“Girl, you look good… you don’t even look like you had a baby,” she said, as she grabbed my waist.
It was my husband’s hairdresser and I was newly postpartum. She continues to say it every time she sees me. She’s sweet and has children of her own so I know she means it as a compliment. And for that, I usually smile and say thank you or nod sweetly.
Had I had a baby in my twenties, I would have reveled, puffed my chest, and smiled in glory knowing that I got my “body back”.
I would have been so proud.
But I don’t revel because, deep down, I really hate this commentary about my body.
I DID have a baby. I have the stretch marks, loose skin, and cellulite to show for it and, I’m quite proud of all the things that came as a result of having my guy.
Pregnancy was not a glorious event for me. While I was happy and excited as all get out, I never “glowed”. It was hard, tiring, painful, and emotional.
And, as a result of that it changed my ideals surrounding health, wellness, fitness, and body image.
No longer do I think of my body in terms of the size clothes it has on or what is reflected back on the bathroom scale but now rather, I think in terms of what it what my body can do for me and whether or not I am capable and strong enough to complete certain tasks.
So when people focus on how my body looks postpartum, it makes me ANGRY!
Angry that we live in a society where we want to rid ourselves and our bodies of any reminder that we’ve had a baby.
Angry that we compliment each other on how quickly we’ve lost the baby weight, how good they look for having had a baby, and where we envy one another for how quickly we can get back into shape.
Angry that we’re willing to pee when we sneeze so we can fit back into a size 2 jean.
And angry that the focus is on the shape and size of the mother instead of her overall well-being and her relationship with her child.
Because, while I was thinner postpartum and with clothes, might not have appeared to have had a baby (how does one judge this though?), I struggled with stress incontinence and a hypertonic pelvic floor.
I may have looked one way postpartum, but I felt another.
I FELT LIKE CRAP.
When we turn the focus on how a new mom looks, or how much weight she’s lost, we take away the ability for them to focus on being happy, being where they are, and taking it easy. And, we keep them from focusing on anything other than what they look like.
We encourage or allow them to run themselves ragged to achieve a look or ideal, which might not be OK for them in this new space.
IN THIS NEW BODY.
We allow them to lose presence with themselves and this new person they are becoming.
WE FOCUS ON HOW THEY USED TO BE AND HOW THEY USED TO LOOK AND THEREFORE, THEY FOCUS ON THAT, TOO...
Desperately yearning to get their "body back".
Postpartum should be about returning to normal function, rebuilding (or building) strength, sleeping well, eating healthy and feeling good.
And you know what?
You can do these things without returning to your prenatal weight. You can do these things without being skinny.
So, the next time you want to give a compliment to a new mom, here are my top 5 suggestions that have nothing to do with her physical appearance:
You’re doing such a good job.
Wow! Your baby is so well taken care of.
You seem so happy.
I’m glad you’re finding time to take care of yourself.
Motherhood suits you.
Let's agree to stop focusing on mama's postpartum bodies?
Let's agree to stop focusing on how small they are and instead, start encouraging them to take care of themselves; eat well, sleep as much as possible and find joy and mindfulness in their daily being.
Because this shit called motherhood goes by really, really fast and not taking the time to revel in small, joyous, squishy baby moments is a shame and loss to the mama they've become.