanda six months ago and recalls she felt “unbeautiful, in fact disgustingly obese” in her seventh month.

But “Ghost” star Moore, who normally looks thin enough to bend in a breeze, says hers is the modern approach to motherhood--and womanhood. “I have no regrets,” Moore says of the softly lit photo in which almost everything but her face and ballooning stomach are obscured. “Attitudes are changing,” adds the one-time Brat Pack queen and mother of a 2-year-old daughter. “I feel beautiful when I’m pregnant. It’s the part of life’s journey that makes everything better. I look at stretch marks as something I’ve earned--not as something that wrecks my appearance.”

Moore isn’t yet a voice for the majority--and she may take the new motherhood mood to its outer limit. But she’s certainly not alone. Beneath the hype generated by the cover--so controversial that many distributors wrapped the magazine in white paper--is a statement about how growing numbers of women see themselves during pregnancy, and how they want to be seen.

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While some feel uncomfortable with or embarrassed by bulging bodies, others want to celebrate in every way they can. Photos--either nude or partly dressed--are often part of the package. “I loved the changes in my body,” says Diane Smith of Encinitas, whose children are 2 and 5. “I was like a huge (statue of) Buddha--big belly, big boobs. It was a fun time. My husband took (some nude) photos of me just so we’d have a record. When you’re not pregnant, it’s hard to remember you were ever that big.”

Art Garfunkel’s grandmother, 82, didn’t like the nude photo of Art’s pregnant wife, Kim, in Rolling Stone magazine last January. “She thought it was in bad taste, but everyone else--even my mother--liked it,” Kim Garfunkel says. “There’s a special sense of mission in a pregnant woman’s face; she’s like a flower in full bloom.”

Joanna Keller earns her living photographing “regular L.A. people, not just stars” who want a record of their pregnancies. “It’s an acceptable thing nowadays, almost verging on a tradition,” Keller says. She spends about two hours at each home, charges about $300, and says that, for some women, “it’s seeing the photos that makes them realize how gorgeous, ripe and beautiful they really are.”

Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown knew the instant she spotted Annie Leibovitz’s photo of Moore, originally intended for inside pages, that it was ripe for the cover: “For too long pregnant women have been embarrassed at how they look,” Brown says. “This (photo) is a declaration” of pride, she adds. “Pregnant women should all wear bikinis to the beach.”

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In some areas of the country, they do.

Maureen Haldeman, a photographer and 20-year Malibu beachfront resident, says she started noticing a change about five years ago.

After years of billowing cover-ups that obscured the figure, she says, “Pregnant women started wearing the same bikinis they wore before they were pregnant. Now it seems real acceptable on the beach. They just let their huge tummies hang over the top of the suit--and nobody looks askance. When you look at them from the back, you don’t even know they’re pregnant until they turn around.”

Maternity swimwear manufacturer John Koerner says the bestseller in his Mama Pavlova line is the bikini he designed three years ago.

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“Women’s whole attitude toward pregnancy is changing fast,” he says, echoing cover girl Moore. “It’s what we call a paradigm shift--none of the old rules apply.”

Well, that depends on who’s talking.

Even when Vanity Fair’s Brown was pregnant a few years ago and had all the world’s beauty resources at her at her disposal, she says, she didn’t feel gloriously glamorous. “My husband kept telling me I looked great,” she says. “But I just didn’t believe him. Maybe now, post-Demi, I would feel different.”

Etiquette expert and Washington-based author Letitia Baldrige says, “It’s often up to the man” to make a woman feel alluring while she’s bulging with child.

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“I had my children in the 1960s,” she recalls, and “no, I didn’t feel beautiful. That’s because my dear husband, instead of saying sweet things, told me that if I bulged another inch I’d never get through the door.” The marriage survived. And Baldrige still believes maternity is a private thing. “Most women I know would not be photographed in the nude--pregnant or un-pregnant--for public consumption.”

Ditto for columnist Judith Martin, also known as Miss Manners. “There are two separate issues here: Nudity and pregnancy,” she says. “I approve of photographing pregnant woman. There’s no reason not to. But if you wouldn’t have your naked stomach on a magazine cover when you’re not pregnant, why would you want it on the cover when you are?”

Barrie Thorne, a USC sociology professor, says things have changed drastically since she was pregnant in 1972. Maternity clothes were “depressing” then, she says. “They were little baby-doll outfits with puffy sleeves and frilly collars that infantilized pregnant women and denied their sexuality and maturity.

The clothes--and the self-image--are different now. “But it’s astounding how many women still hate their bodies. Anything to help us love ourselves more is good,” she says. “I’d like us to be able to feel erotic about pregnancy and to understand how attractive we can be. But that feeling has to come from women themselves, not from male definers who run many of the magazines and create the ads.”

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USC history professor Lois Banner says the whole issue raised by the Demi Moore cover is “very complicated.”

“There is a new movement toward greater individuality for women,” Banner says. “And that is good. But there is also a new movement in the media to sanctify motherhood--and that could be unfortunate. We’re seeing it everywhere, every day--reports of women preferring motherhood to work, preferring to stay at home with their children rather than going out to an office.” Banner hopes nothing will convince women that they can’t combine it all, because she believes they can.

Demi Moore, 28, agrees: “I was just on vacation in Mexico, in my bikini with my big belly hanging out and my low-cut top. I felt sexy and beautiful, yet I was at my most maternal. . . . I was trying to tell people I feel it’s possible to do all those things--to have a career, be a mother, still be beautiful and sexy. It doesn’t stop you from being who you are to have a baby--absolutely not. I mean even on a sexual level, I’ve never felt more beautiful or sexy or more appreciated by my husband than when I’ve been pregnant.”


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