“Wow- you’ve lost xx pounds. Way to go. You look great!”
Aside from giving me my stats and some small talk, this was what my nurse said to me at my postpartum check up. I should be thrilled, right? Well actually, not. I have done nothing to focus on my weight loss and physical change in these 6 weeks (aside from pumping out milk every 3 hours so that my breasts don’t explode and sometimes skipping meals because I physically don’t have the hands to make something while juggling my toddler and newborn.) There are a lot of things, though, that I have worked really hard on… tears and intentionality… and really would feel great if you (she) could see those things.
A Much Bigger Postpartum Experience
All of the struggles and tears and the joys and laughter are all too often quickly deduced to how our physical appearance is 6 weeks later: -Surviving a NICU stay and learning more medical terms than I know possible -Transitioning back to home and helping a 2 year old adjust to a new sibling -Waking all throughout the night and sometimes still finding a way to shower -Pumping milk and then feeding it to my baby to navigate through feeding issues -Talking myself through hormonal surges and emotional breakdowns -Making it to the store a couple of times with two kids in tow… THESE are the things I am proud of. THESE are the things I’ve put mental and emotional and physical energy into. THESE are the victories of postpartum that I long to have recognized and celebrated. My weight? It’s another number created by mostly uncontrollable factors that doesn’t define much at all about my “success.”
The intentions of my nurse? They were most likely great- to compliment me. Make me feel good about myself. But in the moment and afterwards it just didn’t sit well with me.
This seems to be one of those societal norms that we follow because we don’t know what else to say, but by just following we continue to perpetuate. We continue to tell women, subliminally, that their postpartum “success” is measured by how quickly the scale changes. We speak a message that through all the rough patches of being a mom, the way our body does or does not “bounce back” is a factor worth more focus than others. We do it without even thinking- we make comments on how a new mom looks. You’ve most likely done it. I’ve done it. I will probably unintentionally do it again, but let’s recognize it. Let’s make a mental note to do better next time. Let’s think of ways together to shift the norm and give mothers more empowerment through things that are more important than stepping on a scale or getting back into “pre pregnancy” jeans. Moms, we are SO MUCH MORE than that.
Making a Change
Not sure where to start on complimenting and empowering a new mom and shifting the language we default to? I’m about to drop some ideas (crowdsourced from other new moms) below. After you read them, comment with your own additions on what has made you feel awesome as a postpartum woman. Let’s share even more ideas to give ourselves and others the tools to be apart of the shift in what it really means to be postpartum, to be a mom.
Ideas to start with: “You’re doing a great job with this transition!” “I can tell you’re a great mom!” “I saw you patiently work with your child- that takes a lot of work! Good job!” “Wow- you’ve made a lot of sacrifices for your kids. That’s inspiring!” (Could be that mom has to go dairy free for breastfeeding, pump often, forgo activities for children’s health, sacrifice work or other outside things, go to work when it feels tough, etc. etc. etc.) “Your body is nurturing a human!” “Wow! You were made for this!” ”You’re really rolling with the punches with stride.” “You really prepared yourself for all of these transitions!” “Look at you juggling kids and still getting ____ done. You’re a rockstar!” “I know you’re forfeiting a lot of sleep these days- thanks for taking care of that baby!” There are hundreds of other phrases out there that we can add, but hopefully this start will help you to think about how we can collectively honor women in this season without deducing her down to her postpartum body.