10 Rules For Talking About My Postpartum Body
Pregnancy creates a weird relationship between a pregnant person and their body, usually because that body is constantly changing, unwieldy, often uncomfortable, and just plain new. This is to say nothing of the fact that you can feel a tiny creature moving inside of you. But once your baby is born your body is no longer so much changing as changed. Some of those changes may be permanent, some may not be, but any of them can be emotionally complicated. So there are rules for talking about postpartum bodies, because we need to establish a baseline here.
Postpartum body politics are weird because female body politics are, in and of themselves, super weird. Throw often convoluted ideas about motherhood into the mix and, OMG, there's so much to unpack. And it's not up to you, non-postpartum person, to do any of the unpacking. Nope, this is something every new mom has to do on her own, regardless of whether or not your intentions are good or if whatever you're saying helped you through your own postpartum journey. If your postpartum friend brings up the discussion of her body with you, then by all means, chat away. But if a discussion is going to be productive she has to be the one to initiate it.
So with all that in mind, here are some of the most important things you should not be doing when talking about postpartum bodies:
"Mombod" Is A Forbidden Word
If someone wants to refer to her own body as a "mombod," that's totally cool. But it's just not something you drop on someone. It's not necessarily offensive, I guess, but it's just... stupid. This just my body. It doesn't need its own special explanation or cutesy apology built-in to it. People seem to love categorizing women — "good girls" and "bad girls" — and I think "mombod" is another example of that. There's a "body" and then there's a "mombod," which is often short-hand for "no longer fitting a societal ideal."
It's like there's some sort of societal investment in keeping us from being individuals.
Don't Ask Me How Or When I Will Lose The "Baby Weight"
I. Just. Had. A. Baby.
My weight is far from my most pressing concern right now. Above and beyond that, asking me specifics about how and when indicates that weight loss is a requirement and it's not. I'm under no obligation to lose any weight, postpartum or at any other time. I don't need to "get my body back" because it never left. This is my body and has been the entire time.
Don't Suggest My Breasts Belong To Anyone But Me
"How does your partner feel about sharing the boobs?"
"Oh, those belong to your baby now."
Nope. No, no, no, no, no. They're mine. They're attached to me. I may graciously be providing unlimited access to my child and my partner may have a VIP pass, but my breasts are not theirs. At best that's a creepy thing to say, and at worse it's dehumanizing.
Don't Pressure Me To Breastfeed
This is more general and less personal because, personally, I breastfed. But you know what didn't motivate that decision in the slightest? Other people telling me that I should.
Whether or not a new parent decides to breastfeed is a deeply personal, sometimes complicated (technically and emotionally) decision. No one needs someone else telling them what they should do with their own body.
Don't Compare My Postpartum Body To Anyone Else's Postpartum Body
Even if you mean it as a compliment (like "Oh wow! You look amazing! I was so fat and flabby after my baby was born!") but especially if you think you're "motivating" me ("Look at Famous-Beautiful Celebrity! She just had a baby last week and look at her in this string bikini on the cover of Body Image Magazine!") Just... no.
First of all it's weird. Second of all it's doing that thing that indicates all women are not-so-secretly in competition with one another. Thirdly it implies that there is One Acceptable Standard that all women must at least attempt to adhere to. It's not helpful. In fact, it's extremely damaging.
Don't Try To Sell Me Something
"Stretch marks? You know I have an oil for that!"
"Have you considered this work out program that I just happen to promote?"
"These shakes I sell will make you totes skinny!"
If I am interested in applying any of your products or programs to my postpartum body I will absolutely let you know. Otherwise please, please, don't do this. The only thing worse than indicating there's something specific I should be doing with my postpartum body is, in addition to that, assuring me that buying something from you will fix it.
Don't Suggest Plastic Surgery
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with choosing plastic surgery for yourself, but it should be something you choose for yourself and not because someone suggested it might be a good idea. Like, "Hey, have you considered major surgery to make yourself look better?!" Yeah, no.
Don't Ask Or Talk About My Vagina
This is just such a good general rule. So good, in fact, that I think we should make it a social commandment: Thou Shalt Not Discuss Other People's Genitals With Them In Casual Conversation.
If they bring it up? Fine? If you plan on making personal contact with those genitals then that's OK. But otherwise? It's just none of your concern and doesn't affect you in any way, shape, or form. So don't do it.
Don't Begin Talking About "The Next One"
I JUST HAD A BABY! LET ME ALLOW MY UTERUS TO REMAIN UNOCCUPIED FOR AT LEAST A LITTLE WHILE!
When in doubt, don't!
Seriously, there's just no real reason for anyone to talk about a postpartum woman's body. If she brings it up and invites thoughts, opinions, or advice, then that's fine. But even so avoid absolutes, be respectful of the fact that her relationship with her body may be complicated and fragile right now, and proceed with thoughtfulness and caution.