May 23, 2007 -- In 1991, a naked and pregnant Demi Moore appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, shattering a sacred illusion that childbirth is a time to conceal, rather than reveal, a mother's condition.
But the Hollywood siren's perfect shape set in motion another dangerous misconception: that women can achieve perfection in both pregnancy and parenthood.
"We're all for celebration of the pregnant shape, but the sexification of pregnancy comes at a price," said Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris, whose childbirth guide, "From the Hips," hit bookstores on May 22.
The New York City authors -- both young, hip mothers who were confused by mixed messages in their own pregnancies -- embarked on a three-year project to offer readers a balanced perspective on maternity and child rearing.
Their mantra, as stated in 10 "anti-rules," is "strive for imperfection."
In this celebrity-driven culture -- where Britney Spears is chided for riding around town with her infant in her lap and Angelina Jolie bounces back to her slender figure sans "bump" just weeks after childbirth -- there's plenty of judgment thrown at mothers, the authors say.
"We live in this really highly body-conscious culture, and women feel the pressure to be physically perfect," said Odes, an artist and former indie rocker who now has two young children. "In the past, women were expected to hide their bodies, but [what] comes along with the freedom to be beautiful is the pressure to be beautiful."
Their guide -- filled with a variety of perspectives on hot-button issues like breast-feeding, co-sleeping, circumcision and, yes, looking fabulous postpartum -- removes the judgment and embraces the notion of being "good enough."
"This book is about both sides of the story: the warm, fuzzy baby blanket and the poop that gets swept underneath," its introduction promises.
With the guide's unconventional approach providing a variety of voices rather than one point of view, some experts say "From the Hips" could rival the wildly popular, if not dogmatic, series "What to Expect When Expecting"
The new book, published by Three Rivers Press, has received praise from both sides of the motherhood spectrum: Leslie Morgan Steiner, author of the controversial "Mommy Wars," and her critic Miriam Peskowitz, who wrote "The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars."
Drawing on Odes' and Morris' experience and that of hundreds of real parents, as well as the expertise of doctors and baby professionals, "From the Hips" is "open-minded and starts with the assumption that there are many healthy ways to go through a pregnancy," Peskowitz said.
Previous books, including "What to Expect," tend to offer a "lock-step" guide, according to Peskowitz. "There has been a big shift away from these books that promote one answer and scared us into thinking pregnancy was a medical event."
Odes, 38, and Morris, 39, met through mutual friends in the New York City music scene and found they had even more in common when their sons were born in 2003 and 2004 respectively.
Odes, who studied art at Vassar College, was a bass player and singer with the band Love Child and counted Kurt Cobain as one of its fans.
Morris, who grew up in Washington, D.C., but took up art history and women's studies in college in her native Australia, worked as a screenwriter and a Hollywood assistant.
For these self-described "third-wave feminists," the isolation and lack of control they felt in pregnancy and later in parenting came as a total surprise. As they faced judgment and "mommy" cliques on the playground, they learned firsthand that "pregnant bodies are public property."
"People feel they have the right to evaluate and judge, and even to touch without asking," Morris said. Soon after, the friends started a Web site thenewmom.com to provide support for mothers and a forum for other points of view.
"If you're a new parent, these strong opposing voices can be very powerful," Odes said to ABC News. "The end result of both camps is if you don't follow one theory or the other, your baby ends up insecure and unable to deal and it's your fault!"
Pregnancy is not unlike adolescence, with body changes, discomfort, secretiveness and changes in identity, according to Odes. "It's very confusing for women, especially those who have had jobs, relationships and confident lives. They have lost their footing."
"We wished all the different theories were in one place," Morris told ABC News, as she chased her naked 2-year-old son Alfred around her apartment with a pair of shorts. "In order to get one idea, you get an earful of other ideas and how you can damage a child as brand-new parents."
Odes and Morris hope to give mothers-to-be the confidence to make their own choices. The book's premise is that if a parent feels the need to be perfect, children will believe they need to be, too.
In a friendly, "girlfriend" tone, much attention is paid to the stages of pregnancy from "boobs, bellies and butts and other areas of expansion" to the aftermath of childbirth with its stretch marks and postpartum blues.
No topic is off bounds. The book discusses older moms, sex after baby, jealousy, generational divides and even "parenting in Splitsville." Other chapters deal with child care, discrimination in the workplace, pumping milk in the office and paternity leave.
The book also addresses the losing battle against a "celebrity feeding frenzy" that makes women feel -- wrongly, the authors say -- that they must be as beautiful as the stars.
Naseem Rochette, a New Jersey mother of two, faced enormous pressure to retain her figure as she continued a successful career in global technology sales.
"I was a huge pregnant woman," she said. "My face broke out from the moment I conceived. I really did look awful."
Rochette gained 46 pounds when she carried her daughter Ashakiran. "I felt a lot of guilt that I wanted to not gain too much, but I felt a lot of guilt that I didn't enjoy being pregnant."
With her next child, son Jasper, now 4 months old, she gained less weight and said, compared to her first pregnancy, she "looked like a goddess" with the movie-star "perfect basketball stomach." But later, she was wracked with guilt when Jasper was born six weeks premature.
"I felt like it was my fault," she said, even though Jasper is now healthy. "I thought I must have done something wrong and even asked my husband if he was mad at me."
"Celebrity moms appear svelte and smiling just days after birth," but is that due to exercise, diets, genes, surgery or "just plain luck?" asks the book's authors.
Still, some celebrities have thrown out the guilt with the baby bath water. If Demi Moore made the pregnant woman a sex goddess, Brooke Shields brought her back down to Earth with her admission of postpartum depression.
"It's great what she did and talked about it," said Morris, who hopes "From the Hips" will allow women to stop feeling guilty and accept what makes sense for them in context of their lives. After all, she said, "there's no such thing as a natural mother."
"All these celebrities are hanging out with cute babies," she said. "It's a fantasy and doesn't address the real parenting issues. The baby is an accessory," Morris said. "I was just so ready when Sandra Bullock said, 'I'm not pregnant. I'm fat. Just get over it.'"