In an ideal world, the postpartum mother would be protected from all negative things (perceived or real) that could possibly be said to her via a special forcefield. Maybe someone could invent "new mom headphones" that would filter all the weird things people say to into only the nicest, most life-affirming comments. After all, many women recovering from childbirth are in a fragile, hormone-fueled emotional state. It is hard enough to deal with new motherhood, let alone all the awful things people say when you're recovering from childbirth.
I guess one way of protecting yourself from the things people say to you after you have a baby, is to not expose yourself to anyone at all. Then again, that would be a huge drag. Being home alone with a baby is isolating enough. Plus, who would you complain about your partner to? I was happy to have friends who visited me when I was alone at home with my newborn, especially in the first few weeks postpartum. In fact, I don't know what I would have done without them, since I had a c-section and couldn't really go anywhere more than a block away.
However, every now and then I would receive an unwelcome comment that made even the concept of company less than pleasant. I'm sure that I am guilty of having said one or more of these things before I became a mom, too (and maybe even afterward, because we forget how it feels to be postpartum after the pain of the experience has dulled). Hopefully, by bringing some of these to light, we can all be a little more sensitive when talking to the new mom in our life.
"Tell Me All The Horrible & Gross Things"
If you were in a car accident, and were just recovering and your stitches were still fresh and had just been casted, would you be terribly eager to relive the trauma of the accident with the people visiting you? Probably not. In my experience at least, I'd say you'd probably want some balloons, some flowers, someone to tell you stories from the "outside," and maybe some trashy magazines with the latest Kardashian gossip so you can keep your mind off the indescribable pain you're probably in.
Trust me, the new mom will happily tell you her pooped-on-the-delivery-table horror stories when the dust has settled, but she's recovering from childbirth right now. It's a tad too soon. Chill. Right now she needs you to entertain her with jokes and compliments about how glowing she is as a new mom (even if that's just sweat from not showering for two days).
"So How Bad Does Your Vagina Look Now?"
People relish asking women recovering from childbirth about their gnarly vaginas. You guys. Why?
Postpartum women are not circus freaks. Also, their vaginas aren't "ruined for life." The vagina is a beautiful thing, designed to accommodate the miracle of childbirth should a woman choose to be a mom. Yes, it may require some stitching afterward, but that does not mean that it is heretofore retired from active duty.
"Do You Pee Every Time You Sneeze?"
Why am I getting the feeling that you're just fishing for all the negative things that are happening to my body after I've given birth? Are you trying to pat yourself on the back for staying unencumbered by children and the fact that your underwear is pristine and pee-free? Are you trying to highlight the fact that, while I recover from childbirth, you get to enjoy things like brunch and sleeping in?
I always resented the moments when my non-kid friends relied on the things they heard postpartum women experienced to formulate questions about my recovering-from-childbirth body. It didn't seem like they were actually interested in my point of view or caring about me, as an individual person. It felt more like a morbid curiosity on their part; an attempt to find out if this assumption or that rumor was, in fact, true.
"OMG How In Love Are You With The Baby?"
This question is another well-meaning question that can hit a woman recovering from childbirth in all the wrong places. After all, not all women who have just had a baby fall instantly in love with said baby.
With my firstborn, it was not instant heart emojis and butterflies. I thought he was cute, and I definitely felt "something," but the "in love" part took a really long time to come around. By week five postpartum, I still loved our family dog (my true first born) way more than I loved my newborn. When people asked me about how "in love" I was with my baby, I felt extremely guilty because my answer would have been "not that much," and I knew that was the so-called "wrong" answer.
"I'm Sure You're Getting Tons Of Help From Your Family, Right?"
For some reason, people assume that everyone has the same mom who magically lives a few houses away or who is capable of dropping everything in her life to come and shack up in your house for a couple of weeks to help you with your newborn. Sure, lots of people I know have moms who moved in for the first few weeks after they had their babies, and I am super jealous of those people. But this is not necessarily everyone's experience, and it certainly was not mine.
My mother doesn't live a plane ride away (more like an hour), but she doesn't feel comfortable driving to the city alone. At the time, dealing with the fact that my mom didn't want to come and live with me to help with the baby was pretty painful. However, I've learned to take people (more or less) for who they are, and to not ask my friends who have just had babies questions like, "Yo, where your mom at?"
"I'm Sure You'll Be Back To Yourself In No Time"
Oh really? Do you have a crystal ball? Some special insight into my future that I am not in possession of?
While platitudes like this are delivered with the best of intentions, they can also be harmful. A lot of moms recovering from childbirth feel lifetimes away from "themselves." When they fail to get back to feeling like they're living even a fraction of their former live, especially by a certain timeline, it can bring on feelings of despair and failure. So, while saying something like this to a postpartum woman is meant to be encouraging, it can actually be detrimental.
"Wow, I Didn't Expect You To Still Look Pregnant"
Yeah, that's funny, because I didn't either. When I was a first time mom, I though that once my baby exited my body— and while my stomach would still be carrying some extra pounds (as would the rest of my body — my stomach would by no means look like I was in my third trimester.
I get that the human body is a mysterious and wondrous thing, and those mysteries and wonders can sometimes shocking. However, if you're an outsider looking in and the thing you're marveling is something you're pretty sure you wouldn't be so thrilled about on your own body, it is best that you keep that observation to yourself.